Mel Hurtig

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Mel Hurtig
Born (1932-06-24)24 June 1932
Edmonton, Alberta
Died 3 August 2016(2016-08-03) (aged 84)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Occupation Publisher, author, political activist
Awards Order of Canada

Mel Hurtig, OC (24 June 1932 – 3 August 2016) was a Canadian publisher, author, political activist, and political candidate. He was president of the Edmonton Art Gallery, and a noted political activist who wrote several books critical of the Canadian government and its various policies.

Early life and education[edit]

Hurtig was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1932.[1] His parents were Jewish; his father was from Romania, and his mother from Russia. He grew up in Edmonton, was an alumnus of the Edmonton Talmud Torah,[2] and graduated from high school there.[3]

Businessman, Publisher and Author[edit]

Hurtig worked in his father's store, selling furs, until 1956. He then opened a book store, Hurtig Books,[1] which later grew into a large retail book operation with three locations. [3] His stores featured staging of plays, readings of poetry, and encouraged social interaction, and, unusually, permitting drinking coffee.

After selling his stores in 1972, he established Hurtig Publishers Ltd., with $30,000 in borrowed money. It became "one of the liveliest book publishing companies in Canada."[4] In 1980, he started work on The Canadian Encyclopedia, spending $12 million on a comprehensive three-volume national encyclopedia first published in 1985.[5] A second edition, which took four years to complete and cost $8.5 million to produce, appeared in four volumes in 1988.[6] Much to the surprise of the publisher, the second edition was unexpectedly sold at up to a 55% discount by national companies, roiling the market.[7]

In September 1990, Hurtig published the five-volume Junior Encyclopedia of Canada, the first encyclopedia for young Canadians. He sold the company to McClelland & Stewart in May 1991.[8]

Hurtig was an Officer of the Order of Canada, was granted honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from six Canadian universities, and was the recipient of the Lester B. Pearson Man of the Year Peace Award.[9]

Politics[edit]

After supporting Pierre Trudeau's bid for Liberal leadership, he ran as a Liberal in the federal riding of Edmonton West, in 1972 and finished second to longtime incumbent Marcel Lambert.[8]

In 1973, he broke with the party and joined with other nationalists including Walter Gordon, Jack McClelland, and Claude Ryan to establish the Committee for an Independent Canada (CIC) which lobbied against foreign ownership and cultural imperialism. He served as Chair for the first year.

In 1985, Hurtig established the Council of Canadians, another nationalist organization, five years after the demise of the CIC.[8] The primary purpose of this organization was to lobby against a perceived rising tide of support for free trade. He considered his establishment of the Council as the act he was "most proud of."[10] He would leave in 1992 but the council survives to this day.[11]

In 1992, Hurtig was elected leader of the National Party of Canada and led it in the 1993 federal election. He ran in the riding of Edmonton Northwest, but with 4507 votes and 12.8% of the popular vote, finished a distant third to Anne McLellan. It was nonetheless the best showing of the National Party candidates in that election.[8]

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 1972: Edmonton West
Party Candidate Votes
Progressive Conservative Marcel Lambert 29,876
Liberal Mel Hurtig 21,040
New Democratic John Packer 6,770
Social Credit Donald H. McLeod 1,419
Canadian federal election, 1993: Edmonton Northwest
Party Candidate Votes
Liberal Anne McLellan 12,599
Reform Richard Kayler 12,587
National Mel Hurtig 4,507
Progressive Conservative Murray Dorin 3,485
New Democratic Stephanie Michaels 1,671
Natural Law Ric Johnsen 186
Green Roger Swan 119
No affiliation Heide Zeeper 41

Death[edit]

In 2005, Hurtig moved from Edmonton to Vancouver, British Columbia, in order to be closer to his four daughters. On 3 August 2016 he died there at a hospital, from complications from pneumonia.[1] On the day of his death, one daughter, Leslie Hurtig, read him "newspaper headlines about the launch of the inquiry into murdered and missing women"; he responded, "Bravo", and died that afternoon, surrounded by family. In addition to his daughters, Hurtig was survived by four grandsons.[1]

Recognition[edit]

Selected works[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Bailey, Ian (3 Aug 2016). "Publisher, author and political agitator Mel Hurtig dies at 84". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 3 Aug 2016. 
  2. ^ Rebeca Kuropatka, “Talmud Torah in Edmonton celebrating 100th anniversary,” Jewish Tribune, May 10, 2012, p. 2.
  3. ^ a b "Canadian nationalist Mel Hurtig dies at age 84". Toronto Star, August 4, 2016, page A4.
  4. ^ “Mel Hurtig,” in Grant H. Kennedy and James B. Stanton (eds.), The Albertans (Edmonton: Lone Pine Publishing Ltd., 1981), p. 151.
  5. ^ "How Canada got an encyclopedia to call its own" Jane Taber, The Globe and Mail, October 7, 2010
  6. ^ Mel Hurtig, “Foreward to the Second Edition,” The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1988), vol. I, p. [vii]; John Godfrey, “The great Canadian Encyclopedia chaos,” Financial Post (Sept. 16, 1988), p. 14.
  7. ^ James Adams, “Coles' discount slices into revenues for new encyclopedia,” Edmonton Journal, (Sept. 20, 1988), p. C9.
  8. ^ a b c d "Mel Hurtig" The Canadian Encyclopedia
  9. ^ "Mel Hurtig — Edmonton Bookseller, Publisher and Activist — Dead at 84". CBC/Radio-Canada. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  10. ^ “Hurtig, Mel,” in Edmond Y. Lipsitz (ed.), Canadian Jewry Today: Who’s Who in Canadian Jewry (Downsivew, Ontario: J.E.S.L. Educational Products, 1989), p. 150.
  11. ^ Council of Canadians website
  12. ^ Order of Canada citation
  13. ^ "Mel Hurtig Wins Publishing Award," The Jewish Star (Edmonton), July 1985, p. 2