ALBERTA

Manmeet Bhullar Remembered By Alberta Legislature With Laughs, Tears

11/25/2015 07:08 EST | Updated 11/25/2015 07:59 EST
Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

EDMONTON — Alberta politicians laughed through their tears Wednesday as Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIver recounted stories about his colleague Manmeet Bhullar.

McIver told the house that Bhullar, who was 35, loved to joke with fellow MLA Sandra Jansen that he grew up watching her as a Calgary TV anchor, and in caucus often asked her to sing her station's promotional jingle.

"He always wanted her to sing the Channel 2 and 7 theme song,'' said McIver.

"She has now admitted that she never had the heart to confess to him that she didn't know all the words.''

"His death on Monday has left us heartbroken.''

He says Bhullar — who sported a thick, black beard — would tease caucus mate Richard Starke that his moustache couldn't match Bhullar's facial hair at age 12.

And he said Grande Prairie-Wapiti PC Wayne Drysdale will never forget standing beside the barrel-chested Bhullar in the house and listening to him belt out Canada's national anthem loudly, proudly, and ear-piercingly off key.

"(Drysdale) says Manny was great at many things. Singing was not one of those things,'' said McIver.

manmeet bhullar

A flag and flowers drape over MLA Manmeet Bhullar's desk in the Alberta Legislature. (Photo: Jason Franson/CP)

All party leaders paid tribute in the house to Bhullar, the member for Calgary Greenway, who was killed on Monday in a traffic accident.

"One of our family members is missing and is missed,'' McIver told the assembly, as many on both sides of the house dabbed their eyes with tissues or fought back tears.

"His death on Monday has left us heartbroken.''

Bhullar, on his way back to Edmonton from Calgary in the early afternoon, stopped to help after a vehicle rolled on an icy, snowy stretch of the QE2 Highway north of Red Deer.

As he got out of his vehicle he was struck in the median by a semi that had lost control. He later died in hospital.

McIver said the eight-member caucus went down to visit Bhullar's family in Calgary and heard stories about Bhullar, and about how he loved to hear stories told to him by his grandmother.

"He could never get enough of his grandmother's stories,'' said McIver. "It was only a week ago when he had to leave before one of her stories was finished. She told us now that they will never get to finish it.

"And his unfinished story is perhaps the saddest thing in our hearts.''

Premier Rachel Notley told the house that Bhullar will be remembered as a man of powerful compassion fuelled by his faith.

"He saw the good in everyone around him, and when confronted with hurt, his first instinct was to do whatever he could to put it right,'' said Notley.

"It was typical for the member for Calgary Greenway that he would stop to help someone in need, stepping from the warmth of his vehicle into the midst of a heavy snowstorm.

"For him, there was no other way to live.''

"It was typical for the member for Calgary Greenway that he would stop to help someone in need."

Later, McIver, Jansen and PC member Mike Ellis recounted to reporters the horrible hours on Monday afternoon and evening, when caucus members starting hearing reports that something terrible had happened to Bhullar.

There were frantic calls to confirm what had happened, and then, when the worst was realized, more calls to mutual friends to deliver the awful news.

Then, MLAs from other parties began dropping in, said McIver.



At one point there were 40 or more in the PC caucus office. Speaker Bob Wanner came by. Greg Clark of the Alberta Party bought pizza. They had a few drinks. They told stories of Manmeet.

"For a very short period of time, there were no teams. There was just one team,'' said McIver.

"I'm not sure when the next time that will happen, but we were just human beings for a while.''

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