Remembering Paul Dewar

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The last time I saw Paul Dewar was at the Maclean’s Parliamentary awards.  I arrived late as I was otherwise occupied, but I wanted to drop by anyway to show my support.  He had just been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as a dedicated Member of Parliament and a strong Foreign Affairs critic for the New Democrats.

No doubt, the strength and high spirits he showed following the cancer diagnosis played a role in him receiving this award, as he decided to use the time he had left to do what the Dewar family has always been known for: serve his community, this time through a new charity called Youth Action Now, which he established with friends and has since been a success and a fitting legacy.

Paul Dewar was surrounded by well-wishers, politicos of all types looking to show him support and love.  A few minutes earlier, Dewar had made a plea to his former colleagues: “Is it not time to take off the armour of our political party and work together as people representing citizens to build a better country for everyone?” he asked.

“Why not welcome and interact with the people from different political parties?  Imagine — imagine how different it would be if we put our swords down and our shields down for a moment. This is my proposition to you.”  In the moment, all in the room agreed with him and wanted to tell him that.  Most of them would soon forget and move on with the blood sport that is politics.

I waited patiently in a corner of the room, not wanting to barge in while he was surrounded.  As he was preparing to leave, he spotted me and smiled.  He was visibly tired and ready to go, but he still took time to talk to me.  “I saw you across the room.  I’m glad you came.  How are you?” he asked.  “I’m fine, but how are you?”  He said he was fine, but didn’t seem interested in talking about himself.

“How’s the family?  What are you up to these days?”  That was Paul Dewar in a nutshell.  He was genuinely interested in others and certainly didn’t want to dwell on his own fate.  We spoke a few minutes, shook hands.  I wished him well, and he departed, gently, slowly, his son at his side.

A few years earlier, mere weeks after the 2015 election debacle and his own defeat, we had agreed to go for lunch and talk about the future.  Paul Dewar had been asked by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair to serve as a Senior Transition Advisor to help re-organize the party.  We were both still stunned about the results and processing what it all meant, for the party and for ourselves.  There was lots of work to do.

What struck me, however, was what happened once we left Brothers, a newish beer bistro located in the Ottawa Byward Market.  As we were chatting and walking away, men and women of Ottawa were stopping by to shake his hands and wish him well.

“Thank you for your service,” one young man said.  “I am so sorry you lost,” an elderly woman told him.  “You are a good man.  I hope this isn’t it for you,” interjected another.  It was at the same time beautiful and annoying: I couldn’t help but notice a certain sheepishness about most of them.

“They are kind, but it feels like these guys didn’t vote for you”, I told Paul after a while.  “It all sounds like buyers’ remorse to me,” I added, in a snickery fashion.

“They did what they thought was right,” he responded, before adding:

“I am okay with that.  We must all be.”

Photo Credit: Global News

More from Karl Bélanger.    Follow Karl Bélanger on Twitter at @KarlBelanger.

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