Jim, at the time when I first met him - Photo credit: CP
This afternoon I attended the memorial service for my old Liberal friend Jim Coutts. Jim died of cancer December 31st.
I met Jim in 1981 when he was Pierre Trudeau's principal secretary and I
was working in Ottawa for a cabinet minister as a very green assistant.
He had previously been Prime Minister Lester Pearson's appointments
secretary. He was the confidante, gatekeeper and strategist to both
Prime Ministers and often considered the 2nd most powerful person in
More importantly, he was a bright, generous, funny and
nice man. I got to know him through mutual friend Senator Keith Davey,
and I was happily lent to Jim in 1981 out of my Ottawa job to help out
in the infamous Spadina by-election, where he lost by 193 votes. I
returned to help again in his next bid in 1984.
After Jim left
public life I kept in touch, visiting his little house behind the Park
Plaza Hotel to talk about art, religion and politics. He also liked
The memorial today was like a gathering of the clan.
There's nothing quite like a political memorial service. It's like a
cocktail party without the drinks. In the space of 45 minutes I had a
chat with former Premier David Peterson, brother Jim, current premier
Kathleen Wynne, senators, MPs, candidates (both successful, hopeful, and
like me, failed), and a bunch of campaign workers. Prime Minister John
Turner had just come and gone. Even though we chatted politics, Jim was
never far from our thoughts.
Jim Coutts was the person who
convinced Trudeau both to return in 1981 and to put repatriating the
Constitution with a Charter of Rights on the agenda as his final
Jim, you will be missed. Thanks for leaving Canada a better place.
... is a writer, lawyer and occasional business guy. His column appeared in the Calgary Sun every week for over 16 years. Before that it was a regular weekly feature in the Toronto, Winnipeg & Edmonton Suns, The London Free Press and the National Post. He has appeared on TV and radio. Stephen happily lives in Toronto (which he doesn't admit except to close friends).