My open letter to Jim Prentice about the state of the PC Party

Dear Jim,

Can I call you Jim? I feel like you’re the kind of guy that would want me to call you Jim.

I don’t know if you remember me. I volunteered for you back when you were a federal MP – actually one afternoon during a membership drive in Frank Hickey’s office I met the love of my life. That’s a long story though, but I do hope to tell you in person one day. If you don’t remember me, that’s ok, just know that I still support you, and I support our Party. I’m a concerned Party supporter, and I have been for some time.

I know you’re really busy right now. There is a lot to do and people are expecting big things in the next two weeks. I’m excited; I get the sense you’re committed to the change in government people want to see.

Albertans are waiting – and Albertans are important to convince of the change. But I’m writing today to ask you to please not forget about the change our Party members are also waiting to see.

You see Jim, our last leader forgot about that. When our last leader had the political clout to come in and really shake things up at the party level she didn’t. Right now, you have the clout to ruffle feathers and get our ship in order. A ship we need in order to fight by-elections, and regular elections.

Our Party has served for over 40 years because of its strong grassroots. I remember being a teenager on Calgary-Shaw and being so excited to truly know that my voice mattered. I had incredible political mentors on that board, including the MLA, Cindy Ady, that encouraged me to always stand up for what I believe in, challenge the things that I didn’t, and to always push our Party to be the best it could be. As a board I believe we did that.

We have a grassroots problem Jim. Our grassroots don’t feel that excitement anymore because that’s missing.

I believe the culture of an organization changes as soon as a new leader shows up. It changes by their example.

After your example (which at this point I don’t think is an issue) it is important for you to show that you understand that there is a problem in our Party right now. I think you understand that and more importantly I think you will be committed to that. But please don’t wait too long to show your commitment.

Great leadership attracts other great leaders, that’s great. But I also believe that great leaders need to start by proactively recruiting other great leaders. We need a great team. And a great team doesn’t mean people that have surrounded this Party for years, and are loyal soldiers, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they have specific government experience. A great team for our Party means a group of people with complimentary skill-sets, passion, and experience. And I’m not talking about our caucus team (I believe you’re already dealing with that), I’m talking about our PCAA team including the positions in our Party office and on our Party Board of Directors. These positions shouldn’t be rewards or favors, they should be based on who can best do the job that we need them to do.

And I think we both know that the job we need them to do over the next 2 years is a big job. Volunteer or full time staff – both of these will be stretched to their maximum potential and that has to be what they expect. And they have to be excited about that … and willing to get their hands dirty. We don’t need more people telling us what to do, we need more people just doing it. And if they are excited that will trickle down and re-excite the grassroots.

Personally I don’t want the loyal soldier type at the top of our grassroots organization. I want people who are willing to ask questions, challenge, and push us in a new direction.

Jim, I’m going to be honest, that’s not happening right now. I’ve chatted with many, and have my own examples, but when the grassroots speaks up … speaks up with the purpose of bettering our Party … we’re told we’re hurting our Party, we don’t understand our Party, and we’re against our Party. Jim, if we were against our Party we’d be gone already to either the left or the right.

Something has kept us here – waiting – wanting change. Maybe it’s because we know that the culture of fear and punishment isn’t really what our Party is based on and that we were just waiting for a new leader to set a new example.

There are some important dates coming up that I’m sure your talented transition team has in mind, but I thought I’d remind you. I believe you can use these dates to start setting an example …. and a direction for our Party.

