Bowing to young leaders

Monte Winter announcing he’ll be stepping down after 32 years’ service in Ontario Legislature. Toronto Star

A few weeks ago, I read a story about the end of an era. A man who’d come from a family-run gourmet meat business and then had been elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1985, was stepping down. Monte Kwinter had served his constituents in the riding of York Centre for 32 years, but now he was retiring. The Toronto Star’s Robert Benzie asked the former solicitor general about his decision to leave.

“I am proud of what we accomplished during that time in my riding,” Kwinter told Benzie. But then the 86-year-old Member of Provincial Parliament added something I didn’t expect when he said:

“It’s time to turn over the reins to a new generation.”

What is the benefit?

Scrabble With The Stars competitors (l-r) Charlotte Moore, Dorcas Beaton and Alan Gotlib. Photo from Performing Arts Lodges, Toronto. April 25, 2016.
Scrabble With The Stars competitors (l-r) Charlotte Moore, Dorcas Beaton and Alan Gotlib. Photo from Performing Arts Lodges, Toronto. April 25, 2016.

It was that time of the night. The host had told plenty of jokes. The volunteers had completed most of the preparations. The event was unfolding the way most had hoped. Even the chair of the fundraising committee had a smile on her face. It was time for the pitch. So, out came the president of the charity that was the beneficiary of the evening to speak.

“Time to dig deep folks,” he said. “It’s why we’re here, right? To make some money.”

Weathering Vimy then and now

Students from Uxbridge Secondary School display their Vimy 95th anniversary banner at precisely the spot where Canadian troops made first contact with German soldiers on the morning of April 9, 1917.

It had rained all day. The sun had tried to poke some light through the low-lying clouds and mist of the ridge. But the strong westerly wind – that seemed to cut right through you – quickly erased every attempt. It was not a day to be outside. And yet, people came by the thousand. In particular, the young Canadians – about 5,000 high school students – paraded with banners, cheers and a resolve that was characteristic of their forefathers. One of their teachers summed up the scene.

“They’re wet and chilled to the bone,” she said. “But they realize it’s not right to complain. They’ll get through it.”

Cannot tell a book…

When I met CBC Commissionaire Don Nelson, I had no idea he had been a commando (much like these Canadian troops) during the Korean War.

The first time I went to the local chiropractor’s office, I arrived early and got caught up on some National Geographic stories. Then it was time for my session and I prepared myself with excuses. I expected a barrage of questions, such as, how long had my shoulder been bothering me, what previous treatment had I undergone, and why had I waited so long to deal with it. But that wasn’t the first thing Dr. Peter Begg asked me.

“Where did you get all your research for that Vimy book of yours?” he said.

With my $1 million…

Game of recreational hockey (c.1800s) from Art Gallery of Nova Scotia photo collection.
Game of recreational hockey (c.1800s) from Art Gallery of Nova Scotia photo collection.

About 25 years ago, I travelled to the town of Windsor, in the Annapolis Valley region of Nova Scotia. I’d read about a local personality, a 19th century judge and member of the provincial legislature, Thomas Chandler Haliburton. Among other things, I’d learned that Haliburton had studied and grown up there, written local history and published under the nom de plume “Sam Slick.” But Haliburton had also kept a factual diary, which around 1803 had solved the great Canadian riddle: Where was the game of hockey first played in Canada?

“And boys let out racin’, yelpin’ hollerin’ and whoopin’ like mad with pleasure (on) the playground,” Haliburton had written as a student at King’s College, Windsor, “and (played) the game of hurley … on the ice.”

Remembrance and the vote

"The Canadians held on and won at Kapyong because they believed they were the best men on the hill that night," author Dan Bjarnason writes in his book. "And they were right."
"The Canadians held on and won at Kapyong because they believed they were the best men on the hill that night," author Dan Bjarnason writes in his book. "And they were right."

It was just over a decade ago, as I recall. We were on the eve of a different federal election. The membership of the local Royal Canadian Legion had asked me to address the Remembrance Day banquet. I chose to acknowledge veterans of a forgotten war for a forgotten principle. At the branch, that night, was friend and veteran Bud Doucette. I recognized him and those other Canadian volunteers who fought in the Korean War to uphold the peace charter of the United Nations.

“I felt very proud,” former Lance/Corporal Doucette told me that night. “The war and our service have gone pretty much unnoticed.”