Alberta MP, former deputy prime minister Mazankowski dead at 85
EDMONTON -- Don Mazankowski, an Alberta and federal politician of 25 years and after whom the province’s heart institute is named, has died.
Mazankowski passed away Tuesday night at the age of 85.
“While Canadians knew him as Canada’s 4th Deputy Prime Minister, and a long-time federal cabinet minister, to his friends and colleagues he was known as simply ‘Maz,’” read a statement from Mazankowski’s family.
“However, first and foremost he was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, a legacy that he shared with his partner in life, his wife Lorraine.”
Born in Viking, Alta., Mazankowski’s political career spanned 25 years from his election as a member of parliament in Vegreville, Alta., to his retirement as government house leader in 1993.
He won seven general elections in Vegreville, and served a cabinet minister under two prime ministers — Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney.
When he left the House of Commons, he had also served as deputy prime minister since 1986.
Mazankowski is credited with advocating for Canada’s west, and helping develop the Farm Income Protection Act, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Western Diversification Program.
"At the heart of his public service was a belief that Western Canada needed strong voices to defend its economic and political interests in the Canadian federation. Maz was such a voice for decades. For that and for all that he did, Albertans are deeply grateful," Premier Jason Kenney commented.
"Don Mazankowski was a truly great Albertan who loved and served his community and country without reserve."
However, his retirement from the House of Commons did not mark the end of Mazankowski's involvement in politics; he was appointed by former premier Ralph Klein to lead a commission tasked with reviewing Alberta's health-care system. The 2001 report recommended dropping coverage for some medical services and drugs, increasing health-care premiums and expanding the use of private health clinics.
The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton was named after the late politician, who also was involved with the University of Alberta, Canadian Genetics Diseases Network, and Institute of Health Economics. Mazankowski was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000.
Conservative Party Leader Erin O'Toole commented, "His service and dedication to Canadians and Albertans is reflected in the Heart Institute that bears his name.
"He will be greatly missed and my thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time."
Flags at the Alberta legislature were lowered to half-mast in his honour Wednesday.
His family said a public memorial will be arranged when health guidelines allow it.
With files from The Canadian Press