The Swearing In

Ben was pretty excited about tonight; he was going to see his Papa swear on stage. He was also pretty excited about the food, too. We thought that things would wrap up by 8:30 or 9:00 pm at the outside, but put a group of 11 politicians in front of a microphone and things are bound to go long.

In my head, I thought we would take the oath of office then say a few words of thanks. Instead we were all sworn in before they started with the speeches. I now completely understand why Council meetings go way too long. We were all given clear instructions to keep our remarks to two minutes. (I'm an event planner, so I appreciate the need for brevity in keeping the flow of things going.) In the end, only a handful of Councillors and the Mayor stuck to the prescribed allotment of time.

I was touched and inspired by many of the comments and visions shared by my colleagues. I was especially humbled to be mentioned as a kindred spirit and a good friend of Councillor Scott. We not only have a striking physical resemblance, we share of love of this community, of public service and of family. I'm so glad he is part of this great team.

I had full intentions of holding things together and to get in and out of my remarks well under the two minute mark. But, the moment I opened up my mouth to acknowledge the role my family played in this journey that pesky lump returned to my throat. I'm sure it was only a second or two, but emotional moments feel like a lifetime, a mountainous hurdle to overcome in front of a theatre full of people. I pulled it together and shared a quick story of Dylan being in the hospital and talking to him about my failing confidence a week before election day.

"Papa, you can't lose your confidence," he said. "You have to be confident." The audience gave a generous applause at this point as I continued on with my prepared notes. Ashley MacIsaac, listening backstage, would go on to mention this portion of the speech in his repartee.

I acknowledged all the candidates who ran but did not win, specifically pointing out the wonderful lady who was neck and neck with me to the announcement of the last polling station results.

"The only sad part about this election for me was beating Christine Burton," I said. "I just wish we could add an extra seat to bring her along for the ride."

There is no question that the high point of the campaign for me was working side by side with my candidate colleagues to build the Vote Project. "We did it on Thanksgiving Monday as a show of thanks for the right we have to vote," I shared. "There are millions of people around the world who die every day fighting for that right. We should never take it for granted."

I concluded my thoughts with words of thanks for Mayor Melissa Blake and her continued strong leadership. "Together we will take Wood Buffalo into a very exciting future, eleven voices coming together as one, in common purpose."

While I wish I wasn't such a sap, I was pleased with the content of my message and the naked sincerity with which it was delivered. I talk about the things that are the most personal, the most important to me, and I get emotional....always have.

We were led from the stage by the honour guard and Angus Campbell on the bagpipes and back into the rehearsal hall for our group photo. Then, it was into the audience for the surprise performance by Cape Breton fiddle genius, Ashley MacIsaac.

By the time everything was done and I reunited with Ben in the lobby, his eye lids were drooping fiercely and he had resigned to a spot on the floor underneath one of those bar tables. Family comes first, before festivity, and I gathered up my wife and son and got them home and into bed. Regular life and the business of governing starts bright and early tomorrow, and I'm going to be ready.


  1. I'm glad you got a little choked up, Russell. I'm glad you showed that to us, because it's moments like that when people don't see you as a politician, but as a regular guy, just like the rest of us.


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