Workplace and symbol

It was about 1 p.m. One of the clerks outside the chamber went over the rules I was to keep in mind when I went inside: Enter quietly. No briefcases or parcels. No applauding or talking out loud. Rise to your feet when the Speaker enters, when you’re introduced and when you leave. It made me think I was entering the Vatican.

But it was actually the Speaker’s Gallery at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton last Thursday afternoon. Eventually, the MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for Sherwood Park, just outside Edmonton, rose to address the government and opposition members present.

“Speaker, I rise to introduce distinguished visitors,” MLA Annie McKitrick said.

Quips, jabs and the TV coup de grace

Munk Debate brought more of the politics of fear into play. (photo CQCC)
Munk Debate brought more of the politics of fear into play. (photo CQCC)

One could see the man was about to pounce. One could see that it was a debater’s moment – maybe even one of those so-called knockout punches. And the punch was aimed at the prime minister. Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau wound up and let it fly at Conservative leader Stephen Harper.

“Mr. Harper on (Bill) C-51,” Trudeau said of the anti-terrorism bill passed into law in June of this year, “wants us to be afraid that there’s a terrorist under every leaf and rock in Canada.”

Closest to the premiers

A few weeks ago, as I showered, shaved and made my way to work, CBC Radio’s local Toronto morning show invited audience comment. Host Matt Galloway wondered: “Where do Torontonians go, to find absolute silence?”

In a matter of a few seconds, I had an answer and texted it to him: “Sealed inside the rare books section at the Robarts Library, right down to the white gloves so your hands don’t rustle pages.”

I hadn’t thought about Ontario’s 17th premier in a long time. But when Galloway posed the question, I quickly remembered research I had conducted back in the early 1970s. I needed to find excerpts from particularly rare books and the only source was the then brand new John P. Robarts Research Library at the University of Toronto. By coincidence, this past week, I’ve been reading my colleague Steve Paikin’s new book, “Paikin and the Premiers.” Among other things, Paikin reminded me that Premier Robarts gave this province much more than a quiet research library.

On being a debate moderator

Everything was going as planned, last Sunday afternoon. I had some errands to complete, my students’ news copy to edit. Then, I planned to wash and dress to be at the Durham riding debate venue half an hour before things got started. When I arrived and saw all the parked cars and not a soul outside, my heart sank. I realized the debate was scheduled for 7 not 7:30. I’d arrived just as the main event was about to begin.

It’s the first time in all the years I’ve done these things, that I’ve ever been late for an MC gig.

Paving over peach paradise

We met her along a suburban crescent of retirement-like houses in Vineland, Ontario. The homes were built in 1990 on local farmland, but looked brand new. Anyway, for semi-retired Patricia Pierce, the setting was perfect – almost opposite her old elementary school and close to the farm where her parents had raised her and thousands of Niagara Peninsula fruit trees.

“I would never have thought in a million years I’d be here in this retirement village,” she said. “But somehow it seems very appropriate.”