COLUMN

Has it come to this, Davie?

Allan Fotheringham March 1 1982
COLUMN

Has it come to this, Davie?

Allan Fotheringham March 1 1982

Has it come to this, Davie?

COLUMN

Allan Fotheringham

It is a classic rule of the newspaper business that one should never write the headline on one’s own stuff. Too close to the subject. In 1967, your agent did a full-page takeout on E. Davie Fulton, then about to try once again for the Tory leadership, and asked a colleague to title it. He decided on DAVIE FULTON: THE MAGNIFICENT FAILURE. These weekends the former justice minister of Canada, former B.C. Supreme Court judge, is spending his time in jail, in the Marpole Community Correctional Centre in Vancouver, sharing his time with bad-cheque artists and petty burglars. It is the most tragic story in Canadian politics.

E. Davie Fulton was always destined for the top.

His grandfather, A.E.B.

Davie, was British Columbia’s eighth premier. His great-uncle was B.C.’s 10th premier and later chief justice. Another uncle was speaker of the B.C. legislature. His father was a B.C. attorney general and later an MP in the ; Borden government. The ¡ tall redhead from KamI loops was B.C.’s 1937 Rhodes Scholar and then a major with the Seaforth Highlanders in the Italian campaign when he received a letter in 1944 from a prominent Kamloops Tory. It asked him if he would allow his name to stand for nomination as Conservative candidate and concluded, “We hope you will consider this seriously because, as a matter of fact, we nominated you at the meeting last night.” He was allowed home on leave to campaign, whirled around the riding in his kilt and squeezed into the traditionally Liberal seat by 177 votes.

When he entered the Commons, still full of the youthful arrogance of the Oxford Union and the fire of war, he created a sensation with his maiden I speech. He became the first EnglishI speaking Tory to deliver some of the ! speech in French and, ignoring the “truce” traditions of the occasion, attacked the prime minister so vigorously that he was interrupted 11 times by angry cabinet ministers. An impressed

Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.

Mackenzie King leaned to his seatmate and whispered, “That young man will lead the Tories some day.”

He foundered on the craggy rocks of John Diefenbaker’s jealousy. Before 1956 they had been quite close, Fulton regarded somewhat of a Dief protégé. Twice he flew to Prince Albert to deliver Dief’s French speeches. When Diefenbaker’s first wife died, it was Fulton who was sent by the Conservative party brass to accompany the prairie lawyer on the lonely train ride back to Ottawa.

His sin was running against Dief in the 1956 leadership race, and the obsessively suspicious man from Prince Albert decided he had to cut down this clever 40-year-old with the growing reputation. Fulton honed his French under the noon-hour tutoring of an MP by the name of Jean Lesage. He had a bipartisan eye for talent, attracting to Ottawa such aides as Marc Lalonde and Michael Pitfield. But Dief made him the goat in the bitter loggers’ strike in Newfoundland and handed his justice minister the humiliating demotion to Public Works.

A demoralized Fulton decided to burnish his reputation back in B.C. while the obviously doomed Dief regime slipped beneath the waves. He accepted the 1963 offer of well-heeled Tory businessmen who set up the “Fraser Trust,” to guarantee him $20,000 a year for five years to revive the moribund B.C. Conservative party. The essential, for the Fraser Trust, was for Fulton, with his

renowned debating skills, to get into the B.C. house in the first available byelection. An early opening in the little Rocky Mountain riding of Columbia, where an unknown Conservative had finished a strong second, provided the perfect opening for the onetime House of Commons star to demonstrate his parliamentary skills up against the woolhats of W.A.C. Bennett. The strategists of the Fraser Trust pressed Fulton to run. He refused, his pride and family tradition insisting that he run in Kamloops against the flamboyant “Phlying” Phil Gaglardi. He was trounced, of course, the Tory revival was finished before it began, and the Fraser Trust never forgave.

Davie Fulton, 22 years seeking the top, failed again before Robert Stanfield in 1967, running up enormous debts. His law practice slipped. Putting up outside Christmas lights at his home, he fell off a ladder, broke his leg, developed gangrene and almost died. He was appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court in 1973. Then came the first impaired driving conviction. Then ! prostitute Wendy King, ■who brought down B.C. ; Chief Justice John Farris, alleged in her book that Fulton was another customer. An innocent Fulton, crushed by the publicity and the court ordeal he had to endure before the case of mistaken identity was admitted, went back to the bottle and a second driving charge. He resigned from the bench—before it was revealed that the man in Wendy King’s apartment in fact had been David Rogers, an old Kamloops lawyer colleague who had not come forward to protect Fulton’s name.

The broken man, a confessed alcoholic, now serves his 14-day jail sentence in Room 4 of the Vancouver correctional centre, a spartan youth hostel-style old mansion where he must share the chores—washing dishes, helping the cook, serving other prisoners or cleaning floors:

B.C. has never provided a Canadian prime minister, and E. Davie Fulton had a chance perhaps better than any. The political process broke his vast promise and, eventually, him. He is 65.