Ken Bolton: Passion is his reason

Ken Bolton is an angry kind of New Democrat. It’s not a hateful anger. It’s more of a reasonable outrage kind of thing.

Ken Bolton is an angry kind of New Democrat.

It’s not a hateful anger. It’s more of a reasonable outrage kind of thing.

He’s a fist in the air, help the little guy and keep the bullies in their place kind of New Democrat.

Passion is his game, and when the longtime NDP staffer gets going, he knows how to work a crowd better than his political rivals.

At the recent debate on Arts issues, his jabs at Conservative candidate Darrell Pasloski drew both laughs and cheers from the crowd.

“I’m going to try hard to be polite,” Bolton said after Pasloski dropped some Conservative talking points.

And during his acceptance speech at the NDP meeting in September, he raised a barn burner with his fiery indictment of oil and natural gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Even in an interview over coffee at Baked Cafe, he can easily forget he isn’t in front of a podium.

“We need somebody who’s going to stand up to the Americans and, in particular, the Alaskans on the Porcupine caribou herd,” he said.

“I know Larry (Bagnell) has been down to Washington a few times and I know Premier Fentie has spent 20 seconds of quality time shaking George Bush’s hand. But we need somebody who’s going to say, ‘No, No, No!’ You can stand on that side of the border and scream, ‘Drill, baby, drill’ all you want, but we’re talking about a living resource that is a central part of the lifestyle of a people.”

His passion reveals a common thread in Bolton’s thinking — that inequality in financial, political or even ecological terms is a source of injustice.

“I believe in the Christian ethic that I am my brother’s keeper, though I would not phrase it in necessarily religious terms,” he said.

“I don’t feel responsibility for Conrad Black or a corporate CEO, he can take care of himself. But I do care about the people who are sleeping on the riverbank here. I have a moral obligation to make sure their lives are better.”

He doesn’t stuff his speeches with party lines. He simply lets it flow.

He makes it look effortless. But, then, it’s in his blood.

His father, also Ken Bolton, moved from England and was an Archdeacon in southern Ontario.

Both were members of the NDP.

Ken junior ran for office in the Ontario legislature in 1967, just 24 years old. He lost, but just two years later his father ran and won in a byelection in Middlesex South.

Medicare mania was sweeping the country, and the Ontario government’s reluctance to endorse it gave the provincial NDP some extra steam in a traditionally Conservative region.

The reverend’s campaign manager was none other than a young Stephen Lewis.

But if you think Bolton’s politics is all about socialist Big Brother government, you’d be fooled.

Just ask him about Bill C-10, a measure introduced by the Conservatives to give the Heritage minister power to block funding to artists who run against “public policy.”

“It’s basically based on this kind of moralistic ideology that says we don’t like a certain film or we don’t like the name of a certain rock band so, therefore, we should not give funding to the arts,” he said.

It’s about artistic freedom, not political interference.

“My own personal moral code is probably very conservative. My social code is very liberal,” he said.

“I’ve acted in plays I thought were disgusting,” he said during the arts debate. “However, it should not be politicians who make that kind of decision.”

This only acerbates his indignation at the idea of cutting arts funding at all.

“People don’t go to Rome to see the bones of old politicians, and they don’t go to Greece to see who were the generals in the Peloponnesian War. They go to those places because of the vibrant culture that those countries have given and shared with the world.”

For him, art is the cornerstone of Canadian identity. But the erosion of Canadian independence doesn’t stop there.

The war in Afghanistan has a lot to do with 9-11, he said, but it’s also about building pipelines in Afghanistan.

“I don’t think Canadian teenagers and young people should be dying for Halliburton. It’s as blunt as that.

“We need a Canadian foreign policy that is thoughtful and independent. And one that doesn’t suck us into the American vortex.”

Bolton is keen to point out that his credentials aren’t just all talk.

On the environment file, he’s found ways to prove he’s deeper than the green craze sweeping our political discourse.

“When I lived in Prince Edward Island in the mid-1970s, I lived in the only house that was windmill powered,” he said.

The previous owner was an American draft-dodger who was trying to get back to the land.

“My motivation wasn’t the purest. I did it so I could say ‘Screw you Maritime Electric,’ and I didn’t want to be on the grid. But the more I used it, the more I thought, this makes a lot of sense.”

Bolton has no problem making himself heard.

Despite a life with the NDP, he doesn’t always stick to the script.

However, the question on election day will be whether his straight talk has helped the NDP differentiate itself from the crowded rabble on the political left.

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read