By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
September 10, 2008
Jack McClintock has turned in his badge and his revolver. The long-time police officer is still pounding a beat, only now he's chasing voters, not scofflaws.
On Monday, the first day of his retirement, the 54-year-old could be found curbside in the 1100-block of Pandora Avenue. He waved at passing motorists while fellow Conservatives bobbed campaign signs. This low-tech ritual, known as Burma-Shaving after the rhyming signs that once dotted the American landscape, is an inexpensive way to introduce a candidate to the public.
It also gives the public a chance to let the candidate know what they think of a) him or her, and b) his or her party.
Since Mr. McClintock does not appear on television every day, one presumes the horn-honking and friendly waves, as well as the rude gestures and crude taunts, are directed at the prime minister and the Conservatives.
“As a policeman, I've heard it all,” the candidate said.
He led a crew fighting a forest fire in northern Manitoba as a summer student (“a huge task and I was a young man, not much past a boy”), has followed trap lines as a conservation officer in Yukon (“district officer for a one-man detachment”) and bought drugs as an undercover cop in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (“coke, speed, heroin, soft drugs, STP, speed – the works. And guns, too”).
As a boy, long before he earned a badge, he got an unforgettable lesson in the consequences of crime.
He says it gives him some insight into the lives of homeless youth.
Born in Saskatoon, Mr. McClintock was raised in Winnipeg, where he dreamed of being a bush pilot and exploring the vast expanses of the North. He was one of four children (three boys and a girl) of a used-car salesman whose income provided a comfortable life until one terrible day.
“Life threw my family a few curve balls,” he said. “My dad got in trouble. He was taken away a year.
“We fell smack dab into welfare and looking for a place to stay.”
The family moved into social housing in the north end of Winnipeg. His mother got a waitressing job at a chicken restaurant.
The family eventually saved enough money to put a down payment on a wartime house the military called a PMQ (private married quarters).
He worked three jobs in his senior year of high school, flipping burgers as a short-order cook at Salisbury House when not pumping gas at one of two stations.
He worked in the bush banding Canadian geese before he got enough schooling to become a fish and wildlife officer in Alberta. He worked closely with RCMP officers and decided to become a policeman after spotting a recruitment advertisement in a newspaper.
Soon after graduating from police academy, he went undercover as part of a major drug operation in Vancouver. He went unwashed and unshaven to haunts in the Downtown Eastside. In Kitsilano, he cleaned up and dressed “a little more preppy,” visiting the department's property office in search of flashy jewellery.
This is his third try for Parliament but the first time his name will appear on the ballot. He lost two earlier nomination battles — for the Canadian Alliance in 2000 and the Conservatives in 2006 — before being acclaimed as the standard-bearer in Victoria 20 months ago.
The seat was won two years ago by Denise Savoie of the NDP, a former city councillor who is the early front-runner in this campaign. Liberal candidate Anne Park Shannon is a former assistant deputy minister in the federal Finance Department who headed Canada's delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. (At her nomination meeting, she told a story about growing up amid a sea of blue lawn signs as the only Liberal family on her Calgary street. Every morning she helped her father re-erect the red lawn sign knocked down overnight.) The Greens are running party activist Adam Saab.
Mr. McClintock faces a tough challenge. Victoria, once a Tory bastion, last elected a Conservative member of Parliament 24 years ago.
He spent the summer attending picnics and barbecues. He went door-knocking with his three daughters in tow. Some mornings, the six-year-old would ask cheerily, “Are we doing politics today?”
He retired as a corporal with the suburban Central Saanich police, for whom he was a spokesman. He earlier spent nine years on the Vancouver force and 11 with Victoria, as well as five years as a conservation officer in Alberta.
The ex-cop is running on a campaign to improve neighbourhood safety.
He has been a traffic cop and a media liaison officer. Figures he knows the streets. He also appreciates the circumstances of young people on the street better than they might realize.
“I know how critical a stable home is,” he said.
The son never asked the father the offence, and the father never told the son.
“I left it up to him,” Mr. McClintock said.
“It wasn't a violent thing, but nonetheless…” He let the thought trail away.
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