Driving Mr. Manning

It isn't every day that you get to drive the almost-Prime Minister of Canada around Fort McMurray. So, being able to pick up Preston Manning at the airport and bring him to Keyano College was pretty special.

He grew up in the hallowed halls of the Alberta Legislature where his father presided as Premier for 25 years. In 1987 he created the upstart Reform Party with then University of Calgary student Stephen Harper as his chief policy advisor. In the federal election of 1993 they missed becoming the official opposition by a slim 300 votes in Edmonton, paving the way for the Bloc to get way too close to achieving their separation goal. He was leader of the opposition from 1997 to 2000. A member of the Order of Canada and the founder of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, Preston Manning was instantly familiar, and trading quips with me in the silent stage right wings of Keyano Theatre.

Eloquent, effusive, ebullient, intelligent, articulate -- words to describe this politician who has made democratic engagement and development his life's work.

A classmate of mine worked for Mr. Manning for quite a few years in his Calgary constituency office. I shared a vivid memory of her while we waited for the queue to start the lecture tonight.

"It was 1978," I began. "She pulled herself out of the pool wearing this incredible white bathing suit, the Bee Gees playing in the background. I'll never forget it."

He laughed and agreed that she is a very attractive lady, and that they had to keep the interns in line when she was around, as they naturally flocked in her direction.

He came to Fort McMurray for the first time in 1962, doing some door knocking in support of his father's campaign, telling everyone that oilsands production was just around the corner. The hearty residents at the time shook their heads and said "no chance." How wrong they were.

January 21, 2010 -199.6 pounds, 29.7% body fat

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