Former federal ag minister Don Mazankowski, 85

Long-time Alberta Tory MP deemed a 'minister of everything'

A private memorial is planned for long-time Alberta MP Don Mazankowski, whose work in the cabinets of prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark included a stint as Canada’s minister of agriculture.

Mazankowski, the MP for the east-central Alberta riding of Vegreville from 1968 to 1993, died late Tuesday at age 85, his family said in a release Wednesday.

Born at Viking, Alta., Mazankowski farmed and set up automotive dealerships at Innisfree and later Vegreville, where according to his family he met then-prime minister John Diefenbaker on a speaking tour and was inspired to enter local, and later federal, politics.

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On the Progressive Conservative opposition benches, Mazankowski served as the Tories’ critic for transport (1972-76, 1977-79, 1980-84) and Treasury Board (1976-77, 1981-83).

In Clark’s short-lived Tory government (1979-80), Mazankowski served as transport minister and minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Returning to the government benches with Mulroney in 1984, Mazankowski served as deputy prime minister (1986-93), minister of finance (1991-93), minister responsible for Alberta (1986-92) and House leader in the Commons (1986-88). Thus he “became known as the ‘minister of everything,'” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement Wednesday.

In September 1988, Mazankowski replaced John Wise as minister of agriculture, a post he held through to April 1991.

Mazankowski is credited for his work during that time on the federal Farm Income Protection Act and Western Diversification program, and was considered a “strong advocate” for the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Honours bestowed on Mazankowski include the title of “Right Honourable” in 1993, the Order of Canada (2000, promoted 2013) and induction in the Alberta Order of Excellence (2003).

After leaving federal politics, he worked as a consultant and sat as a director on several corporate boards. He also helped negotiate the merger agreement creating the current federal Conservative Party, Kenney said.

“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,” Kenney said in his statement Wednesday. “Maz was such a voice for decades. For that and for all that he did, Albertans are deeply grateful.”

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said Wednesday on Twitter that Mazankowski’s “dedication to Canadians is reflected in the Heart Institute that bears his name,” a reference to the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton.

The Mazankowski family said it will hold a private memorial “given the circumstances of COVID-19,” to be followed by a public memorial “when circumstances permit.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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