POLITICS
07/25/2019 09:56 EDT | Updated 07/25/2019 12:42 EDT

David Caplan, Former Ontario Health Minister, Dead At 54

He served at Queen's Park from 1997 to 2011.

Jacques Boissinot/CP
David Caplan responds to media questions on listeriosis as other provincial health ministers look on at news conference in Quebec City on Sept.4, 2008.

TORONTO — Politicians of all stripes expressed shock and sadness Thursday at the death of former provincial health minister David Caplan, a recent colleague they described as a dedicated and hard-working public servant.

Premier Doug Ford offered his condolences via Twitter to the Liberal politician’s family and friends, thanking Caplan for his service to the province. Several others in Ford’s cabinet also paid tribute.

Health Minister Christine Elliott called the news “tremendously sad,” while Lisa MacLeod, the minister of tourism, reminisced about their many years serving together.

“When he left politics, we on occasion would grab a coffee,” MacLeod said in a tweet. “He was a good public servant, a kind soul and he is gone much too soon.”

Caplan was 54. His cause of death on Wednesday was not immediately known.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also offered her sympathies on Twitter, saying Caplan had died “far too young.”

Caplan’s Liberal colleagues praised the politician they called a member of their family.

“David cared deeply about his community and was a strong voice for his constituents. His passion was public service,” interim Liberal leader John Fraser said in a statement. “David will be greatly missed by his Ontario Liberal family. Our heart goes out to his wife, Leigh and two sons, Benjamin and Jacob, during this difficult time.”

Liberal politician Michael Coteau said he knew Caplan as a “hard-working, caring man” with deep ties to the community in Don Valley East, the riding Caplan represented and Coteau currently holds.

Forced out as health minister in 2009

 “He knew people by name, spent a long time at the door trying to solve people’s problems, and was always a hard worker for the community we served,” Coteau said in a statement.

Caplan was first elected in 1997 and served in Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet when the Liberals rose to power in 2003.

He was forced out as health minister in 2009 over the eHealth scandal in which millions of dollars went to consultants with government ties, and over expense account abuses. Many felt Caplan had been treated unfairly, particularly since most of the abuses at the agency took place under his predecessor.

Caplan, who also served as infrastructure minister, remained in office until 2011, when he and several other prominent Liberals chose not to run for re-election.

His mother, Elinor Caplan, was also a veteran politician, both federally and at the provincial level — where she, too, served as health minister.

Also on HuffPost: Ontario marks a whirlwind year since Premier Doug Ford’s election