Say “Toronto” or “Ontario” and the immediate thought associations are with a somewhat blander version of North America: a United States with a welfare regime and a more polite street etiquette, and the additionally reassuring visage of Queen Elizabeth on the currency. But this part of Canada also has its quixotic and romantic dimension. It was to here that the Tory loyalists fled the American Revolution. In the village of Deptford, Ontario, on the banks of the local river Thames, the great Canadian novelist Robertson Davies cast and situated a trilogy variously composed of the elements of magic and exile. One of his chief characters, Percy “Boy” Staunton, gives up much of his life and energy to the cause of the Prince of Wales, a once dashing and promising young blade who shatters and demoralizes his admirers by falling under the thrall of a designing woman and abdicating the throne without a fight.
As I was led past a phalanx of guards to be admitted to Tony Blair’s hotel suite overlooking Toronto and Lake Ontario, I was mentally running through our previous meetings. … We were due to have a public debate: the first he had agreed to since he had left office.
Now he was traveling with a very small but devoted staff, and looking like a Prince Charming in exile. … The first two public launches of his new memoir, A Journey, had been disrupted or canceled. … Perhaps he was relying on the legendary politeness of Torontonians, and on the apparently more neutral subject of our dispute, which was religion. He now operates under the somehow touching name of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which can sound rather like a body set up to express faith in Tony Blair.