Bob McKean 1920–2005
By Dennis Steen
Life member, MISA Ontario
On December 6, 2005, a founding member, past president and good friend of MISA Ontario passed away. Bob McKean was 85.
In addition to his significant contributions to MISA, Bob also established a successful career as data processing (MIS) director for the City of Mississauga, Ontario.
He was also instrumental in creating the predecessor to MISA Ontario in 1967 – the Government Data Processing Users Group – which tried to bring colleagues from municipalities across Canada together. A conference was even held, but at that time so few municipalities had computer systems that the logistics were insurmountable.
As a result, Ontario municipal data processing and systems managers, mostly from the Golden Horseshoe, got together from time to time as a kind of informal “kaffe klatch” to discuss mutual trials and tribulations.
When the Province of Ontario took over municipal property assessment and planned to impose a new standard assessment system that would cause hundreds of programs to be rewritten, Bob helped organize a protest group. In 1969 a meeting was held with that group and provincial representatives.
Considering that the systems people represented a large population in Ontario, there was significant political pressure to listen to them, and their input was taken into account.
The need to have some say in what the provincial people were doing as well as influence vendors kept the connections going among the group. They began meeting, still informally, but more regularly.
I met Bob shortly after I joined the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in 1970. One of my projects was research and liaison with municipalities, primarily because I was one of the few people with an information systems background as well as an accounting designation.
Our initial encounter was somewhat influenced by Bob's negative experiences with provincial colleagues. When he found that I actually listened to what he had to say, however, our encounters became more of a cautious friendliness and eventually blossomed into a strong friendship – although he still delighted in comments about the province!
Bob was a firm believer in keeping costs down, an attitude doubtless dear to Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion's heart. In those early days he bought used computer equipment from companies going out of business.
Nevertheless he was open to new ideas, and Mississauga was one of the first municipalities to use scanners. He also believed in control over inventory. As a member of the Data Processing Managers Association (DPMA), he served as president.
Bob welcomed me to the informal meetings that preceded MISA. He also welcomed my comments, particularly when it would help with relations with the province.
The first inventory of computers and applications was compiled by that group, using Bob's inventory forms, and the results were typed by Frank Thickett of Etobicoke. When they realized that a more formal organization was needed, Bob was a strong voice and brought his DPMA experience to the discussions. Later, when MISA Ontario was formally established with by-laws and elected Executive, Bob and I became the constitutional experts and advisers.
He was also one of those who advocated bringing small municipalities into MISA Ontario and the creation of regional divisions. He supported the first conference in Ottawa in 1979 and was always ready to serve on committees.
Nothing fazed Bob. Some of you may recall the disaster that hit Mississauga when a tanker overturned and poisonous gas floated over the city, necessitating a major evacuation. In the midst of this, Bob continued with a planned meeting of the MISA Ontario Executive.
"Don't worry,” he said, “they've got emergency vehicles patrolling the area and, if the atmosphere gets dangerous, we’ll adjourn to other quarters."
When Bob retired in 1985, he still retained an interest in MISA Ontario although he pursued other interests too – the Masons, later the Shriners, golf and cruises. In fact, he was a member of the three MISA conferences held at Fern Resort in 1988, 1990 and 1994. The Conference Committee met at his Scarborough home – it was central, he had all the records, and you couldn’t beat his hospitality!
In the last few years I would have lost touch with Bob, had I not managed to find his new address. I planned to visit over Christmas, looking forward to talking about old times and new. Unfortunately, he had a fall from which he never recovered.
Bob is survived by daughters Joanne and Kathryn, and grandsons Ronald and Tom.
For all of you who, like myself, want to remember Bob, let me quote from his obituary.
“To honour (Bob) please raise a glass of good red wine or single malt scotch in a toast to life. Cook a good family dinner or bake a lemon meringue pie. Splurge on a marvellous restaurant meal. Enjoy these things and remember Bob McKean who loved good friends, good food, good talks and always a good joke."
