Voinovich, Canada and the Kiwanis

How close is Sen. George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, to Canada? Right now, “I feel very, very close to Canada,” he said May 12.

One could argue that he was in Canada, officially, at that moment, as he was in the Canadian Embassy in Washington to receive the 2010 Henry T. King, Jr. Public Service Award.

The award, presented by the Canada-United States Law Institute, recognizes those who advocate better relations between what already are two of the closest international partners on the globe.

“I don’t think people understand how close a relationship we have with Canada and how integrated our economies are,” the senator said. “Most people don’t understand how much oil we get from Canada,” he said. “We should get more.”

Voinovich’s relationship with Canada dates back to 1967, when the Kiwanis Club of Chatham, Ontario invited the Ohioan, then a state representative, to speak about “Our Great Lakes.”

At that time, “Lake Erie was a dying lake,” he said. “We fought the second battle of Lake Erie to save it, and Canada was way ahead of us.”

Four decades later, Voinovich serves as the co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. He introduced the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 to clean up contaminated areas of the Great Lakes.

On May 4, Voinovich and Great Lakes Task Force co-chair Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, introduced the 2010 Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act.

After his speech in Ontario 43 years ago, it being the 1960s, the Chatham Kiwanis was presented Voinovich with an engraved cigarette case. He said he still keeps that case on his Senate office desk to remind him of U.S.-Canada ties — sans cigarettes.

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com

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