Eric Cunningham, the former MPP from Wentworth North, who died January 1, was remembered as a man of integrity and fighter for justice in a moving all-party tribute that took place in the Legislature on April 27. The event was attended by former Prime Ministers John Turner and Paul Martin. Following are excerpts from the tributes:
“His colleagues said he loved his constituents, and they loved him back. He engendered the respect of friends, colleagues and clients for his wisdom, his thoughtfulness and his integrity. He was a proud Canadian, and a loyal, faithful, dedicated member of the Liberal Party of Ontario and that of Canada. Some say he was the kind that would fight the unwinnable battles. He relished a good fight. But he had his share of victories, and sometimes it’s the fight that’s more important, at the end of the day, when you stand on principle. We thank him for it… He was a good man, an incredible and successful politician, with great achievements in life. We stand today—and I’m proud, as a member of the PC Party—in respect for a member who sat opposite but was with us in actually making a huge difference for his community, for his environment and building bridges across the party.” Tim Hudak, MPP Niagara West-Glanbrook
“The people of Hamilton like their politicians feisty, and Eric certainly filled that bill. His passion for the communities he served and the Liberal Party were intertwined. It would hardly be a stretch to say that he was fiercely partisan—even his obituary spoke of his dedication to the Liberal Party—but it was clear that he saw it as a platform to speak up for the people of Hamilton–Wentworth and Wentworth North. He was never one to shy away from a fight, even when he knew he might not win, if it was in the best interests of the people he had the privilege to represent.” Paul Miller MPP Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.
“On a personal note, I was grateful to have Eric’s support and assistance. I enjoyed our conversations. He was generous with his time and his advice. Eric was a man of principle and a tenacious seeker of justice, qualities which made him an excellent MPP and much loved by his constituents. His sense of humour and warmth made for easy conversations; I miss both.” Eleanor McMahon, MPP Burlington
“Speaker, I miss Eric’s friendship and wise counsel. Let me conclude with this final thought about my good friend Eric Cunningham. It is said you never pay your debt to the past until you have left a future indebted to yourself. Eric, you paid your debt to the past; the future is indeed indebted to you. We owe you big time, buddy. Rest in peace.” Hon Ted McMeekin, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.