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Winter tips
Dec 02, 2005

After reading this nation’s newspapers, one would think that Canadians have turned into a bunch of wimps. Comments in newspapers deplore the fact that voters will be heading to the polls and candidates will be campaigning during the foul-weather days of winter.

Bashing Through the Snow was the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press, following the defeat of the Paul Martin Liberal government in a non-confidence vote. Tough Sledding for the Liberals, countered the Globe and Mail. 

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Sun was content to just run a front page cartoon of Martin dressed in a red robe and getting the boot into a wintery expanse. ... And Stay Out was the headline.

The National Post was the most staid in its winter comments on the front page, running the coloured headline on a black background, Off to the Races. The only presumption of the “winter election” gleaned from this headline is that it possibly refers to a dogsled race. 

Today, Canadians may be regarded as wimps, but a past election shows this has not always been the case. The first municipal election in Winnipeg was held  in the midst of winter on January 5, 1874. The Manitoban newspaper said, “The day turned out stormy, although not cold, but neither storm nor cold would have deterred our citizens, we imagine, from participating ...”

Now, there’s civic responsibility. But, apparently “the times, they are a changin’.”

A page 3 article in Tuesday’s  Post, entitled Winter Election Rule No. 1: No Hats, advised politicians on what to avoid when on the campaign trail, including Ski-Doo suits and Ski-Doos. 

I’d hate to be campaigning in a northern Manitoba community using this piece of advice from some pundit in Toronto. Ski-Doos and the warm suits that make the weather bearable are essential pieces of equipment for anyone campaigning in Churchill riding, where distances between voters are nearly insurmountable and the weather can be frightful rather than delightful. 

I don’t think northerners will only reserve their votes for some bareheaded candidate dressed in a flimsy cloth-lined trench coat covering a suit. In fact, I’d wager they wouldn’t vote for such a candidate, judging he or she to be insane and 

unworthy of consideration as the thermometer drops below -30°C. 

They’re more practical in that neck of the woods and know the value of cold-weather garb regardless of how it looks. Three-piece suits just don’t cut it in the north — it’s more a plaid shirt, sweater, long-johns, heavy blue jeans and parka type of place.

Growing up along the shore of windswept and frozen Lake Winnipeg during the depths of winter, my mother’s homespun advice was to bundle up and wear a toque whenever I ventured outside. 

“You’ll get brain fever,” she invariably warned me as I stepped out the door. “And, don’t forget to put up your hood!” she would shout as I walked upon the narrow snow-cleared path leading from our house. 

The ailment “brain fever” was never adequately explained,  but I did discover that when I didn’t wear a toque, my ears froze to a near rock-hard state, and when testing my brain’s powers of perception after long-term exposure to the cold, I did get the impression that it was slightly more addled than usual. 

Because of my early-childhood experiences and my failure to heed my mother, the advice I’d give candidates for the January 23 election is not to listen to someone spouting nonsense from the “wilds” of Yonge Street in Toronto. 

Dress warmly, wear a toque regardless of how “funny” it looks, and use a Ski-Doo whenever you’re travelling to see some far-off voter. This advice is practical, sane and will gain you more respect than shivering in the cold and receiving glares of disapproval from the mothers of Canada. 

Appearance may matter a lot in Toronto, but prairie and northern folk are a little more down-to-earth and respect people who show some common sense in the face of a bitterly-cold blast from Old Man Winter.

And, the mothers of Canada know we already have too many politicians suffering from “brain fever,” wandering about aimlessly in the hallowed halls of power in Ottawa.