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Remember this? Russ Ramsay

Remembered for striving for excellence, Russ Ramsay was a long-serving member of Provincial Parliament and managed some high-profile portfolios while in that seat
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From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

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Remember This… Russ Ramsay

Born in Sault Ste. Marie on Aug. 5, 1928, Russ Ramsay was well known for his career in radio and television broadcasting. He began working part-time at the radio station CJIC-AM in 1948 while he was a student and quickly moved into a full time position as an announcer the next year. In 1952 Ramsay became sports director and later became general manager of CJIC-Radio and Television in 1956. A position he would hold for over 20 years.     

Ramsay initially tried to enter the world of politics in 1965 when he ran unsuccessfully for Federal Parliament against George Nixon and again in 1968 when he ran unsuccessfully against Terry Murphy. In 1975 he served from January to June as city councillor. In 1977 he was elected as the MPP for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in a by-election following the death of the incumbent John Rhodes. He proved to be a very popular representative for Sault Ste. Marie. In the provincial election in 1981 he won by a landslide, winning 14,806 votes almost doubling the amount of his two opponents combined.  

He held his position in the Provincial Legislature until 1985. During his time in the Legislature, he served as provincial secretary for Resource Development from 1981 - 1982 and minister of Labour from 1982 - 1985.  

However, in 1982 Ramsay ran into some controversy when he commented on equal pay legislation, claiming it could be “the straw that broke the camel’s back…in such cases where a company is on the verge (of closing).” Many women’s groups, particularly in the Sault, pressured him for clarification. Ramsay admitted that the reason he had reservations about equal value legislation was because there was no such law in Canada or the U.S. at the time, although there was some limited legislation being worked on in Quebec, and therefore they had no criteria to base their decision on yet. In 1985 Russ Ramsay was defeated in a stunning loss to Dr. Karl Morin-Strom of the NDP. It was later said that his defeat was due to a weak Liberal vote combined with a “protest” vote.

Sault Ste. Marie formally recognized Russ Ramsay for his work within the community in a number of ways throughout the years. In 1969, he was named as the “Man of the Year” by the Sault Ste. Marie Rotary Club. In 1977 he received the municipal Medal of Merit. The Civic Centre’s Algoma Board Room was renamed as the Russ Ramsay Room and the street leading to City Hall was changed to Russ Ramsay Way. Although he never played competitive sports during his youth, he was inducted into the Sault Ste. Marie Hockey Hall of Fame. He held management positions on Sault Collegiate football and basketball teams and was a tireless promoter for school athletics. In 1993 he received the Order of Ontario.  

Mr. Ramsay died on Feb. 9, 2003 at the age of 74 leaving behind his wife Margaret and children Russ, Ron, Karen, Kathy and Rod. His funeral was attended by around 500 individuals with tributes from NHL hockey player Gene Ubriaco and writer Morley Torgov. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the late 1990s.  

At his funeral, Reverend Philip Miller said his life motto could be summed up in three words, “strive for excellence” which is exactly what Russ Ramsay did.  

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Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more Remember This? columns here.