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A RED JUST LEFT OF CENTER
Arlie W. Schardt
December 03, 1962
As a rookie lawmaker Leonard Kelly (above) is a liberal, but on the ice he is the conservative playmaker who gave Toronto a Stanley Cup
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December 03, 1962

A Red Just Left Of Center

As a rookie lawmaker Leonard Kelly (above) is a liberal, but on the ice he is the conservative playmaker who gave Toronto a Stanley Cup

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"I never had my speeches written out for me," Kelly says. "I couldn't say something if it wasn't really me talking. I didn't make any campaign promises. I just said I'd represent the people to the best of my ability.

"The issues were unemployment, devaluation of the dollar, balance of trade and tight money. I spoke as a husband, father and small businessman [he owns a 36-acre tobacco farm and a 12-lane bowling alley near Simcoe]. 'Talk to my wife,' I said. 'Her regular budget isn't enough anymore because prices are so high.' I asked people how long a business or a government could go on operating deeper and deeper in debt."

Kelly concentrated on meeting people personally. He signed thousands of photographs, drawing such crowds that "sometimes I felt like the Pied Piper." As the race tightened, his opponents tried to ridicule the idea of a hockey player going to Parliament. "I think that only helped me," says Red. "It made me work all the harder when I might have let down." The hard work paid off. Kelly became part of the Liberal sweep of usually Conservative Toronto, winning by more than 3,500 votes.

Kelly realizes that he is on trial, so to speak, but it does not rattle him. "If they're not happy with me then I'll have to get out, right? I wasn't elected for life, after all. I'm a raw amateur at this and if I make mistakes it's not because I'm not trying, it's just because I don't know any better. I'm a rookie and rookies take bad falls. But they get up, too."

"Oh yes," agrees his trim, efficient secretary, Catherine McNeely. "We've had a lot of hostility from constituents who feel he can't represent them and play hockey, too. I don't see how he keeps it up. He's so conscientious. I've seen him arrive here at 4:30 in the afternoon and fly back six hours later."

Although Kelly did not attend college, he probably is better equipped for his new role than many of his colleagues. He has a deep reservoir of native intelligence, and his sincerity lets him say things naturally that career politicians never quite manage, even with practice. "I have two children," he said recently in defense of U.S. President Kennedy's stand on Cuba, "and I don't want them growing up under Russia."

As a Liberal, M.P. Kelly is a member of the minority. However, the Liberals recently came within a whisker (eight votes) of forcing another general election and Kelly, like his colleagues, is confident they will succeed in toppling the Conservative government by spring.

"Why do you want to force another election?" Maple Leaf Forward Bob Pulford recently challenged Kelly. "It only means you'll have to run all over again, and you might lose."

"Because," Kelly replied, "I believe that is exactly what my constituents want me to do."

"I'll tell you one thing," says Coach Punch Imlach. "People are always saying what a great credit Red is to the sport of hockey. Well, he's not only a credit to hockey, he's just as much a credit to those people up there in Ottawa, too."

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