The Honourable David P. Smith, P.C., Q.C.—TributesPublished on 10 May 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Art Eggleton, James Cowan (retired), Jim Munson, Mobina Jaffer, Pana Merchant (retired), Terry Mercer
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator David Smith, as he prepares to leave this chamber for what is, without a doubt, a well-deserved retirement.
But while it may seem natural to open by speaking to the substantially deep political footprint he leaves behind, it’s not where I wish to begin today.
I have had the good fortune of knowing Senator Smith since the 1960s, when younger versions of ourselves worked together as members of the Young Liberals of Canada.
But despite knowing the senator for a little over five decades — or more alarmingly, half a century — it was only recently that I became aware of the true depth of his long history of community involvement.
The Greater Toronto Area’s Habitat for Humanity, Exhibition Place, George Brown College, the Toronto General Hospital, the Mount Sinai Hospital are but a small handful of Toronto-based philanthropic boards that Senator Smith has served throughout his career.
Even as he joins us here today, he helps to showcase Canadian talent and culture by sitting on the Board of Governors of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, two of Canada’s premier concert halls.
And it’s not just his board participation. Beyond these roles, Senator Smith demonstrates a steadfast devotion to his community by supporting charities such as the Scott Mission in Toronto, a charity that his father, the late Reverend Campbell-Bannerman Smith, also championed.
David, your service to your community is admirable to say the least. You have surely touched the lives of many. I know that those you have helped are very grateful for it; and I’m certain that your father would be very proud of you for carrying forward the family tradition of service.
But now let me return to that footprint I spoke of earlier, which speaks to Senator Smith and his history of another kind of service.
Colleagues, it has long been debated whether man, by nature, is a “political animal,” but to know Senator Smith and his captivating career is most definitely to give one to the Aristotelians.
To most Canadian political pundits, the name “David Smith” is synonymous with Canadian politics, exemplifying a love of politics that is second to no one in this country.
Before the break, I spoke about independence and how one can be both a member of a political party and strongly independent in one’s actions. Well, colleagues, meet Senator Smith: Exhibit A. I’ve been proud to have Senator Smith in our independent Senate Liberal Caucus. And at the same time, few can claim as much devotion to the Liberal Party of Canada. David is a lifelong Liberal whose hard work, dedication and determination have helped to build and to define the Liberal Party of Canada.
Beginning as president of Carleton University’s Liberal Club, he went on to serve the party in more or less every way imaginable.
In the 1960s alone he was the National President of the Young Liberals, National Youth Director of the Liberal Party, assistant to the party’s National Director, and Executive Assistant to two ministers under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson — all of this while somehow finding time to get a law degree from Queen’s.
He is also a lifelong Torontonian, with a deep and abiding love of and commitment to that city. In 1972, the very year he was called to the bar, he was elected to Toronto City Council, where he dedicated the next six years to serving Torontonians in a variety of roles, including President of the City Council and Deputy Mayor.
Then, in 1980, he threw his hat into the ring for Canada’s thirty- second federal election and, victorious, came to the Hill to represent the riding of Don Valley East. Here, he went on to work for Canadians in the roles of Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council, Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Liberal Party Deputy House Leader, and later on, Minister of State, Small Business and Tourism.
It was during that time in the other place that he participated in what he has identified as the single most satisfying project of his parliamentary career. Senator Smith served as Chairman of the Special Committee on the Disabled and the Handicapped, as it was then known, the committee responsible for producing the landmark report Obstacles, a recommendation-based report that brought the challenges faced by persons with disabilities to the forefront of Canadian public policy.
Shortly following the report’s release, the first draft of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was tabled, and Senator Smith — quiet, shy and retiring person that we know him to be — took the lead in pushing to include “mental and physical disability” in section 15(1) on equality rights.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Cowan: It was during his fifth or sixth appeal for inclusion into the Constitution that he descended into what he refers to as “a bucket of tears of joy” after being interrupted by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau saying, “David, we don’t have to listen to your speech anymore. We’re putting it in.”
