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Others Say « Douglas Fisher



chretienMy first chat on Parliament Hill was with Doug Fisher, then an NDP member, now an Ottawa journalist. It was a difficult conversation because he knew little more French than I knew English, but it was a pleasant encounter. I had introduction to Fisher from Fernand D. Lavergne, who admired him as the guy who had defeated C.D. Howe in Port Arthur, and Fisher took me to the House of Commons.“You’ll be sitting there,” he said pointing to the back row. “Yes,” I replied, “but someday I’ll be there.” I pointed to the front bench. Then Fisher gave me some good advice. “The guys who go to the front bench are the ones who work.” “Don’t worry,” I said. “I will work.”

– Jean Chrétien, Straight From The Heart


Who are the best speakers in the House of Commons in the opinion of their fellow members? PM Diefenbaker, Paul Martin and Douglas Fisher are the choices.




Fisher has been the “Dean of the Parliamentary Press Gallery” for decades because he is so goddamn wise, and because of his unique background. He was a school teacher in what is now Thunder Bay, and under the socialist CCF (now the New Democratic Party) he astoundingly beat the famous C.D. Howe, Ottawa’s “minister of everything.”

– Allan Fotheringham



Representatives of both Liberal and Conservative parties have approached Fisher to try to switch his political allegiance. Despite his frequent and unfriendly jabs at them, Prime Minister Diefenbaker and Liberal leader Lester Pearson have each privately congratulated him on the quality of his contribution to House debates. In a Canadian Press poll conducted last year among MPs, Fisher and Diefenbaker tied for top place as the chamber’s most effective debaters.

– Peter C. Newman



In 1957, Fisher defeated C.D. Howe in one of the greatest political upsets ever. But sometimes Doug the Giant Slayer put his big foot in his big mouth and that endeared him to me. Fisher, the rising star of Canadian socialism, told a 1961 conference organized by young Brian Mulroney that French Canadian culture was really only hockey player Rocket Richard and famed stripper Lilli St. Cyr.

– Larry Zolf


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8 Responses to “Others Say”

  1. Jim Farrell says:

    As a CBC Radio broadcaster with a mandate to do pieces on local and regional history, I naturally interviewed Doug on the subject of his famous defeat of “Minister Of Everything”, C.D.Howe for the seat in Port Arthur. And if I’d already admired the man for his journalistic skills, I was blown away by his frankness, humility, good humour and the remarkable generosity he showed with both his time and his talent.

    Being an Expo-67 Canadian, I’ve collected a number of historical heroes: Mike Pearson, Tommy Douglas, Nelly McClung, Stephen Lewis… and now, Doug.

    Heaven for me would be hanging out with that crowd and discussing how we ended up with the Government we have.

  2. Ron Wood says:

    I don’t often get teary-eyed but I did this morning when I heard that Doug Fisher passed away one day short of his 90th birthday celebration. Doug was one of the all-time great Canadians, a political giant killer when he defeated C.D. Howe in 1957 in Thunder Bay, a legendary journalist columnist, avid promoter and supporter of hockey.. I first heard of him in 1957 and again in the late 60s or early 70s when he had become a newspaper columnist and then finally met him in 1966 and then had the honour of calling him a colleague in 1967 when I worked in the newsroom of CJOH-TV in Ottawa. Canada is in short supply of men of the calibre and stature of Doug Fisher. I am proud and honoured to have known him.
    Ron Wood

  3. Peter deRosenroll says:

    I am saddened to hear of your father’s death. Was he back in the Pentland house at the time? That would have been nice. Just one day short of 90 – the rest of us can only hope to live so long and with such clarity of mind and strength of intellect.
    I have many fond memories of time spent with your family. I remember as a child when we would explore your father’s den – the interesting towers of newspapers and stacks of documents. Books with incomprehensible topics for a 6 year old to fathom. I remember wandering into your house in search of Luke and having your father rising from his chair reading a newspaper to yell for you from the base of the stairs. Getting the opportunity to attend a hockey Canada game. Witnessing Fisher family discussions of current events or Canadian politics, so different from my own family experiences, yet so interesting and exotic. Your fathers car with the odd circular mark on the ceiling, due to his great stature his head pressed on the ceiling. Matthew’s story of how the Chinese tailors could not believe your father’s dimensions when he ordered custom track suits for the family. Later helping move your father out of his old office – all those files and filing cabinets. An office like in a black and white movie about old time journalism – the desk lined with cigarette burns, old type writer tables and of course stacks of newspapers and documents. I can see the newspaper comic of Doug the immovable force on the railroad tracks. For me it was a rare opportunity to have met and known something of a famous Canadian.
    My condolences to you and your family.

