Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hill Times tribute to W. T. Stanbury

Erudite, authentic Hill Times columnist Stanbury, ‘a giant’ in academic area of democratic reform, dies at 68

W.T. Stanbury was one of those remarkable minds who don’t come along too often, says Armine Yalnizyan, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

By KIRAN RHINES | Nov. 21, 2011

W.T. Stanbury, who had written a popular weekly column since 2002 for The Hill Times and was considered a “giant” in the academic world of government accountability, died last month at his home in Mexico from a terminal illness. The former economist, professor, and prolific author died on Oct. 27 at the age of 68.

Mr. Stanbury had a long, industrious career in business and economics. He received a bachelor of commerce from the University of British Columbia, and his MA and PhD degrees in economics from the University of California at Berkely. He was a professor of commerce and business administration of the University of British Columbia from 1970 to 2000.

Between June 1978 and August 1980, he also worked as director and later research director of the regulation reference at the Economic Council of Canada. From there he became director of the regulation and government intervention program at the Institute for Research on Public Policy. Mr. Stanbury also served on the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Finances from 1989 until 1991.

“Though he was a professor of economics and not a political scientist, he had come to focus his active curiosity and lively intelligence on the structure and operations of the Canadian political apparatus,” said Thomas Hall, a retired House of Commons procedural clerk, and collaborator with Mr. Stanbury on several columns in The Hill Times over the years.

“One of our articles, on judicial appointments, in [The Hill Times] even led to correspondence and a conference call with the Baroness Prashar, who was then chair of the English Judicial Appointments Commission,” Mr. Hall said. “Bill joked that if I stuck with him, he’d introduce me to new people and things. That he certainly did.”

Over the span of his illustrious career, Mr. Stanbury wrote more than 250 publications, including more than 30 books, on a wide variety of subjects such as competition policy, government regulations, and intervention on the market, and government implementation of financial policies.

“He spoke the truth and tried to cut through all the hype and nonsense in evaluating government policy,” said Brent Fullard, president of the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors. “That made him a bit of a rarity. There’s too few people out there who speak truth to power and he did so with authority. I have enormous respect for him and the approach he took.”

Mr. Fullard and Mr. Stanbury had maintained a professional relationship since 2007. Both men did advocacy work against the income trust tax implemented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) Conservatives in 2007.

Mr. Stanbury wrote many articles that criticized the tax. In his last days he wrote one last book, which was an in-depth analysis of the income trust tax. It was his dying wish to have it finished before he passed away, said Mr. Fullard. The book is on the verge of being published in an electronic edition on

He was also the author of many other books, including Business-Government Relations in Canada: Influencing Public Policy, Canadian Competition Law and Policy at the Centenary, co edited with R.S. Khemani and Money in Politics: Financing Federal Parties and Candidates in Canada.

“He was a giant in the academic area of democratic reform, and thankfully was expressing his knowledge and views much more publicly in recent years with his Hill Times column,” said Duff Conacher, founding director of Democracy Watch.

Mr. Stanbury’s weekly column was called “Stanbury’s View” and was a critical analysis of government policies. More academic than journalistic in style, his columns were always jammed full of references, notations, facts, quotes, and they usually offered a scathing critique of the government’s lack of transparency, accountability, the income trust tax, increasing government secrecy, or the increasing power in the PMO/PCO, among a host of other topics.

“It’s a tragic loss for Canadian democracy, in general, and the world of ‘access,’ in particular,” said Michael Drapeau, law professor at the University of Ottawa and a former colleague of Mr. Stanbury’s.

“Professor Stanbury was a giant. I admire him for his academic and erudite qualities and, his warm and friendly disposition. Thoughtful, authentic, and devoted always to making society a better, fairer and open environment for everyone,” he said.

“He’s one of those remarkable minds that don’t come along too often,” said Armine Yalnizyan, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “He will be hugely missed.”

Ms. Yalnizyan and Mr. Stanbury had been emailing back and forth for the last year-and-a-half, discussing common economic interests. He contacted her after coming across some of the economic research she wrote about in her blog, Ms. Yalnizyan said.

Ms. Yalnizyan described him as her mentor.

“He would push and prod, and you’d always come out of a conversation much enriched for the discussion and a little bit more intellectually honest actually,” she said. “You can run but you can’t hide from the facts.”

