Former MLA Donnie McInnes dies at 81

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© (Photo: Submitted to The News) Former Pictou West MLA Donnie McInnes, right, shared a moment recently with Dave Leese of Lansdowne, Nova Scotia, centre, and current Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane. McInnes passed away Aug. 10 at the age of 81.

Donnie McInnes was inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2002

© (Photo: Submitted to The News) Former Pictou West MLA Donnie McInnes, right, shared a moment recently with Dave Leese of Lansdowne, Nova Scotia, centre, and current Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane. McInnes passed away Aug. 10 at the age of 81.
© (Photo: Submitted to The News) Former Pictou West MLA Donnie McInnes, right, shared a moment recently with Dave Leese of Lansdowne, Nova Scotia, centre, and current Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane. McInnes passed away Aug. 10 at the age of 81.
[Lyons Brook, NS] – His smile was as genuine as his handshake.According to those close to former Pictou West MLA Donnie McInnes, the two traits were his trademark that made him a true champion for rural living in Nova Scotia.

“I travelled a lot of back roads of Pictou County and a lot of people from fishermen, to farmers and those in rural Pictou County just admired him in such an open way,” said Central Nova MP Peter MacKay. “I was certainly among those. I benefited greatly from his advice and his example. He was a friend and a mentor.”

Eighty-one-year-old McInnes passed away Monday (Aug. 10). He was first elected in 1978 and retired in 1998, and while his years as a politician made him well known, it was his kind, humble ways that will make him unforgettable to those who loved and admired him.

“He was a good friend personally and a good friend of Pictou County, always to the forefront of everything he did,” said former Pictou Centre MLA Jack MacIsaac. “He was a great constituency man and kept a watchful eye on everything that affected Pictou West. He exemplified what a ‘constituency representative’ should be and served the people very well.”

McInnes was a farmer at heart who worked in the industry and later left the fields for political life, only to support it in a much different way. He held cabinet positions in environment, fisheries, transportation and agriculture and his efforts were recognized in 2002 when he was inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame.

“He was a pillar in the community,” said local businessman Murray Porter of Pictou. “He was well known, accomplished a lot in his life, got a lot of things done and did it without any great fanfare. He was just an all-around good guy.”

Jack Robinson, manager of the Pictou-North Colchester Exhibition, a fellow farmer and friend of McInnes, said he was a “background man” who worked hard for everyone without wanting recognition for himself.

“He never ran anyone down,” he said. “He was a politician and he was a gentleman. He was old school, not like today. You knew who he was and what he had to do.”

Arthur MacDonald, who worked on all five campaigns with McInnes, said all of them were successful, but none of them were taken for granted.

“I can remember the first one and waiting for the returns to come in and we were trailing. Dan (Reid) was winning and the last poll that came in was Millbrook,” he said. “That gave Donnie the victory by about 150 votes.”

McInnes went on to win the next four elections and although the majorities were a bit more comfortable, MacDonald said he was always humble enough to know that victory was never a sure thing.

“He came to me during the last one and said, ‘this could be it,’ but it wasn’t,” said MacDonald. “The thing he did was that he met people on equal footing. He pounded on doors. He knew scads of people and related well to people. He was dedicated to his job. It didn’t make any difference of your political stripe. If you asked him to do something he would do it as fast as he could or be straight up and tell you he couldn’t. People admired him for being like that.”

After 1998, McInnes continued being involved in his own community, singing in the church choir and taking in his favourite sporting events all the while continuing to have a strong interest in politics.

“He was such a man of integrity,” said Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane. “I always knew I could count on Donnie to tell me the truth. He would have a very delicate way of telling me the truth even when it wasn’t good.”

MacFarlane said she remembers sitting in the long evening sessions in the legislature and McInnes called her with some advice.

“He would be up watching it and would say, ‘I just saw you spoke and you did well, but maybe you should say this next time,’” she said. “He was astute as to what was happening in government.”

McInnes’s funeral will take place Friday at 2 p.m. at the Lyons Brook United Church, a building and congregation that many say were near and dear to his heart.

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