Peter Mansbridge in town to support the Vancouver Food Bank

Peter Mansbridge. photo: Wendy Dallian

This week I was lucky enough to have had the great pleasure of speaking with the CBC's wickedly intelligent Peter Mansbridge, who generously volunteered his time to help the Vancouver Food Bank.

It was more than a little intimidating walking an interview with one of Canada's smartest and most experienced interviewers. I'd watched him for years on the CBC guide a multitude of high profile intellectuals through debates and interviews with the utmost of ease. He'd be a force to reckon with.

When we were finally introduced, I discretely wiped the perspiration from my palm and shook his hand.
He greeted me with a warmth I hadn't been prepared for, and I felt something shift.
It was clear right then why he was so good at what he does. There is an instant sense of depth and kindness about him that's both relaxing and inviting.

WD: Whose idea was it to create this event?

PM: CBC Vancouver has been supporting food banks for 24 years. You hope on these things that the need will go down over time but it doesn't. The gap between the rich and poor keeps growing. You see these startling figures. 40% of those using the services are kids.

A large number of those needing the food banks are not the ones we generally think of: the unemployed, the homeless. They're the working poor: people who have jobs.

When you see that kind of thing happening, the next thing you see is a city  like this one especially, that reacts.

Last year we raised 600,000 dollars. This year I imagine that number will be even higher. That's a tribute to the people of this city who care about their neighbours.

WD: What does it mean to you personally to be involved in this event?

PM: When you see kids, no matter what their family circumstances are, you want to do something or you're not human. When you hear the stories of people who have jobs and need the help of the food bank, you want to help.

For me it was easy to want to get involved. I work for a corporation that cares about these things and look what's happening here. The whole weight of the CBC here in Vancouver is thrown behind this cause. Everybody is totally committed.

WD: What's your favourite aspect of this event?

PM: The most important part is helping. The added bonus for me is I actually get to meet viewers. I don't see a lot of that sitting in a studio in a concrete bunker in Toronto. You sort of talk to a camera and hope there's somebody watching and listening.

When you do events like this you actually get to see who you're talking to and you get to hear what they have to say about any number of things. They say things like, I believe in public broadcasting, but I think you could do this or that better. They tell you, and that's great.

When you can go one on one with somebody who has some authority or power of influence that's pretty good, and we should do more of it.

WD: What other things do you do in your personal life to help other in need?

PM: I'm involved in a lot of different charities. Like a lot of people in public life I don't make a big deal of it: you just do it because it can help.

I'm chairman of a number of committees, an honorary chair of other committees that are all in some way trying to help the communities. I have a number of national sponsorships that I'm involved with that are mostly geared to the literacy front. I do a lot of work in this province (BC).

WD: What would you like to see others doing in terms of helping others, on a day to day basis?

PM: It does come down to caring about your fellow man and there are lots of ways to show that. I would hope that you'd continue doing that, and give your help where you can. Not everybody has time on their hands but a lot of people have money on their hands that they can be doing things with. It feels good when you do it.

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