You are currently browsing the archives for the Politics category.

Marc’s Posts

June 2024

Subscribe to

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

article: Thursday’s with John N. Turner

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 @ 10:09 AM
John N. Turner’s 90th birthday celebration in Ottawa June 2019. Source: The Niagara Independent

My good friend, political mentor and business associate died this past weekend.  As life goes, and for many, having a friend die is normal, but not everyone has a good friend, political mentor and business associate who is a former Prime Minister and one of the most recognizable political figures in modern Canadian history.

I began a close working relationship with John Turner when Mr. Turner was a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, became Prime Minister and later the Leader of the Opposition – all commencing in 1984.  I left my role as his advisor in 1990 after fighting two of Canada’s most important elections with him.  It was after the 1988 federal election that I moved on to my own career while he served out the remainder of his term as MP in the House of Commons until 1992.  He then began private life as a corporate lawyer in Toronto.

Since 1993, almost without fail, every Thursday we would meet for lunch.  Either near his office or at the Royal Canadian Military Institute where I am a member.  We would talk about current events and the state of politics globally.  His cause célèbre has always been parliamentary democracy. Even when he was Leader of his Party, he allowed his own caucus to speak freely in the House of Commons on matters they believed were important to them as Members of Parliament without fear of censure or removal from their Party.

Lunch discussion was punctuated with comments about how he believed that political power in Canada had become too centralized – where the Party Leader’s Office was more important and influential than the Member of Parliament.  Often on visits to schools when we travelled together throughout the country, which he did religiously at least once a month for almost three decades, he would take the opportunity to talk to students from elementary age to university about the Magna Carta – which he called “the greatest living document on democracy ever written”.

As context, the Magna Carta was crafted by King John of England in 1215 and decreed that the constituencies across the great land of England should elect their representative(s) and only when they got to Westminster would they elect a Prime Minister to lead the government of the day.  In fact, in 2015, Turner was the co-Chair of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and took the opportunity to talk about it as a teachable moment.

To students, civics groups or bar associations, he asserted with those steely blue eyes that stared right into the souls of audiences that in Parliament,  “ there are only two votes that matter with respect to confidence – one is the Speech From the Throne, which is policy and the other is the Budget, which is taxation – they  should be the only whipped votes”. He believed that every other vote in parliament should be a free vote and without consequence to the Member of Parliament.

More importantly, Mr. Turner never waivered on his sentiments about the role of the Member of Parliament.  He bristled over the use of the word “back-bencher” and thought it degraded the role.  His admonition about the politicization of the Office of the Prime Minister (or the Leader of a particular party) was that it was a step backwards.  He lectured “members should be able to see the Leader of their Party without notice”. Since 1962 when he first got elected, he fought for parliamentary democracy and even up until he died he lamented that the current political environment is way more politicized and polarized than ever.

At his 90th birthday party last year in Ottawa – held on Parliament Hill, and co-chaired by this writer, he spoke to hundreds of invited guests including the current Prime Minister and every former Prime Minister, several former and current MPs and many former staffers and media from Ottawa.  It was deemed to be the best political event ever held in Ottawa.

His speech to the assembled crowd was vintage Turner, with gravitas “democracy does not happen by accident, Canada is not a product of the mind but of the heart and if that’s not understood, it just won’t work”.  It would inevitably be the last public event he would do. He said his piece and he left Ottawa in June last year knowing that his legacy was intact.

I will miss my friend John Turner, I will miss our lunches and I will miss his witticisms about politics, “about being transparent, about being forgiving, about understanding and most importantly about enjoying yourself”.  In his larger than life life, he played the role as public property to the best of his ability – even into his 90’s – there are few who can inspire as much as John Turner did and Canadians should celebrate that.  He was my friend, my colleague and my associate, but most of all he IS my spiritual guidance counsellor – he used to say, “Marc I love the writings of St. Augustine who said, for whom God has given some talent, let him give some back”.  Words to live by.

- Marc Kealey
From left to right, the Ontario Liberal leadership candidates: Michael Coteau, Steven Del Duca, Kate Graham, Brenda Hollingsworth, Mitzie Hunter and Alvin Tedjo.
Source: The Niagara Independent

The results of provincial election 2018 changed the province of Ontario forever.  Gone are the governments of Dalton McGuinty – Ontario’s sixth longest serving Premier (after iconic Premiers Mowat, Davis, Frost, Whitney and Robarts) and Kathleen Wynne (who holds the distinction of being Ontario’s first elected female Premier and the tenth longest serving Premier of all 26 Premiers ever elected in the province).

