Canadian Senator Doug Finley dies after battle with cancer

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Conservative Senator Doug Finley has died of cancer at the age of 66.

Finley — the husband of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley — was appointed to the Senate in 2011, by prime minister Stephen Harper, after leading the Conservatives to three straight election victories as the party's Director of Political Operations.

Finley was dubbed Stephen Harper's pit bull and was revered by many people across the political spectrum. He was a personable individual and brilliant political tactician. Yet, he didn't hold back — he wasn't afraid to say what was on his mind. The first time I met him, in 2010, he threw-in some expletives when describing one of his own Conservative candidates who lost an election because of "laziness."

He was also a somewhat controversial and polarizing figure. His curtness and aggressiveness sometimes rubbed people the wrong way. Finley was one of the Tory insiders who plead guilty to a 2006 campaign financing scheme, known as the in-and-out affair, where the party was alleged to have broken Election Canada rules by exceeding their campaign spending limit.

Finley was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer in 2010. In late 2012, he announced that it was terminal.

Last November, Finley openned up about dying in an excellent interview with iPolitics' Laura Stone.

"It’s not going to be pretty and I’m not looking forward to it. I don’t make any bones about that. Like a lot of people I’m not scared of dying, I’m more concerned about the process of dying," says Finley.

"And if I want to dig that hole for myself by thinking about that, then the process of dying will be even worse and longer. So look, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I’ll deal with it when it happens.

"There’s really not much else to say. I’ve got a great family, my wife has been brilliant. Anyway…

"It’s just — wife and family. I’ll be fine."

In a statement released on Saturday, Prime Minister Harper said a great Canadian has been taken away from us before his time.

"It was with great sadness that Laureen and I learned of the death of Senator Doug Finley. Our Government has lost a trusted adviser and strategist. Canada has lost a fine public servant. I have lost a dear and valued friend," Harper said.

"When he learned he had cancer, Senator Finley faced this vicious opponent like the fighter he was. He continued to participate in Senate debates almost to the end, and shared information about his diagnosis and treatment with the public."

The Conservative Party released this statement:

After a courageous public battle with cancer, the Honourable Michael Douglas (Doug) Finley, died in Ottawa, Ontario, on May 11, 2013, age 66.

He was married to the Honourable Diane Finley for over 30 years. Born in Exeter, UK on July 25, 1946, his parents quickly moved him to Scotland to ensure that he was “raised properly.” Doug attended the universities of Strathclyde, Edinburgh and McGill. He emigrated to Canada in the late 1960s.

An avid soccer fan, particularly of Glasgow Celtic and Manchester United, he began his professional career at Rolls-Royce Canada in Montreal, where he quickly rose through the ranks to senior executive levels. He moved on to serve as President of Standard Aero, and Senior Vice President of AvCorp Industries. Later in his career, he worked as General Manager, and Chief Operating Officer of Fernlea Flowers in Southwestern Ontario.

In 2003, Doug Finley was appointed Director of Political Operations of the Canadian Alliance by Stephen Harper after running the Perth-Middlesex by-election campaign. After the merger of the two national parties, he became a driving force behind Stephen Harper’s successful leadership campaign.

In March 2004, Doug Finley was appointed Director of Political Operations of the newly-formed Conservative Party of Canada, and was the engineer behind the 2004 break-through in Ontario for the Conservative Party. He then successfully engineered and led the Conservative Party to victory through the 2006 and 2008 general elections as National Campaign Director.

In August 2009, Doug Finley was appointed to the Senate, representing Ontario South Coast. He chose the regional designation of Ontario South Coast to reflect his particular interest in the area of southwestern Ontario along the north shore of Lake Erie.

He was a member of numerous international boards and the recipient of many honours including Honourary Lifetime Member of the Ferry Command and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

He is survived by his wife Diane; his daughter Siobhan (George Desypris) of Montreal and three grandchildren, Willem, Erin and Emma; sister Maureen (Dave Todd) of Calgary; brother James (Shu-mei) of London and Singapore; his father-in-law and mother-in-law John and Muriel Dennis of Booth’s Harbour.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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