Former Speaker, Gene Zwozdesky, has died from cancer. (Photo from Facebook)

Gene Zwozdesky, former Speaker of Alberta legislature, mourned by colleagues

EDMONTON — Current and former members of the Alberta legislature are mourning the death of a former Speaker, Gene Zwozdesky, from cancer.

Zwozdesky, who was once a teacher, moved to politics in the 1990s and represented Edmonton in the legislature.

Originally a Liberal, he left the party to join the governing Progressive Conservatives in 1998 and was promoted to cabinet in 2001, serving in portfolios that included health and education.

Zwozdesky became Speaker in 2012, promising to improve decorum.

He once said he liked to allow freedom of speech and expression, noting that people had died for it.

Zwozdesky was 70.

“Anyone who ever met him knows that Gene Zwozdesky was a force of energy who lived every moment to its fullest. He cared deeply about his family, his community and his province,” current Speaker Robert Wanner said in a statement Sunday.

Zwozdesky was known for his humour and showmanship, at times serving as a minor hockey referee or performing at charity events.

He was also the executive director of the Alberta Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Alberta Ukrainian Canadian Centennial Commission, and was active with numerous organizations including the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Alberta Folk Arts Council and Edmonton Heritage Festival Association.

Ric McIver, a United Conservative Party member of the legislature, said there was nothing to dislike about Zwozdesky.

“He was conversant in so many cultures and languages and traditions, and tried to make everybody that came through the legislature feel welcome,” McIver said.

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