September 20 is our next PCAA Board of Directors meeting. This will be exciting – I wish I could be a fly on the wall. I hope that you will discuss the following and ensure that the Board communicates it in a public way back to the grassroots:

  •  A clear review of electronic voting: we aren’t asking for a review of the outcome, we need a review of the process. We need to learn from the blunders now so that we can do better next time. We need to show that we care that there were blunders in order to start healing the relationship with the thousands of people who wanted to participate and couldn’t. It’s not enough to say next time we’ll do better. Let’s do it now so we aren’t in a rush to do it when we need to. I hear there is a petition circulating asking for this to but has not been received by our Board well.
  • A clear review of the Leadership Election Committee: it’s not about reviewing who was on it but more the skillsets that were. What key roles did we miss and how can we ensure we have those next time? Let’s create a process surrounding this committee and set it in stone at the AGM. Let’s give the grassroots a reason to have confidence in our Party.
  • Staffing: time to have an honest discussion about who does what at the Party office. We have some true champions there, but we are missing skillsets. We need to have an honest conversation about who fills what roles. We need a leader in the office with a background in non-profits or associations with a board structure. We don’t need someone with a government background, or inexperienced folks with Party loyalties. We need qualified individuals. We need an open competition for some roles, and we need your leadership and connections to help make recommendations to the Board for others.
  • The Board: I hope you’ll have an honest conversation with the Board about their own roles. I know you’re having those conversations with caucus – who goes, who stays, who represents the future, who has the skills we need to be successful, who needs to move aside for the next generation (not necessarily younger, but fresher)? I love that you’re having those conversations, that shows you are the leader we need. Please ask those same questions of those that stood, or want to stand, for election of our PC Board. The directors in place are as important as our caucus team if we want to continue to be successful.

Speaking of the Board that’s the other important date, September 26 is the deadline to submit a nomination for the 2014/2015 PCAA Executive Board. This date seems to be flying under the radar. But Jim, we need good people to run for these roles. And not good as in nice, but good as in strong, charismatic, skilled, experienced, passionate, that bring both strategy and the ability to execute the strategy to the table. These people are volunteers, yes, but they need to be committed to YOUR vision for our Party, and they need to be people the grassroots can count on to question, challenge, encourage, and empower.

Empower … this is the big one.

Our Party engine hasn’t been empowering volunteers. But you can change that.

Empower the grassroots by asking those you feel are qualified to step up and run in the executive races. Some may say that those who want to run will just run, but it’s my experience with volunteer management that you really do have to ask. It means a lot when you ask someone, and have a conversation with them, about a position you’d like them to take on. They take it seriously, and it creates accountability. And if you are leading by that example they will act the same – they will in turn empower those around them by asking them to do small (or large) meaningful tasks to help our Party.

We need to get back to that. Many hands make for light work – and there is a lot of work.

Please empower us. Empower our Party and don’t forget to set the example and start shifting the way our Party has been doing business.

Please ask people – ask people to do things – if you do it will make us stronger, and it will help the grassroots to realize how important it actually is. Set the example so we can get back to being excited about asking questions and making our Party better.

Please don’t forget to not only shake up government, caucus, and cabinet, but shake up your Party.

I’ll be watching with anticipation.
CP

The Freedom to Express my Thoughts

I’ve remained quiet online regarding the recent events of #ableg. Like many PC Party members I haven’t really been sure what to say. I’m embarrassed but also on the edge of my seat waiting to see what’s next.

Today it became apparent that I can no longer keep quiet.

Today Jim McCormick, PC Party President, held a press conference and said this:

“I don’t think people should be disciplined for their thoughts or expressing them.”

This is offensive to me. Why? Because I have been disciplined by this Party for expressing my thoughts.

It started with a blog I wrote about being invited and then uninvited to the 2013 budget  – you’ll notice that blog is gone from the site – but I know many of you remember reading it. I wrote that this wasn’t good practice in terms of volunteer retention and how frustrating it was to be removed from the invitee list just days before an event without any legitimate reason as to why. In the end I was offered a ticket to attend by the Leader of the Opposition. I accepted and attended.

That blog was posted the afternoon of March 6, 2013. I received a call that evening to let me know that “I had made my point” and it was time to remove it. I removed it. I did it out of respect for the individual that called. The next morning I actually received a phone call from the Premier’s Chief of Staff over my ticket. He apologized to me for the mix-up. True example of the squeaky wheel … and I truly appreciated it. For me that particular issue was resolved.

But then a few minutes later, this is what I received from the Party.

A letter of censure explaining to me that my “blog crossed a serious line” and I needed to give “second thought prior to any communications that may reflect negatively on either the Party or our Leader.”

