Charles Templeton
An Anecdotal Memoir


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Inside Politics 3 (Charles Templeton Memoir)

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The leadership campaign behind us, I became one of Keith Davey's trouble-shooters. Keith relishes his role as the party's national organizer and performs it with a happy exuberance. I visited him frequently at his Cooper Street offices in Ottawa and enjoyed watching him play political manipulator with what can only be described as zest. As many as a dozen times during an hour's visit he might break off a conversation to take "important calls," quickly becoming immersed in the specifics of a particular problem or catching up on local political gossip in Sudbury or Saskatoon or Fredericton or Revelstoke, or in his beloved Toronto. He is a man wedded to his work, exultant in his niche.

You have to guard against Keith's enthusiasms. In each general election he likes to set up scenarios in three or four ridings that will attract the particular attention of the media. I sometimes had to remind myself that Keith’s and the party's interest might be inimical to my own. He made a number of more or less serious proposals that I run as a candidate in various election; the most fanciful of these kamikaze missions had me being parachuted into Burnaby-Coquitlam to "knock off" The then leader of the NDP, Tommy Douglas.

In the 1963 general election I was dispatched to Algoma East "to rescue Mike Pearson.” Like all Political organizers, Davey, despite his essential level-headedness, is subject to unreasonable panic. Joel Aldred, a Conservative entrepreneur and sometime television-commercial spieler, decided to challenge the prime minister in his own riding. Algoma East is a sprawling, sparsely inhabited section of mid-northern Ontario. Pearson had first run there because it was a safe Liberal seat. He only occasionally visited the riding, despite which it cheerfully returned him each election with thumping majorities.

But now the mellifluous and personable Aldred was on the scene, working hard, taking his best shot at the absentee landlord and "getting lots of ink.” There was a sudden flurry of alarm at Cooper Street. Pearson's other responsibilities made it impossible for him to visit the riding, so I was sent. I flew in to the Manitoulin and immediately challenged Aldred to a debate on the issues. He didn't respond. I made a couple of speeches in hastily arranged rallies - not so much for the people who attended as for the press - and for a few days junketed from place to place, showing the flag and dampening whatever Tory brushfires there might be.

It was all unnecessary, of course. The people of the riding weren't buying Aldred's pear-shaped tones, and the PM was returned with a sizeable majority.

In 1965, in his first bid for office, Robert Andras was in trouble, trouble not of his own making, and I was sent to see if I could help out. Andras, who would later hold a number of important cabinet responsibilities and end his political career as president of the Treasury Board, was the Liberal nominee in Fort William, now incorporated into Thunder Bay, Ontario. I went directly from the airport to a downtown hotel, where I met a very depressed candidate. He was fighting an opponent he couldn't grapple with - the series of political scandals that had dogged the Pearson government's steps during the previous year. Most notable among them was the so-called Rivard affair. It was a complicated and sorry tale. * Enough to say that the Liberals had been targets of the press and the opposition over a series of unsavory goings- on in which they had been bumbling, insensitive, imprudent and slow to act. With the calling of the election, the Conservatives and the NDP had revived the mess and, while the tactic had not been all that successful elsewhere, Andras told me lugubriously that it was about to defeat him in Fort William.

I thought he was exaggerating. (It is astonishing how irrational normally sensible men can become in the pressure cooker of an election campaign. ) To sniff the political atmosphere, I went for a two-hour stroll in the downtown section and, in the course of a number of conversation, discovered that Andras' reading of local sentiment was accurate.

Back at campaign headquarters, I asked the candidate if he could buy time on the local television station. He checked. By a stroke of luck. a half hour was available at ten the following evening immediately after The Man From U. N. C. L. E, the highest rated show on the station at the time. I arranged for a simple set- a desk and an artist's easel against a black backdrop - and notified Andras that I was going to talk about the so-called scandals.

He shook his head "We've had specific instructions from Ottawa that only the prime minister is to speak to the charges. No candidate is to discuss it publicly.” "I'm not a candidate," I said.

