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Bernie MacDonald, councillor who represented London’s Ward 3 for nearly 30 years, dies

Bernie MacDonald. City of London

Bernie MacDonald, the long-serving city councillor who for nearly three decades represented residents of Ward 3 at London city hall, died earlier this week, 980 CFPL has confirmed.

A cause of death was not immediately available.

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Reaction to MacDonald’s passing has been pouring in from members of the community, including local politicians past and present.

“I was saddened to learn about the passing of former, and longtime, (London) City Councillor Bernie MacDonald,” Mayor Ed Holder tweeted Thursday, adding he had known Bernie for 30 years and that the former politician was “fiercely committed” to his constituents and the city.

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“If ever there was a standard for excellence in constituent service, it was Bernie MacDonald,” he said of the Cape Breton Island-native — east coast roots that the pair shared.

Sad to hear former Ward 3 councillor Bernie MacDonald has died. He always took care of his ward first,” tweeted Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, and former Ward 6 councillor from 1994 until 2000.

He fought with us to keep libraries open. He was lots of fun, pranking people and making jokes. He overcame many obstacles in his life and made a difference.”

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MacDonald served as councillor of Ward 3 for 28 years, first taking office in the early 1980s. Over the years, he also held positions at Ontario Hydro and GM Diesel, according to the London Free Press.

His lengthy tenure in office itself a clear sign of his popularity with constituents, MacDonald took 72.5 per cent of the vote in the 2006 municipal election.

In 2010, however, he chose to forgo another run for office, and instead returned to the east coast to look after his ill mother, according to the London Free Press.

At the age of 70, MacDonald reemerged in local politics in 2013, hinting at a possible run for London city council in the 2014 election.

In May 2014, he formally announced and filed nomination papers to seek the Ward 3 seat, but withdrew from the race a week later due to a family member’s illness. In June, he reentered the race, but dropped out again the following month.

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“Bernie was the type of guy who was always having fun. Always had a joke, loved to laugh, was always trying to keep things very light and keeping things real,” said Fred Tranquilli, a former councillor for Ward 3, in an interview with 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock.

Tranquilli, currently the CAO of Strathroy-Caradoc, served alongside MacDonald for three three-year terms beginning in 1997. Up until 2006, the city’s seven electoral wards had two council members each, with elections held every three years.

At the time, Ward 3 covered most of the city to the northeast of Adelaide and Dundas streets.

“He certainly saw a lot of mayors in that time and lots of people moving around the council horseshoe, for sure, and even even some members of council changing seats,” he said.

“(It wasn’t) uncommon for members of council to run for Board of Control after having served on council, and then from Board of Control running for mayor,” he continued. London’s Board of Control was phased out following the 2010 municipal election.

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“I know that his neighbours will miss him. He lived in his neighbourhood for quite a long time and he certainly has lots of friends in the east end having worked at GM Diesel for many, many years.”

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Highlighting his dedication to his constituents, Tranquilli recalled it wouldn’t be unusual to see MacDonald collecting garbage himself from an address that had been missed by sanitation workers.

“That’s that’s the kind of guy Bernie was. He always made sure that the people who were there in the community who needed his help would get it regardless of where or when,” he said.

— With files from Matthew Trevithick