If libertarianism has saints, then on November 21, 2006, we lost a saint. We undeniably lost a hero: long-time Libertarian Kaye Sargent.
A native of Innerkip (near Woodstock, in Ontario's Oxford County), Kaye discovered the Libertarian Party of Canada in the 1979 federal election (when we ran a 'paper candidate' in Oxford) and joined soon afterward. For the 1980 federal campaign, she decided that “it was my turn to do something,” and stepped up as the candidate herself. The year after that, she formed the Oxford Libertarian Association (OLA) and ran in her first provincial campaign.
Kaye's drive and energy caught the attention of Ontario Libertarian Party Chairman Bob Cumming, who encouraged her to serve on the provincial executive; she ran and won as Member-at-Large in 1981, on a platform of making us “more than just a Toronto party.” To that end, she organized a booth at the Woodstock Fall Fair in 1982, and a Libertarian float in the spring parade in 1983 — both became highly successful annual outreach events. She also organized and hosted the provincial party's 1982 convention in Woodstock, at which she was elected Vice-Chairman.
At the 1985 convention, Kaye narrowly defeated Jim McIntosh for Ontario Libertarian Party Leader, making history as the first female leader of a registered political party in Ontario. She contested a 1986 by-election, led us in the 1987 campaign, spoke at numerous events throughout the province, continued her role in the OLA, and even found time for a regular Libertarian Bulletin column. She kept up that pace through the 1988 Convention, when she lost another hard-fought contest, this time against three contenders.
An anecdote from that convention speaks volumes about Kaye's character. She and I were in the habit of greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek. However, as a leadership contestant, I had planned to avoid the other candidates (including Kaye) until the debate. My plan held good for perhaps ten minutes; as soon as she saw me, Kaye marched over and demanded: “Well, George; where's my kiss?” Which shows her priorities: She always put people above politics (as many of her political opponents have graciously acknowledged). For Kaye, politics was important only for the sake of liberty, and liberty only for the sake of people and their relationships; she was always clear on what was more valuable.
Which is why, after her loss, Kaye stayed as active as ever. She accepted a position on the Ontario party Ethics Committee and transferred her leadership skills back to the OLA. New outreach initiatives, a newsletter and a lending library, were launched; existing ones, like the fair booth and parade, were continued and expanded. Most importantly, Kaye continued to run in every federal and provincial election — always with her husband Cliff beside her, cheerfully serving as her chauffeur. (Kaye never drove.) She gradually built an impressive public profile; the local media began calling her for comment on all sorts of political issues. Kaye was seldom if ever at a loss for comment.
Kaye also found time to organize and host the provincial party's 1991 and 1994 annual meetings in Woodstock. At the latter, she was awarded the Marilee Haylock Award “for long-term commitment to the Ontario Libertarian Party and the cause of freedom.”
Kaye rejoined the Ontario Libertarian Party Executive as Deputy Leader in 1999, and held that position for the rest of her life. She also continued as our perennial candidate in Oxford; Cliff's death made it harder, but Kaye soldiered on. Her last campaign, for the January 2006 federal election, set another record: Kaye became the first and only Libertarian to have run in every federal and provincial campaign (in which either Libertarian party ran candidates) for more than 25 years.
It is only fitting to give Kaye the last word. While she wrote these words years ago about Ayn Rand, I find them equally applicable to Kaye herself:
She will top the list of one of the greatest losses in our society today. Hopefully, her works and philosophy will continue to flourish, and may the flame never be extinguished.
Libertarian Bulletin, Ontario Libertarian Party, 27:2 (Winter, 2006).
LPC Newsletter, Libertarian Party of Canada, Jan. 20, 2007. http://www.libertarian.ca/english/newsletter/2007-01/LPC-2007-01-gd.html