The Rivard scandal was at that point a phony issue and could be shown to be so. At the television studio, I came on the air cold, occupied in making a lightening-fast caricature of a fulminating John Diefenbaker. When it was finished, I turned to the camera, introduced myself and said straight out that I was going to speak candidly and without histrionics about the various scandals. For half an hour, I perched on the edge of the desk, moved to the easel to make swift sketches, or spoke directly to the lens of the camera. I had spent years learning how to use television and now it paid off. As the program ended, Andras was so excited he ran onto the set, threw his arms about me, lifted me into the air and swung me around. He was elected by a small majority.

Next stop was my native province, Saskathewan, where politics is fought bare-knuckles. My task was to tour the province-the Tories held every seat-and to give particular aid and comfort to Hazen Argue, the Grits' one, long-shot hope. I found Argue an introverted, diffident man, given to preoccupied silences. He had been for eighteen months the national leader of the CCF party before defecting to the Liberals, and was passionately hated by the NDP. In 1965, he was trying for election in Assiniboia, having been defeated in 1963.

I was chauffeured about the province by a madman assigned by then premier Ross Thatcher. The entire tour of five cities was driven with only one hand; the other was occupied in gesturing as we rocketed along the straight-as-a-string Saskthewan high- ways at ninety miles an hour. Often, I was tempted to return to prayer.

As recompense, I was told wonderful tales of local politics. They played for keeps in Saskatchewan: you left someone to guard your car when you made a speech if you didn't want to find your tires flat or water in your gas tank when you returned. I heard of meeting-hall doors nailed securely shut; a candidate's car fastened to a telephone pole with a length of heavy chain; and of obscenities added to campaign posters so that the candidate himself had to destroy them.

Bully-boy hecklers were sent to meetings to frighten away women and the timid. They would feign fistfights in the midst of the candidate's speech and flee before the police arrived. A woman brought her hungry baby to a meeting and sat in the front row so that the infant's crying drowned out the candidate's speech. At another meeting, a man brought an enormous German shepherd on a leash. He, too, sat in the front row. Throughout the candidate's speech, the dog lunged toward him, straining at the leash, teeth bared, snapping and snarling. It didn't make for oratory.

There were, of course, the common tales of election-day chicanery: of ballot boxes stolen and of dead men voting, some many times. In turn, I told him horror stories I'd heard about the Toronto-Dovercourt riding in the 1930s. Such skullduggery as when a scrutineer for one of the parties lodged a piece of lead beneath a fingernail when unfolding ballots for tallying, and managed to mark those cast for the opposition in such a way as to make them invalid. One party organizer perfected a brilliant scam. Early in the day, a voter entered the polling station. Having been given his ballot, he substituted a folded piece of paper and voted it. The unmarked ballot was then given to the organizer. He marked the X for his candidate and gave it to an indigent or a rummy whose name was on the voters' list . The man deposited the marked ballot and returned with the unmarked one he'd been issued, whereupon he was rewarded with a couple of dollars or a bottle of cheap liquor. The system was repeated throughout the day.

My efforts in Saskatchewan didn't achieve anything tangible. Once again, the Liberals lost every seat. Hazen Argue was defeated but was rewarded by "being summoned to the Senate of Canada".

I was scheduled to go next to Victoria but was diverted to the Northwest Territories by an urgent telephone call from Keith Davey. It seemed there was a chance to capture the seat and that all that might be needed was an extra push.

I flew from Edmonton to Yellowknife aboard Pacific Western Airlines. The initials PWA, I was told by fellow passengers, stood for "Please Wait Awhile" and "Pray While Aloft.” The centre of the cabin was occupied by an enormous piece of crated machinery, lashed to the floor. The few seats that hadn't been removed were occupied mostly by stolid and silent Inuit and Indians. They had brought lunch, and as soon as we were airborne, unwrapped it. I passed when a steward offered me a squashed box lunch.

In Yellowknife I was informed that I couldn't meet the candidate, Bud Orange; he was campaigning at the eastern end of the riding. I looked at a map: I was closer to Toronto than I was to Bud Orange.

Yellowknife looked as a picture-postcard wilderness city should; scrub, rock outcrop and water. Most of its residents dressed in clothes suited to the setting; in my light topcoat and white shirt and tie, I looked like the prototypical city slicker. There were, of course, most of the amenities of a southern city, but the feeling was of being at the end of civilization's reach.

I did all the things you do when you are beating the political drum. I was interviewed by the local paper and on radio, was photographed shaking hands with the shy and inscrutable men introduced to me as the leaders of the native people, was taught a few words in Dog Rib, addressed a public meeting in an inferno-hot hall, was presented with an Inuit bone knife and spoke to a group of wives of engineers, accountants and other "southerners" who were doing a limited stint at the Pine Point mine. The conversation afterwards consisted of stories about the various manifestations of cabin fever.

The entire flight across Great Slave Lake was accomplished with my heart palpitating. We were just out of sight of land when he single engine of the bush plane began to catch and occasion- ally to falter. The pilot opined that there might be a little water in the gas line and that it must be freezing. Nor did my trepidation subside when he reassuringly pointed out that, if the engine did quit, we would last no more than four minutes in the cold, grey waters below.

There were two memorable moments during a two-day stay in Hay River. On the drive into the dust-mantled town, we passed an extensive fenced area, every square inch jammed with gigantic earth-moving machines. My driver told me that, at the end of the Second World War, the United states Army engineers who had been building and maintaining the Canol Pinpeline simply abandoned their equipment. The cost to ship it home was prohibitive, and they were forbidden by law to sell it in Canada. A citizen of Hay Riber, a middle-European as I recall it, slipped out of town with the usual prospector’s equipment - a sleeping bag, a gun, an axe and some matches, along with some flour, salt, beans and tea-and living off the land, followed the pipeline. He had taken with him a can of paint, and he laid claim to millions of dollars worth of abandoned equipment by simply painting his name on it.

The editor of the newspaper in Hay River was an intense, narrow-jawed young man. He sat at his overburdened desk at one end of a long and very narrow office, every square foot of the floor heaped with stacks of yellowing back issues. I tried to talk politics while he talked about the development of the north-two zealots, we held simultaneous conversations about entirely different subjects.

As we spoke, he picked up a chunk of rough rock and looped it across the intervening distance. I reached for it but dropped it. Picking it up, I was surprised at its weight and noticed that flakes

had fallen from it to the floor.

"Lead and zinc," he said. "From the Pyramid mine. Have you heard of it?".

"No," I said, and tried to get back to the Liberal party.

"Do yourself a favour," he said, "get yourself some shares. It's going to be bigger than Pine Point.”

The following morning, killing time at the Edmonton airport, I checked Pyramid shares in a newspaper. They were listed at eighteen cents. I was unimpressed - I'd been touted on penny stocks before. A few months later, Pyramid was selling at thirty- two dollars.

It wasn't a total loss: the Liberals won the seat.

Lester Pearson was in Winnipeg for a major rally and I was flown there to "warm up" the crowd for ten minutes before introducing the prime minister. I was well known in the city - some eighty thousand had attended my preaching mission there in 1956. But we had reckoned without the NDP.

They lined up before the doors opened and immediately occupied the front three rows in the auditorium and all the front seats in the gallery. As I was introduced and made my way to the lectern, they sent up a cacophony of whistling and booing, and the moment I started to speak, began to heckle. My every statement was challenged with hoots and jests and shouted questions. The badgering was not ill tempered, the jibes were mostly attempts at humor, but it was impossible either to ride over it or ignore it. Things grew worse when the Liberals in the crowd began to boo the hecklers, for it sounded as if the increased uproar was directed at me.

I soldiered on, perspiring, shouting to be heard above the melee and swiftly growing hoarse. As there was no option, I quickly moved to my conclusion and returned to my seat. The booing immediately switched to applause. Mr. Pearson got a respectful hearing.

Something like the debacle in Winnipeg happened some years later when I was asked to speak prior to Pierre Trudeau at Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1974 campaign. The Gardens was jammed; the proportion of teenagers was much larger than would normally be the case because of the presence of The Guess Who. In the wake of their incredibly amplified rock music, I rose to speak, my brain numbed by the uproar. The frenetic din that followed the music didn't diminish by a decibel. In mid-speech, my mind was elsewhere, vowing never again to accept an invitation to such an occasion.

Pushing through the crowd five minutes later, I passed an old friend. "Hi,Chuck.” he shouted. "When are you on?" In November, 1965, Lester Pearson's government was returned with its second straight minority. Having counseled the prime minister to go to the country, assuring him of his longed-for majority, Walter Gordon, Political head of the party, and Keith Davey, the national organizer, resigned. Four months later, Davey was appointed to the Senate. In 1968, Pierre Trudeau ascended to the leadership and, in setting up his election apparatus, passed over Davey and appointed Robert Andras Anglophone political organizer. Jean Marchand was made responsible for Quebec.

I had never been enthusiastic about Trudeau and had been publicly critical of him on radio. Nonetheless, I continued to work for the party. In the spring of 1972,the prime minister began to make noises abort an election and the requisite organizational structure was set up. Clem Neiman, who had been campaign manager in my bid for the Ontario leadership, was named Ontario chairman. He persuaded me to act as Chairman of the Candidates Committee, my task being to find suitable candidates and to talk them into running.

The weeks dragged on. Summer came and a half dozen election alerts passed without a writ being issued. It was obvious that Trudeau was unable to make up his mind. I was growing restive. The idea for a novel was yeasting in my head and I was anxious to get to the daily routine of writing. By mid July, I'd had enough and asked to be released from my responsibilities. Neiman wouldn't hear of it. As the dwindling days of summer revealed more indecision in Ottawa, I saw a way out of my dilemma.

Although he had been set aside by the prime minister, Keith Davey was loyal to the party and he was filling a relatively minor role in the Ontario organization. I told Neiman I was adamant about resigning and proposed that he replace me with Davey as candidates chairman. As I recall it, he passed the task to Keith and Dorothy Petrie, Neiman's co-chairman. Incidentally, they subsequently married, although not as a result of this joint assignment. When Trudeau finally called the election for October 3, his majority was reduced to a slim, two-seat advantage. In August 1973, Davey was summoned to serve again as national organizer.

I have not since worked for the party. There was no rupture; it was simply that I was growing increasingly critical of the Trudeau government and was voicing my criticism on the air in my daily dialogue with Pierre Berton. Liberals do not attack their leader, so I severed my connection.

It was also the beginning of the end of my marriage to Sylvia. Such warmth and mutual commitment as there had been was destroyed when I decided to run for public office. Early in 1975, after fifteen years, I left home. We were divorced in February 1976. On December 21, 1980, I married Madeleine Helen Leger. Happy day.

On Politicians

I like politicians. Not all of them, of course, but the breed. If pressed to say why, I would be at a loss. I know many of them, some well, but I have no illusions about them and take such characteristics as self-absorption, overweening ambition and pretentiousness as essential to their trade. That they have king-size egos should not surprise; anyone who runs for political office must believe that he is superior to his fellows to want to be set over them. (I use the masculine gender here because of the awkwardness of he/she and because politicians are preponderantly male. )

It is, of course, facile to speak of politicians as a group. In personality and talent they range the spectrum and vary as widely in their ambitions. Some lust for power (the most unlikely see themselves as numerousness, their improbable dream hidden from even those closest to them until the time comes to declare them- selves as candidates in a leadership convention), some aspire to little more than to represent their neighbors in parliament. Some are compassionate, realizing themselves through service, others do little that won't serve their own ends. Some are honorable men, some are mountebanks.

The largest vocational group among politicians is lawyers, which fact is neither surprising nor regrettable. The reasons for their disproportionate representation are obvious: lawyers are trained in law; government has mostly to do with the making of laws. Happily, their number is leavened by accountants, clergy- men, farmers, businessmen and what have you. A few are academics. A very few are women.

There are reasons why few women occupy seats in the federal or provincial legislatures. Principally, it is bevause political parties are of the nature of men's clubs, and women are not readily admitted. Male politicians - and I'm speaking here of those who work at the job year round rather than spasmodically when there is an election - like to get together to "talk politics.” They meet in "smoke-filled back rooms," in hotel rooms, in each other's homes. Theirs is an easy camaraderie, a jackets-off, collars-open, shirt- sleeves-rolled informality, with feet on the table and a drink in the hand. The conversations is "man talk," the language is forthright and occasionally raunchy. Expletives go undeleted. It is a habitat in which males feel at ease only in the company of other males. Not many women are at home in this environment, and while the political pros will accommodate to the presence of women, the old ways are cherished and protected.

The situation is changing but not very rapidly. Most of the women active in politics are relegated to secondary and tertiary tasks and have not yet begun to realize their potential. Women are more numerous than men in the population, and if they were to emphasize their solidarity, they could elect more than their share of members. But there is no evidence that women vote for women because they are women. If anything, the contrary is true. This will surely change, however. Women will make their way in politics as they are doing in every other activity, and one day - but probably not in this century - the Canadian head of state will be an extra- ordinary human being addressed as Madame Prime Minister.

To an outsider, it must seem odd, almost masochistic, that anyone would offer himself as a candidate for public office. There are rewards, of course, but the price exacted can be excessive. Public-opinion polls reveal that politicians are not highly esteemed by their fellows - the very word is spoken with a curl of the lip. The stereotype is a pompous, unctuous, garrulous and self- serving extrovert who "rides the gravy train" and "fattens at the public trough. "He is target of abuse for his fellows and the press, is maligned in editorials and cartoons, is criticized in letters to the editor and is commonly the scapegoat in matters over which he has no control.

When in 1964 I ran for a provincial seat, the demands made of me most frequently were that I "do something about that damned new Canadian flag" (a federal responsibility) and about property taxes (an affair of the municipal government).

The stuff of daily politics is tedious, exhausting and without glamour. The successful candidate immediately loses his privacy. He is subject to being called upon at any hour of the day or night and on weekends. His constituents expect him to solve problems as varied as finding a job for someone's lay-about son-in-law, improving the mail service, filling a pot-hole or halting the nuclear-arms race. In responding to these and other appeals, a politician must move with circumspection. If he uses his influence unwisely, he may be charge with influence peddling. Innocent of willful impropriety, he may find himself pilloried in the House and by the news media and end with his good reputation besmirched.

Some politicians become wealthy through politics, others are beggared by it. The pay in the House of Commons may not be princely, but it is adequate. The pension - if the member can stay around long enough - is more than generous. if he has served the party loyally, even defeat can be rewarding - a seat in the Senate may secure the future. The contacts and experience gained in political life can put a man in the way of lucrative opportunities. Despite these rewards, many backbenchers pay for their years in politics with debts incurred in campaigning, in maintaining two households, in the mandatory contributions to every "worthy cause" and in the thousand and one expenditures for which there is no recompense.

The heaviest cost may be a broken or gutted marriage, a result of the neglect of a wife and children and frequent and prolonged absences from home. The sexual temptations are many; a politician is a celebrity of sorts and there are political groupies. The loneliness and discouragement of the political arena and the tenuousness of the future can lead to heavy drinking. Let that man count himself among God’s favorites who has a supportive family, a private income and a safe seat.

But the candidate is only the focal point of the political process. Behind him, unnoticed and usually unheralded, are the volunteer workers. Many have a dedication akin to a missionary's They work sweatshop hours without pay or hope of tangible reward, simply to see their man win. They are satisfied with a handshake or an arm about the shoulder or a word of commendation, and for this they will canvass strange streets in good or bad weather, climb narrow stairs, knock on every door, accost passers-by, solicit votes. They endure insults, hot rebuke and massive indifference with few complaints and undiminished vigour. On election day they drive the infirm to the polls, babysit so that mothers may vote and, at the end, agonize or exult with the candidate as the results come in.

Part of their recompense is, of course, an identification with celebrity, the sense of being part of Something Big. But political workers are prepared to do more than bask in a reflected spot- light; they are givers as well as takers. Many are lonely people who find companionship among their kind. Some are social misfits and a few are intolerable one-note bores, but the political process wouldn't work without them. Those who sit on the sidelines and scorn all politicians and their followers owe these "foot-soldiers" more than they know.

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