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Singleton ‘Godfather’ of federal Liberals in B.C.

Some call him the ‘Godfather’ of the federal Liberal Party in B.C.

Because Hal Singleton held the Liberal “family” together in this province in the early 1990s when the Reform Party tidal wave struck, twice running as a candidate here in Chilliwack despite almost certain defeat.

Defeat is not in his vocabulary.

Even now, though diagnosed with terminal cancer, Singleton is still fighting the good fight, going public to get improved testing for colon cancer.

“I’m not worried about Hal Singleton,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I know where Hal Singleton is going, I’m worried about where other people are going.”

To honour Singleton’s contribution to the party and to the community, an “appreciation day” is being organized by Chilliwack Liberals on Nov. 22, with Justin Trudeau as the keynote speaker.

Trudeau will speak at a fund-raising event earlier in the day, and then again at a later public event that starts at 12:30 p.m. at the Coast Hotel.

None of the funds raised at the first event go to Trudeau’s bid for the party leadership, but remain here in the Chilliwack riding. However, it will be a chance for party “supporters” — not formally Liberal members but who can still vote for the leader — to meet Trudeau.

Clearly, the Liberal Party owes Singleton, now 69, a debt of gratitude.

After carrying the party’s flag a second time in the 2000 federal election, holding his own with the immensely popular Reform Party incumbent Chuck Strahl, Singleton continued to serve as the party’s Chilliwack constituency president.

He was then elected president of the Liberal Party’s council of constituency presidents in B.C., and it was here that Singleton organized the party’s grassroots survival strategy in the province dominated by the Reform Party.

And when the party needed advice on who to nominate for political appointments — they called Hal Singleton.

Hence the ‘Godfather’ nickname.

Singleton freely admits having “a fire in my belly” for politics when he retired from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1993 as a Lt. Col. after serving 33 years in the military.

Singleton said he got his education in “politics 101”  from Doug Steinson, another Liberal activist in Chilliwack, and quickly learned the finer points of electioneering for the upcoming election campaign.

“I learned you better have an answer for every question,” he said.

But at one campaign stop, stumped by a student’s question about Sri Lanka, instead of fumbling through an answer, Singleton told the student that his fellow election-hopeful, NDP candidate Rollie Keith, also a retired military officer, could give a better answer.

“Rollie just smiled at me, and talked for 15 minutes about Sri Lanka.” Singleton has now endured 2,500 hours of chemotherapy, but he’s spirited and good-humoured during the telephone interview.

He has nothing but praise for the BC Liberal government’s recent announcement of a province-wide colorectal cancer screening program, although it comes too late for him.

“I take my hat off to them,” he said. “I don’t care where good ideas come from, as long as they’re good ideas.”

With early detection, colorectal cancer has a 90 percent survival rate.

To Singleton, those odds make prevention, rather than treatment, a good idea for everyone.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

twitter.com/paperboy2

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