Keith Davey, the man they called The Rainmaker for his ability to orchestrate Liberal election victories, died Monday from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 84.
Born in Toronto on April 21, 1926, he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1949. Mr. Davey then worked for a decade as a sales manager for Toronto radio station CKFH while honing his organizing and political skills working the back rooms in campaigns for Ontario Liberal candidates. He quickly moved up the ranks becoming national campaign director for the Liberals in four federal elections between 1961 and 1965 - the era when the Liberals, under Lester Pearson, and the Progressive Conservatives, under John Diefenbaker, moved in and out of power in a series of minority governments.
A grateful Mr. Pearson appointed Mr. Davey to the Senate in February, 1966, two years before he stepped down as prime minister and leader of the party. In the Senate, Mr. Davey chaired an influential committee investigating concentration in the Canadian mass media and sat on several other committees including Transport and Communications.
He was summoned back to the organizational hustings by prime minister Pierre Trudeau after the Liberals' near defeat in 1972. He was a key strategist for the party's electoral victory in 1974, its defeat in 1979 and its return to power in 1980.
After John Turner, who succeeded Mr. Trudeau as prime minister in 1984, called a snap election, Mr. Turner belatedly summoned Mr. Davey to revitalize his faltering campaign in what turned out to be a shuddering defeat for the Liberals and a resounding landslide for Brian Mulroney's Conservatives. The following year Mr. Davey published his memoirs, The Rainmaker: A Passion for Politics, which included scathing criticisms of Mr. Turner and his leadership. He retired from the Senate in July, 1996, at the age of 70.
Mr. Davey, who lived with Alzheimer's for the past 15 years, is survived by his second wife, Dorothy, three children, two stepsons and his extended family. Funeral services will be held at Timothy Eaton Church in Toronto on Friday at 11 am.