March 9, 2019 1:35 pm
Updated: March 9, 2019 1:41 pm

Tributes pour in after Ron Russell, long-time MLA for Hants West, dies aged 92

Ron Russell, 92, died at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre on Thursday,

(CP PHOTO/Andrew Vaughan)

A long-time MLA who represented Hants West in eight consecutive elections has died.

The Honourable Ron Russell, 92, died at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre on Thursday, according to his obituary.

Russell was elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature in 1978 and went on to win elections in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2003. He was also elected Speaker of the House three times, in the years 1978, 1993 and 1998.

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Russell was the first minority-party MLA ever elected as Speaker. He spent 18 years in cabinet, serving as minister of labour, health and transportation, as well as deputy premier.

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In a statement on Facebook, former MP Scott Brison reflected on his relationship with Russell.

“I had the privilege of working for and alongside of Ron from that time until his retirement,” Russell wrote. “He inspired me and mentored me, and he worked hard to effectively serve the people of West Hants and Nova Scotia.

“He was simply an exemplary elected representative.”

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston also offered his sympathies, calling Russell a dedicated public servant with “an enviable legacy of community involvement.”

“I have heard stories of his sharp wit, amazing sense of humour and encyclopedic knowledge of the rules of the Nova Scotia legislature,” Houston wrote.  “He will long be remembered.”

Conservative public relations specialist Rob Batherson is remembering Russell as “smart, funny and tough.”

“Sad news to wake up to this morning with the passing Thursday of former Deputy Premier, Speaker and PC MLA Ron Russell,” wrote Batherson. “Deepest condolences to Ron’s wife Jo-Marie, his sons and family and friends.”

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Before entering provincial politics, Russell served as a pilot with the Royal New Zeland Air Force during the Second World War, before entering the Royal Australian Air Force. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot in 1950 and served until 1973, when he retired with the rank of Squadron Leader.

Russell retired from politics at the age of 80 while serving as deputy premier because of bowel cancer.

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“After recovering from his illness, Ron remained actively involved in Nova Scotia politics in an informal advisory role, displaying the passion and intelligence and energy that had characterized his many years of dedicated public service,” his obituary reads.

A memorial reception for Russell will be held on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Cruikshank’s Funeral Home on Windsor Street in Halifax.

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