From 1997-2015, Stoffer was the NDP MP for Nova Scotia’s Sackville-Eastern Shore riding. He was the official Opposition critic for Veterans Affairs, and also held NDP critic roles for Fisheries and Oceans, National Defence and Canada Post, among others.
He was respected by peers and partisans for his independent thinking, friendly demeanour and astonishing collections in his office in the Confederation Building.
In an Oct. 27, 2015, interview with Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network’s Power and Politics, he stated there were “8,000 baseball caps, 9,000 pins, 5,000 buttons, a lot of them political, and a whole bunch of other stuff I’ve accumulated over 18 years.”
The ball cap collection started quite by accident. “I was the Fisheries and Oceans critic for our party,” he told CTV on July 14, 2016. “A gentleman from the Labrador and Newfoundland Shrimp Co. came to talk to me about northern shrimp. He saw my three hats I had on my desk. He said, ‘Do ya like hats?’ So he gave me his. I had four of them. So I just tacked them onto the wall.”
It just kept going from there. “I don’t like blank wall space anyway, so I thought I’d fill it up,” he told Barton. He wasn’t kidding – the office was covered from wall to ceiling.
I caught his Oct. 27, 2015, interview with CTV News Channel’s Mercedes Stephenson, and heard he was going to sell his ball cap collection (save for two sentimental items) and donate the money to charity. This sounded like a noble cause and appealed to me as a political junkie.
One small problem: I barely knew Stoffer. We had one brief, pleasant conversation when I worked in Stephen Harper’s office. He was kind enough to invite me to see his office and have a drink, but I regrettably never did.
So I sent a note to his political email account and hoped for the best. His then-parliamentary assistant, Colleen Knight, got in touch with me and passed along a phone number. Stoffer and I chatted, exchanged personal email accounts and he agreed to send me some caps.
Alas, the daily grind of life got in the way – and our conversation fell by the wayside.
The gods were smiling upon us, however. An old episode of the CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes aired in mid-June that contained a segment about his office. A light bulb flickered in my middle-aged head and I retrieved our email conversation. Although I figured it was far too late, I asked him if he had any remaining ball caps.
Incredibly, he had “about 20 left which I will sell by the way next month at a flea market so I do have some political and military hats if you so wish.” I couldn’t believe my luck and wrote that I would take “four caps in total” and the “choice is up to you.”
The package arrived in mid-July, containing: Montreal’s 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, NCSM Ville de Québec (FFH 332) frigate, a signed Team Trost, and the NON campaign during the 1995 Quebec referendum. A donation to Stoffer’s charity of choice, the Society of Atlantic Heroes, will be made this week.
I appreciate his help in closing this small chapter. As I wrote to him in 2015, “you had many friends and admirers across party lines. I always thought you were a honourable person and did an excellent job as an MP. The House of Commons will miss your presence … and your candour.” I stand by these words.
In all likelihood, I’m the last political/media person to receive Peter Stoffer’s ball caps. It wasn’t intentionally done but I’ll gladly hold this unique distinction.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.