Ep. 33: Olympic Connections at Queen's Park


Friday, July 5, 2024

14 minutes (audio)



Erin: Welcome to the ON Parliament Podcast, where we help spread the word on Parliament.


David: I’m really looking forward to the episode today Erin. 


Erin: Me too David. Although, we had to jump a lot of hurdles to get here.


David: Hmm, you’re right. You could say that it was a real marathon to get to this episode.


Erin: Ooh good one! And I have a game in mind that should help keep us on track…


David: Haha I bet you do! I sure hope it’s as witty as some of these puns!


Erin: I guess you’re about to find out David! Because today, I thought it would be fun to try some trivia about the history of the Olympic Games.


David: I had a feeling you might pick something similar for this episode. Seems particularly fitting this month, what with the Olympic Summer Games starting up in Paris in just a few weeks! 


Erin: Exactly! And what better way to start off our sports-themed episode than with some mental gymnastics just for you David! 


David: When you put it that way Erin, I guess I’ll have to try extra hard to stick the landing as it were, and get them all right! I need to get a perfect 10!


Erin: Haha alrighty then! Here we go! In what year did the Olympic Games originate? Was it 576BC or 776BC?


David: Hmm, that’s a good question Erin. I think I’m going to have to go with 776BC.


Erin: Off to a great start David! You’re right!


David: You know Erin, that one was a real shot in the dark for me. Or maybe I should say shotput in the dark…


Erin: Haha good one! I really didn’t expect us to be able to keep up the Olympic-themed puns for so long, but that one was a bullseye!


David: Why thank you. 


Erin: Okay next question. What country leads the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Games?


David: I feel like the obvious answer is that the host country leads the parade, but you know, I don’t think that’s actually right. I’m going to say that Greece always leads being the birthplace of the Olympic Games.


Erin: Very sound logic indeed David. You’re correct!


David: I know I can’t rest on my laurels for long. Surely you saved the hardest question for last! 


Erin: You know what David, I would give you the gold medal for puns today if I could.


David: They just set themselves up, what can I say.


Erin: Well, here we go. For all the marbles. What is the total number of medals that Canada has won since first competing in the Paris Olympics in 1900?


David: Seems like a full-circle moment! The first Olympic Games that Canada ever competed in were held in Paris?


Erin: Indeed, they were David.


David: Wow. Maybe that’s a good omen for the team this year.


Erin: Perhaps. But I think you’re just stalling…


David: Ah I guess I couldn’t fool you on that one. Well, I really don’t know the answer to this one Erin. So I’m going to have to guess.


Erin: What’s the magic number?


David: I’m going to have to go with 500 medals in total.


Erin: You know, you’re actually pretty close! As of right now, Canada has won a total of 551 medals before the 2024 Games in Paris.


David: Not too shabby a guess at all.


Erin: No, you were actually pretty spot on. Kind of like you would need to be if you were passing on the Olympic flame to the next torchbearer.


David: Speaking of the Olympic Flame, did you know that it made a stop at Ontario’s Legislative Building during the lead up to the Winter Games in Vancouver back in 2010?


Erin: You know, I had heard tales from some of our colleagues but that was before my time working here. What was it like?


David: Well, it was a freezing cold day in mid-December. The event started with a special Indigenous Sunrise Ceremony before the torch began its journey across the city and eventually the province. Over the next three-weeks, the torch visited 232 communities in every corner of Ontario before continuing on to Manitoba.


Erin: Sounds like a really special moment in history, albeit cold.


David: It was Erin. But there was another interesting moment that happened in the Chamber too. The week before the torch arrived at the building, the MPPs passed a motion with unanimous consent to be able to wear Olympic mittens in the House to show support for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.


Erin: That’s really neat David. I think I’ve seen a few pictures from when that happened. It just goes to show how the Olympics can be such a uniting force, kind of like their motto states: “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”. 


David: Beautifully put Erin. And it was pretty great to see all of the Members united and wearing their Team Canada mittens together.


Erin: Speaking of the Members, there have been a few MPPs who have served Ontario’s Parliament and who have their own personal ties to the Olympics as well. 


David: You’re right Erin. Like MPP for Kingston and the Islands, Syl Apps. Although he was a Member of Provincial Parliament from 1963 to 1975, before coming to serve in Ontario’s Parliament he was an avid sportsman.


Erin: Charles Joseph Sylvanus Apps was born in 1915 in Paris, Ontario. Hey! Another Paris reference! What are the odds! Well, Syl Apps had a natural aptitude for athletics, excelling in numerous sports including football, hockey, and pole vault. Fun fact: Syl Apps was the Canadian Champion in the pole vault event from 1934 to 1936. 


David: After winning the gold medal at the 1934 British Empire Games with a jump of 12.5 feet, he was asked to represent Canada in the pole vault event in the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.


Erin: Fun fact: Syl Apps was the flag-bearer for the Canadian Olympic Team at those same Games.


David: Back in those days, the pole vaulters had to be pretty tough since the poles themselves were made of bamboo and the vaulters didn’t have a soft cushion to land on. Instead, they had to land on their feet in a sand pit. Despite that, the gold-medal winning vault for that year cleared over 14 feet!


Erin: Syl Apps managed to tie for 6th place along with 10 other competitors who could not clear the 4.15 metre or 13-and-a-half-foot vault.


David: Fun fact: the first and only tie for second and third place in pole vaulting occurred at the 1936 games when an American and two Japanese pole vaulters all cleared the same height. After the American athlete was eliminated during a tiebreaker event, the remaining two Japanese athletes refused to continue resulting in them each being assigned one of the medal standings. It was reported that following the Olympics, they cut their medals in half and had them melted down to create the first and only hybrid bronze and silver Olympic medals. 


