The Honourable Senator E. Leo Kolber, a prominent businessman, philanthropist, politician and leading member of the Montreal Jewish community, died last Thursday after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, just a few days before what would have been his 91st birthday.
Senator Kolber passed away at his Westmount home.During his career Kolber was Chairman of Claridge Inc., President of CEMP Investments, The Cadillac Fairview Corporation, and spearheaded developments such as the Toronto TD Center, and the Eaton Centre. He had served as a Director of The Seagram Company, The Toronto-Dominion Bank and Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corporation.
As a Senator he was named Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce as well as the National Revenue Committee. He also served on the Advisory Council on National Security. He was a leading and trailblazing philanthropist and among other positions served as President of the Centre Board of The Sir Mortimer B. Davis – Jewish General Hospital. He co-authored his memoirs, entitled, Leo, a life.
Senator Kolber was also a very close associate of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, as well as the Bronfman family, and for many years was the chief fundraiser for the Liberal Party of Canada.
In a tribute, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to the Senator as a “good friend and mentor.”
“Mr. Kolber...dedicated his life to serving his community and his country,” Trudeau’s statement read. “A leader in the Jewish-Canadian community and a key contributor to Canada-Israel friendship, Mr. Kolber was a proud and generous supporter of many cultural and civic organizations in Montreal. He was an example to me, and countless others, of the importance of working hard and looking out for the people around us. For his many contributions, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2007.
“Mr. Kolber will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend, and a pillar of his community. He will be sorely missed.”
D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum wrote that Senator Kolber “was a tough-minded,charismatic and brilliant political organizer, entrepreneur and community leader. I really enjoyed my chances to talk with him as I got involved in politics.”
A statement from the Jewish General Hospital, which lowered its flag to half staff, said Sen. Kolber is “credited for having guided the JGH through a period of considerable difficulty and change in the healthcare system. He was firm in his defence of the hospital and he considered access to high-quality healthcare services to be a non-negotiable issue.
“Condolences are extended to Senator Kolber’s wife, Ronith Hirsch-Kolber; to his daughter, Lynne, and son, Jonathan, the children of the late Sandra Maizel, as well as their spouses and children; and to his brother, Samuel Kolber, and his family.”
Sen. Kolber’s family is asking that contributions in his memory be made to the Jewish General Hospital Foundation, at (514) 340-8251.