|Railway workers lose a good friend this election with the retirement of Bill Blaikie
This election day (October 14, 2008) railway workers will say goodbye to a close friend and advocate
with the retirement of Canada's longest serving Member of Parliament and New Democratic Party
(NDP) member, The Honourable Bill Blaikie. He announced on March 15, 2007 that he would not seek
Blaikie, who is 57, was first elected to parliament on May 22, 1979 in the riding of Winnipeg-Birds Hill,
the same riding he has held consecutively ever since. The name of the riding later changed to
Winnipeg-Transcona and to today's name of Elmwood-Transcona. Mr. Blaikie is a member of the
Queen's Privy Council for Canada and has the right to be styled 'The Honourable' for life. Blaikie was
also the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, the first time a member of the NDP has served in
"Parliament is not a place where I wanted to grow old," Blaikie told CBC News after he announced
plans to retire from politics. "I've done everything that I wanted to do, almost, and I just felt it was
time to move on. Nine elections and 28 years, there are other things I would like to do in my life and
with my life, and if I don't do it soon, I won't have the time to do it." He did not say what type of
opportunities he will pursue next.
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said the person who fills Bill Blaikie's shoes will have a big job. "He's
probably size 14 shoes, it'll be big shoes," the NDP Premier said.
|The Honourable Bill Blaikie
(Photo: NDP Bill Blaikie website)
"But the key to Bill is not just the size of his shoes to fill, but the fact that his boots are on the ground and he listens to people,
whether it's a railway worker or whether it's an educator or whatever kind of family is in northeast Winnipeg, Bill has always been a
strong voice for them."
The person who will attempt to fill these big shoes will be long-time Manitoba NDP candidate Jim Maloway, who left his seat as the
NDP Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the Winnipeg ward of Elmwood serving in the Doer provincial government.
Maloway has represented the constituents of Elmwood since 1986, many of the same constituents of Bill Blaikie.
“Railway workers will surely miss Bill Blaikie,” said CAW Council 4000 Regional Representative Barry Kennedy, who was a
constituent of Blaikie's from the time he was first elected up until Kennedy transferred with CN to Edmonton in June 1995.
“Whenever a pressing issue was facing railway workers, whether it was safety concerns, the massive downsizing of CN in the
1980s and 90s, the privatization of CN in 1995, shop closures, job transfers, labour unrest or railway strikes, you always knew that
railway workers’ concerns would be heard loud and clear and properly debated in the House of Commons. You would always see
Mr. Blaikie showing up to shake hands and meet railway workers at various work sites for demonstrations, strikes, rallies or during
elections. We have lost a very big voice,” said Kennedy.
CAW Council 4000 Prairie Region Representative Rick Doherty, who resides in Mr. Blaikie’s riding, echoed Kennedy’s feelings.
||Blaikie was born to a working-class family in Winnipeg,
where his father was employed by Canadian National
Railways for over forty years. Blaikie too worked at CN
off and on from 1969 to 1974 as a labourer while
attending the University of Winnipeg. He was a member
of the Young Progressive Conservatives in high school,
but later joined the NDP in 1971.
A portion of the riding (the Elmwood area) that Blaikie
served for 29 years was once represented by Canada's
longest serving Parliamentarian, Stanley Knowles
(Winnipeg North Centre). Knowles was first elected in a
1942 by-election held on the death of one of the
founders and first leader of the CCF party (which later
became the NDP), J.S. Woodsworth. Mr. Knowles became
an expert on parliamentary procedure. Impressed with
his skills, when John Diefenbaker became Prime Minister
of Canada, he asked Knowles to become Speaker of the
House of Commons, but he declined. The next member
of the NDP to serve in this capacity, ironically, was Bill
Blaikie, as Deputy Speaker.
|Bill Blaikie (left) with CAW National Rep
Doug Olshewski at a labour rally at CN's
Symington Yard in Winnipeg during the
CN/UTU strike in February 2007
|Deputy Speaker of
The House of Commons
|Knowles served Winnipeg North Centre until he left politics in 1984, but was given the
unprecedented distinction of being made an honorary table officer of the House of
Commons by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Mr. Blaikie was ordained a minister in the United Church of Canada on June 4, 1978, and
subsequently became a politician in the social gospel tradition, like that of Woodsworth
Bill Blaikie ran for the leadership of the federal NDP, calling for a renewed focus on
health care, natural resources and labour standards. He placed second to Jack Layton.
In declaring his candidacy, Blaikie said:
“I've heard it said of the NDP that we are too attached to the past, but I tell you that it is
our political opponents who are the Jurassic Park of Canadian politics. They would take us
back to a meaner time when money was the measure of all things. We stand for the future
that was sought and won and which must now be defended and enhanced.”
|Bill Blaikie with CLC President Ken Georgetti
during the CLC's Bill C-257 (Anti-scab Bill) lobby
and reception in Ottawa - February 2007
(Photo: NDP Bill Blaikie website)
In February 2001, parliamentarians were polled on the most effective member of the House of Commons. Blaikie tied for third place
with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
On November 21, 2007, Blaikie was given the Maclean's award for Best Parliamentarian of the Year, as voted by his peers.
Blaikie's daughter, Rebecca Blaikie, was the NDP candidate for LaSalle—Émard in the 2004 federal election, the riding of former
Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. She is now executive director of the party's Quebec wing, and was one of the architects of
Thomas Mulcair's historic victory in a 2007 Outremont by-election.
We thank Bill Blaikie for all his efforts and dedication for the betterment of all Canadians - his defending the Canadian way of life,
but in particular, the role he played in defending and speaking out on behalf of all railway workers across Canada. His voice and
representation will be missed.