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Joe Preston Drops a Bomb
  by Francie Dennison  
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Preston "enthroned" in the Speaker's Chair

On June 28, 2014 the Conservative Party of the Elgin-Middlesex-London Electoral District held a party for current Member of Parliament Joe Preston to celebrate his ten years in that job. A sizable crowd turned out at the new Masonic Hall at Fruitridge and Sunset just for that purpose and it was a pumped, festive atmosphere, helped along by live music from the Celtic Fusion band, who play a fusion of Celtic, world beat and roots rhythms.

The crowd was rife with former and current municipal politicians, former and current provincial politicians, current federal politicians and one federal minister thrown in for good measure - as well as a good helping of media. After sitting Joe in the "Speaker's Chair" following a light dinner, a number of these dignitaries took to the stage to talk about Joe, roast him, and congratulate him.

"Joe and I worked really well together as a team," said Steve Peters, "and we left our party colours at the door." Jeff Yurek, Bill Fehr and others also praised Joe, but his staff got quite emotional when they described how great a boss and how great a person they considered Joe Preston to be. Minister Ed Holder, MP for London West, praised Joe for his intelligence, integrity and strength of character.

"First of all, ten years, wow," Preston began when it was his turn to speak; "who knew I could hold down a job." Preston said it had been his pleasure during that time to work under one party leader and one Prime Minister, noting the Liberal Party had seven leaders during that same time frame. He went on to thank all the people who had spoken so well of him this evening and who had helped him throughout his ten years as a Member of Parliament.

"Geri [his wife] has given me to you for the last ten years and in 478 days she gets me back," Preston choked back tears as he announced he would not be seeking re-election in 2015. For most people in that room it was a completely unexpected announcement and your could hear people collectively suck in their breath. It was like a bomb dropped and everyone was waiting for the shock wave to hit.

"I forgot to mention," Preston said in our interview after, "the one piece of advice John Wise gave me that I never forgot - Don't let the people send you home."

"Well now that it's coming to an end, what's the one thing that stands out in your mind most about the last ten years as an MP; and your dearest accomplishment?" I asked him.

"Unquestionably, on the local front, it has to be the divestiture of Port Stanley Harbour. It was the biggest thing a group of community people wanted and we were able to deliver the harbour along with $13 million dollars, and the environmental rider. Getting that environmental rider was really important."

Joe Preston became a very popular and well-respected Member of Parliament in this area, and a well-respected parliamentarian in Ottawa and the Commonwealth. Smart, personable, informed and dedicated, Preston never became self-important or disrespectful of others. He leaves some very big shoes to fill.


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