By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba politician Bill Blaikie, who spent nearly 30 years as a member of Parliament with the federal New Democrats, has died.
His son, NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie, posted a family statement on social media saying his father died Saturday at home in the presence of his wife, Brenda.
Bill Blaikie had announced publicly earlier this month that he was entering palliative care.
“We thank everyone for their kind words and gestures over the last week since Bill publicly announced he was transitioning to palliative care,” the family’s statement said.
“Street-side pipers, food, flowers and especially stories of how Bill inspired and entertained people over the years were a comfort to him and us in his final days.”
Blaikie was first elected to the House of Commons in 1979 representing a Winnipeg riding for the NDP, and at one point was the longest-serving MP in the House of Commons.
He left Ottawa in 2008, won a seat in the Manitoba legislature the following year and was named the province’s minister of conservation before leaving politics in 2011.
The family statement says funeral details will follow in the days ahead.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in a condolence message to Blaikie’s family, called the former MP a “giant” in the party.
“His unwavering commitment to social and economic justice, his legendary knowledge of Parliament, and his sense of humour will be missed by all,” Singh posted to social media.
“Rest in power Bill.”
Blaikie, an ordained United Church minister, also held a position as an adjunct professor in theology at the University of Winnipeg.
He was voted Parliamentarian of the Year by his fellow MPs, due largely to his reputation as a hard worker who avoided partisan cheap shots in debates.
In 2003, he lost his bid for leadership of the federal party to Jack Layton in a contest that pitted Layton and the trendy new left against Blaikie and the traditional, Prairie populist wing.
Blaikie finished his parliamentary career as deputy Speaker of the Commons, explaining he retired from federal politics because he did not want to continue commuting between Winnipeg and Ottawa.
His switch to provincial politics caught many off guard, some party insiders remarked at the time. He said he sought the nomination after former Manitoba NDP premier Gary Doer asked him to consider it when a member of Doer’s caucus quit to run for Blaikie’s vacated federal seat.
Former NDP MP Pat Martin lauded Blaikie as the first to raise the issue of climate change in the House of Commons back in 1983.
Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew called Blaikie a “lion” of the party.
“He fought with passion, intelligence and faith for working people in Transcona and across the country,” Kinew posted on Twitter.
“The Blaikie family has been so good to us, on behalf of our movement we send you our deepest condolences.”