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Hill Life & People

Remembering Paul Dewar: the man, the mentor, the friend

By Tim Powers      

The late NDP MP was a fundamentally humble man who sought to make a difference, not further the family name.

Paul Dewar likely made a great teacher, writes Tim Powers, whose classroom probably had a bright, welcoming space. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
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Paul Dewar is getting the praise in death I hope he was aware existed for him when he was with us. He really was a genuinely good guy, and Lord knows the world of politics needs more of them, not less.

Parliament Hill is a small place and when you have spent a bit of time there you do get to meet most of its leading characters. This certainly was true for me meeting Dewar.

My business partner Robin MacLachlan used to work for Dewar and that was how we built an early relationship. Dewar was, as MacLachlan described him, smart, decent, open-minded, warm, and kind. But what clinched my affection for Dewar was he was an active guy and his sons played rugby. We rugby people have a not-so-secret society that affords others connected to the game a special sort of relationship status.

In fact, Dewar participated in lots of rugby activities over the years. In those settings, I often got to hear about a dad’s love of his sons and the value of sport to the family. As a dad myself now, I know that is a pretty potent and special thing. He was mentoring me and I am not sure he knew it.

I also saw a fundamentally humble man who was willing to try anything and able to laugh at himself through his journey. While seeing this, part of me thought he likely was great as a teacher because of his way of easily connecting with all sorts of different people. His classroom was likely a bright space where all ideas were welcome.

It was his humility that was truly impressive. The Dewar name is synonymous with much of Ottawa’s history. From what I saw, he never looked to live off the family reputation but rather went about working hard to make a difference, not further the brand. He was always Paul, not Mr. Dewar.

On the Hill, he was a most sought-after representative of the NDP. He was extremely knowledgeable, to be sure, but he was an excellent communicator who actually came across as a human being not a robotic talking-point twerp. He was a huge asset for his party and federal politics. By being likable he made the NDP likable.

It was obvious he loved Ottawa as you’d see him at many community events not looking like has was serving a sentence to be there but instead enjoying himself. Ottawa Centre was central to who he seemed to be and many of the views he represented in Parliament. His constituents, of which I was one, couldn’t complain about their Member being disconnected from them or being inaccessible. Being local mattered to him.

When Dewar ran for the leadership of the NDP I thought, despite some of our different political views, he was a guy worth supporting. Clearly my donation made an enormous impact. Though Dewar didn’t fare well in that race, he demonstrated great class afterwards. No public sulking about his loss, and he jumped firmly behind new leader Thomas Mulcair. Grace in defeat—another characteristic to be respected.

The last time I saw Dewar in person was shortly before he got sick. He was walking down Sparks Street with a smile on his face off to do some good for someone. We had a chat. We had a laugh. We went on our way. I always thought of him that way—a thoroughly original guy whose company it was always a pleasure to be in.

Fifty-six is way too young to die. The disease that took him is a cruel beast. But what will never go is the memory of Dewar and the legacy of decency he left.

Tim Powers is vice-chairman of Summa Strategies and managing director of Abacus Data. He is a former adviser to Conservative political leaders.

The Hill Times

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