Rather listen than read – Here’s a SoundCloud audio of Senator Fabian Manning’s speech! CLICK HERE!
Good morning everyone. May I begin my remarks by expressing a sincere thank you to the Placentia Area Chamber of Commerce for the invitation to speak to you today on the topic of “Small Town Beginnings.” I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Chamber on their continuing and superb organization of this annual event. It has definitely grown to become a showcase for the local business community and you all can be very proud of a job well done.
Friends, I know all of you are fully aware of the fact that we are in the midst of a Federal General Election and while giving a politician of any political stripe a microphone and an audience during this particular period of time could prove somewhat dangerous I want to once again assure you today, that with me, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
At the tender age of 55 years and God willing with the security of the Senate of Canada guaranteeing me another 20 years of continuous employment, I come before you today without any political stress and without any bias political agenda but I do want to make a couple of political comments.
First and foremost I want to congratulate all the men and women of all political parties and stripes for offering themselves as candidates in the upcoming election. Whether they have decided to leave their place of business, the safety of their workplace or the security of their home and family, they are to be commended. The decision to put themselves “out there” in today’s political environment is a brave one indeed. They are giving us a choice when so many in the world do not have one. I thank them one and all and wish each one the very best.
My second political comment is that while I fully understand the cynicism around politics and politicians today, I encourage each and every one of you to get out and vote on or before Election Day.
As I said earlier it is a privilege denied to many people throughout the world today. We owe it to our forefathers and to our children to participate in the democratic process and contrary to what some people may say, “One vote can truly make a difference or at least two can for sure if we look at the last provincial election held here in our own Province. Just two votes made the difference between a majority and a minority government so >>>YES>>> your vote is important so PLEASE get out and MARK YOUR X!
There is a little irony in me being here speaking to you this morning. The person who spoke at your breakfast this time last year was my brother-in-law, Larry Dohey who we all know passed away on August 28th after suffering a brain haemorrhage a couple of days before while speaking to a group just a few feet away from here over at the Star Hall. To say, we miss him dearly would be an understatement. It is difficult to put into simple words the impact on the family following the outpouring of support at the time of Larry’s passing but rest assured it helped in a huge way to ease the pain of his sudden and unexpected death. I will not pretend or even try to speak to you this morning with the eloquence or knowledge of Larry Dohey, he was definitely in a class all his own on that front, but both he and I did have a few things in common such as our love of history and culture, our love of Newfoundland and Labrador and our love of our hometown of St. Bride’s on the Cape Shore………the place where our stories began.
My story began in that small town on the 21st day of May in 1964. I was the seventh child in a family of nine. After spending almost a decade in Labrador City and in Schefferville, Quebec my Dad and Mom moved with their family to St. Bride’s and opened up a grocery and dry goods store in February of 1963. As I said, I came along a little over a year later and was born here at the Placentia Cottage Hospital. My mother wrote me a letter a few years back about the day I was born. She thought there was something wrong with me because I had webbed toes. She said she asked the doctor about my feet and he assured her that I was normal and chances are I would be a great swimmer. Now, my friends, I can swim but I would not describe it as anything close to great and I am sure there are many out there who would question whether I fall under the category of normal. I will leave that one hanging out there.
Now when St. Bride’s was first settled it was called “Distress Cove.” It was only after the Irish Catholic immigrants arrived on these shores and with the persuasion of some very powerful church leaders, the name of my hometown was changed to St. Bride’s, after St. Bridget of course. I am very happy about that because I am not sure if I would want to be going around telling people that I am from a place called “Distress Cove.” That would not be very positive but then again, many people laughed at the name of the town of DILDO. The ones laughing the most there now though are the business people in Dildo as they make their deposits at the bank. All the same, I am not sure though if Distress would have the same financial impact as Dildo or Jimmy Kimmel would want to be the mayor of Distress Cove!
Growing up in St. Bride’s in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was something I would never want to change. We did not know many people outside our own town except for a few in the close-by neighbouring communities. We had one channel on the TV which was CBC and a radio that was only turned on at certain times during the day. Watching GUNSMOKE on Saturday mornings followed by TARZAN in the afternoon was as exciting as things could get until Dallas and Tommy Hunter came along on Friday nights. We did not have…..FalseBook (sorry, Facebook), we did not have Twitter, SnapChat, Skype or any other of the social media that is so prevalent in today’s society. The only telephone I knew existed was down at Mrs. Violet Griffin’s house where we used to go pick up telegrams for my Mom and Dad.
There were a lot of things we did NOT have but there were a lot of things we DID such as close-knit families and friends. We spent all our time outdoors whether cutting out cod tongues down on the wharf, chasing after capelin on the beach, playing COPS and ROBBERS up in the woods or sliding over on the big hill in Gerard Griffen’s meadow in the depth of winter. We were never bored and there were never enough hours in the day to do all we had to do. We did not seek much outside our little oasis because frankly, we did not know anything about it anyway. We were content, happy and resourceful.