Erin: Wow that’s pretty amazing David. But back to Syl Apps. Following his Olympic appearance, he returned home and began playing in the Canadian Football League for the Hamilton Tiger Cats. It was there that he was scouted and later signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the National Hockey League. 


David: Syl Apps played 12 seasons in the League with Toronto, winning 3 Stanley Cups and scoring over 200 goals throughout his career. 


Erin: After retiring from professional sports, Syl Apps was appointed Athletic Commissioner for Sport in Ontario in 1947. 


David: Apps had had his sights on a political career earlier, running for a seat in the 1940 federal election but ultimately losing out to the incumbent by a small margin of just over 130 votes.


Erin: His political aspirations remained intact upon his retirement from hockey, and he ran for office again, but this time at the provincial level. He represented the riding of Kingston from 1963 to 1967 before the riding was renamed Kingston and the Islands. 


David: Fun fact: did you know that the city of Kingston has its own Olympic connection? Kingston played host to the sailing competition during the Montreal Olympics in 1976. The Portsmouth Olympic Harbour remains active today with Olympic-style sailing events taking place every year.


Erin: The things you learn David! I didn’t know that about Kingston.


David: Always happy to help Erin. But back to the story of Syl Apps. He was named Minister of Correctional Services in 1971 and continued to serve in Ontario’s Parliament until 1975. 


Erin: On Christmas Eve in 1998, Syl Apps passed away at his home in Kingston, Ontario. After his death, the Toronto Maple Leafs retired the number 10 in his and George Armstrong’s honour, having both worn the same number on their jerseys.


David: Interestingly enough, Syl Apps’ granddaughter also has an Olympic connection. Gillian Apps must have inherited the hockey-gene from her grandfather because she played on Canada’s Olympic Women’s Hockey Team not once, not twice, but three times! 


Erin: Fun fact: Gillian Apps helped Team Canada win 3 gold medals in the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Vancouver, and Sochi.


David: That’s quite the accomplished family Erin! 


Erin: I know David. I couldn’t believe it when I first heard and made the connection. 


David: Although Syl Apps no doubt had a very impressive career in both sports and politics, he’s not the only MPP to have gone to the Olympics. In fact, there have been a couple of other more recent Members to have followed a similar path, like former MPP Peter Fonseca.


Erin: Peter Fonseca was born in 1966 in Lisbon, Portugal before moving to Canada with his family in 1968. After completing multiple degrees at universities in both Canada and the United States, Peter Fonseca competed in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia.


David: There, he placed fifth in the men’s 10,000 metre event; the top finish for any Canadian in that event.


Erin: From there, he went on to qualify in the men’s marathon event at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, in the United States. 


David: Fonseca placed 21st overall in the event, finishing the almost 27 mile [or 43 km] race with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 28 seconds. 


Erin: Fun fact: the winning time that year was 2 hours, 12 minutes and 36 seconds. 


David: After his appearance at the Olympics, Peter Fonseca set his sights on politics, running in the 2003 provincial election in the riding of Mississauga East, where he won the seat by a margin of about 3,000 votes.


Erin: He would go on to serve in Ontario’s Parliament for a further 7 years, serving in various Cabinet positions as well, including Minister of Tourism and Recreation and Minister of Labour.


David: He resigned his seat in 2010 to run in the federal election the next year. Although he was defeated, he ran again in 2015 and won his seat in the riding of Mississauga East-Cooksville.


Erin: As of the recording of this episode in 2024, Peter Fonseca remains the current Member of Parliament for that riding.


David: And speaking of current Members, did you know that one of our sitting Members in Ontario’s Parliament is also a former Olympian?


Erin: In fact I did David! The current Member for the riding of Simcoe-Grey, Brian Saunderson, was a member of Canada’s National Rowing Team in his younger years.


David: Born in 1961, Brian Saunderson went to school at the University of Western Ontario in London. There, he joined the rowing team and quickly showed his skill at the sport.


Erin: He went on to compete in three World Championships in rowing events, winning a silver medal as a member of the Men’s Eight in 1990.


David: Brian Saunderson also competed for Canada at two Olympic Games: in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea and in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain.


Erin: Saunderson finished in ninth place in Seoul in the men’s four and he placed eleventh in Barcelona.


David: He went on to become a lawyer after his Olympic career, focusing on civil litigation, real estate law, and wills and estates. 


Erin: In more recent years, he delved into the world of politics first at the municipal level, being elected deputy mayor and finally Mayor of Collingwood in 2018. 


David: In 2022, Brian Saunderson won his seat in Simcoe-Grey at the provincial level and has been serving in Ontario’s Parliament ever since. 


Erin: At the time that this episode was recorded, he was also the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General.


David: Well I don’t know about you Erin, but hearing all about these amazing athletes has given me some Team Canada spirit! 


Erin: I know what you mean David, I feel like I’m ready to cheer on this year’s athletes as they go for the gold in Paris! 


David: I wonder if any of them will end up serving in our Parliament one day in the future? 


Erin: I guess we’ll just have to wait and see David! 


David: Speaking of going for gold, it felt like we managed to fit in lots of fun facts today! How many did we get?


Erin: Hmm I think today we hit a grand total of 6 fun facts!


David: Maybe more like a silver medal effort then.


Erin: There’s always next time!


David: Until then! 


Erin: Thanks for listening to the ON Parliament Podcast, where we help spread the word on Parliament. But we’ve got to go, I think I hear the bells.


David: Go Canada Go!


Erin: The ON Parliament podcast is produced by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Social media by Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Additional research provided by the Table Research Office for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please support the podcast by sharing it with others and subscribing. For more fun facts about Ontario’s parliament, follow us on Twitter and Instagram@onparleducation. Et en français : @parloneducation. Thanks again and see you next time.