Stories From an Elevator
July 8th, 2019
There’s a lot going on right now, but none of it’s publishable yet. There’s news coming soon but, until then, here’s a regalement on everybody’s favorite minion; Doug Morton.
Elevator music isn’t deep, it’s meaningless. It’s played in places like elevators, where people come together with no intention of actually listening to the music. Either you’re really into the droning acoustic wallpaper of elevator music or, like the readers of a 1997 Sunday Times survey, you consider it “the most irritating thing in modern life.”
The human equivalent of elevator music is called Doug Morton. He’s the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA’s) Director of Government Affairs, and he’s as sonorous as vacuous; a constant source of superficiality and slithery reassurance in the halls of Ottawa.
When the Civil Service first launched their litigations against us, they assigned Doug Morton to be their representative in testimony. He’s been their guy in Discoveries throughout.
My legal team once rode an elevator with him. He was amiable, engaging, but after a few floors of descent he was out of his depth. He was superficial, meaningless, blathery.
According to his own bumf, he describes himself thusly;
Doug Morton is a “strong and versatile executive with demonstrated P&L management experience driving market share, revenue and profit growth.” So, we’re told, he’s a biggie. Says Morton; “within a Global Fortune 500 company, saved an underperforming division from closing and transformed it to growth and earnings leadership.” He has “talent for assessing business challenges [and] developing strategies [and] driving concrete execution plans to achieve results [and is a] proven relationship builder and motivating leader,” etcetera and slobbering soforth.
But it took one elevator conversation for my legal team to describe him as “a moron.”
Doug Morton was chosen as CSA’s litigation witness because he doesn’t know very much and could be their designated fall guy in the event of perjury charges, and he wouldn’t see that coming either.
One day, with Morton installed in the witness box (an office chair behind an office table in an office -discovery sessions aren’t sexy), we asked him a clump of questions about CSA’s legal status. We already knew the answers of course, the questions were designed to draw out perjury or ignorance of his subject matter.
Has CSA ever been headquartered in a government office, we asked? No, said Morton. Has CSA ever been housed, in any way, in a government office? No, said Morton, this time with frustration. He wasn’t perjuring himself on this one, he was showing his ignorance of the subject matter he’d been claiming to be expert in.
Readers will recall that we’ve had the full-meal-deal at National Archives, so that we’ve got a fulsome record of CSA’s tenancy within Federal Government offices. We even included some sample pictures of directory listings in our article on the subject.
Yet, with records showing decade after decade after decade of tenancy as a Crown Agency, indeed even being headquartered inside Government Departments, Doug Morton, the CSA’s Director of Government Relations and sworn expert on CSA, had no idea that CSA’s ever had any other office than the one they moved into a few years ago.
We had another interesting elevator trip with Morton a couple of years after the first. It was in Toronto, and once again we’d just finished a discovery session with Morton as witness, and we were exiting the facility. Both sides had arrived at the elevator column at about the same time and, in social grace and gritted solidarity, my legal team chose the less offensive response to an open elevator, and both sides rode down together.
Stilted conversation ensued. Somebody mentioned the weather. I was in front, staring point-blank at the door -the elevator was quite full. Morton was at the back and to my right. CSA’s lead Counsel, Kevin Sartorio, was beside me at left. Said Kevin, “You’re not flying home, and then back to Ottawa in the same week?” “No,” said I, giving a chuckle. It wasn’t an elucidating answer. Kevin tried again; “You’re not going to Ottawa early are you? More meetings?” The elevator briefly filled with laughter. “Well,” said I, “meetings happen all the time.” That’s a loaded non-answer of course, and I prided myself on my unhelpful performance.
The door opened and out we went.
Then my lawyer leaned in as we crossed the lobby; “Holy crap man, he hates you!” “What?” “Morton, seriously!”
You see, as Director of Government Relations, his job is to put politicians to sleep. Everything is always fine, nothing is ever amiss, never an illegal activity or a single liability to worry the politicians’ pretty heads over. Nothing folks, is ever deep in CSA lobbying. It can’t be, for CSA is only clean on the surface; the stuff underneath is nasty. So, the surface discussion needs to be sufficiently reassuring that nothing deeper is ever pursued.
And yet, with every political meeting I had, every article I wrote, and every constituent that called to complain about what they’d read on this site, Doug Morton had a job and a half to calm the concerns of MPs and reassure that absolutely nothing was wrong and nothing needed to be done to verify it. I was giving him political headaches. I was making him work hard. I was exposing the mythic image of CSA to the light of day, and making Morton look bad at every turn.
In that elevator, Morton learned that I was heading back to Ottawa for yet more meetings, creating more headaches, causing more people to question CSA’s lucrative and luxuriating status quo. And he didn’t know who I was meeting. And he didn’t know the meeting schedule. And I don’t have to register as a lobbyist (and I haven’t), so he had no easy way to track my meetings. Morton would have to scramble, again, to sort out the damage done before it compounded, and try once again to dance around these dangerous issues in a frenetic flurry of obfuscation.
My legal counsel was opposite Morton at the back of the elevator. He was watching Morton’s expression when I ducked the question of whether I was meeting politicians that week.
“He gave you daggers.”
“Oh yeah, his expression was full rage.”
I wasn’t supposed to defend myself. Back in 2012, when CSA first struck at me, they really believed that I’d just pay the protection money and be a nice, reliable shake down victim. That I didn’t -and worse, that I fought back, is terribly resented. In this fight, that CSA’s been so badly exposed is terribly hated.
Said my lawyer; “They hate you, you know.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I know it well.”