Canada's Original Think Tank

Welcoming and Congratulatory Remarks

Welcoming and Congratulatory Remarks

Welcoming and Congratulatory Remarks

Welcoming and Congratulatory Remarks


Published on 8 December 2015
Hansard and Statements by Senator James Cowan (retired)

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Senate Liberals):

Honourable colleagues, I want to welcome all of us back here to the chamber after a rather extended but nonetheless eventful break.

I want to begin by extending my congratulations to our new Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, and the members of his government. I know all of us wish them well as they guide our nation over the next four years.

I want to welcome and congratulate our new Speaker, the Honourable George Furey, on his appointment to serve as our new presiding officer.

Over the years that Senator Furey and I have served here together, I’ve often turned to him for advice. His knowledge, experience and good judgment are matched by his deep respect for this institution.

We all know that the Senate is at a critical juncture, that we have hard work to do together to earn public confidence in this institution and in our work. Leadership matters. I know that our new Speaker brings both the determination and the wisdom necessary to help us in this most important task. All of us wish you every success as you take up your new responsibilities.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Cowan: May I also thank Senator Housakos for his service as our Speaker.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Cowan: While his tenure was short, it was eventful, to say the least. In addition to his public role as our spokesman on difficult issues, he played a critical part behind the scenes in the reorganization of this institution and its supporting infrastructure. For that all of us are deeply grateful.

I want to congratulate and perhaps, in a way, commiserate with my friend Senator Carignan, who takes office as Leader of the Opposition. I think he’ll find that his position there will be slightly different and perhaps in some ways more challenging than when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate. In any event, I wish him well. He was a diligent and hard-working Leader of the Government in the Senate, and I know he will bring that same dedication to his role as Leader of the Opposition.

I want to congratulate and extend our best wishes to Senator Martin on her election as Deputy Leader of the Opposition and to other members of the leadership team, Senator Plett and Senator Frum.

Our roles in this place have changed. Indeed, some of us on this side are still trying to find out exactly what that role is and how it will all work out. But I think that as we go forward, we’ll find that this Senate and the senators who serve in it, and have served in it, are adaptable. We will evolve, the institution will evolve, and it will be a better place if we all concentrate on the ultimate objective and that is to make this institution, which is such an important part of our parliamentary democracy, the very best chamber that it can be. I am sure that there is no disagreement amongst any of us on that.

We may part from time to time on the details, but on the overarching principles, on the overarching goals, I’m sure we all agree. Much good work has been done on Senate renewal, most recently under the leadership of our colleagues Senator Greene and Senator Massicotte, and before that, Senator Joyal led an initiative. Of course, our late Speaker Senator Nolin did much good work, and many of you contributed to the excellent inquiries that he introduced.

However, I think the time has come for us to take our future firmly into our own hands. The fix that needs to come to this place has to come from within. We cannot rely on anybody outside the walls of this chamber to do the work for us. If we succeed, we’ll take the credit for it, but if this place does not improve, then the blame will be shared by those of us who are here and who have not taken this opportunity.

I’m confident that we will find the way forward, that we will be able to work together collaboratively and that we will make this a better institution. We have the ability to make it the kind of effective body that Senator Carignan spoke about and that would deliver the value that we know the Senate can have for Canadians.

Finally, I want to thank the Senate staff who worked so hard most recently to prepare the chamber for the Speech from the Throne. It was a huge event attended by many distinguished Canadians and watched from coast to coast to coast.

To the Black Rod and his team who contributed to the success of that event, my congratulations and thanks.

Colleagues, I look forward to an interesting and a productive session. We will make history together as we reinvent this institution, the Senate of Canada. I wish all of us wisdom and good judgment and a healthy dose of good humour as we set about our tasks in the months ahead.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!