There are always the memories of doing stupid things when one is young. We all have such memories. For example, I remember going as a youth delegate to the Federal Liberal Leadership convention in Calgary Alberta in 1990. Yes, on that ticket I supported Tom Wappel then Member of Parliament, representing the Scarborough West constituency. When I was at the convention, I saw his supporters with tacky green shirts, only then did I become disillusioned with his bid for the top job. In the middle of this adventure, I met future finance minister Paul Martin. I remember a stranger approaching him, pointing and saying to Martin: “Someday this man is going to become prime minister of Canada.” This utterance seemed to ripple through Martin as an affirmation, leading him to repeat it as fact, repeatedly! I was disgusted by this observation, wondering how anyone could be so sure of himself when the rest of us had to struggle in life. Yes, I sparred with him at a press conference and must have made a fool of myself. Being young one can be forgiven for unbridled enthusiasm. I did meet Pierre Trudeau in this mayhem, chatting with him for ten minutes. As a matter of fact, I met him by sitting down in a chair, complaining out loud at the absence of celebrities at such an event. The person beside me agreed with my observation, I looked at him, and saw it was Trudeau, causing me to drop my jaws with shock. Before an audience, Trudeau would adjust his jacket, pull a face, and look statesman like, all to bask in the glow of the celebrity applause. In person, he appeared much like an actor but the mention of his name still is respected by immigrants to Canada, both old and new.
The night before the big leadership vote, I joined the Paul Martin key supporters for a social gathering, who had a good grasp of the issues, offered a sound debate, and could drink too! In the morning, some of us awoke from the floor, suffering from hangovers. In a panic, I grabbed what I thought to be my voter access badge, and I clambered out of the apartment. In an alcoholic state, I wandered around for several hours, looking for the Saddle Dome, where the voting would take place. When I did finally find the venue, I discovered I had David Herle’ access badge. To add to my dismay, I noticed Herle had arrived much earlier, was in the Saddle Dome, and had an official announce my name continually on the speaker system to search me out. Yes, when Herle saw me at the turnstiles, he raced over, and switched our access badges. “You could have waited,” he cried. “We would have gotten someone to drive us over!” When I saw the number of Jean Chretien supporters manifested, my heart sank. Jean Chretien looked much like a cold war villain from a James Bond movie. True to form, he won, took to the stage and faced the gathering. “We have work to do!” he roared to his celebrating supporters, repeatedly, bringing the crowd to their feet, who chanted it with him. Yes, after this victory speech, to my astonishment Chretien was behind me in line for free popcorn. After this experience, I lost interest in politics.
Fast forward to the future! I followed the Conrad Black trial in 2007 with interest and read the newspaper stories on his conviction. Black was a man who owned a majority share of the Canadian media and with this power, he could decide who he wanted to be in government. I thought back to my experiences in the 1990 Liberal Leadership convention. Why doesn’t our political system have a jury pool type system which would call forth citizens for public office? Imagine such a system in place where a year before an election, a jury type call up is issued, aspiring lawyers from the law schools would come forth and hone their prosecution skills to filter out the potential politicians. Fresh faces would be the rule. Politicians for life, or family dynasties would be a thing from the past. Ironically, Canadian parliament doesn’t really appear relevant for this day and age.
Paul Collins, author of Mack Dunstan’s Inferno / Mystery of Everyman’s Way
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