Life and loss – celebrating two friends in politics

As we get older, we are faced with our own mortality, and, sadly, that of our friends.

This week, many of us were shocked to learn that Doug Eastwood had died of a heart attack during the Sun Run.  Doug made numerous contribution to public life – as a crown prosecutor, Chair of the Justice Institute, volunteer with Last Door Recovery Society, and as a campaign volunteer over the years.  It was shocking to lose someone so full of life and vibrancy as Doug, so suddenly.

Doug.jpgI first met him in 1986 when he was dispatched to BC from Ottawa by the Liberal Party of Canada to help the fledgling provincial BC Liberal campaign under the leadership of Art Lee.  The campaign didn’t succeed, but presumably Doug liked what he saw as he came west to study law at UBC.

I had not known Doug that well until he volunteered on Christy Clark’s leadership campaign in 2010.  He showed up to that campaign with passion and intensity.  It was a campaign driven by volunteers and he was instrumental in recruiting them and tending to them.  He brought a spirit and positivity that was infectious.  Talking to Doug always left one in a happier place.

During Christy’s first term, Shirley Bond was appointed Attorney-General, combining that role with Solicitor-General.  The “General” was not a lawyer, therefore, we sought a legal resource to provide her with day-to-day advice in the Minister’s Office.  Doug agreed to be seconded to work with the General.  He was invaluable and Shirley got a lot done as A-G.

He would have been a fantastic candidate for office.  I certainly asked him, as did others. He would have been a great Attorney-General, with his extensive legal knowledge and reservoirs of compassion.

Earlier this year, another friend and political volunteer succumbed to heart failure as well – John Aisenstat.

Like Doug, John was much-loved.  While Doug was a lifelong federal Liberal, John was a lifelong Conservative.  Both in their 50s when they passed, they had worked their way up on separate tracks in politics in the 1980s.

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 10.56.50 AM.pngJohn was a veteran of the 1983 Mulroney leadership campaign, where many young (Progressive) Conservatives of that era had their political futures forged from the heat and intensity of that race.  John became known as an expert in Leader’s Tour – the peculiar mix of news and entertainment, politics and show business.  Underpinning his expertise was his mastery of logistics.

He could tell you where every landing strip for every type of plane was located, or where to get cold beer for the tour bus. He knew the shorthand for every one-horse town in BC and probably all of Canada.  He managed tours for Brian Mulroney and he led the 1996 Gordon Campbell tour.  It was a different time back then when there was a considerable working media who had to be mollycoddled on the bus, then taken on desperate dashes to file their stories.  This was also a time before blackberries, iPhones and reliable cell phone coverage.  It was a logistical puzzle and John was the puzzle master.  His logistical superiority was secondary, however, to his strategic mind and political knowledge.

John was beloved for his wit and sense of humour.  Like Doug, he did not view politics as a career.  It was a hobby, and he was good at it.  He volunteered in politics his entire life.  He always stepped up.

I am very saddened that the first half of 2018 has seen the loss of these two thoughtful, generous, warm individuals who didn’t ask anything from politics, but rather gave of themselves considerably.  They are both a great advertisement for the political adventure and the great people you meet along the way.  Those who have had the experience of volunteering and working in politics know that we are blessed to work with people like Doug and John.  This is why losing brothers-in-arm like them is particularly hard.  Two guys with the biggest hearts had their hearts give out.  RIP both.

Note: Doug’s obituary is here

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