A man credited as one of the builders of Alberta’s reform movement at a time when western alienation was on the rise has died at 82.
Family, friends and former political allies of Myron Thompson are remembering the longtime Sundre-area MP as a unique personality in politics who was proud of his roots.
Thompson was elected to Parliament in 1993 as a member of the Reform Party. Representing the former riding of Wild Rose in southwest Alberta, he continued to serve in the House of Commons for the Canadian Alliance and Conservative parties until 2008.
He was diagnosed with cancer last year.
“Myron was just one of a kind. He was good-natured and we just loved having him in the caucus,” said Deborah Grey, the Reform party’s first elected MP.
“The reformers that came and joined me in 1993, it was like we were all on a mission and we hardly believed we got paid for it.”
Thompson was known for his western attire around Ottawa, often sporting his trademark cowboy hat at home and in the nation’s capital.
Born and raised on a family farm in Colorado, Thompson once tried out for the New York Yankees and served in the U.S. army before moving to Canada in 1968.
He worked as a teacher and school principal in Sundre, where he served as mayor from 1974 to 1980, prior to his career in federal politics.
His involvement with the reform movement started in the late 1980s after hearing a speech by Preston Manning, prompting him to join the party on the spot.
“Myron was there, but he was always there in his cowboy boots and his cowboy hat and (his wife) Dot was at his side all the time,” said Grey. “We were all entertained by him, but he had a real passion as well and so he was pretty committed to the cause.”
Politicians who worked alongside Thompson shared tributes on social media Sunday.
“Sad to learn of the passing of my friend & former colleague Myron Thompson,” tweeted United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.
“Condolences to Myron’s wife Dot, his entire family, and the *very* long list of people that loved him. It was a privilege to serve with Myron in Parliament. A true character, Myron will be deeply missed.”
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel vowed she would “try to wear my boots and hat in Ottawa more often in remembrance of him, and his fight for Albertans.”
“I’m so thankful for his continued support, wisdom and advice over the years,” added former Conservative MP and Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean. “My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Dot and his family at this time.”
Thompson served as an unabashed social conservative, advocating for capital punishment, supporting the U.S.-led war with Iraq and fighting for tougher child pornography laws.
“There are two things I don’t apologize for,” he said upon announcing his retirement in 2007. “One is for being an old Reformer, and the other is for being an old Christian.”
He also sparred with the Liberal government over spending and railed against same-sex marriage, making headlines with his polarizing definition of a traditional family.
“Grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, kids, mother-kids, father-kids,” he once told reporters. “Adam and Eve. Not Adam and Steve.”
He was also at the centre of some controversy back in 2001, when along with fellow cowboy hat-wearing MP Darrel Stinson, Thompson attended the provincial separatist Alberta Independence Party’s founding convention as an observer.
But despite his strong convictions, Thompson remained open-minded to the views of others, according to his grandson.
“One of my favourite things about my grandfather was the fact that we disagreed on SO MUCH politically, but he always let me talk,” Jeremy Thompson wrote on Twitter. “He had years of experience and taught me so much but he was never afraid to sit down and appreciate perspective, even as stubborn as he was.”
Grey said Thompson’s greatest accomplishment as a politician was that he was able “to just make it real.”
“He thought political correctness was just nonsense and he let you know it,” she said. “He just was a great guy all around. We’ll miss him a lot.”
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