Sidney mourns the death of Clive Tanner (right), who along with his wife Christine shaped downtown Sidney in particular and the community in general through their love of books. The couple started Tanner’s Books and Tanner represented the riding of Saanich North and the Islands for BC Liberals between 1991 and 1996. (File photo from Black Press Media)
Communities across the Saanich Peninsula and Greater Victoria are mourning the sudden passing of former MLA Clive Tanner, who helped transform Sidney and the region through his long career in public service and a professional career in the construction industry. sale of books.
“Clive has been a giant in our community for about 40 years,” said Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith, a close personal friend of Tanner and colleague on countless community boards. “He had a huge passion for Sidney and the region. Although successful in various businesses, he has devoted much of his time to the boards of countless community organizations. I really learned the meaning of community involvement by working with Clive and other community board members. Clive wanted to see individuals succeed to their absolute full potential.
McNeil-Smith said Tanner shows great interest in people from all walks of life. “He could and wanted to cajole and provoke and debate and ultimately inspire people in ways that helped you become a better person,” McNeil-Smith said. “Sidney is a better place thanks to Clive Tanner. I have been a better person in our time together and he will be greatly missed by his family, my wife and I, and many, many, many others.
Tanner died Sept. 9 at the age of 88 at his Sidney home, where he had lived for about four decades. He leaves behind his wife Christine, whom he married in 1961, three children (Rebecca, Peter and Marc Tanner), six grandchildren, countless friends and a legacy of local service which has seen him serve and support multiple organizations whose very presence has come to define the Saanich Peninsula. They include, among others, the Sidney Business Improvement Association, the Shaw Center for the Salish Sea, the Sidney Museum and Archives and the Mary Winspear Centre.
He also spoke on behalf of the people of the region as the first elected Member of Parliament for the newly created riding of Saanich North and the Islands between 1991 and 1996, after serving as Minister of Health for the Yukon Territorial Government in the 1970s.
Tanner, who was born on January 7, 1934 in the Greater London area, first came to Canada as a child evacuee during the Second World War and then on a permanent basis shortly after completing his service in the Royals. Marines in the 1950s.
Tanner made his professional mark in the book selling industry, where he worked for about 50 years. Perhaps his most immediately visible legacy in this industry remains Tanner’s Books, which he and his wife founded in 1982 after moving from the Yukon to Greater Victoria.
“We bought the business when it was just a small corner,” said Christine Tanner. “We always thought Sidney needed a good bookshop because we liked the ones in Victoria. So we thought we were going to get there.
That love lives on through second-hand bookstore Beacon Books and of course, Tanner’s Books, which McNeil-Smith bought in 2001 after working in the industry for a national book retailer.
“It was just a very unique experience to see the community so front and center…and I learned that very early working in the bookstore,” McNeil-Smith said. “It was a great introduction to the community and one thing led to another and that’s how we got involved in community organizations.”
Tanner, for example, lobbied for what would become the Sidney Business Improvement Association in the 1990s, long before it was actually founded in 2012. “He never gave up on a good idea,” McNeil-Smith said. “He had big ideas and always found ways to convey them.”
Perhaps the best idea was the concept of marketing Sidney as Booktown, a concept launched in 1996 and inspired by Hay-on-Wye, England, a town of 1,800 people with 40 bookstores. “They (the tanners) said, ‘why can’t we do this in Sydney? At one time, we had 12 different bookstores under 12 different names under several different owners. Some people thought Clive had most of them.
Local retail expert Richard Talbot, who also knew the Tanners well, said Sidney was really in what he called “slump” before the Tanners arrived.
“The Booktown concept really put a big hit on downtown Sidney’s arm and it kept us focused,” Talbot said. “He has been a driving force and agitator in the revitalization of downtown Sidney and making it attractive not only to the local business area, but far beyond.”
Talbot also remembers Tanner as a passionate person. “You couldn’t walk out of that store (Beacon Books) without having an endless conversation about politics, downtown, military history, whatever,” he said. “He was always very attentive and very interested in everyone and what they were doing.”
McNeil-Smith sees Tanner’s legacy through the stores he created, but perhaps more importantly, his true community involvement that has improved everyone’s quality. “Since Clive and Christine arrived in Sidney in the early 1980s, Sidney has come a long, long, long way.”
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