I stood looking out the window of my home office.
Goddamn this place, I thought.
Maybe you think that’s a funny way for a premier to feel about his province, but if so, then you probably haven’t been to New Brunswick.
This province is like an old tin of anchovies — cheap, crowded, and it smells like fish. We’ve got no real landmarks worth mentioning, huge unemployment numbers, and all the papers say that illiteracy is as high 19 per cent. That sounds low to me, though. If you could read enough to check the bus schedule, you’d probably buy the first ticket out of this dump. (My editor says I should stop slagging off the illiterates, but what are they gonna do? Read this?)
Sure, I was in a bad mood. The cause? A Facebook group. A hate group, I should say.
It went by the name of “Sane People Against New Brunswick Government.” Sane people my ass. All they ever did was post anti-government memes and pictures of my face pasted onto the bodies of history’s greatest villains: Hitler, Genghis Khan, Dr. Eggman, and the list went on. It was really making me look bad, and I didn’t know what to do about it.
I sat down at my desk, feeling lousy. I glanced over to the framed photograph of my beloved. It always had a funny way of cheering me up in these situations. I picked it up and held it in my hands.
“What would you do, Justin?” I said, softly, tracing my finger over the prime minister’s strong jawline. I sighed and put the picture back down on the desk.
Then, as if someone stuck me with a needle of adrenaline, my resolve returned. I knew what I was going to do — something the Liberal government had never been able to do before.
I was going to get results.
I headed toward the government offices, hoping there would be some intel awaiting me when I got there.
As I walked through downtown Fredericton, my nose upturned in disgust, I soon heard the sound of size 7 Converse sneakers smacking the ground behind me. Aw crap, I thought. Her again.
“Hi, Mr. Premier,” said the young girl, once she caught up with me. “Can I carry your briefcase for you?”
This kid. She was always popping up at random times and in odd places to bother me, much like she was now. I didn’t know her name…Rebecca something. Whatever. To me, she was “The Runt” and a major thorn in my side.
“No,” I said, clutching the case close to my chest. “There’s important business stuff in here. Government stuff.” Actually it was comic books, but either way, I didn’t want her touching them.
The Runt’s eyes widened. “Wow, real governmental work? Gosh, I’d love to see what that looks like, so I’ll know what to do when I go into local politics.”
“Oh come off it, kid,” I said, walking faster. “After college you’ll leave for Alberta like every other young person around here.”
“No,” she wheezed, struggling to keep pace. “I love this province. I want to grow up to be premier — just like you!
I stopped to face her. This wasn’t the first time we had had this conversation.
“Why, kid?” I asked. “We’ve talked about this. The job ain’t worth spit.”
“I disagree. I think it’s the most important job in the whole world,” she said, firmly.
“That’s just stupid,” I said, opening the doors to city hall. “You’re stupid.”
What a stupid kid, I thought, glancing back at her through the window, her eager smile still pasted to her stupid face.
“So,” I said, walking into the office. “What do we know so far?”
“Huh?” asked Stephen Horsman, my loyal deputy premier, looking up from his work. “What are you talking about?”
“The social media thing,” I said. “On Facebook. The attack.”
He looked at me for a moment, as if not comprehending. Then it came to him.
“Oh, that,” he said, shrugging. “Nothing, I guess. I didn’t think it was that big a deal, so I just moved on to other things.”
“Other things?” I asked indignantly. “More important than the public trust in our administration?”
“I don’t know…I suppose,” said Horsman, sheepishly pointing to the work on his desk. “Right now I’m working on a plan to help low-income parents by subsidizing some of the necessary costs of living for their kids.”
“Damn the parents and damn their kids,” I said, swiping the papers off of his desk. “I want answers!”
“Jeez Brian, OK,” he said, stooping down to pick up the scattered documents. “What is it you want me to find out?”
“I want names. Who started this group? Who’s at the root of it?”
He booted up his computer and went onto Facebook.
“Uh…the group does have an administrator,” he said, clicking the link. “But their profile page is pretty vague. No pictures. Just clip art and corny quotes. It looks like some kind of business account, actually. A bad one, at that.”
“What’s the name?” I asked, narrowing my eyes in a cool, Clint Eastwood sort of way.
“@TheFrenchEFF,” he said. “Whatever the hell that means.”
To be continued in part II…