nl-gullage-eric-200610file

Eric Gullage, who helped forge a St. John's-area breakthrough for the Liberals in 1987, died Tuesday. (CBC)

Former cabinet minister Eric Gullage, who pushed a plan to amalgamate Newfoundland and Labrador municipalities during the Clyde Wells era, has died of cancer.

Gullage, 63, passed away Tuesday.

A former St. John's city councillor, Gullage leapt to provincial politics in 1987, when he won a surprise byelection victory for the Liberals in the St. John's-area district of Waterford Kenmount.

The byelection presaged the Liberals' breakthrough in the 1989 general election, with wins in several city-area seats.

As municipal affairs minister, Gullage advanced proposals on amalgamating towns and cities, including an option to make a "supercity" in the St. John's area.

Cabinet, however, backed away from that model in St. John's, instead distributing unincorporated land to several municipalities on the northeast Avalon Peninsula.

In an interview with CBC News last fall, Gullage said amalgamation still made sense, and neighbouring communities were competing with each other rather than planning services jointly. "That was unhealthy, and certainly uneconomic and didn't make any business sense at all," he said.

Gullage was defeated in the 1993 election. He was later appointed commissioner of the review tribunal of the former Workers' Compensation Commission.