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'Mayor of Charleswood' succumbs to cancer

Veteran councillor remembered for dedication

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The gregarious politician known as the "Mayor of Charleswood" died on Monday after a battle with cancer.

Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Bill Clement, who had been undergoing treatment for lymphoma, died of complications from his illness Monday, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz announced in a statement.

"It is with great sadness and deep sorrow that I am to inform all Winnipeggers of the passing of Charleswood-Tuxedo city councillor Bill Clement," Katz said via e-mail.

"Bill ultimately lost a hard-fought battle with cancer. We will miss Bill's passion, dedication and knowledge who as a councillor always represented the citizens of Charleswood-Tuxedo and Winnipeg with integrity and wisdom. On behalf of my colleagues on council, we pray for his family during this difficult time. Funeral details will follow."

Clement, 61, had battled cancer before and beaten it. But his lymphoma returned in 2009.

In a phone conversation two weeks ago, he said he was looking forward to running for re-election this fall. He recently visited Europe but made it back to city hall last week, when he told several colleagues he was battling pneumonia.

"It wasn't the cancer that did him in. He said he had double pneumonia. His immune system got worn down," said a distraughtMynarski Coun. Harry Lazarenko, who worked alongside Clement for 27 years.

Lazarenko last saw Clement on April 26. "He was sitting in his truck. I thought he was talking on his phone but he was having trouble breathing," Lazarenko said. "I said, 'Bill, go home.' But he said, 'No, I have phone calls to answer.'I could tell you right now: Bill was unique. He took things in stride. He knew what he had to do. His No. 1 priority was the people he was dealing with."

Clement represented Charleswood since 1983 and was among the most influential members of city council. He sat on the executive policy committee alongside Katz and also played key roles in the Glen Murray and Susan Thompson administrations. In recent years, he served as public works and finance chairman and was respected for his encyclopedic knowledge of civic affairs.

He was a master storyteller who particularly enjoyed yarns about the defunct Winnipeg Enterprises Corp., and the early efforts to replace Winnipeg Arena.

Although a card-carrying Progressive Conservative, Clement was no ideologue. In recent years, he would remark that his 1980s self would be shocked to learn he was a proud supporter of funding for skateboard parks and bike trails.

He was also extremely proud of racking up the lowest expenses of all city councillors. He was unique among councillors in that he did not employ an executive assistant.

On the floor of council, he enjoyed taking light-hearted shots at his opposition colleagues, as well as the provincial NDP. But he always did so with a mischievous, boyish grin.

"The last time I checked, the majority of their seats are in Winnipeg, so they might want to start paying attention to that," he quipped in 2007, during a debate about wastewater funding.

"He came form the old school of politics," remarked Lazarenko. "But he got along with everybody. He's going to be sadly missed."

Along with serving council, Clement ran a family pool business called Aqua Pleasure. He is survived by his wife, Debbie, and four children. He would have been 62 in June.

No byelection will be held in Charleswood-Tuxedo, as the civic election is less than six months away.

Clement's public works committee is due to meet this morning. Lazarenko said he would like to cancel it out of respect for his colleague.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2010 A2

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