King of the hill
Ontario MP helps out Deh Cho boy
by Arthur Milnes
FORT SIMPSON (Apr 03/98) - When five-year-old Jeffrey McKay talks, Canada's leaders listen.
Last week, the Fort Simpson kindergarten student -- who lives at Checkpoint, a Deh Cho restaurant, motel and gas station his parents own about 65 kilometres from the village -- received almost 150 business cards to add to the youngster's collection.
While this is news enough in itself, it's those who sent along their business cards that truly makes the story.
After all, what other Deh Cho five-year-old can say they now have the business cards of Finance Minister Paul Martin, former Tory leader Jean Charest, Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition Preston Manning, Mr. Speaker Gilbert Parent along with cards and notes from MPs and Senators from all parties, in their collection?
Jeffrey McKay can.
Three weeks ago, the little guy sent off a letter to Ontario Liberal MP Hector Clouthier, who represents the Ottawa Valley riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke in the House of Commons, asking if Clouthier could get him business cards from Canadian politicians.
The letter was written at the suggestion of a mutual friend of both Jeffrey and Clouthier who knew the MP would love nothing better to respond to such a request. Last Wednesday, the cards -- many complete with notes and signatures for Jeffrey, began arriving in Fort Simpson. By press time, almost 150 were in Jeffrey's collection.
"We were surprised and happy when we opened them (the packages) up at the table," Jeffrey said on Saturday. "I have so many now... If I get any more, my drawer will be filled up and we might have to put them on the wall."
He says he has two favorite cards -- one sent by Solictor General Andy Scott and another by Toronto-area Liberal MP Peter Mckay (no relation) whose cards are printed in braille. Two others, both designed like hockey cards, one from PEI MP Wayne Easter and the other from Alberta Reformer, David Chatters, are his other favorites.
In Ottawa, Clouthier, who was elected in June of last year, says response was fantastic when he sent out Jeffrey's request on Parliament Hill's e-mail system.
"I had MPs from all parties coming up to me in the House and giving me their cards," Clouthier said from Ottawa last week. "One guy said: 'Hec, you're known far and wide.'"
Clouthier, whose sister Debbie has lived in Tuktoyakyuk for more than a decade, said Jeffrey now has an open invitation for dinner at the Parliamentary Restaurant -- with Clouthier buying -- should the NWT resident ever come to Ottawa.
He also said he was impressed by his new correspondent.
"Perhaps he'll be the first prime minister of Canada from Canada's far North," he said. "Isn't this -- Canadians from all parts of Canada helping each other -- what being Canadian is all about?"
The MP, a veteran lumberman who once ran for office using the slogan "Give 'Em Hec" said he would continue to forward cards to Jeffrey as they come in.