(Editor’s note: former Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano in 2008 retired to Québec’s Eastern Townships to manage a family vineyard and winery. Gagliano was criticized by Liberal colleagues over the 2004 sponsorship scandal, but never charged with any offence. “Name one politician – even Brian Mulroney – who’s been treated like I have been treated in the media,” he once told a reporter. In a rare interview October 12, 2011, Gagliano spoke with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan on his career before and after politics. Following is a transcription of his remarks)
What do I miss about politics? Nothing! Really, I don’t miss it. When I do something, I give 150 percent, everything I have. Once I’m gone, I turn the page.
Political life is very exciting, especially when you are in the government. Practically everybody is looking at you; everybody makes you feel important. All of a sudden, when you are no longer in government and you thought you had a lot of friends, all of a sudden you realize that real friends are very few. Once you’re no longer in power, it is not interesting for them. Yes, that affects you.
I used to tell my friends, wait and see when I am no longer a minister: you see all those people around me that are so nice? They won’t even say hello to me anymore! Really, yes it hurts you, but since I was prepared it didn’t affect me that much.
My father was a farmer. Sicily is blessed with sun and the warm weather which is perfect for growing wine. It is kind of in our DNA; it’s part of the European culture. Anybody who has a piece of land, naturally the first thing you plant is some vines.
I went into this business. I produce a product and I put my name on it. I am not ashamed of my name; I’m not ashamed of anything I did. I’m proud of my name and I am putting that on the wine, and if somebody doesn’t like my name because of my political past, that’s too bad.
We have passion and imagination and make really good wines, not only white – because Québec has proven it can make good white wines – but we can make good red wines, too. We have very rich soil with a lot of rocks. A very rocky soil is good for the vines; it has natural drainage. We say the vines need dry feet.
We have 14 tanks of different sizes, from 200 litres to 10,000 litres. Each barrel has its own microclimate; the wine breathes. Not even the experts can explain the effect. There are some mysteries in the wine business.
I consider myself semi-retired because I work a lot, but with pleasure. I do this because I like it. There’s a lot of pressure; if you make a mistake it may be costly. But it is creating something. My doctor says I’m not getting any younger. You have to take care of yourself.
It’s always tough. You have to like what you do; you need passion to stay in this business. Whatever I did, I gave it my all. I believe in Canada; I believed in my role as a minister of the Crown. I’m proud of it. I have no regrets. Why should it bother me? I don’t even watch the news anymore.