Statement made on 20 June 2012 by Senator James Cowan, Senator David Smith, Senator Grant Mitchell, Senator Paul Massicotte and Senator Joan Fraser
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, I, too, rise to pay tribute to our colleague and friend David Angus as he prepares to leave the chamber after 19 years of service.
Adlai Stevenson once said, "I am not a politician, I am a citizen." While I suspect that Senator Angus may not agree with many of Adlai Stevenson's political views, I think he understands that one very well because that is the spirit he has exemplified throughout his life.
He combined a highly distinguished career as a lawyer — he was one of Canada's leading specialists in maritime law — with an equally dedicated commitment to public service, both to his community and in the world of party politics. To him, and to me, political engagement is simply part of being a citizen.
However, before we get too carried away by the dignity of his chosen life path, let me add one little fact to add some perspective. Senator Angus, our eminent colleague here in this place, began his career by running off to sea at the age of 15. He had applied to Princeton and was accepted — at 15 — but his father refused to allow him to go because of his age. Not to be held down, David promptly turned around and joined the British Merchant Marine.
He did eventually go to Princeton, where he attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in the late 1950s. Probably many Princeton graduates feel their experience there has had a lasting effect on their lives, but in Senator Angus's case, it was arguably his graduation from Princeton, more than any classes he might have attended, that had the greatest impact, for the speaker at his commencement ceremony was none other than then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
David met Mr. Diefenbaker at an event around the graduation. Here is what Senator Angus said happened on that occasion:
As one of a handful of Canadian graduating students, I was invited to dinner with Dief at the University President's home the night before graduation! He asked me my politics — I waffled. He then nailed me, "You must join the Young Progressive Conservatives as soon as you get home. Here, phone Miss Flora MacDonald at my office and she will fix you up!" That was it.
That is not a bad recruitment pitch, honourable senators.
Senator Angus has been a very loyal and, as Senator LeBreton said, very successful Conservative Party member ever since, from his involvement in working to elect Mr. Mulroney, to rebuilding the Conservative Party after its defeat in 1993, to raising money for all sorts of political campaigns, which is something Senator Angus — or "the Goose," as he is sometimes known — has been especially good at. Like Senator LeBreton, I did not want to go further into finding out where he might have gotten that nickname.
When Senator Angus was summoned to our chamber in 1993, I am told that his first seat was actually on the Liberal side — the "overflow" was the official reason. However, as a red Tory, I think he felt fairly comfortable bridging that divide.
Senator Angus was interviewed back in 2008 by Senator McCoy's office and asked what accomplishment he was most proud of. His reply: Getting to age 71 without having compromised his ideals.
I cannot conclude without speaking about Senator Angus's active community work, including serving as Chairman of the Board of the McGill University Health Centre. While he can proudly point to many accomplishments for health care in general, I know that an area of particular concern for him is mental health for Canadians. He has spoken in this chamber of his family's experience in dealing with mental illness — challenges faced by literally millions of Canadians and their families.
Just last month, as Senator LeBreton mentioned, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health recognized Senator Angus as one of their 2012 Champions of Mental Health. Many of us were proud to be present on that occasion. Ron Collett, President of the MUHC, wrote the letter of nomination. He spoke of Senator Angus's work both as a caregiver and as an advocate for better client care, teaching and research, and of his work to build modern, advanced mental health care facilities. He concluded: "Because of his continuing leadership, mental health in Canada has been greatly advanced." That is quite a testimony, honourable senators.
Senator Angus is also justifiably proud of his Scottish heritage, so I will close with some words from that great Scot, Robbie Burns:
A price can mak a belted knight,
A marquise, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
David, my best wishes to you for a long, healthy and happy retirement.
Hon. David P. Smith:
Honourable senators, I am rising to pay tribute to Senator David Angus, who is a friend and a parliamentary colleague. We do have some things in common. He and I were both born in Toronto, and I know he is very proud of having been born in Toronto. To soften that a little bit, we both love Montreal, too, but both were born in Toronto, both lawyers, both QCs, and I might point out that my QC came from Brian Mulroney, and I am sure Senator Angus recommended it. I did not even ask for it.
