Robert Lorne Stanfield was born on April 11, 1914, in Truro, Nova Scotia. A lawyer he became president of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party in 1947; party leader in 1948;first elected to the provincial legislature in 1949 and premier of the province from 1956-67. He won the federal PC leadership in September 1967 and was elected to the House of Commons in June 1968. He resigned as party leader in 1976 having failed three times to lead his party to victory in general elections. He relinquished his Commons seat in 1979. Robert Stanfield died in December 2003. This article is based on a eulogy delivered in St. Bartholomew's Church, Ottawa, on December 19, 2003.
We will never know for sure, but it may be that reports of the Robert Stanfield's modesty were somewhat exaggerated. For example, upon his departure from federal politics, and upon hearing allies and adversaries fulsomely and in unison singing his praises, he was heard to remark that, all in all, he was probably just too good for this country anyway. On another occasion, I had drafted some notes for him, containing a sentence that began "In my humble opinion ..." He handed the draft back to me with that phrase erased, his wife commenting--without protest from him--"Bob Stanfield never had a humble opinion in his whole life".
What is truly remarkable about the tributes that came forth in the days immediately following his death was that it had been almost 30 years since his retirement from politics, most of them entirely out of the public eye. He published no memoir. There was no one tending a flame on his behalf or creating a mythology about him. Yet there has survived in the collective Canadian consciousness a vivid memory of Robert Stanfield as a leader of a major party, a man of civility, humanity, and integrity, who adorned our national life.
Almost 10 years ago, at a dinner in Ottawa celebrating his 80th birthday, Mr. Stanfield reflected on the good fortune that had been his throughout his life. He spoke first of his parents who had left him with the financial security to pursue a political career at a relatively young age. Then of his wives--Joyce and Mary who had predeceased him, and Anne who would be with him for the last 25 years of his life; then, of his children. Finally, the opportunity that politics had provided to know so many different people, across the widest spectrum of Canadian life, and to be joined with them in working for the betterment of the country. "This opportunity" he said, "has given my life a depth and a...