The man known as the Emperor of the North has died at the age of 81.
Leo Bernier, who represented the riding of Kenora from 1966 to 1987, was the Minister of Mines and Northern Affairs and Minister of Lands and Forests in Conservative governments under premiers Bill Davis and Frank Miller.
He died on Monday.
Born in Sioux Lookout in 1928, he first ran for the provincial Tories in 1963, an election he lost to Liberal-Labour’s Robert Gibson by a mere 840 votes. Three years later Gibson died and Bernier won the seat in a by-election.
He retired from politics before the 1987 provincial election.
Tim Hudak, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, on Monday said Bernier’s efforts are still reverberating throughout Northern Ontario today.
"Leo set a high standard for ensuring that Northern Ontario received a fair hearing in the halls of government.
During Leo’s time in government, Northern Ontario’s issues were always a priority of the government and Northern families knew they always had a champion at the cabinet table," Hudak said in an email statement to media.
"When I became Minister of Northern Development and Mines, almost 15 years had passed since Bernier had served in that office, yet his legacy could still be seen in every corner of Ontario."
Hudak said even after leaving the political life Bernier remained a mentor to many in the Ontario PC party and left a lasting impression.
"He will be missed. My condolences go out to the Bernier family," Hudak said.