Gene Zwozdesky, the former Speaker of the House at the Alberta Legislature, passed away on Sunday morning after a battle with cancer.

Zwozdesky began his political career as a member of the Alberta Liberal party but he crossed the floor in 1998, joining the PCs.

He was elected as the PC MLA for Edmonton-Mill Creek in 2001 and served there for the rest of his political career.

Zwozdesky also served as the Speaker of the House for three years, starting in 2012.

Ric McIver, who served alongside him for many years, said the loss is a ‘sad day’ for Alberta.

“Gene actually lived for the Speaker’s role. He loved it. He was good at it. Everyone liked him. He was Mr. Congeniality. He was versed in so many cultures and languages and traditions and tried to make everybody who came through the Legislature feel welcome.”

Hon. Robert E. Wanner, Alberta's current Speaker of the House, released this statement in regards to Zwozdesky's passing:

It was with great sadness that I learned of Mr. Zwozdesky’s passing. Anyone who ever met him knows that Gene Zwozdesky was a force of energy who lived every moment to its fullest. He cared deeply about his family, his community and his province. With a distinguished public service career spanning more than 20 years, his never-ending zest for life makes his passing seem almost surreal.

While I did not have the pleasure of working directly with Mr. Zwozdesky, I can speak to his undeniable commitment and his legendary charisma. I was so appreciative of his advice and assistance during the transition into my role as Speaker.

On behalf of all Members of the 29th Legislature, I extend my deepest sympathies to his loved ones and to the many people he impacted throughout his life and career.

Zwozdesky was also heavily involved in community work, including the arts, serving as Shumka’s musical director for 25 years.

(With files from CTV Edmonton)