He practised at Stikeman Elliott, which is a Bay Street-type firm, although based in Montreal. I know many of his partners and colleagues.
The Diefenbaker connection: I have a Diefenbaker connection, too. Diefenbaker's mother's maiden name was Bannerman, and my father's name was Campbell Bannerman Smith; he was named after his great-uncle who was Prime Minister of Britain. Diefenbaker spent a lifetime trying to prove that he was related to Sir Henry, who became Prime Minister in 1905.
One time after Diefenbaker had been over to London and went up to Edinburgh see the Lord Lyon King of Arms, they could not quite make the connection, but he asked that they find Sir Henry's closest relative in Canada. They came up with me because my father had passed away, and what did I do? I worked for Lester Pearson.
Diefenbaker called me in a few times and we had these great sessions. I will never forget that at the end of one he said, "Young man, I know you are working with Mr. Pearson, but I want you to remember as long as the light shines forth the greatest sinner may return."
I said, "Well, Mr. Diefenbaker, I do not know why you use that word 'return.' I do have to point out Sir Henry was a Liberal."
In any event, Mr. Diefenbaker was very kind to me. I have Presbyterian roots, too.
What both Senator Angus and I have done is to help make democracy work. Sometimes people do not appreciate when you do the heavy lifting to have a strong party in a democracy. He has done it for the Conservatives. I have done it for the Liberals. He has done fundraising. I have run a few campaigns, some that went well and a couple that did not go all that well. In any event, you have to have people who will do the heavy lifting and make parties work in a democracy, and Senator Angus has done that. I think, particularly because of his Red Tory roots, he has given sound business advice.
Another thing I want to say: You are never snippy in the house. That is an old joke between us, which he gets.
Here is something else you do not know, Senator Angus. I was hanging out with your mom today. We were both in the dining room and came down together in the elevator. She invited me to hang out with her in Westmount next time I go to Montreal, so she is a great lady. Nice to see you, Mom.
I will miss Senator Angus. I think we will all miss him. I want to pay tribute to him.
Hon. Grant Mitchell:
Honourable senators, I knew David Angus long before I came here and ever met him. I do not know for what reason I knew that he was a very significant person amongst very significant people, prime ministers and many senior people and the like. In retrospect, I wondered why it was I knew him for so long before I came here when I was a Liberal in Alberta and had very little to do with national-level politics and nothing to do with national-level Conservative politics.
Then I arrived and met him, and it was very clear that there were a couple of reasons. One was that he has this huge, compelling, engaging personality that you cannot miss no matter where you are in the country, it would seem. Second, it is true he has that old school view of public service as being one of the highest callings of any of us in this country, and he spent most of his adult life operating to prove that principle at the highest levels of this country and his community.
I had the wonderful opportunity and experience to work with him as deputy chair to his chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. In a place where we have many wonderful opportunities, this would rank as one of my best and I am grateful for it. I have some specific impressions as a result of that.
First of all, he is hyper smart. He makes it look effortless to grab and understand a range of issues that seem to move at the speed of light. One can see his nimbleness and quickness in running that committee. I think one of the most admirable things, and one of the things I like best about him, is that he loves the Senate and respects deeply and profoundly the parliamentary process and public policy debate. One has only to see how he conducted his leadership of our committee to know what I mean.
He is impeccably fair every moment. He is impeccably respectful of all members, all sides, every turn, and it is not though this is an easy committee. This is a committee with tough issues, and there are no sissies on this committee; there are driven, passionate, determined people, and some of them — I guess me, maybe — are difficult people. He was inspired by these people. It is a testimony to his personal strength that he is not in the least bit cowed by strong people; he seeks them out. In fact, every once in a while he pokes and provokes them for the fun and challenge of it. It says a great deal about his personal strength.
I want to mention something as well, and that is that his courage. David Angus has had a year or two that we would not wish on anyone. It is clear that he has been profoundly courageous in the way he has confronted these challenges and never lost his sight of his ability to do his job. He has never faltered at committee and always provides the leadership to bring us together and get us there. I think it is profoundly impressive that he would be able to do that. I think, in part, he sustains that because of this wonderful sense of humour that we all know he has. I have had immense fun working with him, apart from all the other benefits I have received.
