Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable senators, it is with profound sadness that I rise today to pay tribute to my friend and former colleague, the late Tommy Banks, who passed away on Thursday past.
When news broke of his passing, accolades came from across North America. Such was his impact on the music scene. He had started playing jazz piano at the age of 14, and his career was marked by unparalleled success.
He was a founding member of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts, and hosted his own television program, “The Tommy Banks Show.” He won a Gemini and a Juno, and he was an Officer of the Order of Canada.
A piece in the Edmonton Journal over the weekend cited admirers who gave him full credit for founding the city’s art scene. He loved Edmonton. It is fitting that the newest location of Yardbird Suite — a jazz club Tommy Banks helped to found — is located at 11 Tommy Banks Way.
But we here knew Tommy Banks best as a senator of the highest order, serving in this place with distinction for eleven years. He worked hard and performed his duties with the same passion and integrity that had served him so well in his other life. He was supportive of his colleagues but was never one to remain silent when criticism was deserved.
We served together on the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, and I had the great fortune to travel with him often on committee business. He was always knowledgeable and receptive, and he exemplified the role of a senator.
He also brought his musical talents with him to this place, acting as accompanist for the Singing Senators. While we might have lacked the abilities of our bandleader, we enjoyed our performances immensely notwithstanding. It was a privilege to make music with a consummate professional who had performed around the world.
Tommy Banks was a great many things: a jazz pianist, a composer, an arranger, a bandleader, a senator, and for many of us here, a good friend. Though he has left us, his music will live on in the hearts of those who share it.
On behalf of the Independent Liberals and, indeed, on behalf of all of us, colleagues, I would like to offer our deepest condolences to his beloved wife, Ida, his surviving children Jill and Tom Junior, and his four grandchildren, Mallory, Matthew, Thomas and Jenna.