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Ont. ag broadcaster, ag critic Murray Gaunt, 73

Funeral services were held Saturday at Wingham, Ont. for former Ontario agriculture critic and respected farm broadcaster Murray Gaunt, who passed away in hospital at London on March 31 at age 73.

Gaunt, who received his Ontario Agricultural College diploma in 1956, farmed and then worked for a few years in farm radio and TV broadcasting at Wingham’s CKNX before his election to the provincial legislature in October 1962.

As the Liberal MPP for the Huron-Bruce riding from 1962 to 1981, Gaunt was consigned to the opposition benches during a run of Tory governments. He served as Liberal caucus chair, provincial agriculture critic and a member of the standing committee on agriculture (1962-71).

The Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame, which inducted Gaunt as a member in 2005, noted Gaunt’s support of the Capital Grants program for farmers in the 1960s, the 1966 Milk Act that led to the establishment of the Ontario Milk Marketing Board, and the creation of other supply management boards such as the Ontario Egg Producers’ Marketing Board and the Chicken Producers’ Marketing Board.

The hall of fame also noted Gaunt’s “vibrant and cheerful personality” as the farm director for CKNX Radio and TV, a job he held for 17 years after leaving provincial politics in 1981. He was “instrumental in the redevelopment of several broadcast programs and media material” and “carried the agricultural message across the province and nationally,” the hall noted in 2005.

“Through his daily news, market and special reports he kept the issues of agriculture and rural communities before decision-makers and in so doing was a catalyst advancing the health and well-being of rural people. He left a legacy in the industry by serving as mentor to many professionals in the agricultural media today.”

CKNX TV, which evolved into “A” Wingham, is expected to go off the air at the end of August when owner CTV Globemedia allows the station’s broadcast license to expire, citing the “financial pressures” in the conventional TV industry. AM920 CKNX is owned by London-based Blackburn Radio.

Gaunt also chaired the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission for 16 years ending in 2002 and authored a book on the commission’s first 25 years, the hall of fame noted.

Gaunt also sat on the Ontario Beef Marketing Commission in 1984 and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s special task force studying the effect of high interest rates on farm families.

Gaunt “had the capacity to image possibilities, see farther over the horizon than most of us and recruit people to get things done,” hall of fame secretary treasurer Reg Cressman said in the London Free Press.

Gaunt’s family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his memory to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church at Wingham, the Wingham and District Hospital Foundation or Country Heritage Park at Milton.

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