‘Champion of lost causes’: Elsie Wayne remembered as tireless fighter for others

The first time Jean Charest met Elsie Wayne, it wasn’t under the greatest of circumstances.

The Progressive Conservative Party had experienced a devastating defeat in the 1993 federal election. Former MP and Quebec premier Charest and Wayne were the only two Tories elected to the House of Commons.

That story was one of many Charest shared in his eulogy at Wayne’s funeral on Saturday morning at the RiverCross Church in Saint John on Saturday. Wayne died at her home on Tuesday at the age of 84.

Among those in attendance were former premiers Bernard Lord and Frank MacKenna, former MP Peter MacKay and Senator Mike Duffy.

Tory stalwart

Jean Charest

Jean Charest, former MP and Quebec premier, eulogized Elsie Wayne on Saturday at her funeral in Saint John, N.B. (CBC)

“In that meeting, Elsie looked at me in the eyes and said — ‘Well, I guess it’s up to you and me, Jean,'” said Charest before a packed church.

“It was like being in charge of a train wreck. Both of us were shell-shocked,” Charest said, referring to that two-person caucus in 1993.

Wayne was born in New Brunswick on April 20, 1932. Prior to entering federal politics in 1993, Wayne was a popular Saint John municipal councillor and in 1983, became mayor. Her last year in federal politics was 2004.

Never gave up a fight

Charest spoke fondly of his former colleague, noting that she was known in Canada by her first name. This recognition, Charest said, is “quite a compliment” in political life.

He added that Wayne had a tireless work ethic and never gave up a fight until the answer was “yes.” Charest recounted several battles Wayne had on Parliament Hill, including ones involving employment insurance and veterans affairs.

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