Editor's Note: The Journal is profiling the four candidates competing to be the next federal Member of Parliament for Sarnia-Lambton. This is the third in a four-part series appearing daily this week.
During a recent election debate at Lambton College the candidates were asked a lighthearted question about their favourite bands.
Three of them chose newer rock acts like the Foo Fighters and The Tragically Hip, while Liberal Dave McPhail picked Guy Lombardo, a big band leader who died in 1977.
Could it be he wanted to draw attention to the fact that at 71 he’s the oldest candidate in the race, or was he just being honest?
When McPhail’s detractors criticize his age, he calls it ageism.
“That’s illegal in Canada,” he said. “… the sad part is if that’s the best they can come up with, they are missing the experience a person brings to the table. I have the time. I have the energy and I have the inclination to do more.”
McPhail added people who discriminate on age are likely to discriminate in other areas.
“What other ‘isms’ do they practice? Sexism, racism? I think it’s a question that’s worth asking.”
McPhail is a lifelong resident of Sarnia who spent considerable time playing hockey.
“I was a goaltender in my youth and so I was pretty used to getting shot at,” he said, alluding to the political forum. “I was a pretty decent player, I might say. I even had the opportunity to try out for Junior A in Hamilton, but chose to go to school instead.
“I think I made the right decision.”
He married wife Sharon 40 years ago. She worked as an elementary school teacher while he was an educator for 34 years, first as a teacher and later an elementary school principal at Watford, Forest, Lochiel Street and Lansdowne.
As a principal, McPhail said he brought “something extra” to each school, such as Sarnia’s first breakfast club and an anti-bullying program.
In the late 1970s, he began collaborating with his wife on the writing of 30 math textbooks published by McGraw Hill Ryerson over two decades for Grades 4 – 8.
He is also a past president of the Ontario Math Association and Ontario Public School Principal’s Association.
About 10 years ago, he was asked to be president of the regional advisory council for oil spill preparedness in Ontario.
“I like to be busy,” he explained. “I think I get asked to do these things because of my ability to get along with people and work with people to get things done.
McPhail retired 17 years ago when he and his wife launched Boatcan, an online business where boats are bought and sold. It was a natural choice because his family was never without some kind of a boat to enjoy the Great Lakes, he said.
He’s served on several boards, including St. Clair Child and Youth, and is currently trying to improve passenger rail service with the Rail Advocacy in Lambton committee.
But possibly McPhail’s most high-profile volunteer job was chairing the successful “Save the Jail” committee, which reversed a provincial government decision to close Sarnia Jail in 2013.
“It was the whole committee’s success, but I would not take no for an answer,” he said.
McPhail is a first-time candidate who has been affiliated with the Liberal party most of his life.
His decision to run for local office came after long discussions with his wife, he said
“I am tired of living in a have-not community. More should be done and so much more can be had,” he said. “I decided it was time to do something about it.”