Rex Murphy, R.I.P.

Tom Finnerty11 May, 2024 3 Min Read
Rex Murphy , 1947-2024. (CBC)

Sad news out of Canada this week -- Rex Murphy, the country's top right-of-center columnist and for years the only Canadian journalist consistently worth reading, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 77.

This is a major loss, both for our friends north of the border and for journalism writ large. Murphy was in many ways a throwback to an older, better era of journalism. Just one anecdote to illustrate this -- in his obituary at the National Post, his longtime employer, editor-in-chief Rob Roberts says “Rex could not be held back.... He filed what turned out to be his last column on Monday" and his last E-Mail to Roberts came on Tuesday, saying "Did the piece make the online edition?" Murphy died one day later.

He was a great wit, a man of principle, a fierce defender of the truth, and a passionate lover of Canada. As Kevin Libin, his longtime editor, put it, “Rex was a Rhodes scholar who could match wits with any intellectual, but he always seemed more comfortable and far happier being around regular Canadians, wherever they were."

All that, and he was one hell of a writer. For a sense of this, take some time to peruse his many National Post columns, including his final column, a critique of Justin Trudeau's see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to antisemitism after the attack on Israel on October 7th. That piece included this denunciation of the whole Trudeaupian project, which could have been written any time over the past several years:

After [Trudeau's] clumsy, incompetent and amateur eight-year holiday as prime minister, our country, Canada, is diminished on the world stage, and worrisomely scattered and incohesive on the home front. Canada has “no core values” according to the one person most responsible for nursing the “core values” of the nation. And so, the world has no sense of where Canada really stands because we really don’t have a stand; and by Trudeau’s lights, our “postnationalist” Canada of “no core values,” just by definition alone, has nothing to say. (Query: Should a post-nationalist state have a seat at the UN — the United Nations? Are Pride parades and an infatuation with global warming enough to fuse a great country into one magnificent union? Don’t think so, but that’s really all we’ve seen from Trudeau.)

It's easy for those of us who work in journalism to overstate the importance of columnists. But Murphy really was an important voice. As the Post's managing editor, Carson Jerema, wrote in his tribute,

He was driven not by partisanship, but by being a man who no longer recognized his country.... His critics dismissed him as a curmudgeon past his time, but that was a misconception, a useful lie people with a different politics told themselves. Rex’s relevance only gained as time went on.

For years, from the time of Justin Trudeau’s election in 2015, all the way through the battles over COVID, it seemed as though the conservative movement was almost non-existent in Canada. Successive Conservative party leaders were desperate to make themselves palatable to otherwise liberal voters. At times, at least in the immediate aftermath of Trudeau’s win, and later during pandemic lockdowns, which were supported initially by governments of all persuasions, it seemed as if Canadian conservatism might wither away completely. I am not exaggerating when I say, if it were not for Rex Murphy, it very well might have.

On the SNC Lavalin scandal, the carbon tax, federal spending, obsessions over pronouns, the freedom convoy, attempts to reduce Canadian history to nothing but a catalogue of shame, Chinese election interference, and most recently, Israel’s war against Hamas, Rex consistently stood on the side of sanity.

Murphy was also known across Canada as a broadcaster, hosting the CBC radio call-in show Cross Country Checkup for more than two decades, and appearing on various other CBC programs. Though Canadian broadcasting is even more monolithically liberal than its print media, Murphy's trademark Newfoundland accent and his downhome way of speaking made it hard to keep him off the air. As Tony Burman, longtime producer of The National, put it, "Very few Canadians turn off the set when Rex Murphy is on."

With that in mind, we heartily recommend one of his later projects to you, a YouTube channel called RexTV, on which Murphy interviewed the type of guests whose views put them outside the tired elite consensus in Canada. Beyond memorable discussions with Jordan Peterson; economist and "climate change" skeptic Ross McKitrick; and his fellow dissident columnist Conrad Black; all of which are self-recommending, Rex spoke to a few writers with connections to The Pipeline, including occasional contributors Janice Fiamengo and David Solway, as well as our Founding Editor John O'Sullivan. Watch and enjoy.

Tom Finnerty writes from New England and Ontario.


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