Tribute to the Honourable George J. Furey, K.C., Speaker of the Senate

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Centennial flame, Ottawa

Hon. Jane Cordy: Senator Furey, I can’t believe that the time for your retirement is here. Your distinguished career serving the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in Ottawa is coming to a close after almost 24 years.

It was a pleasure to serve alongside you in caucus for 15 of those years, until your appointment in 2015 as the first Speaker of the Senate from Newfoundland and Labrador. I will add that during the time that Geoff Regan served as Speaker of the House of Commons, it was the first time that the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate were both graduates of the law school at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

George, I have many fond memories of working with you here in Ottawa. One fun thing that stands out was the Senate choir. You and I, along with Senator Ringuette and former senators Bill Rompkey, Joan Fraser, Lorna Milne and Gerald Comeau — to name a few — would sing together in the Senate choir, not as Liberals or Conservatives, but in the spirit of friendship.

The late senator Tommy Banks would lead and accompany us on piano, and if we sang out of tune, Tommy would simply begin to play a little louder.

As others have said, George, you have kept a steady hand as we have navigated these uncharted waters of change in the Senate over the last eight years — from the ever-evolving dynamics of this place, to the move from Centre Block to our temporary new home here in the Senate of Canada Building and the upheaval of the pandemic with a shift to hybrid sittings.

I think the highest praise a Speaker can receive is to be regarded as being fair. Your Honour, you have ruled fairly but firmly with words of encouragement for us to find solutions.

George, I know how important family is to you. You will now be able to spend more time with Karen, your children and, particularly, your grandchildren.

I wouldn’t normally quote a family member. However, since Andrew is a politician, I will make an exception here. He said:

Dad was a great role model, and not only was he a great role model, he’s one of my best friends.

He went on to say:

. . . my top priority is always going to be my family. That’s something that’s been instilled in me since I was a kid.

George, there is no better tribute to a parent or a Speaker than this.

You and Karen have always recognized that while politics is exciting and invigorating, family is what keeps us grounded.

Speaker, I phoned former senator Joan Cook — that might make you a little bit nervous — and I asked if she would like to share a funny story about you. She said, “George isn’t funny. He’s serious. It’s all about family.”

She went on to say that you had five grandchildren in a two years. Now, Joan always knitted things for new babies, but I understand she phoned you, George, and said:

So, five grandchildren in two years — for God’s sake George, tell your kids to slow down. I can’t keep up with the knitting.

George, I am honoured to have had the privilege to serve with you in the Senate for the last 23 years. You have served Canadians and the Senate of Canada with great distinction and you have earned a deep respect from your colleagues. To quote this week’s The Hill Times, your retirement is “. . . a loss for the Senate and the Canadian public.” The descriptions of your decency, commitment and impact on this place cannot be overstated.

The Progressive Senate Group and I wish you and Karen the very best.

Thank you for all you have done.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

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