Lumley, a reluctant politician, found a home in the spotlight

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Ed Lumley

CORNWALL, Ontario - When Ed Lumley decided in the early 1970s that he would run for mayor in Cornwall, he had no idea how the decision would shape a public life for years to come.

Lumley won the 1971 race, unseating incumbent Nick Kaneb, and spent the next three years combatting high unemployment and a perception among Cornwall residents and others from outside the city that the community was going nowhere.

What followed were a slew of community-based projects, when senior governments poured millions into the Seaway City, that helped reduce the local unemployment to four per cent from the crippling 26 per cent that had stunted growth in the early part of the decade.

Lumley, a businessman who had initially planned a life in the private sector, said at the time he wasn't looking for spotlight - but it found him.

"In business you are taught to be discreet," he said. "You don't want your picture in the paper. You just want to do what you have to do.

"But of course in politics, everything you do is public."

Lumley's exploits, both within the spotlight and in the private sector, have garnered him an appointment to the Order of Canada, which was announced July 1.

Lumley knew about the appointment for a few weeks in advance of the announcement, but kept things hush-hush until the news was made public.

"Obviously I was honoured," he said. "I said before that I didn't think politicians should be a part of something like this.

"But then I was reminded you are a lay person for a lot longer than are a politician.

"But there are a lot of other people who work their tails off every day."

Lumley joins other locals like Jake Lamoureux and Sultan Jessa who have also been named to the Order.

Lumley now lives in Lancaster, and is the current chancellor of the University of Windsor, and also a powerful business executive with contacts around the world.

He said his decision to set up roots in Cornwall, and ultimately lead the community in the 1970s and the early 1980s, was based on wanting to provide for his family.

He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons as the Liberal MP for Stormont-Dundas in the 1974 federal election.

In 1976, he became parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion. From 1977 to 1978, he served as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Lumley survived the 1979 election that defeated the Liberal government, but when the Grits returned to power in the 1980 federal election Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed him to the cabinet as Minister of State for Trade. After serving in a few other minor portfolios, he was promoted to Minister of Industry and Minister of Regional Economic Expansion in 1982.

Trudeau's successor, John Turner, made Lumley his Minister of Communications and Minister of Regional Industrial Expansion in 1984. Lumley and the Turner government were defeated in the 1984 federal election that fall.

Following his electoral defeat, Lumley returned to the private sector and became an influential corporate figure. He has served as vice-chairman of BMO Nesbitt Burns since 1991, lead director of Magna International, and a board member of Bell Canada Enterprises, Canadian National Railway and Air Canada.

Lumley will be officially invested in the Order of Canada later this year in a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Geographic location: CORNWALL, Ontario

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