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Former lieutenant-governor and MP John Harvard dead at 77

‘Canada has lost a major spirit’

Former Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba John Harvard in his home in Winnipeg in 2013.


Former Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba John Harvard in his home in Winnipeg in 2013.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/1/2016 (1642 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

John Harvard’s widow described her late husband Sunday as "a great humanitarian."

Harvard, 77, a former lieutenant-governor and longtime Liberal MP died Saturday from cancer.

Harvard’s widow, Pat Bovey, said he had won his first battle with cancer but then it metastasized into bone cancer and also attacked his lungs.

"John had an unwavering commitment to social justice and his community," Bovey said on Sunday.

"His community included family, Winnipeg, Manitoba and included the country. He was a great humanitarian and I wanted to make sure I said that. I have been very, very blessed with wonderful time with a wonderful man."

Bovey said in lieu of flowers, anyone wishing to make a donation is asked to support Winnipeg Harvest, the Buhler Gallery at St. Boniface Hospital and the John Harvard Smart and Caring Community Fund with the Glenboro Area Foundation.

"John never forgot his roots. It’s his social service side and how he believed that art improves the value of life in the community," Bovey said.

"It was cancer that took him but I have the greatest, greatest admiration for CancerCare, the palliative home care program and palliative program at Riverview."

Bovey said funeral arrangements are still to be finalized but she hopes to have plans in place in the next day or two.

Mayor Brian Bowman ordered the flags lowered at Winnipeg City Hall on Sunday afternoon.

Premier Greg Selinger said Harvard was "a person who was very passionate about working on behalf of Manitobans to make Manitoba a better place."

"With whatever job he did, he brought a lot of intensity to it," Selinger said. "He will be missed."

On Twitter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Harvard "served the people of Manitoba with distinction."

Harvard was born John Harvard Heidman in Glenboro in 1938, the 11th in a family of 14 children, to Icelandic immigrants.

Harvard said in his last interviews he dropped his Heidman surname when he began his radio and then television broadcasting career in 1957, because of fears people would find it hard to pronounce.

He first worked in rural Manitoba, but by the 1960s he was on CJOB and became host of the John Harvard Show. Harvard jumped to the CBC in 1970 and became host of 24 Hours. While in that role, Harvard was awarded the ACTRA award as the best broadcaster in Canada.

Harvard threw his hat into politics and was elected as a Liberal in Winnipeg-St. James in the 1988 federal election, defeating Tory MP George Minaker. He was re-elected in 1993, 1997 and 2000.

While he was never appointed as a cabinet minister, Harvard served as parliamentary secretary to the public works, agriculture and international trade ministers. He also was appointed chairman of the prime minister’s caucus task force on the four western provinces.

Harvard resigned as MP in 2004 and was appointed as the province’s 23rd lieutenant-governor. The resignation opened up the Charleswood-Assiniboia seat for former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray to run for the Liberals, but Murray ultimately lost to Tory Steven Fletcher.

Harvard, in an article he wrote in 2013 for the Free Press, said while serving as lieutenant-governor, "I saw the shining light of patriotism in my travels throughout this great province.

"Manitobans are cited as outstanding citizens and patriots for their contributions to the province and Canada. Their love and loyalty for Canada are borne out in the myriad individual acts and community service done in countless organizations and institutions of all fields."

Harvard served in the post until 2009, when Philip Lee was appointed.

Former Liberal MP Anita Neville said Harvard’s death is a big loss to her and to Manitoba.

"I loved him dearly," she said. "He had a profound love for his city, his community and his country. He was actively engaged right until the end."

Neville said even as Harvard’s health failed, he stayed current on the world around him.

In the last several years he had started up a breakfast club with an eclectic group of Manitobans, including former politicians, journalists and academics, who met once a month at Harvard’s home.

"He laid out a brunch, and we sat for a couple of hours and talked about was going on in the world," Neville said.

Even in his final months, Harvard continued to try to help, and a donation he made to the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, to bring artwork into patients’ rooms, came to fruition Friday, the day before he died.

Winnipeg South Centre Liberal MP Jim Carr said Harvard loved politics and public policy.

"There was nothing he enjoyed more than talking politics with friends," Carr said. "He had opinions and passion, and he was not shy in the least about expressing his opinions with passion.

"He was happiest when he was performing his public role and enjoying his private conversation with friends about the world around us. We have lost a great Canadian and a great person."

Liberal MLA and former provincial Liberal leader Jon Gerrard, who served with Harvard when they were both Liberal MPs in the 1990s, said Harvard "was solidly grounded in the needs of the people of Manitoba."

"What also stood out for me was how he was ready to stand up for Canada and institutions like the Canadian Wheat Board and the CBC. There was a really strong core belief in Canada and its core institutions."

Gerrard also praised Harvard and his former wife, Lenore Berscheid, for the work they did supporting fetal alcohol spectrum disorder during his years as lieutenant-governor.

Veteran Winnipeg broadcaster and writer Roger Currie called Harvard "a true friend for more than 46 years." They met at CJOB radio when Currie was hired in 1970 and remained friends, though stretches of time would often pass before they saw each other next. Years later when Harvard was living Vancouver, Currie said he happened to be in town and he called his friend without notice and invited him for lunch.

"John seemed to clear out his schedule so we could do that. He was always like that. He was like that with a lot of people," Currie said. "He was very genuine, all the time."

Currie said once Harvard became an MP, another friend of Currie's was Harvard's insurance agent.

"He was always eager to make those kinds of connections all the time and nurture them. It's a gift," Currie said.

Liberal MP Douglas Eyolfson, who now represents Harvard’s former riding of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley, said on Facebook Harvard’s "commitment to democracy was unshakeable to the end."

"In the fall of 2015, he had a friend take him to an advance poll to vote, as he was not sure he would still be alive on election day. I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to his family and to thank John for his service."

Harvard was honoured with induction into the Order of Manitoba, Iceland’s Order of the Falcon and the Canada 125 and Queen’s Jubilee medals. The University of Manitoba conferred on him an honorary doctor of laws in 2005.

Bovey said Harvard never forgot his roots, and just last year they created the John Harvard Smart and Caring Community Fund with the Glenboro Area Foundation.

Harvard is survived by three children, two stepchildren, four grandchildren, four step-grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a daughter and son.




Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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Updated on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at 8:46 PM CST: Added write-thru story.

January 10, 2016 at 6:30 PM: Updates with writethru

9:08 PM: Adds comments from Roger Currie.

January 11, 2016 at 10:58 AM: Link added to John Harvard essay.

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