The Negotiator

News item — Wabigoon lake band settles reserve land flood claim for $24 million
If this were a movie, it would star John Wayne, big, dependable, gentle as a kitten with damsels in distress, but tough as nails galloping through the night, six-guns blazing while plucking arrows out of his hide with his teeth.
“They got us dead to rights”, he says, “clearly Ontario gave the power company permission to dam the river, and clearly that caused the lake to rise and flood the reserve land. A hundred acres went from ‘walk fast or get wet feet’ swamp to ‘you could paddle a canoe on it’ swamp”. “But have no fear, I am ‘THE NEGOTIATOR’ and I will pull you through, I have already made a deal that I will travel up there to negotiate every second month on their turf, and they will travel to Toronto months between to negotiate on my turf.” He puts on his stern, no-nonsense face, there is a burst of western movie music, and he says “I will look after it”.
Scene one – the negotiator strides through the batwing doors, denim shirt, heavy-duty jeans over rough and tough boots, with shiny leather chaps over all (the chaps make no sense at all, but, hey, we are making a movie here, and they put focus on the genital area, and make anybodies butt look better). “OK, guys, I have beat up those bean-counters pretty good to get you a deal. They come up with, the hundred acres of swamp had a market value of $10, tops, in 1910, so they apply interest and inflation factors for the whole hundred years between and come up with a present value of $4 000. I talked them into a settlement of $5000, and here it is (dumps a roll of bills, plus a plug of tobacco and a small bag of wampum beads on the table). Adversary draws himself up to his full height, and lets his inscrutable, eyes-to-the-horizon noble savage visage sag just long enough so the Negotiator can see that he is mortally insulted with this piffling offer, holds up six feathers, and says “No”.
Then they all go fishing on the ‘goon for the day.
Scene two – The Negotiator minces into the 28th floor made-to-impress, chrome and stainless and windows floor to ceiling conference room, wearing his embossed ostrich-leather cowboy boots over his white, skin-tight jeans, along with his white Stetson and Lone Ranger mask. “OK, guys, I got those bean-counters to admit we have to work with present values, not 1910 values. They got a bunch of appraisals, a hundred acres of swamp up there is worth $40 000 tops. I got them to put in some goodwill, and I got you an offer of $50 000”. Adversaries, in their beaded buckskin jackets (actually suedine, $49.95 at Walmart, but who can tell, we are making a low budget movie here), and their genuine hand-made moosehide moccasins (actually, made in a factory in North Bay, and that little piece sticking up by the tongue really is moosehide, but who can tell, etc), draw themselves up to their full height, put on their ‘environmentally sensitive children of the forest’ faces, hold up 6 fingers, and say “No”.
Then they all go night-clubbing for the evening.

Scene three – back home, same deal, now the offer is ‘we will give you a thousand acres of untouched swamp adjacent to the reserve, as compensation for the flooding’, answer is rub fingers together, hold up six, and say “No”. Negotiator realizes, ‘hey, they want money, and the six means six figures, millions’.
Go fishing.
And so it goes, month after month, year after year, until one day the Negotiator turns up, pale and thin, with a stammer in his voice and feeble movements and gestures, and says “twenty”. And his lead adversary says to his fellow negotiators, “hey guys, we better give up this ‘noble savage’ schtick, and get real. If this turkey croaks, we will have to start all over with a new boy. We could do a lot with 20 mil, maybe we better grab it”. So he turns to the Negotiator and says “25”. Negotiator says “24”. Adversary says “Yes”.
A churchly chorus of jubilant hymn type music swells up, the Negotiator rises up off his sick bed and slowly evaporates away to a plume of smoke, and the screen fades to black.
Tough guys, these government negotiators.

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