Mr. Stanbury stayed in touch with his colleagues and wrote his columns from his home near Guadalajara, Mexico.

He moved there after his retirement and lived there with his common law wife Hebina Hood and their dogs.

John Chenier, co-founder of The Lobby Monitor in Ottawa, said: “I was quite shocked to hear of Bill Stanbury’s death. His passing will leave a big hole in the public discourse conducted through The Hill Times.”

Kate Malloy, editor of The Hill Times, said Mr. Stanbury’s column will be missed by many readers, especially those who like to closely follow accountability in government and federal politics.

“Every week and year after year, Bill would file his sometimes massive column. I could always count on slotting a full page, at least, which is a lot of space for a column. We would argue about word count and he wasn’t happy about having to cut it down, but he always filed on deadline and he always knew exactly what he wanted to say,” said Ms. Malloy.

Ms. Yalnizyan said he was a successful investor and wanted to live in a warmer climate as soon as possible.

“He loved to rub it in my face by showing me pictures of roses blooming in his garden in January,” she said.


Bruce Benson said...

This is a sad day indeed, without Mr. Stanbury even less of the truth will find its way into the public domain.

Dr Mike said...

Nice tribute Brent....

He will be missed.

Dr Mike Popovich

Brent Fullard said...


JACOB ZIEGEL, professor of law emeritus, University of Toronto, writes:

I first met Bill at the UOT about 25 years ago and I think it was in the context of the work he was doing at the time on public participation on regulatory hearings, particularly those involving consumers. He struck me then, as he did thereafter, as an academic with a very lively mind, very much committed to the public weal, and always willing to listen to another point of view even after he had already determined his own position. He was always cheerful and totally free of hubris and greatly enjoyed intellectual jousting with colleagues both within and outside academia.

I lost touch with Bill until about two years ago when he began to develop an interest in federal judicial appointments, an area also long of interest to me. He contacted me and invited me to critique the drafts he had prepared for publication in the Hill Times. Bill quickly mastered the key issues and equally quickly joined the chorus of those advocating basic changes in the system of federal judicial appointments. He and I didn't always agreet on the details but we were basically singing from the same song sheet. Bill became sufficiently impressed with the importance of bringing about needed reforms in this area of public life that I believe he pressed the issue at the biennial conference of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Like all of Bill's friends and admirers, I feel deeply deprived by his premature passing. We can best honour his memory by persevering with the many causes he supported and by continuing his quest for a more rational, civilized and fair minded Canadian society.

Anonymous said...

Mr Stanbury was a great resource for all CAITI members and someone who explained the income trust story in a simple way for all readers to understand.

My family and I want to thank him
and most of all my condolences to his family.

Brent thank you for your support.


Geoffrey Laxton said...

I had the pleasure to talk to Bill Stanbury on the telephone from his home in Mexico in July. He called me! He took great interest in my research of the income trust issue and I was quite honoured that a person of such distinguished stature and academic credentials would ask for input on such an important issue while at the same time joke with me like a colleague and peer. Bill told me that he wanted to get his book on income trusts done as soon as possible and only now do I realize why he had such a hard deadline. He referred to the income trust tax as a policy train wreck. There was no hint in his voice and his exuberance and enthusiasm for this project that he knew that he was working on his last book. He had so many stories to tell and lies to expose and his knowledge of the "inside" of Canadian politics was astounding. His integrity and credentials were indisputable which is probably why the Canadian Tax Journal wouldn't publish his article on Jack Mintz. Our cause, nay, our country has lost a great ally and guiding light.

Brent Fullard said...


You are right in stating that Bill Stanbury's excoriating critique of Jack Mintz's tax leakage hocus pocus was denied publication by the Canadian Tax Journal. Add them to the list of cowtowing Canadian media outlets who prefer fiction over truth, opinion over reality.

Instead Bill Stanbury's piece was published here on the CAITI blog at:

Anonymous said...

Losing a person like this is like losing a piece of democracy. Now we are left with the likes of Jack Mintz and one person fewer to counteract people of Jack’s ilk.

Nice tribute Brent.

Anonymous said...

What a nice tribute. What a terrible loss for Canadians. Condolences to his family, close friends, colleagues and all those who knew him.

Those of us who simply knew him through his writing, we can look forward to the release of his book on Income Trusts. It was always a pleasure to read his work. It sounds like this book will be something worth passing on to young Canadians.