Born Sept. 29, 1943. Canadian minister of national defence, 1997 to 2002. Mayor of Toronto, 1980 to 1991. Resigned from cabinet to take the fall for the scandals that were accreting on Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien's government.
Eggleton, an accountant by training and generally considered one of the very blandest ministers in a very bland federal cabinet, nevertheless enjoys a reputation as an enthusiastic ladies' man. His marriage broke up shortly after he entered federal politics in 1993, handed the Liberal nomination in the Toronto riding of York Centre by the Liberal leader without the usual vote of the membership in that constituency.
That reputation, generally dismissed with a nod and wink by people who pay attention to Canadian politics, eventually came back to bite him in the buttocks. More on that momentarily.
As a municipal politician in Toronto, Eggleton was a classic pro-business, pro-construction, pro-development city councillor, budget chief and mayor, who happily presided over the loss of the city's downtown residential tax base to the suburbs while letting local infrastructure fall to ruins. He was a gladhander, a good old boy in a nice suit with a knack for managing people and no particular ideas about what the city should be. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a lot of people who knew what they were talking about celebrated Toronto as one of the best cities in the world in which to live -- Jane Jacobs moved there and famously described it as "a city that works." By the time he was done, Toronto was in decline.
Under his tenure, Toronto did its best to land any number of international seals of approval, like Olympic Games, an Expo and so on, but failed.
Still, people liked the guy. He departed municipal politics in 1991, was given a civic medal of honour in 1992, and was parachuted into York Centre by Chrétien in 1993.
Eggleton took York Centre with more than 72 per cent of the vote. The newly elected prime minister appointed him president of the treasury board, a cabinet-level position responsible for the Canadian government's management practices and administering the federal civil service. He was, as might have been expected, competent but uninspired in a position where such qualities are considered ideal.
He was minister for international trade in 1996 and 1997, and was appointed defence minister in June of that year.
As defence minister, Eggleton did much the same job as he did as mayor of Toronto: the Chrétien government gradually reduced defence spending over the years, trying to wrestle a multibillion-dollar budget deficit under control, and it was Eggleton's job to minimize the pain of the cuts. Essentially, the Canadian military -- once renowned as one of the world's highest-quality corps, if not highest-quantity -- fell apart while the minister, as instructed, insisted everything was fine.
Things got kind of ugly in 2002.
First, came a series of gaffes in the "War on Terror." Canada had no policy on what to do with prisoners its troops captured in Afghanistan for the longest time, which was OK because its troops hadn't, in fact, caught any. Um, until they did, and handed them over to American authorities despite the fact there was no particular order to do so.
Eggleton denied, repeatedly, in Parliament and out of it, that that had happened until it was no longer an even slightly tenable position.
Then he was forced to announce that Canada's troops would be leaving Afghanistan and wouldn't be replaced because there were no functioning units to replace them with. They were all, you know, busy. Canada's substantial involvement in United Nations peacekeeping shouldn't be ignored, of course, and things were going to be busy in summer, 2002: the Pope was coming for a big Catholic celebration, a bunch of world leaders were coming for a G8 summit that was also expected to draw a lot of angry protesters and potentially a terrorist attack, and so on.
Be all that as it may, the fact Canada's military couldn't keep up its commitments at home, stop some Cypriots and Turks from shooting at each other, and send a few hundred soldiers to Central Asia all at once was a sign that the cuts had hurt a lot more than Art Eggleton said they had.
And, finally, the ladies' man problem.
The Chrétien government had been embroiled in a long series of little scandals over its ministers' tendency to hand out sweetheart government contracts to friends and big party contributors. Eggleton had the misfortune to be involved in one the PM couldn't ignore: he'd given out a C$36,500 contract to one of his ex-girlfriends -- by all accounts a decently capable woman, but still his ex-girlfriend -- to study post-traumatic stress disorder. She produced 14 pages.
It was the kind of scandal the average voter could easily get his or her head around: an amount of money easily comprehended, a trivial amount of work, a recipient with obvious and sordid inside connections.
The story broke May 24, 2002. Eggleton "submitted his resignation" May 26. He has not been seen in public since.