, 06.28.2023 02:23 PM

My latest: friends in all places

Want a friend in politics? Get a dog.

Well, that’s not exactly the quote. President Harry S. Truman said that, except he substituted the word “Washington” for “politics.”

And, with the greatest of respect to the 33rd U.S. president, he’s not entirely right, either. Because it is indeed possible to have friends in politics – and in a way that helps constituents, too.

Partisans – younger ones and TruAnon, in particular – don’t get that. They see the universe in black and white, and regard any political opponent as a mortal enemy. They believe disagreement is treason and a capital offence.

The successful political folks aren’t like that. Jean Chretien, Doug Ford, for example. Olivia Chow, too.

Chretien, for whom I once worked as Special Assistant, was friends with folks across the political spectrum. Ralph Klein, Roy Romanow, Roy McMurtry, you name it: the most-successful Liberal Prime Minister of our generation had friends of many different stripes. Some Grit partisans may not have approved, but Chretien didn’t care.

In the case of NDP Premier Romanov and Conservative cabinet minister McMurtry, too, Chretien’s friendship paid big dividends. In November 1981, when a deal to repatriate the Constitution looked to be falling apart, Chretien met quietly with his NDP and Tory friends – in a kitchen pantry at the Ottawa conference centre, no less – to hammer together a deal.

The “Kitchen Accord,” as it became known, was what led to the creation of a truly Canadian Constitution, and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And it wouldn’t have happened if those three – a Liberal, a Conservative and a New Democrat – hadn’t been friends.

Doug Ford – for whose caucus, full disclosure, my firm does consulting work – comes from the same school. The Ontario Premier famously has friends in every political party, and it has clearly benefited the province he has led since 2018.

This writer saw the proof of that, close up. When I was helping to run Olivia Chow’s 2014 mayoral campaign, Ford and I met. He was also a candidate for mayor, and we started talking regularly.

Not only was Chow okay with that – she encouraged it. Doug’s brother, Rob, had been a Toronto city council seatmate with Chow’s husband, Jack Layton. They became good friends.

When Layton tragically died of cancer in 2011, Rob Ford was bereft. “Today’s definitely one of the saddest days in Toronto, but not only in Toronto, but Canada,” Ford said at the time, adding that, when he arrived at Toronto City Hall, Layton “taught me a lot…He taught me never to take things personal. He taught me, you’re going to be surprised on who votes with you sometimes and who votes against you.”

When Layton’s casket was brought into City Hall, Rob Ford was one of the few who escorted it. On that day, he put friendship before politics.

His brother, Doug, is cut from the same cloth. Much has been made of Doug’s support of his friend Mark Saunders in the just-concluded Toronto mayoral by-election. But much of the partisan speculation about his future relationship with Toronto’s mayor-elect is misguided.

“[Chow] is someone I have had a good relationship with” said Ford on Tuesday – and it’s the truth, going back to the years Rob and Jack were both alive. “We’ll work together and we’re going to find common ground when we sit down because she’s actually quite a nice person.”

And they will work well together – not just because they have to, but because they know how to. When the political stakes are high, as they too often are these days, letting rabid partisanship get in the way is just plain dumb.

So, yes, when in politics, get a dog. Sure.

But get some friends across the aisle, too. It helps – everyone.


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    Douglas W says:

    Republican political strategist Lee Atwater, before his death: “My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood.”

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    Martin Dixon says:

    Friendship should transcend politics. I have lots of very good Liberal friends and family. Heck, a guy I trained with regularly was basically an anarchist. Another one pretty well a communist. Certainly a ton of lefties. When former mayor Chris Friel ran for the Liberal nomination in Brant after Jane Stewart retired, 50% of the town hated him and 50% of the town loved him. But, guess what, 50% is plenty enough to win an election as MP. Dumbass Liberals in town conspired to make sure everyone else who ran against him would list him as their last choice. I have seen some stuff that maybe that was illegal? They got their wish and he lost. Anyway, I and eventual MP, Phil McColeman, both got Liberal memberships and voted for him because he was our friend. Then when Phil ran for the nomination, some people on our side tried to make his Liberal membership a campaign issue in the nomination fight. He pointed out he did it because Chris was his friend(to lots of applause) and I wrote a letter in support stating that friendship should transcend politics. Seems a self-evident truth. Oh, if those dumbass Liberals would have not conspired to shut Chris down, Phil may very well not have ran and Chris may still be MP.

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    Peter Williams says:

    Friends in all places? But not for Justin.

    He’s still trying to find a friendly Ethics Commissioner.
    One who will reliably exonerate Team Trudeau.


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    Peter Williams says:

    Melanie Joly said, “I think Canada’s reputation in the world is very positive”.


