Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, it is with mixed feelings that I stand here today as we say goodbye to our colleague and my friend and our friend Senator Dennis Dawson.
Although your time with us in this chamber is coming to an end, this is not the end of the road, just simply a turn in it. I will miss your presence here on the Hill, and especially in the Progressive Senate Group, or PSG, but I am happy that you will now be able to spend more time with your family, particularly your new granddaughter.
Dennis, it was great to be at your retirement event last evening at the Métropolitain, with hundreds of your closest friends celebrating your political life as an MP, a political organizer and, of course, a senator. Now, I’m not saying that you spent a lot of time at the Métropolitain, but last night, the owners did present you with a bar stool with a plaque that had your name on it.
Colleagues, Senator Dawson began his career in public life when he was elected as a trustee on the Commission des écoles catholiques de Québec in the early 1970s, a position he held for five years, until he was inspired to take a run at the vacant federal seat which was open in his riding. In a by-election in 1977 — a few years ago — Senator Dawson was elected to the House of Commons to represent the riding of Louis-Hébert under the leadership of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and he is now retiring under another Prime Minister Trudeau. He was subsequently re-elected in the following two general elections.
This was all before Dennis even turned 30 years old — quite an achievement and commitment to serving the people of Canada at such a young age. I imagine it all must feel like a lifetime ago to you, Dennis.
Honourable senators, Dennis and I have been caucus colleagues for the last 17 years. We have seen and experienced quite a bit of change in the Senate over those years. When we started here, we were part of the government caucus with a significant majority. We then became the official opposition and then the official opposition but with a minority government.
The biggest change came in 2014, with a parting of the ways from our colleagues on the other side, which ultimately led to the formation of the Progressive Senate Group. Well, “parting of the ways” is a nice way to put it. We were actually kicked out of the Liberal Party. I guess that makes us part of an exclusive club, Dennis.
Through all the changes, Dennis has been instrumental in our restructuring, and without him, the Progressive Senate Group may not be as it is today. While Dennis and I both joined an already well-established system when we first started in the Senate, it has been exciting to be part of building a new group from the ground up with our wonderful PSG colleagues.
When I agreed to take on the leadership role of the PSG after Senator Day’s departure, I could do so comfortably, knowing that Dennis would be a solid teammate and part of the leadership team.
Colleagues, those early months were a steep learning curve for us as our group continued to find our footing. Senator Dawson has always been there as a strong support, with sound advice and, most importantly, a sense of humour. I have to credit him with helping to foster the supportive, collaborative and collegial team that we have today.
Senator Dawson, after 46 years since first being elected to the House of Commons, you deserve to spend more time with your family.
Through it all, Dennis, it has been a pleasure to work alongside you for the last 17 years, and I have valued without measure your counsel and friendship.
Dennis, I wish you all the best in your well-deserved retirement. I will miss you. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.