CAMPUS AND CULTURE
Gazette Alumni speak
A story behind the stories
History in print
The UBC prank: breaking and entering
Champagne with an old friend
From Pam to Parliament Hill and beyond
Tories, snow and free beer
An anti-country club
Tories, snow and free beer
Then: Gazette Staff Writer
Now: Reporter at
The Globe and Mail
I could tell dozens of stories about The Gazette, having worked there from 1973-1976 before I joined the capitalist bourgeois media.
But my most memorable assignment was in 1976 when John Miner, now an editor with the London Free Press, and myself covered the Conservative leadership race in Ottawa.
We were both Huron County farm boys, clad in our Sunday suits, heading for the nation's capital, determined to expose the evil right-wing agenda of the Tories.
After a night on the train, we staggered into the Ottawa Civic Centre and right into our first media scrum with John Diefenbaker.
I plunged in and asked Mr. Diefenbaker if he regretted not running in the campaign. "I don't have regrets, young man. I will be here for a long time," he replied.
The convention went downhill from there. I remember somebody named Mulroney being accused of trying to buy the convention. A Newfoundlander named Crosbie said he couldn't speak French but there were a lot of languages he didn't speak. Some fellow from the West named Clark was trying to be squeaky clean and everybody loved Flora MacDonald, but said they wouldn't vote for her.
What all of this had to do with a student newspaper was beyond both Mr. Miner and myself. But as we debated this, it suddenly dawned on us that a raging blizzard surrounded the convention site.
Other journalists left early Saturday evening but we persevered. We discovered hospitality suites. For the first time in my life there was free beer, free food, even free straw hats. Mr. Miner, being a preacher's son, was reluctant to partake. I dove in. About four hours later, I dove out.
The storm continued to rage. Taxis were impossible to find. Mr. Miner and I sat down to discuss the situation. I told him to relax.
I relaxed so much that I fell asleep on the leather chairs in the Chateau Laurier which was six miles form the student townhouse where we were staying. A short time later a doorman revived me from my Heidelberg-induced dreams of grandeur.
We pushed our way into the storm, past several elderly delegates and into a taxi. A few minutes later the cabbie announced that the snow was too much for him and we would have to get out and give him $5 each. We walked for an hour through the blizzard as I tried to sing all the candidates' theme songs and Mr. Miner tried to keep us on course. We reached our lodgings about 3 a.m..
I believe Mr. Clark won the convention. I wrote 2,000 words of gripping political analysis that appeared a week after the convention and I think 10 people read it.
But I learned invaluable lessons that have followed me through dozens of leadership contests in five provinces since that time:
1. Always relax.
2. Always know where you're going.
3. Never wear your best suit on a winter assignment.