Myron Thompson dies after decades as conservative stalwart in Alberta politics

Myron Thompson, who served in municipal and federal politics in Alberta for decades, has died.

Former councillor, mayor and MP was 82

Conservative MP Myron Thompson arrives for the party's first caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2006. He died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Myron Thompson, who served in municipal and federal politics in Alberta for decades, has died.

The 82-year-old, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late last year according to his hometown paper the Sundre Roundup.

He was an MP for 14 years, first for the now-defunct Reform Party and later the Conservative Party in the riding of Wild Rose.

In the 1970s, he was the Mayor of Sundre and a town councillor, a job he returned to after his stint in parliament until his retirement in 2017.

Politicians shared condolences with Thompson's family, and wife Dot, on social media.

"It was a privilege to serve with Myron in Parliament. A true character, Myron will be deeply missed," wrote Alberta UCP Leader Jason Kenney.

From Yankees tryouts, to the House of Commons

Jeremy Thompson said his grandfather lived a full life. He was born in Colorado and tried out to be a catcher for the New York Yankees before serving in the U.S. military. He was also a wrestler, who worked with Stu Hart.

"Hearing these stories was one of my favourite things to do with my grandfather. Just sit down and listen to him talk about life and talk about all the exciting things he did and set out to do," his grandson said.

"He always jokingly had a disdain for Yogi Berra, because Yogi Berra was the reason he didn't make it."

Once he moved to Canada in 1968, he was a high school teacher, principal and counsellor in Sundre before his career in politics.

Jeremy said he learned a lot from his grandfather about how to have civil discussions and how to be a man.

"Even though we agreed on hardly anything, the fact that he would sit down and have these conversations with me, and not only tell me and teach me but to learn from me and give me the opportunity to voice things I was trying to get across," he said.

"Not only was he driven by his desire to help people, but he was driven by his religious, he was driven by his love for God. He used that as his guiding force."

Sundre Mayor Terry Leslie said Thompson had an immense impact on the town.

"He was an inspiration," said Leslie. "It's a remarkable story and an inspiration to all of us … his legacy is a remarkable legacy, from his time as a teacher and principal he affected a generation of families in the community.

"He believed and was able to see some of the best in people that they hadn't yet seen in themselves."

Leslie said he considered Thompson a mentor, and one who will be greatly missed.

Controversial politics

Thompson was known for his cowboy hat and his tough and sometimes controversial stances on political issues. He lobbied for tougher child pornography laws, less government spending, and was one of the strongest voices against same-sex marriage.

"I want the whole world to know that I do not condone homosexuals. I do not condone their activity. I do not condemn homosexuals. I do not like what they do. I think it is wrong. I think it is unnatural and I think it is totally immoral," Thompson infamously said during a debate in the House of Commons in 1995.

In 2001, he told question period that he felt too many RCMP officers were patrolling national parks searching for poachers instead of hunting in cities for terrorists. At the start of the U.S. war in Iraq, Thompson, whose son Dennis was a U.S. combat soldier in Iraq, told a pro-American demonstration in Calgary that Canada should be supporting the war.

And when controversy erupted in 2006 over a decision to bar media from the base where the bodies of Canadian soldiers were arriving from Afghanistan, Thompson declared he would shoot any media if they tried to come on site.

"I do speak my mind and that's never changed," Thompson said in a 2006 interview for a story about whether Conservative MPs felt muzzled by their party.

In 2004, when U.S. president George W. Bush visited Ottawa, Thompson met with him to tell him there were Canadians who supported the war in Iraq.

According to Thompson, the president thanked him and also wanted to know if Thompson was from Bush's home state.

"Bush said, 'I really like you. You are a straight-shooter. Are you sure you're not from Texas?'" Thompson recalled after the meeting.

In 2007, Thompson presented a petition to Parliament with 110,000 signatures calling for tougher laws against animal cruelty. The names had been collected by Tamara Chaney of Didsbury, Alta., who was outraged after a horrific case of animal abuse involving a family dog.

"He was passionate about animals. He was one of the most gentle people that I've ever seen when you watched him interact with animals ... so that's something he fought for," Nixon said.

Street named after him a 'play on words'

In December, the town of Sundre named a street after him — Myron Thompson's Way, a name Leslie said was a bit of a "play on words" to honour the strong-willed man.

Dozens of members of the community gathered on his front lawn.

"He was a humble man," said Leslie.

"It was a very informal but very heartfelt down-to-earth honouring of a gentleman who just gave so much for 50 years of his life to others."

Love, but not the kind you see in movies

His grandson said Myron and his wife Dot's relationship was an inspiration, and the kind of marriage he hopes to have when he's in his 60s and 70s.

"They were together forever. I had never known them to be anything but in love, not the kind of love you'll see in movies, but it was certainly there," Jeremy said.

"It was an unspoken thing that you couldn't help but see it when they were together."

Jeremy said his grandfather did so much for his family and community.

"He was a bright light, about as bright of a light as I've ever seen … he had a lot of struggles in his life but he latched on to the things that drove his positivity," he said.

He said one memory of his grandfather was that he never missed a holiday, always calling to check in. The last day the two spoke was on Christmas. 

A few years ago, Jeremy had brought his wife up to Alberta to meet Myron for the first time. They hadn't seen snow in some time, so his wife built a small snowman on the patio table — something that Myron got a serious kick out of it.

During their last phone call, while Myron was in and out of consciousness, he told his grandson that his table was missing a snowman — and his wife had to come up to Alberta to fix that.

Thompson leaves behind his wife Dot, two sons, Myron D. and Dennis, and grandchildren.

News of Thompson's death came the same day as the loss of another long-time Alberta politician. Former MLA and Speaker Gene Zwozdesky died Sunday at age 70.

With files from The Canadian Press