Family members and friends paid tribute to John Savage, former premier of Nova Scotia, in a memorial mass in Halifax on Friday.

Savage died on Tuesday, at the age of 70, after a long battle with stomach cancer.

During the service at St. Mary's Basilica, Michael Savage remembered his father as loving but strict.

Archbishop Emeritus James Hayes described Savage as a "genuine humanitarian and inspirational leader."

Savage, who was also a medical doctor and a social crusader, volunteered as a doctor abroad and was made an officer of the Order of Canada last weekend.

Many prominent Canadian politicians also attended the service, including federal Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault, former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna and three former Nova Scotia premiers John Buchanan, Donald Cameron and Russell MacLellan.

Liberal leadership contender Paul Martin was also there. He described Savage as a man of integrity who had served Nova Scotians well.

"I think that when history looks back at John Savage's career, it's going to treat him very, very generously," Martin said.

Savage was Liberal premier from 1993 to 1997.

As premier, Savage introduced the 15 per cent harmonized sales tax, Sable Island gas negotiations, a controversial toll highway and compensation for victims of abuse in provincial institutions.

His administration alienated more than 50,000 public workers by introducing wage freezes and rollbacks.

Savage also lost support in his own party when he tried to end political patronage in the province.

Savage spent his last months at home with his family.

His wife, Margaret, died of cancer six weeks ago.