The making of a political junkie

The party room was buzzing.

It must have been 1972. Election year. Alastair Gillespie was campaigning to win the riding of Etobicoke in Toronto for the second time – he’d gained it first in 1968 and again in 1974. This is the first memory that I can pinpoint in time by counting out election years:  early makings of a political junkie.

It was late at night and the party room in the basement of our apartment building was filled with the riding’s Liberal faithful, men and women who were volunteering to help Gillespie win. My mother was one of those party faithful and she’d let me come to the party. I know it was ’72 because we weren’t living in that building in 1974, and we hadn’t moved there yet in 1968.

Alastair Gillespie

This childhood memory is fairly fuzzy, as most are. Just little glimpses of moments remain in my mind – mostly grown-ups legs as I wandered around in the crowd. And the mood. I still remember the buzz, the adrenalin filling the room. At an early age I knew elections and politics were exciting.

The man who wanted to remain prime minister, Liberal Pierre Elliot Trudeau, was out on the hustings. In our riding that meant at a local high school. My mother took me to that, too. The floor was crowded with row upon row of plywood chairs. I remember standing on one so I could see Trudeau and hear what he said. I don’t remember detail, but I remember being fascinated by the way he spoke.

Pierre Trudeau

As I stood on the chair, the women around me beamed – “She’ll be prime minister one day,” they laughed at my interest. This was 1972, remember – not many women did politics then. It wasn’t the beginning of a career as a politician – but I went on to do my degree in political science and, as a journalist, work on many, many elections and referendums.

And, oh, the adrenalin of those nights was just as exciting as it was when I was a young kid.

Recently at the local church MP Peggy Nash made an appearance. She asked some of the children in the crowd – my daughter included – whether they knew what government was. My daughter put up her hand.

“The government makes the laws and the rules for people to live by,” she said (or something to that effect).

Everybody laughed. “Maybe she’ll be prime minister one day,” Nash said.

Peggy Nash

And tonight, here’s my daughter. Watching the U.S. presidential election on television. Cringing when the results aren’t going the way of her candidate. My chest fills with pride.

Long may she stay engaged and interested.



  1. Your daughter watching the presidential election? Priceless. I remember a very similar experience to yours with Trudeau. I wasn’t a fan…or at least, I didn’t think I was, until he entered the room. You could literally feel the electricity in the air.

    1. You really could feel the electricity with him. I also remember going up to him afterward and shaking his hand … he had that rose in his lapel ….

    2. Also, tried commenting on your post by going through Facebook today … and it didn’t work! I’ll keep trying to find alternate ways – trying search engine next.

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