Former Ontario Speaker, Tory cabinet minister Chris Stockwell dead at 60

Ontario politicians of all stripes are paying tribute to Chris Stockwell, the former provincial cabinet minister who's died of cancer at the age of 60.

Stockwell, a minister in the Harris and Eves governments, had been battling cancer

Chris Stockwell is shown at Queen's Park on Aug. 22, 2002, when he was announced as environment minister for the Conservative government in Ontario. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Chris Stockwell, a Conservative mainstay for over a dozen years during the party's resurgence in Ontario, has died of cancer at the age of 60.

His children, Kale and Victoria Stockwell, said in a statement on Monday that their father will be deeply missed.

"Our dad lived a full, loving and eventful life. He was a beloved father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and friend with enough love for everyone."

"He was introduced to politics at a very young age through his father and closest confidant, Bill Stockwell. He was first elected as a city controller in 1982. He was inspired at the prospect of public service after winning that first election at age 25. From that moment on, politics became his life trade," they said. 
Ontario Government House Leader and Minister of the Environment Chris Stockwell listens to the Opposition during Question Period at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 11, 2003. (Kevin Frayer/The Canadian Press)

"During his time on council and in the legislature, he was still simply our dad. He coached and showed up at every game, practice, recital and event. We travelled the world together making moments of a lifetime, never questioning his unconditional love."

A wake, according to his wishes, will be held for Stockwell in the coming weeks, they added.

Politicians express condolences

The news of his death was first reported on Sunday, with politicians of all stripes expressing their condolences and remembrances of the passionate politician.

Longtime Conservative politician at the provincial and federal level Tony Clement said in a tweet: "Chris never made for a dull moment, and will be missed."

Vic Fedeli, interim leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, tweeted Sunday evening that he was "very saddened" to learn of Stockwell's passing.

After beginning his career in municipal politics, Stockwell was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1990 representing Etobicoke West and acted as the Tory critic for a number of portfolios.

He was left out of a cabinet post after Mike Harris swept to power with a majority government win in 1995.

A year later, after House Speaker Al McLean resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, Stockwell was elected to the post. He quickly gained a reputation for his assertiveness – by one reporter's count he ejected 45 MPPs for the day over the course of his three years in the role. 

After the 1999 re-election win by Harris, Stockwell was tapped to lead the Ministry of Labour.

Tumultuous turn as minister

He threw his name in for consideration to succeed Harris as party leader in 2002, but received little traction. When Ernie Eves received the nomination, Stockwell would soon become his minister of energy and environment. 
Chris Stockwell speaks as Ernie Eves, background left, Jim Flaherty, background centre, Elizabeth Witmer (right) and Tony Clement (second from right) listen during the Ontario Tory leadership debate in Toronto on Jan. 17, 2002. Flaherty died in April 2014. (Aaron Harris/The Canadian Press)

It proved to be a tumultuous time. Stockwell introduced controversial legislation giving the province the ability to sell off the Hydro One utility after a court blocked the government's attempt to privatize the utility. Just a few weeks later, nearly the entire Hydro One board resigned over a dispute with the government over compensation packages for top management.

Stockwell resigned a year later. It was learned that his constituency association had paid about $46,000 over a period of two years in travel expenses, which included personal trips for the minister and his family.

Several years after leaving provincial politics, Stockwell received the endorsement of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to replace Doug Holyday as an Etobicoke council member in 2013. However, Stockwell — who had once defeated Ford's father Doug in a provincial party nomination race years earlier — would lose to Peter Leon.

Doug Ford, currently running for the PC leadership in Ontario, expressed his condolences online, as did leadership candidates Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott.

In one of dozens of tributes posted online Sunday evening, Premier Kathleen Wynne wrote that Stockwell was a "fiery, passionate person who brought life to the Ontario Legislature."

With files from The Canadian Press

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