Former Winnipeg city councillor Al Golden, a prominent presence at city hall, dies at 76

Former Winnipeg city councillor Al Golden, a prominent presence at city hall from the late 1980s to early 2000s, died Sunday at the age of 76, his family has confirmed.

Golden served as the councillor for St. Vital from 1988 until 2000 and ran for mayor three times, losing to Bill Norrie in 1980, Glen Murray in 2002 and his former political ally Sam Katz in 2004.

He also founded or ran six Winnipeg businesses, including the St. Vital Hotel and Transcona Country Club, ran the volunteer Golden Retriever Seniors Transportation Service bus and kickstarted the revitalization of Old Market Square in 1978, his son Michael Golden said in an interview. 

“He loved Winnipeg,” Golden said of his father. “He really cared about making the city of Winnipeg a better place and fought every day to do everything he could to move the city forward and and help it.”

Golden was born in 1946 and grew up in Brooklands, a northwestern Winnipeg neighbourhood. He held a wide variety of jobs early in his life, said Michael Golden: collecting rags from back lanes, delivering newspapers, straightening nails on construction sites, mixing stucco and selling insurance.

Al Golden lost his own father at the age of five and befriended former Winnipeg mayor Stephen Juba after his paper route expanded to city hall.

“Stephen Juba was like my father’s adopted dad. He was his mentor in life and he hung around with Mayor Juba for his entire life,” Michael Golden said.

‘He was a force’: former councillor

Golden was first elected to council in a 1988 byelection. He quickly stood out for the way he responded to constituents.

“He gave out his home phone number. He would answer it day or night and would help anybody who asked,” Michael Golden said. “He was a true public servant.”

Golden was found guilty of income tax violations in 2000 and lost his city council seat.

As a member of city council, Al Golden prided himself on helping Winnipeg institute recycling, develop The Forks, create the Windsor Community Centre and build what’s now known as Shaw Park in time for the Pan Am Games in 1999.

Coun. Brian Mayes, the current city councillor for St. Vital, also credits Golden for preventing the city from closing down the St. Vital outdoor pool.

“He’s the man who saved that spot and kept it as an outdoor pool,” Mayes said. “There were controversies but he certainly got some important things done for city hall.”

Golden lost his council seat in 2000, after he was found guilty of two income-tax charges — one for filing a false statement on his 1989 return and one for failing to declare $727,000 in income.

In a byelection held that fall, Golden tried to return to city hall, but was stymied by lawyer Gord Steeves, who ended up serving as St. Vital’s councillor for the next 11 years.

“He was a force,” Steeves said. “I developed a lot of sympathy and respect for Al once I walked a mile in his shoes.

“I know he did a good job for the people of St. Vital as a councillor.”

Golden then tried to defeat incumbent mayor Murray in the 2002 general election but wound up finishing second. Golden finished third to Katz in the wide-open race to succeed Murray two years later.

Golden ran into tax trouble again in 2011, when the federal government claimed he failed to pay $1.9 million in taxes.

Golden suffered from a number of health ailments before he died of natural causes, said Michael Golden.

Al Golden is survived by his wife Sharan, his sons Michael and Brock, two sisters, a brother and four grandchildren.

His family is planning a private burial on Dec. 2, followed by a public celebration of his life at 11 a.m. on Dec. 3 at the Fort Garry Hotel.

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