Hon. Clément Gignac: Honourable senators, today I’d like to pay tribute to my sponsor. Although that word can have different meanings, I’m referring to the person I chose as my sponsor when I was sworn into the Senate. I’m obviously referring to my friend and Senate colleague, the Honourable Dennis Dawson.
I’m doing so today because, like several colleagues from the Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs, I will be travelling tomorrow as part of our visit to NORAD headquarters in Colorado. That said, I look forward to spending tomorrow evening watching the recording of all the tributes and stories you will share about him.
Instead of talking about his political career and all his accomplishments here in the Senate and at the other place as a member, I’d instead like to talk to you about how I got to know Senator Dawson and how our friendship developed over the years.
Senator Dawson was already a well-known political figure in Ottawa and Quebec City when we first met in the summer of 2009 during one of the memorable cocktail hours at the Club nautique du Lac-St-Joseph in the Quebec City area. The general manager of Lac-Saint-Joseph was proud to introduce me, a new resident, to the Honourable Senator Dawson. Although our first conversation was very courteous, I have to admit that our respective interests and political affiliations at the time were polar opposites.
Although I was newly elected as a Liberal to the National Assembly of Quebec, at the time I was a longstanding Conservative supporter at the federal level. Moreover, I’d just arrived from Ottawa where I’d had the privilege of working for several months alongside then finance minister, the Honourable Jim Flaherty, as a special advisor during the 2008-09 financial crisis. No need to say that I quickly moved to another table at the start of the cocktail hour when Liberal Senator Dawson began talking politics and more specifically about the Harper government in what I thought to be an overly partisan manner. That said, I gradually warmed up to Senator Dawson and my attitude changed over the course of subsequent years.
Having noticed that the Canadian flag flying at the top of the pole on my property had lost its luster, Senator Dawson left a beautiful new Canadian flag on my dock the following summer as he passed by in his boat, a gesture that I greatly appreciated and that he repeated over the next 12 years, until I was appointed to the Senate.
To be clear, honourable colleagues, I can reasonably say that the Canadian flag was the catalyst for us finding at least one thing in common and, later on, for developing a beautiful friendship through reciprocal invitations and dinners at the homes of common friends.
In the summer of 2021, after receiving the call from the Prime Minister of Canada with the news that the selection committee had recommended me to become a senator, I immediately called Senator Dawson to meet with him. During a nice pontoon ride on the lake with a few beers in the cooler, I had the privilege to ask Senator Dawson about the Senate and how it works, and to get his advice. If some of you found that I was able to integrate quickly into the Senate, I must give full credit to my sponsor, mentor and friend, the Honourable Dennis Dawson.
Thank you, dear friend, for agreeing to sponsor me here in the Senate and for facilitating my integration. In the coming years, it will be my turn to offer you a beautiful Canadian flag when our paths cross again during the summer.