It’s been 13 years since Clifford Lincoln retired from politics, but the former Quebec environment minister has never given up working on causes he cares about.
On Oct. 26, Lincoln will receive one of the Quebec Community Groups Network Sheila and Victor Goldbloom Distinguised Community Service Awards for his contributions to the province’s English community.
Clifford started his career in business, but made the leap to provincial politics when he was elected to the National Assembly after the 1980 referendum.
“It was the age of Mr. (Claude) Ryan, he was the head of the Liberal Party and somehow, he inspired people into saying ‘Let’s join up in a Quebec for all,’” said Clifford. “It was an exciting time, we wanted to show there was a more inclusive society.”
Lincoln was appointed environment minister in 1985 by Robert Bourassa but resigned from cabinet in 1989 over Bourassa’s decision not to use the notwithstanding clause on a Supreme Court ruling favouring bilingual signs.
“It was extremely hard, because I liked what I did very much,” he said. “I’m an environmentalist and it was a wonderful opportunity and it was working extremely well. I enjoyed the people I worked with. We had a wonderful staff of people working in the ministry and suddenly I had to quit for something completely divorced from what I was doing.”
He moved on to federal politics, representing the Lachine-Lac-St-Louis riding in Parliament form 1993 to his 2004 retirement.
His dedication to his community led former QCGN president Martin Murphy to nominate him for the Goldbloom Award.
“He had the courage to resign from cabinet to speak to a social issue related to the language of signs,” said Murphy. “Over the years, he’s been active and present and tried to improve the quality of life not only for the English speaking community but society in general.”
In recent years, Lincoln has championed for increased public transit in the West Island, with his Train de L’Ouest project leading to the way for the upcoming light rail system.
Lincoln also founded the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped and worked with non-profit group Executives Available Inc., which has helped 12,000 Quebecers find jobs.
“I think the idea is to do things and try and help in some way,” said Lincoln. “Some of it works and some doesn’t work as well. You just keep doing it.”
While Lincoln still calls Quebec home, his children have since left – part of a trend he says he hopes to see reversed.
“The leaders are aging. I’m an old guy, the leaders are old people,” he said. “At the same time, you meet a lot of young ones that are bright, they’re bilingual, they don’t have a hang-up living here. You’re hoping they’ll stay.”