Hugh was a great Canadian.
Since his passing in the early evening of August 9, Canada’s
political and public policy community has paid tribute to an extraordinary life
spent in the service of his fellow citizens. Prime Ministers past and present
have spoken of Hugh’s singular contribution to his country.
For five decades Hugh was at the table when history was
being made: as an adviser to former Ontario Premier William Davis in the early
1980s during Canada’s constitutional coming of age; a decade later as chief of
staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; and later as a candidate for the
leadership of the then Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. More recently,
Hugh helped lead the Commonwealth through a difficult period as the Canadian
member of its Eminent Persons Group. Hugh was proud to have served and met Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The specifics of Hugh’s biography constitute a list of
accomplishments that have been recognized by his province, his country and
academia. Hugh is a member of the Order of Ontario, is an Officer of the Order
of Canada, and is the recipient of multiple honorary doctorates. But the real
story of Hugh’s life goes beyond the honours list.
Family was always first and foremost. Hugh was smart enough
to defer to his wife Donna’s superior life skills, and unabashedly doted on his
daughter Jacqueline. He shared with them a lifelong love for the Habs (or, in
his case, was it the steamés they served at the old Forum?) and getaways to the
family cottage on Charleston Lake. Their well-being was all. Hugh celebrated
their every success, and he loved them both for their unfailing support and
Hugh had an unwavering commitment to the Canadian Armed
Forces; in particular The Royal Canadian Navy and Canada’s Reserve Force -
including all their uniforms. He found joy in salmon fishing, and the hours
before and after with his friends, in anticipation of, and recounting the one
that got away. He unapologetically continued to love his BlackBerry.
Hugh was a thought leader. As an author, pundit, newspaper
columnist, political partisan or advocate for specific public policies, Hugh
helped shape the nation’s political discourse. He embraced the causes of those
who had a difficult time finding a voice, or who had no voice. He could speak
eloquently and passionately while making the case for a universal basic income,
the value of democratic institutions, and needed foreign security and defence
policy. Hugh’s world was one of ideas, of engagement, not talking points.
Hugh was a mentor. Whether he was in a classroom at the
School of Policy Studies at Queen’s, or the principal’s office at Massey
College; in a campaign war room or a business board room, Hugh sought out young
talent and took a direct interest in their development and growth. He was proud
that many of them are now in the news in their own right- leaders in business,
in politics, in the world of public policy.
Hugh had the courage of his convictions, based as they were
on a bedrock of principle - he walked his talk. He championed the causes he
embraced, whether he was at a political rally, a policy conference, in the
Senate Chamber, or a corporate board room.
Loyalty was a given, and generously extended to friends he
Hugh’s laugh was a defining feature of his persona, his
humour at once infectious and, where warranted, mischievous. Hugh was funny all
the time, even when he was irritated. His humour was often self-deprecating,
always on point, witty, and good natured.
Hugh’s laugh and steadfast commitment to the causes he held
dear, especially when the going got tough, gave rise to the descriptive “happy
warrior.” In all things and throughout his life, Hugh was emphatically both.
He will be missed.
Hugh is survived by his loving wife Donna, treasured
daughter Jacqueline (Teaghan), brothers Seymour (Marjolaine) and Brian (Bunny),
brothers-in-law Roy (Marion) and Fraser (Anna) and will be missed by many
nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends at the Robert J. Reid &
Sons Funeral Home 309 Johnson Street (at Barrie Street) on Thursday August 17th
between the hours of 4-7 p.m. Funeral Services for close family and friends
will be held at Grant Hall, Queens University, on Friday August 18th at 1 p.m.
A public celebration of Hugh’s life will be held this September, with more
details to be shared soon.
The family would like to thank the staff at Kingston General
Hospital ICU for their incredible and compassionate support.