The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Marcel Masse, former Mulroney cabinet minister, dead at 78

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OTTAWA - Marcel Masse, a longtime Quebec politician who served in the cabinet of Brian Mulroney, has died at the age of 78.

Masse was elected to the Quebec national assembly in 1966 and 1970 as a member of the Union Nationale and served as a provincial cabinet minister.

He was elected to the Commons in the 1984 election that brought Mulroney's Conservatives to power.

He resigned from cabinet in 1993 and did not run in the federal election that year.

Mulroney, who saw Masse recently, remembered him as a family man and gentleman who ran a number of senior departments, including Communications, Energy and Defence.

"He was very reserved in many ways, soft-spoken in private although he was a great speaker at political meetings," Mulroney told The Canadian Press. "He'd make his case and if he didn't win, he would leave with his head up high and a smile on his face and move on to something else."

In particular, Mulroney said Masse adored his time as communications minister and dealing with Canadian cultural initiatives.

"He was a big supporter of Canadian culture, Canadian broadcasting," Mulroney said in a telephone interview from Toronto. "He worked very hard to secure a cultural exemption with me on the free-trade negotiations with the United States."

Mulroney said Masse was a quick study and could learn a great deal about a portfolio in a brief period of time. That trait allowed him to hold diverse posts.

"I think he was a delight to work with," Mulroney said. "He was undemanding, he was not a prima donna in anyway around the cabinet table. He worked well with his cabinet colleagues."

After leaving federal politics Masse held various non-cabinet positions in the Parti Quebecois governments of Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted his condolences to friends and family.

"He was devoted to serving his fellow citizens," Harper said in his tweet.

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