Stockwell Day: His Life and Politics

Fall 2000 CSANews Issue 36  |  Posted date : Mar 06, 2007.Back to list

All across Canada, the latest political buzz is about Stockwell Day, the former Alberta treasurer who has emerged as leader of the Canadian Alliance Party.

But just who IS Stockwell Day? Some media pundits tend to dismiss him as a racist, homophobic, bible-thumping western redneck. To a significant number of Canadian conservatives, however, Stockwell Day represents the hope for change. "It's percolating. It's moving. We're onto something historic here." They feel that Stockwell just might have the charisma, youth and enough French to unite the country and bring down Jean Chretien's Liberals.

Whatever your political persuasion, veteran political reporter Claire Hoy has written an informative book, revealing the behind-the-scenes development of a political leader, and an understanding of the political right movement in Canada.

This book, Stockwell Day, His Life and Politics, is written in a very professional journalistic, no-frills style. Regarding his personal bias, Hoy is blunt. "I am not a member of the Canadian Alliance, and have no intention of becoming one." He does, however, concede that if he had been a voting member of the Canadian Alliance, he would have voted for Stockwell Day.

Through interviews with family, politicians, business associates, constituents and Day himself, Hoy chronicles the life of a very complex individual.

This "Alberta cowboy" was born in Barrie, Ontario, the second of six children. His father was an executive with the Zellers merchandising chain and was transferred so often that Stockwell refers to himself as a "merchandise brat."

Throughout his youth, Stockwell lived in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and then back to Montreal, where he spent his teen years. When Day was 17, his father decided that there would be better family opportunities in the west, so they all headed to Victoria. Stockwell Day has literally been a Canadian from "sea to shining sea."

Stockwell's educational record is as diverse as his multi-provincial postal codes. At one point while living in Ottawa, he attended the prestigious all-boy Ashbury College, where he won the Woods shield of merit - an award given to the best all-round student. (John Turner had been a previous winner).

About his brief scholastic career at the University of Victoria, drop-out Day wryly comments, "I graduated very early, but they did not see fit to confer a degree upon me. I took the view that I wasn't going to let school interfere with my education, so I left school and continued my education."

Stockwell Day probably has the most colourful employment history of any current politician. He progressed from a deck hand on a fishing boat, to computers in Victoria. There he met and married the girl next door, Valerie Hall.

In 1972, the young couple moved to Kelowna, B.C., where their first son Logan was born. Day went into partnership with Valerie's father in an auction business. As an auctioneer, he learned to work an audience and understand the true basics of the free market system. Unfortunately, their building burned down and Stockwell and Valerie were left with a large debt and a young family. Sons Luke and Ben were born in 1974 and 1976. To make ends meet, Day worked as a lumberjack, social worker, meat packer, truck driver, Pentecostal preacher, teacher and interior designer. Finally, in 1985, Stockwell Day became an elected professional politician, representing the Progressive Conservative constituents of Red Deer in the Alberta Assembly.

Claire Hoy's book is certainly not a puff piece. He literally quotes the most vitriolic headlines and rumours that swirled around through the years. Day does tend to speak in controversial sound bites about such issues as abortion, gun control, homosexuality, and the justice system. Hoy does a good job of clarifying and putting some of these colourful comments in context. During these 15 years in politics, Stockwell Day has shown no evidence of having a "hidden fundamentalist agenda." He firmly believes that a politician must listen to his constituents and represent THEIR views. He doesn't, however, feel the need to apologize for his faith or belief in family values.

Claire Hoy does a concise job of charting Day's political rise to government whip, cabinet insider, and treasurer of Alberta. My only complaint is that I learned more that I wanted to know about provincial budgets, and not enough about Day's current personal family life.

Hoy's book leaves the reader with the conclusions that, in Stockwell Day, the Canadian Alliance party has elected "an articulate, bilingual, young leader, with experience in government and proven economic expertise. No wonder Liberals consider him a "scary" candidate. Whatever the outcome, Stockwell Day, His Life and Politics is an interesting read.