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Tom Kent: A life of purpose

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CHIMO Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-17-11 07:30 PM
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Tom Kent: A life of purpose
Tom Kent, who passed away in Kingston on Tuesday at age 89, was Canadas foremost activist-intellectual. To some, the combination of the words is an oxymoron: intellectuals think conceptually, debate vociferously the arcane implications of theory, and are happiest in the library. Activists, on the other hand, while motivated by ideas, battle for their values in the public policy arena, by mobilizing supporters, outmanoeuvring opponents, creating organizations and winning elections.

Tom Kent dedicated his life to both strands of activity; he thought superbly and acted vigorously. The result is programs like medicare and the Canada Pension Plan, which help millions of Canadians every day.

Born in 1922, the son of a mining machine mechanist in the English Midlands, Kent went to Oxford on a scholarship. He was part of the famous team at Bletchley Park that broke the ultra secret of the German Enigma code during World War II. This led to his recruitment to the editorial board of the famous Manchester Guardian and it was as a journalist that Kent first made his mark.

Seeing the Liberal party as weakened today as it was in 1958, he wanted a new reform agenda. Just recently he sent me a note arguing that the Liberal party would be strengthened if local ridings had real power and that real power meant they should keep the money they raise, rather than sending most of it to party headquarters. He never gave up fighting for a fairer Canada or a more democratic Liberal party.
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