Former P.E.I. MP, MLA Wilbur MacDonald dies at 86

Former P.E.I. MP, MLA and Speaker of the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly Wilbur MacDonald of Orwell Cove died Wednesday. He was 86.

'He was always a strong voice for rural communities and our agriculture industry'

Wilbur MacDonald was a politician on P.E.I. for almost 30 years. (Hillsboro Funeral Home)

Former P.E.I. MP, MLA and Speaker of the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly Wilbur MacDonald of Orwell Cove died Wednesday. He was 86.

MacDonald began his career in politics when he ran for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and was elected as the MP for Cardigan in 1979. After serving one term, he lost his seat to Liberal Daniel J. MacDonald and turned to provincial politics, where he was elected as the assemblyman for the district of 4th Queens in 1982.

"He was always a strong voice for rural communities and our agriculture industry. Personally, I had the pleasure to work alongside Wilbur for several years and will long cherish his sage advice and kindness," said Premier Dennis King in a written statement.

"Wilbur MacDonald was a gentle, kind and passionate family man and farmer who cared a great deal for his community. He represented the people of Prince Edward Island with such pride throughout his political career."

MacDonald went on to serve in several roles including minister of industry and industry critic after being re-elected for the Opposition in 1986. When the electoral districts were redrawn in 1996, he was elected in the riding of Belfast- Pownal Bay, a seat he continued to hold until his retirement from politics in 2007. 

'Strong rural voice'

He served as Speaker of the house from 1997 to 2000, where family said he "thoroughly enjoyed his time".

MacDonald being interviewed by a reporter after being elected in 1979. (Submitted by Helena Yeo)

"He was just such a nice man, he had a very quiet demeanour about him. He was statesmanlike in a lot of ways," said former legislative and party colleague Pat Mella, who was leader of the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party from 1990 to 1996.

"He was always a very strong rural voice, and yeah, he was just a great colleague."

MacDonald was born in Orwell in 1933 as the third of 10 children to grow up on their family farm. 

An obituary written by his children said MacDonald was 13 when he was admitted to the Charlottetown Sanatorium with tuberculosis in 1946, which they called a difficult period of his life. 

In 1948, he was treated with the first antibiotic discovered to treat tuberculosis, which the family said quite likely saved his life.

The drug left lifelong effects on his hip, but he was then able to return home just in time to celebrate Christmas with his siblings, whom he had not seen in over two years. 

We have a lost a great Islander and a great community member.— P.E.I. Premier Dennis King

After spending time in Toronto, MacDonald returned to P.E.I. in 1957 and married his wife of 50 years, Pauline (Murphy) MacDonald, in 1958. The two moved to their farm and longtime home in Orwell Cove in 1966. 

They were married 50 years and had nine children and 20 grandchildren before Pauline died in 2009. MacDonald married his wife Marie (O'Shea) in 2010.

He was also involved in many community organizations, including the National Farmers Union, Federation of Agriculture, credit unions and co-operative movements, the home and school association and the Knights of Columbus. 

MacDonald working on his farm in the 1990s. (Submitted by Helena Yeo)

"I know the thoughts of his many colleagues and friends are with his family at this time," said King.

"We have a lost a great Islander and a great community member."

MacDonald's death notice said a memorial service will be held at a later date.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker


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