Cup of Joe by Joe McParland

Victoria Avenue – The Root of My Political Activism

Cup of Joe

I am, admittedly, a political junkie and geek and often get asked where my interest in politics stems from. Personally, I believe that I have politics in my DNA.

by Joe McParland

During my formative late adolescent and early teen years I spent my summer vacations in Ottawa at the home of my aunt and uncle and cousins.  Their next door neighbours were a large family by the name of McGuinty. Two of the children that I hung around with were Dalton and David. Dalton, would become the 24th Premiere of Ontario serving from 2003-2013 and David, Dalton’s younger brother, has been the MP for Ottawa South since 2004.

Their political story began when their father, Dalton (Sr), an MPP for Ottawa South, died suddenly of a heart attack prior to the 1990 provincial election.  The death of their father became the springboard for Dalton (Jr) to enter politics to honour his father’s legacy. He sought and won the Liberal nomination for Ottawa South MPP and went on to successfully win his seat.

There is a wonderful irony to the McGuinty family being next door neighbours to my relatives. My Uncle Bruce was a staunch Conservative and his son (and my cousin), David Daubney, became the elected MP for Ottawa West for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1984-1988 under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Yet, my Conservative relatives and their Liberal neighbours – the McGuinty clan – demonstrated to me at an early age that bi-partisanship was indeed possible.

Locally, I was also heavily influenced by politics in my earlier years through former Mayor of Windsor, Frank Wansborough, a close family friend and someone I referred to as Uncle Frank. He served as Windsor’s Mayor from 1970 – 1974. He was a larger than life man in both stature and reputation who had a strong influence on my political interests and involvement. I was very proud of him.

But I am convinced that the real roots of my interest and activism in politics stem from the time I moved into my home on Victoria Avenue in 1999. There is something special about this historic street that seems to breed political involvement. I think it’s in our drinking water!

Let me illustrate this for you in terms of the following names of the Victoria residents who, in the past three or four decades, have thrown ‘their hats into the political ring’, either successfully or unsuccessfully, on the municipal, provincial or federal stage:

  • Currently, Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky lives a block north from me on Victoria Avenue and a short stone’s throw from our Ward 3 Windsor City Councilor, Rino Bortolin, (who replaced former city councilor, Fulvio Valentinis, also a Victoria Avenue resident). And the two of them are 6 blocks south of Windsor West MP, Brian Masse.
  • The Rt. Hon. Herb Gray (1962 -2002), a former Victoria Avenue resident, was a Windsor West Liberal MP and Cabinet Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada.
  • Tom Porter, a local lawyer and a current Victoria Avenue resident, served on City Council from 1982-1994;
  • There are a number of past candidates for Windsor City Council from Victoria Avenue: Gabe Maggio (2014); Tristan Fehrenbach (2010); John B Liedtke (2010); Gail Zdyb- Growe (1997 & 2006); Joe McParland (2002).
  • Former Victoria Avenue residents, Richard Pollock and Melanie Deveau are past Windsor Windsor West Liberal MP candidates.
  • Robert deVerteuil, a current Victoria Avenue resident, has contested Windsor St. Clair riding as a Conservative MPP in the past few elections;
  • And last, but not least, there’s Larry Horwitz, a current Victoria Avenue resident. Larry has a trifecta background as candidate for Windsor ‘Alderman’, Windsor West Liberal MP, and candidate for Mayor of the City of Windsor in the 2014 election.

These are the 15 names of the men and women I‘ve been able to come up with, all Victoria Avenue residents who sought political office. I don’t suggest that this list is exhaustive and if I have omitted other names that I am not aware of, my sincere apologies – please let me know.

But I ask, is there any other street in all of Windsor with a greater legacy of political activism in the past 3 or 4 decades than that of Historic Victoria Avenue? I doubt that there is.

So, why am I political geek and junkie?  I blame it on Victoria Avenue- and our drinking water!

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