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GRAVENHURST, Ont. — Former Ontario economic development minister Al Palladini, 57, has died suddenly of a heart attack, an adviser to Premier Mike Harris says.

“Yes, he has passed away,” says Hillary Stauth at a Tory caucus retreat in this central Ontario resort town.

Palladini, who only retired from the Conservative cabinet a few weeks ago, recently had gone through a divorce from his wife, Romana.

The couple had two children.

Previous to being minister of economic development he was minister of transportation.

“He was a great human being with compassion, humanity, a zest for life a sense of humour,” says Janet Ecker, the province’s education minister. She served from many years alongside Palladini.

“There’s a big hole,” she says, breaking into tears.

At the time of his resignation, Palladini noted the effects job stress had had on his life.

“I was not aware of the sacrifices and commitment that one has to make, not only when it comes to his or her personal way of living this type of life, but also the pressures it does put on one’s spouse and one’s family,” he said.

In January, he said of his divorce, “I’m happy to say we’ve come to a resolve.”

“I’ll have an opportunity to make sure when I do get out of politics, maybe in the next 10 years, that I will actually have something left,” he said.

Palladini was part of the Ontario Tory cabinet since 1995, when he was appointed transportation minister.

He was most recently involved in negotiations involving independent truckers, trucking companies and shippers over the issue of surcharges.

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