Remembering Wilbur Macdonald

I was saddened to read of the death of former Member of Parliament, Member of the Legislative Assembly, and Speaker Wilbur Macdonald this morning.

I could not help but think back to the warm summer afternoon of June 27, 2006 when, from the public gallery in Province House, I witnessed him hold forth at some length so as to keep the Legislative Assembly busy while, behind the scenes, the Pat Binns government sought to put the finishing touches on its electoral redistricting plan, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act (the “Cletus Dunn map,” as it had come to be known).

With the introduction from the Speaker, “The hon. Member from Belfast-Pownal Bay,” he began (you can follow along in the day’s Hansard, starting on page 3,304):

I rise to speak on the budget which we had brought in in the spring. It’s an opportunity for me to talk about my riding and about what is taking place in the province.

One of the things that has really happened in this province in the last number of years is the expansion of the economy. I think it all started with the industrial malls a number of years ago and is continuing over the last number of years. The federal government has also contributed to that in Charlottetown and in Summerside.

At this point he departed from his prepared notes to address the issue of the lawnmower making noise outside, clearly audible in the background, something that had been on my mind as well:

I must say every time that this House opens that lawn mower seems to be going outside. Is the guy going over and over the lawn or what is he doing out there? If it’s under the department of public works, I wish the minister would tell him to take off. Go someplace else. He can cut the grass in the morning, then we can hear one another. But he’s been going for the last two hours and I don’t know where the lawn is. But anyway.

From there he continued for more than 4,200 words and 30 minutes, covered topics ranging from the lobster fishery to the Northumberland Strait to Lord Selkirk to wind power to the quality of the roads in his district to the life expectancy of males and females.

Eventually the Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act was ready for introduction, and so Macdonald got the nod and finished off with the same good humour he started with:

Mr. Speaker, I could go on for a little longer, but I think I have spoke long enough. I will adjourn the debate.

While Macdonald was simply doing his loyal best to keep the puck in play, his speech, looking back 14 years, is a thorough survey of Prince Edward Island through his eyes, and we are the better for it, and for his years of service as a legislator.

(Audio from the Legislative Assembly of PEI Video Archive).