A loving farewell to Ian Reid

A mighty heart has stopped.

Ian Reid, beloved husband to Paul Degenstein and our dear, sweet friend, died peacefully late Saturday afternoon. And with him goes one of Canada’s smartest and most compassionate voices for a better, fairer world.

That compassion shines clearly throughout his life. As much as Ian enjoyed politics and the cut and thrust of strategy, what truly drove him was love: for Paul; for his children, his friends and the people he mentored and worked with; but also for the community around him, near and far.

“An injustice to one is an injustice to all” was far more than a slogan to Ian. He felt it keenly, and his level-headed demeanour belied a strong, often fierce passion.

From his earliest days of activism, he knew opposing is not enough: that we must not only fight injustice, but right it. That requires strategy, and Ian had a remarkable talent for understanding public opinion and charting a course for engaging it. His work helped to elect New Democrats, advance crucial policies and — in recent years — to blunt the worst of the right-wing attacks on justice, equality and the environment.

His work would often mean collaboration with NOW, and we were the better for it. He was the best opposition researcher in Canada, relentlessly pursuing that one nugget that could unmask an opponent pretending to be on the side of working people. Evaluating creative concepts, Ian could set aside the partisan mind and channel instead the target voter, striking exactly the right note to bring a message home. And when he crunched numbers on public perception and issue salience, Ian had that rare gift of finding a path to victory amid the noise and clamour of an election campaign.

When illness forced him to step back from that work, Ian took the opportunity to speak freely and openly. He blogged fearlessly about the damage he saw conservative forces inflicting in Canada and around the world, his advice to New Democrats, and his experience with the disease that would finally claim his life… but not until long after Ian had outlived countless medical projections and prognostications. It’s hard to imagine that Ian won’t join us the next time we sit down for a night of election coverage, his laconic humour interspersed with eerily prescient predictions of how the ridings will fall.

We’ve been tremendously lucky to know him, and just as lucky to witness the love and tenderness he and Paul shared every day. Many of us at NOW were privileged to see that love grow from its early days, and it has been one of the most beautiful things any of us can remember.

Ian was a big part of Paul’s creative process, sparking ideas and honing concepts. Together, they shared in their respective victories at home and across the country. And when there were setbacks and defeats to contend with, Ian and Paul shared those, too — lending each other tremendous strength and the grace to rise above them. Incredibly, that grace only seemed to grow with the progression of Ian’s cancer.

Ian’s death still seems barely real to us here today. The outpouring we’ve heard on the phones and online suggests the same is true for those countless people Ian mentored, inspired and supported over the years.

We’re trying to comfort ourselves with the knowledge that so much of Ian survives in the wisdom he shared and the lives he touched. We hope you’ll share some of your memories of Ian and what he meant to you over the coming days and weeks.

Our condolences, our shared grief and our love go out to Paul, and to Ian’s children Shamus, Alexis and Jordan.

Goodbye, Ian. We love you.

Name: NOW Communications Group

Location: Canada-wide with offices in Vancouver, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax

Bio: Full service advertising. Social marketing. Union communications. Electoral campaigns. Change marketing. NGOs & Associations. Video, online & interactive. Training & Coaching.

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