All the same, it was a good life and not to turn back the clock but there are many times I wish our own children could experience SOME of what we did in our younger years.
As I grew older I learned that my Dad and Mom were avid readers and they had subscriptions to TIME, MACLEANS and NEWSWEEK magazines. After they had finished with them we were allowed to take them and do what I used to call…..go on a journey to the outside world and it was a fascinating one. We learned so much about geography, people, places and politics. I believe I developed a major interest in politics because of the opportunity of having those magazines in our home. But then all politics is local and I had to look no further than my Dad. Dad was among a group of concerned citizens that organized and formalized the first Town Council in St. Bride’s. He put much time and effort into that because as a businessman he strongly believed and would often say to us…..” if the community is doing well…..we are doing well.”
I learned a lot from my parents. My mom was raised in Belvedere Orphanage in St. John’s going there from age 4 until she turned 16. She then went teaching on St. Brendan’s island for $75.00 a month.
She knew the value of a dollar and she possessed a faith in God that definitely moved mountains. I miss her guidance, words of encouragement, support, wisdom and there his no doubt in my mind that “A Mother’s Love is a blessing.” My Dad’s mother died when he was only 5 years old and while he was not the hugger type, he was a workaholic, a great provider and a man who believed that you could accomplish anything if you believed in yourself and were willing to work hard at it. His words of advice fell on my deaf ears many times when I was younger but today I know what they meant as I try to pass them on to our own children. Strange what the passing of time does to your way of thinking.
Growing up in a family business as we did, one did not have the luxury of performing one task or job. There was always plenty to do. As a young boy, one of my first responsibilities was to separate the coke bottles. At that time they used to come in big wooden boxes. There would be the coke, sprite, keep kool lime and orange and the ginger ale bottles and who could forget Nugrape. Dad was the coke distributor and on Saturday mornings he would empty all the cases out in the backyard and myself and my brothers would have to separate all of them. We were not allowed to go down in John Young’s yard and play hockey with our friends until all the bottles were separated. There was no time limit imposed by Dad but there was no middle ground either. No hockey until the bottles were all done. Believe you me, we became pretty efficient and organized as time went on. To this day I am a strong believer that you need to offer incentives to your employees to weed out the performers from the slackers.
As part of the business, I spent many hours working behind the counter in the store, driving the beer truck, serving at the gas pumps and almost 20 years managing the Lounge and Motel. Along with that, I drove my brother’s ambulance for 7 years and at the same time was very involved in several community and regional organizations. I spent 15 years in the volunteer fire department.
My wife keeps telling me not to be talking about that since I set fire to our own house a few years ago. (Tell an ambulance story about the Hall in Point Lance)
In my early years when almost all of the family was home and at times especially during the winter months when business would slow down I found myself getting a job on a few occasions on what we then called a LIP Project, now known as a government make-work project.
There are many times when I am sitting down in the Senate of Canada looking around at all the folks there, people such as the owner of the People’s Jewellery stores across Canada or the owner of the Toronto Argonauts Football team or the lady who is married into the family who owns the Eaton’s Shopping Centre in Toronto. As I sit there and look around I am confident that I am the only person in the Senate of Canada who has worked on a make-work project. But I also know that those experiences did not hurt me……they made me appreciate what others who are not so fortunate as I have gone through and in many cases are still going through. What does not kill you will make you stronger!
My parents instilled in me the strong belief that you could be whatever you wanted to be if you believed in yourself. Well, for years all I wanted to do was work in the family business and become involved in my community. Well, I did just that and got myself elected to the Town Council and became a member of the Parish Council, Rural Development Association, the Fire Dept. and many other groups and organizations. It was through all this involvement that the opportunity arose for me to try my hand at Provincial politics in the fall of 1992 when I ran for the nomination in what was then the district of St. Mary’s the Capes. I figured it would be a long shot but nothing ventured, nothing gained and if for some reason it did not work out, it would be great training for the next time. Low and behold I won a contested nomination by 41 votes where over 1700 people participated. I learned a few lessons during that process.
A few months later on May 3rd of 1993, I was elected to the House of Assembly for the first time. I was sworn in on May 20th, the day before my 29th birthday. It was an unbelievable moment when I walked into the House of Assembly and took my seat with my family looking on from the public gallery. It was an awesome privilege and honour and a bit overwhelming to stay the least. When the districts changed in 1996 and this District became the District of Placentia and St. Mary’s I ran and lost and it was very difficult for me personally and for my family and supporters. But, I shook the dust off and immediately starting working and planning for my next run and I was once again successful in 1999 in returning to the House of Assembly. I learned many valuable lessons during all this process as well.
