Wolfville's Russell Elliott was honoured for his long-time support of the NDP recently. - Submitted
A Wolfville man was honoured last month for his longtime support of the NDP.
Russell Elliott received a lifetime award from the party at the provincial annual general meeting in Halifax.
“I was very pleased,” Elliott said. “It was the first time I’d gone to the AGM and it was really enjoyable because it was as much social and personal as it was business.”
Born in New Ross and educated at the local rural schools before attending the University of Kings College in Halifax, he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1941. He served in several parishes throughout Nova Scotia and, in 1968, was made an honorary Canon. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity from Kings in 1979.
It’s a tad unusual for a priest to be involved in politics, but Elliott said the party’s beliefs always appealed to him. He first became interested in the predecessor of the NDP, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which was founded the year before Elliott started university in 1934.
It was, he admits, pretty unusual for an Anglican minister to be involved with the NDP.
“In the first of my ministry, the Anglican church was often referred to as the Tory party at prayer,” he said. “I was very much out of step of the Anglican church in that respect.”
After the war, he says, that changed, but Anglican clergy still didn’t really get involved in politics.
“I was very active in social service and political activism – although indirectly,” he said, adding that it was a “natural” fit for a minister to be involved in delivering social services.
That’s really what appeals to him about the party, even today.
“The chief item, I guess, is that it jives really well with Christianity – the NDP’s chief concern is people rather than businesses or economics,” he said. “People come first and that’s very important to me.”
Elliott became more actively involved while he was serving at a parish in Lantz. It was there that he became close friends with Lloyd Shaw, who is Alexa McDonough’s father. Elliott eventually nominated McDonough when she first became involved in politics in the late 1970s.
“I used to tell her that was my one claim to a spot in Canadian history,” he said. “I’ve known her since she was a child, I was a very close friend with her dad.”
His association with the party hasn’t been all smooth sailing over the years – but, says Elliott, what is?
“I don’t mind saying there are times I argued with the party, but there were times I argued with my bishop, too,” he said.
Elliott settled in Wolfville 30 years ago, after he began drawing a pension.
“I say began drawing a pension, because I never retired,” Elliott said. “I’m still doing church work. Two years ago, I celebrated 70 years as a priest – that’s unusual, because most of us die before they reach that point.”
Elliott will celebrate his 96th birthday next month.
“You know why that is? They say I’m a slow learner and I’ve been told I need to stay around until I get it right,” he added with a chuckle.