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Why Terry Fox cannot be bought

The Tories’ invocation of Terry Fox at a campaign event crossed a line the young runner always avoided—and left the family angry


 
From left to right: former MP James Moore, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife Laureen Harper and local Conservative candidates Tim Laidler and Doug Horne participate in a photo opportunity on the training route Terry Fox used while preparing for his cross-country run, in Port Moody, B.C., on Sunday September 20, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

From left to right: former MP James Moore, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s wife Laureen Harper and local Conservative candidates Tim Laidler and Doug Horne participate in a photo opportunity on the training route Terry Fox used while preparing for his cross-country run, in Port Moody, B.C., on Sunday September 20, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

The thing to know about Terry Fox, the thing the election-focused Conservative government failed to grasp, is this: He would not be branded. He was the original “no logo” man,  two decades before author Naomi Klein’s treatise on globalization and brand bullying. There were no corporate logos on his T-shirts, or his battered pair of grey shorts. He even fretted over the adidas trademark three stripes on his blue, Orion-style running shoes.

To be sure, he had corporate support on his 1980 cross-country Marathon of Hope, including the Four Seasons hotel chain. But hotel founder Isadore Sharp, who had lost a teenage son to cancer, remained a largely silent partner, picking other corporate pockets for donations behind the scenes. The Four Seasons logo was nowhere to be seen. He knew what former Tory cabinet minister James Moore, and Laureen Harper, wife of Stephen, failed to appreciate with their $35-million election pledge on Sunday: Terry Fox—his legacy, his family, his foundation—cannot be bought.

Related: The people who brought Terry Fox’s story to the Heritage Minutes

Harper, Tim Laidler, the Tory candidate in Port Moody–Westwood–Port Coquitlam, and Moore, who is not running for re-election, chose Sunday, the day of the annual Terry Fox Run and the 35th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope, to announce in Port Moody, B.C., that a Conservative government, if re-elected, would use taxpayer dollars to match run-related donations up to $35 million. Asked about the reaction of the Fox family, who was not in attendance, Moore said: “They are aware of it . . . They’re enthusiastic and they think it’s great.” Not true. Behind the scenes, the Fox family was stunned and angered by the announcement, as was family friend Bill Vigars, the former Canadian Cancer Society rainmaker and fundraiser for the Ontario leg of Fox’s run.

“That’s basically what upset me about this whole thing,” Vigars told Maclean’s. “The political parties are no different than Pepsi and Coca-Cola. In 35 years, not one single individual, organization or corporation has ever dared go there. They just knew what Terry was like. That was Terry. Everyone over the years completely respected that.”

From the archives: Ken MacQueen on covering Terry’s Marathon of Hope in 1980

Perhaps it was understandable, from a Conservative mindset. Who says no to $35 million? Just two days earlier, the party had appropriated another Canadian icon, when Wayne Gretzky gave a ringing endorsement of Prime Minister Harper at a partisan event in Toronto. But Gretzky, a U.S. resident who is not eligible to vote in Canada, had long since made the transition from professional hockey player to professional brand ambassador. Fox, who would die of cancer in 1981, was a different sort of hero. “There’s no comparison between the two,” Vigars said. “The Fox family themselves, for 35 years, kept the brand clean, for lack of a better phrase. They’ve followed Terry’s wishes to be never commercialized, and to be open and equal to every single Canadian.”

Despite the lack of corporatization—and, more likely, because of that lack—the international non-profit Terry Fox Foundation has raised $750 million for cancer research in the 35 years since the run began. Vigars admits he was so upset, especially by the condition the funds were contingent on a Conservative re-election, that he was up at 4 a.m. writing an angry response he intended to post on Facebook. “My wife said, ‘Why don’t you sit on that for a couple of hours?’ ” He took her advice, cooled off slightly, and posted a more moderate response. It reads, in part: “There is no place in the fight against cancer for politics. This is poor taste, bad timing and so wrong on so many levels. Also, to say the family was enthusiastic is incorrect, to say the least.”

The Fox family—father Rolly, and Terry’s siblings Fred, Darrell and Judi Fox—also issued a statement Monday. It reads, in part: “We need to clarify that we did not respond enthusiastically suggesting the idea was great, as MP James Moore reported in yesterday’s Conservative announcement . . . Our son and brother ran across the country in 1980 in an effort to unite a nation for a common cause. We are committed to furthering his dream by reaching out to all Canadians regardless of their political interest.” (The full statement is reprinted below.)

The Conservatives attempted to back out of the controversy with a statement issued by party spokeswoman Meagan Murdoch. She noted the foundation had written to all party leaders “about their comprehensive cancer program. It was mistakenly assumed that the family was supportive of the funding requested and welcomed by the Terry Fox Foundation. We regret any confusion this may have caused.” In Moncton, N.B., on Tuesday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair weighed in on the controversy, saying Harper should apologize. “For the Conservatives to have been playing crass politics without the permission of the family or the foundation, I think it speaks for itself of what they’re willing to do,” he said. Of course, during an election campaign, even a promise not to play politics is political.

