Canada

Former Tory leader Robert Stanfield remembered as man of 'great warmth, humility'

Former Nova Scotia premier Robert Stanfield dead at 89

Tributes continue to pour in following the death of former federal Conservative leader and Nova Scotia premier Robert Lorne Stanfield. He died Tuesday at the age of 89.

"Throughout his career, Robert Stanfield stood tall on the strength of his conviction and integrity and worked tirelessly and sincerely to improve the circumstance of his fellow citizens," Prime Minister Paul Martin said.

"I, like other Canadians, fondly remember Mr. Stanfield's great warmth, humility and compassionate nature, but also his intellect and humour."

"I tried to engage him further but he was leading a vigorous life and a very active life and he didn't want to change after a while," said former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who wanted to appoint Stanfield as ambassador to the United Nations.

"You know how modest a man he was. He had no pretensions about anything."

Stanfield died at Ottawa's Montfort Hospital, Senator Lowell Murray said Wednesday.

Stanfield served as federal Conservative opposition leader from 1967 to 1976. He was known within the party as the greatest prime minister Canada never had.

Allan MacEachen, the deputy prime minister under Pierre Trudeau, recalled Stanfield as a civilized person in the House of Commons with a low key and wry sense of humour.

He said people responded to his "inner integrity and commitment to country."

Progressive Conservative caucus leader Peter MacKay said on Wednesday that Stanfield had been "a prince of a man."

"He very much personified putting the country and public service first. He was a class act, he was admired by his adversaries as well as his compatriots," MacKay said.

Stanfield succeeded John Diefenbaker as leader after a bitter internal fight, but ran into the phenomenon of Trudeaumania in 1968. Known as a quiet humanitarian and a straight-talker, his slow-speaking style contrasted with Pierre Trudeau's youthful image.

In the 1972 election, Stanfield took his party to within two seats of victory. Two years later, Stanfield ran an election campaign on wage and price controls. He lost, only to have the Liberals adopt the policy later.

In the 1974 election, a photographer snapped a picture of Stanfield fumbling a football on an airport tarmac. It served to depict him as clumsy and inept, despite the fact he had been firing perfect spirals to a reporter for several minutes before the errant toss came his way.

He once said if he walked on water, the next day's headline would be, "Stanfield can't swim."

After politics he retired to his home outside Ottawa, emerging briefly to endorse Free Trade and the Meech Lake Accord.

Stanfield married three times. His first wife, Joyce Frazee, died in a 1954 car crash. His second wife, Mary Hall, died of cancer in 1977. He married Anne Henderson Austin of Toronto in 1978.

Born into a wealthy Nova Scotia textile family, Stanfield led Nova Scotia's Tories to power in 1956, becoming the country's youngest premier at the age of 41.

A private funeral will be held in Ottawa and the family will hold a burial in Halifax.