A man who rose from 'whale wrestler' to Manitoba's 28th Speaker of the legislature now has his portrait hanging in the halls of the legislative building.
George Hickes served as the NDP MLA for Point Douglas from 1990 to his retirement in 2011. For the last dozen years of elected office, he served as Speaker -- the first in Manitoba to be elected to the position in a free vote of all MLAs.
Hickes, 66, attempted to foster a reverence for the legislature as an institution and earned a reputation for dealing fairly with members of all political parties. Outside the chamber, he avidly followed the career of nephew Jordin Tootoo, an NHL star, and displayed a keen sense of humour.
Hickes, who once helped capture beluga whales destined for aquariums around the world, was the first Manitoba MLA of Inuit descent. More than 100 people attended his portrait unveiling Tuesday, including Premier Greg Selinger, Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee, present and former MLAs and several family members from as far away as Rankin Inlet.