Elsie Wayne, the former Saint John mayor who was well known for being one of two Progressive Conservatives to win their seats in the disastrous 1993 federal election, has died.

She was 84.

Wayne’s death was announced by the Official Opposition in New Brunswick on Tuesday morning.

Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch called Wayne a “political icon.”

“She was never afraid to speak her mind and served her people, her city, her province and her country well. It is with a profound feeling of respect that we say farewell to this grand lady,” Fitch said in a statement on Tuesday.

In 1993, she and Jean Charest were the only two Progressive Conservative MPs to win their seats in Jean Chrétien’s Liberal wave.

She served in the House of Commons as MP for Saint John until 2004. She served as the federal party’s interim leader after Charest left Ottawa to lead the Quebec Liberals.

Wayne was elected to Saint John council in 1977 and became mayor of the southern New Brunswick city in 1983.

‘Trailblazer’ as outspoken politician


Former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna said Wayne was a “straight shooter.” (Chris Young/CP)

Former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna worked alongside Wayne during his career in provincial politics.

He said Wayne was a “straight shooter,” and he always knew where she stood on issues.

“We lost somebody who was very huge in the life of the city of Saint John and the province of New Brunswick and in fact all of Canada,” McKenna said on Tuesday.

“[She was] one of the last, I would say, of the great political personalities of the Canadian stage and her presence will be missed.”

Don Desserud, a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, followed Wayne while he worked as a political scientist in Saint John.

He called Wayne a “trailblazer” because of her outspoken nature in politics.

“She never lost her ability to get attention and as a politician that is a talent, I think,” she said.

Don Desserud

Don Desserud, a political scientist at the University of Prince Edward Island, called Wayne a “trailblazer” because of her outspoken nature in politics. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

“Whether we like it or not, the idea of a politician always being guarded on script and being careful what they say, has reached the point where there is a lot of frustration amongst the public and politicians who don’t follow that script seem to be getting a lot more attention. I rarely agreed with the things that she would say, but I always admired that she had the courage to say it.”

Desserud also said she had a great sense of humour that she did not lose when she moved to national politics.

“She had a flair for the flamboyance. The one where she showed up in the House of Commons wearing the reindeer antlers or the outrageous sweaters,”  he said.

Wayne had suffered a stroke in November 2009. Cause of death and funeral plans aren’t immediately known.

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