senators’ statements — Tributes

The Late Honourable Robert W. Peterson

November 18, 2020


Honourable senators, Canada has lost a kind and well-respected man, the Honourable Bob Peterson. I am pleased today that we are honouring his legacy in the Senate of Canada.

It was a privilege to work with Bob during his time in the Senate. While no one would ever doubt his loyalty and love of the Liberal Party, Bob practised politics in a principled way. He might not have liked the political views of other parties but he did enjoy working across party lines, and he never made those differing political views personal.

Bob loved Canada, and he especially loved his province of Saskatchewan. He was born in Rose Valley, and even when he moved to Regina, he never left behind his rural roots. He was a fierce defender of the Canadian Wheat Board, as many in this chamber may remember. He was involved in many organizations in his community because he understood the importance of community service and of giving back.

Bob took his job as senator very seriously, but he had a wonderful sense of humour. He sat behind me, and he would tap me on the shoulder to tell me something funny, followed by that great laugh of his. This sense of having fun was even in his obituary, which noted that:

If Bob were here I’m sure he would say, “In lieu of flowers, please vote Liberal.”

Honourable senators, Bob Peterson will be remembered as a loyal Liberal and a hard-working senator for his province of Saskatchewan, but I will remember him as a wonderful colleague and a gentleman. My best wishes to his wife, Muriel, and to his children and grandchildren. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, I rise today on behalf of our Conservative caucus to pay tribute to the Honourable Robert “Bob” Peterson, a former colleague and a friend to many.

Bob Peterson was a successful entrepreneur, professional engineer, community activist and respected leader. He served as Director and President of Regina Jaycees and Director of the Saskatchewan Home Builders’ Association. He was also Director of Ranch Ehrlo Society, an organization very dear to his heart. In addition, he served as Director and Vice Chair of the Regina Economic Development Authority and as a member of the City of Regina Planning Commission.

On March 24, 2005, Bob Peterson was appointed to the Senate of Canada by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin and began a new chapter of his life. For seven years, he proudly served Saskatchewan and all Canadians to ensure their voices were represented in the Senate Chamber. He played an active role on the Aboriginal People’s Committee and the Energy and Environment Committee, and was a fierce advocate of the Canadian Wheat Board, as mentioned by Senator Cordy.

On a personal level, I didn’t have the opportunity to work closely with Bob Peterson, as we served on different committees, but what I distinctly remember is his genuine friendliness, warmth and strong presence in the chamber. I learned a lot in those days from the experienced Liberal opposition caucus of which Bob was a valued member.

I realize now upon completing some research about him for this tribute that the strong, gentle man with whom I had served for the first three years of my Senate life was a giant in his community and province and a champion to many. I am proud to have served with him in this place.

Bob Peterson spent his life serving his community and country, but above all, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. To his beloved wife of over 61 years, Muriel; their children, Laurie, Lee-Anne and Drew; and their grandchildren, we express our deepest condolences. May you find comfort in the memories and love you shared with your beloved husband, father and grandfather.

Honourable senators, please join me in saying a final farewell to the late Honourable Robert Peterson. May he forever rest in peace.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo

Honourable senators, it is my honour on behalf of the Independent Senators Group to pay tribute to the Honourable Robert Peterson. Affectionately known as “Senator Bob,” he was a highly regarded member of the Upper House who will be remembered for his hard work, honesty and many contributions to his community.

After earning his Engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1961, he became a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and spent 25 years as a civil and municipal engineer. In 1979, Senator Bob joined Denro Holdings as Vice-President of Residential and Commercial Development. He became President and COO in 1994, a position he held until he was nominated by former Prime Minister Paul Martin to serve as a senator in 2005.

Senator Peterson was a culinary ambassador for his province. He enjoyed inviting his parliamentary visitors to sample pickerel from northern lakes, and he was known for bringing wild rice from the banks of the Saskatchewan River to give to his Ottawa staff. As a senator, he sat on several committees, including the Aboriginal People’s Committee and the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

As former Senator Jack Wiebe noted, “All of Bob’s efforts were directed to produce the best laws and policies” for every Canadian.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to Bob’s wife of over 61 years, Muriel; his daughters, Laurie and Lee-Anne; his son, Drew; and their respective families.

