Fraser Smith, a Sidney man with a big laugh and even bigger heart died of respiratory illness Sunday, Sept. 25.
Smith, was a financial strategist who was most well-known for his Smith Manoeuvre, a legal strategy that allows homeowners to make their mortgages tax deductible. Smith earned even more recognition during the recent federal election by throwing his support behind Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
Smith, a long-time Conservative, made news by renouncing the Conservative agenda and publicly backing May.
“It’s just awful, it’s so hard to lose Fraser,” said May during a break from question period in the House of Commons.
May met Smith at a Green Party event in the fall of 2009. “It was a fundraiser for my campaign and a mutual friend dragged him along,” she said. “He was so cute, so much fun.” Smith told her up front he was a staunch Conservative supporter. “I loved him from the first minute. I found out in his early political life he supported the Reform party and he was surprised that I have a very high opinion of Preston Manning,” May said, although their bond was formed out of a social connection rather than a political one.
“When he told me he decided to go Green he didn’t take me aside, he strode into the Mary Winspear Centre … his face was working like there was a storm cloud brewing … he said ‘okay’ and he opened his wallet and took out two Conservative party membership cards and tried, and tried to rip them up but they were made of plastic like a credit card and he just gave them to me all mangled and said, ‘you keep these and let me join the Green Party’,” said May.
Smith was born June 23, 1938 in Nordegg, Alberta. He moved to Olds, Alberta with his family when he was seven, then onto Jasper Place, Edmonton during his high school years. Smith was actively involved in the YMCA throughout his youth, becoming a camp counsellor and going to college in Springfield, Mass. on a YMCA scholarship for a year.
He attended the University of Alberta, earning a B.Sc. and a wife — Judy, in 1964.
Smith’s father was a coal miner born in Fife, Scotland. He then went into the trades and furthered his education through night school. “He earned a teaching degree and spoke four languages, he learned it all at night school. He became a vice principal at a high school for industrial arts — I think that’s where Fraser gets his drive from,” said Judy.
In 1981, Smith and partners founded the Granville West Group, a financial services company in Vancouver. In 1991, Smith went on to form the Smith Consulting Group and KittyHawk Securities, and practised financial planning until he retired in 2002.
“We were best friends, we spent a lot of time together,” said Gordon Shaw, who met Smith in 1987. “Fraser was an interesting guy in a lot of respects. He had a brain on him. Any topic that you brought up he knew something about — but it was genuine.
“He was my definition of a renaissance man, he was so capable in so many areas, not just politics and financial planning … he had musical skill, he was well read, a great family man.”
Gordon and his wife Mary-Jane went to the movies on a weekly basis with the Smiths. “Every weekend we’d pick what we thought was the best (movie) then at the end of the evening we’d go out for wine and pizza and talk about why it was so bad,” Shaw said with a laugh.
Smith is an honorary Paul Harris Fellow of the Sidney by the Sea Rotary Club and was an executive member of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
“He was a person for the underdog,” said Judy. “That moved Fraser a lot.”
“He saw the good in everybody,” agreed Shaw. “If people needed help he would be there to help.”
“We were friends before he decided to endorse me, we got to know each other through community events and rotary,” said May. “He really played a significant role in helping me get elected and he did it at some risk. Some lifelong friends of his were very angry with him — it was not without cost,” said May, tears choking her voice.
“I never asked him to do anything. I accepted him for what he was and who he was … I could never thank him enough for what he did if he lived to be 100 — and I wish he had.”
Smith leaves behind his wife Judy, two children, Jennifer Verscheure and Rob Smith and four grandchildren, Digby, Huxley, Emily and Ava. There will be a celebration of remembrance for Fraser Smith later this month.