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In loving memory « Douglas Fisher



In Loving Memory
Douglas Mason Fisher, 1919-2009

Died peacefully in his sleep in Ottawa, September 18, on the eve of his 90th birthday. A ‘boy from the bush’, and proud of it, Douglas was born and raised in Sioux Lookout, a remote railway town in northwestern Ontario. He was the son of a CNR locomotive engineer, Roy Waldon Fisher, and his wife, Eva Pearl Mason. Doug was predeceased by his parents, brothers Gordon and George, and sisters Joyce and Irene. A miner, soldier, librarian, teacher, Member of Parliament, political columnist … the list goes on.

Doug was a great and very grateful Canadian. He applied his prodigious intellect and energy to a wide range of interests. A trooper with the XIIth Manitoba Dragoons, he served in Canada, England and northwest Europe from 1941-45. Though he lost many friends, Doug had a ‘good war’, and used his veterans’ benefits to attend Victoria College, U of T, where he was greatly influenced by professors Northrop Frye, Frank Underhill and Donald Creighton. He graduated with degrees in Honours History and Library Science.

Doug returned to northern Ontario (Thunder Bay) to set up a forestry research library and to teach high school history at Port Arthur Collegiate Institute. He came to national attention in 1957 as the ‘giant killer’ who defeated CD Howe, the Liberal ‘minister of everything’. He represented Port Arthur and Thunder Bay for the CCF/NDP from 1957-1965, winning re-election three times.

Doug was a ‘House of Commons man’, who befriended and supported MPs from all parties. He resigned his seat to focus on his career as a political commentator, writing a nationally-syndicated column three times a week for 44 years (Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun), and hosting a weekly political television show for more than 25 years at CJOH in Ottawa. He retired as the dean of the parliamentary press gallery in 2006.

Beyond politics and journalism, Doug made little-known but large contributions to public policy in sport and recreation, forestry, libraries, educational television, government and parliamentary reform and veterans affairs. A lifelong devotee of sport, he co-authored ‘Canada’s Sporting Heroes’ with his late friend, SF Wise. As a founding director of Hockey Canada, Doug brokered the deal for the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series and then the Canada Cup, opening a new era in international hockey. He also helped establish the first national coaching programmes for sport in Canada.

Doug is survived by his former wife, Barbara, their five proud sons – Mark, Matthew, Tobias (Mireille Nicholas), John (Huguette Houle) and Luke (Kamla Almeida) – and by his six grandchildren – Wendel, Irene, Alex, Emma, Sam and Ruth. The family wishes to thank the staff of Granite Ridge residence for looking after Doug’s needs so well for the last two years. It was Doug’s longstanding request that there be no funeral or memorial service. However, his family invites friends to remember a long life, well-lived, by posting their memories of Doug to this website.

Memories and messages have been posted throughout the site, see All Comments for a complete index.

Media Commentary
Roger Currie radio commentary on Douglas, Currie Corner


16 Responses to “In loving memory”

  1. George C Hoffman says:

    I am a wartime member of the Manitoba Dragoons and was well acquainted with Doug. It is with a great deal of interest and pride that we followed his career in public life.

    Waht a man ! He will be sorely missed by all of us.

  2. Chris Rees says:

    Doug Fisher really gave me a love of Canadian politics and helped me to understand that not everyone in Ottawa is a “Lyin’ Politician” as my Dad would say. Doug’s columns really brought the Ottawa scene and Canada to life for me. I’m too young to have seen him on the Hill but I hear he worked for Dief the Chief! Anyways I hope there can be someone to replace him. He did a tremendous job for Canada.

  3. Valerie Dennison says:

    To Matthew, Mark, Tobias, Luke, and John.
    Every time I visited Ottawa your father would either take me out for lunch, or we would talk on the phone for hours – about you, your children, literature – the list is endless. I came to know him through Tom and Dusty, and felt privileged that he would give me so much of his time. I always felt that I was lunching with – or talking on the phone with – an encyclopedia; an encyclopedia of Canadian political history, and encyclopedia of literature; an encyclopedia of sport; an encyclopedia of the Canadian Labour movement; an encyclopedia of WW11; a store of anecdotes of everyone and everything that ever passed on the screen of Canadian history.
    Last time we were in Ottawa, last year, in the middle of a snowstorm – and bus strike – I was unable to visit him; instead we talked on the phone for 2 hours – mostly about you all and his grandchildren. I will miss him; Canada will miss him. As Christopher Anderson wrote, earlier in these comments – he was a Titan.

