Tribute to the late Honourable Hugh Segal, C.M.

By: The Hon. Diane Bellemare

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Hon. Diane Bellemare: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our former colleague I greatly admired, the Honourable Hugh Segal, who was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada in 2003 and as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2016. He had an extraordinary career in public policy, which included positions such as deputy minister at age 29, chief of staff to Prime Minister Mulroney, director of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, senator and master of Massey College.

Even though his father was a Liberal, Hugh Segal identified as a Conservative starting in his early teen years, and he always had a progressive view of politics.

When I was appointed to the Senate, I knew him by reputation. Although I am a year his senior, we share the same birthday. That piqued my curiosity and I wanted to get to know him better. He was a silent mentor for me. I observed his political positioning and tried to understand his strategic choices. He was very independent and did not always toe the party line. He stepped down in 2014 on a matter of principle.

Senator Segal applauded the changes made to the Senate as of 2015. He even proposed a model for the future in order to enshrine in law the permanent existence of four recognized groups to preserve the Senate’s institutional independence from the government in office.

The Honourable Hugh Segal was a historian by training. He was born in Montreal and a francophile. He always identified as a Progressive Conservative. He was a Red Tory in the noblest sense of the term, meaning that he was first and foremost a progressive who had the common interest at heart, but he was also a Conservative, because he preferred less state intervention rather than more.

One could say that Hugh Segal bore a certain physical resemblance to Winston Churchill, minus the cigar. In any case, he shared Mr. Churchill’s independent spirit and passion for what he believed in.

He was a committed politician and proud of it, but he was also an intellectual. To wit, he tried to get elected but never managed to do so. He wrote a least a dozen books and many articles in which he defended the ideals of peace and the goal of a world without poverty. The title of his book, published in 1996, No Surrender: Reflections of a Happy Warrior in the Tory Crusade, is a testament to the character of this great man.

Hugh Segal was an accomplished politician and brilliant orator. He could be incisive, but his sense of humour always shone through. It is not surprising that he was appointed principal of Toronto’s prestigious Massey College, which shapes the leaders of tomorrow. I sincerely hope that his exemplary career will inspire the leaders of today and tomorrow.

The Honourable Hugh Segal played politics with a capital P. As the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney pointed out, he understood that regardless of political stripe, cross-party cooperation is necessary to accomplish great things.

On behalf of the members of the Progressive Senate Group, I would like to express our deepest condolences to his wife, Donna, his daughter, Jacqueline, his brothers, Seymour and Brian, and all his family and friends.

Thank you.

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