These are great accolades but in 2020 not such great ones to celebrate per se.  The Ontario Liberal Party has held office in the province for a generation  – 2003 to 2018.  This writer has been on record in media during and after Election 2018 admonishing that the Liberal Party should have spent more time celebrating its accomplishments while in Government rather than attacking its opponents.   After all, fifteen years in power is a lifetime and a party with so much promise, authenticity and good fortune seemed to squander it with scandal, terrible political judgement and poor communications.

So here we are one week away from the Ontario Liberal Party’s 2020 Leadership convention and the Party will choose a new leader to help resurrect its fortunes.

There are a few things to consider as this race unfolds;  the Party needs money, it needs more members in the Legislature and it needs a fresh start as a political machine to compete with a formidable opponent in the always unpredictable and politically agile Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.   At present, the Ontario Government (under Premier Doug Ford) appears to be struggling – its polling numbers are low and the Opposition NDP do not appear to be much better.

It is against this backdrop that the Ontario Liberals are heading into this weekend’s leadership race with a lead in the polls even without a named leader.

The leadership race to choose a new leader to replace Kathleen Wynne will be held this weekend in Mississauga, Ontario.  The leadership convention comes after an extensive campaign and at an oddly chosen date – two years before a general election – that apparently aspires to give the new leader an opportunity to rebuild the fortunes of the decimated party – build its financial resources and attract new members.

It appears, too, that there are current MPP’s and a few non-elected members  seeking to take the helm.  The Liberal Party of Ontario is the only Party in the province that elects its leaders by a delegated convention.  This means that each riding association in the province holds mini-conventions, as it were,  to elect delegates to assemble at a convention (this time to be held in Mississauga) to elect its leader.  It is an exciting event because of the element of surprise.

Hearken back to the leadership election in early 2013, the front runner at that convention was Sandra Pupatello, the once mighty Minister of Economic Development and Trade and long-serving MPP from Windsor and one of the best fundraisers for the Party. She was the apparent front-runner but surprisingly lost to Kathleen Wynne on the third ballot.   The rest is history.

Delegated conventions can also be exciting because of the political arm-twisting that occurs on the convention floor. It can also render a final decision that no one might ever suspect.  Case in point -Dalton McGuinty who won the leadership of the Party in 1996 after five grueling ballots.  He was never a front-runner nor did the Party consider his candidacy as serious in that particular race.

So here we are in 2020, with six candidates seeking to be the Leader of the Liberal Party.  Steven DelDuca – the once formidable Minister of Transportation in the previous government and former MPP from Vaughan is leading the pack with a sizeable number of delegates at 1, 174; Michael Coteau – the current MPP from Don Valley East in Toronto and a former Minister in the previous government is in second spot with 371 delegates followed by;  former Liberal candidate in the last election from London Kate Graham – an academic at UWO with support from former Deputy Premier and political heavyweight Deb Matthews has garnered  273 delegates.  Bringing up the rear are Mitzie Hunter, the politically astute MPP from Scarborough-Guildwood and former Minister of Education in the previous Liberal Government who should have had a better showing, but could not translate her extraordinary social media profile into delegates has only 130 going into the convention.  There are two other candidates who between them could not capture even 100 delegates are non-factors in the race.

At first blush it would appear that Mr. DelDuca should be the clear winner based on the 1,171 delegates he and his extraordinary political machine have captured through the Leadership election meetings held in each of the ridings across the province.  But that would not be accurate. The Liberal Party’s leadership convention system elects its leaders based on votes cast by the 16 delegates elected by members in each of the electoral ridings and  ex-officio (those delegates not elected or appointed because of their station in the Party -current MPP, former MPP, federal MP’s, Senators, Party riding association Presidents).  In this ex-officio cohort there are another 640 delegates.

So to win the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party in 2020, the winner must have a 50 percent of the vote plus one – or 1, 363 delegates.  It appears based on this simple math that going into the weekend convention and based on the number of delegates that Mr. DelDuca has, that he is NOT assured of a first ballot win. This is, unless of course, he either has a substantial number of ex-officio delegates in his corner.  This remains to be seen and arm-twisting aside, there are a lot of deals being made even now.

