British Columbia’s minister of agriculture and lands, Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen, died suddenly in Victoria on Tuesday afternoon, reportedly of a heart attack.
Premier Gordon Campbell announced Hagen’s death in a press release late Tuesday, in which he said the province “has suffered a great loss with the passing of my friend and colleague.”
Campbell had renamed Hagen to the agriculture portfolio in a cabinet shuffle in June, where Hagen had briefly served in 2003 when then-minister John van Dongen stepped aside temporarily during a police investigation.
“Stan Hagen lived a life of dedication to public service that was built on solid steady leadership,” federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a separate statement Wednesday. “His passing is a loss for farm families in British Columbia and across Canada.”
Ritz recalled working with Hagen previously during his stint as secretary of state for small business and tourism, while Hagen was B.C.’s tourism minister (2006-08). “From my first meeting with Stan I was impressed with his depth of knowledge and straight-forward leadership.
“When Stan took over as British Columbia’s agriculture minister, he brought a common-sense approach to our work with other provincial agriculture ministers as we built Canada’s national agricultural policy,” Ritz added. “I know his provincial colleagues would agree that Stan had an impact on every successful policy and initiative coming out of those meetings.”
Hagen moved to the Comox area in 1968, worked in the construction industry and launched a ready-mix company. He was elected as the area’s Social Credit MLA in 1986 and served in then-premier Bill Vander Zalm’s caucus before he and the party were defeated by the NDP in 1991.
After a stint as general manager of a paving company, Hagen was re-elected as the area’s Liberal MLA in 2001 and 2005.
“Stan served as minister of 10 different ministries in governments from 1986 to 2009,” Campbell said. “No one in Canadian public life can match that… He worked with people in a way that encouraged them to do their best as he worked on their behalf.
“His passing reminds us all of the suddenness of life and of the time we take away from our families to serve. It reminds us of the importance of friendship and inner strength, two characteristics that defined the man.”
No details have yet been announced regarding funeral services for Hagen, but Hagen’s website reports a book of condolences is available at the provincial legislature in Victoria.
Neither Campbell nor Ritz specified a cause of death in their statements, but Victoria’s Times Colonist newspaper on Wednesday said Hagen died of an “apparent heart attack.”
The Vancouver Province newspaper on Wednesday quoted Campbell’s press secretary, Bridgitte Anderson, as saying late Tuesday that Hagen’s death “was very sudden” and that he “had not taken ill” beforehand.
Hagen had taken successful treatment for prostate cancer starting in November 2004, when he was Campbell’s minister for children and family development.
“I’ve made a career of facing challenges head-on and, despite this setback, I intend to continue working hard for B.C.’s children and families,” he said at the time.
“I am grateful that my cancer was detected early. Because of medical advances, when caught early, this cancer is highly treatable. Therefore, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for men to commit to having regular examinations.”