As I write this, it’s a little less than an hour until the polls close in Ontario’s provincial election. I have no idea which party will win; coming into today’s vote, the pollsters said it was neck and neck between Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals and Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives. But I do know that it was a thrill for me to cast an election ballot in Queensborough for the first time in my life.
I remember elections in Queensborough back in the days when my siblings and I were growing up here, when our dad was the minister at St. Andrew’s United Church. I remember the big federal election of 1968, the one that swept Pierre Trudeau to power on a wave of Trudeaumania and him looking awesomely good (not to mention insouciant) on television. I vaguely remember municipal and provincial elections too, and I especially remember one notable vote when the question at issue was whether Elzevir Township should go wet or dry – that is, whether it would be permissible for liquor licences to be issued to qualified establishments. I think the reason this came up was that Elzevir might have been historically dry (yeah, tell that to the moonshiners who were doubtless out there somewhere) and some restaurateurs came along who wanted to serve beer, wine and spirits. And I think that restaurant would have been Mother’s, which was a Swiss-Austrian chalet-style deal with a modest claim to fine dining (schnitzel and whatnot) that opened in the very early 1970s(ish) off Black River Road. (A post on the late ’60s/early ’70s craze for German-Austrian chalet-style restaurants in the boonies of Ontario will have to wait for another time.) Now, I must emphasize that this is all sheer speculation on my part, and I welcome correction and information from knowledgeable readers.
Anyway, in case you were wondering where this story is leading, which you probably were: what I mainly remember from those long-ago elections in the Queensborough of my childhood was that the polling place was not the schoolhouse – the building you see atop this post – but the Orange Hall. Which, now that I reflect on it, may have been cause for justifiable discomfort among the Roman Catholics of Queensborough and area, but I guess no one – among the dominant Protestant community, at any rate – thought much about that back in the day.
The Orange Hall still stands, but Queensborough’s Orange Lodge is no more and the historic building is now privately owned. And so one goes to cast one’s vote at another historic building, one less fraught with religious dogma: the Queensborough Community Centre, which is the new vocation of the former one-room schoolhouse.
And that’s where I hied myself off to after work today, one in a steady stream of local residents to show up and do our bit for democracy under the watchful eye of a portrait of Queen Elizabeth that has been there since she was a very young woman, as well as the Canadian flag and the Union Jack (for good measure). Here’s a photo:
When my family moved away from Queensborough I was only 15 years old, still a few years away from voting age. Over the course of my adult life I’ve cast my ballot whenever and wherever it was called for, in various parts of Ontario, in Quebec, and even in Alberta, in municipal, provincial and federal elections. Every time it is a privilege and a pleasure to do so. But today in Queensborough, voting for the first time in the place I grew up, was, I have to say, kind of special.