Liberal Party insiders have told this writer that many of the ex-officio delegates may be looking for a new face to lead its Party.  Perhaps a more contrite leader to gain the trust and confidence of voters who openly repudiated the Party of DelDuca, Coteau and Hunter who each had been in the Legislature for a number of years, is what ex-officio and/or undecided delegates may want.  Or perhaps the Party machinery behind DelDuca – which is formidable, organized and masterful, have created a situation where their candidate is so successful in the election of delegates and its campaign that its candidate WILL win on the first ballot and change the course of history for the Party such that it may have a decent chance in the next provincial election in 2022.

Regardless of the outcome, it will be exciting to watch and this writer will be certain to pen a follow up story.    This convention will be historic nonetheless, it may be the last time the province sees a political party elect its leader by delegated convention AND after this weekend, Ontarians will have a Leader of the once mighty Liberal Party whose daunting task it will be to re-build a Party that currently has no money, no Party status and a track record that Ontarians know only all too well.

But leadership campaigns are not about policy – it is all about politics at its human best.  And based on that principle alone, the uphill climb back to government will be daunting and interesting to watch!

- Marc Kealey
Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.
Source: The Niagara Independent

The federal election and all its craziness and vitriol are now behind us.  Canada has spoken and it has given the Liberal Party a mandate (sort of) to form a government.  Canadians gave “Team Trudeau” the opportunity to form a minority government meaning that the opposition parties in the collective have more seats than the Party who formed the government.

So, the hard part for Canadians is over. We voted and we spoke! And Canadians spoke loudly!!  In fact, the outcome of Election 43 gave us back Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister, but not like he was in 2015.  Gone are the selfies, the sunny ways, the virtue signaling and in its place is a legacy of apparent divisiveness and anger heretofore unseen in Canada.

In the weeks following the conclusion of Election 43, I’ve heard pundits and social media warriors suggest that the Liberal Party does not have the moral authority to form a government in Canada, because they did not win the popular vote.  Yes, the facts weigh out, the Conservative Party of Canada received more popular vote than the Liberals and although that may be true, it means nothing! We simply don’t elect governments in Canada by virtue of who gets the popular vote!  The way government are formed in Canada is by the number(s) of seats a Party attains through a first past the post voting process.  The Liberal Party garnered the most seats and therefore can form government.  Enough said!

So, by the time this little screed gets read, Prime Minister Trudeau’s Cabinet has been sworn in and the Parliament of Canada is officially back in session in Ottawa.  The Government’s Speech from the Throne will have been delivered and we’ll know what the plan is for this Government and this 43rd parliamentary session.

Many political observers, pundits, social media wizards and those in media have suggested Canada might be in for a rough ride in the coming years.  Western alienation, they say, has produced a political movement there,  Quebec nationalism, they say, is on the rise and the climate change agenda remains the single biggest issue to face Canadians.

For this political observer, with this Cabinet I think the country will be just fine!  Let me explain.

If we believe everything we read on social media, this is the worst Cabinet ever!  Some say the Cabinet is too big, some say it’s too politically correct with 18 men and 18 women and therefore not merit based,  others say the west is shut out while still others say Ontario and Quebec will now get everything because the lion’s share of Liberal seats are there.

Consider too, however, that the opposition parties, who actually outnumber the government, will now have a role to play to ensure that Justin Trudeau’s government performs effectively for ALL Canadians because, as we know, governments serve ALL Canadians and not just those who voted for them.  And, I submit too,  they have a long row to hoe to do well as an effective opposition.  The Conservatives have a leader on the ropes, the NDP have no money and therefore no ability to attract attention, the Bloc is seemingly happy in its new role as power-broker and the Greens and Independents are –  there!

So, here’s the thing.  The Liberal government’s executive council is not as bad as social media seems to be spewing and media and political observers have parsed the appointments as if the very composition of the Cabinet determines the future pathway for Canada. Here’s the reality, the composition of a Cabinet is a tough job for the Leader of a Government.  Region, gender, race, creed, and every other aspect of Canadiana MUST be included to make an executive council truly reflective of our great nation.  We expect that as Canadians.  This Cabinet IS reflective of Canada in a profound way, with the exception of not having representation in Alberta or Saskatchewan.  And that glaring dearth is likely the most problematic issue facing the Prime Minister and his Government going forward. Those two provinces in particular are critical to stability in Canada given the apparent increase in alienation and the massive support for the oil industry and pipelines.

