John Lynch-Staunton

By Alan Hustak on August 23, 2012

John Lynch-Staunton was the amicable Canadian senator who played a crucial role in the merger of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive-Conservative Parties and served as the Conservative Party’s first interim leader for four months until Stephen Harper won the leadership  in  2004.  Before Lynch-Staunton was named to The Senate by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1990 he had been a Montreal city councillor and vice-chairman of the City of Montreal’s Executive committee when Jean Drapeau was Mayor. 

Lynch-Staunton was 82 when he died August 17 of a heart attack while on vacation in the Alberta foothills.

“He had strong leadership skills. He was our leader in The Senate and I give him a lot of credit for keeping the Progressive-Conservatives on life support during their darkest days,” said Marjorie Lebreton,  Government Leader in The Senate. ”When the party was dying on the vine he motivated us to bring the conservative family back together to defeat the Liberals. He was a sunny optimist. Never say die kind of person. He was the right person to oversee the merger.”  LeBreton also recalled that it was Lynch Staunton who managed to get the Senate to veto legislation in 1994 which would  have prohibited lawsuits over the sale of Pearson International Airport.. Jean Chretien’s Liberal government -- which held a majority in the Senate -, lost  a vote in the Senate,  41-40, when a bill that would have prohibited  the contractors' right to sue the  government over cancelled Pearson Airport contracts was defeated.   “We had been beaten back and were discouraged by what had happened to us when Kim Campbell lost the election. No one, including a number of members of our party, wanted to touch (the Pearson issue). But at the end of the day, it was John who totally dismantled all of the government’s arguments.”

John_lynch.jpgJohn Lynch Staunton was born in Montreal June 19, 1930. His parents divorced when he was still a child and he was raised in French by his grandmother. “He was more francophone than Anglophone,” said his son, Mark, “We spoke only French until she died.” He was educated at College Stanislaus and College Brébeuf. .Christopher Plummer was one of his contemporaries. The two shared the stage together in a production of As You Like It in 1940s. ‘Though he had no lines to speak, he came on wearing several dead branches as a head dress, by which he represented the entire forest of Arden,” Plummer writes in his memoirs, “I liked him for the simple reason that he was out for a good time.”  Before Lynch Staunton went west he stopped in Stratford  to see Plummer’s one man show, A Word or Two. The show was originally conceived at Lynch Staunton’s suggestion in 1994  as a fundraiser for The Piggery Theatre in North Hatley. “We shared a lot of laughs and two days later he was gone,” Plummer told the Globe and Mail, “He was my oldest friend. I will miss him more than words can tell.” The two both flunked an entrance examination to McGill University when the two of them scrawled obscenities on the questionnaire rather than fill it out..

Lynch Staunton obtained a degree from Georgetown University in 1953, and did graduate work in Canadian History at Queen’s University. He began his career in municipal politics in 1960 when he was elected to Montreal city council. As early as 1964 he championed the idea of amalgamating all of the boroughs on the Island of Montreal into one city.  During the 1970 October crisis, when a British diplomat in Montreal was kidnapped, it was Lynch-Staunton who signed the warrant under the War Measures Act for the arrest of a popular Montreal journalist, Nick Auf der Maur.  Auf der Maur  ran against him in the 1974 municipal election and to  everyone’s astonishment, won.  Out of politics, Lynch-Staunton became president of the John de Kuyper liquor importing company. In 1985 he was named president of the Montreal Board of Trade. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a long-time friend, appointed him to The Senate in 1990.

When the Progressive-Conservatives were humiliated and reduced to two seats in the 1994 federal election, Lynch-Staunton worked to rebuild the party from his seat in The Senate where the Progressive-Conservatives still enjoyed a majority.  Later, he was instrumental in bridging the divide between Progressive Conservatives and Reform and Alliance Party supporters  as a credible alternative to the Progressive-Conservative Party. He wasn’t one to stand on ceremony; while he took his work seriously, he never took himself seriously.  When retired from the senate seven years ago, he declined any public farewell.  A public servant to the end, John Lynch Staunton was on the Stanstead  muncipal council when he died.“

He leaves his wife of 54 years, Juliana de Kuyper and their five children, Mark, Peter, Gabrielle, Sophie and Sean.

 

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