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Len Evans, former NDP cabinet minister, dies at age 86

Retired MLA Len Evans and his wife Alice in 2010.

TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN FILE

Retired MLA Len Evans and his wife Alice in 2010.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/1/2016 (1440 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

FORMER NDP cabinet minister Len Evans is being remembered as Brandon's staunchest champion and one Manitoba's kindest MLAs.

Evans, who died Friday at age 86, spent 30 years in the Manitoba legislature as the MLA for Brandon East and served in the cabinets of both NDP premiers Ed Schreyer and Howard Pawley.

A victorious Drew Caldwell hugs Alice Evans as former MLA Len Evans greets him Tuesday evening at the East End Community Centre in 1999.

COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN FILE

A victorious Drew Caldwell hugs Alice Evans as former MLA Len Evans greets him Tuesday evening at the East End Community Centre in 1999.

Municipal Government Minister Drew Caldwell, who succeeded Evans as MLA for Brandon East in 1999, called Evans "the single greatest public servant in the history of Brandon."

Evans served as minister of mines and natural resources several times. He was also, at various times, the minister of industry and commerce, community services and corrections and employment services and economic security.

In the early 1980s, as community services minister, Evans helped kick-start a reorganization of child-welfare services that included an end to out-of-province adoptions for aboriginal children. That move, along with a series of tough recommendations from a child-welfare inquiry led by Justice Edwin Kimelman, effectively ended the so-called Sixties Scoop.

Caldwell said two of Evans' proudest accomplishments were closer to home, though. A joke common in western Manitoba was Evans brought so much concrete to Brandon, the city risked a slide into the Assiniboine River.

As MLA, he helped orchestrate the expansion of Brandon's boundaries, allowing the city to take in a larger industrial tax base that helped fund future growth. And, in the early 1970s, Caldwell said Evans was almost single-handedly responsible for the construction of the Keystone Centre, Brandon's arena and recreation complex.

"He was one of the most considerate, kind, gentle and thoughtful people I've ever known," said Caldwell. "He never closed his door on anyone."

After he retired from politics in 1999, Evans served as a member of the Public Utilities Board during one of its most activist periods.

Mrs. Tannis Phillips chats with premier Howard Pawley and Len Evans of Brandon East in a walking tour at the Brandon Shoppers Mall. Circa 1980s. Evans died at the age of 86, and Pawley died last week at the age of 81.

BRANDON SUN ARCHIVES

Mrs. Tannis Phillips chats with premier Howard Pawley and Len Evans of Brandon East in a walking tour at the Brandon Shoppers Mall. Circa 1980s. Evans died at the age of 86, and Pawley died last week at the age of 81.

Evans was first elected to the legislature in 1969, carving out a tiny NDP enclave in traditionally conservative western Manitoba, an enclave that still holds. At the time, Brandon East was a working-class area with substandard services and infrastructure, and Evans did much to improve and modernize things.

Joe Slomiany, who was Evans' executive assistant in his early days as an MLA, said the night of his first, surprise win in 1969, the campaign team wound up at a party in one of Brandon's Ukrainian halls, and Evans spent the night standing on a table playing accordion while everyone danced.

"I don't think he had an enemy in the world," said Slomiany. "He was a very community-minded person."

Evans suffered a heart attack last week and died Friday night.

Evans is the second former NDP heavyweight to die in recent days. Pawley died last week at age 81.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Saturday, January 2, 2016 at 1:31 PM CST: Adds background

January 4, 2016 at 11:45 AM: Updated.

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