That notwithstanding, I think the Prime Minister has appointed an executive Council whose collective stewardship will address the challenges we face as a nation and , I venture to say, we may have stable minority government for the coming years – based on the actions of this government and the circumstances facing the opposition parties.

Juxtaposed against the politics played in the mid-2000’s when Canada was governed with minority Governments who basically did nothing of substance – except politics – we have a Government whose culture is activist.  Even now, the government is seemingly prepared to do the work that needs to get done.  Because, in 2019, the political agenda cannot be ignored.

At the centre of the agenda is climate change AND economic prosperity (and that will include building pipelines)- a political dance that takes the likes of deft political tactician(s) to resolve.  The Prime Minister who had been criticized for being too hands on with respect to every policy file of his Government, in effect, has appointed very good stewards to Cabinet – roles to manage the dance and do the job(s) that need to get done.

Unlike the United States, Cabinet Ministers in Canada must be elected to serve.  It’s against that backdrop that I offer a few highlights on how Trudeau’s Cabinet will fare.

Moving Chrystia Freeland out of Global Affairs and into the role of Intergovernmental Affairs is a stroke of brilliance – she has proven herself to be an effective negotiator and her style and presence are calming. The honourific as Deputy Prime Minister will serve her well when she interfaces with Premiers – especially those in the west.  Look for a well-crafted plan to have the much-needed buy-in from the provinces for the pipeline project that WILL be implemented.  Look for her to also engage effectively with the opposition in the House of Commons for support.

Keeping Bill Morneau in Finance is a signal that the bureaucracy and “the street” have confidence in his ability to be the steward of Canada’s economy.  His big challenge is going to be re-building confidence in the middle class who appear to be dogged by CRA at every turn.  Look for Morneau to spend more time looking to create a foreign investment environment and associated opportunity for Canadian business to flourish.  He will need to work the phones with his Cabinet colleagues, the opposition and international organizations to continue to be successful.

The shift Catherine McKenna endured from environment to infrastructure is not by accident.  Her assertive style and her inimitable ability to create alliances will serve the government well as it deftly moves from the sustainable and traditional resource-based economy toward building green jobs and the new economy. She has the right temperament and massive appeal – she’ll do well.

David Lametti is likely the most intellectual in Cabinet. At a time when the Prime Minister needs to rely on stability – he gets it in spades with Lametti as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.  He understands the subtlest of nuances related to the law, but the Constitution is a fluid entity requiring a strategic and knowledgeable steward to ensure it gets the attention it deserves. Niagara Region is originally his home so I’m biased – not bad for a boy from Port!  But look for good things from him.

Seamus O’Reagan is an unusual appointment to Natural Resources Canada in this writer’s opinion.  Ideally the role at NRCAn is suited for a MP from the north or the west where natural resource management is bred in their DNA.  He is from Newfoundland – albeit a province with a rich off-shore oil industry- but I think the Prime Minister is taking a chance putting him in the role to deliver on the promise of natural resource economies being preserved in Alberta.  Look for his role to be tough in the early going.

Filomena Tassi, Hamilton MP comes into her second term with an increased role to play in Cabinet.  As Minister of Labour, she’ll have to steer the labour unrest in the rail industry as well as manoeuvre with her other cabinet colleagues on delivering on the promise of jobs in western Canada.  Her strength of character is a strong suit – look for her to do well in the role.

Vancouver based Jonathan Wilkiinson has been boosted to Environment and many think that because he’s a BC MP, he’ll cow-tow to special interest against the pipelines.  Not so, I think his strong record in the private sector dealing with First Nations and in the innovative green industry will serve him well.

Francois-Phillipe Champagne has big shoes to fill as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.  BUT, remember, he was a sort of under-study to Chrystia Freeland in the last government.  Plus, he’s a brilliant team player and likeable – look for him to do well in the role – especially as Canada strives to deliver on the new ‘NAFTA’ and other trade deals globally.

Patty Hajdu as Minister of Health is another interesting choice.  Consider though that she is from Thunder Bay and innovation and integration are not buzz-words there – they are the reality of that environment.  Look for her to bring a lot of that inspiration to the role – especially that she has to consider the “Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance” at time when provinces are more cantankerous than ever.

