HALIFAX — More than 3,000 Liberal party members gathered in Halifax April 20-22 for their national policy convention in Halifax.
It was a chance for the party to gather its thoughts and begin organizing for the 2019 election campaign. There were resolutions to debate, parties to attend, speeches to listen to and campaigns to plan.
But in the whirlwind of policy debate, there was one panel that shone a light on another side of politics — the human side.
It just so happened to feature Agriculture Minster Lawrence MacAulay and his wife, Frances.
MacAulay is one of the longest serving federal MPs. First elected in 1988, he’s been making the weekly trek from his home in Prince Edward Island to Ottawa for 30 years.
For Frances, her husband’s career in politics meant that running the family farm became her responsibility.
“We didn’t really know the scope of what we were getting into,” she said with a chuckle.
But when it came to the farm, she didn’t think twice about it.
“The cows needed to be milked, the hay needed to be brought in,” the plain speaking farmer said.
“I just saw those things to be done.”
For many years the chores and tasks around the farm were left up to Frances and the couple’s three daughters, at a time when a woman running the family farm wasn’t all that common.
Agriculture has become a lot “more modern,” she told the crowd.
“At one time it was a man’s world — agriculture.”
The times apart could be hard, she said, but life kept on rolling and there was always something that needed to be done on the farm.
For his part, MacAulay said he never had any doubt his wife and daughters would be successful.
“Young women are quite capable of doing whatever they want to do in the world and for that I’m quite pleased,” he said matter of factly.
“I never thought that a woman couldn’t do anything a man did because I was always told they could do it.”
Everyone was an equal partner on the farm, he said. Everyone in the family helped with the campaign. Everyone has milked cows. Everyone has cut seed potatoes.
Frances vividly remembers the night her husband was elected to federal office.
A large transport truck pulled into the yard looking for a load of seed potatoes, she told the crowd. At the same time, a cow decided to have a calf.
MacAulay was away at the polls.
Farming waits for no one, she said, so Frances rolled up her sleeves and got to work, helping the truck back into barn and fill its load. Then she helped the cow deliver the calf.
Once mom and baby were settled in the barn, she got herself cleaned up and headed into town to meet MacAulay at the polls.
“It was quite an evening,” she said with a chuckle.
Thirty years later, she still attends many community functions, church suppers, lobster boils and birthday parties.
“I’m not as much into the hob-knobbing as I used to be,” Frances said, earning a hearty laugh from the crowd.
After 30 years, who can blame her.
For MacAulay, he said his successful career in politics is in large part due to the love and support he’s received from his wife and daughters.
Having a good partner, he told delegates, who supports your political career — and is willing to make the sacrifices that comes with it — is “vitally important.”
“And I had that,” MacAulay said, turning to his wife who was seated beside him.
“I’d like to thank Frances for all she has done.”