Key to victory

In 2012 I attended the ceremonial sod-turning for the tunnel that recently opened to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Before the program began, my son Mark, who was then chairman of the Toronto Port Authority, pulled me out of the audience. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had just arrived, was in a nearby holding room, and would do a quick photo with Mark and his young family that would include me.

What was supposed to be a 30-second session must have lasted 15 minutes. Harper was effusive and friendly, far from the stiff father who shook hands with his own son as they said goodbye at the schoolyard. He talked about his rough flight in a small plane that morning saying it caused him to think about the time singers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed and died in 1959. He regaled us with anecdote after anecdote and was the kind of guy you’d want to have lunch with, not the controlling leader of his public image.

I told that airport story to someone recently who recounted an equally illuminating occasion when he was at a Toronto Maple Leafs game. It was during the time when Dalton McGuinty was premier of Ontario. Harper and McGuinty were sitting behind my friend. McGuinty apparently knew nothing about hockey. Harper, who has since written a book about the sport, spent the entire game giving knowledgable colour commentary about what was happening on the ice.

The polls say this election is a tight three-way race. All Stephen Harper has to do is throw away his “stay the course” strategy and talk instead about his family and hockey. He’d win in a landslide.

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