Today, thanks to the efforts of Senator Smith and his colleagues, the Charter reads:
Every individual is equal before and under the law . . . without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Like many of his then-colleagues, he stood for re-election in 1984 and lost in the Conservative sweep that year. Undaunted, he returned to his first love, the law, and went on to become Chairman of Fraser & Beatty and its successor firms, Fraser Milner Casgrain and Dentons Canada LLP — which today is the world’s largest firm by number of lawyers and where he continues to serve as Chairman Emeritus today.
While fine-tuning his prowess of municipal, administrative and regulatory law, he cemented his reputation as one of the most successful political managers in modern Canadian history.
He is credited with masterminding three consecutive majority wins for Jean Chrétien in 1993, 1997 and 2000.
Many will recall the 1993 election, when the Liberals swept Ontario, winning all but one seat. Mr. Chrétien would often tease him about this loss, until he did so in front of President Bill Clinton, who replied: “Ninety-eight out of ninety-nine? I’d settle for that. Listen, do you want to come to Washington to work for me? Could you show up next Monday morning?”
Small wonder that he’s been called an election guru, a campaign Machiavelli and, by political scientist Heather MacIvor, “the 800- pound gorilla.”
In June 2002, David Smith was summoned here to the Senate on the advice of Prime Minister Chrétien. In his 14 years here, he has served on many committees, always with distinction. But I must single out his work serving as Chair of our Rules Committee and Chair of the Special Committee on Anti-Terrorism. In the first capacity, he worked to make the Senate function better, and in the second, to contribute to protecting Canadians from the terrible threat of international terrorism.
Senator Smith brought all his skills — as a lawyer, as a negotiator, as a facilitator and as a charmer — to all his work, including here in the Senate. He could and often did work miracles, and Canada is a better place as a result.
David, I want to thank you for the years of loyalty and service you have given to your community, to your party, to your caucus and to this chamber. You leave behind a formidable legacy, and I wish you and your family, in the unwritten chapter that lies ahead, every happiness. Thank you.
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Honourable senators, I’m pleased to rise to talk about my seatmate and how much he has contributed to this country and how much we’ll miss him.
I’ve known him for some 50 years, just like Senator Cowan. We started together in the Young Liberals of Canada. I have a lot of stories. Many of them are not repeatable, but maybe we’ll get a few in.
As I stand here, he would refer to me as Brother Eggleton and I would refer to him as Brother Smith. He likes that whole Christian tradition of calling people “Brother” or “Sister” — Brother Harder, Sister Martin. He enjoys doing that. He enjoys gospel music as well. Amen!
It was once said that the greatest of distinctions is service to others, and I think that well describes David Smith. He has spent his lifetime serving others. He has served others in his country, his province, his city, his party and his profession of law. He has excelled in all of them.
He started here at a very young age, while he was getting his law degree, but he was learning so much from some of the icons of our party, people like Walter Gordon and John Turner and Keith Davey. He worked closely with Keith Davey and learned a lot about how to run election campaigns. That really paid off for Mr. Chrétien, who won three majority governments, and David was the chair of those campaigns, a great achievement in terms of his political involvement.
But he and I also shared a number of years together on city council. We sat on the executive committee for a number of years. Following that, he ended up coming out here and I went on to become the Mayor of Toronto.
He came up here, and we’ve heard both Senator Cowan and Senator Carignan talk about his signature achievement. I just have to mention how proud I know he is of the report on the disabled and handicapped, the report entitled Obstacles. It helped pave the way for a new direction in terms of dealing with the challenges that so many people in our country face, and it helped to move us into a very important commemoration of the UN year of the disabled.
But most important, of course, how many people can say that they made a very solid contribution to the Constitution of this country and to the wording of that Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That’s a very significant legacy that this man leaves.
He left here, of course, as has been pointed out, to go back to law, and a number of people are here from the firms that he had the pleasure of being chair of for a number of years.
I see my time is just about up, but there’s so much more I could say. He has shone in terms of the 14 years of service he has provided here.
