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"SOB" 2003 Obituary


SOBEY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-18 published
Nova Scotians proudly recall a political icon
By Kevin COX, Thursday, December 18, 2003 - Page A10
Halifax -- To many Canadians, Robert STANFIELD was a hard-luck opposition leader in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in his home province, he inspired fierce pride as a political icon.
Yesterday, the flags flew at half-mast at Province House, where he served four terms as premier from 1956-1967, and mourners signed a book of condolences for Mr. STANFIELD, who died in Ottawa at 89 on Tuesday.
"Robert STANFIELD brought a remarkable understanding of our country based on respect, strength and civility that was, and is, missing in public life," Premier John HAMM said yesterday. Mr. HAMM's low-key country style has been compared to that of Mr. STANFIELD. "We will always wonder how Canada would have moved forward with Robert STANFIELD as prime minister."
Colleagues remembered him as a compassionate, honest and decent leader who reluctantly entered partisan politics in 1949 to rebuild the Progressive Conservative Party after it had been shut out in the provincial election three years earlier.
He took the unusual step of refusing to attack the governing Liberals under long-time premier Angus L. MacDONALD, and instead chose to build up the Tory organization, which would dominate the province for decades.
He overcame the tragic death of his first wife, Joyce, in a car crash in 1954 and took the Conservatives to power two years later.
Senator John BUCHANAN, who was Nova Scotia premier for 13 years, recalled campaigning as a political rookie under Mr. STANFIELD's banner in 1967.
"Bob STANFIELD was a household name in this province. In my constituency, I would meet people I had never known before and they'd look at the badge I was wearing and say, 'Good, you're a STANFIELD man.'"
Mr. STANFIELD's folksy, earnest manner, coupled with an often self-deprecating dry wit, disguised an ambitious reform program that he brought to the economically depressed Atlantic province with a tradition of political patronage.
Under Mr. STANFIELD, the Tories undertook sweeping education changes, building several new schools, introducing vocational institutions and providing more funds for universities.
But his most controversial move was to establish one of the first provincial economic development agencies in Canada -- Industrial Estates Ltd. -- to attract industry to the province.
Entrepreneurs including grocer Frank SOBEY signed on to provide provincial money to bring businesses to Nova Scotia.
The agency had a couple of embarrassing failures that cost the government millions of dollars, but also created thousands of jobs.
Mr. BUCHANAN also spoke of Mr. STANFIELD's calm demeanour.
The senator recalled Mr. STANFIELD placidly watching in a Halifax curling club as the results came in from the 1972 election when the tally was seesawing and jubilant supporters believed that he would become prime minister.
"About 11 p.m., he just decided that he and his wife would go back to the hotel and they were going to get a good night's rest and see what would happen the next day," Mr. BUCHANAN recalled.
The next morning, Mr. STANFIELD found out the Liberals had won the election by two seats.
The homespun, Lincolnesque qualities that endeared Mr. STANFIELD to Nova Scotians were no match for the emotional Trudeaumania that swept the country in the 1968 election campaign.

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