Tribute The Honourable Catherine S. Callbeck on the occasion of her retiring from the Senate of Canada


from the Senate of Canada June 19th, 2014

The Honourable Catherine S. Callbeck

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to rise today to honour our esteemed colleague, Senator Catherine Callbeck. A pioneer in Canadian politics, Senator Callbeck blazed a path for women in Canada. She was the first woman elected leader of a political party in Canada to win a general election. In 1993, she became Premier of Prince Edward Island, as she led the Liberal Party to a majority win.

I agree with Senator Fraser's comments yesterday that there will be statues of Senator Callbeck in the future. Someone else yesterday - I believe it was you, Your Honour - suggested that perhaps we should have a stamp honouring Senator Callbeck as the first woman premier elected in Canada.

Catherine was an MLA from 1974 to 1978, and an MP from 1988 to 1993. She was elected leader of the Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island and premier from 1993 to 1996. Then she was named to the Senate, a great decision by Prime Minister Chrétien, in 1997.

I do remember when I was first appointed to the Senate in 2000 and was sitting on the Social Affairs Committee. Who came in and sat beside me but Senator Callbeck, and I can remember thinking, "Oh, my gosh; I'm sitting next to Senator Catherine Callbeck, and please let me not say anything stupid."

Senator Callbeck is ending a truly remarkable political career that serves as an inspiration, not just for young women but also for all people in Canada, as to what a model for making a difference in political life is. Senator Callbeck is a dedicated advocate and champion in the Senate for her region and for the province of Prince Edward Island. Whether during debates or Question Period in this chamber or in Senate committee meetings, what was best for the people of P.E.I. was always first and foremost on her mind.

How many times have we heard her start a speech, a question or a statement with the words "the people of Prince Edward Island" or "in my province of Prince Edward Island"? Islanders were and still are well represented by Senator Callbeck.

Over the past 17 years, there has been no better champion of Prince Edward Island than Senator Callbeck. We were members of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee together when the committee held countless hearings across the country and developed two excellent reports. One was on Canada's health care system, and the other was, of course, our report on mental health, mental illness and addictions titled, Out of the Shadows at Last.

I must also applaud Senator Callbeck's dedication to post-secondary education and her desire to find solutions to make education at the post-secondary level accessible to more Canadians. She was instrumental in the committee's report on this topic titled, Opening the Door: Reducing Barriers to Post-secondary Education in Canada, which was released by our committee in December of 2011.

Prince Edward Island is losing a great advocate, and the Senate is losing a passionate and dedicated voice in the Senate. Catherine, it has been an honour and a privilege to work with you and to call you a friend. I wish you all the best in your retirement, and I'm certain that you will continue to be a strong voice for your Islanders.