Marie-Claude Bibeau is the new Minister of Agriculture.  She’s inherited a ministry that has been male dominated.  Look for her to bring a kinder-gentler atmosphere and the possibility of helping to re-invigorate the sector.  Her international experience will serve her well – plus she has an extraordinary network to help.

Mona Fortier is perhaps the single most head-scratching appointment.  Her entrée to the role (from her CBC interview) made Canadians light up on social media – she could barely describe what being Minister for the Middle Class meant.  But let’s consider this – she’s associate Minister of Finance – and that gives her the ability to re-calibrate from a disastrous introduction to re-working the file with her Minister (Morneau) to build the kind of confidence the Government has been asking Canadians to accept since they were elected.

That’s a glimpse of that we can expect from this Cabinet in the months and years ahead. Oh sure, social media will have its expected field day hammering at Trudeau and his gunsills,  but if the Government does its job well and condenses the noise and nonsense we may finally see good and effective government.  And that’s what Canadians voted for!!

- Marc Kealey
Rt. Hon. John N. Turner recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse
Source: The Niagara Independent

Niagara is a big part of the legacy of former Prime Minister John Napier Turner – he has helped grow her fortunes by attracting major international business while in private practice as a  lawyer and in his public role as MP; he’s been a prominent voice for her cultural and agricultural attractions like the Shaw Festival and many, many wineries.  More importantly John Turner has many friends and associates from Niagara.  Most especially he is a stalwart champion for water – the most famous attraction in Canada being Niagara.

In June of this year, Canada’s 17th Prime Minister and one of her most prolific elected politicians celebrated his 90th birthday.  In the case of John Turner, most of what he’s accomplished in the nine decades of his extraordinary life is significance beyond the pale.  His 90th birthday party, co-chaired by the writer and Lisa Haley  (both Lisa and I were staffers for Turner on Parliament Hill 1984-1990). Those years was the era of free trade, of constitutional debate and when Confederation became mature –  most importantly it was widely hailed as the last and best times known in Canadian politics.

Given the run up to the federal election this fall, Mr. Turner’s birthday celebration marked an occasion of civility and bi-partisanship that heretofore had not been seen in Canada for years.  In fact, the occasion was marked by the presence and participation of every former Prime Minister of Canada and the current Prime Minster – the first time in the history of Canada.  At no other time in Canadian history have every and all living former Prime Ministers attended the same event.  But then again, it’s John Turner – he’s the dean of all former Prime Ministers and, without hyperbole, the most celebrated.

Rhodes scholar, Olympic athlete, accomplished lawyer and politician.  He once dated royalty, advised Popes, played touch football with the Kennedy’s and negotiated with Presidents and other world leaders in a spectacular political career that spanned 50 years.

And he’s still going. He’s 90 years old in 2019 and even when he was in his mid-80’s he continued to paddle Canada’s lakes and rivers in every corner of the country. The public John Turner is known for his accomplishments as an elected official having been elected in three provinces – a first in Canada and never repeated.  He was first elected in a Montreal riding in Quebec in 1962 – was re-elected in an Ottawa riding in Ontario in 1968 and was again re-elected in a Vancouver riding in BC in 1984.  He served in the Cabinets of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau in the 1960’s and 70’s.  He ran to be Leader of his Party in 1968 losing to Trudeau yet replaced him as Leader when he ran and successfully won the leadership in 1984. Of course, the election outcome in 1984 saw the rise of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, but Turner and Mulroney were worthy advocates fighting two elections at a time when Canada was punching way above its weight. The debates of the 1980’s on Free Trade and constitutional oversight for Canada were legendary – Turner characterized them as the fights of his life.  Books have been written about that political era as the “last best”.

What many don’t know is that the private John Turner is equally as accomplished.  And he’s been quietly effective. He is known by many in Lake of the Woods (Kenora) where his family’s summer retreat is located as its best steward of the waterways in that area.  In fact, it was John Turner who encouraged the International Joint Commission(IJC) , a US/Canada treaty organization mandated to oversee inland waterways between Canada and the United States, to commit the Lake of the Woods waterway to jurisdiction of the IJC thereby ensuring appropriate funding for its clean-up and protection.

