EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Michael Ignatieff, in True Patriot Love, on national vision for Canada

In his latest book True Patriot Love, four generations in search of Canada, Michael Ignatieff writes like a leader, shares his passion for and belief in the country, and provides an insight into the major challenges he sees facing the nation.

He does it all most effectively while telling the stories of his great grandfather, George Monro Grant who travelled with Sandford Fleming to map the railway line across Canada; his grandfather, William Lawson Grant who served in World War I, returning home with belief that Canada earned right to be sovereign nation, and his uncle, George Grant, who believed that Canada had gone from colony to nation and back to colony -- the second time of the United States.

Now that he has stated his case so eloquently, Mr. Ignatieff, who is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada , has to convince Canadians that he has the right stuff to meet the challenges facing Canada as prime minister.

Mr. Ignatieff suggests that the Trans Canada highway should be four lanes across the nation as we "pretend" we have a national highway today. "In many places -- northern Ontario or the interior of British Columbia -- it dwindles down to two lane blacktop, and the local residents will tell you these narrow sections make the national highway a death trap." Having lived in northern Ontario most of my life and for the past 20 years in the interior of British Columbia, I could not agree more with Mr. Ignatieff.

He cites the high speed railways used to tie Europe together, while after "fifty years of studies" we are still considering a high speed link between Windsor to Quebec City, Vancouver to Calgary and Calgary to Edmonton. "If we want to tie Canadians together, if we want to be nation builders, we would start on them right now." Agreed!!!

He argues that we are one of the few countries that has never created a petroleum reserve to protect citizens from fluctuations in supply from foreign countries. He asks if it makes sense that we ship oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the United States but import lage quantities to meet demand in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

Mr. Ignatieff raises other issues too, all in the context of telling the stories of his own family members, suggesting that our ancestors would ask what is the "national vision of our age." It has been a long time since I heard a Canadian politician of any political party speak of a national vision for Canada.

True Patriot Love is a good read, and a starting point for a national conversation on the future of Canada.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bill Davis a very decent Ontario premier turns 80

Bill Davis, who was the second longest serving premier of Ontario from 1971 to 1985, recently turned 80, and when I saw a Toronto Star feature on a party for him, it brought back a flood of memories of my connection to him as university newspaper editor, as an editor at the Brampton Times and Conservator and as reeve of Chapleau.

When I was editor of the Cord at Waterloo Lutheran University (now Wilfrid Laurier University), Mr. Davis was Ontario's education minister and was awarded an honorary degree by the university. It bothered me for the longest time that I ran the Davis story as the headliner on page one, instead of something more radical in keeping with the sixties. But I was a good Progressive Conservative in those days, so I went with it.

As education minister from 1962 to 1971, perhaps his most lasting legacy was to establish community colleges in Ontario, a first in North America, a move that was much criticized. In fact I worked with teachers and a principal who had no use for community colleges and would never recommend that students attend them. He also extended full funding to Roman Catholic schools to Grade 13, and introduced student loans.

When I was an editor at the Brampton newspaper responsible for the front page in 1967, we ran every word Mr. Davis ever uttered on the front page. I didn't have to question myself at all as the paper totally supported him, and I simply ran the stories. Mr. Davis was also the consummate riding politician and never missed an opportunity to talk about Brampton -- which brings us to Chapleau in 1975.

I had become reeve of Chapleau in 1974, and we were starting to move forward on some major projects which would need provincial support. I had also been contacted by the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to see if I would run against NDP incumbent Floyd Laughren in Nickel Belt riding in the 1975 election.

I declined and the Tories came up with mayors from the Sudbury area to run, but here was the deal. I would be the keynote speaker at a giant rally in Sudbury if Mr. Davis would pay a visit to Chapleau.

Mr. Davis flew to Timmins to announce the election, and on the same day came to Chapleau to meet with us. We visited the site of the Chapleau General Hospital then under construction, and I had an opportunity to lobby the premier about all our plans. Without going into detail let me tell you that Bill Davis was a man of his word, and doors were opened at Queens Park.

While he was in Chapleau, he was doing a tour of main street and came upon a family from Brampton. Of course, for a moment, forget Chapleau. These were voters from home.

As an aside Clare Hoy, writing in the Toronto Sun referred to him as Backwoods Bill, wondering why he would waste his time coming to Chapleau on the day he called an election. Chapleau folks were not impressed.

As premier, many considered him very bland, but he had a way about him -- a sense of common decency, so rarely seen today in our politicians that he stands out as one of the most memorable politicians I have known.

Stephen Lewis, who was at one time the Ontario NDP leader sent the following message to Mr. Davis to mark his birthday:

"You made politics an art that was at once humane, generous, respectful and urgent. We often disagreed but there always remained a quality of shared regard and friendship, how astonishingly different from the politics of today."

Well said Mr. Lewis. Happy Birthday Mr. Davis!!

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE