An Anecdotal Memoir
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Run for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party
Having made the decision to leave the Star and seek the leadership of the Liberal party in Ontario, I was immediately confronted by the fact that it was not welcomed by the party brass. Inevitably, word of my decision leaked to the press and. although I had not yet resigned, my impending entry in the leadership stakes made news; there were stories in all the papers. Opposition within the party to the "outsider" was soon manifest, and my initial backer, Andy Thompson, began to lose his zeal. He continued to reiterate his support to report to me more often than was necessary his friends' insistence that he himself become a candidate.
He pressed me to meet secretly with a group of prominent Toronto Liberals. They included, as I recall it, Senator Dan Lang, Richard Stanbury, president of the Toronto and Yorks Association, David Anderson, treasurer of the Ontario party and others. It was soon evident that the purpose of the meeting was to dissuade me from running, and failing that, to convince me that I should release Andy from his commitment. Each of them made it clear, even if obliquely, that he would not support me, and all advised me that I could not possibly win the leadership.
As the days passed, it became obvious that Andy wanted out. He might have stayed loyal, despite the pressure, but I could see that if I insisted he keep his pledge - the pledge that had stimulated my entry into the race - he would be a reluctant champion. In Ottawa on business, I had time to kill and found a secluded corner on the mezzanine at the Chateau Laurier. After an hour or so reviewing the situation, I found a pay telephone and told Andy that he was released. He wasted little time, announcing his candidacy the following day, three days before my scheduled press conference.
The press conference was a disaster. The suite I had rented at the Royal York hotel was jammed with reporters and cameramen. I was very nervous and stumbled in my responses. I fudged on tough questions, and there were plenty of them. A former managing editor, I was a tempting target. Asked, or instance, whether, having become an agnostic, I still went to church, I said yes. But when asked where, my mind drew a bland, and after stalling and dodging about for a minute or two, I had to urn to my wife for an answer. It was a hostile grilling, but not unfair, and I went from it in despair, certain that I had done my candidacy irreparable harm.
On my final day at the Star, I received a telephone call from Elmer Sopha, the member of the legislature for Sudbury, asking to see me in my office. I had never met him, but knew him to be a maverick in the Liberal caucus. He arrived with his coat collar up and a hat pulled over his eyes. He began informing me that he had changed taxis twice on his way from Queen's Park and had left the cab three blocks from the Star building. Bemused, I waited to hear the reason for his visit. "I’ve decided, "he said in a conspiratorial whisper, “that I’m going to support you for the leadership. “I was grateful: a poll of the Liberal caucus taken by the Telegram had shown that no one else would. He put is coat on, pulling up his collar, set his hat low over his eyes and skulked out of the office, warning me to say nothing to anyone. The following day I picked up a newspaper to see that, not an hour after, he had himself broken the news to a reporter at the legislature.
Discouragement bottomed out ten days later at the annual meeting of the party. The most important matter on the agenda was the setting of a date for a leadership convention. Prior to the meeting, the consensus was for a date in the late fall 1964 or spring 1965 to give the riding associations time to elect their delegates and the candidates sufficient time to tour the province. But the party brass moved in. The management committee recommended that the convention be held September 17 to 19, leaving only the difficult summer holiday months for campaigning. In the debate over the date, there were frequent references to "so-called messiahs" and comments about the angers of personality cults. The vote wasn't close and the recommendation was adopted. The newspapers saw it as a victory for the establishment and as the sounding of a death knell over my chances.
Overnight, the contest for the leadership became a major continuing story in the press. The prize had not seemed a desirable one, but it now become evident that there would be a number of contestants. The pronto papers, especially, provided detailed coverage, and I received more than my share. I make no complaint other than to note that the stories tended of focus on me rather than on what I was advocating. In every report or feature I was tagged in the lead paragraph as "a former evangelist" or as a "television personality" - often with the addendum, "married to television singer, Sylvia Murphy. “Almost never was I referred to as" a former newspaper editor.“ There was frequent reference to the fact that I was divorced. All these were facts, of course, and it is standard media practice to identify people with convenient catch phrases. Unfortunately, for a candidate running for political office in the 1960s, they all had a pejorative ring.
Late in the campaign, I said to John Bassett, "Why in hell does your paper invariably describe me as a former evangelist?" "Do we?" he said. " I'll soon put a stop to that.”
The contest began to attract national attention, and from far-off Newfoundland Joey Smallwood got into the act.
I had stated in a speech that last time Ontario liberals had been in office was during the Depression, and that it might take another such crisis to return them to power. Somehow, this was reported in the press as an expression of hope that Canada suffer another Depression so that the Liberal party might get in. A week or so later, I received a telephone call from a radio station in St. john's.
"The premier has just attacked you in the Throne speech.”
"Attacked me? What about?"
"Apparently you said you hoped there'd be another Depression so the Liberal, could get back in power. Mr. Smallwood said that, it you're a Liberal, he's not, and so forth. He really got hot about it.”
Joey, ever the political opportunist, I thought.
"He went on to say that when you were here in St. John's there was a lot of talk about what a great speaker you were, so he went around to Gower Street church to hear you. He said he stood at the back and he wasn't much impressed. I was wondering if you'd like to reply.”
They love political controversy in Newfoundland, more per- haps than anywhere in Canada, even controversy so obviously made of whole cloth as this one. "Yes," I said to the reporter, "I'd love to play Joey's game.”
He switched on the tape recorder. "I'm interested to hear that Mr. Smallwood found it useful to attack me on what he knows must be a misquotation, "I said. "No Liberal, not even one of the Newfoundland variety, would want to see another Depression, for any reason. I can only think that, if the premier took the time to attack me in the Throne speech, it must be a pretty thin speech, with not much in it for the people of Newfoundland.
"I'm interested to learn," I continued, "that Mr. Smallwood attended one of my meetings in St. John's He says he wasn't much impressed. I've heard Mr. Smallwood many times and have never been impressed.”
I hung up knowing that they'd love in the outports, and that Joey would love it, too.
There were seven candidates finally but only four of us were taken seriously. In a blaze of publicity we began to criss-cross the province speaking to riding associations, in search of delegate votes. The leading candidates were Andy Thompson, the front-runner and the man with the support of the party brass, and Bob Nixon, a big-handed, gregarious Brantford farmer whose father had briefly been premier of the province in the 1930s. Their most serious rival was Joe Greene, the federal member of parliament from Renfrew-North, and a clever and witty speaker who would play a decisive role in the convention. The others were Eddie Sergeant, an MPP from Owen Sound, Vic Copps, the mayor of Hamilton, who didn't campaign much and seemed to be in the race for the notoriety it might provide in his forthcoming bid for a federal seat, and Joe Gould, MPP for Toronto-Bracondale.
I had begun to win delegates, but not many, and I went to Ottawa to see if I could gain the backing of someone who would give substance to my campaign. I went first to see Paul Hellyer, and asked him outright for his support. His response taught me something about political debts,
"Charles," he said, "I think you're the best man for the job- although I worry about your lack of experience. But I can't support you; I'm committed to Joe Gould.”(Gould had no chance to win and would finally garner only 13 of the eventual 1,370 votes cast. )
"But isn't that a waste of your vote?" I asked. "Gould hasn't a snowball’s chance. You agree that the party urgently needs strong leadership and that it won't come from any of the other candidates. So if, as you say, I’m the man for the job, support me. I need someone's advocacy.”
"I’m sorry," he said. "I have to support Gould.”
"But why waste your vote?”
"Because," he said, "Gould's provincial riding overlaps my federal riding and he has worked for me at election time. I owe it to him.”
Judy LaMarsh, the Minister of Health and Welfare, was equally direct. "I think you'd make a good leader, but I can't support you. I don't know who I'll vote for - Thompson probably. Maybe Nixon, although I don't think either of them will do much. Davey thinks Andy's the right choice and wants me to back him. He doesn't impress me as a leakier, but he's worked hard for both Mike and Walter (Gordon).”
One of the rewards of junketing about the province was picking up the trail of Mitch Hepburn, the St. Thomas, Ontario, onion- farmer who had been the Liberal premier in the 1930s during the Great Depression. What astounded me was the vividness with which he was remembered. Old-timers would talk to me about him, about his skills as an orator and about the controversial things he did, and their faces would be illuminated by the memory:
Like the time Mitch came to this little one-horse town and stood on the steps of the town hall. And all the shy people from out in the boondocks came to the edges of the square and wouldn't move in closer. And how there was no sound-system and everybody was worried that nobody’s be able to hear him. And how, instead of shouting, Mitch began to talk in a normal voice, all the while with his hands held out and the fingers moving, moving in a sort of beckoning way. And as he talked, the people slowly drifting in until they were crowded all around him. . . .
When Mitch was on tour, he would get in the car in the morning, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and put a little bag, like a doctor's black bag, in the back seat and tell whoever was driving him, "Now look here" - he'd be laughing and full of ginger - "don't let me touch that bag back there until I've finished what I've got to do today.” And then, after the first meeting, he'd come back to the car, all bouncy and exited at the way he'd had the crowding the palm of his hand, and so on. And he'd get "in the car and reach back for the bag. "Maybe we'll just have one. A little one. I think I earned it. Don’t you? "And it would go that way from town to town until Mitch was snoring in the back set and somebody had to sub for him.
There was the time when Mitch was coming here to speak and it had been advertised for weeks and people were planning on coming from miles around. And the man who owned the hockey rink was a Tory and he wouldn't rent out the rink. And somebody told Mitch the meeting was going to have to be cancelled and Mitch said, "The hell it is!" and got a big circus tent from somewhere - God knows where in the summer on short notice - and the word went out and he had about three times as many as he'd of been able to get in the rink anyway.
Mitch used to blame the whole damn Depression on the Tories in general and poor old George Henry, the premier, in particular The Depression was happening all over the world, but when got through could’ve thought it was something the Tories invented over at Queen's Park.
Believe me, there was nobody anywhere could talk like Mitch. He'd take a crowd that had been sitting waiting in this hot, sweaty hall for more, an hour and inside five minutes he'd have them splitting their sides or sitting with their mouths open like a dying fish. He could go on for more, an hour and nobody’s move. Even the babies quit crying. . .
It soon became obvious that I couldn't win unless I made a move that would counter the strongest argument against me" I had never run for political office, and if I did win the leadership, I wouldn't have a seat in the legislature. I decided to make a move that couldn't be gainsaid. I picked up a telephone and called John Bassett at the Telegram.
"John," I said, I have a marvelous Machiavellian idea and I want to talk to you about it"
"Machiavellian? “He said. "That's the best kind. Come on over.”
John had already proven himself a friend. When I had announced my resignation from the Star, he immediately called me.
"Why are you leaving the Star?" he asked.
"Because it's Honderich's view. And mine that I can't continue to run the paper while seeking the leadership of the Liberal party. It would make everything I do here suspect.”
"Nonsense," he roared. "I ran for parliament in Spadina while I was publisher of the Telegram.”
"Nevertheless, that's Beland's felling.”
"Come and work at the Tely, "Basset said. "It won't bother me. If you win, okay, you can quit.”
I thanked him but said no. He immediately ran an editorial advocating my election, arguing that it was the only sensible choice for a party in deep trouble - a gesture much appreciated by me but making me even more suspect to some Liberals.
"Well now," he said, "what's this Machiavellian plan of yours?"
"I want you to use your influence to get John Roberts to call a by-election in Riverdale prior to the leadership convention.
If he calls it, I'll run. If I win, I'll have proven myself a vote getter and I'II have a seat in the legislature.
Otherwise," I said, "I’m dead.”
"But you can't win Riverdale," he said. "It's a Tory riding.”
The evidence was certainly there. Robert Macauly, who had resigned the seat only six months earlier, had won the previous election by a 3800-vote majority. The Tories had held the riding for the past thirty years, usually winning easily. When they had been beaten it had been by the NDP, but each of those victories been aberrations as quickly overturned. The Liberals had won once, but usually finished a distant third. The odds against were great but I had decided that my only chance was to go for broke.
"If I lose, I lose," I said. "I'm going to lose the convention anyway. The only hope I have is to demonstrate what I can do, and the only way that can be done is in Riverdale.”
John was pondering. "I’d certainly love to see you kick the Grits in the ass," he said, "but I'm loyal Tory I've got to satisfy myself that calling the by-election doesn't do a disservice to my party.” He suddenly brightened. "I’ve got it: Robert is worried about you being across the floor in the legislature, so I tell him we knock you off in Riverdale. I like it!"
He told his secretary to get the premier on the phone. In a moment, his telephone buzzed.
"John," he said, "I know you people are worried about the possibility of Templeton taking over the Grits. I've been thinking: the best way to make sure that doesn't happen is to call the by-election in Riverdale, and call it before their leadership convention. Templeton's on the record that if you do, he'll run. You can throw in the troops, knock him off and he'll be finished.”
Bassett winked at me. It was obvious that Roberts was warming to the suggestion. Within a week he announced by-elections in Riverdale and in Windsor-Sandwich, which was also vacant. The date chosen was September 7, ten days before the Liberal leadership convention.
My introduction to Riverdale was sobering. There was no organization. The riding was run as a holding operation by an amiable innocent of grade-school education and no political skills who wasn't sure he wanted me in the riding. Nor did the one Liberal with any political organization - Fred Beavis, a long-time "old- guard" member of Toronto's city council. He greeted the announcement that I was going to seek the nomination by saying to the press. "We don't need Templeton here.” Nonetheless, I won the nomination after a fight and set out to win by-election.
Running concurrently for the provincial leadership and in the by-election, I had to divide my time. The combined tasks led to sixteen-hour days. I was up mornings before six in order to be at the streetcar stops, shaking hands with people in the riding as they went to work. The remainder of the day was spent trudging the streets knocking on doors, "mainstreaming" or doing some of the multitudinous tasks that are part of running for political office. Money had to be raised. Speeches had to be prepared and delivered. Campaign literature had to be written, printed and distributed. Door-to-door canvasses of each house in the riding had to be organized and carried out. Our small and valiant band had to be divided in two: one group to work in Riverdale, the other to pursue the leadership. Such time as I could spare from the riding was spent in driving or flying to all-candidate' meetings across the province. In addition at home there was the unremitting opposition of my wife, who viewed the decision to run for office as an abandonment of our family.
The pressures intensified. The Conservatives nominated Ken Waters, a pleasant fellow born in the riding, living in the riding and doing business in the riding. (He was a florist. ) The Tories assigned their best organizer to the campaign and sent in the troops. John Roberts came into the riding twice as did a covey of cabinet ministers. Bob Macauly, the former member for Riverdale added his considerable influence. Overnight, a forest of "Vote for Ken Waters" signs sprang up on lawns throughout the riding.
But the real heat came from the New Democrats. They mounted a campaign that was a model of political action, headed by Stephen Lewis. New Democrats flocked to the cause from across and beyond Metro Toronto. Before they were finished, they had completed three canvasses of the riding and knew exactly where the vote was. The candidate, Jim Renwick, was tireless. He had been at work months before the by-election was called and, in the course of the campaign, had knocked on every door. On election day, workers poured in from across the city to deliver the vote to the polling stations. Labor unions sent workers and provided transportation. It was a brilliant campaign, the plan for which subsequently was incorporated in a handbook and used in other by- elections in other places.
My campaign began to founder. The local organization was virtually non-existent. Those who came from outside the riding worked with admirable zeal but they were few. Many Liberals who might in other circumstances have come from in to help were loath to do so; they were backing other candidates and didn't want to see me get the leg-up that a win in Riverdale would give. Some of the candidates made token appearances (Nixon worked hardest) but little more than that. Andy Thompson knocked on a few doors.
I didn't realize how badly I was trailing. Two things misled me. My high profile in the media led people to greet me warmly on the street and on their doorsteps, and a sampling purchased from Elliot-Haynes, a professional polling organization, showed me well in the lead. (Their figures indicated the exact reverse of what would happen on voting day. When, after the campaign, I paid my bills, I sent them a note saying, “Any reputable company does business on the basis of 'Goods satisfactory or money refunded. ' You were so utterly wrong, I refuse to pay you a dime.”)
The auguries were there, plainly to be read. Water and Renwick lawn-signs outnumbered mine five to one. We had planned two canvasses of the riding but had been unable to accomplish one, We wasted money on a great picnic, with clowns and balloons and fireworks and free hot dogs. Three thousand came - 80 per cent of them children. Daily, our campaign headquarters was jammed with people laughing, talking and drinking coffee. Water's and Renwick's committee rooms were empty; their workers were out canvassing.
The newspaper converge dealt principally with personalities and with peripheral issues. Much was made of the fact I was divorced. My leaving the ministry also received disproportionate attention. Both the Star and the Telegram devoted a full page to a discussion of the subject, asking whether an agnostic should be the ledger of a political party. So much was made of it that Al Forrest, then the editor of the United Church Observer and a syndicated newspaper columnist, made a spirited defense on my behalf.
Early in the campaign, the Globe and Mail called for a full discussion of the issues, warning that the leadership race should not be a mere matter of different personalities. But neither the Golbe nor the other papers made any serious attempt to report the discussion of the issues. In Riverdale, neither Renwick nor Waters dealt with issues or specified what they would seek to do if elected. I held three public meetings, addressing myself to problems in the riding and in the province. The halls were crowded- mostly with the converted, I fear-but the press didn't report a line of what was said.
Nor was the electorate interested in the issues. The one lively concern I encountered as I went about the riding was the introduction by the Pearson government of a new Canadian flag - a federal issue. The question most asked of me when I knocked on doors was, "What are you goddamn Liberals doing to our flag?"
I record all this not because I resent it or believe it was the reason I lost. It was not. I resent it or believe it was the illustrates how unimportant issues are in contemporary politics and how swift is the change of standards in a modern society. Nowadays, many candidates for public office are divorced. There are a number of men in politics who have left the ministry or left the church. Little or no attention is paid.
I was only just abed one night when the telephone roused me. It was Phil Givens. Givens is now Metropolitan Toronto Police Commissioner; he was then mayor of Toronto. During my early years in the Liberal party, he and I had become friends. We shared a love for politics, for words and for the techniques of public speaking. Later, when I was at the Star, he often telephoned, usually to talk about some knotty problem he was facing at city hall. Evenings, I often went to his home for a late snack or a drink. When he brought Henry Moore to Toronto for the installation of his " The Archer" in Nathan Phillips square, he invited me to a private lunch with him and Moore.
Now, on the telephone, he sounded depressed. "Chuck, "he said, fatigue in his voice, "let me tell you what I've been doing tonight. I've attended three public functions, the last one a community picnic. All evening long I've been making inane conversation, grinning like a fool and laughing at bad jokes - in other words, being mayor of Toronto. AS I was leaving the Picnic, absolutely bushed, I was stopped three times by three absolutely certifiable idiots. They wanted to talk to me - about sewers and potholes and noisy neighbors - I'm so tired can't even remember what they said. I was standing there, nodding and smiling and making responses, dying to get home to my wife and family, talking to people who - and God knows I'm no snob-to people who, if I weren't in politics, I wouldn't spend five seconds with.”
"While this was going on," he continued, “I was thinking: get on the phone and call Chuck Templeton. He's doing the same thing; nodding and smiling and shaking hands with those fringe people whose one mission in life seems to be to bug politicians. Chuck, what I'm saying is this: they're going to beat you-the party. I mean. You're going to lose.”
"No Phil, " I said. “I’m going to win.”
“No you're not, "he said flatly. " The deck is stacked against you. Regardless, the reason I called is to tell you I'm not sure it's worth it. The one thing I don't want to see happen is for the party to wipe your nose in it. Okay? Now go back to sleep.”
The tension on voting day was intolerable. I had announced that if I was defeated I would withdraw from the leadership contest, so everything was at stake. I was too taut to hang about the campaign headquarters and went for a walk along the Danforth. The people passing in the street smiled in a friendly fashion, but even as they did, I noticed that most of them averted their eyes. I said nothing to my workers, hoping against hope, but knew in my gut that the day was lost.
We gathered that night in Player Hall for the vote. There was a buffet and drinks and much convivial excitement. I was surrounded by reporters and cameramen. Minutes after eight o'clock the votes began to be tallied on a blackboard. Renwick went immediately into the lead; I fell quickly behind. Thirty-nine minutes later, I conceded. My two eldest children, Deborah and Michael, were in tears, as were many of my workers. The victory party became a wake. My political career was over before it had begun.
There was a coup de grace. The following morning, I went by my campaign headquarters to pick up some personal belongings. I was greeted with the news that a dozen heavy-duty staplers (used to post campaign signs) had been stolen, as had a radio, a large coffee urn and other valuables. My treasurer was busy at an adding machine. He gave a rueful shake of his head and said, "It's an estimate, of course, but it looks like, here in Riverdale alone, you're about sixteen thousand dollars in debt.”
Within days, the picture changed. I had formally withdrawn from the leadership contest, but a group of my supporters, headed by Clem Neiman, a Mississauga lawyer and my campaign chairman, refused to accept the decision. A Draft Templeton committee was formed and found an extraordinary manifestation of commitment: delegates from across the province telephoned or sent wires insisting that I remain in the race, vowing that if I did withdraw, they would vote for no other candidate. I had no knowledge of what was happening; I had retreated to a cottage on Georgian Bay "to lay me down and weep awhile. " Neiman telephoned to tell me that, when I returned, he would present me with a list of more than 250 delegates irrevocably committed to me.
I was astonished. Thompson and Nixon hadn't been claiming more than three hundred to four hundred first-ballot votes. I told Neiman that if he could provide me with specific names and concrete evidence that they intoned to vote for me, I would reconsider my withdrawal. But, I cautioned him, no pretense, and no engineered draft.
Three days later I returned to Toronto. The following morning I met with the Draft Templeton committee at my home. Outside the house, the media milled about, some lounging in their cars, others gathered in groups on the lawn. Neiman and the committee presented the evidence: a stack of telegrams, a record of more than two hundred telephone calls and a list of 234 bona fide delegates pledged to support me.
I wanted very much to re-enter the race. I had campaigned for two and a half months. I had crisscrossed the province, working from dawn through the late-night hours. My weight had dropped from 208 to 186 pounds. I was in debt for thousands of dollars. (At the end of a political campaign, a candidate is legally responsible for any debts assumed in his or her name and cannot write off the indebtedness as an income-tax deduction) In those weeks of intense effort, I had developed strongly held convictions about the state of the party. I wanted very much to put those views to the convention. I no longer believed I could win, but I did believe I had earned the right to speak to the party.
Neiman went out to invite the press into the house. My wife, who had been listening to the discussion with the committee. Signaled to me, her face grim. I went with her to a small room off the kitchen.
"Are you back in the race?" she asked
"Yes.” I said.” I owe it to the people who are backing me. But more than that, I want the opportunity to address the convention. I can't do that if I'm not a candidate.”
"Then let me warn you,” she said.” If you go out there and announce that you again a candidate, I will tell the press, the moment you're through, that I'm suing you for divorce, and that you are a poor husband and father.” Her face was contorted with anger. " Believe me, Chuck, I mean it!"
Neiman was banging on the door.” Charles! They're waiting.”
In the dining room the floodlights were dazzling. The room overflowed with reporters and cameramen and equipment. I went to a chair set at the head of the table. Sylvia came and stood to my immediate right. I made a statement, giving my reasons for returning to the fray.
The report in the Telegram read:
Sitting at his dining-room table, tense and rarely smiling in front of more than a dozen newsmen. . . the man who has inspired thousands from the pulpit and has showed that he can generate a similar enthusiasm at political meeting was strangely subdued. . . .
After a few questions and answers, I said, "Well men, that's it. That's all I have to say.”
There was a momentary silence. I held my breath waiting for Sylvia to speak, envisioning the headlines. Nothing happened.
The convention broke new ground and was given unprecedented coverage by the press. It borrowed the hype and hoopla, the hi-jinks and zany, boisterous celebration of American presidential nominating conventions. There were costumes and funny hats and badges and balloons, roisterers and singing and late-night drinking and, of course, wall-to-wall politicking.
My re-entry into the race changed things. When I withdrew, there had been a scramble for my delegates and various claims as to where they had gone. But now we were back to where we'd been then days earlier, with Andy Thompson claiming a first-ballot victory, Bob Nixon saying he would take it in three and Joe Greene arguing that, inasmuch as he was now the only man who could win against the stories, he would finally emerge on top. There was agreement on only one thing: because I’d been defeated in river- dale, I was a spent force
The first opportunity the fifteen hundred delegates had to assess us together came on the opening day. The Liberal University Association invited the seven candidates to address them. When the session was over, the press made soundings and concluded that I had made gains. Seven of Thompson's delegates had switched to me, as had four of Nixon's. My people estimated that I had Probably pick up eighteen votes.
At least I wasn't being counted out.
Several senior cabinet ministers and party officials were much in evidence- at the saying has it, twisting arms. Keith Davey moved about the hotel arguing Andy Thompson’s case. Walter Gordon, Mitchell Sharp, Paul Martin and others were button- holing delegates. Judy LaMarsh was interviewed on radio, "Ontario needs a leader not tied up in Ottawa or at Queen's park," she said. "Somebody who's free to travel the province and build up an organization. "That could only mean me or Vic cops and Copps wasn't a contender. There was consternation in the Thompson camp and Judy went back on the same station a few hours later to say, "Thompson's my choice.”
On The Saturday morning, I held a press conference. In the midst of answering questions, surrounded by a group of perhaps a dozen reporters, one of my aides broke in to hand me a telegram. It was from Rene levespue. He had heard, mistakenly, that I had won the leadership. His message read: CONGRATULATIONS. ONTARIO LIBERALS EVEN DUMBER THAN I THOUGHT. NOW GO ON AND THROW OUT THE TORIES. I folded the telegram and put it in my pocket. Levesque was a member of the Liberal government in Quebec but was already an outspoken separatist. The reporters sensed something in my smile and badgered me to tell them whom the message was from. "A friend," I said.
Each of the candidates had extensive convention headquarters and hospitality suites. I had none, having cancelled the Alberta Room and our suite after Riverdale. Nor had we money to spend on signs, posters, badges and all the other paraphernalia. My supporters made do: they blackened beneath one eye and wore hand-letter badges reading, I'D RATHER FIGHT THAN SWITCH! Signs from the Riverdale campaign were recycled. Someone contributed a batch of simulated-straw boaters, with a paper band encircling the crown with the words, TEMPLETON FOR LEADER! They seemed a rag-tag bob-tailed group, but their enthusiasm was kinetic.
I spent much of my time holed up in a room working on my speech. It would be my one opportunity to express the thoughts that had been seething and yeasting as I had observed the provincial party close up during the previous ten weeks. I had decided that I would present an unadorned and specific analysis of our problems and weaknesses with concrete proposals for solutions. Riverdale had made evident my own lack of experience and my political naiveté, but it had taught me certain lessons and had helped make clear the nature of the party's major problems. I would speak to them.
I wrote and rewrote and polished the speech. I read it to Neiman and to the late Mark Gayn, the brilliant foreign correspondent on the Star, Who Had Offered, and his help. I incorporated some of their suggestions and honed the result.
Lots had been drawn for the order in which each of the seven candidates would speak to the convention. Nixon was first. He came through as the essentially decent man he is, but there was no spark of excitement. The organized demonstration that followed his speech was extraordinary, though: hundreds of bobbing signs, a marching band, Indians from the Six Nations Reserve. Nixon stood on the platform, entranced by it all, smiling his characteristic lop-sided grin.
Joe Greene was next. His pitch throughout our campaigning had been that he and I were the only candidates with the presence and the platform ability to overturn the Robarts government. He was indeed effective on the platform. He had a slickly homespun style, a sense of his audience and an exceptional wit, and it was generally assumed that he would be at his best in his address to the delegates. But for some reason he came up flat. At the end, straining, he said. "I hereby release my delegates. Let everyone else do the same and let's make this a democratic convention.”
I began by seizing the opportunity Greene and handed me. "I did release my delegates," I said. "But they wouldn't go!" There was a roar from the crowd.
In highly partisan meetings, it is standard practice for factions in the audience to interrupt the peaker they favour with cheers, chanting and applause. I reminded my delegates that I Had only eighteen minutes, that there were things I wanted to say and that I would appreciate it if they didn't interrupt with applause. Moreover, I said, there will be no organized demonstration after the speech. The strategy was that, having no money and having made no preparation, it was better to do nothing than to do something poorly.
This was the report in the Hamilton Spectator:
It was a strong and effective response.
The speculation as to what would happen in the First ballot was unanimous: Thompson, Nixon and Greene would lead in that order, and I would head the also-rans. The Thompson camp, reassured by Andy's fighting speech, were declaring victory on the second ballot, perhaps even the first. Nixon was predicting that he would lead on the first ballot and win on the third. Greene's scenario was that, after the first ballot, my supporters, having satisfied themselves in a losing cause, would join his group to put him over the top.
The first ballot was a bombshell, surprising everyone, no one more than me:
The announcement was greeted with a collective gasp and then a wild roar of triumph from my supporters. Thompson had greatly overestimated his strength. He was nowhere near the 686 votes needed to win. After my failure in Riverdale, I had made an unexpected recovery and was only 62 votes back of the leader. After a twenty-minute interval, the bottom man was eliminated and the second ballot followed.
The excitement mounted. A major upset seemed possible and the convention was seething with speculation. I had whittled Thompson's lead to 52 votes and had maintained a slim lead over Nixon. Everywhere on the floor, workers were buttonholing delegates, pleading their individual causes. Walter Gordon and Keith Davey were on their feet, moving through the crowd wooing votes. Mitchell Sharp stood with a paternal hand on Nixon’s shoulder. The third ballot:
Greene’s support was fading fast. He left the convention floor quickly. One of his workers went to Keith Davey. "Joe's looking for you, “he said.” I’m looking for him," Davey replied.
Upstairs in their hospitality suite, Greene's dispirited supporters met in an emergency caucus, unsure, looking for guidance. But Greene didn't appear; he was nearby, closeted in a room with Keith Davey and Walter Gordon. One of my workers, Mel McGinnis, was outside the room, an ear pressed to the door. Davey, Gordon and Greene emerged from the room, walking quickly; Davey and Gordon returned to the convention floor while Greene went to meet with his caucus.
As he stood before them, he was clearly disheartened and ill at ease. He had predicated his entire campaign on the premise that neither Thompson nor Nixon had the qualities needed to challenge the Conservative government: “Thompson has had five years in the legislature to show his strength and has done nothing. Nixon is Mr. Nice Guy, but he'll never follow in his father's steps.” Now he stood before his supporters, mopping his brow.
"They want me to put on a Thompson button," he said apologetically.
There were cries of, No! “No!" Tom O'Neill, a Toronto lawyer and Greene's floor - manager, shouted, “I’m going to work for Templeton and take as many Greene supporters as I can, “and was immediately involved in a heated debate with Jim Palmer, a seven- foot giant from the Ottawa area. O'Neill broke away and ran for the convention floor. The delegates confused and arguing among themselves, straggled into the hallway.
On the floor, the word spread: "Greene's going over to Thompson.” O'Neill seized a Templeton hat from a nearby delegate and jammed it on his head, muttering about betrayal. Another Greene supporter, Kevin Martin, pushed through the crowd, trying to get the chairman's eye so that an announcement could be made from the platform that Greene wanted to withdraw from the fourth ballot. "Too late," he was told.
Thompson had picked up majority of the Greene votes and had increased his lead to almost a hundred. My eight-year-old son, Michael, put his lips to my ear. "Hey, Dad," he shouted over the din, "when are you going to pass him?"
"Good question," I said.
Clyde Batten, my floor manager, slipped into a seat behind me. "Let me talk to Nixon," he said. I shook my head.
What he was proposing was what is known in politics as a "deal. "He would confer with the Nixon people and make an arrangement: whoever - Nixon or I - remained in the race after the next ballot would immediately and conspicuously go to the other, shake his hand and accept the other man's button, thus signaling to his delegates where he wanted them to transfer their support. If the transfer of votes was successful, the winner would be in debt to the loser and at some future time would find a way to repay the debt. (For instance, not long after the convention, Greene was named federal Minister of Energy. )
But when I re-entered the race, I had pledged that I would make no deals, and I wasn't going to change my mind now. Beyond that, it was clear to me - if to no one else on the floor but the professionals - that even if Nixon agreed to a deal it wouldn't be possible for him to transfer enough support for me to win. His delegates were mostly from non-urban ridings and tended to be more conservative in their attitudes. Too much had been made of the fact that I was a minister who had lost his faith, a divorced man who had remarried.
Batten continued to press me. To get away from his importunities and to release some tension, I got to my feet and went into the aisle. Nixon's campaign manager, David Anderson, approached me, a question in his eyes. "What do you say, Charles? You can't win, you know. But you can be the kingmaker. Let me give you a Nixon button. Come over and talk to Bob. “I Shook my head. The fifth ballot:
Nixon had been eliminated. It was now a two-man contest. Dele- gates and spectators were on their on their feet, shouting, jumping up and down, waving signs, standing on chairs, chanting the names of their candidates. The convention was suddenly two camps.
Scott Young wrote in his column in the Globe and Mail:
My supporters had come to the convention merely wanting to put on recorded their support of the candidate they believed could turn the party around and return it to power. They wanted also to register their disapproval of the control being exercised from Ottawa. Their opposition to Thompson had turned bitter. They saw him, unfairly, as a puppet who would be manipulated by “the establishment.” But now the picture had changed. David might beat Goliath. They could win!
They surrounded and broke over me like a giant wave, picked me up and bore me on their shoulders into the aisles; chanting shouting, waving signs, clapping each other on the back. In all my experience, I have never seen a moment to match it. A forest of hands reached up to be touched or shaken. Women hugged my legs and kissed them. Thompson supporters saw what was happening and quickly matched the action, putting Andy on their shoulders and moving into the aisles. As we passed, we reached out and shook hands.
Riding above the crush I was oddly detached and entirely calm. I knew I could not win. I felt a momentary sadness in the realization of the disappointment my supporters would feel when the final tally was announced. In the meantime, there was nothing to do but to clasp hands above my head in the boxer's salute. The sixth ballot:
I went again to the solitude of the cottage on Georgian Bay. A day or two later, the telephone rang. It was Walter Gordon.
After some talk about the success of the convention, he said, "Charles, I'm told you'll be pretty deeply in debt as the result of the two concurrent campaigns. Do you have an estimate as to how much?"
"I'm not sure," I said. “I had a word with my treasurer and I gather it's worse than I'd thought.”
"Do you mind my asking how much? I'm not prying?"
"More than twenty thousand dollars.”
"Well," he said, “I’ve been talking to Keith. It's his view and mine that the party is indebted to you. We don't mean to minimize the contribution of the other candidates, but it was your presence that caught the interest of the public and the press and helped make the convention. We thought we would like to organize a dinner at one of the downtown hotels. Perhaps charge $125 a plate -$25 to pay for the dinner, the rest to diminish your indebtedness.”
I had come to know Walter Gordon but not well. Shortly after I joined the party, he invited me to dinner at his Ottawa apartment and we'd had a long conversation. We'd met informally a number of times. I knew the depth of his commitment to the party. I knew of Keith Davey's admiration for him as a man and mentor. I, too, liked him - it would be difficult not to.
I didn't understand then what I do now: that Walter was making more than a gesture of kindness. In effect, he was saying: Charles, you fought a tough but fair fight. You didn't attack the party or your opponents. But there's something you need to understand: we who are sometimes called the establishment have a stake in the party. Some of us have put years into it. We have worked to revive it and to make it an instrument of reform, and we simply could not permit you to walk in and decamp with the family jewels. But now that we have the measure of you we'd like to invite you to join the club
I had a problem. When I made the decision to run, I made a vow to myself that I would not be in anybody's pocket. I would, insofar as was possible, avoid political debts. That was why I had refused the suggestion that Nixon and I join forces for the last ballot. To avoid being beholden, I accepted contributions to my campaign of one hundred dollars or more under two conditions: that the money be paid to my treasurer and not to me; and that the contributor understand that he was buying no present or future advantage. When George Metcalf, then president of Loblaws and an old acquaintance, gave me a cheque for (as I recall it) five hundred dollars, I thanked him but added, "Before I accept it, one thing should be clear if at any time in the future I'm in a position to be helpful to you or to Loblaws, I can guarantee you only one thing, a fair hearing. And it's entirely possible that I might find it necessary to act in way opposed to your best interests.”
Now, Walter Gordon was making a generous offer to help with my financial debts. Yet, I still had hope that I would one day lead the party; when that day came, I wanted to be my own man.
"Thank you, Walter, “I said.” I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I really do. And Keith’s. But I'll work it out myself.”
When all the bills were in, they amounted to some $24,000. It took three years to pay them off.
Within two years, I was offered the leadership of the Ontario Liberal party on a platter.
Andy Thompson had been involved in an automobile accident in which two elderly women were seriously injured. With his concurrence, it was decided that he should resign the leadership. Bob Nixon came to see me. He told me that a leadership convention would be called, and wanted to know if I would stand for election. If so, he said, he would like to nominate me. Since it was unlikely that there would be any other candidates; he would move that I be elected by acclamation. It was a generous act. He made it clear that he was expressing not only his own wishes but also those of the party brass. I told him I would need some time to consider it.
It was a knotty problem. My run for the leadership had left my marriage precarious at best. A revival of my political ambitions would undoubtedly destroy any hope of rapprochement. More-over, I had four young children, each of whom I was determined to see through university and, if the wished, graduate school. I was working as president of a struggling advertising-display company called Technamation Canada, my moderate salary being paid by a company owned by my brother, who also had an interest in Technamation. And I had only begun to pay off the debts incurred during my foray into politics. If I were to assume the leadership, I would need to work at it full time and I would be without income. The salary and benefits normally paid by the legislature to the leader of the opposition would not come to me since I did not have a seat.