David, your retirement is so well-deserved, and we wish you well. Heather, Alex, Laura and Kate, we wish you the same as well, and to all of your family and friends who are here.
You have served well, sir. Thank you very much, my friend.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Honourable senators, today I also rise to thank our colleague and my friend Senator Smith.
Thank you, Senator Smith, for your contribution to our Senate Chamber and to our country over your many years of service. I also want to thank you for your friendship over the years.
Senator Smith and his most gracious wife Heather, former Chief Justice of Ontario, and his three children have unselfishly served our country for many years.
I have many stories I can also relate about Senator Smith and our relationship, but I will share just a few.
Senator Smith and I have had many heated discussions over the years, especially when he was the chair of numerous elections, but I can honestly tell you all that he always managed to make sure that we were still friends. This is the strength of Senator Smith.
David probably holds the number one title of being an election chair for many years, and when he was the election chair, he did an amazing job.
Senator Mercer can also vouch for the interesting and educational tools we received from Senator Smith when we went to Oxford University in England for Liberal International meetings. Senator Smith has an encyclopedic memory of all the different buildings and the history of Oxford University. One Sunday morning, I remember him dragging us all to church. We forgave him because he then bought us a great brunch.
Honourable senators, Senator Smith has always been first in inviting us all for a drink whenever there has been an opportunity, and he has always been very thoughtful to make sure I have my special drink.
David and Heather, I want to say “thank you” to both of you. You both, Senator Smith and Justice Smith, have demonstrated to us over your careers that there are many ways to serve our great country. You have both served with poise and humility, and your motivation was always the strengthening of our country. Your tireless work has had an impact upon our lives, and your unselfish service will always be remembered by us.
Today, honourable senators, I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Smith, and I specifically want to thank Senator Smith’s three children, Alexander, Kathleen and Laura, for sharing your dad with us.
Today we salute you and thank you for your service to our country.
Senator, you know that your presence will be truly missed in this chamber, but your hard work will be carried on for generations in our country. You have helped to make our country stronger, fairer and more resilient.
Now, Heather and David, time to enjoy your grandchild. We will miss you.
Hon. Pana Merchant:
Honourable senators, service as a minister of the Crown in the other place — children under 12 and independent senators, cover your ears — service for Canada as a very successful Liberal Party campaign chair in 1993, 1997 and 2000; service for Canadians as a member in our chamber and one of Canada’s legal leaders; witness to life in every part of the world; a great storyteller: Senator David Smith is all these and many other things that others have enumerated.
It is ideas that bind us together, and for many of us Liberals and others, David’s friendship and comradeship was without borders. The doors to his office were always open. He is a gracious host at the end of a long day.
Senator David, you have been my friend for over 30 years, with the best of memories, and although we will see less of you as you leave this chamber, you leave this place with our respect and great affection. Thank you for everything you have done for us.
Hon. Jim Munson:
Senator Smith, as your whip, I have saved every joke that you have written to me over the last 12 years. I have them all on my desk, but I’m going to give you enough time to get out of here before I publish them in my book. But they are tremendous insights into life and to flights of fantasy, I guess, as well.
I’m just thinking, David, that as your whip you always took a look at me when a vote was called when we were sitting on the other side, and said: “Well, time for libation?” And on we went downstairs into your office, and you did tell great stories. The pictures on the wall of your office are a history lesson for everybody in this country.
Do you know what you did as well? You did it recently in welcoming the new senators here. I saw you talking to every one of them, and you made people feel welcome here in the Senate of Canada, no matter who you were or what party you represented.
Now, as a United Church minister’s son, you never let me get away with too much because you always talked about PKs and how they act and react with others. I want to assure you that for most of my life I was a pretty good minister’s son, but you’ve got to challenge the system from time to time. And that’s what you have done over the many, many years.
