Don’t try this at home, we’re the professionals.

Gentle Reader,
Adopting the mantel of an activist Mary Poppins, I and my umbrella descended onto the fertile soil of Canadian social change.  By 1992, my carpet was bag full of all the campaign accoutrements I could ever imagine needing:  a secret weapon to raise millions of dollars by mail, kitchen-tested campaign strategies suitable for every occasion and the key to delivering a resonant message.  A spoonful of sugar indeed.  
Where would the winds of change carry me?   Which cause would I take up?  What responsive chord would I strike?  Whose disenfranchised voice would I amplify?   As a mercenary for good, I cast hopeful eyes around for my next campaign.  My heart silently cried out the words that dear Emma Lazarus wrote in 1883 and that adorn Lady Liberty herself: 
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Fortuna answered my fevered prayer by dropping me, without ceremony, into the Charlottetown Accord referendum of 1992 with a passionate clarion call:    “Do you agree that the Constitution of Canada should be renewed on the basis of the agreement reached on August 28, 1992?”
NAC and Judy Rebick, along with Preston Manning of the Reform party and Parti Quebecois leader, Jacques Parizeau, took the No side.  Everyone else took the Yes side.  And I understood for the first time what it meant to be in a pitched battle with the national media listenng to your leader’s every word – and not liking it one bit. A lot of very important people were very angry at NAC during this debate.  Things got down and dirty.
Judy, who was now speaking all over the country, and I spoke on the phone every night trying to figure out how to stay on message or really just how to stay standing.  It was like trying to hold your ground in a 100km wind.  I played every note I knew. And Judy, who was very quick on her feet, occasionally made the No side make sense.  Then Judy was invited to debate NDP leader, Audrey McLaughlin, on national television.  Two women:  one yes, one no in a fight to the finish.   They both wanted to do it and I just  cringed at the prospect. A Rebick-McLaughlin catfight on national television would have NAC and NDP opponents smacking their lips in glee as two high profile Canadian ‘leftie’ women made ugly.    Only a phone call between me and Audrey’s communications director at the time (who also happens to be godfather of my son) prevented that image from scorching our brains.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!  
Footnote #1:  The No side won – 54% – 46%.   Did any huddled masses breathe easier?  The answer to that would also be a No. 
Footnote #2:  Wikipedia’s entry on NAC states that “NAC received much of its funding from the federal government until cuts by the Brian Mulroney government in the wake of NAC’s opposition to the Charlottetown Accord forced the organization to lay off its staff and cut its budget.”  Ouch.

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