Most of the thousands of participants and volunteers who participated in non-competitive Fox runs across the country and in other parts of the world were unaware of the drama. Typical was the run in North Vancouver, where a couple of hundred people, most of them far too young to have followed Fox’s journey, gathered in the teeming rain to run and walk past soccer fields, a salmon river, through forest and mud puddles. In exchange for having their pockets picked for a donation, or not, they received a participation ribbon and, if they chose, a donated coffee and a piece of fruit. Who the donors were, most participants would never know. There were no logos in sight.

The Fox family statement in full:

“Our son and brother ran across the country in 1980 in an effort to unite a nation for a common cause. We are committed to furthering his dream by reaching out to all Canadians, regardless of their political interests. We would always welcome government support of cancer research in Terry’s name. Specifically, we would hope that all federal parties would come together in this the 35th-anniversary year, for Terry and all who run in his name, in support of the Terry Fox Research Institute’s proposal for a pan-Canadian comprehensive cancer centre strategy. We need to clarify that we did not respond enthusiastically suggesting the idea was great, as MP James Moore reported in yesterday’s Conservative announcement promising to match the Terry Fox Foundation’s fundraising efforts this year up to $35 million. We will continue to make no public comments with respect to any federal party promises during the election campaign, unless it is a unified, all-party announcement.”


 

Why Terry Fox cannot be bought

  1. Are there no depths to which the CPC will sink? Do they really think everyone can be bought? Not only do they have no ethics of their own, I’m beginning to think they are incapable of finding the word in the dictionary.

  2. Now Harper is saying “Hey,they asked for the money!” A new enemy for the unsympathetic and always-right Harper. And does Moore apologize for saying something that’s not true? No, in typical conservative fashion is left to a “party spokesperson” to try to explain and take the heat. This is the most callous and cynical group of people I could ever imagine.

  3. This is all a lot of bull roar. It should be very clear that the Terry Fox foundation approached the the Conservatives in August seeking a contribution. The Conservatives replied that they would if elected. The Fox family had nothing to do with it. I believe the other two parties were also approached. It was a contribution to cancer , not Terry Fox or his family. And Edward David, it was Harper who answered this accusation. You guys make me sick.

  4. And again this magazine is the party who has sunk so low to have a writer put out such crap in its magazine.

    And incidentally, Fonyo later did the route from Atlantic to Pacific where I saw him dip[ his false foot in the Pacific. Terry started and tragically could not carry on but Fonyo put out much greater effort for Cancer as he did the whole country.

    • Trying to downgrade Terry’s run by invoking Fonyo? Really?
      Your assholery knows no depths.

    • Maybe it’s time for the CRA to audit this so-called ‘charity’.

      And Levant can do one of his crack investigative pieces exposing the Fox family for the greedy, American-funded, socialists they are.

      • Next he’s going to reveal that Terry was a big Neil Young fan……

  5. I didn’t know that about not even having logos at the annual events. That’s amazing.

  6. If there is a certainty in Canadian public life, it’s that those who come close to the Conservative orbit are inevitably corrupted. Fast action has saved you Fox family. Bastion of virtuous Bay Street guy Wright good example of opposite. So many others through the years.

  7. First, Wayne Gretzky, now Terry Fox. Let’s get this election over and kick these crass opportunists out while we’ve still got some Canadian icons they haven’t tainted through co-option.

    I mean, I liked Gretzky so much more before I found out he was a right-winger, not a center.

    • I’m sure you feel the same way about David Suzuki and Neil Young. LOL

  8. ” There is no place in the fight against cancer for politics. This is poor taste, bad timing and so wrong on so many levels. ”

    No place for politics in the fight against cancer … except for Liberals?

    From Paul Martin’s election guide (h/t Rebel.Media)

    $125 million to support creation of the Terry Fox Research Institute in Vancouver, a new centre of excellence for cancer research. The Institute would be linked to the internationally renowned B.C. Cancer Agency;

    $25 million to establish Terry Fox Cancer Research Chairs at Canadian universities to ensure that Canada continues to attract and retain leading cancer researchers who can tap into leading-edge advances from around the world to enhance our understanding of cancer – its origins, diagnosis, treatment and eventually a cure. Linkages will be established between the Chairs and the Terry Fox Research Institute.

    https://www.poltext.org/sites/poltext.org/files/plateformes/can2006lib_plt_en._14112008_165437.pdf

    • Moore crassly and directly linked a matching donation scheme to a vote for Stephen Harper.
      With the big announcement in his own back yard; then the lie about the exact contents of the request letter. Read the family statement. Very clear to me anyway. Any such letter in 2005?
      Stick with your pal Gretsky guys.

  9. Not sure which is in poorer taste, the Harper conservatives politicizing Terry Fox and cancer research funding or Harper shrugging off accountability (yet again) on the Terry Fox foundation.

    This alternate universe Stephen Harper has created—-where he is never wrong and every contradictory opinion no matter how much it is grounded in evidence or expertise is simply ludicrous—–really needs to be blown up. Living in an echo chamber has completely disconnected him from reality. That’s no state in which a PM should exist.

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