Tribute to the Honourable Terry Mercer

By: The Hon. Dennis Dawson

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Parliament, Ottawa

Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I learned something today. I didn’t know about that. Now I understand why he defeated me so often on campaigns.

I rise to pay tribute to the Honourable Terry Mercer, who is retiring from the Senate tomorrow. Let me be clear: I want to honour him for the right reasons. I want to wish him well in his retirement and thank him for the positive impact he has made on our institution. I rise not to rejoice in his departure from the upper chamber — as many of his friends who have heard about our skirmishes over the years might have thought — but rather to pay tribute to him.

As some of you might know, we sometimes have painful experiences in politics. Nothing is more difficult in a political party than internal politics. I look at my friend Senator Housakos, who is not necessarily agreeing with all of his colleagues on the leadership campaign. Most of them don’t agree with him, but that’s another issue. It can lead to serious disturbances that derail our best intentions, objectives and characters.

As we are witnessing in the acrimonious campaign right now, in convention after convention, the potential for internal division is very strong. Yet, the story between Senator Mercer and myself has turned out to be a positive example of what can be achieved when we throw in some goodwill and good faith in spite of the fact we opposed each other for over 30 years.

In and through the Senate, we reconciled. It’s a word “à la mode,” and I am happy to say that we did. I supported John Turner in 1984; he supported Jean Chrétien. I was against the review in 1986. I supported Paul Martin in 1990; he supported Jean Chrétien. Now I know why I lost. He was doing deals in the back.

These battles were long and painful. Terry and I have always found ourselves on opposite sides of the political fence inside our own political party. The only thing we agreed on was being Liberals. But I am standing up here today to praise Terry. We are living evidence that such divisions can be healed.

Reconciliation has many aspects these days. One modest signal is Senator Mercer and I coming to terms through our best work together and working in harmony to serve Canadians. After 17 years, we’re finally sitting beside each other — the day he is leaving.

Senator Mercer: He just wants to be sure I get out the door.

Senator Dawson: Senator Jane Cordy was getting vengeful. She put his name there so that he would have to endure me.

Representing the province of Nova Scotia, he was appointed in 2003. My term came in 2005. The bad blood that had percolated between us over the years, at first it seemed hard — if not impossible — to put it behind, but we did. We made it. I take pride and satisfaction, as I hope he does, in having reconciled and done our best together through addressing so many causes and issues to improve the lives of our compatriots over the years in the Senate.

The creation of the Liberal senators group following our gracious expulsion from the national Liberal Party caucus triggered our determination for renewed cooperation among ourselves. In finding a common approach to working effectively in a united manner, we helped create the Liberal caucus at that time. When the disappearing breed was disappearing, we had to find a new approach. As Senator Cordy mentioned before, the creation of the Progressive Senate Group was another opportunity to put our strengths and drives together in addressing the issues of the day.

Navigating across many changes that the Senate has gone through for many years, Senator Mercer can be proud of his achievements and his formal capacity to make people work together — on philanthropic causes, et cetera — many of which were mentioned before.

Senator Mercer served as National Director of the Liberal Party for over six years. Prior to that, he held various positions in the world of fundraising.

Senator Mercer, thank you. The stars were not really aligned for the two of us to collaborate here in the Senate, but I must tell you that I took great pleasure and satisfaction in working with you on the causes we hold dear.

Some of my former Liberal friends and colleagues of past campaigns who were close to those conflicts will be surprised by my comments. But I stand by them, Terry, and I am proud to say it has been a pleasure working with you. I wish you a long and healthy life.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


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