If not for a chance encounter at a Churchill, Man., airport more than 40 years ago, one of Canada’s most recognized broadcasters might never have been a journalist.
CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge worked in 1968 as an “odd-jobs” guy at the airport, loading luggage, filling airplanes with gas and selling tickets. It was a particularly busy day and one of the workers asked him to announce that the flight was loading.
Afterwards a man ran up to him, said he had a good voice and offered him a job on the night shift at the radio station in Churchill. Mansbridge jumped at the chance and spent three years there before moving to Winnipeg and eventually the anchor The National on CBC and host Mansbridge One on One.
But he told the crowd of more than 850 people at the Capri Hotel and Convention Centre on Tuesday that just because he is in television doesn’t mean everyone knows who he is.
Once after being pulled over by an Ontario Provincial Police officer, the cop recognized him not for being a national broadcaster but because they were Boy Scouts together decades before.
At another point, while Mansbridge was paying his respects to Pope John Paul II, CNN cut in, mistakenly believing that Mansbridge was the president of Poland. Mansbridge’s news crew took great delight in the gaffe.
The event was put on by Farm Credit Canada, which is Canada’s leading provider of business and financial services to farms and agribusiness and celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
During his talk, Mansbridge spoke about how Canadians are perceived around the world.
He talked about three Canadian nurses who helped in Sri Lanka after the tsunami hit in 2004, the welcome Canadian Second World War veterans received in the Netherlands on the 60th anniversary of VE Day in 2005 and a young Canadian woman who postponed a private sector career to help women in Afghanistan, the country her family had fled in the 1990s.
He said in each case the thing that stands out is that Canadians care and want people in the world to be as lucky as they are.
Despite being a broadcaster for so long, even Mansbridge gets nervous. Walking to an interview with Barack Obama, he realized his jacket didn’t match his pants and he had to race back to the hotel to change. “I thought uh, oh I really am nervous. But it’s a good thing. I like being a little nervous. It gets the adrenaline flowing,” he said.