Canada Votes 2015

The Conservatives owe Terry Fox's family an apology

Annual charity run for cancer research never should have been venue for electioneering
Photo: Province of BC

The 35th annual Terry Fox Run was marred by crass politicization. The culprits? Laureen Harper and James Moore.

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The prime minister's wife and his recently departed top cabinet minister from British Columbia were present at a campaign announcement, alongside the local candidate, Tim Laidler, Sunday in Port Moody.

Moore and the Conservatives pledged to match donations for the Terry Fox Run up to $35 million — if re-elected.

When asked about Terry Fox's family, none of whom were present at the Conservative campaign event Sunday, Moore stated, "They're aware of it. They're enthusiastic and they think it's great."

Members of the Fox family have played key roles in running the Terry Fox Foundation, which coordinates fundraising from the annual runs held across the country and worldwide.

On Monday, Fox family members contradicted Moore.

The Vancouver Province reports several members of the Fox family have issued a statement refuting Moore's assertion: "We need to clarify that we did not respond enthusiastically suggesting the idea was great as MP James Moore reported in yesterday's Conservative announcement promising to match The Terry Fox Foundation's fundraising efforts this year up to $35 million. Our son and brother ran across the country in 1980 in an effort to unite a nation for a common cause. We are committed to furthering his dream by reaching out to all Canadians regardless of their political interests."

The executive director of the Terry Fox Foundation emailed the Vancouver Province to reaffirm the charity's non-partisan status, adding, "The Foundation welcomes new investment commitments in cancer research from any and all political parties."

The announcement on Sunday struck me immediately as a ham-fisted political move, completely antithetical to the spirit of Terry Fox and the annual events that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.

I helped coordinate the local Terry Fox Run in Richmond, B.C. for several years, and can recall how the guidelines for organizers instructed that corporate logos and ads were not to be displayed prominently, as businesses were not meant to profit from their support of the cause. This approach was in keeping with the wishes of Terry Fox himself.

If the local grocery store is supposed to remain low-key about their donations of fruit and bagels, it's safe to say the prime minister's wife is not meant to show up in the middle of an election campaign and dangle money to encourage voting for the Conservatives.

This latest episode proves once again the Conservatives will do almost anything to score political points, even if it means putting words in the mouths of the family of a selfless Canadian icon.

How low will they go? There are still four weeks left to find out.

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