The only problem I have working with David is that I sit beside him as deputy chair. I just fight to maintain my composure and professional decorum through this onslaught of play by play of what is going on in the committee through whispered comments and small notes. It is all I can do to control myself sometimes because he is exceptionally funny.
I will close by saying that David Angus is a remarkable person and I know that he is going to miss this place because he cared so much about it and has given it so much. I will miss him greatly and I know the Senate will miss him greatly as well.
David, I wish you all the best for your life in the future.
Hon. Paul J. Massicotte:
Honourable senators, I would like to add my voice to that of my colleagues to honour Senator Angus's impressive work inside and outside the Senate. I have known Senator Angus for many years, but professionally mostly through our committee work, starting with the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and then the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.
I particularly enjoyed our experience of Senator Angus chairing these committees. He chaired them in a totally open and non-partisan manner, making every effort to include and hear every opinion of witnesses and senators. It was refreshing. Sincerest congratulations on that, Senator Angus. We were able to have interesting, honest and open discussions about many of the most important and difficult challenges of our time.
Please allow me to note particularly Senator Angus's leadership on our forthcoming report, which will come out shortly after three years in the making, on how to best achieve a sustainable energy and environmental strategy in Canada.
Opinions on the subject vary greatly, as you know, and are sometimes quite contradictory, even among us senators. Yet, Senator Angus listened patiently to all witnesses and senators, generating a balanced conclusion. He spent hours and sleepless nights on this report to best represent our conclusions without any serious dissension, in order to contribute to a better Canada. That is a big achievement that few could deliver. However, Senator Angus did.
I also have the good fortune to know Senator Angus personally, because we are both members of the Mount Bruno Country Club on Montreal's South Shore. As we all know, Senator Angus is very good at telling jokes and can imitate an impressive number of accents.
I have often had the privilege of hearing his most scandalous jokes, just between the boys. He has made us laugh a lot. I will say no more. But I would like to pay him this compliment: Senator Angus is an excellent golfer. You know, I wonder sometimes if he wears his kilt on the course just to distract us.
As for his work outside the Senate, the list is impressive. His expertise in maritime insurance and commercial law is extensive and well known and has merited many titles, including Advocatus Emeritus and Honorary Life Member of the Canadian Maritime Law Association. As a senior partner of the Stikeman Elliott firm, Senator Angus was one of the best lawyers in our country for over 45 years.
He also devoted an incredible amount of energy, time and funds as chair of the board of the McGill University Health Centre. We can only admire the crucial role he played in leading the efforts to a new consolidated super hospital now under construction in Montreal. Although it was not always easy, the benefits of this achievement for Quebecers will be substantial for decades to come. Thank you, Senator Angus, for your immense contribution.
After 19 years in the Senate and a professional career marked with success, David, I wish you a retirement filled with happiness, but mostly filled with good health. You have an important heart surgery coming up. Be assured that our thoughts will be with you. You are an excellent senator and a truly accomplished man, multi-faceted in all sectors. You have made our province of Quebec and Canada very proud.
Thank you, David.
Hon. Joan Fraser:
Honourable senators, this senator from The Gazette wishes to extend tributes and best wishes to that senator from The Gazette. Many of you may not realize, although Senator Lang alluded to it briefly, that in his misspent youth Senator Angus was a reporter for The Gazette. I am personally convinced that that is where he first perfected the interview technique that I have had occasion to admire more than once in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. It is what I refer to as the "simple country boy" technique of interviewing, much favoured by ferociously effective investigative reporters. It consists of being very nice and saying, "Now I just want to be sure I understand this, because this is really complicated. Can you really make sure that I am going to understand this?" The person who is being flattered just opens up like a sunflower and frequently convicts themselves immediately following thereupon.
David, I share, of course, all the good things that have been said and I will not repeat them. I just want to say this: In July you will be typing "- 30 -" at the bottom of your senatorial career, but, as all journalists know, you type "- 30 -" at the end of one day and the next morning there is a new assignment, frequently at least as interesting and maybe even more fun than the one you have just finished. I hope that all your next assignments will be fascinating and stimulating and, above all, fun.