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Dalton Kingsley Camp, PC, OC (September 11, 1920 – March 18, 2002) was a Canadian journalist, politician, political strategist and commentator and supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Despite having never been elected to a seat in the House of Commons, he was a prominent and influential politician and a popular commentator for decades. He is a central figure in Red Toryism.
Camp was born in Woodstock, New Brunswick. His father was a Baptist minister whose work took his family to Connecticut and later California. Upon his father's death in 1937, Camp's mother and her children returned to their hometown of Woodstock. Camp soon enrolled in undergraduate studies at Acadia University; however, his time there was interrupted by enlistment in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. Following the war, Camp finished his undergraduate studies in the liberal arts at the University of New Brunswick, followed by graduate studies in journalism at Columbia University and political science at the London School of Economics.
While involved in studies at the University of New Brunswick, Camp worked briefly for the Liberal Party of Canada and its provincial wing, the New Brunswick Liberal Association. Later, Camp was heavily influenced by his studies at the London School of Economics and upon his return to Canada, he sought to distance himself from what he now felt was the arrogance of "Canada's Ruling Party" (the Liberals). Camp had some socialist beliefs which attracted him to the Liberal Party, but he was also attracted to the traditions of Canadian conservatism; thus he ultimately found a political home within the Red Tory wing of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada (PC). Now living in Toronto, Ontario in the 1950s, Camp worked with several public relations firms and through his speaking, organizational, and political abilities was influential during several provincial elections in Canada which saw PC governments elected for the first time in more than a generation. Camp was also instrumental in helping John Diefenbaker, leader of the federal Progressive Conservative party win elections in 1957 and 1958; however, he personally mistrusted Diefenbaker. Following the PC defeat to Lester Pearson's Liberals in 1963, Camp sought to reorganize the Tories and subsequently became president of the national party the following year.
Faced with evidence that a majority of Tories were unhappy with the increasingly eccentric and autocratic policies of their leader John Diefenbaker, Camp led a grassroots campaign within the party for a leadership review. After the decision was made to have a leadership convention in 1967, Camp left the presidency of the party and briefly considered campaigning for leadership of the party; however, when Robert Stanfield decided to run, Camp lent his support to Stanfield's campaign. Media savvy and an intellectual, Camp was considered by many Tories[who?] to have been a potential match to Pierre Trudeau, who would lead the Liberals throughout the 1970s.
Post politics and the Mulroney era
Camp ran as a Tory candidate for Parliament in the 1963 and 1968 elections, however after personally failing to be elected, Camp retired as a politician and pursued interests in advertising, political commentary, and journalism. He headed an advertising firm – aptly named Camp Associates. During the 1980s and 1990s, he became a regular political commentator on CBC's Morningside (along with Stephen Lewis and Eric Kierans) and he was a bi-weekly political writer for the Toronto Star newspaper. He also wrote regular columns for the Toronto Sun and the Saint John Telegraph-Journal newspapers for many years.
Camp returned briefly to active politics when he was named a senior advisor to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's staff from 1986–1989, including consulting on the 1988 election which saw Mulroney's government campaign for a free trade agreement with the United States. Camp left politics in 1989 with some disillusionment toward the increasingly Blue Tory policies of Mulroney's government, as well as several decisions which were leading to western disillusionment in the caucus (this would later become evident when the Reform Party was established). In 1993, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Camp underwent a heart transplant in 1993 (the oldest person in Canada to do so at the time) and continued to write and give political commentary from his home in Jemseg, New Brunswick. He experienced a stroke in February 2002, which led to his death a month later at a hospital in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He was survived by six children and eight grandchildren.
- "Politics is made up largely of irrelevancies."
- "Little of signal importance in the global scene of things has ever been at issue, much less determined, as a result of the Canadian political process."
- "One would think that man would run out of wars to make or nations to invade or, that at some epiphanous time, nations would conspire to stop the killing, that war would become not the last resort but simply an unthinkable one. But here we find ourselves at war again, against half the world in general and no one in particular, pulverizing ruins and inflicting "collateral damage" - a euphemism for killing - on people we know nothing of, in a land we have nothing against, hope never to see, in a cause so rhetorical and clothed so much in hyperbole as to be unattainable."
- "He had been walking for exercise on a weekend in the early spring. The ice had just gone from the river, leaving it to swell upon its banks, turbulent, black, and impenetrably cold. He started across the bridge, following two boys-perhaps he went to warn them-but reaching the centre span he heard and saw them in the water. And then he jumped from the bridge to join them in death.
In the bloodless wars of politics, the wounds are to pride and place. In such activity, men easily exaggerate their relevance to it. More than that, once caught up in it, the significance of politics becomes disproportionate to their lives. To many, I suspect, their importance to themselves, as to others, lies in their being politicians. One would wish it to be the other way round-that their importance as politicians lies in men being themselves, true to their best impulse and finest ideals, less concerned with the victory of a party as they are more concerned with the survival of their own personality and nature. But party politics feeds and flourishes upon the blood of sublimation. Every man must serve another's larger cause, giving or lending himself in whole or in part to another judgement, a further condition, a greater good, a lesser will, a common motive and purpose, and these replace his own criteria, the immediacy of his own conscience, until his own moral nature becomes a mere accessory to the cause, which is no more than his neighbour's, but the product of some ill-defined greater good and lesser evil. In the trackless waste of politics, men lose their purpose, and the stars by which they once steered vanish in the bottomless sky of other men's aspirations. They wander like nomads, from oasis to oasis, quenching their thirst from the wells of power and warming themselves by the abandoned fires of those who have come and gone before." - Gentlemen, Players and Politicians.
- Gentlemen, Players and Politicians, Ottawa: Deneau & Greenberg, 1970
- Points of Departure, Ottawa: Deneau and Greenberg, 1979
- An Eclectic Eel, Ottawa: Deneau, 1981
- Whose Country is this Anyway?, Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1995