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Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent dead at 87

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Former federal NDP leader and founder of the Broadbent Institute Ed Broadbent has died at the age of 87.

"Our country has lost a fierce champion for ordinary Canadians, an intellectual who strongly believed in building a good society," the Broadbent Institute said in a statement announcing his death.

Broadbent was first elected to Parliament in 1968 and served as a New Democrat MP for 21 years, representing first Oshawa-Whitby, Ont., and then later Ottawa Centre, Ont., during a brief return to the federal scene between 2004 and 2006.

He spent 14 of his years in Ottawa as leader of the New Democratic Party, between 1975 and 1989, a period of time that saw the country led by four prime ministers, Liberal and Conservative.

"Ed Broadbent was a lifelong champion of our movement and our party. He dedicated his considerable gifts to the project of social democracy, never wavering in his belief that we must build a Canada that serves everyone – not just the rich and powerful," NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement.

Singh said Broadbent was always generous with his time and helped him "tremendously" when he took the helm of the party in 2017.

"Whenever I asked anything of him — to talk through policy ideas; to help with a challenging political problem or to campaign with me — he always said 'yes,'" Singh said. "He was connected in a deep way to the values of working-class Canadians and their struggles."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Canada is better off because of Broadbent.

"His commitment to helping others never wavered. He leaves behind an incredible legacy – one that will, no doubt, continue to inspire people across the country," Trudeau said in a statement reacting to the news. 

"To the Broadbent family, to his friends, and to all of the Canadians who are mourning the passing of this visionary leader: I'm keeping you in my thoughts, and I'm sending you my deepest condolences."

Born in Oshawa in 1936, he studied and later taught at a series of universities, and held a PhD in political theory.

Broadbent is also being remembered for his advocacy for justice, equal rights, and democracy in Canada and abroad. Among the accomplishments those close to him are celebrating in reflecting on his legacy are his work on ending child poverty, eliminating income inequality and advocating for women's rights.

"Ed combined a life-long passion for justice and equality, with a passion for life itself, and all the joys and happiness it has to offer. He was an extraordinary parliamentarian and political leader," Brian Topp said in a statement. As chair of the board of directors for the Ottawa-based political think tank Broadbent founded, Topp vowed to carry on his work.

"He was a deeply thoughtful intellectual. And he was wonderful company and a most wonderful friend to have. All of those who knew him will miss him," Topp said.

A companion of the Order of Canada, Broadbent received a series of awards and accolades for his work building up the federal party's popularity and seat count while at the helm, and in the decades since. National NDP director Anne McGrath said the death of the lifelong activist, while not unexpected, is a "big loss to our movement."

"He never failed to show up and do whatever he could to help," McGrath said in an interview on CTV News Channel. "I've travelled across the country and talked to people, and you know, it's like everybody has a story of an interaction with Ed Broadbent and they're all positive stories."

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill on Thursday evening, ahead of his 90th birthday celebration, former prime minister Jean Chretien said Broadbent was "a very good MP" who upheld civility, even amid political disagreements.

"He was always there when there was a good cause," Chretien said.

Broadbent took a step back from political life to care for his wife and self-described love of his life, Lucille, who died of breast cancer in 2006.

Condolences for Broadbent's loved ones have been pouring in rapidly from politicians across the country whom he impacted, all reflecting on the enduring mark he's left on the country.

"Ed was the first person to call and encourage me after I lost the 2019 election, and one of the first to call and congratulate when we won in 2023. In this, as in all things he embodied perseverance in the hopes of making our country better," Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said on social media. 

Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said Broadbent was a model for parliamentarians of all stripes, and a "thoughtful, compassionate and determined intellectual."

"He had a rare talent for connecting the concerns of ordinary people with the movement for social and economic democracy," Stiles said in a statement. "Ed has always been there and it's hard to imagine a future without him. What an incredible legacy he leaves."

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, holding a copy of Broadbent's 2023 book "Seeking Social Democracy," said his refusal to accept the status quo will inspire her in her latest political chapter. Speaking to reporters from city hall, she said Canada has lost a "giant" champion for "ordinary people."

NDP MP Charlie Angus said Broadbent believed that government could make Canadians' lives better. In an interview on CTV News Channel, Angus said it was a very sad day, remembering his friend as a mentor with both a determination to build a better country who also possessed "a sly, sly sense of humour."

"Very sad to hear of Ed Broadbent's passing today. This past year, I was lucky to spend some time with Ed and he was engaged and passionate all the way through," posted British Columbia Premier David Eby. "Always ready to fight the good fight. Ed was a giant. He will be deeply missed." 

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