Discover more from Paul Wells
Marc Miller learns on the job
On the podcast, frank talk about the challenges of government
One of my earliest discoveries as a journalist was that some people will talk to someone in my line of work the way people usually talk, but others will go in with their guard up and never drop it. To say the least, I understand the latter instinct. There’s no way for the subject of an interview to control it. So it’s reasonable for politicians to assume any interview will go like Paxman vs. Swain on the satirical British show The Thick of It (warning, salty language):
Politicians who will just talk frankly about the tradeoffs inherent in their jobs, the setbacks and the satisfactions, are rarer. It suggests a level of comfort with the fatalism implied in the Serenity Prayer and a fair dose of self-confidence. I’ve long thought of Marc Miller as one of this sort, so I was pleased when he agreed to an interview, in front of an Ottawa audience, for my podcast.
Miller is the minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations, which is self-evidently a hard job. He’s got strong partisan instincts, though he’s usually restrained in how he expresses them. He’s been a friend of Justin Trudeau’s since they were both students at Brébeuf College in Montreal. He joined the Army before his 17th birthday. He had time on his hands during the Liberals’ first mandate, because he wasn’t in the federal cabinet, so he learned the rudiments of the Mohawk language. We covered all of that ground in the interview, as well as touring some of Miller’s most difficult and frustrating files: clean drinking water and compensation for the failed Indigenous child-welfare system above all.
I’m learning that audiences for my newsletter (this thing) and my podcast overlap only a little. If you’re in the intersection of the two groups — if you both read and listen to my recent work — you might notice a pretty sharp tonal gradient: I’m much more critical in print than in person. This isn’t a tactical choice. It’s a function of intended voice. If you’re reading me, I feel I owe you a sense of what I think. Whereas if I’m interviewing somebody, my goal is to have that person do most of the talking. They generally won’t do that if I act like Jeremy Paxman in the Youtube clip above.
All of which is to say that Marc Miller seems unusually motivated to talk frankly about what it’s like to have a difficult assignment in government, and I was eager to let him talk. I think the result is some of the best insight into the political life that The Paul Wells Show has provided so far. There’s a lot more in this vein to come from other guests, I hope.
Here’s my interview with Marc Miller on Apple Podcasts:
And here’s where to find it on other platforms.
The Founding Sponsor of The Paul Wells Show is Telus, who worked closely with our Ottawa partners at the National Arts Centre to make the Marc Miller event a success. Our Title Sponsor is Compass Rose. I’m grateful for the support they all provide. In Toronto, I’m the inaugural Journalist Fellow-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Antica Productions handles production for the podcast. The Toronto Star and iPolitics distribute and promote The Paul Wells Show.
These platforms I inhabit these days — a newsletter that lands in your phone at odd hours; a podcast that inhabits a hundred online venues, each with its own quirks — give me fantastic freedom, but they require audiences to work a little harder to find and activate them. Never doubt that I’m thankful to you for taking the time and making the leap of faith. We’re building a couple of national communities of people who make time in their day for thoughtful journalism. If you know somebody else who would like this stuff, they’d probably be grateful if you let them know about this podcast and this newsletter, and help guide them past any technical obstacles. I know I am.