"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Saturday 4 August 2007


I remember attending the annual conference of the Canadian Conference of Mayors and Municipalities in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in the early seventies. I had heard much about the Province. It was a popular vacation destination with Aurora residents.

I stayed in a motel at the opposite end of the main street from the Conference Centre. I walked to and from the Centre more than twice some days. Alma Walker, a regional councillor from Markham had a room in the beautiful vintage hotel across the street from the Centre. She invited a bunch of regional councillors to her room one evening.

There was a reception at the former home and gardens of a Lieutenant Governor. It was a lovely old colonial mansion. Margaret Britnell, Mayor of King, was at the conference. Margaret was a prominent Liberal and made contact with Liberals wherever she went in Canada. I was invited along to the home of Charlottetown Liberals for a pleasant evening of conversation. Of course it was political... and mostly local.

There was a bus tour of the Island for delegates, a lobster fest, and an ocean ferry trip. If the objective was to familiarise the delegates from cities across Canada to the charms of Prince
Edward Island, it was eminently successful.

Charlottetown has a substantial Lebanese community. They seemd like Greeks to me. Generous in hospitality, with a love of life and laughter and a passion for politics.

David Crombie, Mayor of Toronto, was at the Conference staying at the same motel as myself. He never seemed to attend any of the sessions. He held court at the motel swimming pool. People had audiences in his presence. He left on Sunday. A particular vote did not go his way and he indicated, with a departing flourish, Toronto would withdraw from the organization.

Member fees were based on per capita or some such measurement. If Toronto withdrew
that signalled one of two things. Fees from every other member would escalate. Or, the organisation would collapse. Or, the first would predicate the second with the same result Toronto is still doing stuff like that.

With the exception of Alberta and the North West Territories, I visited every capital city in Canada while I was in office. It was great to see how people lived in other places and how cities functioned. It broadened my perspective. I believe it made me a better Mayor.

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