"Where's the minister?" TRANSCRIPT (Eleanor Norrie)

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Eleanor: [Interview tape] I was part of the community, I was part of the we. Over there those people that are elected are 'they'. So it’s the we and the they.

The day after I was elected, the community doesn't treat you as part of the 'we' anymore, you're the 'they.' So you become they, so you become somebody that either they want to be with or attack. You're separate apart from the community, it’s just - what happens.

Then on top of that when you're a woman, I call it the 'she-they.' 

[laughter]

[podcast theme music kicks in]

Mark: [Narrating] You’re listening to On the Record, Off Script - a podcast documentary project based on conversations we’ve had with former Nova Scotia MLAs. My name is Mark Coffin, and I’m one of the hosts of the podcast.  

Each week, we dig into one small piece of politics, from the perspective of people who served in the Nova Scotia legislature.

What makes these conversations worth listening in on - has less to do with what we talked about and more to do with when we talked about it.

These conversations happened when - for the most part - the MLAs we spoke with had no plans on returning to elected office. They’d reflected on their time in public office, and weren’t concerned about getting re-elected.

It’s the last week of October of 2016.  We are  putting the finishing touches on the first set of full episodes, which we’ll begin releasing in a few weeks.

Until then, here is our second ‘prepisode."

‘Prepisodes’ are short stories, and anecdotes that captivated us, kept us entertained or underscored an important reality about life in politics.  

This week’s story comes from Eleanor Norrie. 

Eleanor: [Interview tape]: I remember going to visit the legislature when I was in high school, it was just a room full of white, suited men. I think I was in grade 11 or 12 at that time and it was something that I would never, a young woman would never dream of ever finding herself sitting down there.

But I remember looking down and being in awe of it and it just never crossed my mind that gee I'd like to do that someday because it was just not a possibility.

I was a school teacher prior to being married and I was pretty well a stay at home mom if you will

Mark: Eleanor Norrie was elected in 1993 and served for just one term.

She sat in Premier John Savage’s Cabinet as Minister of the Civil Service, and was then shuffled to oversee the department of Housing and Consumer Affairs, and later, served as Minister of Natural Resources - all of that in just four years. 

Eleanor: I have a saying. I was part of the community, I was part of the 'we', over there the people are elected are the 'they.'

So it’s the 'we' and the 'they,' because you'll hear people say "they are doing this to us," who's they? You hear that all the time, they and them.

The day after I was elected, the community doesn't treat you as part of the 'we' anymore, you're the 'they.' So you become they, so you become somebody that either they want to be with or attack. You're separate apart from the community, it’s just - what happens.

Then on top of that when you're a woman, I call it the 'she-they.' 

Because you become then - not only are you ‘they’ in government, you're a woman in government. And people have a hard time, or people did have a hard time accepting that, especially in cabinet. 

Mark: In this week’s story, Eleanor tells us about what she described as the all-too-common experience of showing up as a woman when the people she was scheduled to meet were waiting for a man.

Eleanor: I was minister of sport and recreation, the house was sitting, and there was a major bond spiel, I think it had been taking place at the Mayflower Curling Rink, and they invited me to come as the opening - as part of the opening.

The house was sitting, they had question period, and I had to get from the house to the Mayflower Curling Rink.

I had very little time to spare.

[fun adventure music kicks in, underneath Eleanor's voice]

My daughter happened to be in Halifax, and she said: "I'll drive you down." So she came and got me, and wisped me down there, we pulled up and there was a parking place right by the door, and I said, "oh good there's a spot right there!" because the parking spaces were all filled.

She was driving and she pulled in, and there was a man standing there, looking very important, and he came running over to the car and he said [shouting] "you can't park there! That’s for the minister and he's not here yet!"

[Eleanor laughs for a few seconds] 

“I am the minister.”

You'd run into that more, and more, and more. You know, you can't start yet because the minister's not here yet.

While I'm standing there, and I’m the minister.

It happened more and more often than you can imagine.

The people would expect there to be a man and then if I wasn't they didn't know quite what to do with me.

Mark: I spoke with Eleanor Norrie around this time last year - November of 2015 - the same day, and at the same time that Justin Trudeau and his cabinet were sworn in.

Listening back to the interview, there are a number of unfinished sentences, and odd pauses - that are awkward on the tape, but make total sense, when you realize that myself and Eleanor were both keeping one eye on her TV set to see which MPs made it into Cabinet.

It was impossible to talk about Eleanor’s experience in cabinet without contrasting it with Trudeau’s brand new, gender balanced cabinet. Here’s what Eleanor had to say about that... 

Eleanor: I wish they wouldn't talk about gender parity. I wish they wouldn't say it that way. I think Justin Trudeau said, in order to make it happen, had to say they'll be parity, and had to say you know make it fifty-fifty. But why not say, you know, why is it that women are making parity? Why don't they do it the other way around?

Mark: [interview tape] More women than men?

Eleanor:  No,"we're going to have just as many men as we have women."

[Outro music kicks in again] 

Mark: 

Thanks for listening to this ‘prepisode’ of the Off Script podcast.

One of the full-length episodes we’re working on is an exploration of the experience of women in the Nova Scotia legislature. Stay tuned for that.

Make sure to subscribe to the OffScript podcast in iTunes, or wherever you keep your podcasts.

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You can stream it straight from OffScript.ca, where you can also find the link to the Off Script RSS feed.
If you follow the links in each blog post, that’ll bring you to our audioboom channel where you can download the MP3 of each podcast - or just go straight to On the Record, Off Script podcast.

Off script is produced by Springtide.
Springtide is a registered charity working to make democracy better in Nova Scotia through education, research and public engagement.

The podcast is produced with the support of Democracy 250, which got us started, and to keep it going we need support from listeners like you.

Thank you to Julie Breau the very first person to sign up to be a monthly donor after last week’s podcast.

If you like what you’re hearing, visit OffScript.ca to join Julie and make a contribution. If you make a donation by Tuesday
November 1st, we’ll enter you in a draw to win a book and t-shirt prize pack.
And we’ll make sure to thank anyone who makes a contribution in our next podcast.

[Voiceover and music ends]

 

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