RIP: Fraser Smith

Some of you may already know the name Fraser Smith.  If you live in Sidney, you likely do.  He was on the Chamber of Commerce Executive, was a stalwart in Sidney by the Sea Rotary, and occasional member of Sidney Rotary as well.  His approach to tax deductible mortgages, “the Smith Manoeuvre,” helped many people buy homes who otherwise would not have been able to manage.

If you were a supporter of my campaign, you might have gotten to know Fraser for the first time. He spoke at the huge pre-election rally we had at the airport hangar — a businessman in the unlikely company of tree-huggers, poets and musicians.

I first met Fraser Smith at a fundraiser for my campaign.  A mutual friend had dragged him along.  He made sure to tell me he was a strong Conservative and long-time friend of Gary Lunn.  But that didn’t stop him from bidding on items at the Silent Auction and having a grand time.  I was an immediate Fraser fan whether he would vote for me or not.

Over time, we came to know each other better.  I knew that he had played a role (a significant role) in starting the Reform Party. He had worked closely with Preston Manning. He continued as a staunch Conservative, despite the changes within that party.  He was a big man with a heart just as big.  Kindnesses to many within our community were offered quietly and at the perfect moment.  Young people he mentored, kids who needed a helping hand, were all lucky to have Fraser throwing them a life line.

His road to Damascus conversation from Conservative to Green was dramatic.  Things had been bothering him in government policy.  The “tough on crime” agenda, building new prisons, made no sense to him.  In one of our Rotary meetings, we had a speaker talking about restorative justice.  Fraser started his question, “I am a staunch Conservative, but…” And that “but” led to a diatribe about how little sense it made to build more prisons when the crime rate is dropping.  He found Canada’s prohibition laws against cannabis to be wrong-headed and ineffectual.  And when he heard that the government wanted to make it an offense with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of six months in jail for possession of more than five marijuana plants, he was deeply troubled. 

At one of our Green Party events, he came walking toward me with a steely and determined look on his face.  His generally warm and generous smile was displaced by a storminess that made me think he might be angry with me for something.  Instead, he opened his wallet and withdrew two cards.  One was plastic, just like a credit card.  With a picture of the House of Commons in full colour, it read “2009 Leaders Circle Member” with the big blue “C” of the Conservative party logo.  The other displayed his membership in the Conservative Party of Canada.  It was plasticized paper.  He then proceeded to try to rip them up.  They didn’t rip.  “Here,” he said, “you keep them. Give me a membership form. I am joining the Green Party.”  And the he pulled out his chequebook.


That was just the beginning.  He wrote his entire client list and urged them to switch whatever previous political allegiance they had had to support my bid to be the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.  He decided we needed more billboards on the Pat Bay highway, so he registered himself as a Third Party and had big signs, (white background with green lettering), saying “Canada needs Elizabeth May in Parliament, but only you can elect her.”  He took out a two page ad in the Seaside Times to explain why he was voting Green.  He put himself and his reputation on the line, risking losing friendships of many years.

I write these words, tearing up, sitting at my desk in the House of Commons.  I have the cards Fraser tried to rip up on my desk. I have carried them with me as a sort of good luck piece ever since he gave them to me.  I will keep them in my desk inside the House of Commons from now on.  Fraser Smith played a significant role to elect me to the House of Commons.  I will work every day to improve decorum and respect, dedicating my service to his memory.

Ironically, at this moment, we are debating the Omnibus Crime Bill.  I have notes in front of me to point out, when I next speak, that the mandatory minimums for growing cannabis would be four years more than for sexual assault on a child. I write this as the government just succeeded in passing a motion to limit debate on the very bill Fraser found so offensive.

I owe a lot to Fraser Smith. So do many people in my community.  On Sunday morning September 25, he died unexpectedly from complications that may or may not have been related to cancer he was also fighting.  He leaves his beautiful and devoted wife, grown son and daughter and grandchildren. 

Let me leave you with the image I will hold in my heart of this wonderful man.  A man built on the basic principle with which God made mountains, strong, large and inspiring, with greying curls framing a face alive with mischief.  A huge smile on his face, a glass of red wine in one hand with the other holding a bottle to make sure everyone else’s glass was full.  Fraser Smith will be missed  — for a very long time.