May 18th, 2024

Former MLA Clint Dunford remembered with ‘huge respect’ as Lethbridge loses ‘enthusiastic advocate for our city’

By Herald on October 15, 2021.

Herald file photo - Retiring Lethbridge West MLA Clint Dunford, at right, shares a laugh with his predecessor John Gogo during a tribute evening in 2008 at the Lethbridge Lodge.

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

Retired Progressive Conservative MLA for Lethbridge West Clint Dunford died Thursday of a sudden and unexpected illness at the age of 78.

Dunford was first elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1993, succeeding John Gogo, and retired after his fourth term ended in 2008 due to multiple myeloma which had afflicted him while in office.

Dunford, a native of Portreeve, Sask., is survived by his wife Gwen Green, says a short obituary in today’s Herald.

Shelby MacLeod, who worked as Dunford’s Chief of Staff and for Gogo before Dunford was elected, remembered the man she called “the boss” fondly Friday while attending a meet-and-greet at the Lethbridge Seniors Centre Organization for city council and mayoral candidates.

MacLeod and fellow candidate Rajko Dodic, who was a friend of Dunford’s, were saddened by the news that began spreading on Friday at the LSCO dining room.

“When John decided to retire, Clint ran and won and then I worked for him ever since,” said MacLeod.

“Clint Dunford was the absolute best and I’ll never forget when he came and I was working for him, he said ‘we need to have a pension plan for constituency people.’ And I said ‘really?’ And he said ‘yes, every woman should know when they’re at work, they’re contributing earnings, we’ll stand them in good stead in later life. And he started the pension plan for the leg assembly. He went to the leg assembly and said these people, they need a pension plan. And so that’s when we started contributing to an employer and employee pension plan,” she recalled.

“I have huge respect. He was the minister who brought in the child health benefit and brought in maternity leave for a year. And there were quite a few battles over those sorts of things because there were those people at the cabinet table that said a man’s job is to take care of his wife or whatever language you want to put around it. But Clint said ‘no, the land is moving this way and Alberta should be a forward thinker,’” she said.

“It’s like losing my brother,” MacLeod said.

“We shared a lot of forward-thinking things,” with Dunford regularly asking her opinion on various matters.

MacLeod said the biggest impact Dunford made was probably through the ministries of Social Services and Advanced Education.

“Clint used to say we’ve got to attach funding to the person so that the person doesn’t fail because of lack of money,” so no matter what job they took up, if people didn’t have the financial means to pursue their dreams, a system would be in place to help them, said MacLeod, adding he was a huge proponent of bursaries and scholarships.

“He didn’t want to be responsible for impeding someone’s growth and development.”

Dunford’s first portfolio was Advanced Education followed by Social Services, which was renamed to Human Resources and Employment and finally Economic Development, she said.

Dunford had a stem cell transplant in 2006 and MacLeod remembers premier Ralph Klein being supportive of Dunford as he went through the therapy.

“Ralph was really good about it.”

Dodic said he first met Dunford in the early 2000s.

“I got to meet him when he was an MLA, a minister at the time for Lethbridge West and I was an alderman as it was known then. And we got to know each other.

“He was the salt of the earth. He was a guy that was battling cancer for over 15 years and he always had a cheery disposition, always had a smile on his face and was always able to laugh with everyone, Dodic said.

“From what I could tell, anybody that ever met him that actually had a chance to sit down and talk to him, they just loved the guy,” said Dodic.

Dodic called Dunford a huge cheerleader for Lethbridge who managed to get Klein’s government to invest much in to the city: “a lot of stuff that wouldn’t have been built but for Clint Dunford.”

One example was funding for Nord-Bridge Seniors Centre renovations which now has its restaurant named after him, calling it the Dunford Diner.

“He lobbied his own government and was able to convince the treasurer that this was an appropriate project and they funded it.

“He was really instrumental in things like the westside twin ice arenas and a lot of sports fields you see around town. And once he got out of provincial politics, he was very big into sports, particularly the Lethbridge Bulls,” advocating for the refurbishment of the stadium in which they play.

“He was just a wonderful man.”

Mayor Chris Spearman, on the City of Lethbridge website, expressed his condolences to Dunford’s family.

“He was proud of Lethbridge and was an enthusiastic advocate for our city. Prior to becoming an MLA, Clint worked in management at Dresser Clark Industries and subsequently ran his own consulting business C.E.D. Consulting. He was actively involved in our community, an advocate for seniors and worked closely with the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce,” the mayor’s statement said in part.

“Clint Dunford will be fondly remembered and sadly missed by myself and many others throughout the city,” Spearman wrote.

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