By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Jim Carr 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, whose political connection with Carr dates back to the 1980s, 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 and suffered kidney failure. 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.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that when he first met Carr during his attempts to recruit him as a Liberal candidate in the 2015 election, he was struck by his thoughtfulness.
He said his interventions around the cabinet table were also “imbibed with such a passionate thoughtfulness about the country and how all the parts needed to fit together in order for us to be what we wanted to be,” Trudeau said Monday in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.
“He lived and breathed it every step of the way,” Trudeau said, with tears in his eyes. “You couldn’t imagine a better ambitious … and thoughtful and compassionate voice to drive us forward.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tweeted Tuesday that Carr was “an honourable and kind man, steadfastly dedicated to the service of his country and his constituents.”
Leah Gazan, the New Democrat member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, also tweeted: “As a neighbouring MP, I know how dedicated Jim was to serving his constituents.”
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 spoke in the Commons last week during the passage of his private member’s bill. 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.
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?”
Trudeau said Carr’s efforts on that bill were telling.
“It was all about ‘this is something that is going to make a huge difference for the country moving forward,’” Trudeau said.
He added that Carr knew he was unlikely to be around to see the bill’s impact, “but he needed to keep things on the right path.”
Carr was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1988. He resigned his seat in 1992, two years after the Liberals suffered a big setback at the polls. Lamoureux, who was also a legislature member then, recalled Carr taking a short vacation to contemplate his next move.
“We were thinking it was either mayor or (provincial Liberal) leader,” Lamoureux said Monday.
“He loved Winnipeg as a city and I think he would have been a fantastic mayor or premier. He excelled at whatever he did.”
In 1998, Carr became president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of Manitoba.
In 2014, Trudeau touted him as a star candidate. 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.”
— with files from Stephanie Taylor, Dylan Robertson and Marie-Danielle Smith in Ottawa
Statement on the passing of the Hon. Jim Carr. pic.twitter.com/jRQ6m05ecQ
— Jim Carr (@jimcarr_wpg) December 12, 2022