Water is his passion – he is the only Canadian to have paddled every lake and river in Canada – an accomplishment that has been recognized by the Royal Geographic Society.  He is the architect of the most recent treaty on the Columbia River signed in the late 1960’s.  He and then Senator Hillary Clinton (his close friend)  signed the 100th anniversary charter for the IJC in 2012 on the bridge that spans the Niagara River in Niagara Falls.  He was appointed by then Prime Minister Portia Simpson of Jamaica as the Chairman of the Jamaica-Canada Disaster Relief and Resilience Initiative recognizing his expertise on resilience in the face of disasters that may befall the Caribbean.  It was that initiative that set the staging area for Canada’s effective role in managing the first response after the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010.

In more recent years, Prime Minister Turner has lent his name and caché to an award for students at Brock University and Niagara College studying and demonstrating leadership for water.  That award grant continues to this day and will likely growing with the establishment of a permanent institute of water proposed in Niagara Region.

Most of these exploits were recounted at his birthday celebration in Ottawa this month. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led the evening off with candid remarks to the politically awesome assembly of well over 200 invited guests about his personal and lifelong friendship of Mr. Turner.  The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Hon. Geoff Regan, introduced Mr. Turner while Turner’s daughter,  Elizabeth, offered poignant words on behalf of the Turner family.  Former PM’s Joe Clark, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien provided extraordinary oratories on their relationship Mr. Turner, while former PM’s Mulroney, Campbell and Harper all provided wonderful video tributes.  Media greats Lloyd Robertson, Peter Mansbridge, Guy Gendron and Don Newman were on-hand to introduce the former PM’s and the evening ended with special introductions of noted Canadians attending like Ed Broadbent, Irwin Cotler, former Premiers David Peterson and Frank McKenna.   Of special note was the reading of a personal note from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth – welcoming her good friend John Turner (who once dated her sister Margaret) to the 90’s club.

Social media has been abuzz characterizing his 90th birthday party as one of the best political events Ottawa had ever witnessed.  Media reports in major dailies by those reporters in attendance were equally as effusive.  A befitting tribute to a great Canadian who is a living witness to some of the best of Canada – and more to come.

- Marc Kealey

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab


source: Dan Donovan, Ottawa Life Magazine

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

source: David Crane, The Hill Times

Notes for Remarks

Rt. Hon. John N. Turner P.C., C.C., Q.C.

90th Birthday Celebration

June 10, 2019

Ottawa, Ontario



Check against delivery



Thank you, Merci , Speaker Regan, for your comments and best  wishes.


At 90 years old – I’m probably the oldest person in this room and, as such,  I’m allowed the chance to say whatever the hell I want!


Permettez-moi de commencer par vous remercier tous d’être venus ici pour célébrer cette étape avec moi.  Vous tous dans cette salle ont été une partie de ma vie publique et privée depuis des décennies et je vous remercie tous d’être ici


I’m particularly happy that Prime Ministers Trudeau, Clark, Chretien and Martin have come tonight to honour this milestone.  Your presence here means a lot to me, but more importantly the roles each of you have played in making Canada what she is today –


le monde connaît le Canada plus intimement grâce à vos réalisations personnelles et collectives. Je vous suis reconnaissant.


Encore, je voudrais dire merci Monsieur le president, Speaker of the House of Commons –

the Honourable Geoff Regan

for being here this evening and making the venue available for us to celebrate.  I also want to thank Speaker of the Senate the Honourable Chuck Furey for his support of this event as well.


I want to acknowledge and thank my daughter Elizabeth for being here tonight to celebrate with me and her own daughter – my grand-daughter – Fiona.  Your love and support are appreciated.


I also want to thank and recognize the Co-Chairs for tonight – Lisa Haley and Marc Kealey.  Both have worked for me for many years and their efforts to make this event so memorable for all of us does not go unnoticed.  I especially want to recognize that today is Marc’s birthday and I wish you the very best, my friend!


I’m delighted that so many former and current Cabinet Ministers are here this evening – many of whom I served with in Cabinet in the 60’s, 70’s and my own in the 80’s. 


Vous avez tous été une partie importante de la croissance de ce pays et j’apprécie que vous soyez ici pour célébrer avec moi.