So here's to you, Bob – a gentleman in every sense of the word and a good friend to MISA and to me.
MISA/ASIM Canada reports with sadness the death on June 20 of Nasim Karsan of the City of Richmond, BC. Nasim had been fighting cancer for six months.
Robert Surtees of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, director of communications/public relations for MISA BC, sends these thoughts:
“As I write this, I realize how great an influence Nasim had on the lives of others both through her actions and her gentle demeanour. Monday through Friday, Nasim was the manager of application systems at the City of Richmond, where she was highly respected and where she will be sorely missed.
“I came to know Nasim through MISA BC where she was executive secretary. Nasim was one of those rare people who always welcomed you with a smile, always had a kind word of encouragement and was always willing to take on a task and follow it through to completion.
“Her outlook on life was positive -- every cloud had a silver lining! As a member of the MISA "family,” Nasim will be missed by each and every one of us.”
Peter Bennett, manager of information systems for the City of Winnipeg and president of MISA’s Prairie chapter, died suddenly May 12, just two days before he would have travelled to Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, as co-chair of the Lac Carling conference and a founder of MISA/ASIM Canada.
The following is taken from an opening address to the Lac Carling conference delivered May 15 by Roy Wiseman, CIO of York Region, Ontario.
This is a day that Peter Bennett and his colleagues were looking forward to for a long time. At this moment Peter was to be on this stage, announcing the formation of a new organization called MISA/ASIM Canada.
After months of preparing the groundwork, representatives from five municipal organizations representing all provinces and territories in Canada met last night to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to form the organization.
As one of the founders of the Prairie chapter of MISA, and the president of MISA Prairie, Peter would have been one of the signatories to this agreement. It’s tragic that Peter didn’t have that opportunity, to celebrate and share this good news with everybody in this room. He would have enjoyed being up here.
Peter was a familiar face to any of you who attended previous Lac Carlings. You’ve seen him on this stage many times. He could be alternately serious and funny. Always very professional, he had a real presence up here. He represented the municipal sector extremely well.
Offstage he was full of life and boundless energy. He kept himself very fit, he ate properly – he did all of those things that we are all supposed to do and not all of us manage to achieve at his level. Again, it is tragic that at the age of 50 Peter has been taken from us.
Probably most of you in this room who knew Peter will be surprised to hear that he was 50. He had boyish good looks, and most people probably assumed he was 10 years younger.
At our meeting last night, Peter’s municipal colleagues were still in a state of shock. We were looking for an appropriate way to recognize Peter’s contribution. And really there is no adequate response, but one of the things we have done is to create a Peter Bennett Award to be presented annually to an individual who has provided outstanding service to MISA/ASIM Canada and furthering the municipal e-government agenda. We further agreed that the first recipient of this award should be Peter Bennett.
Friends and Colleagues Remember Peter
Victor Abele, senior director, Service Strategy and Delivery Improvement Policy and Service Transformation Services, Chief Information Officer Branch, Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat:
“I was horrified and saddened to hear of Peter's passing. A few words that describe the Peter I knew: positive, cheerful, generous, insightful, visionary and practical. He was a leader who will be sorely missed.
“I had the occasion to meet Peter about three years ago when we were initiating the eContact project. His approach to the business problem and the generosity with which he tapped into his team to support the effort were critical in the early days of that work. What struck me were his vision, and his practical approach to addressing the need. On a personal level, his humour and pleasant manner made the work enjoyable. He made Winnipeg one of the warmest places in Canada.”
Fawn Annan, publisher, Executive Products Group, IT World Canada Inc.
“Peter was a person who shared, and very few people share as much as Peter did. I am very sad. It’s a huge loss to us because he was a great contributor as co-chair of Lac Carling and as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of CIO Government Review. It’s going to be a lot harder for us to put those things together.”
