Surprise for Frank McKenna

Posted on January 25, 2008
Filed Under Commentary, Miramichi | 2 Comments

            On Saturday, January 19, Frank McKenna celebrated his 60th birthday.

            His wife and children and Frank’s long-time, top general, Ruth McRea, organized a surprise party for him on Bay Street in Toronto. The party took place in what used to be the Toronto Stock Exchange before it went electronic. It is now known as The Design Exchange.

            The invitation stressed the importance of keeping it a secret. It seemed to work. Frank flushed almost as deeply as he did when CBC News announced they were officially declaring he had won all 58 seats in his first election as Premier of the Province of New Brunswick.

            David Peterson, former premier of Ontario, and political fan of Frank’s said he is one of the many who still hopes that one day Frank will be Prime Minister of Canada. The crowd of at least 300 burst into applause.

            Wallace McCain was another of the speakers paying tribute to Frank. When I lived in Woodstock in the early 1970s, Wallace’s health was a constant concern. He had some condition that was aggravated by stress. Many local people thought he was subject to a lot of stress.

            Saturday night, he looked healthier than I have ever seen him. He was trim and fit and dancing vigourously with his wife, Margaret Norrie McCain.

            She is still just as dynamic. She is promoting and looking for recruits for her efforts in the field of early child development. It is all part of her overall campaign against domestic violence.

            It was quite a shindig. I felt like an impostor. The Sesame Street tune “One of these things is not like the others,” kept running through my head. Many of the folks there could wear more than I’m worth.

            I’ve certainly never been in a room with that much money and power before.

            Just a few of the leaders I recognized there included Donald and David Sobey; Jim Pattison, the BC billionaire; Ron Joyce, the founder of Tim Horton’s; Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada; Jim Irving; Hon. Shawn Graham and Roxanne; Robbie Tozer, Joyce and one of their daughters; and Denis Losier, a McKenna minister and now Assumption Life president and CEO.

            There was a tremendous collection of past, present and future bank presidents, national law firm partners, ambassadors, US state governors, political front and back room movers and shakers and corporate leaders. The president of The Gap was there from San Francisco. There were mining and energy company executives.

            Several of Frank’s old team were there including Francis McGuire, Steve McKinnon, Paul and Donna Lordon, Julian Walker, Mike and Mary Bowes, Maura McCluskey and Giorgio Gaudet, the man Frank assigned to make the Rodd Miramichi Inn deal happen here.

            The current Miramichi, Bay du Vin, MLA, Bill Fraser, was there. Rupert Bernard was supposed to be but the Friday storm blocked his flight.

            Those are just a few of the ones I remember.

            It was impressive to see the kind of turnout a party for Frank attracted. It takes a lot of royal jelly to command that kind of attention. People came from all over North America and even Europe to be with him on his birthday.

            Another man with that kind of charisma sent a video greeting that created a hush in the room.

            Former US president, Bill Clinton, said he wished he could be there but his wife had him busy helping her with a project on the weekend.

            He sent his best wishes to Frank and Julie and went on to say that 60 is not old and that he is sure Frank has service yet to give to his country.

            Julie and the children, Toby, James and master of ceremonies, Christine, had fun and were obviously ecstatic to see how their scheme was working. I can’t remember the last time I saw Julie so exuberantly happy. They were obviously thrilled to have pulled off such a great party.

            And it was a great party. There was a great band of the “Blood Sweat and Tears” or “Chicago” type. They played Dire Straits’s “Walk of Life,” of course, as Frank came to the stage. That meant most to the old gang who were there when it was the sound track to Frank’s march to power.

            Frank thanked just about everyone he ever knew especially Julie who, he said, was an amazing performer in Washington making connections as good as and better than he could as Canada’s ambassador. He talked about how he enjoyed his years in politics and confessed that respect and friendships develop with members across the aisle.

            His dedication to his family was celebrated in a slide show projected on the wall showing pictures of him at every stage of fatherhood and grandfatherhood. One, showing him kneeling, hands clasped, saying bedtime prayers with one of the children was one with which many a young father could identify.

            His grandchildren sang a video greeting to him from the Turks and Caicos where Frank and Julie now have a home in addition to the one in Toronto and the one in Cap Pele.

            He has moved up into various superstar leagues since I and many of his early friends and colleagues met him 30 years ago. It was a surprising privilege to have the chance to briefly observe the world he lives in now. At least his early friends and colleagues can say we aren’t surprised. It was obvious early on he had goals and the intelligence and drive to achieve them.It gives us an idea what it might have been like to play peewee hockey with Wayne Gretzky or Bobby  Orr.

            A swelligant, elegant party it was to paraphrase Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm in “High Society.”



2 Responses to “Surprise for Frank McKenna”

  1. bloomingwriter on January 25th, 2008 10:32 pm

    Do you suppose, in years to come, Frank McKenna will be known as the best prime minister Canada never had?
    I admire the man wholeheartedly because he has always seemed to be a man of great integrity, and his love for his province has always been obvious too. Many more happy years for him and his family (but I wish he WOULD run for the federal Lib. leadership….sigh…)

  2. jjjg86 on January 27th, 2008 8:13 pm

    David, thanks for such a positive review on my band, The Bluesual Suspects Orchestra. It was indeed a pleasure to perform at such a grand soirée. I think we ended up playing the “Walk of Life” song 4-5 times by request!!

    Jeff Mandell
    The BlueSual Suspects

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.