Sending letters like these to your members is the exact opposite of encouraging people to express their thoughts.

I have been a long time advocate of #changefromwithin for the PC Party. But as Donna Kennedy-Glans pointed out yesterday … I’m just not sure that’s possible.

CP

Meet our Friend Matt

The New Year got me thinking … we have a ton of new MLAs (can we still call them new?) sitting in the Alberta Legislature … we don’t necessarily know a lot about them … which leads to my excuse for a new series (hopefully) of blogs. A New Year featuring New MLAs.

First on the list? Our friend Matt.

Peter and I met Matt Jeneroux, Alberta’s MLA of Edmonton-Southwest, before the 2012 provincial election. He attended the nomination workshop we were hosting on behalf of the PC Party. He stood out in the room. I remember standing at the front of the room looking at those that were learning about the process and wondering who might go on to become MLAs. Matt was an excellent choice by the constituents of Edmonton-Southwest.

Since that day Peter and I have gotten to know Matt and consider him a friend. He is strategic, dedicated, hard working  … and thoughtful. Peter and I received the loveliest (“official”) letter from Matt after we got married – I must admit that the inner political geek in me was quite excited about having something like that grace our mailbox but the words written and sentiment behind it truly demonstrate the type of individual Matt is – gracious, kind-hearted, and, like I said, thoughtful! Perhaps a side of a MLA you don’t often hear about or get to see.

Matt always seems to be up to something new. Give him a follow on Twitter or check out his website. He has quite an impressive schedule. My favourite of his posts? The photos of him visiting schools and students in his constituency – making a positive impact on Alberta’s next generation. He’s quite active online – keeping Albertans posted on his goings-on, tweeting directly with those that have concerns, and sharing information not only about government but the things that matter to his community. Like this one from yesterday:

We asked Matt a few questions to start off 2014 so Albertans could get to know him better. His answers are in italics.

Why did you choose to get involved in politics?
It was a decision I made after a lot of thought & consideration. I have 2 young daughters and I want to ensure they have every opportunity to grow up in a remarkable Alberta like I was able to do. I want them and their generation to have pride in a province that is quite simply the envy of the world. I want them to be able to say, “I’m from Alberta” anywhere in the world and be proud to say it!

What did you do before you were a MLA?
I worked for the Federal Government as a Policy Advisor.

What is your favourite part about being an MLA? 
The opportunity to have a voice for our generation, specifically opportunities like being on Treasury Board. Also being the youngest government caucus member, I often get to provide a viewpoint from our generation and add insight as a single dad raising a young family. It’s a tough balance sometimes where I have to bring my two daughters to a number of meetings but I’m hopeful hard work and sacrifice will help to give us a voice at the decision making tables.

What is the number 1 issue you are passionate about in our constituency? 
A few issues have really stood out for me. As of recently, being able to speak about and provide insight on our changing interprovincial and international relations has been quite interesting. I have a very forward thinking constituency with a lot of young families who are passionate about Alberta’s place in the world. I’ve been able to bring a proactive and forward thinking discussion about our future to the table on a variety of topics which I’ve had the luxury of chatting with my constituents about again and again!

Oh, and of course the continued growth pressures and the high demands for increased infrastructure i.e. New Schools

And, any New Year resolutions?
Hopefully avoid the stigma of overweight & unhealthy politicians and continue to go to the gym often… even if it means at 11:30pm after evening sittings!

Good luck in 2014 Matt! We’re watching (especially that 2014 resolution) and looking forward to all you’ll accomplish as government’s youngest member (which is an accomplishment in itself) … thanks for representing your constituents, our generation, and most of all for your friendship.

- CP

PCYA AGM 2013 – My Executive Endorsements

At this point I don’t even know how long ago it was when I first got involved with the PCYA – it seems like eons – and not because your time there drags on and on but because while you are there you seem to get so much accomplished in such a short time span.

