Former Manitoba premier Sterling Lyon dies

Former Manitoba premier Sterling Lyon has died at Winnipeg's Grace Hospital following a brief illness. He was 83.

Former Manitoba premier Sterling Lyon has died at Winnipeg's Grace Hospital after a brief illness. He was 83.

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Sterling Lyon, loving husband, father and grandfather, and passionate public servant … following a brief illness," the family said in a statement released Thursday morning.

"Dad was deeply committed to public service and known for his strong will in pursuit of the public good. But as his family we were always blessed to know him as a devoted and loving husband, father and a grandfather. Funeral arrangements will be announced shortly," read the statement from the family.

Statement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper

On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I extend our profound condolences to the family and friends of Sterling Lyon. 

A gifted politician, Sterling Lyon served Manitobans and Canadians exceptionally well over a long and proud career in the Manitoba Legislature, culminating in his becoming Premier in 1977.

In addition to playing a strong role in the debate surrounding the patriation of the Canadian Constitution and the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Mr. Lyon was a staunch believer in government accountability and careful spending of public money. He will also be remembered for giving hard-working Manitobans better access to health care, extending social services for the elderly and for low income families, and cutting government waste...

Manitoba and Canada are stronger today because of Mr. Lyon’s vision and leadership. He will be greatly missed and remembered.

Lyon was Manitoba's 17th premier, leading the Progressive Conservative Party into power in the Manitoba legislature on Nov. 24, 1977. He served as premier for one term before being defeated by the NDP in November 1981.

Lyon was born Jan. 30, 1927, in Windsor, Ont., but was raised in Portage la Prairie, Man. He moved to Winnipeg for post-secondary education, graduating from the University of Winnipeg in 1948 and receiving a law degree from the Manitoba Law School in 1953.

That same year, he married his wife, Barbara, who predeceased him in 2006.

He worked as a Crown prosecutor until he was first elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1958, in the south-central Winnipeg riding of Fort Garry.

He went on to serve as attorney general for many years under Premier Duff Roblin. Lyon was elected leader of the Manitoba PC party in December 1975 and his party was elected to govern the province two years later.

In 1983, Lyon stepped down as Tory leader and was replaced by Gary Filmon, who returned the Progressive Conservative Party to provincial power in May 1988.

Statement from Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger

Manitoba has lost a true champion in the passing of former premier Sterling Lyon. Above all else, Sterling Lyon was a devoted and loving family man.

In politics, his eloquence and debating skills in the legislative chamber set a standard many politicians often strived to achieve but which few, if any, ever met.

From his first entry into public life in 1958, Sterling Lyon was recognized as a man of great purpose and someone who had an unwavering belief in the future of Manitoba.

On behalf of all Manitobans, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his children … and their families.

Lyon retired from politics in 1986 and was appointed as a judge for the Manitoba Court of Appeal, where he served until his retirement in 2002.

In 2004, he was honoured with the University of Winnipeg's annual Distinguished Alumnus Award.

In 2009, Lyon was made an officer of the Order of Canada "for his contributions as a judge and longtime politician in Manitoba, where, as premier, he led the expansion of community-based health and social services, and modernized governmental financial procedures," according to the official announcement.

Lyon is survived by his five children: Nancy, Andrea, Peter, Jennifer and Jonathon and their partners and spouses and his six grandchildren.

Flags at provincial buildings throughout Manitoba are being flown at half mast. As well, a book of condolences will be available until Dec. 31 for members of the public to sign inside the front entrance of the legislative building. It will also be available online at the Manitoba government website  starting Friday.