HUDSON – The late Leo Bernier was honoured by the province of Ontario on July 31 with the dedication of Highway 664, between Hudson and Hwy. 72. The ceremony recognized the long-serving MPP who spearheaded many northern issues and was the first Minister of Northern Development over his 21 year career in Queen’s Park.
With the Hudson Community Hall packed full with family, friends and others who remembered Bernier fondly, MPP Sarah Campbell, Kenora-Rainy River, delivered the following remarks on behalf of her constituents:
“Leo Bernier was known by many nicknames. I’ve heard of him referred to as the ‘King of the North’, ‘Emperor of the North’, ‘Lion of the North’ and ‘Minister of the North’.
“One thing each and every one of those names have in common is the word north, and that’s no accident, because Leo Bernier stood for one thing: the north, and his list of accomplishments over 21 years in politics show that making the lives of northerners better was an all-consuming goal, one that stood ahead of any partisan desires or interests.
“While we celebrate his political achievements of which there are many, we are truly here to honour the man; an individual who never once forgot his roots. Someone who when he retired could have stayed in Toronto and reaped the financial benefits of his years of sacrifice and hard work, but instead chose to return home, to return to his roots, to the place he loved and a place he helped build.
“They say representing this region is a difficult job, and that’s true, but it’s not because of the reasons you might think. Yes, we have a vast geography spreading hundreds of thousands of kilometres. It’s true there are dozens of communities and it’s important to point out that Mr. Bernier was the first to visit the remote First Nations of this riding. It’s true that we have a wide diversity of interests and needs. But none of those reason are why this is a difficult riding to represent.
“The simple fact is, the challenge is and always will be that Leo Bernier set the bar so high. Twenty-one years and thousands of accomplishments: roads, hospitals, even the Ministry of Northern Development. I do not think it’s proper to remember Mr. Bernier only as a great politician, because he was so much more than that. If there’s one way I believe we should remember Mr. Bernier- the only fitting tribute- I believe it would be fair to remember him as a great northerner who used politics to achieve great things for his community and his region.
“So I would like to close by saying on behalf of the people of Kenora-Rainy River, and on behalf of every single northerner: Thank you, Mr. Bernier. Thank you for your leadership, perseverance and dedication to your community. Thank you for putting the needs of your neighbours ahead of yourself and partisan politics, and most importantly thank you for setting the bar so high and giving all of us who follow in your footsteps such lofty goals. Thank you”.
The ceremony was emceed by Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle, with Sioux Lookout Mayor Dennis Leney, and MP Greg Rickford paying tribute to Bernier. Speaking on behalf of Bernier’s family was his son Don.