Youth really are the backbone of any political party. Yes, they are the “future” but more importantly they are the ones that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, get passionate, and keep the more experienced members on their toes. The passion of the youth that are politically involved in this province always amazes me; social media certainly amplifies the passion. I remember being the VP Youth in Calgary-Shaw almost a decade ago and thinking “where are all the other young people?” – today you just look online, or better yet, you look to the PCYA.

The PCYA was also the group I looked to during the 2012 election. They were the Party’s “SWAT Team”. I could always rely on them to roll up their sleeves and help out any constituency at any time. It was never about where they were going or who they were helping – they always did it with enthusiasm for the party and because they believed in the Party’s principles.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with these 3 gentlemen that I’m about to tell you about. If you’re under 26 and at the PC AGM in Red Deer this weekend I encourage you to seek them out tonight and meet them for yourself (find me and I’ll introduce you if you like!). I think you’ll agree that they are the best people to continue the PCYA legacy of fun, passion, and accomplishment.

See you this weekend!
CP xo

Chris Carlile for PCYA President

I am pleased to give my official endorsement of Chris Carlile for PCYA President. He has the right attitude, passion, experience, and humility for the job.

I had the pleasure of meeting Chris when he first started at the UofC when I was the UCCCA President. I had no one on my team as eager to help out as he was. I could always count on him for advice, strategic insight, and to get the task at hand (whether large are small) done right.

Chris has been a force within the PC youth movement ever since then. He is a strong advocate, a representative voice, and takes any role he takes on with great seriousness. He has played key roles within the PC organization for the past several years – both youth related and at the table with 40 years’ worth of volunteers.

Most recently I got to work with him during the 2012 provincial election. In his role of campaign manager for Calgary-Klein he excelled; he truly showed that he was not only a youth leader but a leader within the entire PC Party. I will never forget one call in particular with all Calgary campaign managers where Chris spoke up confidential amongst several seasoned PC campaigners. His insights, questions, and suggestions were thoughtful, direct, and left a strong impression while making an immense impact.

Chris will be a strong voice for the PCYA. He will not shy away from advocating for youth at the PC Executive table and his experience will be the catalyst the PCYA organization needs to move to the next level.

Thomas Ockley for PCYA VP Finance

There is no job Thomas isn’t willing to tackle. He is principled and always follows through on what he commits to. I am pleased to offer my official endorsement of Thomas Ockley for PCYA VP Finance.

I met Thomas several years ago when he first got involved in the PC Party. My best first memory of working with each other? Sending Thomas on a wild goose chase through NW Calgary because we needed certain materials for an AGM for the UCCCA we were having later that evening. He committed and he delivered. I could count on him even in the last second before a major event. Not only did he get the job done, but he did get it done at the best price. Part of his wild goose chase included ensuring the best price and even tackling part of the project himself so we would save money as an organization on labour costs.

Ever since that moment Thomas has always been someone I rely on, someone I ask advice, and someone I look to when I need help. He is incredible at rallying support, volunteers, and morale. He has a depth of understanding of our PC organization like no other. He is experienced and he is effective.

Thomas is the best choice for this role. As a friend, a peer, and as someone who has worked with him on numerous events, boards, projects, and campaigns, I can say with confidence that he will deliver on his promises and will continue to be a valuable asset to the PCYA if elected.

Patrick Beatty for PCYA VP Policy

I am pleased to offer my official endorsement of Patrick Beatty for PCYA VP Policy.

If you collected political hockey cards Patrick’s would be the rookie card you’d want to get your hands on and mount in one of those plastic covers. His accomplishments politically and professionally outweigh any possible story I could tell about his work ethic. He knows policy, and not just because it’s been his role the past year, but because he is passionate about it. Patrick truly is passionate about the nuts and bolts that define a Party. He is not afraid to speak up for what he believes in, ask tough questions, and make sure the underdog has a voice.

Patrick is kind, considerate, approachable, and always puts his friends first; by default that means he puts the PCYA first. I’ve heard his girlfriend tell countless stories of the late nights he has pulled working on policy resolutions for the youth. Patrick understands the power of the youth voice within this Party and does not take it for granted – he takes it seriously and ensures that not a single opportunity is missed to allow the youth to speak up for what they believe in.

There is no doubt in my mind that Patrick will be an incredible policy leader for a second term for the PCYA.

Bill Stewart: Freedom Fighter

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our friend, Bill Stewart.  Stephen Kushner delivered his eulogy, which i’ve posted below for the people who were not able to make it to his memorial service.

But before you read the eulogy, I encourage you to read his own message written 40 years ago as High School Student’s Union President – Bill’s values and beliefs have clearly never changed – he trully was a Freedom Fighter who believed in personal responsibility and we will carry his legacy on!

Bill Stewart

Goodbye friend – you will be missed!

Stephen’s words begin here:

Where do I begin, Bill? Where should I start? And how can I do this without your wise counsel, your editing, your way with words? Listen, you do the first draft, I’ll do the second, we will let it age for a few days and we will go from there. These were my thoughts when Bill’s family honored me with the request to capture Bill’s life, his joys, his sorrows, his accomplishments, his loves. Well, Bill, let’s start at the beginning.

Bill was born to Ruth Hanna and Robert Stewart on December 31, 1956, some almost 57 years ago. They were a family of five with brother Doug and sister Fran. Fran and Bill were both strong minded individuals enjoying the frequent tussle of political debates and discussions. Doug was the out doorsie type and Bill, Doug, and their father enjoyed many a fall outing in duck season. Bill’s mother, Ruth, instilled in Bill a love for history and perhaps had a hand in Bill pursuing a history major in order to ensure his mother’s discussions were not of a revisionist nature. Summers were easy times at the cottage in Lac La Non, fishing, and enjoying carefree summer days.

Around the family table, discussions of politics were frequent and enthusiastic, but Sundays were more refined with afternoons of bridge. Family was number one for Bill’s parents and these values were deeply instilled in Bill and values that he passed on to his own three children. And what beautiful children they are: Leah, Sheena, and Kristen. For Bill, nothing was more important than his girls. Raising his children to be caring, generous, compassionate, and self-reliant was so important to Bill and boy did Bill and his first wife, Joanne Blackstock, ever hit a home run in raising these three gorgeous daughters.

Leah, the most like her father, remembers the small things. Like walks to the park and hot chocolate after tobogganing or going to the candy store with a dollar and seeing how much candy she could buy. Bill instilled values in Leah that she holds precious to this day and Bill was so proud of her choice in her husband, Jeff Yanew, and first grandson, Nathan.

And Sheena loved her travels with her dad. A highlight was their trip together to Vegas to see Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and that special moment when they bumped into Graham Nash and Bill was able to get a picture with one of his music idols. The trip to Thailand and Cambodia was truly special and Bill regaled the office with stories about how much fun he had getting drunk with his daughter, going to the Tiger farm, and that 150 km multi-bus 9 hour trip in Cambodia. Sheena, your dad was so happy when you fulfilled your childhood dream to get an education degree and he would often talk of your wonderful marriage to Grant and the business conquests and how excited he was about the youngest addition, Oliver, to the Stewart-Sanderson clan.

Kristen, you know you were the most challenging for your dad. You knew how to get your dad going, push his buttons, and for some period he wasn’t really sure how you would turn out. But I can tell you, because I know, how so very happy your dad was about your marriage to Josh Durwood and how sensational a mother you have turned into for both Anthony and Rayleigh.

And here is a little tidbit about Bill. He would find time to call his girls every day and have a chat because his daughters were always on his mind and in his heart. But enough said about the girls, husbands, and grandchildren.

It is time to talk about another of Bill’s abiding passions, Saturday morning grocery shopping. Grocery shopping for Bill and his girls was a Saturday routine executed with the efficiency of a well run political campaign. First you did the data analysis of the constituency (read the flyers for the best bargains). Then you plotted out the route where you could get the most votes (figured out which stores you were going to visit). He gathered the volunteers (rounded up the girls). Once the door knocking (shopping) was completed, back to the campaign office (home) to close up shop until the next campaign (unload the groceries). And then start all over again when the next election is called (go shopping when the food runs out). Yes, for Bill, shopping and politics were strategic activities: not for the faint of heart and completed knowing full well that the state of the nation (ensuring two well stocked freezers) was at stake.