  4. Heather Prittie says:

    Hi Matthew
    I think I am a few years older than you and remember both your parents very well — social occasions at our house in Ottawa, over lunches in the Parliamentary cafeteria (my favourite place at the time). Over later years, during visits Dad often showed me and wanted to discuss pieces your father had written. Although sorry to learn of his passing, I’m glad to know he enjoyed a long retirement, and to get a chance to convey my respects to you and your family.
    Best regards,
    (Heather’s father served with Doug in the NDP caucus in the ’60s)

  5. Nancy Greene Raine says:

    I was so sorry to hear of the passing of your father. I remember well working with him on the Task Force on Sport report, and his excellent writing had a lot to do with the report getting the attention of decision makers at the time. He was a really good person.
    I know it is always a sad time to lose a loved one, but I’m sure your good memories will help ease your loss.
    Thinking of you,
    Nancy Greene Raine

  6. Robert Cheadle says:

    I join fellow students in celebrating a pretty good history teacher at PACI in 1957. Douglas Fisher had the courage to try to convince our grade 10 sophisticates that history and current affairs was interesting, challenging, even stimulating! Many will now reflect on the high school years, and remember those teachers who stand out, who had a lasting influence,and who made a difference in our life-choices. Douglas Fisher was certainly one of the best, respected, dedicated. An honorable Canadian of whom we can all be proud.

  7. Susan Reisler says:

    Doug Fisher was a guiding light for me when I started work as a journalist in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1970 – first for Canadian University Press, and months later, United Press International. Hard to believe but in those days it was a men’s gallery; Doug was not in that mould. He willingly shared his love of the country and vast knowledge of politics. He cared about Parliament, the institution. He had an I.F. Stone approach to journalism – read the record – Hansard, Committee reports. In there you find your stories. And of course, having been an MP, his relationships with other members gave him unique insight in to what was happening. His second home in my time was the West Block cafeteria.
    For some reason I remember that he always cared about my family, particularly my mother, although I can’t remember why he would ask. He cared about other journalists, particularly my friends at the CBC, which I later joined, and always seemed to be cheering us on. He was a larger than life presence, his office door was always open.
    I admit my memories are old now, frozen in time, but I do believe that Doug will be remembered not just for what he wrote on any given day, but what he shared with other reporters that surely influenced for the better what we produced.
    Susan Reisler
    UPI Ottawa 1971-75
    CBC Radio and Television 1975-2000

  8. Eleanor Dunn says:

    Back in the early ’70s, I was working at CJOH-TV in Ottawa as a reporter/editor/producer. “Talking heads” were still a big part of Newsline at that time due partially to technology limitations but also due to the station’s financial insecurity. When producing Newsline, one of my tasks was to line up one of the members of our stable of commentators to appear on Newsline the following day. All of these commentators were men of a certain age,this was in the days of women’s lib and I was a feminist. I dreaded calling some of them as they persisted in treating me as clerical staff, rather than as a serious journalist. But not Doug Fisher. He, along with Charles Lynch, were my favorites to contact. Sometimes one of the commentators would cancel — almost at the last minute. A call to Doug always brought a quick response, and in a flash, the hole in the news sked would be filled. He was able to explain a piece of legislation or an event in the House of Commons in a succinct, understandable manner, recognizing that not all of our viewers posessed degrees in political science. I admired him as a journalist and as a person and I was very sorry when he decided to retire — I missed his regular column in the Sun. My condolences to the family — especially to Matthew, whom I had the pleasure of working with when he started his journalism career at CJOH.