.Permier Alward poured out his story for close to an hour, paused, sighed, "....and that was the second time he humilitated me, publicy treating me and my government as if we were his office clerks."
Holmes' eyes revealed a sympathy he always felt for those who, despite honorable intentions, find themselves being used for evil puproses. But his voice also betrayed an impatience.
"You mentioned the Atlantic Insitute for Market Studies. What does it do? Was it founded before or after your troubles? Who pays for it? How did your predecessor, Shawn Graham, get the idea of of buying electricity from another province?"
Premier Alward looked back at the master like a deer caught in the headlights. "Well." he stammered, "AIMS is a scientific study group. But it is private; so it is not required to post the names of its donors...."
"Not another word". said Holmes. There is no need to answer. This is not even a one-pipe problem. I shall explain it to you."
"AIMS is a propaganda front for corporations and the wealthy. It's expensive to operate; so I can assure you it does not live on donations from widows and orphans. Its 'scientific' reports are worthless; but get excellent coverage by newspapers because the newspaper owners are commonly the same people who support these 'think tanks' all across North America."
"Generally, their purpose is to privatize as much as possible. Thus their constant reports that government should be small (except when making grants and giving tax cuts to the rich), and that everything should be privatized - education, health care, pensions....all should be for private profit".
"Currently, AIMS is also working on a project to form a sort of economic union of the Maritimes, Quebec and New England. That surely gives a hint of why we hear talk of selling NB Energy, buying some electricity from Quebec, and exporting some to New England where the donors to AIMS also have substantial interests".
"Premier Graham was simply a pawn who failed them in dealing with public anger."
"Your party, Mr. Alward, has traditionally, along with the Liberals, been safely in the pockets of the donors to AIMS. But they needed a tougher and more visible stance to deal with the voters. Thus the Economic Summit, essentially a programmed gathering of corporate heads with an assortment of attractive potted plants like university presidents and community leaders. The report that they presented at the end, could have been written - and may have been written - before the meeting was held. But there needed to be something more, if only to demonstrate to you that you had better not fail to deliver the goods, as Premier Graham did.".
"That was when Mr. Irbing announced in his papers that he had formed a coalition with your government. That annnouncement was unconsitutional and highly improper. Only an elected person can be in a coalition in a democracy. As well, one does not invite oneself into a coalition any more than one invites oneself to a private party. The invitiation - and the announcement - are up to the host. That announcement, coming from Mr. Irving was a warning to you and to oanyone who thought New Brunswick was a democracy. Your silence on that occasion must have encouraged him."
"I cannot, at this distance, determine how arrogance and ego may have influenced Mr. Irving's behaviour. He may suffer from those as the emperor Caligula did. Caligula, in his arrogance, thought he was a god and, accordingly, frequently wore a beard made of gold wire inserted, one wire at a time, into his skin."
"Whatever the full reasoning might have been, the effect was certainly to remind you and the voters who the boss is. But even that wasn't enough. He needed even more direct control."
"Thus the meeting you had with two, lesser corporate types, to tell you they were setting up a group to create an economic plan for the future of New Brunswick. You were graciously permitted to join as an ordinary member. That committte now has public credibility, and power to influence, even shape, every government function from privatizing NB Energy to clearing roads. The public and their elected representatives no longer matter."
"But what shall I do, Mr. Holmes? If I deny what they ask, they will leave the province.?"
"Holmes smiled. "And if you spray a mosquito, it will leave before it has sucked all it wants of your blood.. Mr. Alward, following the instinct of your fears will simply lead you to become as unpopular as Graham Shawn was. And New Brunswickers, I fear, will show their anger in the only way they seem to know - vote you out, and vote the Liberals back in."
"Go public, Mr. Alward. Tell your voters what I have told you. Expect no help from most of the news media, of course. But buy space on radio. Then travel the province to meet your voters. Tell them that you propose to resist. Then, do what you said you would do in your election campaign.."
"Listen to them."
A light flashed in Alward's eyes. He stood up, shoulders squared. "I'll do it, Mr. Holmes/ Thank you and bless you for making me a man,again."
Holmes grasped Alward's hand in both of his. "Spoken like a true Briton."
With that, Alward strode to the door. As it closed behind him, Holmes clapped his hands and, said, "Well, Watson, tonight we get away from Mrs. Hudon's dreadful sheepshead pudding, and dine at the best restaurant we can find."
"But Holmes, your last supply of heroin took almost all our money. We barely have enough to eat even Mrs. Hudson's food for the month."
Holmes chuckled. "The game's afoot, Watson. Before we go out,I 'll send a message to Mr. Irving, telling him what was said tonight. That will earn a mountain of heroin for me, and enough restaurant food to last the rest of our lives."
And so, fifteen minutes later, the two friends stepped into the evening fog. Holmes raised his stick..