'As far as I'm concerned, it's irrefutable."
Paul Hellyer is in his downtown Toronto office on a Saturday morning, just as he is the first five mornings of every week, still driven at 85 years of age.
He has been finishing up a book, his 13th, that is part memoir, and so he has been looking back on a remarkable career that once made him Canada's youngest member of Parliament, that took him to key cabinet posts in the governments of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau and that had him run for the leadership of the two main national parties and even form his own political party.
Lately he has not been looking backward - but into the future.
A future in which humans will have to accept they are far from alone in this universe.
Hellyer's "irrefutable" evidence received a bit of pumping this past week. A Winnipeg group that tracks UFO sightings across Canada says 2008 produced a record number of sightings - 1,004 - a 25 per cent increase from the year before. Ontario and British Columbia were the hot spots, reporting 334 and 272, respectively, while Prince Edward Island had only two mysterious objects flying about, Nunavut one and Northwest Territories none.
And that is just Canadian evidence. There is also a report coming out of the Carnegie Institution in Washington that there may not be just one planet out there somewhere that is capable of creating and sustaining life, but as many as 10 billion trillion planets.
Astronomer Alan Boss says that he and others now believe that almost every star similar to our sun could conceivably have a life-harbouring planet orbiting it.
Boss believes there are 100-billion sun-like stars in our galaxy and 100-billion galaxies in the universe, numbers that would result in Vegas putting the odds far, far greater that there is life out there than that there isn't.
Boss, in fact, predicts that some time within the coming three years or so a planet very much like Earth is going to be found spinning around some distant star.
No sooner had Boss had his say than another cosmologist, Paul Davies of Arizona State University, was suggesting that we may already be sharing Earth with forms of life we cannot even comprehend.
"It could be right under our noses," said Prof. Davies, "or even in our noses."
Let others snort at all this, Hellyer says. He doesn't. He's been a true believer since 2005, when he stunned the cautious Canadian political world by announcing in a speech that, in his opinion, "UFOs are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."
He never believed so in the years that he was minister of defence, but in later years became convinced after watching a documentary on extraterrestrial life by the late Peter Jennings, a Canadian, and after reading a book on the 1947 incident at Roswell, N.M., where many believe a flying saucer crash was covered up by the U.S. military. Hellyer believes American intelligence has systematically sought to block or debunk any information that might convince people that life from other worlds often visits Earth.
"The cosmos is teeming with life," Hellyer believes.
His new book, as yet untitled, will be in three parts, the first part memoir, the second containing his views on religion and the third concerning his thoughts on what went wrong with world's banking and monetary system and how it, along with the environment, might be fixed. The current financial meltdown is almost precisely what Hellyer predicted in a previous book.
In Hellyer's musings about religion, he touches again on the possibility of other worlds, other life forms.
"I think there is a spiritual longing out there," he says. "People are so distressed at the present time by all that is going on in the world. The banking system has fallen apart. People worry there's a possibility of war between the Christian world and the Muslim world. We want something better."
This widespread longing, he suggests, covers everything from people actually hoping there is more intelligent life out there than here all the way to the remarkable rise of Barack Obama in the United States over the past two years.
"People want something with a wider world view," says Hellyer. "That's why Obama has been so well received.
"It's about hope - what we are all looking for."
The book, which he will finish in the next couple of weeks, will also contain a photograph of a UFO.
It was taken late last August, at twilight, from the dock of Hellyer's summer place in Muskoka.
Hellyer was not the photographer but says the man's name is instantly recognizable and that he has signed an affidavit verifying that under no circumstances was the picture rigged or altered electronically.
Hellyer believes, absolutely, that it is more "irrefutable" proof - even though he himself has yet to see a UFO no matter how often he looks up in the hopes of catching a glimpse of something unknown, perhaps unknowable.
"I haven't seen the Taj Mahal, either," says Hellyer.
"But I know it exists."
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