Roger Bacon still remembers the day John Buchanan asked him to be premier, or rather told him.
It was in early September 1990 when Buchanan called the then Cumberland East MLA and cabinet minister and asked to meet with him that afternoon.
“He said he got a call from the prime minister asking him to join the Senate and that he was going to accept. A few moments later he told me he wanted me to take his place,” the 93-year-old Upper Nappan resident said. “He said he’d already told the caucus and the announcement was going to made later that afternoon, but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone until after the announcement.”
Buchanan, who was Halifax Atlantic MLA from 1967 until Sept. 1990 and premier from 1978 until 1990, died Thursday. He was 88. He was the fourth-longest serving premier in Nova Scotia history and won majority governments in 1978, 1981, 1984 and 1988.
“He’s really going to be missed. He made a significant contribution to Nova Scotia,” Bacon said. “He absolutely loved Nova Scotia.”
Bacon, who was first elected to the legislature in 1970, said he and Buchanan became close friends while in government and remained friends following Buchanan’s departure for the Senate and in later years. The last times the two talked was during a ceremony for former premiers in December 2017 hosted by present premier Stephen McNeil and during the April 2018 nominating meeting for Cumberland South MLA Tory Rushton in Oxford.
“He was one of the best campaigners there ever was,” Bacon said. “He was a people person and I think he enjoyed that more than being in the House.”
Bacon shared a humourous story about Buchanan. A successful auctioneer, Bacon brought a bunch of colts in for an auction that Buchanan came to looking to buy a pair of ponies. He bought two colts thinking they were ponies and wasn’t happy about it.
When Bacon was running for the PC nomination in Cumberland East in 1970, then MP Robert Coates invited the Buchanan to come to the meeting to speak. It was then he recognized Bacon as the auctioneer.
“He asked Bob who is that guy over there and he said that’s Roger Bacon, the candidate. He said ‘that’s the guy who sold me the horses,’” Bacon said. “We found it quite funny afterwards.”
Bacon said Buchanan loved to talk to people and was a people’s politician.
“He loved to canvass and he loved election campaigns,” Buchanan said. “He was a great premier. While I didn’t serve under a lot of premiers, I think he was among the best.”