Thunder Bay·Audio

Former Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty dies

Former New Democrat MP John Rafferty, who represented the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding on Parliament Hill for two terms, has died.

Rafferty died of cancer on the weekend at age 65

Former Thunder Bay-Rainy River NDP MP John Rafferty died of cancer on June 30. (Jeff Walters/CBC)
John Rafferty was the the MP for Thunder Bay - Rainy River for seven years. He ran for office a number of times, provincially and federally...and finally got into office in 2008. He was a talk show radio host, as well as a teacher in the northwest...and wanted to be a politican once again, putting his name forward for last year's provincial election. He bowed out of the race though in January of 2018, citing health reasons. Raffery had cancer, and died on June 30. Many across the northwest are taking a moment to reflect on what Rafferty did for the region - and how he put his constituents first -- including David Noonan, the former riding association president for the NDP for Thunder Bay - Superior North. 5:08

Former New Democrat MP John Rafferty, who represented the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding on Parliament Hill for two terms, is being celebrated for his empathy and dedication after his death from cancer this weekend.

Rafferty's wife said on Facebook on Sunday that the former MP had passed away. He was 65 years old.

Rafferty served as MP from 2008 to 2015, and his death led to many expressions of sympathy and condolences from Canadian politicians of all stripes.

"John Rafferty served the people of Thunder Bay and Canada with dedication and integrity, and he will not be forgotten," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet. "My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones."

Current federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said on social media he was saddened to hear of Rafferty's passing.

"John was a fighter, determined to represent the people of Thunder Bay—Rainy River with integrity & purpose," Singh tweeted on Monday. "We're all better because of his service. My heart goes out to his family & loved ones during this difficult time.

Provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath also addressed Rafferty's passing, saying in a statement the former MP was dedicated to his community, and driven by empathy.

"He made the world around him a better, more hopeful place," Horwath stated. "All those who knew him, including those lucky enough to have been friends and colleagues with John in our NDP family, will remember fondly and miss deeply his caring nature, his abiding love of Thunder Bay and Northern Ontario, and especially his contagious sense of humour."

"John wanted to make life better for others — his family, his community and especially the most vulnerable among us. I hope all his loved ones find comfort now in knowing that he did that."

Rafferty was a radio broadcaster in Thunder Bay before making the move to politics. He ran in several elections before winning a seat.

Provincially, Rafferty ran in the Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding in 2003 and 2007, losing in both instances to Liberal Bill Mauro.

Federally, Rafferty was the NDP's Thunder Bay-Superor North candidate in 2000, and Thunder Bay-Rainy River in 2004 and 2006.

And while those campaigns weren't successful, Rafferty did win a seat in Parliament in 2008, representing Thunder Bay-Rainy River.

Rafferty would serve two terms as an MP before losing his seat to Liberal Don Rusnak in the 2015 federal election.

In 2017, Rafferty announced he was re-entering politics, and intended to again seek the provincial Thunder Bay-Atikokan seat in the 2018 Ontario election.

However, he would withdraw from the race in January 2018, citing a serious medical condition.