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Michael Bryant (Fred Lum)
Michael Bryant (Fred Lum)

From the archives

Michael Bryant: "I will keep my trap shut' Add to ...

For someone who counts Muhammad Ali as his idol, it's an improbable resolution. And it hardly fits the pugnacious streak of a man who's been a boxer since the age of 10 in Victoria, B.C. "I loved it from the start. It didn't matter how big you were, you could get in the ring and compete against people your own size. Plus, it's pretty primal. And it also assisted in giving people the wrong impression that they better not mess with me - which, mercifully, was rarely tested."

His longing to be a lawyer and a politician could be rooted in the same scrappiness. But he was also born to the role: His father, a lawyer as well, was mayor of Esquimalt, B.C., and much of Michael's intellectual development as an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia and later as a law student was shaped by the struggle for aboriginal rights - his Harvard masters thesis was a comparative North American study of state-aboriginal confrontations, a topic he would returned to in political life.

In the hierarchical world of provincial politics, Mr. Bryant's transfer to aboriginal affairs from the AG's office was regarded as a demotion, yet he relished the job - he sees it as his most successful period in office, and is still enshrined in the YouTube videos he posted during the conflict over land rights in Caledonia.

So it's a mistake, at least from his perspective, to view his exit from the Ontario cabinet as anything other than an opportunity. "It's not like I'm throwing myself into something that doesn't have a public-service component. But if I'd wanted to stay in politics, I'd have stayed in politics. You've got to be willing to give it up and not come back."

He definitely isn't devising a plan to run for mayor ("No, not ever. We have a fabulous mayor who I support, and he's the chairman of my board"). And he cites his mentor Frank McKenna, another politician who was able to move on, for the view that "politics is so intense, so all-consuming, so unreal, that he didn't want to go back to it."

And yet, like the fighter he is, he can't bring himself to throw in the towel. "I may have the same experience as Frank," he says above the roar of young Torontonians devouring their pizza. "But if I said 'Never, never, never, it's absolutely ruled out,' nobody would believe me."

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