The first of what is hoped to be an annual Mayor’s Toast gala put on by the St. Albert Breakfast Club started off looking like a stand-up comedy act Ă la Don Rickles, and you’d never guess who the funniest guy in the room was: Stephen Mandel, the now three-time elected mayor of Edmonton.
Mandel, apparently either not told the event was meant to be a celebration with only a few jests, or he just felt that he could take as many liberties as possible, kicked off the evening with a greeting from Edmonton that included taking as many shots as possible at newly re-elected St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse, and his five predecessors — Paul Chalifoux, Richard Plain, Anita Ratchinsky, Richard Fowler and John deBruijn — all of whom were in attendance. He even threw a volley or two at our city’s chain of office during his tribute to Crouse… while Crouse was wearing it.
“Congratulations on winning re-election but I wouldn’t wear that chain again. It looks like you’re trying to protect your goodies … but that’s besides the point,” he jibed, the audience fully engulfed in gales of laughter. “That is the dumbest thing I ever saw. He looks like he’s a salesman! He looks like a Shriner!”
The rest of the presenters during the star-studded affair included former city aldermen Kent Davidson and Myrna Fife (who also served as an MLA), and outgoing city councillor Carol Watamaniuk. They all took a more tender tack when recounting the careers and contributions of the city’s previous leaders during each speaker’s untenable five-minute allotted time limit while trying out a few of their own one liners. Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber, during his toast of Fowler, showed particular aptitude for having a polished speech ready in order to talk quickly to keep the show on schedule. He recalled Fowler’s second term as mayor in 1983 when the city convinced the province to help fund the new Sturgeon Community Hospital. As it turned out, Fowler’s political gain neatly allowed him to sign the cheque, albeit almost a decade later.
Rathgeber commented, “[The hospital] did not actually open until 1992 when he was then the minister of municipal affairs and could actually make good on the promise that was made to him almost a decade earlier.”
Still, the syrupy saccharine nature of the other presenters’ comments couldn’t compete with Mandel, who hit zingers out of the park one after the other like a well-seasoned professional. Even when he was paying a compliment, he slid in another gut buster without missing a single beat.
“Nolan, I really appreciate the last few years working with you. You’ve been a real joy to work with. I think that you’ve taken St. Albert to a level of understanding the needs of a modern city and the need to create a better link between all of us. I know that the cities of Edmonton and St. Albert have worked wonderfully together over the last three years. Unfortunately, before that, it wasn’t so good… Paul,” he joked, referring to Chalifoux. “The other guys too, I can’t even remember all of your names.”
Breakfast Club member and former city councillor Gareth Jones said the tribute was the group’s first major public initiative. It was used as a way to help boost the stocks on the shelves at the St. Albert Food Bank in advance of the Christmas season when the demand for hampers goes up.
A final tally of the proceeds from the toast that would be donated to the charity has not yet been released.