Today is a sad day. Dr. Bob Elgie was an inspiration and when I heard of his passing, three memories came immediately to mind.
Before I actually met Dr. Elgie I was quite intimidated. I had heard so much about him. Like a movie star you admire or an author you adore, you don’t know what to say at first because you’re read all of their books, or seen all of their movies. That’s how I felt when I first met Dr. Elgie – he had such a great reputation. He was a person that I couldn’t possibly keep up with on intellect. He was a lawyer, a neurosurgeon, a cabinet minister, and an MPP – how do you keep up with a man like that?
So when I finally got to meet him and he was so easy going, all fear disappeared. In the very first sentences we exchanged, he jovially patted me on the shoulder and it just went away. Despite his intellectual rigor and might, he had a relaxed, warm, and approachable nature.
The second thing I remember about Dr. Bob Elgie is his calm demeanor. His expectation of respectful, decent behavior was enforced without having to say a word. I clearly remember one time that I didn’t meet his standard. It was during an unpleasant meeting where both my opponent and I started yelling at each other – and just by virtue of his body language, I knew right away that I was not meeting his way. On one hand I was passionate and emotional about what I just argued, but on the other, whatever perceived victory, I could have done it in a better way.
His style was so different, so classy, so respectful, and he was capable of having a disagreement while at the same time, able to walk away from a debate with a friendly nature that made him one of the most successful communicators that I have met.
I knew Dr. Elgie late in his career when he was the founding Chair of the Greenbelt Council. He was on the Council for five years, and during that time, advised the Minister on implementation of the Greenbelt Plan and ensured that set goals were achieved.
During that time, I remember a piece of advice that still resonates. We were at a Greenbelt meeting and I excitedly went up to him and said, “Dr. Elgie, I have this great idea, and can I get your feedback,” and before I even had a chance to explain he said, “Burkhard, let me stop you right there.” I was taken a little bit aback and asked him why.
“You don’t want to start off by saying that you have a great idea, you want others to validate that your idea is great after they hear it.” Although Dr. Elgie ended up liking my idea, it wasn’t about that. It was about process, form, humility, and “the right way to do things.” There was a lot to learn from him in that way.
I don’t think that there was a greater advocate for the Greenbelt because he always pushed the envelope. He saw the bigger picture. His vision of the Greenbelt extended past boundaries and lines on a map. He broadened conversation around the Greenbelt to include sustainability, a thriving agricultural and rural sector, natural spaces and their importance in species survival – he didn’t see in silos, but in interconnectivity and sustainability.
Dr. Bob Elgie will be missed, not only for his contributions to our Province and our Greenbelt, but on a personal level by many who have benefited from his wisdom and friendship, myself included. I wish his family comfort in this difficult time; he will not soon be forgotten.
Burkhard Mausberg, CEO
Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation