We remember the days. The laughingstock days.
As Alliance Party leader, much of the time Stockwell Day spoke it was deemed to subtract from the sum of human knowledge.
He talked of how man once walked with the dinosaurs. It prompted a Liberal to quip, "He must think the Flintstones is a documentary."
He once roared to shore on a Jet Ski, wearing spandex. Held a beachside press conference. Expected to be taken seriously.
Jokes, Dan Quayle-type jokes, began to surface concerning the state of his mental equipment. "He thinks Cheerios are doughnut seeds," one wag cracked.
His own party members deserted Stockwell Day, scurrying off like rats down a drainpipe. They formed their own rump that then joined with Joe Clark's rump, leaving Mr. Day without enough of a rump to continue in the leadership.
Few Canadian politicians ever experienced such humiliation. We all assumed Mr. Day was dead, dead, dead; that he would go back to the Okanagan -- and crawl under a rock.
Ah, but life's tales of redemption -- never give up no matter how low you go -- are sweet. Today, the same Stockwell Day is one of the lead performers in the Stephen Harper cabinet. He has his respect back. He has his power restored. The guy we loved to ridicule is Minister of Public Safety, charged with keeping the great north safe and free from the terrorist hordes.
It's a job with tripwires all over the place: terror plots, border clampdowns, gun control, Mountie misdeeds. Many colleagues were surprised the Prime Minister entrusted Mr. Day with it. Visions of him lecturing Islamists on the joys of creationism or towing an alien down the B.C. coast in his water machine came to mind. Surely a more sure-footed fellow was needed.
But the new Stockwell Day has barely made a misstep. It is hardly a cabinet of stalwarts, but few expected he would emerge as one of Mr. Harper's top three or four. His secret has been to stay out of the way -- and out of his own way as well. There's been no grandstanding, no fear-mongering with red alerts and scare campaigns of the type seen south of the border. Ian Brodie, Mr. Harper's chief of staff, is said to be behind the wise approach.
"I think," offered Mr. Day, "that it's important to maintain a tone of quiet confidence. I think there has to be calmness on this job because there are situations and alerts that come up all the time and you can't panic when a situation unfolds."
It was a tone he was seldom able to find as Alliance leader. Phil von Finckenstein, who served as his communications officer back then, recalled the chaos. Now he can barely believe the change. "Canadians are seeing a new Day in Parliament," he said. "He has faced down the opposition on some very delicate issues."
When he took the job he was warned by a top member of Mr. Harper's team to stay focused. No freelancing into loonyland would be tolerated. The tight-scripting, Mr. Day acknowledges, has made a difference. "I actually appreciate the approach to communications the Prime Minister has asked each one of us to take. And that is, if you have something to announce, announce it. Otherwise just do your job. It doesn't help to speculate on things. I'd say that's especially so with respect to security matters."
Not everything has been smooth sailing. Officials report that Mr. Day, along with Justice Minister Vic Toews and Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, wanted RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli replaced as result of the Maher Arar controversy. But the Prime Minister overruled his security team. Asked to comment Mr. Day said, "Well, you know, whether that is true or not, I can't reflect or speculate on that."
It's the new diplomatic Day. Rod Love, the Westerner who directed the 2000 Alliance campaign, said his former leader has returned to the type of performer he was in the cabinet of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. "He never stepped out of line there. He was a focused, loyal, lieutenant."
But being Alliance party leader required a different multitasking set of skills. "Those were fractious times," Mr. Day recalled. "Brand new party. You had people upset, three or four different camps."
He couldn't handle it. Perhaps not many could have. The amazing thing, after all he went through, was that he didn't quit politics entirely. What helped him he said was recalling words from his parents about the importance of perseverance.
That and his own philosophy. "I find in life whether you get criticism or whether you get praise, the important thing is to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, 'Am I doing the best I possibly can?' "
Amen to that.