I pointed out my financial problem, and it was proposed that an ad hoc committee of the federal Liberal caucus meet with me to resolve the matter. We met in the office of Edgar Benson, then Minister of Finance. Present were Benson, Mitchell Sharp, Judy LaMarsh, Pual Hellyer and half a dozen others. The press got wind of the meeting and camped at the door.
It was an informal gathering. Drinks were poured. Someone ran down the specifics of the financial dilemma. It would not be a short-term problem: there were no by elections due and a general election was not likely for two or three years. There was general approval of a suggestion that the caucus commit itself to raise an amount sufficient to pay a moderate salary, but when Benson asked than a sum be specified and a concrete plan laid out, the meeting fell back on vague expressions of assurance. Don’t worry," they all said, "it will be taken care of.” But no one would specify how.
I raised a second problem As leader I would want to wage an aggressive, province-wide campaign, but the provincial organization was deeply in debt and I had been told that there weren't enough funds even for gasoline money. "Don't worry, Charles," was the airy response. "We'll look into it.”
There was one memorable moment. Late in the discussion, when we had all put back a few, Judy LaMarsh addressed herself to me. She was wearing, after the fashion of the time, a mini-skirt and black mesh stockings; legs crossed, she was seated opposite me on an overstuffed sofa.
"Charles," she said, "we're talking about backing you. But how do we know you'll look good to the people of Ontario?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I won't.”
"I will say this," she added with a grin, "you look damn good to me right now.”
By the end of the meeting it was evident that no one was prepared to make concrete the good intentions expressed by all. In Toronto, a few days later, I called a press conference to announce that I would not be a candidate. Bob Nixon was chosen leader.
During the campaign, I'd had a telephone call from Roy Thomson, not long afterwards to become Lord Thomson of Fleet. He came quickly to the point.
"What are you going to do if you lose?"
"I'm not going to lose.”
"Every candidate believes that," he said, "but more lose than win. What are your plans if you don't win - are you going back to the Star?"
"I really don't know. I haven't given it any thought.”
"Well, I have," he said. "If you lose, give me a call.”
I had known Roy Thomson for years, not well but well enough to like him. Like most journalists, I was critical of the way he ran his newspapers; his principal concern was not their performance as news journals but their viability as business investments. But I had found him an interesting and complex man. Interviewing him once for television, I referred to a news item in which it was reported that his net worth was thirty million dollars but that his goal was to turn that into three hundred million dollars.
"What's the point?" I asked. "Look at the suit you're wearing. It must be ten years old. Look at your shoes. And that tie! So what's the difference between one million and three hundred million? You can wear only one suit at a time and eat only one meal at a time and drive only one car at a time - and on the evidence, none bad scan
He looked at me through the thick lenses of his glasses. "Charles," he said, "if I were an actor, there would be an Academy Award to testify that I was the best actor. If I were a physicist or a chemist there would be the Nobel prize. If I were a writer, there's the Pulitzer. Each says, `You're the best among your peers. 'Well, I'm a businessman. Money is the evidence of how good I am at what I do. It's my Oscar.”
A few days after I lost the convention, I called him as promised. He came on the line in his usual direct way. "So, you lost.”
"No doubt about that.”
"I'll put the question to you again what are you going to do?"
"I don't know yet.”
"How'd you like to work for me?" he asked. "I've been watching you over the years and I'm prepared to offer you a job. Are you interested?"
"Okay," he said. "As you probably know, I've begun to extend into Africa. I have some pretty exciting plans there: television, newspapers, other interests. How'd you like to run it for me?"
I don't remember how I responded; I was caught by surprise. We talked for a few minutes when it was a tempting proposition, but having returned to Canada only a few years earlier, I had no desire to leave again.
There were other political opportunities. David Crombie, who was at the time a teacher at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, and Tony O'Donohue, a Toronto alderman, took me to lunch and tried to talk me into running for mayor of Toronto. They proposed to introduce party politics to Toronto, not through the traditional parties but with an organization called Civic Action, a coalition not unlike Fiorello La Guardia's fusion party in New York City. But municipal politics didn't interest me; the mayor has little power and too few options. Crombie himself later became Toronto's "tiny perfect mayor" and graduated to the House of Commons and candidate for leader of the Conservative party. O'Donohue's two tries for the mayoralty failed.
During the leadership campaign I had received a note from Morton Shulman enclosing a contribution. Shulman was the former coroner for Metro Toronto who was only beginning his controversial career as a tilter at establishment windmills. His note read: "Off the record: if you win the leadership I'll join the Liberal party and run with you in the next election.”
Some time after the convention, Morty's allegiance precipitated a momentary awkwardness. He had decided to enter politics but hadn't decided with which party. He had been an active Conservative, but for his own reasons had become an avowed foe of the Tories. Morty, a self-confessed millionaire, is the antithesis of the conventional socialist so the NDP didn't seem a likely home. The Liberals were the logical option and he had talked at length with Bob Nixon, the new leader. Nixon wanted him in the party, but some of the small-minded men in the caucus - of whom there were a number - were afraid Shulman would steal the limelight.
Shulman telephoned me late one evening in a quandary as to what action he should take. Finally, well after midnight, having checked the situation with Nixon and Stephen Lewis, the leader of the NDP, I advised Shulman that he really had but one option the New Democrats.
The following day he called a press conference and announced that he would join the NDP. In his statement he said, “I made the decision to become a member of the New Democratic party after a long conversation with one of my closest friends, Charles Templeton.” Which hardly seemed appropriate - I was a vice president of the Liberal party at the time