Thursday, April 22, 2010

'Just another inch off your cock'

“I share the view that the good of the community is just as important as individual liberty, and I suspect the vast majority of Canadians do as well.”
— Brian Tobin, from his 2002 book All in Good Time.
•••
Considering this week’s news, the good of the City of Ottawa is just as important as Brian Tobin’s individual liberty, which certainly seems to be paying off since he retired from politics.

Not one to miss the bus, the province’s sixth premier — who chiseled his name in history for gluing Labrador to Newfoundland’s nameplate and building The Rooms, not to mention standing up for turbot, the boot-ugly fish with fingernails — is actually selling the bus.

Or buses.

Tobin is chairman of the board of Winnipeg-based New Flyer, one of North America’s leading manufacturers of heavy-duty buses.

New Flyer is close to doing a $156-million deal to sell the City of Ottawa 226 buses. The buses were to be sold to Chicago, but the deal fell through after the state couldn’t come up with the funding.

Now Ottawa is being offered the buses at a discount.

The new buses would replace 226 New Flyer models purchased between 2001 and 2004 that have been described as “lemons” for problems such as faulty brakes that caused some buses to start fires.

Interesting.

What else is Tobin up to these days?

He's currently senior business advisor with Fraser Milner Casgrain, a Toronto lawfirm.

He serves on a number of other public company boards, including Aecon Group Inc. (construction), Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (entertainment studio), SonnenEnergy Corp. (solar power), and is vice-chairman of the board of Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines Ltd.

He’s also director of Canpages Inc. (a search company) and Marport Canada Inc. (marine acoustics).

As for a possible return to politics, I refer back to Tobin’s book:

“Will I return to politics in an active role? I have no plans to do so, but I have learned never to say never.”

Spoken like a master politician.
•••
Speaking of new buses, the City of St. John’s will soon have to replace its aging fleet — one of the oldest in the country.

Some of the vehicles in the Metrobus barn have been in service since 1985 (five years after Tobin was first elected to Parliament).

A total of 26 buses will have to be replaced by 2016.

I wonder what happens to the old ones?

Maybe the Tobinator blows them up.
•••
Tobin’s book was written with John Lawrence Reynolds, the same writer who helped put together the late Craig Dobbin’s biography, One Hell of a Ride.

Dobbin and Tobin were good buddies.

Sorry Brian, but I liked Dobbin’s book better.
•••
I remember interviewing John Crosbie for a Tobin profile I put together in 1996 for The Evening Telegram.

At the time, rumours were rampant that Tobin was about to leave federal politics for a shot at the premier’s office in Newfoundland.

Which he did.

Said Crosbie of Tobin: “He certainly has nice hair.”
•••
Tobin is also a nice guy.

As likable as they come.

I haven’t heard many people say a bad word about him.

I could argue his political legacy, but not the man.

I only knew him to lose his cool once or twice (once at me), but then his coolheadedness was probably due to Max Short, his adviser when he served as federal Fisheries minister during the turbot wars.

Short's a former executive with the fishermen’s union and as colourful an ourport character as they come.

The best quote in Tobin's book actually comes from Short.

“Now calm down, just calm down there, Minister,” Short would shout into the speaker phone from the regional office in St. John’s and into a room crowed with Ottawa bureaucrats.

“It’s just another inch off your cock.”

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