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Longtime Schreyer cabinet minister dies at 79

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At one time, he worked as a lumberjack, an aircraft mechanic, a Caisse populaire manager, a real estate broker, an investment adviser and an administrator for an Interlake tribal council.

But most Manitobans of a certain generation will recall him best as a longtime cabinet minister in the Schreyer government.

René Toupin died on Saturday after battling cancer. He was 79.

Former premier Ed Schreyer recalled Tuesday how he heaped his colleague with responsibilities shortly after the NDP formed government in 1969.

After a four month stint in consumer and corporate affairs, the then-35-year-old MLA for Springfield was handed the onerous responsibility of Health and Social Services.

Toupin held the large portfolio for more than four years. It was all the more notable because it came at a time that predated the transfer of much of the administration of health care to regional health authorities.

"That was a tremendous workload," said Schreyer, who called Toupin "a loyal and trusted colleague."

Schreyer recalled asking Toupin to accompany him to a premiers’ conference in Quebec City just weeks after the NDP came to power in 1969. The meeting was held shortly before the federal Official Languages Act came into force.

"I remember it did, in fact, cause quite a bit of attention that Manitoba had a minister there who was naturally bilingual," the former premier recalled.

Toupin, who grew up in a farming community just east of the city, remained in cabinet until the Schreyer government fell in 1977. Afterwards, he worked several years as an administrator with the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council. Later he became an investment adviser with Investors Group, retiring in 2000.

"His passion was always people. Everything he did he tried to impact people, especially because he was Franco-Manitoban. That was very important to him to further that cause of Franco-Manitoban people," said daughter Rosanne Toupin-Ramlal.

His volunteerism included involvement with Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba, the Manitoba Council on Aging as well as provincial and national francophone seniors service organizations.

Premier Greg Selinger called Toupin a "very well-respected member" of the Franco-Manitoban community.

"I can remember going door to door with him and he would know every family, where they came from, where they were born, the brothers and sisters. He was a man who really knew his community and made a tremendous contribution to it," the premier said.

Toupin leaves behind his wife Frances, two sons, three daughters, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday at Thomson "In the Park" Funeral Home on McGillivray Boulevard.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 6:53 PM CDT: Fixes misspelled name

12:02 AM: Adds missing word

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