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Tribute to Claude Bennett

Merrilee Fullerton, MPP Kanata-Carleton, paid tribute to Claude Bennett in the Ontario Legislature on this day.

It is an honour to have the opportunity to pay tribute to the life and legacy of the Honorable Claude Bennett. He is dearly missed. 

Claude shone brightly in life and his legacy continues to shine after his passing in March of 2020. The City of Ottawa, the province of Ontario, and Canada have been well served by his accomplishments and dedication to political life and public service. With a career that spanned five decades in public life in both the municipal and provincial political arenas, Claude has made an immeasurable contribution to his community.

And overarching all his vast achievements, was his love of family and love of community. 

He would do anything to help a neighbor. 

He had a genuine interest in people – he would meet you once, remember your name and even your children’s names and ask about them the next time you saw him – sincerely.

Claude Bennett was a remarkable man and a remarkable elected representative. Claude embodied what it means to be a “Progressive Conservative.” He was fiscally responsible, adhering to guiding principles of balancing a budget and, transparent and accountable financing. At the same time, he was compassionate and caring, always focused on how to best support individuals, families, and those who required a helping hand. With Claude, those combined character traits were hallmark. They are why today so many of us look back on his time in Office with great fondness for the man, and great regard for his achievements.

He led life with remarkable ability and seemingly boundless positivity, courage, and hope for the future. 

And he led others with the same zest for life he had embraced. He knew how to work hard from a young age and came from a family that instilled the value of hard work and helping others. 

After serving 12 years as a municipal alderman at Ottawa City Hall – the last years of which he served as acting Mayor and a Controller on the City’s Board of Control, Claude took the step to run for a provincial seat. With Claude’s financial acumen and skills, the newly elected MPP for Ottawa South was selected by Premier Bill Davis to be the Parliamentary Assistant to the Treasurer and Minister of Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs. He would soon become the youngest member of the Ontario cabinet when Premier Davis appointed him Minister Without Portfolio.

He went on to serve as Minister of Industry and Tourism from 1973 to 1978. He brought his positivity and enthusiasm to this role and met with leaders and Ontarians across the province with the message that they had a voice at Queen’s Park and he travelled the world promoting Ontario. 

Claude would carry on to have an illustrious political career at Queen’s Park, holding many important cabinet positions. At a tribute dinner held for Claude in 2015, Premier Davis reflected on his days working with him, “You are one of the most intelligent, one of the most delightful individuals in Cabinet. It was a pleasure to be associated with you.”

Throughout his political career Claude represented his hometown with distinction. In fact, Claude was Ottawa’s ultimate ambassador. He was also our ultimate champion.

There is a lengthy list of significant landmarks around our City that Claude Bennett had a central role in realizing. We must thank Claude Bennett for his vision of a vibrant and livable city, and his ability to deliver for the people of Ottawa. Consider what he championed and accomplished for Ottawa…

  • The Rideau Centre
  • Ottawa Congress Centre
  • Provincial Courthouse
  • Ottawa’s Regional Transitway
  • Increased social housing
  • Algonquin College Expansion
  • CHEO
  • Ottawa Heart Institute

Then in 2000-2001, he served as Chair of the Ottawa Transit Board, overseeing amalgamation of National Capital’s twelve municipal governments, its five public utilities, and the election of the new City Council. In so many ways, Claude shaped our Ottawa as we know it today – and we owe his life as an elected representative a great debt of gratitude.

Claude’s beloved wife Deborah shared the dedication to community in providing her support to the Perley and Rideau Veteran’s Health centre for decades and the gift shop she championed was ultimately named in her honour.

Claude Bennett really cared. It showed in everything he did; in the way he treated people; in how he touched the lives of others; in his loving family with his wife Deborah and daughter Natalie, and son Winston and their families. 

I have a great amount of respect for and feel honoured to have been his friend. I appreciated Claude’s support when I ran for nomination and again in the 2018 election. He was always generous with his time, and he provided me sage counsel – as well as a few colourful anecdotes as he was prone to do on occasion. I will always cherish Claude’s friendship.

We are grateful to the Honorable Claude Bennett for all that he achieved, to his family for sharing his life with us, and for his legacy of duty, kindness, and hope for the future.

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