Coffee buddies

NDP Leader John Horgan visits with former constituent Fred MacDonald during a weekend visit to Penticton.

Ever the constituency man, John Horgan took a few minutes out of his whirlwind visit to Penticton on Saturday to catch up with a former resident of his Victoria-area riding.

Fred MacDonald, 88, moved here from Langford two years to enjoy the health benefits of the dryer Okanagan climate.

While the Korean War veteran has difficulty getting around due to arthritis and back problems, he enlisted some help to meet Horgan on the sidewalk outside Slackwater Brewing, where Horgan had spent an hour meeting health-care workers and giving interviews.

When he left the brewery, Horgan lit up as he recognized MacDonald almost immediately.

“It’s like one of my long-lost brothers come home,” a similarly elated MacDonald said afterwards.

The two became close after Horgan was first elected as an MLA in Langford in 2005.

“We were coffee drinking buddies,” explained MacDonald, who noted the frequency of their meetings was dictated by Horgan’s schedule, which became increasingly busy as he moved up the political ranks from MLA and opposition critic to NDP leader and eventually premier.

“He better get back in again,” said MacDonald, who teased Horgan for putting on weight while leading the province.

The two chatted for a few minutes and posed for photos, before Horgan left to visit local candidate Toni Boot’s office and then for another campaign event in Oliver.

MacDonald’s meet-up with Horgan was facilitated by Andrina Calvert, constituency assistant to Richard Cannings, the local MP and a federal New Democrat.

Calvert, who is volunteering separately for the Boot campaign, said MacDonald called Cannings’ office to inquire about the provincial election, and in the course of their conversation revealed his personal tie to Horgan.

“We closed the conversation with Fred saying that if John was coming to Penticton during the campaign, he'd love to meet him. And the rest, as they say, is history,” Calvert explained in an email.

“Campaigns are hard work. (Saturday’s) surprise gave us all a warm glow, and the energy needed to get back on the campaign.”