Wednesday, March 7, 2018



It symbolized the political meteorite known as Chris Stockwell that after he died of cancer at 60 - far too soon - there was no service but friends gathering in a Bloor St. W. pool hall to lift a glass to his memory.
Now The Crooked Cue is a vast improvement on the seedy ones of my youth where I lived, or died on the black, as I shot more snooker than I studied. (No drinking from a brown bag in the corner here either!)
Except Chris was once a young star in Toronto politics, both municipally and provincially. He played for keeps not on green baize but the carpets of power.  He had blazed there but then collapsed to a dreary end triggered by an expense account scandal involving a trip to Europe where he had been treating the family after marital difficulties. He was allowed to resign.
Yet he had once glowed in the media with apt quotes and fiery feuds. A veteran from his wars recalled Stockwell as one of the fastest man with a quip he had ever seen, one reason Chris made such a great Speaker in the bear pit of the Legislature where faltering words can blight a career.
Chris came from a family used to being in newspapers. His grandfather had been a character as the Argo trainer. His father Bill had been an acting mayor, veteran councillor and top administrator at the Ex and in GTA municipalities. He still is a Wasaga Beach councillor.
The Stockwell were so woven into city life that they kept the Grey Cup one winter behind the living room couch and the mother grumbled it made dusting difficult.
Chris was a terrible student because of dyslexia but he made up for early difficulties by a populist appeal, fearless common sense and a dislike of lazy BS from his colleagues that got him elected at only 25. A Tory who wasn't afraid to say the Grits could be right on the odd issue.
I recall a column I wrote supporting him when he ran later for Board of Control in Etobicoke. (We no longer have controllers, which were elected across a municipality and formed a cabinet selected by the people. Pity we don't because some tame councillors selected by mayors for their executives couldn't supervise a doghouse.)
Chris distributed thousands of copies of my column around the suburb. And one of the incumbents, David Lacey, sued me for libel, and Chris for the reprint, because I had punned on his last name, calling him Lazy because he walked through the job. So cool you weren't sure he even voted.
Chris had no money and phoned me quite upset. I told him that being sued was no big deal.
 I was named as Editor in all the legal actions against the Toronto Sun as well as suits against my column, and had never lost even though the complaints could be weird. One of the three from Jack Layton claimed damages because he had run into an "illegally placed" Sun box with his bike. A restaurateur sued, mainly, I think, because I wrote he used too much garlic on the steaks. And Anne Johnston, a friend who had once asked me at a municipal convention to beat up a Newfoundland mayor who had made a pass at her on the dance floor, sued me for a reason that I had never quite understood. It seemed the lawyer wanted the work.
I took pity on Chris in this case and talked the Sun lawyer, Alan Shanoff, into representing Chris as well, for free. Then Shanoff phoned one day saying that our interests, and those of Stockwell, had now diverged and Chris should get his own lawyer.
So I recommended a friend, a lawyer very well connected in Conservative and legal circles. And Chris and this lawyer waited while I laboured through the prelims, such as Examination for Discovery. Lazy, I mean Lacey, finally dropped the suit. Even though I don't think the lawyer did much for Chris, he charged him $35,000, as Chris lamented to me after he got over his shock.
Oh yes, the position of Etobicoke controller paid $32,000 a year.
Life often is unfair.  As Chris discovered then, and in the last years of his life, when all the promise had flickered out and he, once a lauded Speaker and capable cabinet minister, couldn't even get appointed by his former colleagues to fill out a term in a vacant riding.


Tim G, said...

Clearly Chris wasn't ready to be co-opted, as is required for any success in politics. He will be missed and his dying young proves that life is unfair.

Kim McConnell said...

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