Reflections: Dief with Kids
Transcripts of interviews with Douglas
One of my great experiences in Ottawa was an event that included the Chief. A group of high school kids in my riding had come down from the little bush town Geraldton for a week in Ottawa. As their MP, I had to help schedule events for them and my office set things up for tours of the mint and Rideau Hall. The high school students also attended a meeting in the Railway Committee Room, where MPs from the CCF, Liberals and Conservatives came to speak to them. It was also good when they got up into the public gallery to watch the House of Commons for a couple of hours.
During this time, any opportunity to meet the Prime Minister was their top priority. They let me know that as soon as they arrived. So I phoned the prime minister’s secretary and told her that I had this group coming from afar. She said, “I’ll tell you, have them on the third floor by the prime minister’s office on Wednesday morning and Mr. Diefenbaker will come out to say hello to them.”
So the kids and I were there and, of course, the prime minister did not simply say hello to them. He invited them directly into the big, beautiful prime minister’s office. He stood over by the window and – as usual – picked the two prettiest girls from the group for a photo opportunity. It then became a photo shoot for the Chief and some thirty kids. He then gave a ten minute talk, with the teenagers hanging on every word. When he asked them if they had any questions, they leapt at the opportunity. While this went on for almost forty minutes, somebody kept coming and looking in the door. Diefenbaker repeatedly waved them away.
When the teens and I left his office, we could see three men sitting in the anteroom. They were not a happy trio and the one with a rising red face was Crawford Gordon – then the president of AVRO Canada. The decision to cancel the AVRO Arrow was vital politically and the biggest news event for a couple of years. Ironically, while those executives were in Ottawa for a crucial meeting, the Chief was chatting with high school students. When I was herding the kids out of the building, one girl, who was Japanese-Canadian, said to me: “Mr. Fisher, that was so wonderful. Why aren’t you a Conservative?”
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