AL­BERTA MP OP­POSED GAY RIGHTS AND GUN LAWS

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - OBITUARIES - AL­LAN MAKI

Con­sid­ered a bigot by some, a ‘colour­ful’ and plain-speak­ing Westerner by oth­ers, he was un­apolo­getic for his views – in­clud­ing once say­ing, ‘I do not hate ho­mo­sex­u­als. I hate ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity’

From his size-8 Stet­son down to his Al­berta-made cow­boy boots, My­ron Thomp­son was a sight from Cen­tral Cast­ing. He bore a re­sem­blance to the fic­tional Boss Hogg from the TV se­ries The Dukes of Haz­zard. He was driven, un­wa­ver­ing. A western politi­cian who wore his be­liefs on his sleeve.

If you wanted to know what Mr. Thomp­son was think­ing, you were wise to brace your­self be­fore ask­ing. In no spe­cific or­der, the 15-year mem­ber of Par­lia­ment was op­posed to re­stric­tive gun laws and same­sex re­la­tion­ships. He stood in favour of the war in Iraq and crit­i­cized the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for not sup­port­ing the United States in its fight. He was for tougher leg­is­la­tion against child pornog­ra­phy and an­i­mal abuse. Con­sid­ered a red­neck or a bigot or a ho­mo­phobe by po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries, Mr. Thomp­son was one of the most de­vout MPs Al­berta has ever seen, a prom­i­nent fig­ure whose death from pan­cre­atic can­cer on Jan. 5 pro­duced a gusher of re­ac­tions.

For­mer Re­form Party leader Pre­ston Man­ning saluted Mr. Thomp­son as “a colour­ful and straight­for­ward Westerner.” Ja­son Ken­ney of the United Con­ser­va­tive Party de­scribed Mr. Thomp­son as “a true char­ac­ter” and said “My­ron will be deeply missed.”

For­mer Wil­drose leader Brian Jean said his friend and men­tor was “a large man with a pretty se­ri­ous face. I re­mem­ber watch­ing him in the House of Com­mons when I first got there and he just said it the way it was. He didn’t pol­ish it. He didn’t smooth things over … Boss Hogg? Ab­so­lutely, he was that guy.”

There were cer­tainly enough episodes in Mr. Thomp­son’s 82 years to fill his own TV se­ries. Be­fore his time spent in mu­nic­i­pal and fed­eral gov­ern­ment, a youngish Mr. Thomp­son was a base­ball prospect who tried out for the New York Yan­kees. He joked that his least favourite player be­came Yogi Berra, the vet­eran catcher Mr. Thomp­son couldn’t dis­lodge. Then there was his stint with Stu Hart, the god­fa­ther of Cal­gary-based Stam­pede Wrestling. Mr. Thomp­son went by the nom de head­lock Tiger Thomp­son and slammed ri­vals into turn­buck­les, a move he wasn’t al­lowed to du­pli­cate on Par­lia­ment Hill.

Added to that, Mr. Thomp­son was a teacher, a prin­ci­pal, the mayor of Sun­dre, Alta., a sur­vivor of five heart at­tacks and a man of his word. The thing was, not ev­ery­one liked all the words he spoke, in­clud­ing his own fam­ily.

“We didn’t agree on much po­lit­i­cally,” said Mr. Thomp­son’s grand­son Jeremy, who was born in Sun­dre and re­sides in Fort Worth, Tex.

“But he never once said, ‘I’m the politi­cian. I’m the adult. You’re just a kid. I don’t have to lis­ten to you – and you’re wrong.’ ”

My­ron Thomp­son was born April 23, 1936, in Monte Vista, Colo., a south­west­erly ink spot on the state map. He at­tended Colorado’s Adams State Col­lege in the late 1950s and earned a de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion and ed­u­ca­tion. Soon after, he en­listed in the U.S. Army, where he forged a life­time of sup­port for the mil­i­tary and its troops.

