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Actor-Farmer Julian Reed represented Halton for 20 years

Actor-Farmer Julian Reed represented Halton for 20 years

Julian Reed, who died earlier this month represented North Halton as a liberal member in both the Ontario Legislature and later in Ottawa. Somewhat unusually, he listed his occupation as farmer-actor, and indeed he was.  A resident of Norval where he lived on a farm that had the Credit River running through it, he had an associate degree in agriculture from the Ontario Agricultural and was a former professional actor. He had studied voice in Toronto for eight years and  did musical variety shows with the CBC and children’s theatre in Toronto and on the West Coast before returning to Ontario where he continued his acting career. His appearances in productions of the Fantasticks, Wedding in White and Fiddler on the Roof in the early 1970’s garnered favourable reviews from critics in the Globe and Mail. In 1972 he appeared with Canadian acting legend Jayne Eastwood in a Goldilocks and the Three Bears pantomime, in a role described by a reviewer as a “fond, foolish clown, Clifford.” He was described as a “burly banjoist” for his performance in Bright Young Faces.

Prompted by the proposed closure of the Norval School and the lack of support from the education minister, in 1975 Reed turned to politics and was elected to the Ontario Legislature as part of the Class of 1975 which included Eric Cunningham representing Wentworth North. With Bob Nixon’s retirement as Liberal Leader, Reed supported London’s David Peterson for leader in a race that eventually was won by Stuart Smith of Hamilton. It was the golden era of the Bill Davis Progressive Conservatives, and no other party had a serious chance of unseating a government that stayed in power by pursuing enough progressive policies to appeal to a broad swath of Ontario voters. Still, Reed distinguished himself on the Liberal benches by being an early advocate for the environment. In 1976 he spoke out against the PCB hazard in Canadian Industry. He opposed the spread of the use of fossil fuels in 1977 and in the same year he told the legislature that the proposed Darlington nuclear power plant would not be needed if Ontarians practiced energy conservation. He was a member of a select legislative committee that investigated cost overruns in the Hydro nuclear program.

In 1985, he abruptly announced  that after representing the provincial riding of Halton-Burlington for 10 years he would not run in the next election. “It is simply a time at the age of 49 to open a new chapter in the book,” Reed told the Globe, “my life experience has always hinged on the element of improbability.” In so doing, Reed passed up an almost certain position in the cabinet of David Peterson who formed a government later that year.

He returned to acting and farming and established a small company that built private hydro-electric projects.

In 1993 he got the political bug again, telling a reporter he was concerned about the direction Canada was headed under the Mulroney Government. He defeated Revenue Minister Garth Turner to capture the seat in the Chretien sweep of 1993. He was re-elected by greater margins in the 1997 and 2000 campaigns. He served as a backbench supporter of the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin administrations. He served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade from 1997 to 1998 and to the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1998 to 1999. In Ottawa Reed was a supporter of renewable energy and was the keynote speaker at a 2002 meeting of the Canadian Solar Industries Association.

True Grit Band (L-R) Stan Keyes, Jean Chretien, Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais, Ron Irwin, Joe Fontana, Julien Reed, Don Boudrias, Tony Valeri, Roger Galloway.

While in Ottawa Reed was the lead singer in a pick-up band called the True Grit Band that among other included Hamilton MP’s Stan Keyes on accordion and Tony Valeri on bass. “We performed more often than we practiced,” Julian would say. Of his former bandmate, Valeri told the Bay Observer, “I was very sorry to hear of Julian’s passing. Julian was one of the first people in Ottawa who talked to me about clean energy and clean air initiatives. He was really passionate about these initiatives. I really enjoyed playing with Julian in the True Grit band. He was great banjo player and terrific performer.” Said Stan Keyes, “Julian was a terrific guy. Fun to be with. He could play a mean banjo, carry a tune and was an even better stage actor! And he truly did work tirelessly for his Halton constituents.”

Julian Reed was 85. He is survived by : his wife Deanna; his three children, and four grandchildren.

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