ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Dianne Whalen, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of municipal affairs, has died after a long struggle with cancer.

Premier Danny Williams announced Whalen's death in a government release Sunday night.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I mourn the passing of my cabinet colleague and dear friend, Dianne Whalen; one of the most courageous individuals I have ever known and one of our province's most devoted champions," he said.

The release didn't say when Whalen died, but the Conservative politician had been sick for some time. Another minister took over her cabinet duties last November but she returned to work in March.

Whalen was also minister responsible for emergency preparedness at the time of her death.

"Even during her illness, she continued to diligently advance the work of her department and participate fully in cabinet, always determined to carry on with her responsibilities," said Williams.

Whalen was first elected to the legislature in 2003 in the district of Conception Bay East -- Bell Island after serving as the mayor of Paradise, N.L., for 18 years.

She was re-elected in 2007 and served in other portfolios, including transportation and works.

Whalen was born in Come-By-Chance, N.L., and raised in Port Blandford, N.L., but lived for 40 years in Paradise.

She was pre-deceased by her husband Joseph Whalen. They had three children.