Senator Bob Runciman steps down after more than 40 years of political life

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A municipal councillor, provincial cabinet minister and senator — all positions held by Bob Runciman who's now retiring from public life – Aug 9, 2017

Senator Bob Runciman says his interest in politics began as a child when it was a regular part of family conversation.

“My dad was the editor of the Brockville paper and so it was a common topic around the dinner table.”

Runciman’s first shot at politics was municipally when he was only 21 years old.

“I got my butt kicked, but it was a good learning experience so I moved on from there.”

He would go on to hold municipal office from 1972 until 1981 when he switched to provincial politics.

He spent much of his early career in opposition until the provincial Tories swept into power in 1995 under the leadership of Mike Harris and the “Common Sense Revolution.”

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Runciman held many roles including solicitor general and minister for correctional services.

It was during that time, he changed how provincial corrections dealt with inmates with mental health issues by establishing a 100-bed secure treatment unit in Brockville.

“It’s been a fantastic success in turning lives around and dealing in an appropriate way with people who suffer mental illness and getting them off the streets and out of the jails.”

When appointed Senator in 2010, Runciman attempted to introduce the program at the federal level but with less success.

He’s filed a freedom of information request to learn about Corrections Canada’s decision-making process that led to a one-bed pilot project. Something, Runciman says, was doomed to fail.

“We had a nurse stabbed — I think the most dangerous patient in Canada, so-called patient, inmate, was placed as the pilot project.”

Delays on the freedom of information request have pushed the release of those documents past Runciman’s time as a senator.
But he’s not letting the issue disappear.

“Kim Pate who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year, she has agreed to resubmit those questions and carry on on my behalf.”

Brockville’s mayor says Runciman was instrumental in helping the city recover from a devastating blow.

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Runciman was part of an economic roundtable when four major employers closed their plants or shed workers representing almost 4,000 jobs lost.

“We took a lesson from that actually when Proctor and Gamble was announced, said Brockville Mayor Dave Henderson. “And we said, ‘You know, things happen.’ We have great things happen all the time. We have bad things happen but the real lesson was pull yourself up — get going.”

During his tenure in the Senate, Runciman’s been involved with a report addressing court delays, and a change to the customs act eliminating the need for boaters to check in at customs unless they anchor or land.

As for what’s next, Runciman says the dust will have to settle a little bit as he makes his transition from public life to private life, and before he makes any long-term plans or commitments.

“I want to have a few weeks to get my head together, and then look at what might lie ahead, and then my wife and I will make those decisions in the not-so-distant future,” he said.