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Former Burnaby alderman, MLA Jim Lorimer passes away

Jim Lorimer was thrilled to have a park in Burnaby named after him in 2009 because
Jim Lorimer was thrilled to have a park in Burnaby named after him in 2009 because 'nobody gets mad at a park.'
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER FILE

Former Burnaby alderman and MLA Jim Lorimer has died at the age of 89.

The Second World War veteran was made a Freeman of the city in 1990 after years of community service that started in 1966 when he won a seat on Burnaby city council. He served as alderman for two years before winning the provincial riding of Burnaby-Willingdon on behalf of the New Democratic Party in 1969 and serving as a cabinet minister in the Dave Barrett government.

Lorimer grew up in Sooke and worked on his family's farm, the youngest of five siblings. He told the NewsLeader in a 2009 interview that his parents were lifelong Conservatives while he always leaned towards the NDP and its precursors, which often led to some lively discussions around the dinner table.

He added proudly, with a laugh, that his mother did eventually end up voting NDP late in her life.

Lorimer served in Europe with the Canadian Scottish Regimental Infantry and after returning to British Columbia in 1946, he worked as a commercial fisherman, longshoreman and shipyard worker while also studying law at the University of British Columbia.

He had married his late wife Cicely in 1943 and had two daughters, Lee and Yvonne.

After he was called to the bar in 1949, he began his career in Grand Forks where he also got involved in politics, eventually managing the campaign of NDP MLA Lois Hagen.

He moved to Burnaby in 1954 and started a law practice, running unsuccessfully for MP in Vancouver-Point Grey before winning his first election, securing the Burnaby council seat.

His time as an MLA, from 1969 to 1975 and 1979 to 1983, included cabinet posts from 1972 to 1975 as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Commercial Transport.

In the 2009 interview, Lorimer said he was most proud of setting in motion the eventual closure of Oakalla Prison and overseeing the development of the SeaBus system when he was the minister in charge of transit.

In a press release from Burnaby City Hall, he was also credited with doubling the stock of transit vehicles to extend transit service to areas outside the City of Vancouver, arranging for the transfer of the Oakalla lands to Burnaby at no charge on a 100-year lease basis, and overseeing the expansion of Burnaby Hospital.

In between his stints as MLA, he returned to his law practice where he hired a young articling law school graduate named Derek Corrigan, who would eventually become the city's mayor.

Lorimer exemplified the characteristics of a Freeman, the city's highest civilian award, which is awarded only to people "who have given outstanding community and/or public service within the general community over a sustained period of time,"  said Corrigan in a press release.

"When you look around at what makes our City great, so many of our most significant achievements can be traced back to Jim's ideas or influence."

Corrigan noted Lorimer was a "mentor" who introduced him to the Burnaby Citizens Association and inspired him to consider how he might serve his community.

Jim Lorimer Park on Gilmore Avenue, across from Home Depot, was dedicated in 2009.

Of his political career, Lorimer was up front about the pitfalls politicians face when he told the NewsLeader, "I hope people remember me as being an honest person who tried his best, which probably wasn't good enough."

As for the park, he was pleased that it would be an enduring reminder of his years of community work.

"Well, it's going to be there. People can't get too mad at a park."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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