OK, my cross country trip was hardly Macdonald's "national dream." (I still need to complete the leg to Nova Scotia and will do so this fall....)
Nevertheless, there is something epic about rail travel, and I do have a dream of a more efficient, accessible and modernized passenger and freight rail system.
Ever wonder why freight derailments are so common? Lack of track maintenance. Last summer's disastrous bunker C derailment and spill into Alberta's Lake Wabamun was one of many derailments in the last year. And as freight and CN own the tracks and run the traffic signals, it is impossible for VIA rail to guarantee on-time trains. ..
So, I was not surprised that over the course of a three day train trip we accumulated a bit of delay here and there. Instead of rolling into Union Station in Toronto last night at 8 pm, it was closer to 9. I felt badly for the planned rally and was told as I headed out the doors of the station that quite a few people had had to leave for other commitments -- like getting kids to bed before the first day of school!
When the cheer went up from the 60 or so people still waiting I was overwhelmed. Signs and balloons and lots of friends, some of whom I hadn't met yet (as we say in Cape Breton). I gave a thank you speech and met almost everyone there and then headed for a fundraiser for the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Frank deJong. Frank is running in the Ontario riding vacated by Ontario Liberal Gerard Kennedy's move to federal politics and his bid for Liberal leadership. Parkdale High Park is a great riding for a strong Green showing, especially after the recent environmentally regressive decisions of the McGuinty government. Particularly galling is McGuinty's decision to build new nuclear plants. As one of my friends put it to Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan, "This is like the captain of the Titanic deciding to take another run at that iceberg." With billions of dollars in stranded nuclear debt, a long history of cost overruns and performance unreliability, McGuinty's newfound faith in nukes should send voters in droves to Frank deJong's campaign. (fairness note: Howard Hampton of the NDP has been consistent and clear against nuclear reactors in Ontario as well.)
Near disaster in the AM!! My daughter and I had a 6:55 AM train to Ottawa and I set the alarm for 6 AM. Somehow the clock thought it was set for 6:30! So I awoke with a start, looked at the clock, sat bolt upright , grabbed a phone and called a cab. My amazing daughter and I somehow managed to be dressed and with all our luggage (including her packed lunch for school) in a cab for the train station within 7 minutes. We made the train.... which was a darn good thing as another 40 people or so were awaiting our arrival in Ottawa. And, it was, after all the first day of school and I wanted her to get to some of her classes..The Ottawa welcome was really a home-coming. So many people who had helped on my campaign and a lot of hugs and high fives!
What is it like to be the leader of a federal political party getting home after a trip? Pretty much like any other single mum. Laundry, sorting and folding, picking up strewn garbage from the lawn where a raccoon got into a tenant's garbage bag, sorting over-due bills and realizing that tomorrow morning I simply must wash the kitchen floor quite thoroughly. Life is still life after all.