Jim Travers

Elizabeth May

The news of the death of Toronto star columnist, Jim Travers, is devastating. I couldn't believe it and kept hoping it was one of those false stories that would turn out to be wrong.

I met Jim when he was publisher at the Ottawa Citizen. Peter Calamai was editor and they had a citizen member for the editorial board, serving one-month stints. They asked me to be a community rep for the month of May 1992, for the lead-up to the Rio Earth Summit. My daughter was 10 months old and I had adopted my own approach to childcare. I went back to work as Executive Director of The Sierra Club of Canada when she was 14 days old and brought her with me, so I had to warn the Citizen that I could only accept their offer if I could bring my daughter.

I tried to ensure she never disrupted the meetings and she didn't.  Except one day, she was standing and holding on to my chair and then decided to let go and take her first steps. I was quiet about it, but suddenly, in the midst of some heated debate about something, Jim bellowed, "Wait a minute! Has the baby done that before? Wow! " So the meeting disintegrated into happy baby praise.

My favourite of Jim's many great lines was when we were on CBC Sunday Edition in spring 2009 when my last book (Losing Confidence: Power, politics and the crisis in Canadian democracy) came out. Michael Enright asked if I was exaggerating in referring to a "crisis in Canadian democracy," and I enumerated the signs of crisis. Michael turned to Jim and asked, and he said (not exactly quoting), "No she's not exaggerating. In fact, I'd say it is worse...we have all the buildings, the Parliament, and all the trappings, but what we have in Ottawa is a democracy theme park."

He was so brilliant. He wrote compellingly and he did not allow political shenanigans to be swept under the carpet. Jim was also a fine and caring and decent gentleman.  This is a huge loss to his family, and friends, but a loss to Canadians who may not know his name. We need his voice and now it is silenced.