  4. Crazy Canuck Ken Read says:

    We heard of your fathers passing this morning while reading the newspaper. Lynda and I convey our deepest condolences to you, your brothers and your extended family. Your father not only had remarkable impact on our country, his legacy lives on through all of you. There are just never enough sports-mad political columnists around.
    Warm regards,

  5. Dr. Andrew Pipe says:

    As did countless Canadians I learned of his death on Friday and immediately my thoughts went out to you and all of your family.
    The loss of a parent is wrenching; your father was a man of many talents and accomplishments and I know that he was immensely proud of you and all of your achievements.
    With my very deepest sympathies,

  6. Andy Shaw says:

    I will miss his presence among us. He was a great man.

  7. Lt.-Gen. Michel Maisonneuve (ret.) says:

    Heard about Doug on my return from Norfolk this weekend. Barbara and I want to send our most sincere condolences. I have to say I had heard of your dad before even meeting you, and used to read his columns quite often. He was an incredible Canadian, and I am sure you must have been very proud of him. As I read his obit, I noticed he worked and indeed represented Thunder Bay (in the days when it was still known as Fort William and Port Arthur). I don’t know if you and I ever discussed this, but I spent four years living and going to high school in Thunder Bay (1968-72). Anyway, our thoughts are with you, your mom, your brothers and entire family at this time of sadness.
    Please pass on to Tobias, Alexandre and all your family, our most sincere sympathies.
    Warmest personal regards,

  8. Christopher Alexander says:

    Doug was a titan – one of those dynamos combining energy and character in oversized doses which our generation quite frankly cannot match. We are cosseted, narrow-minded, escapist hedonists by comparison. He was the definition of the public-spirited Renaissance man.
    What an era he lived through! From Sioux Lookout to the Sun, from CD Howe to seedy Mulroney, he chewed over and chronicled it all – all the while spawning a dynasty. The tributes took me back to a greater – far greater – era of Canadian politics whose embers I only ever glimpsed. It also took me back to the Northern Ontario of Donald Lough, General DM Hogarth, Cochrane, Timmins and all the rest….
    Very best,

  9. Peter Worthington says:

    We were all shocked to hear about Doug. To those of us who are left at the Sun, the memories of how important he was to the paper lived on after his last column. I knew from you that he was getting frail, but still I viewed him as indestructible. Maybe from his attitude, which could be snarky at times when confronted with nonsense, but there was no crybaby in him, and he kept his complaints to himself. As you know, I admired him greatly and trusted him implicitly. I never viewed him in politically partisan terms, not even in the old Tely days. I think he always judged issues on their merits, not on how political parties did, or according to conventional wisdom of the moment. Anyway, just the idea that Doug Fisher was still around was somehow comforting. I don’t know your brothers, but from what one can tell, the apples don’t fall far from the tree. Again, while there’s nothing an outsider can say, there are a lot of people like me who miss him and will always hold him as an ideal to what a Canadian should stand for.

  10. Edouard Champagne says:

    My sincere condolences to you and the family.
    I know that you were very close to your father and that his passing will be an inspiration for you to carry on his journalistic legacy.
    Yesterday after having brunch with Lyn and Lenore (Henderson) McIntosh, (Lynn you remember as coach, CAST and of course both he & Lenore are from Thunder Bay) I got home and here was the news on TV of the passing of your father. We had just spoken about Dave Irwin, you and your father & his affiliation in politics etc…..
    I remember you father dropping by my office years ago, so I could forward mail etc. when you were following the CAST in Europe.
    And Life Goes On, mon ami!
    Bon courage and kind regards,
    edouard c.
    (retired Alpine Canada administrator)

  11. David and Teresa Jones says:

    Our deepest condolences.
    Teresa and I much enjoyed seeing and talking with Doug when we visited Ottawa. We even had a fascinating dinner with him at the Mill several years ago when he was still able to get around with only a cane. We talked not a word of politics–our discussion was essentially literature and history.
    What I particularly appreciated was his enormous breadth and depth of information and insight on Canadian politics. When I first met your father in 1996, it was close to the end of my tour as political minister counselor at the Embassy. I was barely able, after four years of study/experience, to get the outlines of some of the points he knew intimately.
    It was akin to trying to drink from a firehose.
    There were times, then and in subsequent years, that I thought he knew everything that had happened in modern Canadian politics over the past half century–and who did it, when, where, and why.
    We were aware that he was failing, and I recently when I attempted to assist a member of the Hill Times staff to reach him, it appeared clear that he must have been relocated to fully assisted living, which we could no longer access.
    In Japan, as you probably know, there are individuals with special skills and expertise that are designated as
    “national treasures.” Your father was such a treasure for Canada, and we were privileged to know him.
    Best wishes.
    David and Teresa Jones (former US diplomat)
    Arlington, VA

