On achieving the Canadian Dream

Shaun Aquiline

Peter Mansbridge is wrapping it up; deservedly so. It’s fitting he departs on the 150th Celebration of Canada. He was a major part of Canadian news for 30 plus years. It seems that Peter’s career was what the term Canadian Dream (or the ’Merican Dream for our friends south of the border) was all about. He did not go to university, college or a broadcast journalism school. In fact, he didn’t even receive his high school diploma.

Mansbridge worked at the Churchill Airport as a baggage handler, who by random chance one day had to cover for someone on the intercom. A CBC employee who happened to be in the airport terminal, heard his voice and asked him if he had any experience or interest in radio, to which he said he had none and yet was offered a job as an evening host on a local CBC radio show. He soon moved on as a reporter in Winnipeg for the CBC’s Northern News Service. By 1979 he was covering Parliament Hill. In November of 1987 CBS out of the United States offered the up and comer; a co-anchor position and a hefty salary, which he declined and remained a jewel of Canadian news. When Knowlton Nash, lead anchor for The National and chief correspondent of CBC News, stepped aside, Mansbridge assumed the position in 1988.

What is the Canadian Dream? What is your Canadian dream? Has it been altered over time? Has it changed since you were a kid? Did you achieve your dream? If so, how did this accomplishment happen? Was it chance? Hard work, determinations are a true-to-heart and sure-fire way to success. However, luck and chance play a role in any success story.

What if Peter was sick that long-ago day in Churchill? What if the usual employee was working their usual shift and Peter was in the back running the cargo? What would his story be today?

As we move into the next era, times and people change, how we do business change as we move further into a digitally biased world. Is this good or bad? Perhaps it is both. This New World Order of the internet and social media has its blessings. Everything on demand, less time waiting and we can remain social easier than ever before so we don’t have to feel bad if we miss our 20-year reunion. What about the Canadian Dream? How does one achieve it in this chaotic, messy and emotionless digital world.

Is the Canadian Dream attainable through the corporate structure that Canada (and the world) operate under? I suppose it depends on the path you choose. How does one sell themselves in a corporately structured society? Fifty years ago, you could walk into a business with a positive attitude, eager to work and prove your worth by starting at the bottom. You could sell yourself for what you know to be true about you. Prove you are an asset to that company and to the employer. Then over time, move up the ladder, build your character through hard work, the trial-and-error lessons you learn in life, and let’s face it, life throws some seriously hard curve balls at times and no text book from a thousand dollar university class can teach you how to hand it off or manoeuvre around it. Life does.

I applied for a position through a HR Department who promptly informed me via an automatic email that if I did not hear back within a half an hour, I did not meet the requirements. How do you know that I don’t? I didn’t get a chance to shake your hand and tell you my passions, who I am as a person, what life experiences I carry with me and what my work ethic is like. What you have is a thin resume because I am just out of school and the only real job I have had is bartending to get me through college. How do I stand a chance against even one other individual who has three years under their belt? What if that person is lazy, unreliable and hard to work with? What if of those three years it was three different jobs? Their resume suggests that they are better, but is that true?

I received a phone call from my soon-to-be boss and mentor Gord Leighton; a 50- year veteran in the broadcasting world; an astonishing career. He has seen all the transformations from reels, to tapes, cd’s, and digital. Don’t forget, he also heard throughout his 50-year span that “Radio is dying!” Yeah, sure it is. We spoke on the phone, we talked a bit about radio, broadcast journalism, but ultimately we talked about life and family. He called me back a week later and offered me the position. He told me that my demo sounded good, nice voice, but that was not the reason I was hired. It was how I spoke about my father. I shared stories of my dad, and how we have a strong bond. As a father himself, that touched him. He said it showed integrity, pride and loyalty. Perhaps he called my professors at BCIT and they gave me a good review, but in the end it was Gord’s gut instinct to give this kid a chance. I believe he was one of the last of his kind. Willing to hire someone with a strong grip and a promise to work hard, make mistakes, learn from them and grow as a person and an employee. I owe what success and recognition I’ve seen so far to Gord’s old-school methods.

In Revelstoke, I believe great businesses are planted firmly. Some of these business owners will give you that chance with a firm handshake and three-month promise to let you prove yourself. These Old Schoolers do exist. They are out there, like a Sasquatch sighting; They’re not often encountered but if you look hard enough you might see one! Or you could drive up to RER, talk to Brett & Scott and show them who you are, what you stand for and tell them you are willing and ready and I am sure they would listen.

What about the mass majority? How do you sell yourself? The barrier to entry is drastically different than it was when Mansbridge started.

Now a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame, Peter Mansbridge’s accomplishments are outstanding. Host of eight Olympic Opening Ceremonies; 14 Federal Elections; 12 Remembrance Day Ceremonies; four D-Day Anniversaries; cartoon character in an Oscar nominated film; 34 Canadian Celebrations; and every visit by Queen Elizabeth since 1970, Mansbridge was there. A long-ago bit of luck and Canadian news history was changed for the better.

A Canadian Dream. How will you attain yours?