The one thing I really do want to say, and it’s been referred to regarding the Charter, has to do with the report I see you have the report in front of you, Obstacles. It is good reading about mental and physical disabilities. In this day and age, we talk about intellectual disabilities. I’ve used the report. Your seatmate has used it, as did Senator Keon and others who sat on the Social Affairs Committee when we studied autism and when the committee studied mental health just before I arrived here. It served as a template to take those Charter rights, which are incredible, to another level, so that we can give voice. You were one of the first, along with your committee at that time, to give voice to those who did not have that voice, who today cannot be forgotten in the debates in this country when it comes to autism or those who are involved in the Special Olympics.
I want to thank you for your friendship. It’s not very often I can talk to someone vis-à-vis the Senate, and you’re a giant.
So I’ve always looked up to you, Senator Smith. At the end of the day, it’s been a job well done, and we love you very much.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, when I heard that Senator Smith was retiring, I took a quick look at his birthday and was shocked to learn that his birthday is the same as that of my one and only granddaughter, Ellie, who was born a year ago next Monday. And so, David, I will never be able to forget your birthday again.
I had the pleasure of first working closely with David in the 1993 election campaign. I was charged with the responsibility of training Liberals across Ontario after having worked on the Chrétien leadership campaign a couple of years earlier. I had occasion to meet with David quite a few times. Once or twice he had to scold me for not being prepared, but it only happened then. I never met with David again when I wasn’t prepared, because I knew he would catch on. I don’t want to dwell on that too much.
I do want to talk about a trip that we took together that Senator Jaffer mentioned. We went to Oxford in England to a Liberal International meeting. David’s wife was with us, along with my wife, and several other couples were at this very serious meeting. We took a side trip to Churchill’s home. You’ve never been to England unless you’ve been there with David Smith. As I was making my notes for today, I decided that perhaps Her Majesty may be the only one who has more knowledge of Mother Britain than David Smith.
David, it was a great experience to travel anywhere with you, whether it was in Britain or to other Commonwealth parliamentary association meetings.
David, as people have said, was the campaign manager in 1993, but then I moved on and became the national director of the party and worked with David as the national campaign manager for the 1997 and 2000 campaigns.
As I always say, David has been sued by many but none of them have ever been successful. Many a disgruntled member of our party or some other group would have at David, but he always had his t’s crossed and his i’s dotted — well done.
Also, it may not be known to all of our colleagues in this place that David is a great host, but he’s also blessed with a great hostess in his wife, Heather. I’ve had the pleasure of joining them both in their homes in Toronto and in Cobourg. If you’re invited, go, because I can guarantee that you’ll have a great time.
Thank you, David, for what you’ve done for the Liberal Party and what you’ve done for Canada. More importantly, thank you for your friendship and for your solid advice.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals):
David Smith is the person who, to me, has most incarnated that lovely phrase “happy warrior.” Goodness knows partisanship has been a central element of his life. He has been a warrior for the Liberal Party that he has served so well, and for his country and for all the causes in which he believes. But what I have always noticed about him is that he’s happy. This is a man who shows you how to give partisanship a good name.
Through the years, when I have had the pleasure of working with him, I have seen him sometimes frustrated. You will recall Senator Carignan’s repetition of the famous word “soon.” But I have never, ever seen or heard David Smith attribute any kind of malicious motive or cast any kind of aspersions on the character of people who were sitting across from him or who did not agree with him. He has always, in my experience, shown capacity to see the good in people, even when the disagreements were profound. I don’t know how many times I have heard him say, “Oh, I know her,” or “I know him; that’s a really good person,” even when that person’s function was to oppose.
He is, as so many here have said today, a wonderful host. He was always ready to open the door to anybody who had any kind of difficulty. He was always happy and quick with the jokes. They were frequently quotations with a slightly religious bent. I was trying to figure out the source — it must be the Bible, and if it isn’t the Bible, it should be the Bible — of the line, “Therefore, brethren, let us be joyful.”
Senator D. Smith: Amen.
Senator Fraser: David Smith has been and has made us joyful. We wish him much joy in all the years to come and thank him for the joy he brought us here.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!