A tribute to Mel Hurtig

When author, publisher and activist Mel Hurtig died on Wednesday, Canada lost one of its most ardent champions and defenders.

Renowned as the publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia in 1991, Mel devoted most of his life to battling foreign ownership, “free” trade, and the poverty and inequality spawned by neoliberal politics. He was a steadfast supporter of the CCPA from its inception, and a contributor to the CCPA Monitor.        

He gave vent to his fierce nationalism in a series of candid and well- researched books, many citing facts and figures from CCPA studies. In The Betrayal of Canada, he blasted the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement as a sellout to transnational corporations. In Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids, he exposed the terrible extent of poverty in Canada. In The Vanishing Country, he described the loss of our industries through foreign ownership, and asked: “Is it too late to save Canada?”

Prior to the federal election last year, his final book – The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada — detailed the many harmful neoliberal policies of the previous government and helped ensure its defeat.

I had a long and productive association with Mel, starting in 1973 when he established the Committee for an Independent Canada. I accepted his invitation to help organize and serve in its Ottawa branch until it was subsumed in 1985 when Mel co-founded the Council of Canadians with Maude Barlow.

Mel was helpful getting me started with a compilation of contributors to the anthology Canada After Harper that was also published prior to last year’s federal election. He would have contributed to it himself if he hadn’t been so busy writing The Arrogant Aristocrat.

Along with his family, friends, and many thousands of readers and admirers, I mourn Mel’s passing. But I also join with them in paying tribute to his outstanding crusade to inform and inspire Canadians in the ongoing struggle for a better and brighter future.

Ed Finn was Senior Editor at the CCPA and editor of the CCPA Monitor from 1994-2014. Formerly, as a journalist, he worked at The Montreal Gazette and for 14 years wrote a column on labour relations for The Toronto Star. He also served for three decades as a communications officer for several labour organizations, including the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

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