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 Amazon.com.
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.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Posted by Brent Fullard at 3:29 PM