Jim Carr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's special representative for the Prairies, speaks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

‘A thousand times kinder, wiser’: Winnipeg MP Jim Carr dies after long illness

Jim Carrr earned a reputation as a civil, contemplative politician in an increasingly polarized world.

Friends, and even foes, described him as kind.

The Liberal member of Parliament from Winnipeg and former cabinet minister died, his family announced Monday. He was 71.

“As a dedicated elected official, business and community leader in Manitoba for over 30 years, Jim was loved and respected by so many and we know he will be profoundly missed,” Carr’s family said in a written statement.

Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux asked the House of Commons for a moment of silence before question period. The parties then agreed to suspend the House for the rest of the day.

Carr had represented the riding of Winnipeg South Centre since 2015.

He served as minister of natural resources, then minister of international trade diversification between 2015 and 2019.

In 2019, the day after being re-elected as an MP, he was diagnosed with the blood cancer multiple myeloma. He underwent a stem cell transplant in 2020.

“Over the past three years, he fought these diseases bravely and courageously with the incredible support of his staff, colleagues and loved ones,” Carr’s family said.

Tributes poured in soon after the announcement.

“Our team has lost a valued member, our country has lost a dedicated Parliamentarian, and so many of us have lost a close friend,” read a message on Twitter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“As a neighbouring MP, I know how dedicated Jim was to serving his constituents,” Leah Gazan, the New Democrat MP for Winnipeg Centre, posted.

“He was an honourable and kind man, steadfastly dedicated to the service of his country and his constituents,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tweeted.

Heather Stefanson, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative premier recalled working with Carr on many projects over the years.

“I always admired his unfailing commitment to the betterment of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada,” Stefanson said.

Jeff Kovalik-Plouffe, who managed some of Carr’s election campaigns and worked with him as an adviser for many years, said Carr cared more about results than scoring partisan political points.

“He didn’t take a hard stance on anything. He would listen to people … and wanted to hear different points of view before he made decisions,” Kovalik-Plouffe said in an interview.

“For whatever persona he gave off publicly, he was a thousand times kinder, wiser, (more) respectful and loving as you could hope for in someone you work with.”

Carr’s last vote in the House of Commons was to approve the implementation bill for the fall fiscal update.

That came a day after the passage of his own private member’s bill on Wednesday. The bill would require the minister responsible for economic development on the Prairies — currently Manitoba MP Dan Vandal — to develop a framework to “build a green economy” in the region.

If the bill passes in the Senate, Vandal would be required to come up with a plan within a year of it becoming law.

“I want to start by expressing some deeply held emotion. I love this country, every square metre of it, in English, in French, in Indigenous languages and in the languages of the newly arrived,” Carr said in a speech Tuesday.

While the speech was ostensibly about the bill, he added some reflections on the state of Canada’s democracy.

“My respect for Parliament has grown by leaps and bounds. The wisdom of inviting witnesses to add thoughtful commentary and an opposition that has been respectful though occasionally dissenting are what a democracy is all about, and it is always rooted in strengthening the national fabric, woven as it is from those mini threads that make Canada the envy of the world,” he said.

“With resources, natural and human, comes responsibility to each other and to the world itself. How could we not be humbled by the greatness of this magnificent country?”

Carr was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1988. Ten years later, he became president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of Manitoba.

In 2014, he was touted as a star candidate by Trudeau. After being elected, he was given the natural resources cabinet portfolio. His ability to build relationships saw him switched to international trade diversification.

“He put his heart and soul into his job,” Kovalik-Plouffe said.

“He understood that even though you might not have voted for him, he still represented you.”

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