Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Winnipeg - Last night history was made as Ryan van Berkel became the youngest and first non-Winnipeg-born man to have been named Commodore of the Victoria Beach Yacht Club. In his calculated ouster of former Commodore Kenneth Taylor, Mr. van Berkel executed perhaps the most deft palace coup in leisure club politics since Billy Jean King managed to (briefly) hold the Chairmanship at Augusta National in the early 1970s.
Mr. van Berkel's campaign was a discrete and sure-handed manipulation of the gears of power. The Victoria Beach Council was firmly onside and the local business lobby, led by captain of industry Daniel S. Schott, quietly made it known that it would not oppose Mr. van Berkel, who himself comes from a bureaucratic background.
However, the van Berkel administration has already come under fire for being close to Portage Avenue, Manitoba's gilded centre of finance. His senior adviser, AJ Tooley (who was thought to be a candidate for the commodoreship before his girlfriend became embroiled in a corn-related licensing scandal), is a well-known commodities broker and has long moved in the posh circles of prairie money managing. There have been complaints from the right, too, who worry that Matthew McLeod, once crew to Mr. van Berkel and now a leader in the Manitoba Teacher's Union will hold too much sway in the nascent cabinet.
On election night, though, it was nothing but hearty handshakes and a surprisingly greasy snack table. In an electric moment Commodore-elect van Berkel took the stage to thunderous applause and the familiar strains of Eric Clapton's 'My Father's Eyes'. Victoria Beach, having grappled with the Erosion Question throughout a frigid and grueling winter, is a tense community these days and he acknowledged that he has much work to do in healing a house divided.
Unsurprisingly, he echoed another leader, Abraham Lincoln, who also seized the reigns of power as strife and misunderstanding threatened his community. "From Sunset all the way to Mike Bay," said Mr. van Berkel, "we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every barbecue and deck to every sports day and masquerade all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Beach, when again touched, as surely it will be, by the better angels of our nature."
A somewhat puzzled crowd cheered and looked on in awe at their new leader.

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