Hon. Leo Housakos

I’m honoured to rise today to pay tribute to a former colleague, someone whom I didn’t know for very long but I the privilege and opportunity to cross paths with when I was first named to the Senate in 2009. Bob and I crossed paths over a few years, primarily because we were neighbours when I my first office was here in the Victoria Building. He happened to be right around the corner. A quiet gentleman, unassuming at the beginning, my memories of Bob Peterson are very fond ones because we all know he had great success as a professional back in his province of Saskatchewan and a great career in business. Ultimately, what I remember of him when I got here is a fiercely partisan Liberal, someone who had the reputation of being the go-to guy in Saskatchewan.

He was a loyal Liberal. Back then, of course, when the Liberals were Liberals before they became Independents, he had no qualms about expressing his views, but he was someone who came from the business world, like I did. We had a few opportunities to talk, and many times he said to me:

Leo, you come from a business world where things are black and white. In the political world, you have to adjust yourself because it’s all grey.

That was a good piece of advice. Over time, I had to adapt. I recognized in him a man who was kind, pleasant, incredibly funny, incredibly honest, and ultimately he had a deep love for his province. This is what all senators are sent here to do, represent their province. He had a deep respect for the country.

The best piece of advice he gave me as a young senator — and I’ve tried to put it in my pocket, and when I heard he had passed away, it just brought back those fond memories — he said:

Look, in this place, it’s a place of politics. It’s a place where we vigorously discuss the ideas that we believe in, and the values and principles that we believe in.

But he said, “It’s important never to lose track” — and he would say it with a big, warm smile — “of your sense of humour, your character and your integrity.”

I look at the few years when I happened to work with Senator Robert Peterson, and he was a man of all of that. He left this place exactly how he came in: with integrity, with character and with honour. God rest his soul. To his loved ones and family, God bless you. Thank you for allowing him to serve this great institution.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer

Honourable senators, it was with sadness that I learned of the death of our former colleague and friend Senator Bob Peterson. An engineer by trade, Bob was so proud of his beloved province of Saskatchewan and worked tirelessly here in the Senate for its people.

I’m one of the few people who had the privilege of working with Bob for many years prior to him coming to the Senate. A proud Liberal, Bob and I shared many a story about the back room where politics all too often plays out. It was where he shined and where he cut his teeth — lessons learned through his political work would help bring him here to the Senate.

He has left a legacy many of us should, and do, emulate: hard work, diligence, honesty, and with that famous sense of humour. Honourable senators, as a member of this place, Bob vigorously worked for the agricultural sector, Indigenous Canadians and the energy sector. But he also had a lighter side — we had such good times on the committees we shared from time to time, and I always appreciated Bob’s positive outlook.

My condolences go to his wife Muriel, his children and grandchildren, and the entire Peterson clan. Bob Peterson was a great guy, always had a smile and constantly strove to help his community, his province, his country and most importantly, people. We will miss you, Bob.

Hon. Marty Klyne

Honourable senators, Canada and Saskatchewan have lost a champion with the passing of the Honourable Robert W. Peterson, who we all knew as Bob. I knew Bob for close to 40 years, having first met him in the early 1980s when he was a senior executive of Denro Holdings Ltd. Thirteen years later, I really got to know Bob when I was running the Regina Economic Development Authority as its COO with Bob as vice-chair of the board of directors.

He was, to say the least, a real gentleman. To work with him was to experience, appreciate and benefit from his integrity and his strategic approach to getting things done with a positive attitude and competence. Socializing with Bob was also a pleasant experience. He had a great sense of humour, loved to laugh and was a joy to be around. It was always a nice visit, whether in person or over the phone.

As his colleagues in this chamber know, Bob had significant ties to the Liberal Party of Canada and worked very hard for the LPC through the local and provincial constituencies, as well as at the federal party level. As a result of successfully conducting good relations with the back channels, you can find Bob’s fingerprints on numerous projects that have made Regina, Saskatchewan and Canada a better place.

Bob had a positive impact on many people’s lives, mine included, and I feel privileged to call him a good friend of mine. My heartfelt condolences to his spouse, Muriel, and their family; close, dear friends Pam and Ralph Goodale; and his golf crew, the curmudgeons. Rest in peace, Bob, knowing our province and nation is a better place because of you.

The Hon. the Speaker

Honourable senators, please rise and join me in a minute of silence in memory of our former colleague.