SENATOR MUNSON SPEAKS AT ROBERT THIBAULT’S NOMINATION MEETING
When Robert asked me to come to Yarmouth and speak to you this evening, I was humbled and honoured. I was honoured to return to the place where I started my career – a career that has taken me to Parliament Hill via the streets of Belfast, Beirut, and Tianamen Square.
But it started on September 7, 1965 when I got off an airplane (I think it was a DC 8) a short flight from Saint John. I should have arrived a day earlier, but guess what, the Yarmouth airport was fogged in. Like any Maritime boy I had dreams, I was 19 and I had big dreams of being a foreign correspondent.
But first things first. Everything has a beginning. And my career began as a radio announcer at CJLS. I was so excited at the prospect of working, I didn’t bother to ask what my salary would be.
After the first week of work, I received my pay in crisp one dollar bills……32 one dollar bills……
I learned then that money doesn’t matter all that much, although it would have helped the station afford a news wire service. I had to read the noon hour newscast from the
Chronicle Herald which meant that the good people of Yarmouth County would go home and listen to see how many mistakes I made. In the course of my reading aloud, and thanks to my limited vocabulary, I managed to invent a new digestive disorder.
It was the fall of 65 and I read…” Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson said today that if Canadians don’t fasten their belts, we are all going to suffer from serious in-fa-lation.
I didn’t know if this was some sort of stomach gas disease but I just imagine the radio
listeners laughing about something.
I was undaunted. One of the best radio interviews I ever did was when John Diefenbaker
Came to town…. There was a by-election in 1965 or 66 and the local candidate was John
Diefenbaker was surrounded by Parliamentary reporters…….oh, how I wished I could be one of them. With his protruding jowls and statesmen-like presence he entered my domain: CJLS. The plan was for a 30 minute interview. The parliamentary press people were poised with their pens.
I welcomed Mr. Diefenbaker toYarmouth and 30 minutes later, I thanked him for coming to Yarmouth. In between, I hadn’t asked a single question. He just filled the air time.
I believe Mr. Bower won and I also believe it’s the best interview I ever did.
I hope Robert Thibault has it so easy.
He may have to face more difficult reporters, but I have no doubt that he will prevail, since he has a lot going for him.
La première fois que j’ai entendu parler de Robert Thibault c’était il y a environ huit ans. Il était très actif comme président de la Fédération des acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Mon épouse Ginette qui travaillait comme consultante auprès de la fédération dans des projets de développement économique et culturel parlait de lui comme quelqu’un de fort, engagé et d’un homme de promesse. Il a laissé une grande marque de leader dans les communautés acadiennes, partout dans la province et ensuite au Canada comme ministre responsable des Pêches et Océans.
When Robert started as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, I was still in the media. I have to say that I was impressed by him. He was a guy who knew his files. I was always impressed with the way he handled the national news reporters.
We quickly discovered that Robert was a Minister who not only knew his file, but knew himself. He understood his roots. He never forgot where he came from or who he represented. He also never took himself too seriously. Something far too many politicians do these days. A sense of humour and being able to laugh at yourself can go a long way in Ottawa.
Jean Chrétien, like Robert and myself, also comes from a small town. He also understands the importance of roots and remembering who you are. He also knew about not taking himself too seriously.
It was an honour and a pleasure to serve him as his Director of Communications. I remember well a Team Canada Atlantic trip to Boston when the former Prime Minister introduced his colleagues, the provincial Atlantic premiers “Hamm” and “Beans”. He told the gathered crowd in Boston about how Canada exported more than wood and fish. He said that we also exported “cutting hedge technology” and the good people of Boston are no doubt still asking about those Canadians and their high-tech landscaping equipment.
Having a sense of humour and knowing your roots are very important. I learned in Beirut what knowing where you come from can mean. My crew and I found ourselves in the wrong part of town during a bad time. Our car was surrounded by a group of angry militiamen. They were definitely not out for a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive. All were well armed and were asking questions.
“Where are you from?”
I produced my passport and answered in what I’m sure was a very high pitched voice. “Ottawa,” I said. My cameraman said “Vancouver”. Then my soundman, Francois Bission said “Alymer, Quebec and proud of it.……..”
Now Alymer, Quebec is a small bedroom community on the other side of the Ottawa River. No rifle toting Beirut militiaman will have heard of Aylmer, Quebec. I thought we would be shot or at the very least be taken hostage.
Then one man yelled out, “did you say Alymer, Quebec? The same Aylmer, Quebec with the British Hotel?”
“That’s right near my Dad’s home!” shouted Francois.
“My brother is a taxi driver in Aylmer, Quebec,” answered the militiaman. And then, to our great relief, he added, “Let these Canadian Brothers go!”
That day I learned that knowing where you are from and being proud of your roots is not only the key to success and happiness, but also the key to continued good health.
Yarmouth was my home when I was 19 and starting my career. When you are 19 and away from home for the first time, you try to be brave. But inside there is still a child who misses a family: a mother, a father, a sister and a brother.
It’s hard to be brave when you find yourself alone in a rooming house and the only sound you hear is that of a foghorn.
But before I knew it, the lonely sound of the foghorn was drowned out by the voices and laughter from a community called Yarmouth. They were positive, welcoming voices with names attached to them like Bridgeo, Moulaison, D’entremont and Mooney. Or Hersey, Nickerson, Comeau and Boudreau.
Whether it was the Friday Night Dance in the South End of Yarmouth, playing hockey for the Bluenosers, eating a 10 cent hamburger at Creasers or just driving along this
magnificent Bay of Fundy Shoreline. These were all things that made me feel at home and made me feel SOME GOOD.
I think Robert feels SOME GOOD to be a part of this community and the reason I am here tonight is to tell you that he does SOME GOOD on your behalf in Ottawa. For the last four years Robert has been a crucial part of the Liberal government – the same Liberal government that brought about a historic turnaround in Canada’s economic picture. The same Liberal government that turned deficits into surpluses. The same Liberal government that brought in the National Child Benefit, historic investments in health care, research, and innovation. The same Liberal government that put in place historic tax cuts.
There are some that believe that recent events – the sponsorship scandal – have tainted our party. I think that people who think that way have very short memories. They have forgotten that the government of Jean Chrétien put in place the audits that brought to light the problems with the sponsorship scandal. They have forgotten the faith Canadians had in the former leader – faith enough to elect Jean Chrétien’s liberals to three consecutive majority governments.
A true statesman understands history and the importance of perspective. He will not let headlines and hysteria drown out the pride of good old fashioned policy making for the public good. We all do well to remember that.
Robert is a true statesman. He understands where he comes from and takes great pride in that. He will never forget who he represents in Ottawa and you will do well to make sure he continues to do just that.
Thank you very much.