I want to thank the High Commissioner for Jamaica -her Excellency Janice Miller for being here.  I know Jamaica is in mourning over the recent passing of my friend – former Prime Minister Seaga, which is why the Prime Minister of Jamaica could not attend tonight.  Many of you don’t know that Marc Kealey and I sit on the Board of the Jamaica Canada Disaster Relief and Resilience Initiative that Howard Shearer – who is here tonight – Chairs. 


The initiative was set up because Canada is recognized as a leader for disaster resilience and response and I’m proud of the work we have accomplished so far to set a staging area in Jamaica for the entire Caribbean to prepare IF any disaster should befall that region.  I will be returning to Jamaica in the fall for meetings to follow up with the Prime Minister on the initiative.


I want to recognize Carolyn Bennett, my MP – she is a strong member of parliament and an even stronger woman.  I look forward to campaigning with her this fall.  That’s my small way to give back!


Il est important de redonner. 


Il est important aussi, que nous reconnaissons la force.


force de caractère et


la force de l’action.


As a young man, I actually grew up here in Ottawa around strong women – particularly my mother Phyllis. She was an extraordinarily strong woman -she was senior advisor to the Minister of Finance.  She was actually the focus of a cover of Maclean’s Magazine years ago noted as Canada’s highest- ranking female civil servant.  It was she who instilled in me a commitment to democracy!


The point I’m making is that involvement in democracy does not happen by accident.  My mother’s career offered me and my sister, Brenda, the opportunity to have a lot.  We were engaged as young children in political society in Ottawa – we’d often times spend quality time with Cabinet Ministers, the Prime Minster and very senior government people from around the world. My mother instilled in me the St. Augustin principle.   I have always tried to govern myself as outlined by St. Augustin “to him (or her) who has been given talent let him (or her) give some of it back.

That means become involved in our community.

Volunteer for work.

Attend meetings.

Discuss ideas for action.

Share in accomplishing a project.

Stay involved.


At the local level, neighbourhood, town, or city communicate with city councilors, provincial MLA’s and federal MP’s.


Help make things happen.


Run for office if that becomes possible.

Make it possible!

Democracy does not happen by accident!



Je continue à lutter durement pour la démocratie au Canada.  Je vois comment l’accès et les droits et libertés peuvent être compromis et je continue à travailler pour essayer de changer cela. 


Let me give a very real example.  When I was practicing law as a junior associate at the law firm I was working at the time in Montreal (Stikeman Elliot), I was invited to the Kingston Conference – 1960.  At that conference, I delivered a paper on the necessity to provide access for all Canadians to Canada’s justice system.  I said that as a democracy we should ensure that no one despite their cultural or economic circumstance should fall victim to a lapse in access to the justice system.


My paper clearly garnered some attention because two years later, Lester Pearson who was the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada asked me to run for his Party. 


I won that election because our campaign had a terrific groundswell of support from young people across Montreal/St. Lawrence – I believe the ability of all those young people to rally behind our cause was the reason we did. 


People like Jim Robb and Sharon Gray who are here tonight. 


My wife, Geills, was involved in the campaign and because she was one of the first people in Canada to have a degree in computer science she prepared the database for our campaign and we used THAT kind of innovative technology to out gun our opponents.  We could easily track voters and their preference and prepared faster than the other party candidates.  

When I went to Ottawa as a rookie MP, I was involved from day one in some of the more important issues of the day and became a Cabinet Minister in Mr. Pearson’s government.  In 1968, I ran for Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada when Prime Minister Pearson resigned and we all know the history. 


When I was honoured by Justin’s dad, Pierre, to be his Minister of Justice one of the first things I did was implement my paper from 1960 – to create a system where access for all Canadians to the justice system was paramount and THAT was the start of Legal Aid in Canada.


Je dois également dire qu’au cours des années qui ont suivi, j’ai participé à un dialogue de plus en plus éclairé sur l’avenir de la démocratie dans le monde. Le Canada a toujours été considéré comme un pays responsable lorsqu’il s’agit de stabilité et c’est une bonne chose. 


 But, there are still opportunities for improvement.  I don’t like the use of the term BACK BENCHER when describing MPs.  It is the MP who holds a prominent position in the House of Commons.  My thinking on this is honed from the Magna Carta – one of the greatest pieces of democracy ever.  Written in 1215, it laid out the essence of democracy in Great Britain and became the template for democracy worldwide. 