Weekends at the Stewarts were special times and Sunday evenings were everyone’s favorite. Bill would do the cooking and on Monday mornings I would hear about his gastronomical successes. Sunday dinners were compulsory family time together where laughter and easy conversations were the norm. And political discussions were strictly forbidden. For any of the other six nights, political discussions were fair game, but not Sunday family dinners.

I mentioned, Joanne, Bill’s first wife and I must tell you more about Joanne and Bill, family, and values. Joanne and Bill were married for some 11  years. And while the marriage did not last, the friendship did. Joanne and Bill held family dinners together on Sundays long after their marriage ended and Bill said to me that they remained best of friends. Bill was the rock for the family and he continued to be a rock for Joanne. Joanne cared deeply for Bill and when Bill had a brief illness Joanne could be called on at any hour of the day and night to help her friend Bill. And Bill was so compassionate to Joanne when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and Bill was there. Joanne’s last months were spent initially with Leah and then with Bill at his home where he comforted, cared for and supported her to her last day. You see, Joanne was Bill’s friend and for Bill, friends take care for each other.

Bill, it’s time to get serious and talk about how you got to play in your sandbox every day for the past 23 years. So, my turn to talk about our beginning. I met Bill through student politics in grade 10. Bill was the President of his high school and I was the grade 10 representative. Bill was already a political pro, having been a VP in junior high in grade 7 and president of his student council by grade 9.

Yes, his political skills and successes started early and he loved people, ideas, social causes, righting wrongs and injustices. Bill loved politics. That was his passion.

Our friendship got deeper in University. Bill rushed with Phi Delta Theta fraternity and I followed two years later.

Bill was a Political Science and History major, pursuing an Arts degree and we decided to join forces and run on a slate as 2 Arts representatives on Students’ Council. We were told we were the under dogs with no chance of winning. But what do pundits really know? One year after winning that election, we combined forces once more to run for the Executive of the U of Alberta Students’ Council; Bill as president, I ran as a VP, and a person Bill suggested run with us as another VP joined our team – my future wife, Kaysi. After Students’ Council, Bill went west to pursue a Masters in Public Administration at the U of Victoria.

We kep t in touch. Bill moved north with the Territorial government in Yellowknife and later Rankin Inlet, then left to the big city of Toronto working for the Ministry of Housing for the Ontario government. Bill loved his work and worked long, hard hours.

We continued to keep in touch over the years. And in 1989 Bill visited Edmonton and I told Bill about a new position that opened up, Executive Director for the Merit Contractors’ Association in Saskatchewan. I remember Bill saying, “What do I know about labor relations?” I said, “No problem, you will learn” and wow, did he ever.  In 1998, Bill joined Merit Contractors’ Association of Alberta as its General Manage and later became Vice President Government Relations. As VP, Bill got to play in his sandbox every day, from early morning and often until late in the evening and on weekends.

You see, politics was Bill’s passion. His driving force in life was to make a difference, to make the world a better place. The Merit philosophy of self-reliance, of reward for hard work, of taking care of your people with fair wages, benefits, pensions, and opportunities resonated deeply with Bill’s core values.  Bill found a place where values, beliefs, passion, and work melded together.

Bill immersed himself in politics and in work, contributing to public policy development in construction, authoring over 30 articles for Merit’s Open Mind magazine as Bill was an exceptional writer. At the same time, he sat on Conservative Association boards provincially and federally, served as President of the Calder PC Association, and was active in too many political campaigns to mention. Yes, Bill has knocked on more doors supporting candidates than many sitting MLAs.

And Bill contributed to many many successful elections, sat on numerous committees, was always up for a discussion be it internal party reform or the big issues relating to debt, health care, or education. He touched the lives of hundreds of politicians, aides, bureaucrats, and campaign volunteers. He could just as easily engage the premier or future prime minister in a political discussion as he could Merit’s custodian, Nicolas, or any of the administrative staff at Merit. Bill was a people person with no pretensions and he had time for anyone. He was genuine, sincere, and loved a good discussion or debate. He also gave his time generously to The Hope Mission, The Mustard Seed and Women Building Futures.

