When I arrived in Ottawa in 1970 as a young, green press secretary to federal Conservative Leader Robert Stanfield, there were a few MPs who took me under their wing. Lincoln Alexander was one of them. I met a lot of politicians then, and more in the years since, but it’s safe to say that Linc was the only one I ever knew who had no enemies. None.
Stanfield’s followers were not always loyal to their leader. Nor did Pierre Trudeau help Stanfield’s cause when he placed before the House a resolution confirming bilingualism, even though the policy had previously been approved. As a result of internal rebellion and such partisan shenanigans, Tory caucus meetings could be argumentative, even divisive, on many topics. On several occasions, I watched in despair as various battles played out on matters that seemed insoluble.
And then Linc would get to his feet and say, “I can sense a consensus emerging here.” I’d think to myself, “Whaaaat?” Linc would take a few threads from this speech, another few threads from that speech, and so on until he had woven a piece of cloth that everyone could wear. National political parties owe their very existence to consensus; Lincoln Alexander could achieve consensus like few others in any party.
Ten years ago, I interviewed several people for a video extolling the virtues of Jack Cockwell as a business leader and fundraiser for the Royal Ontario Museum. Among those on my list was Linc. I suggested he come to Toronto from Hamilton and meet me in front of the Ontario Legislature, where he had so ably served as lieutenant-governor. He agreed and we did the interview with the Pink Palace behind him, lit by the morning sun.
As we finished, a busload of schoolkids arrived who turned out to be from Hamilton. The teachers recognized Linc immediately, introduced him to their charges, and there was much picture-taking of Linc surrounded by the youngsters. My cameraman shot the scene for possible use in the video and as I moved closer I could hear Linc singing, so softly it was almost to himself, “Vote for Alexander, vote for Alexander.” As he bid goodbye to the kids, he said, “When you go home tonight, don’t forget to tell your parents you saw Linc Alexander today.” He was ever the campaigner, even though at that point he hadn’t run for office in more than 20 years.
Subsequently, I would see him at Raptors games or when I visited my daughter in Hamilton and we would stop at Denninger’s Foods, where he regularly had lunch. Wherever it was, Linc was always smiling, surrounded by fans and making them feel good. For most politicians, an ego trip is the only journey worth taking. Not Linc. He cared far more about others than he cared about himself. As a result, among politicians of all stripes, Lincoln Alexander was unique. I can only hope that some of the love we all felt for him found its way to his heart.