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Douglas Fisher, shown as a Toronto Sun columnist in 1979, died of complications from a stroke on Sept. 18, 2009 - a day short of his 90th birthday.
Douglas Fisher, shown as a Toronto Sun columnist in 1979, died of complications from a stroke on Sept. 18, 2009 - a day short of his 90th birthday.

Obituary

Douglas Fisher, 1919-2009 Add to ...

"He probably talked more than any journalist to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, except for [former]Globe editor William Thorsell, and I think they found each other kindred souls from places far removed from the big cities of Canada, although Mulroney, always with an eye for the media, knew he was writing for a rabidly Conservative paper, The Sun."

Almost as passionate about hockey as he was about politics, Mr. Fisher was an integral force in brokering the Canada Soviet Hockey Summit in 1972 and in developing Hockey Canada, serving as the organization's chairman from 1974 to 1977, as well as founding the Canada Cup Tournaments.

Douglas (Doug) Mason Fisher was born in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, just after the First World War, the second of four children of locomotive engineer Roy Waldon and his wife Pearl (née Mason). His parents were staunch Liberals, a political affiliation that would cause them some chagrin when their son trounced Mr. Howe at the polls.

Doug went to Sioux Lookout Public School and then Fort William Collegiate, graduating in 1937. He worked at a variety of jobs - fire ranger, watchman on the railway, construction, factory worker - until he enlisted in the Canadian Army early in 1940. He served with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons, an armoured car regiment that trained in Canada and the United Kingdom, before taking part in the liberation of Europe, following the D-Day landings in Normandy in June, 1944.

After the war, he used his veteran's grant to enter Victoria College at the University of Toronto. He dreamt of becoming a professional football player - he had the bulk, the height and the drive - but, alas, he lacked the necessary timing and co-ordination.

Thwarted athletically, he hit the books, earning a BA in modern history in 1949 and a Bachelor of Library Science in 1950. By then he had married Barbara Lamont, a fellow student and the daughter of a clergyman. The Fishers eventually had four sons named after the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, although they didn't appear in New Testament order, and a fifth son, they named Tobias from the Old Testament.

Mr. Fisher was a teacher/librarian at Port Arthur Collegiate in what is now Thunder Bay Ontario, when he toppled Mr. Howe in the 1957 federal election. The following year he held on to his seat when Progressive Conservative leader John Diefenbaker routed incoming Liberal leader Lester Pearson's party, winning 208 seats to the Liberal's dismal 48.

The CCF, which had won merely eight ridings, began the process which eventually led to a formal alliance with the Canadian Labour Congress and the formation of the New Democratic Party in June, 1961.

Mr. Fisher, who had always been politically on the right of the CCF, had adamantly opposed the merger, fearing that the trade union movement would become too strong a force in the party. He supported Hazen Argue for leader, but when Mr. Argue lost to Tommy Douglas and crossed the floor to sit with the Liberals, Mr. Fisher remained in the NDP.

About this time, Mr. Fisher, who was chronically short of money, began writing his Ottawa column for the Telegram, ostensibly to provide a counterpoint to the paper's Conservative political leanings.

As a political pundit, he could be irascible, especially about growing Québécois aspirations. He attended a constitutional conference at Laval University in 1961 and loudly insisted that Quebec culture consisted of nothing more than hockey hero Maurice Richard and stripper Lili St-Cyr and challenged francophones to prove the value of their culture to the rest of Canada. The fallout was huge, although he was able to resist efforts to force him to resign until he decided to leave politics in 1965.

When he failed in his comeback bid in the Toronto riding of York Centre three years later, he told The Globe that he was looking forward to bringing "critical finesse on the new Prime Minister" from his perch in the Press Gallery. "I want to see if adulation will spoil Trudeau as a person," he said in a comment that some thought was prescient. "I worry about [his]arrogance."

Mr. Fisher was so widely read, so knowledgeable about parliamentary procedure and so bitingly articulate that his column in The Sun was a must read until he finally signed off, at age 86, on July 30, 2006.

About the same time, he moved into a retirement home in Kanata Ontario. Globe journalist Roy MacGregor visited him there in June and found him sitting in a wheelchair, complaining about seeing "the colour of rust" when he contemplated his own faculties, but still reading three newspapers a day, scanning the news channels, watching C-Span and Question Period and continuing to worry about the country and the institutions he loved so well.

DOUGLAS MASON FISHER

Douglas Mason Fisher was born in Sioux Lookout on Sept. 19, 1918. He died on the eve of his 90th birthday from complications of a stroke in a nursing home in Kanata Ontario on Sept. 18, 2009. Mr. Fisher is survived by his former wife Barbara, five sons and six grandchildren. At his request there will be no funeral.

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