Michael Cooper, who is running for the federal Conservative nomination in St. Albert was Bill’s most recent rising star and he was already working hard to help this bright young Conservative lawyer begin a political career.

Bill was no stranger to achieving success. And what was success for Bill? You see, Bill was a Free Enterprise Freedom Fighter. In his Twitter account, he also claims to be an aspiring food and wine connoisseur of the gluten free persuasion. Our Bill was no aspiring freedom fighter, he was the real McCoy.

Bill believed in worker choice legislation, union transparency, workers’ controlling how their dues could be spent, and secret ballot votes, and respect for democracy in the workplace.

He was thrilled to see the Federal Conservatives embrace these policies, the provincial PCs adopt some of these in their last election platform, and Wild Rose Party endorse some of these policies just a few weeks ago at their convention.

As a freedom fighter, Bill was a man of ideas, a persion of deep belief and conviction. And his way of changing the world was through political activism. Ideas are powerful and Bill was a freedom fighter extraordinaire.

Bill was respectful of those who gave their lives in battle and November 11th Remembrance Days were always very important for Bill. He would wear a poppy and attend one or more ceremonies honoring our fallen soldiers. Bill’s life was devoted to fighting injustice, and for me, November 11th, the day Bill passed on, will always be a more meaningful memorial day. I will think fondly of a very special freedom fighter. Enough of political battles and wars and fallen heroes.

It is time to get on with the really good stuff: Bill the romantic.  My good friend had fallen deeply in love with his new wife, Vera Leanovitch. So, now I get to tell you about a love story. While on a European October Fest vacation, 5 years ago, Bill was visiting a museum in Prague and was distracted by a beautiful woman who spoke English with an exotic accent. His itinerary was quickly changed to include a visit to Belorussia. I remember him returning from that trip and speaking about Belorussia and I was quite confused as to why a person doing an October Fest trip would end up in Bellerose.

This began a beautiful love story with some eight rendezvous to Bellerusse and other trips to Budapest, Vienna, Krakow, Barcelona, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary.

When separated, Bill and Vera would talk daily on skype. On a romantic trip to the beautiful city of Budapest, on one knee Bill proposed, holding out a wedding ring. And once Vera figured out what he had just mumbled, she said “of course!”

And so began a wonderful transformation. Bill and Vera were married for a little over two years and were together in Canada for fourteen months. And those fourteen months were the longest honeymoon I have ever observed.

Bill and Vera were deeply in love and the logical, political activist was also a passionate, considerate, gentle, kind loving husband.

Vera talks of how sweet Bill made sure that there were fresh flowers on the table every day for her, how they found joy in each other’s company. Simply, these two were deeply in love.

And, oh, how we saw changes in Bill at the office. Bill had an extra bounce in his step. He went from being an OK dresser to a sharp dresser. Even Premier Redford once complimented Bill on one of the new sweaters that Vera had picked out.

Bill would often go home for lunch to spend that extra hour with Vera. He could even be seen leaving the office as early as 5 pm.

The Merit family saw a person who had always been upbeat, now  glow, excited about life and all its possibilities, talking about his new love, Vera, and planning for their future together.

Planning meant dancing lessons for old twinkle toes every Tuesday night, and Russian language classes so that Bill could better engage with Vera’s family.

And speaking of Vera’s family, I must tell you the story of when Bill stole Vera from her family, he wrote the kindest, warmest letter to the family promising that he would take care of their Vera and that they should not worry as she was precious and would find happiness in her new home. That was the kind of person Bill was.

Hey, Bill, I have probably talked long enough and said some things I shouldn’t have. I know from now on any help from you will be of the inspirational type. So, we ALL will have to manage with one less freedom fighter on the ground, but with one more angel on our shoulders. Good bye my dear friend.