I spent almost 13 years directly or indirectly involved in Provincial politics. They were many great and wonderful memories from that period and as many of you know my political career over the last 26 years has been a roller coaster ride at times. The political waters have not always been smooth sailing. They were a few days of high winds and rough seas. Then there was Hurricane DANNY!!!!……..and that was quite the storm for sure. Now many people believe that I have ill feelings towards Danny or that I don’t like him very much. Well, let me tell you that I say a prayer of thanks every day for Danny. I do not believe it was his intention at the time of my departure from the provincial scene but because of that I have had a wonderful and exciting 13 years in Ottawa now and as I mentioned earlier in my remarks, if all goes well, I have another 20 more years to go. Believe you me when I say I am not one bit upset with Danny!!
It was January of 2006 when I found myself elected to the House of Commons for the Great riding of Avalon. It was a whole new world having to get on a plane each week to go to work in our nation’s capital. Many nights as I walked back to my hotel, I thought of how fortunate I was to come from the small community of St. Bride’s and to be sitting in the House of Commons voting on laws that would affect every person in this great nation.
Every now and again I would pinch myself to see if it was all just a dream. Then following almost three years in the House of Commons I found myself into another hurricane and things went off the rails during the 2008 federal election and I found myself at the losing end again. A few months later I received a call from our then Prime Minister Harper informing me that he was going to make me a Senator in Ottawa. I immediately told him I did not know anything about hockey but he assured me it was the other type of Ottawa Senator he was talking about.
Once again…I had the opportunity to take a deep breath and feel a rush of excitement wash over me as I took my seat in the Red Chamber. Now, I almost made a shag of that when I resigned my Senate seat to run in the 2011 federal election. Following my unsuccessful attempt during that campaign, I was once again appointed to the Senate. The first person in Canada in 100 years to be appointed twice to the Senate of Canada. When I called home to tell my Dad, his response was straightforward and to the point……he said….”Now Fabian, when you get up there this time…..sit down and shut the F up.”
That is not easy to do at all times but I plan on staying put where I am for the foreseeable future. I had my name on the ballot during SEVEN election campaigns. I won FOUR out of SEVEN so I decided to take my Dad’s advice and quit while i was ahead.
It has been quite a journey from the Cops and Robbers of St. Bride’s to the Cops and Robbers of Ottawa. All jokes aside, it has been an adventure of a lifetime. I have travelled to all parts of this great country and to many places throughout the world. I have represented our Government in places as sacred as Beaumont Hamel to places as important as the wharf in Jerseyside. In my many roles, I have assisted where I could many individuals and communities and I have learned many valuable lessons along the way. The most important of all those lessons though is to always remember to not get caught up in the glamorous side of the political life and never, ever forget where you came from. And Maybe the most important lesson of all is to be kind to those who you meet along the way.
I remember a time several years ago when I had the opportunity to attend a wine and cheese reception at Rideau Hall in Ottawa where we all had the chance to meet with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, and then a year or so later in the same place to meet with Prince William and Kate.
While it was a great experience and a wonderful memory, especially for our daughter, Heather, the reality was that 48 hours later I was on the wharf in St. Bride’s talking to Billy and Tommy White about the price of crab for that season.
When I was telling my mother this story a few days later she told me that I should always remember that both Prince Philip and Billy White put on their socks one at a time. She quickly added with…..” Fabian, when you walk into a room whether that is at Rideau Hall or here in St. Bride’s, don’t ever think you are better than anyone else and for God’s sake don’t ever think you are less than anyone else either.” Two more great lessons for sure.
Contrary to what many people will say I strongly believe that a political career is a noble one. There are bad apples in every profession and politics is not any different, but I have met very few people in all of the political parties that have not become part of public life for the RIGHT reasons. Whether one is a Conservative, Liberal, NDP or whatever party, my experience has led me to truly believe that most representatives want what is best for their province and country, and they work hard at it every day. Believe it or not… we are human.
I consider myself to be very fortunate. Of 37 Million Canadians, I occupy ONE of only 105 seats in the SENATE of CANADA. I get to debate, question, offer amendments to EVERY piece of legislation in this country. I even get the opportunity to develop my own piece of legislation which I am presently doing in an attempt to address the scourge of domestic violence in our society. It will take time and patience but I have the confidence and determination to see it through to reality. Growing up St. Bride’s I had many dreams but becoming a SENATOR was not one of them. It has been an incredible journey from the SHORE to the SENATE and I am so much looking forward to how the remaining chapters of the story will unfold.
Friends, after more than 26 years in public life, two auditor general reports, a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary investigation, Election wins and losses and at times, massive public scrutiny———-I am most proud of the fact that my family is still strong and together. As with any job, some days are more difficult than others but it is days such as today that make it all worthwhile. For the opportunity to come here today and talk to you about my life’s journey from the small town of St. Bride’s to the Senate of Canada, and the important things that matter such as family and friends and kindness far outweigh the negative side of public life.
I want to issue an invitation to you one and all that if you find yourselves in Ottawa at any time, please let me know. I love seeing people from home and showing them around Parliament Hill.
I thank you for the privilege to speak to you this morning and wish you all a very successful conference.
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