Mel Hurtig, the noted bookstore owner, creator of The Canadian Encyclopedia, and would-be politician, died in a hospital in Vancouver on Aug. 3. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia. He was 84.
Hurtig opened Edmonton’s first independent bookstore, Hurtig Books, in 1956, growing it into one of the country’s largest. After selling the store in 1972, he founded Hurtig Publishers, which in 1985 would launch The Canadian Encyclopedia, a $12-million attempt to fill what Hurtig saw as a gap in comprehensive Canadian books about Canada.
Hurtig twice ran, unsuccessfully, for federal office, once under the Liberal banner in 1972, and again in 1993 as leader of the National Party of Canada. In between, he established the Committee for an Independent Canada to lobby against foreign ownership and cultural imperialism, and the Council of Canadians, which lobbied against free trade. In 1980 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Most recently, Hurtig self-published The Arrogant Autocrat: Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada.
A longer obituary is forthcoming.