Noble Villeneuve 1938-2018

WINCHESTER – Noble Villeneuve, one of the region’s longest-serving members of Ontario’s legislature and a man hailed as the “voice for farmers,” has died.

The 79-year-old had been in hospital in Alexandria before his death Wed, Feb. 28.

A Progressive Conservative, Villeneuve represented the area at Queen’s Park from 1983 to 1999, serving for a time as deputy speaker, along with four years as a cabinet minister, handling the francophone affairs and agriculture files in the Mike Harris government.

Noble Villeneuve, who served the region of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry as MPP from 1983 until 1999, died in hospital in Alexandria Wed., Feb. 28. He’s pictured at left at his victory party in Avonmore in 1983, and at right in 1999, acknowledging his loss to Liberal John Cleary. File photos

Tributes to the former Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry representative began to pour in following a social media posting by Villeneuve’s daughter, Roxane, officially announcing his death.

“Noble was a strong voice in cabinet for farmers, and for Eastern Ontario,” Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark said.

Added Frank Klees, a former PC cabinet minister who sat in the legislature alongside Villeneuve: “Noble was rightly named. Ever a gentleman, he carried out his responsibilities as MPP with grace and dignity, and brought honour to the calling of public service.”

It was a stunning victory that first brought Villeneuve to Queen’s Park in 1983 to join a government being led by then premier Bill Davis.

Forty-five-years-old at the time, Villeneuve set aside a career in farming and real estate appraisal to attempt to capture the seat held by his relative, Osie Villeneuve, who died following a heart attack earlier in the year.

As the Winchester Press noted at the time, “the predicted cliff hanger between Villeneuve and Liberal candidate Johnny Whitteker never materialized.” Instead, the first-time contender breezed to victory, taking 12,197 of the 21,085 votes cast and rolling up a staggering 99 victories in the riding’s 120 polls.

After his win, going into the history books as the second time Whitteker lost to a Villeneuve in a provincial election (first losing to Osie in 1977), the victor was met by a crush of supporters and media at a party in Avonmore.

“Noble Villeneuve has a good strong voice, and he intends to use it,” he told his supporters at the time. “Always remember that I am your servant and your spokesman. Eastern Ontario will be there [in the legislature], rest assured.”

Villeneuve served until 1999 when he narrowly lost his seat to Liberal John Cleary in the new riding of Stormont, Dundas, and Charlottenburgh.

He was appointed a justice of the peace in 2000, but stepped aside in 2002 after a stroke left him hospitalized for more than four months.

“I knew Noble for a numbers of years. He was a great man, a great community individual, and I have to say I probably learned a lot about serving the public as a politician from his role as a MPP,” Doug Thompson, the last-ever mayor of the Township of Osgoode and the City of Ottawa ward’s councillor for 13 years, told the Press. “He was very supportive of me when I would meet him, and he is probably one of the last of his type where he was a big man, but he was very kind and gentle. He had a special way about him that people just admired… It didn’t matter where he was, people thought the world of him. He made time for everyone.”

Villeneuve is survived by his wife, Elaine, and children, Darlene MacGregor, Micheline Sabourin, Diane Kelly, Brian, and Roxane.

His funeral is set for this morning (Wed., March 7) at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Moose Creek.