Inside Politics

UPDATED - Farewell, @SenatorFinley: Former Tory election chair dies at 66

The Red Chamber has lost one of the most colourful characters. 

In a brief statement this morning, Human Resources Development Minister Diane Finley broke the sad news that legendary Conservative campaign strategist Doug Finley has passed away after fighting "a hard and very public battle with cancer": 

His death is a loss to our family, our friends - and to the entire country.

Although further details will soon be announced, I do ask that our family have some privacy as we prepare to formally bid farewell to a great man. 

Moments later, the PM offered his condolences as well: 

"It was with great sadness that Laureen and I learned of the death of Senator Doug Finley.   Our Government has lost a trusted adviser and strategist. Canada has lost a fine public servant. I have lost a dear and valued friend.

"Senator Finley came to Canada as an immigrant and in a long and remarkable career he helped build a better country. In the business world, he rose to prominence in several important enterprises, notably Rolls-Royce Canada.  He also expressed the love he felt for his adopted country through his work in the democratic process. Here his skills, style and passion were legend.

"When he learned he had cancer, Senator Finley faced this vicious opponent like the fighter he was. He continued to participate in Senate debates almost to the end, and shared information about his diagnosis and treatment with the public.

"A great Canadian has been taken from us, before his time. Laureen and I join with so many men and women from across the political spectrum, in extending our condolences to Doug's wife Diane, his daughter Siobhan, and all their family. You are in our thoughts and prayers."

Last winter, Finley was the subject of a lengthy -- and lovely -- profile by iPoilitics writer Laura Stone. 

At the time, he mused that he wasn't scared of dying, but was, as he put it, "more concerned about the process of dying": 

If I want to dig that hole for myself by thinking about that, then the process of dying will be even worse and longer. So look, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I'll deal with it when it happens.

"There's really not much else to say. I've got a great family, my wife has been brilliant. Anyway..."

When he mentions his wife, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, he begins to choke up. His policy advisor, Frank Parker, hands him a cloth napkin.

Finley rubs his deep blue eyes and looks down at his lap.

"It's just -- wife and family. I'll be fine. Let's talk about something else for a sec and we can come back to that if you want, but it will probably be better if I thought about something else."

He also shared his thoughts on cancer, politics and mortality with CBC's The Current last December. 

Senator Finley was 66, and despite his illness, had remained active in the Upper House until the end. 

Just last week, he rose in the Chamber to kick off final round of debate on a private members' bill that he co-sponsored with Conservative MP Larry Miller to protect cross-border waters from being exploited for bulk export. 

It was subsequently passed unanimously, and now awaits only Royal Assent before becoming the law of the land. 

UPDATE - From the Conservative Party of Canada:

It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we pass on our condolences and deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Senator Doug Finley on his passing earlier today.

"Senator Doug Finley's passing is a significant loss to the conservative movement in Canada," said John Walsh, President of the Conservative Party of Canada. "I am proud to call Doug a very good friend, and some of my fondest memories of him are of his tireless work in the building of this Party, his deep commitment to the Senate of Canada, and his passion for his home of Scotland. This, of course, all came second to his greatest love - his wife Diane and their family. He will be deeply missed by me and by all Conservatives across Canada."

"I join Conservative activists across the country today saddened to learn of Doug's passing," said Jenni Byrne, Director of Political Operations for the Conservative Party of Canada. "Doug was a friend and mentor, and in our time working together I grew to respect him very much. Doug helped turn the party into the disciplined organization it is today. He was also proud of his service to Canada by helping to give it an honest, accountable, and affordable Government. My thoughts are with Diane and Doug's daughter and grandchildren during this time."

From Leader of the Government in the Senate Marjory Lebreton:

It is with profound sadness that I learned of the passing of our dear colleague, Senator Doug Finley. Doug's path through life has been one of tremendous achievement and success. He was a gifted political strategist, a student of history and an accomplished Parliamentarian. Since being summoned to the Senate on August 27, 2009, he contributed greatly to the debates on numerous public policy issues, both in the Senate Chamber and in Committee.

He has been struck down by cancer but to watch him face this struggle was to catch the essence of the man. He never gave up, he displayed great courage, never complained and fought it to the end. We saw proof of this tenacity last week in the Senate when he was present on Tuesday for the vote to send C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Requirements for Labour Organizations) to committee and spoke on Third Reading of C-383, Transboundary Waters Protection Act which now awaits Royal assent. The description of a "fighting Scot" describes him perfectly.

On behalf of all my colleagues in the Senate of Canada I extend deepest and heartfelt sympathy to his loving wife, the Honourable Diane Finley, to Doug's family and to his many friends.

From Laureen Harper's recollections of the first time she met him to his last words of advice to a Conservative activist, the twitterverse reacts to Senator Finley's passing:
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