Mark Cohen, enterprise security administrator, City of Winnipeg:
“I’d known Peter since pretty well the first day I started working at the City, almost 22 years ago, and we were on many a team together. His loss was a shock and a source of great sadness. The MISA award is a very touching and appropriate tribute.”
Georganne Dupont, information systems team leader, City of Airdire, Alberta, and president of MISA Prairie succeeding Peter:
“Peter was truly a ‘gentle man’ with a kind heart and encouraging words, who cared enough to want to make a difference. I will miss his friendly smile and sense of humour.”
Chris Fisher, general manager of information systems, City of Regina:
“I first met Peter at Lac Carling, as one of the Four Musketeers. Along with Roy Wiseman, Debbie Barrett and Per Kristensen, he rallied the municipalities, urging them to become more involved with the other government levels.
“For me, Peter constantly demonstrated the characteristics that have made MISA so valuable and successful – caring and sharing, along with a willingness to pitch in and help. I will miss my friend and colleague very much.”
Greg Georgeff, corporate chief information officer, Province of Ontario:
“Peter was a consummate gentleman, and a professional in every sense of the word.
“It was a pleasure to work with Peter. He always brought a high degree of passion and enthusiasm to his role. He never shied away from a difficult situation, and brought refreshing insights to bear. We have lost a great partner, and we will miss him.”
Per Kristensen, chief technology officer, City of Nanaimo:
“Peter was a leader and motivator for all of us in local government. His loss will have a real impact on us, because he was one of the key drivers in working with the Lac Carling conference and to get local government organized right across the country. And he was a fantastic guy, a very nice individual.”
Lori McMullen, first CIO of the Province of New Brunswick and winner of the Heintzman Leadership Award for 2005 presented by the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service:
“There is a community of unsung heroes across the public service of Canada. They work in all orders of government and across many disciplines but they have one objective in mind – to deliver the best service they possibly can to the citizens they serve. Peter Bennett was not only a member of this community but a leader and committed spokesman for citizen-centred services.
“Peter shared his vision and passion in a quiet, unassuming but unwavering manner, commanding not only the respect of his colleagues from across the country but also their affection.
“As his colleagues, we will miss Peter's professionalism, pragmatic approach and passion. As his friends, we will miss his wit, his charm and his ever-present smile.
“Thank you, Peter, for being a part of our community.”
Alan Mitchell, consultant with Chartwell Inc.:
“Peter was a friend since 1977, a peer in information technology and innovation and a leader who always remained calm, cool and collected in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Thank you, Peter!”
Kevin Peacock, branch manager of corporate information services, City of Saskatoon, and chair, Interim Executive, MISA/ASIM Canada:
“MISA/ASIM Canada and MISA Prairie have lost one of the best. The leadership he provided and his desire to support and push the municipal agenda with the senior levels of government will be sorely missed. His quiet diplomacy and calming influence enabled us as a group to gain consensus and move forward. He will be hard to replace and his dry humour will be missed by all.”
Louis Shallal, director of information technology services, Region of York, Ontario:
“Peter was a professional who always had an open mind to the ideas of others. He did not hesitate to step forward and meet future challenges.
“Peter was a consummate diplomat who masterfully navigated the collaboration sea connecting federal, provincial and municipal levels of government while maintaining close relations with the colleagues he represented as well as with the private sector, which gave him recognition and respect.
“Peter will be sorely missed and his spirit was with us, the group of 10 who signed the MOU to form MISA/ASIM Canada. He was obviously most deserving of the Peter Bennett Award.”
Peter leaves his wife Renate and children Stephen and Kaitlyn. Renate Bennett sent the following message to the MISA/ASIM Canada Interim Executive:
"Please pass on my thanks to the people of MISA Canada for the lovely floral arrangement which you sent in Peter's memory.
“Peter was proud to be a part of MISA and took his involvement in the organization seriously.
“He approached his work as he did his life; with honour, respect and enthusiasm.”