He’s made some of the biggest campaign gaffs in Canadian history yet he may be one of the country’s most resilient politicians.
Stockwell Day surprisingly announced Friday that he will not seek re-election in the next Federal election.
The announcement was timed so as to assuredly hit the end of the week’s reporting cycle, with a press release arriving in email in-boxes at 8:50 p.m. By then, editors and key reporters of Okanagan media were away from their offices, ensuring the announcement wouldn’t be front page news Saturday.
In a way, it was one of the more subdued moments in the political life of Stockwell Day — a quarter century of service punctuated by unforgettable moments.
Day spent 14 years in provincial politics in Alberta before he made the leap the federal stage. His time in Alberta was not without controversy, including a defamation suit against Day in which the Government of Alberta paid out more than three quarters of a million dollars to settle.
In 2000, Day took a run at the leadership of the fledgling Canadian Alliance party and won with 44 per cent of the vote. In order to sit in the house, Day ran in a by-election in the riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla. The riding was vacated by then MP Jim Hart.
It was during that campaign that Day showed up at his first press conference on a jet ski — a calculated publicity stunt meant to make Day appear youthful and energetic but widely seen as being a foolish stunt.
Following the 2000 by-election, Day was dogged by accusations of homophobia and of having an extreme right wing Christian agenda. There was Day’s statements that he would use the Notwithstanding Clause to block a Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Day’s comments towards a belief in a young Earth theory and the supposition that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.
Not to make a pun, but at the end of the Day, none of it really matters.
Okanagan media could hardly ignore the jet ski incident, but it was the national media that sent the story into the stratosphere and made it seem like the dumbest stunt ever pulled by a politician.
According to the flavour of national news stories over the years, Stockwell Day should have long ago crawled under a rock. And yet here, in the Okanagan, the man just kept on getting elected. Not just elected, but elected by such comfortable margins that it was a safe bet to call the election before the first ballot was cast.
That Stockwell Day would be elected next time around was as much as truism as stating the sun will come up tomorrow. As much as this area is Conservative and just leans that way, Day’s electability had to do with the man himself.
Forget the goofs and gaffs. Forget that Day was in cabinet for years, was at times one of the most powerful people in the country and has jet-setted around the world representing Canada. In the Okanagan, little of that mattered.
What matters here, to the people here, is here… not anywhere else. What matters to West Kelownaians and Peachlanders and Summerlanders is the immediate, the here and now, roads, sewers, water systems. To that end, Stockwell Day was a consummate politician at the local level.
First off, although an MP and a minister and due the salutation the office holds, around these parts Stockwell Day was for many just Stock.
“Hey Stock,” was a normal greeting and it wasn’t from lack of respect; it was because that’s how everyone knew him.
From an MP standpoint, Stock represented this riding very well. He knew what the issues were in each community. He showed a genuine interest in the concerns of the area and in finding solutions. He was proactive when it came to making sure local governments and community groups knew about programs and funds available.
When it came to government grants, Stock went to bat for his riding and it shows in the countless infrastructure projects undertaken during his tenure.
Nearly legendary was Stock’s door knocking. Minister-be-damned, if there was an election on, you could count on Day walking residential streets and knocking on the doors of constituents at a dizzying pace.
Perhaps the single trait that enamoured Stock to his constituents was his desire to simply be there. Stock showed up everywhere, at community events, ribbon cuttings and more. One day he’d be in China talking to senior government officials and the next he’d be driving a convertible in the Peachland Canada Day parade, just as comfortable as you please.
Thanks, Stock. You did good.