An Enfant Terrible dies in his sleep. Former area MPP Eric Cunningham - dead at 65.

News 100 blackBy James Smith

January 1, 2014


Enfant Terrible: A term not used much these days, but I like to think of my pal Eric Cunningham as the quintessential Enfant Terrible.

Quick, sharp, partisan, did not suffer fools quietly; who cut through the crap and saw stuff from many angles, but always with a sparkle in his eyes when he’d make a precise evaluation of a situation or an individual. What a shock to know that this force of nature has passed far too soon.

Eric Cunningham

Eric Cunningham – dead at 65.

Eric and I have been putting off sitting down for a relaxing conversation over what he called, an Adult Beverage for weeks now. The stuff of day to day life just kept getting in our way, now, sadly at the far too young age of 65, Eric Cunningham has joined that smoky back room eternal.


Damn and blast!

I first met Eric in 1987, I was new to Burlington, and a mutual friend in Calgary suggested I look Eric up when I moved here. I did and was at once both put on my heels by the forthrightness of this man and attracted to Eric’s no nonsense attitude.

Eric had resigned from the legislature a couple of years before. When elected as the MPP for Flamborough North Burlington, Eric had been the youngest Member elected to the Ontario’s legislature. I was a young Liberal and was thinking of running for the nomination here in Burlington and Eric had been beaten by our MP, the late Bill Kempling,

I wanted to know if he was thinking of running, and if not, to get some advice from him. We met for said Adult Beverage and Eric listened politely to me. After a few minutes he stopped me and asked: “Do you want to do the job or not”? Direct, to the point! I had learned just who the essential Eric was.

Eric was very good with his time, having understood what it is to put one’s life on hold, put your face in front of the public, only to be rejected.

Eric and I did not travel in the same social circles, but we were happy warriors, who often shared the same sophomoric partisanship and who liked each other’s company and the occasional Adult Beverage. For the most part, we ran into each other when we’d be working on the same side in the many political trenches we’ve found ourselves in over these past many years.

Recently when I was considering running for municipal council, Eric’s evaluation and advice made me a better candidate. The best advice he gave me was to ask some tough questions and to ask “win or lose, will you be at peace with yourself if you don’t run?”.

Eric’s personal life had been through a rough patch lately, but when we spoke last week he was excited to put these troubles behind him and wanted to catch up.

Like so much in life, our plans get made and then fate steps in to unmake them. Burlington is a smaller and different place without my pal Eric, and I shall miss him dearly.

Eric Cunningham is survived by his wife Heather and a daughter.

The funeral will be at Smith’s Funeral Home, details to follow.

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3 comments to An Enfant Terrible dies in his sleep. Former area MPP Eric Cunningham – dead at 65.

  • Don Gerrard

    I enjoyed an adult beverage with Eric on occasion and agree that he was a great guy who will be sorely missed.

  • jack fernihough

    Agreed, very nice reflection. I only knew Eric briefly when I worked on his last campaign, way back when.
    In a short period of time, I learned so much. Really good guy.
    The most lasting impression was Eric’s incredible devotion to public service. I am pretty sure he attributed that to his mother’s teaching/expectation.
    Rest in peace.

  • Shannon Gillies

    Very nice piece, James.