By Nathan Frank
There are many chapters in the life of Goodwater’s Liberal Party politician, Gerald Borrowman. The 2011 Federal Election candidate is an astronautical journalist, speaks Russian and has traveled in six countries.
It’s October, over a year after his only shot at political office. He is at the Federal Electoral Boundary Commission in a nearly empty Weyburn Legion Hall. The politically interested are gathered to share their concerns about the proposed federal electoral boundaries.
Borrowman, 59, wearing a navy blue blazer, with a golden crest by his heart, speaks enthusiastically with a conservative minded Grade 12 student. The youth is wearing a clean-cut black suit with a neon green tie and has braces on his teeth.
Borrowman has yet to take the podium as he assures a local journalist that there are still Liberals in Weyburn.
When it’s his time to speak he walks up to the microphone, straightens his papers and his chin and begins to address the four person panel with comfort and confidence. He’s organized and articulate in support of the commissions proposed changes.
Running in the Federal Election
Borrowman’s passion for politics and education began in the ‘60s when he was a curious youngest child on his family farm near Goodwater, a tiny community of 35 people, southeast of Weyburn.
“Politics was discussed around the table. Certainly coming from a community with Tommy Douglas you couldn’t help but talk about politics,” he said.
When he was 10 years old, his interest in the world widened as he began to use the provincial library system, where he could send in a topic he was interested in and the library would sent him books each month.
Reading directed his attention to provincial politics and motivated him to attend the University of Saskatchewan where he graduated with a degree in Political Science and developed his small-c conservative ideology.
In the late ‘80s, Borrowman became disenchanted with the person he calls “the consummate salesman” —then-premier Grant Devine— and jumped ship from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party. In the mid-’90s he worked as a speech writer for provincial Liberal leader, Lynda Haverstock and ran Bernie Collins’ winning campaign for Souris-Moose Mountain in Weyburn.
Over 30 years after receiving his Political Science degree, Borrowman ran in his one and only election in 2011 in Souris-Moose Mountain — an election he lost handily to seasoned Conservative incumbent, Ed Komarnicki.
“I would be anything but truthful if I said I didn’t know I had no chance of winning,” he said. He finished in third place with just over four per cent of the vote.
Borrowman saw it as an incredible experience to get to know as many people in this constituency as possible and was more disappointed by his party’s fall from grace than his own loss.
More than just a political life
Alongside his political aspirations has been a passion for researching and writing on space exploration. In the summer of ‘75, during his university years, he watched the first joint Soviet-US space flight at both the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and also in Houston at mission control.
After graduating, Borrowman spent months going to space facilities across the United States and even lived at the Kennedy Space Center for a year-and-a-half.
Throughout the decades, he has written for several space publications, including the British Inter-planet Society http://www.bis-space.com/ and travels to Britain every second June to attend a special symposium on the origins of Chinese and Soviet space flight.
Borrowman’s dedication to space-travel research reached its peak in the late ‘80s when he began learning Russian in Regina from a human rights activist from Moscow, who Borrowman claims worked with Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov. He spoke of his teacher being threatened and exiled by the KBG. Before coming to Regina the professor spent time at Harvard and shared a room with Noam Chomsky.
“Can you imagine this, a right-wing Russian sharing a room with someone from the far left like Noam Chomsky?”
The American side of Borrowman
At university Borrowman minored in American politics and throughout his life has spent a lot of time in the United States. This interest, like much of his life, has to do with his heritage.
When the Borrowmans left Scotland and landed on the east coast of North America in the 1820s, there was one uncle who decided to forge a different path. The forgotten uncle went south to Texas (which was a province of Mexico at the time) and fought in the battle of San Jacinto.
After that Borrowman said he headed west to California for the ‘48 gold rush.
“He made a few bucks there and went on to convert to Mormonism and move to Salt Lake City, where he became a prominent citizen.”
When it came to dividing the will, Borrowman’s great-grand father, being a staunch Methodist, gave the Mormon son “one farthing and nothing more,” Borrowman said. “He booted him out of the family tree for being a Mormon.”
A man here on earth
Today Borrowman is the same man who speaks Russian, knows Marc Garneau, is a Liberal and dreams of flying to Mars. But today you may see him at the Co-op grocery store in Weyburn pushing carts in the parking lot on the corner of Coteau Avenue and Third Street or will see him packing milk in the dairy aisle in yet another chapter of his life.