How Ralph Goodale got started

Goodale jumped head first into politics

As a continuation of our “Individuals of an Election” series, I wanted to say a few words about Ralph Goodale. This series is meant to give a behind-the-scenes look at some of the politicians either running in the upcoming federal election or who have run at some point in the past. All those we profile here were featured in our book Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started, which means they were nice enough to sit down for an interview.

A few days ago, I mentioned John Godfrey‘s story. He was someone who knew that, before diving into the political maelstrom, he needed to have a grip on (at least) one other career. So he became involved in university administration and newspaper publishing. But that certainly isn’t the only approach…

Ralph Goodale will be again running for the Liberals in Regina’s Wascana riding on the October 14 election. An impressive fact is that his is the only seat in the province not belonging to the Conservatives at this point (which leads one to reflect on the strange status quo in the province, which has historically elected the NDP to its legislature, while opting for across-the-board Tories in the federal game).

But back to the point of this blog: finding out how successful Canadians started out in their careers. The case of Goodale is quite different than that of Godfrey. Goodale dove right in and became an MP at the tender age of twenty-four, then, in 1974, one of the youngest in Ottawa. But times were special. Most important was the impact Pierre Trudeau had on Goodale’s generation, motivating youth everywhere to get involved in the country’s governance.

Goodale also said that, as someone who had graduated from law school at the University of Saskatchewan, he had the option of practicing law. In fact, he was working at a firm when he ran in his first election. But, according to him, sometimes an opportunity comes your way and you have to jump at it: in this case, a series of unforeseeable events that had opened up a spot on the Liberal’s roster. Otherwise, he may have remained a lawyer, gotten his roots down, become a partner and then, next thing he knows, he’s well into his middle years and, perhaps, too old to run an energetic and vigorous campaign.

So, as a counterbalance to the earlier story this week, often individuals can run for politics early in their careers. And for Goodale, it has been his entire career. After a stint as leader of the (doomed) provincial Liberals, he returned to the federal scene and eventually became minister of finance in Paul Martin’s government.

For anyone who is worried that we’ve featured far too many Liberals in these pages (Ujjal Dosanjh, John Godfrey, and now Goodale), especially because of the way this election will likely turn out, fret no longer. Coming up, we’ll feature one of the biggest non-Liberals in Canadian history: Brian Mulroney! And for those worried about the high number of MEN being featured, we’ll be profiling Lynda Haverstock and the other incredible women who have pushed their way to the top in this traditionally male-dominated business.

And for those reading in or around Toronto, the three Kickstart authors are going to be at the Word on the Street festival at Queens Park this Sunday, September 28. The festival is consistently chosen to be one of the city’s best, bringing together thousands of people, booksellers and authors on what hopes to be a glorious fall day. In the IdeaSpace tent at the north end of the park at 11:00 AM, we will be talking about the book, as well as selling and signing copies.

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