Bruce Kyereh-Addo, a charismatic figure in Conservative political circles who was inspired to work in politics after growing up in a community housing complex in Scarborough, in east Toronto, died recently at the age of 33. The oldest of four siblings raised by a single mother from Ghana, he had a tough upbringing, witnessing some of his friends die or go to jail.
“It was definitely rough growing up … that’s what gave him the motivation and the push to say, ‘You know what? I don’t want to be in this environment anymore,’ ” his younger brother, Jessie, said.
“‘I want to make [life] better for myself.’”
Outgoing, positive and effortlessly likeable, Mr. Kyereh-Addo was born on Oct. 10, 1985, in Scarborough. His mother was pregnant with Bruce when she and his father arrived in Canada; his father, who was in and out of his children’s early lives, died many years ago, Jessie said.
Mr. Kyereh-Addo got his start in campus politics at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he studied law. He worked briefly on Parliament Hill and in the British Columbia legislature, and helped out on conservative campaigns across the country, including for United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney in Alberta.
He most recently settled back in Ontario, where he was in charge of canvassing for Environment Minister Rod Phillips’s provincial election campaign in Ajax, Ont. He became director of operations in Mr. Phillips’s office at Queen’s Park, with plans to move to Ajax, an eastern suburb of Toronto, this year.
“He had this real desire and belief … that things didn’t have to be the way they were. That there was the chance for opportunities for more people,” Mr. Phillips said.
“To be both effective and to be well loved – those are not usually attributes you find together, but you found those with Bruce.”
Large in stature and personality, Mr. Kyereh-Addo had an innate ability to connect with people of all backgrounds, and his friends believed he’d one day end up in elected office.
“I thought he should be a public figure,” said Nick Bergamini, a former Conservative staffer who met Mr. Kyereh-Addo at Carleton. “You know some people are meant to be behind-the-scenes staffers? He should be in office, and I think he would have got there at some point.”
But Mr. Kyereh-Addo was not able to pursue that path. He died unexpectedly at his mother’s home in Scarborough on Christmas Eve.
Laryssa Waler, executive director of communications in Premier Doug Ford’s office, has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help support Mr. Kyereh-Addo’s family. So far, the campaign has raised almost $22,000 toward its $30,000 goal. A funeral service and a celebration of his life will be held on Jan. 19.
Mr. Kyereh-Addo’s mother, Christine, said her son acted as a father figure to his three younger siblings, who also include brother Sam Jr. and sister Joy. He was especially close with Sam Jr., who has autism, and Mr. Kyereh-Addo would often set aside his Friday nights to watch movies and order pizza with his family.
“He always had a dream of doing something big for me and his brother, [to] make sure we are happy, and we [would] move out of here and everything. Be in a better place,” Christine Kyereh-Addo said.
“I have a big loss. My heart is torn into pieces. I don’t know how I’m going to live without him.”
Jessie Kyereh-Addo said Mr. Kyereh-Addo’s sudden death has resonated in their close-knit community. “A lot of the youth from this neighbourhood, they look up to my brother and they’re crushed because that’s their motivation, right? That’s the guy that they look up to – like if he did it, we can do it, too,” he said.
Friends say Mr. Kyereh-Addo was drawn to Conservative politics because he believed in hard work and equal opportunity.
He got his first taste of campaigning at Carleton, where he sought to challenge the establishment as an outsider candidate running for president of the students’ association. Mr. Kyereh-Addo won the popular vote, but was later disqualified for reasons his supporters say were unfair.
Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who worked with Mr. Kyereh-Addo during his run at Carleton, said his friend had an “electric likeability” that drew people to his message. He recalled Mr. Kyereh-Addo walking through the university’s underground tunnels, greeting and shaking hands with everyone he saw.
“He had an aspirational kind of conservatism that was borne of his background,” Mr. Genuis said.
“He wanted to buy into a political philosophy where everybody had a shot and could take that shot, and that’s what I think made him a Conservative and what motivated him to succeed in politics.”