The Ontario provincial election is on June 2nd. We voted today in the advance poll for our area at the arena in town. It is the first day of ten days of advance polls open until May 28th. We chose to attend the advance poll in the rain today thinking we’d thus escape the crowds. Turns out we were wrong on both counts: no rain, no crowds. At the arena entrance was a greying, heavily bearded official , one of the so-called “volunteers” (read: party hack) to greet us and to offer the ubiquitous hand sanitizer. He directed us to the elevator to the second floor, a large room overlooking the arena/skating rink/curling lanes below.
I was pleased to exercise my right to vote. I recalled the last time I had been in the room. It was not for an election, rather an all-candidates oration for an upcoming municipal election, specifically one involving a gentleman whose notoriety preceded him. Significantly his presence around town has since mysteriously evaporated not unlike so many other would-be politicians I suppose. My memorable take from his appearance that evening was how muted he was compared with what had earlier been his comparatively volcanic private performances in my office.
I am not political. I suffer the indignity and isolation of individualism as opposed to the celebrity and accessibility of conformity – which is to say, I’m not good with crowds. During my 40 years as a sole practitioner I was entirely devoted to the inscrutable particulars of my clients’ legal affairs – which is to say, I hadn’t the time for anything else.
I respect the politician for his or her capacity to cope with routine difficulties, some of which I suspect are incalculable. Nor indeed do I wish to itemize what might be the burdensome particulars.
That succinct account – vote, listen, respect – summarizes my entire political experience. Except that is for one occasion.
Through no resolve or credit of my own, when I graduated from law school in 1973, my mother (through a friend of hers) got me a job articling at a law firm on Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa. It was a prestigious law firm, one which I subsequently discovered had a very strong political involvement. It had in addition a thriving membership at the equally prestigious Rideau Club and Royal Ottawa Golf Club both of which became places of regular retreat and the source of some near nefarious business wrangling.
My endorsement of the firm’s lead political figure (President of the Liberal Party of Ontario) happened quite unintentionally. As an articled clerk I was accustomed to doing almost anything, and always anything one of the partners requested. When I was asked by the political partner to “help out” with advertising for his upcoming election, I naturally agreed. In his haste to assist me, he offered his automobile to make it easier for me move about and get things done. Little did he know, he had struck upon the one ingredient I cannot resist – driving a car!
Preceding the election I spent two days (the election was a weekend event) endlessly driving the President’s new fancy Pontiac Grand Prix everywhere about the election venue, stapling advertisements to telephone poles. Turns out I was so adept at the process (for which other more senior confederates had an extravagant though scurrilous sounding label) that “we” ended swamping the competition and winning once again. At least that’s my take on it. Part of the reason for my proliferation was that, unlike most others who attended the political gatherings throughout the weekend, I steered clear of the rallies and instead devoted myself solely to my work. Besides at the time I didn’t drink alcohol.
Following the victory speech, the President and I dined together in private communion. Some months later there was a diluted repeat of political congregation at the Royal York Hotel where some random fun took place sufficient to add an element of entertainment to the otherwise deliberate political activity. Remember, it was the ’70s!
My political career then expired. When I soon thereafter removed myself to Almonte to practice law in the country I attended similar events but I had no native interest. It is however a reflection of the political depth from which I had then ascended that the primary reason I got the job in Almonte in 1976 was that the senior partner of the law firm which hired me was married to the daughter of Counsel to the law firm where I had articled; a gentleman who also happened to be a Senator with whom I had on occasion collaborated.