He's not rushing to rewrite the agency's marketing plan, but the city's economic development chief, Jeff Garrah, admits the "Palin connection" could be an asset when he's talking up Kingston to U. S. companies.
An online genealogical website, Ancestry.ca, has traced U. S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's roots to the Limestone City. Her great-great-grandfather, Francis (Frank) H. Oriel, was born in Kingston in May 1832, the year the Rideau Canal opened and construction began on a new Fort Henry.
Oriel appears to have stayed in the area until his late teens. His name is listed on Page 11 of the 1851 census for "Pittsburg, Frontenac, Ontario, Canada."
"I don't think I'd go as far as developing a Power Point card or a marketing strategy," said Garrah, chief executive officer of Kingston Economic Development Corporation, "but it's very interesting. If that ticket gets elected, it might get us in the door or be a neat quip to a U. S. company we're working with."
A spokesman for the McCain/Palin campaign based in Arlington, Va., said yesterday that he was reasonably sure that Palin has never visited Kingston or any other region of Canada or she would have mentioned it as part of her "foreign policy" experience.
He said Palin would not be available to discuss her lineage.
Mayor Harvey Rosen said that depending on the outcome of the U. S. election, "I would extend an invitation to have her come here and rethink things and regroup -- it's a lovely place to do that -- or extend a welcome hand to Canada."
That's not the approach retired Queen's University historian Geoff Smith, a former Californian, thinks the city should take.
Smith says Kingston should invite the plain-talking, moose-hunting vice-presidential nominee to visit the home of her ancestors, maybe show her the local rifle range and give her a tour of Royal Military College and CFB Kingston.
The Palin connection is a good excuse for Kingston to do some aggressive self-promotion, Smith says. Just knowing her great-great-grandfather was born here has made him sleep better.
"If [former Conservative premier] Mike Harris were still around," Smith says, "he'd be putting up signs on the 401 announcing Kingston as the 'birthplace of Palin.' Then in small, small, small letters there'd be the words 'great-great-grandfather Frank.' "
Smith also suggests the city erect a statue beside the one of Sir John A. Macdonald in City Park "to say this was not the father of our country." Palin could also be invited to speak at Queen's graduation -or, better yet, she could be the next "Homecoming queen," he says.
According to the notoriously unreliable online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Palin "is of English, German and Irish descent. "No mention is made of Canada in any other backgrounder on Palin, even though her great-great-grandfather's second marriage also took place in Canada when he married Ellen Dee in St. Catharines in 1870.
It's from this union that the Republican vice-presidential running mate descended.
Francis (Frank) Oriel and Ellen Dee, his second of three brides, produced a daughter, Alice Oriel, who married Charles Heath in 1872 in Illinois. Their only child, also called Charles Heath, was born in 1902.
The second Charles Heath married Nellie Brandt in 1928 and they had two children, a girl named Carol, and a boy named Charles, who is Sarah Palin's father.
David More, who is teaching a new course on Kingston history at St. Lawrence College, says he'll include the Palin connection in a coming class."I will certainly use it as part of the 'Brian Osborne Kingston-is-the-centre -of-the-world theme,' " More said. Osborne is a professor emeritus at Queen's and a well-known local historian and author.
Kingston and the Islands MPP John Gerretsen said that Palin's great-great-grandfather "was obviously a politician."
"Don't all great politicians come from Kingston?" he quipped. "There was Sir John A., and then there was some Flora character, and then some sort of long-serving mayor...."
Gerretsen, a former Kingston mayor, said Palin "obviously comes from good old Kingston political stock," but isn't convinced that she's presidential material.
"I have nothing against being the mayor of Wasilla [Alaska], but she keeps dragging that out. It's like being the mayor of Napanee suddenly qualifies you to be prime minister."
Retired historian Smith said that if Palin's Kingston connection is true, "and it probably is true, it's probably one of the least important moments in Kingston's history."