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Stewart McInnes, a Halifax lawyer, arbitrator and federal politician who served in Brian Mulroneys cabinet.

Courtesy of the McInnes family

Stewart McInnes, a respected Halifax lawyer, arbitrator and federal politician who served in Brian Mulroney's cabinet, held the rare distinction of having turned down a Senate appointment not once, but twice.

Mr. McInnes, who died of heart failure at his Halifax home on Oct. 3 at the age of 78, had multiple health problems in recent years, including prostate cancer.

In 1984, Mr. McInnes was surprised when voters elected him to the House of Commons as the Progressive Conservative member for Halifax, ousting former Nova Scotia premier Gerald Regan. A political organizer, Mr. McInnes was co-chair of Mr. Mulroney's Nova Scotia campaign to become Progressive Conservative leader the previous year, and didn't have his own political aspirations.

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In the run-up to the 1984 federal election, Senator Jim Cowan remembers Mr. McInnes couldn't find someone to run against Mr. Regan.

"I said to him half-jokingly, 'Well you know the rules, if you can't find a candidate, you're it,'" Mr. Cowan said.

"Why would I run?" Mr. McInnes responded, having had no previous intention of seeking office.

A year after Mr. McInnes was elected, Mr. Mulroney appointed him minister of supply and services. From 1986 until 1988, he served as minister of public works and minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Mr. Mulroney credits Mr. McInnes for helping get the then-controversial Confederation Bridge linking New Brunswick and PEI built and creating the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Mr. McInnes also supported the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, saying it would provide an economic boost for PEI and the entire region. Mr. Mulroney listened to his advice.

"He had a great deal of integrity and humour," Mr. Mulroney said. "I respected him tremendously for what he did for Nova Scotia."

Having met at Dalhousie University's law school, the two men formed a lasting bond. Mr. McInnes helped Mr. Mulroney during his first leadership bid for the Progressive Conservatives in 1976.

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"Stewart was a friend of mine for over 50 years," Mr. Mulroney said. "He became a very close adviser to me and a very valued friend."

After he was defeated by Liberal Mary Clancy in 1988, Mr. McInnes received his first Senate seat offer a few months later.

"He's the only person in Canadian history that I know of to have turned down the Senate not once but twice," Mr. Mulroney said.

Mr. McInnes told Mr. Mulroney that he couldn't accept the Senate seat because he loved Halifax and his family more.

The second Senate call came in 1990, when Mr. McInnes was in London, England, attending a Canadian Bar Association conference. Returning to his hotel room at about 2 a.m. after a night on the town, he was met with five messages from the Prime Minister's Office.

Mr. McInnes learned that Ray Hnatyshyn, who was then governor-general, was also in London to visit the Queen. He was seeking consent to name eight additional Canadian senators. It was the first-ever use of the rare powers for a prime minister to appoint extra senators. Mr. Mulroney took the action in response to the decision by Liberal senators to block passage of the goods and services tax legislation.

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Mr. McInnes was offered the chance of becoming one of the so-called eight GST senators, and to fly home with Mr. Hnatyshyn on a government jet to be sworn in. For the second time, he refused.

"I didn't succumb to the great temptation to sit on my ass," Mr. McInnes joked in an interview with the Halifax Chronicle Herald newspaper in 1999.

But he quickly added: "A lot of people who go there don't do much … others have lots of energy and do good work."

Born in Halifax on July 24, 1937, the second eldest of four children to Donald and Betty McInnes, Stewart McInnes had a privileged childhood. His grandfather, Hector, founded the law firm that would become McInnes Cooper in 1859. Stewart followed in his grandfather and father's footsteps, working as a partner in the law firm for nearly 40 years.

Having overcome polio, which left him paralyzed and in bed for six months at age 12, Stewart went on to become an athlete. He played hockey well into his 70s and golfed weeks before his death. While at Dalhousie University, he was on both the hockey and football teams. In 2004, he was inducted into the Dalhousie Sport Hall of Fame and recently received Dalhousie's A.J. Sandy Young Award, recognizing his lifelong contribution to athletics in the province.

"One word Stewart never had in his vocabulary was 'quit,'" said his friend and legal colleague George MacDonald. "He just wouldn't accept that you couldn't do something."

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"He was optimistic about everything," Mr. MacDonald added.

Mr. McInnes also knew virtually everyone in Halifax, if not Nova Scotia, which made him a great fundraiser. He served as chief fundraiser for the provincial Tories. "It's amazing he has any friends," former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm joked at an event to honour Mr. McInnes in 2009. "Caller ID was created because of Stewart."

Calling him a model public citizen who had a "great sense of civic responsibility," Mr. Cowan said he had tremendous respect for Mr. McInnes despite being on opposite sides politically.

"Every cause that came along that he believed in he put his soul into it," Mr. Cowan said.

At McInnes Cooper, Mr. McInnes primarily practised civil litigation, focusing on construction and immigration law. Later as an arbitrator and mediator, he worked on everything from settling a dispute over who should be the second 800-metre runner to represent Nova Scotia at the 2009 Canada Games to negotiating aboriginal claims for the federal government.

In his limited down time, Mr. McInnes could be found in his half-hectare garden .

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"Gardening was his relief and his therapy," said his daughter Sarah McInnes, a lawyer at McInnes Cooper. "He loved colour."

Calling it his "indulgence," his sprawling garden boasted 16,000 tulip bulbs. He also planted countless roses and rhododendrons.

"He loved sharing his garden with people," Ms. McInnes said. It was often the spot for fundraisers and garden tours. If someone walking by showed an interest, he would invite them in.

After spending hours crouched by his flower beds, you could find him easing his muscles in the steam room at the nearby YMCA.

"He was the life of the party," Ms. McInnes said.

Mr. McInnes leaves his wife Shirley; children, Donald, Janet, Ted, Sarah and Constance; five grandchildren; brother Roderick; sister, Ann; and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents and brother Hector.

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Confederation Bridge linked Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. The bridge links PEI and New Brunswick. This version has been corrected.

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