In 1968, Mr. Thomp­son moved to Sun­dre, north of Cal­gary, and taught school be­fore run­ning for mayor and win­ning in 1974. That same year, he be­came a Cana­dian cit­i­zen. Come 1993, Mr. Thomp­son was elected to Par­lia­ment as a Re­form Party mem­ber for the for­mer Wild Rose rid­ing. There was rarely a dull per­for­mance when the hon­ourable mem­ber from Al­berta rose to his feet and chas­tised the gov­ern­ment for its over-spend­ing or for his not be­ing al­lowed to wear a cow­boy hat in the Com­mons.

It was Mr. Thomp­son’s be­lief that a cow­boy hat was ev­ery bit as cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant as a tur­ban or ea­gle feath­ers.

“He didn’t win that one,” Mr. Jean said.

Mr. Thomp­son could rat­tle on about any sub­ject – the beef in­dus­try, provin­cial equal­iza­tion, pri­va­tiz­ing the CBC – but his most con­tentious po­si­tion had to do with gay rights. At the Re­form Party’s 1994 na­tional con­ven­tion, it was de­cided same-sex cou­ples would not be el­i­gi­ble for fam­ily ben­e­fits. Mr. Thomp­son was quoted say­ing, “I do not hate ho­mo­sex­u­als. I hate ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.”

That re­mark, and oth­ers like it, were not for­got­ten when the LGBTQ com­mu­nity took to Twit­ter to com­ment on Mr. Thomp­son’s death. Many wished his fam­ily well but re­fused to pay homage to the man.

Mr. Jean in­sisted Mr. Thomp­son was true to the mood and val­ues of the peo­ple who elected him, and that never changed.

“He didn’t care about the prime min­is­ter, to be blunt. He didn’t care about any min­is­ters,” Mr. Jean said. “If you’re re­ally a politi­cian for the peo­ple, the only peo­ple you’re go­ing to fit in with are the peo­ple you rep­re­sent. That was all that mat­tered to him.”

Those clos­est to Mr. Thomp­son paint a more de­tailed por­trait of the man who once met U.S. pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and backed the United States’ in­volve­ment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jeremy Thomp­son spoke of his grand­fa­ther’s per­sona away from the lime­light and po­lit­i­cal arena; how he was a car­ing fam­ily man who never for­got his grand­chil­dren’s birth­days and how he would call on ev­ery hol­i­day – both the Cana­dian and Amer­i­can Thanks­giv­ing, too – to make sure all were well and well loved.

“He wouldn’t apol­o­gize for those views even if they were con­tro­ver­sial,” Jeremy Thomp­son said. “But be­cause of his na­ture and be­cause of how se­ri­ous he was, he never stopped lov­ing ev­ery­one he in­ter­acted with. He prayed for the world on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. His faith drove him.”

Mr. Thomp­son also spoke of his grand­fa­ther’s sense of hu­mour and how he once told five-year-old Jeremy he couldn’t have any ice cream un­til he praised his grand­fa­ther’s hair for be­ing so nice. The gag? Grandpa was bald on top and thin on the sides.

“My grand­fa­ther was my driv­ing force to be the man I want to be­come,” Mr. Thomp­son said. “Since I turned 18, I’ve re­al­ized how much of an im­pact he’s had on me. If I can do half of what he did in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion then I’ll be suc­cess­ful.”

Last month, Sun­dre town of­fi­cials named a street after their for­mer mayor, call­ing it My­ron Thomp­son’s Way. He leaves his wife, Dot; sons, My­ron Jr. and Den­nis; and eight grand­chil­dren.

Mr. Thomp­son was a teacher, a prin­ci­pal, the mayor of Sun­dre, Alta., a sur­vivor of five heart at­tacks and a man of his word. The thing was, not ev­ery­one liked all the words he spoke, in­clud­ing his own fam­ily.

DAVE CHAN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

MP My­ron Thomp­son of Al­berta’s for­mer Wild Rose rid­ing stands on Par­lia­ment Hill in 2003 in his sig­na­ture cow­boy hat. Be­fore his time spent in pol­i­tics, Mr. Thomp­son was a base­ball prospect who tried out for the New York Yan­kees, but he couldn’t sup­plant vet­eran catcher Yogi Berra.

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