Sunday, August 3, 2014

R.I.P. Paul St. Pierre, 1923-2014

In the summer of 1968, I was a naive minion of the Liberal Party, helping manage the coastal part of Paul St. Pierre's campaign to become MP for Coast Chilcotin.

It was a strange riding. Almost 700 words were needed for the official description of its boundaries, four or five times more than a typical electoral district. Surface travel from one interior community to another on the coast involved almost 1,000 kilometers, ferries and at least 15 hours. The constituency map was product of officials who knew nothing of the places.

Nevertheless, St. Pierre was a guy comfortable in small towns and rural lands. If anyone fit Coast Chilcotin, it was him. The only problem was that he was too intellectually honest to succeed as a politician.

I remember an all-candidates meeting in Powell River. Paul had little interest in listening to campaign staff about "local issues" and what we thought would go over well with the crowd. He trusted his own ideas and was unwilling to shape them for the comfort of others.

In those days, labour disputes were commonplace; Canada was among the worst for days lost to strikes and the Liberal Government was not the best friend of organized labour. The political meeting that day was in Dwight Hall, beside MacMillan Bloedel's huge pulp and paper mill, in a town made affluent by good union wages.

Inevitably, candidates were asked about back-to-work and other labour legislation. While his foes obfuscated, St. Pierre merely said that no government would tell him where and when to work. It was a 10-second answer but one that probably won him hundreds of votes.

Paul served a single term in Parliament. His election was helped in 1968 by Trudeaumania and that had disappeared by 1972. He lost, by a handful of votes. But, I don't think he belonged in Ottawa.

He was blunt, did not suffer fools gladly and disliked meaningless B.S. Those are not qualities of career politicians.


Addendum: I was a fan of St. Pierre's writings and mean to dig them out the book boxes we've accumulated. I suggest you read Rod Mickleburgh's fine remembrance, PAUL ST. PIERRE, ANOTHER LEGEND GONE.

Here's another piece to read, From BREAKING SMITH'S QUARTER HORSE to the Walt Disney movie SMITH!

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