    Perhaps she needs some friends from outside the Liberal party, who can persuade her that living in Justin Trudeau’s reality distortion field, is not a good way to have influence in the world.

    Visions without execution are hallucinations.

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      Gilbert says:

      Many Canadians consider Melanie Joly the worst Minister of Foreign Affairs that Canada has ever had.

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        Ronald O'Dowd says:


        Most people have absolutely no idea who she is. And some only are aware of her because of “the news” out of Ottawa.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Makes me wonder how many genuine friendships, across the aisle, that Harper and Trudeau have. Not really in a position to speculate though.

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      Mark D says:

      I believe Harper and Layton were friends. Didn’t Harper state when Layton passed away that he regretted the two had never found the time to follow through on their plan to organize a musical jam session together?

      I have no inside knowledge but it would also surprise me if Trudeau lacked friends across the political spectrum. After all, has he not said in the past that one of his most memorable moments as a child was when his father brought him to lunch with Joe Clark in the House of Commons cafeteria after hearing the younger Trudeau make a disparaging comment about Clark at home? The lesson the older Trudeau wishing to impart to the younger being that Canadians can disagree over politics but still remain respectful and friends.

      Though not mentioned, I also that Jagmeet Singh has friendships across the political spectrum. A friend of mine is rural Alberta conservative from the Wildrose wing of the party. Singh is one of my friend’s favourite people to check in with when visiting Toronto or Ottawa, despite their differences of political opinion. My friend speaks very highly of Singh and considers him a friend.

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    Curious V says:

    I have friends who are anti-vax. Lifelong friends, so their stance won’t sway me – I just disagree. Friends in the NDP, Liberal, and Conservative parties. Family of all stripes too. Cousins on the right, cousins around the world of every stripe. I had friends who sympathized with the convoy, and again, I just disagree. In business, when I was a territory manager, I’m sure most of my clients were conservative, but they were all friends. Where I volunteer they’re all NDP, and they’re my friends too. I lost a few friends when I had cancer, I wasn’t useful to them anymore, so the last thing I consider when I’m thinking about who my friends are is who they voted for – more about trust, loyalty and having a good time.

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    Sean says:

    One thing I’ve learned is that the moment a dispute ends, it is very advisable to work at mending fences. You never know when you might need that other person as an ally or simply as a valuable source of information.

    Cancel culture and the like is really just emotional immaturity masquerading as enlightenment.

    Open your mind to those you disagree with. Otherwise you are missing valuable opportunities and just cancelling yourself.

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    Curious V says:

    I remember in university my two best friends were conservatives – a finance major and the top accounting student in the university. We had some lively debates about the world we live in, and it was a fantastic time. I was a bit of a jock back then, spending most of my days at the gym, or the basketball courts, but on Friday nights we’d drink beer, listen to the Beatles, and debate. Some of the best times I’ve ever had. Later I started working the bars as a doorman and then bartender, but I’ll never forget those days. Nothing in the bar scene was as exciting as our debates

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    EsterHazyWasALoser says:

    Career public servants like Mayor Chow and Premier Ford understand that they are there because the public want them to get things done. It is their job to be professional in their dealings with each other. In court, lawyers will refer to each other as “my friend”. There is a reason for that.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Most litigation lawyers would sell their own mother or father to win in court. So, you can easily imagine what they really think about opposing counsel. My friend is nothing more than phoney-baloney window dressing. It’s a total joke.

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        Sean says:

        ….siding with EHWAL on this one. There is indeed a reason for that. In the legal profession you can’t afford to make a long list of permanent enemies and you never know when that person on the other side might be an essential component in solving a future dispute. Also, any arbitrator / judge wants to see that both sides understand the seriousness of the other’s point of view and aren’t just being total dicks. Its not a joke, its practical business reality.

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          Ronald O'Dowd says:


          True enough but my point is that ask them out of a courtroom setting what they really think about the opposite number and a rush of respect and admiration often will not be part of the mix. Two separate points, IMHO.

          As regards judges, arbitrators, and negotiators, they’re strictly governed by a code of conduct so whether they hate your guts or not, they must ensure that the rule of law is respected and that proceedings are judicially fair and impartial. Otherwise, it’s a highly likely complaint off to the judicial council, etc.

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    Peter Seville says:

    My late and sadly missed MP, Gord Brown, was well liked and respected by everyone of all stripes who knew him. The same can not be said of the hateful little weasel who replaced him.

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    Peter Williams says:

    Jagmeet Singh warns his new best friend Trudeau not to use the lack of consensus from opposition parties as an excuse to delay or drop a public inquiry into foreign interference.


    Mr Singh. Or what?

    You’ll huff and puff, tweet and chirp, and then do?
    … nothing.

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