P.E.I. loses beloved politician and environmentalist

Steve Sharratt
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Gilbert Clements dies surrounded by family and friends in his hometown of Montague

Gilbert Clements toasts The Guardian during a 125th anniversary open house the newspaper held this summer in Montague. The former P.E.I. lieutenant-governor has died.

MONTAGUE — P.E.I.’s most prolific politician who became the first environment minister in Canada has died. 

Gilbert Clements, who won seven provincial elections before becoming the province’s 25th lieutenant-governor since Confederation, died surrounded by family and friends early this morning.

“He certainly will be missed, most people don’t know how many times he often helped people in a quiet way across this province,’’ said former town mayor and close friend Pat McGowan. “He was true giant of a person.”

Clements, 84, died in his sleep. 

A few years ago he was stricken with a bout of cancer but fought back and survived and was always given a honk or a wave as he made his way from his Riverside Drive home along the Montague River to the local coffee shop for some daily chit chat in the town he loved.

“He and Wilma (his wife) stood for us when we got married over 30 years ago,’’ said McGowan, who spent the last few days with the family at the home.

Clements, who had a passion for nature and photography, was the first provincial environment minister in Canada and had a long list of greening achievements.

In his lengthy career of politics from the late 1970s to early 1990s, Clements got rid of lead solder in plumbing pipes, heard the outcry over a tax put on glass pop bottles to keep them out of ditches, and was dubbed the ‘Minister of Car Bodies’.

“Our Island was covered in old rusted cars,” he told The Guardian in an interview. “I was also minister of tourism at the time so it was a big push to clean up old cars. People would just dump them right in the yard and it looked terrible.”

The controversy over car bodies lead to his political defeat in 1978, but he was back again in the 1980s when the late former premier, Joe Ghiz, asked him to be finance minister. Clements agreed to the job if he could be environment minister as well.

He was a big supporter of the P.E.I. Rural Beautification Society back in the 1960s, was a founder of the Garden of the Gulf museum in Montague, initiated the construction of a new pool in the town, and helped bring a liquor store as close to the town as possible. In those days, he had to plant the building on the edge of his former Kings 4th riding outside the town.

Clements initiated a program years ago to locate every hand-dug well (left open) and bury it as a safety precaution after incidents of children falling through were rampant in the news. He stopped gravel washing operations in watersheds, supported Ducks Unlimited, was instrumental in providing tax relief to the Island Nature Trust for property tax exemptions on protected lands and kicked off the plan to remove or replace underground fuel tanks.

He attended the Earth Summit on the Environment in 1992 in Rio De Janeiro and was made official patron of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation while lieutenant-governor of the province.

He was presented a P.E.I. Environmental Award, which honours people involved in the protection and promotion of the landscape and resources.

“I’ve always invited people to look around and see how beautiful our Island is,” he says. “Why would we want to scar it?”

He was born Sept. 11, 1928 and first elected to the legislative assembly in 1970, then re-elected in 1974, 1979, 1982, 1986, 1989, and 1993.

Always a passion for photography, Clements delighted in capturing people on film whether it be a classic photo of well-known Island character Francis Runaghan carrying a tree over his shoulder or a flag girl working for the Department of Highways falling asleep on the job.

The funeral arrangements have not been completed.

 

 

Geographic location: Montague

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Recent comments

  • Hugh Johnston
    November 28, 2012 - 22:07

    A class act indeed, and great Islander. We were all very fortunate that he gave so many great years to his community. Condolences to everyone whose lives he touched.

  • Marie
    November 28, 2012 - 09:06

    A sad day for PEI and all of Canada. A straight shooting gentleman...a lost breed...condolences to the family

  • David MacLean - Edmonton, AB
    November 27, 2012 - 20:28

    One of the people who made me feel that intelligence was not a thing from the city! I took great pride in knowing him as a politician, as the LG, and as a fellow resident of Montague. I look forward to the next resident who will strive to fill those shoes.

  • Shawn Graham
    November 27, 2012 - 20:09

    Gilbert Clements was a rare individual who spent the majority of his life making things better for his community, his province and his country. Prince Edward Island will eternally be a place of distinction because of people like him. Peace be with the entire Clements clan during this difficult time.

  • Reg and Sheila
    November 27, 2012 - 18:31

    Wilma and Family: Our sincere condolences on the passing of Gilbert. As ADC to His Honour during his term as Lieutenant-Governor, we enjoyed those years and count them as the best years of our life on PEI. We remember him with fondness. Regards, Reg and Sheila

  • niall mackay
    November 27, 2012 - 17:35

    I knew Gilbert as a MLA Minister and friend I worked for him in Government and considered him to be a fair man as well as a straight shooter.It will never be realized how muck Gilbert did for the island Rest In peace

  • ken mackenzie
    November 27, 2012 - 17:29

    Gilbert was always a man to speak his mind and also to standup for what he believed in. An islander who's true concern was the people of p.e.i., even those who didn't like him. He was a friend who will be truly missed,by many.

  • Bill VanIderstine
    November 27, 2012 - 17:09

    Gib as I knew him , was the first man I ever worked for & the only polician I have ever respected . He said it as it was even if you didn't like it . I will miss seeing him & getting good advice from when asked . Which I have done many times My condolences to Wilma and the Clements kid's . .

  • Downeaster
    November 27, 2012 - 17:08

    A true people politician and one of the finest gentlemen you would ever want to meet. Gilbert you will be missed!!

  • jonathon
    November 27, 2012 - 15:21

    Our condolences to the family of Mr Clements. Our group Save Our Buffalo Park is trying to make sure a small part of his legacy will always be remembered. Our best wishes to all family members. God bless you all.

  • Diane Griffin
    November 27, 2012 - 15:12

    We have lost a champion, a go-getter, who liked to make things happen. As Minister of Environment and Minister of Finance, he was a national as well as provincial leader. We will all miss him.

  • Ian MacQuarrie
    November 27, 2012 - 13:31

    A great man and a great minister, and a true environmentalist.

  • Michelle Johnston
    November 27, 2012 - 12:38

    I shall miss seeing Gilbert come in to the fisheries office for information. He was a great man and always took the time to ask about the family. My condolences to the Clements family.

  • David Smith
    November 27, 2012 - 12:31

    A true gentleman, one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, a sad day.

  • Carmen Young-McGrattan, Waterdown, ON
    November 27, 2012 - 12:14

    A great man....he always made Me smile when I met him around the Montague area.... my deepest sympathies to the entire Clements Family.

  • Jan Roach
    November 27, 2012 - 12:13

    What a nice man! I've dealt with many Ministers over the years and he was always gracious and had time for everyone regardless of your stature or title. You could tell when he spoke to you that he had a genuine interest in what you were saying. I've dealt with other Ministers that would treat you like you didn't matter and would say "Do you know who I am"..... Not Mr. Clements! Thank you for your great service to our Island. My condolences to the family.

  • GILBERT
    November 27, 2012 - 10:43

    Perfect gentleman with beautiful humility! May he rest in Peace.

    • Mary Cudmore
      November 27, 2012 - 20:06

      A class act, a gentleman all the way and an inspiration for Islanders and other politicians to aspire too. He will be missed and Islanders can appreciate all that he did during his political career and as a citizen. Condolences to his family and friends.