Dr. Gary W. O’Brien Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments – Tributes on Retirement


Senator Statement Senator Jane Cordy February 3rd, 2015

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, it is indeed a pleasure and a privilege for me to stand today to give tribute to Dr. Gary O'Brien, who is soon to retire as our Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments. It is strange to imagine that Gary will actually soon be hanging up the black robes — and maybe, just maybe, for good this time.

Gary is originally from Toronto, but Parliament Hill has been his real home for many years. He started with the Library of Parliament in 1975 and then spent time with the House of Commons before he found his proper place in the Senate in 1980. That was the year that he joined the Senate. As others have stated, he served as our Chief of English Journals and our Director of Committees before he was named as Deputy Clerk in 1999. He served with distinction in that role until he took his first retirement in 2006. At that time we were saddened at the loss of a keen and insightful observer and friend. But little did we know that we wouldn't be without his presence for long — because in 2009 he returned to the Senate, but this time as our Clerk.

In all his work, Gary has shown loyalty, insight, learning, patience and tact. He brings a breadth of experience to any issue, and it has always been a pleasure to work with him. His passion about our parliamentary democracy is readily apparent to anyone who looks through the list of works that he has written. They cover topics as varied as the history of our parliamentary institutions, the requirements for Royal Recommendation and details about how a house of Parliament runs.

Recently he was the driving force behind the Parliamentary Treasures book, and before that he actively supported the updated Companion to the Rules of the Senate. I dare say that consulting his publications would be a solid starting point for anyone who wants to learn about the detailed operations of Parliament. His passion for parliamentary institutions is equally evident in his interest in assisting other countries that are striving to develop their structures of government.

As Clerk of the Senate, a major focus of Gary's work has been to promote the modernization of our policies and to encourage transparency. This work, essential to sustaining public confidence in our Parliament, has continued in a steady manner. Thanks to it we are now in a stronger position. Although challenges still remain, Gary's dedication to updating the way the Senate works has established a solid foundation upon which senators, with the help of his successors, will be able to build.

Also, his work as Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration has been unrivalled. Gary has been a great adviser and administrator and has made the many issues the Senate has had to deal with in the last five years a bit more manageable.

Gary, however, is not one-sided, and his interests are not limited to Parliament. As Senator LeBreton stated earlier, he has authored a book about the Kennedy assassination. He has also been both a boater and a farmer. So even as he leaves Parliament, I am certain that Gary will have much to keep him busy and engaged, and I sincerely hope that this will be for many, many years to come.

Thank you, Gary, for all your work and devotion. You will be truly missed in this chamber. I wish you and Colette, Kevin and Émilie all the best in the years to come.