'A champion of lost causes': New Brunswick mourns Elsie Wayne

At a memorial service, former Quebec premier Jean Charest said there was 'nothing ordinary about Elsie'

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — New Brunswickers gathered in a church in Saint John to celebrate the life of Elsie Wayne, who championed the community she dubbed “the greatest little city in the east” as its former mayor and a force to be reckoned with in Ottawa.

Wayne’s family says the former New Brunswick member of Parliament died Tuesday in her home at the age of 84.

The right-wing firecracker was remembered at Saturday’s service by Jean Charest, her lone Progressive Conservative companion in the House of Commons after the party lost all but two of their 156 seats in the 1993 federal election.

Charest compared the task before the two-member caucus as “like being in charge of a trainwreck” and described his partner in rebuilding the country’s Conservative movement as “the all-time Canadian champion of lost causes.”

The former Quebec premier said there was “nothing ordinary about Elsie,” citing her reputation as a flamboyant political personality and relentless advocate of causes she cared about _ like funding for the Canadian Forces and benefits for merchant mariners.

Charest said Wayne achieved the sort of one-of-a-kind-status held by few Canadian politicians, so iconic she was known simply by her first name.

The service at RiverCross Church was streamed online and mourners were invited to share their sympathies on the Brenan’s Funeral Home website.

Born in Shediac, N.B., Elsie (Fairweather) Wayne became the first female mayor of Saint John in 1983 and represented the city’s riding in Parliament for more than a decade before announcing her retirement in 2004.

Wayne was married to Richard Wayne and they had two sons, Daniel and Stephen.

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