I was honoured to meet Bill Blaikie at last September’s NDP convention in Québec. Little did I know that it might be the last time I would speak to him as a Member of Parliament. Today the Dean of Canada’s House of Commons announced that, after nearly 28 years, he would not be seeking a tenth term.
(These announcements are coming a little more quickly these days…hmm…could next week’s Conservative budget be dead before its ink dries?)
Bill was traveling with a son, Daniel, when I met him at a reception during the convention. Daniel, whether now or a little later in life, struck me as someone who would make a great New Democratic Party candidate – no pressure 🙂
Something Bill helped get going, along with Jack Layton’s Québec Advisor Pierre Ducasse and others, was the NDP’s Faith and Social Justice Caucus. An ordained United Church minister before seeking public office, Bill is of the social gospel tradition we remember in Tommy Douglas.
Jack’s tribute to Bill today made note of another remarkable first for the NDP. Bill was the first Member of Parliament, other than a government or member of the Official Opposition, to serve as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons – a position he will continue to hold until the dissolution of parliament.
Bill’s deportment in the House has always been exemplary and he could write a book, I am sure, on how the discourse there has changed for the worst.
In his statement today, Jack Layton said of the Member for Elmwood-Transcona, “Bill has been a pillar of the New Democratic Party, and he will join Stanley Knowles as a Parliamentary legend.”