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Bill Tierney: Lincoln’s memoir is a history of Quebec and Canada

It is amazing how quickly we become history. In no time at all, we slip into archives and become a detail in reminiscence. Meanwhile, another generation of adults steps up to wrestle on the front lines with the more pressing dramas and details of existence.

Take teaching at John Abbott, for example: Within two years of my retirement after 36 years, all the students I knew had graduated, and most of the new teachers replacing retiring Boomers like myself didn’t look much older than the new crop of students. The corridors of John Abbott were swarming with young, vigorous, busy strangers.

Luckily, this phenomenon is very democratic. It happens to everyone. You don’t have to feel victimized or in any way singled out. Even the most active and important of lives quickly become history. But then there are some lives that are more emblematic. You feel they should be accounted for. They should be part of the public record. Some lives can tell you a lot about the times in which they were lived. You want to know more about those lives.

Clifford Lincoln’s life, for example, can tell you a whole lot about Quebec and Canada. About being a young immigrant in B.C. with no idea what Canada held for his future. He didn’t know that his public life was going to be lived on the stage with giants like Trudeau and Lévesque, Bourassa and Parizeau. His life tells us about our West Island community, which he has served and led since his first election as MNA back in 1981. It informs us about the various social and political problems he tackled in his public life. You’re able to see what an earlier generation — really the first generation — of green politicians was like as he tackled the job of making the Quebec Ministry of the Environment relevant and effective.

Environmental issues occupied much of Lincoln’s agenda during his time in public office. After his retirement, he continued to play a role in the larger national debate.

Lincoln has taken the time to write his memoirs. And rather than publishing with a large house, he has chosen to be part of the little publishing storm that recently broke out on the street where I live in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.

I would never have imagined my quiet street was the kind of place that would experience such a burst of creative energy.

After the very recent publication of a contemplative collection of posthumous poems by West Island teacher and artist Peter Conn, it is now Lincoln’s turn to offer us a memoir of his life and times. At 84 years of age, Lincoln is as warm and engaging — almost as vigorous — as he was when he first stepped onto the political stage in the early-1980s. It is one of his most striking characteristics: his “youthful” enthusiasm for the ideas and principles he proposed and defended and which formed the backbone of his political life.

And why did Lincoln decide to publish his book with a small press like Judith Isherwood’s Shoreline?

Let him explain: “Shoreline describes itself as ‘small press,’ and having experienced the impersonality of the ‘big press,’ I find the enthusiasm, diligence and efficiency of Shoreline to be a very refreshing and welcome alternative.”

Local publisher Judith Isherwood, who has published more than 100 books under her Shoreline label, has topped off 2012 by scooping up the venerable Lincoln’s story. Shoreline is planning an official launching of the 310-page memoir, Toward New Horizons, on Dec. 15 in the council chamber of Pointe-Claire city hall at 2 p.m. I can’t think of a more appropriate place to launch Lincoln’s memoirs than in a West Island council chamber presided over for many years by another West Island giant figure, the late Malcolm Knox.

Toward New Horizons is a fine way for Lincoln to tell the story of his part in our history.
Bill Tierney is the former mayor of Ste-Anne-de-Belleuve and a former teacher at John Abbott College. billtierney@videotron.ca

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