Even at that time, the Magna Carta spelled out how citizen involvement through the casting of a ballot created the opportunity for a House of Common people (the Commons) to collect at Westminster to govern the people who voted them to attend there.  Once there, did they choose what group would be government by virtue of the number of “seats” their group had in the House and only then did THAT group nominate the person who would become Prime Minister.  It’s  so different today, where Prime Ministers act in a manner that I can only describe as unilateral. 


The most important part of democracy in my view is that ‘people govern people’.  We have to hold that principle sacred… where debate and opinion of people matter.  In fact throughout the world they call it parliament from the French word ‘parler’ to speak.  To disallow MPs to speak their mind and offer their opinion compromises the very essence of democracy.


Over my political career I have had and still maintain good working and personal relationships with several US Presidents – Bill Clinton (and Hillary of course) remain good friends as well as the Bush Family. Many of you here know of my friendship with the Kennedy family and for the short time I worked with both John and Bobby Kennedy, we worked well together.

I had a particularly better working relationship with President Richard Nixon. I was often sent to Washington to manage issues between our two countries. And we worked them out and I did all that on a handshake.



I recall a time when I was Minister of Finance, that I went to Washington, had meetings with then Secretary of State George Shultz, who was a good friend of mine, we’d play tennis at the White House, then get ready for dinner with the President.   We’d have a few scotches beforehand as well.    The President once said to me ‘Turner, you’re taking a risk coming here alone – you have no witnesses’. I said ‘Mr. President, if I thought I needed witnesses, I wouldn’t be here ‘.


And he gave me a huge bear hug. THAT was the way we resolved issues to determine a course of action.


On this issue of democracy I continue to watch THIS closely.  I believe that young people are critical and even today every time Marc Kealey and I travel anywhere in Canada or globally – we visit schools –


where I can talk to young people about the need to get involved in the political process.


Je pense qu’il est important qu’ils apprennent les subtilités du gouvernement d’un point de vue politique.  J’ai confiance en moi.


If I had any advice for young people or those of you in this room, it  would be to get involved.  You know, I tell people all the time that the outcome of doing nothing to impact public policy is impactful! 


Nos normes en matière d’éducation et de soins de santé sont sans égales et le fait que nous puissions fournir des services dans les deux langues officielles est un avantage distinct ET que nous devrions célébrer.


Wilfrid Laurier said in early 1900’s that the 20th century belongs to Canada. I think, that with the kind of talent that I see around this room and from the constant travel I do today across this country and interaction I have with young people –I’m more than convinced that the 21st century also belongs to Canada.


Now that I’m 90, I learned that good relationships keep us healthy and happy.


Social connections like this one tonight help us to live longer.  And to that end, it’s not just the number of friends – but the quality of those relationships.  They help to protect our brains and keep our memories sharp.


Again, I want to thank each and every one of you for being here to celebrate this event with me – and as they say –


a la prochaine!!


Merci beaucoup a tous!!!!




Celebrating Jim Flaherty

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 @ 08:04 PM

Jim’s untimely death five years ago today shocked many in Canada. For those of us who worked with and for him as a politician, we knew a person of unparalleled intelligence and ethics. We also knew him as a person of extraordinary grace!

For those of us who knew him well from Whitby, we were all so very anxious to see how well he performed while in politics and most especially for what he would do in life after politics. That’s why it’s so hard to comprehend a life so large cut so short.

I recall when I was a hospital administrator in Whitby and going through a particularly difficult time in 1997 because of a government mandated restructuring. The town was in a foul mood over the prospect of potentially losing its acute care services at the hospital. Jim came to my office and sat in the one chair I had for visitors and folded his arms, “Kealey”, he said, “hold fast! What you’re going through is the scourge of leadership. If you can’t handle this, you should get out! But I think you can handle this!” That advice has stuck with me throughout my career and I heed it often. Life can be difficult at times, but when the world has the benefit of advice like that from Jim Flaherty it makes things that are tough seem possible – and it’s simply a better place!

I had the opportunity in 2011 to host Jim for a fundraiser at my home in Mississauga. It was an interesting start to the evening because some trouble-making people in Mississauga had alerted media that the Minister of Finance was coming to my home and they assembled at the end of my driveway. When his car drove up, he stepped out, greeted them warmly and invited them into my home. As if knowing that they were intruding, they politely declined. Vintage Jim Flaherty – he was simply a better man!

- Marc Kealey