The Late Honourable Allan J. MacEachen, P.C., O.C.—TributePublished on 19 September 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Jane Cordy
Hon. Jane Cordy:
The Laird of Lake Ainslie, the godfather of Cape Breton, a member of Parliament, a senator and a gentleman: Honourable senators, that was Allan MacEachen, better known in my province of Nova Scotia as Allan J.
Allan J. was a fervent believer in making things better for Canadians and he implemented legislation to do just that. He was Minister of National Health and Welfare during the creation of universal public medicare. The Medical Care Act, which passed in 1966, created Medicare, and it also created a guaranteed income supplement for seniors.
When he was Minister of Labour, the Labour Code was reformed and new standards for minimum wage were established. Bob Rae, a great friend of his, said that Allan J. was the greatest parliamentarian of our generation.
One thing for sure is that he loved politics. As former Prime Minister Chrétien said, he and Allan J. talked about politics the way hockey players talked about hockey.
Allan J. was the son of a coal miner and he was born in Inverness, Cape Breton. He had a lifelong love of his Scottish heritage, including the Gaelic language and Scottish music. Allan J. spoke fluent Gaelic.
There is a story that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was coming to Cape Breton to Allan J’s riding. The PMO told Allan J. that the driver for the Prime Minister would have to be bilingual, and Allan J. agreed quickly to that. The driver was indeed bilingual. He spoke Gaelic and English.
Allan J. worked very hard for the people of his riding. He believed that as an MP he should always be looking for projects that would help the communities in Cape Breton. I’ll tell you a true story about his persistence when dealing with government departments in getting things done for his constituents.
There was an application to build a rink in a Cape Breton community. Allan J. forwarded the project to the bureaucrats to approve funding for the rink. The answer was: It doesn’t qualify for funding under the rules.
He wrote back: The community has no rink and they need a rink.
The answer from the bureaucrats was: We’ll do a study and report back.
They reported back that after studying the situation, the population didn’t qualify for such a project.
Allan J. wrote back again: Study it again.
The department wrote back: After further study, as requested, we have determined the community does not qualify under the rules for a rink.
Allan J. wrote back: “Build the goddamn rink.”
They built the rink.
Of course, Allan J. served in the Senate from 1984 until 1996. He was made Leader of the Opposition in the Senate after the fall election of 1984. He revived the role of the Senate and believed that the Senate was a legislative body, not just an advocacy one. He believed that the Senate should exercise its power to amend or reject legislation, which is an extremely important concept.