  12. Gary Mossman says:

    A remarkable life
    I am deeply saddened by the news of your father’s passing. I met Doug for the first time a few years ago, while researching a book on Lloyd Percival. We spent about four hours together at his home, discussing sports, culture, native issues, politics and forestry. His remarkable range of knowledge and insight were of immense help to me. He was also free and generous with his time whenever I would phone him for clarification or edification. In January I went to see him at the veterans hospital to talk about work I am doing on Fr. David Bauer. Even though he was not at his best, he still came up with a couple of observations and remembrances which no one else in the Canadian sport community could have offered me. Your father was a very important figure in Canadian political and sport history and will be greatly missed. I know that Chris Lang has been pushing for him to gain his rightful place in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. I am sorry that he will not be there for the induction, but I still look forward to the day.
    Gary Mossman

  13. Hon. Edward Lumley says:

    Messers, Mark, Matthew, Tobias, John and Luke Fisher
    It is with mixed emotions that I write this e-mail. On one hand, I am very saddened to hear of your father’s passing. On the other, I want to celebrate the life of a truly wonderful gentleman. I also feel very guilty in that I never took the time these last couple of years to visit with Doug when I was in Ottawa. Great intentions – poor execution.
    Like many former MP’s whom your Dad befriended, I truly enjoyed and respected our relationship. Not only was his advice and counsel on numerous issues appreciated but, on a personal basis, his public praise on several occasions made the sacrifices of public office most rewarding.
    He was one of the few pundits who really new what the profession of politics entailed and thus discussions with Doug were heartily encouraged. Even when he was in disagreement with one’s course of action, he was usually very constructive in his comments. With Max Keeping we had many sessions at CJOH as part of my ‘education’ program.
    Having shared his love of hockey, I always felt that he never received the true recognition he had earned for his efforts at Hockey Canada and, in particular, the Canada/USSR series. As I recall, he worked tirelessly for no compensation while others took all the credit. He never said anything, but you knew he felt slighted.
    This e-mail is already too lengthy, but I just wanted to add my voice to the many plaudits directed to your Dad. You already know what a very special individual he was and how much he was respected by those who had the privilege of knowing him.
    Sincerely yours,
    Hon. Ed Lumley
    Vice Chair
    BMO Capital Markets

  14. P. Anderson says:

    I remember Doug Fisher as a big guy: big voice, big body, big opinions. But always ready to listen. Such a sensible and wise commentator. Readers of the business magazine I edited in the 1980s, and where Doug’s column was among the best read of the lot, were indeed fortunate to have access to his insight. He lived large.

  15. G Lawrence says:

    As a young man of 17 in then Port Arthur(Thunder Bay) my first real interest in politics began in the Federal election of 1957.Mr Fishers shocking upset of the then invincible CD Howe was the catalyze for my support of the then CCF for a number of years.Mr Fisher and the then Saskatchewan Tommy Douglas where two of my political heroes.As I grew older my political leanings changed but never my respect for Mr Fisher and Mr Douglas. Two great Canadians and to this day despite my change of political leanings still have and had my respect and are two of my political heroes. My condolences to the family in their loss of their loved one. May they know that their father grandfather and possibly great grandfather will be remembered as a honourable gentlemen, a veteran, a school teacher, MP, journalist to name just a few of his many interests and accomplishments who left his footprint in his close to 90 year journey on this earth.We should all be so fortunate to have made such a remarkable, and accomplished journey.

  16. alan eagleson says:

    Doug was the catalyst who helped the 1972 Canada- Soviet Series take place. he took the leadership role with Hockey Canada when Chairman Charles Hay became ill.
    He worked with me and the late William Wirtz,owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, to make the series happen.
    Without Doug’s support, there would have been no series
    He gave similar support when I suggested the concept of The Canada Cup of Hockey in 1974.
    Doug knew more about sports,politics,and journalism than anyone i have ever met
    Northrop Frye said Doug was the brightest student he ever taught
    We have lost a great Canadian and I have lost a special and loyal friend