‘He loved his community more than almost anything’: Winnipeg MP Carr dead at 71

Days after getting his final private member’s bill passed into law, Winnipeg member of Parliament Jim Carr has died following a battle with cancer.

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Days after getting his final private member’s bill passed into law, Winnipeg member of Parliament Jim Carr has died following a battle with cancer.

Carr, 71, died at home Monday, surrounded by family and loved ones, his family stated. The Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre (first elected in 2015) was working right up to the end.

The former cabinet minister, business council founder, musician and Free Press editorial board member had been diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. He’d also been battling multiple myeloma and kidney failure since 2019.

An outpouring of condolences and tributes from politicians of all stripes honoured Carr’s curiosity, sincerity and ability to surpass partisanship and bring people together.

“He always had an inquiring mind,” said former Liberal colleague, and friend, Lloyd Axworthy, who knew Carr for about 40 years. “If there’s one great quality, he really could build bridges and connect people.”

Six days ago, Carr spoke in the House of Commons in support of his Building a Green Prairie Economy Act — legislation he had been working on for years to develop federal programs to help Prairie provinces diversify from oil and gas and focus on job creation in clean energy fields.

Just before the bill passed third reading in Ottawa, Carr repeatedly emphasized his love for Canada and his respect for Parliament, and he thanked his constituents.

“For all those who raised their voices in support of this idea, some may say it is aspirational idea, and I can handle that. I can handle aspirations, especially when they are shared, and that is at the centre of what this bill is all about,” Carr said Dec. 6, at the end of the House debate.

His bill passed the next day.

It was Carr’s last political act in a lengthy career of public service.

First elected in 1988 as Liberal MLA for Fort Rouge, and serving as MLA for the former Crescentwood electoral division (1990-92), Carr went on to federal politics in 2015, winning the Winnipeg South Centre seat for the first of three times.

In Ottawa, Carr served as minister of natural resources, minister of international trade diversification, and special representative to the Prairies.

Carr had supported the Liberals since in the 1970s. By the early 1990s, he was favoured to run for mayor of Winnipeg. Some wanted him to become leader of the provincial Liberal party.

Instead, in 1992, Carr joined the Free Press as an editorial writer and member of the newspaper’s editorial board. He went on to become founding chief executive officer of the Business Council of Manitoba.

He was driven to make things better for Manitobans, said Bram Strain, BCM president/CEO, who knew Carr for about 20 years. “No matter what was happening, that came first and foremost.”

Carr grew up in Winnipeg, in the same neighbourhood he would later represent at the national level. He leaves a large blended family, including three children, three step-children, and three grandchildren.

“He called himself a Prairie boy,” said Carr’s former campaign manager, Jeff Kovalik-Plouffe. “He lived, breathed, and died as a Winnipegger and as a Manitoban. He loved his community more than almost anything.”

When Carr flew to Ottawa last week prior to his appearance in the House, he knew time was running out. But Carr was committed to his work, and for him, “the glass was always half full; it had to be,” said son Ben Carr.

On Monday, Ben Carr recalled the family having dinner with Gary Doer, Gary Filmon and other Manitoba leaders on opposite sides of the political spectrum. As a child, he questioned why his father was talking to the “enemy.” He was told it was about addition, not subtraction.

“Really, what he was teaching us and showing us was that it’s possible, on a really genuine, human level, to have a relationship with somebody in spite of the fact that you may not see the world the same way. And I think those were really, really important lessons,” Ben Carr said.

Manitoba’s Tory premier and leaders of the provincial Liberals and NDP all spoke highly of Carr, as they offered condolences Monday.

Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux — who was first elected to the Manitoba legislature along with Carr 34 years ago — announced his colleague’s death in the House of Commons, following which the House was suspended on a break.

“Wherever Jim went, he left a large footprint, and I think if you were to take a look at that print, what you would see is someone that loved his city, loved his country, and believed that Canada had a lot to contribute to the world,” Lamoureux said.

How Carr presented himself as a politician was how he lived, based on kindness, Ben Carr said.

“It’s hard for me to separate the way that I’ll remember Dad, and the politician, and the man. Because to me, they were kind of all the same thing. He was great in all those ways.”


Katie May

Katie May

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

Tributes to Carr focus on commitment to community building

Politicians of all stripes shared memories of Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr, as they offered condolences Monday. Carr, 71, died at his home, after a battle with cancer.

“He was an MLA at a time (1988-1992) when Canadian history was being written in the Manitoba legislature, with the Meech Lake Accord, the Charlottetown Accord, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, and several constitutional issues brought forward in Manitoba. It’s people like Jim Carr who make Manitoba the province it is,” Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said in a statement.

“Over the years, Jim and I worked on many projects together, and I deeply admired his persistence and commitment to every challenge that came his way… (He will be) greatly missed.”

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Carr’s death is a shock to many in the community, and is especially difficult for his family and colleagues.

Carr’s sense of obligation to the people of Manitoba and his desire to contribute to the community likely came from his grandparents’ experience as Jewish immigrants in the 1900s, Lamont said.

“He might not have put it that way himself, but when I think of his values, his statements, that’s where I think he was coming from,” the St. Boniface MLA said, adding Carr was a passionate, yet practical, person with a wry sense of humour who was extremely effective in his many roles.

“He went out doing what he loved and making a contribution to the very end, and that’s not just remarkable; that’s extraordinary.”

New Democratic Party Leader Wab Kinew described Carr as kind person, a good man and a believer in the “project that is Canada.”

The two were acquainted when Kinew worked at the University of Winnipeg, and went on to collaborate on issues as representatives for communities in south central Winnipeg at the provincial and federal levels.

“We worked together well,” the Fort Rouge MLA said. “We always took the time to chat and encourage each other.”

Winnipeg city Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) fondly recalled receiving a bartending lesson from Carr at an event prior to him becoming a federal MP.

Rollins said she mixed Carr a Manhattan at a party intended to “twist” his arm to run for office. The cocktail wasn’t quite to his taste, and he demonstrated how to make a “better Manhattan,” with a focus on the bitters and essence of the orange peel.

“He really just walked me through it,” Rollins said. “I think everyone has a story similar with Jim doing something wholly personable like that.”

In office, Carr was always generous with his time and attentive to local issues, Rollins added.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs recognized Carr’s long history of working with First Nations.

“The partnerships we have engaged in with… Carr have been fruitful, including the transition of the Hudson Bay Railway from American to Indigenous ownership. We are grateful for your service to the Prairie region and your partnerships with Manitoba First Nations over the years,” AMC stated.

Jewish advocacy organization B’nai Brith Canada emphasized Carr’s “commitment to human rights and his tireless efforts to foster a culturally diverse and inclusive Canada.”

— with files from Danielle Da Silva


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