Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, the Honourable Elaine McCoy, who passed away here in Ottawa on December 29.
Saying goodbye to a Senate colleague has always been a bittersweet moment for me. Reflecting on the career and accomplishments of so many great Canadians, who have come and gone from this place, always leaves me humbled and grateful to have been given a chance to meet and work with such extraordinary people.
I’m sad that Elaine did not get to leave the Senate in the way she wanted, with a chance to say goodbye, have a toast with her friends, having given a terrific speech in the chamber filled with wisdom and plenty of advice. Her battle with lung disease is over, but her spirit and her accomplishments live on.
Elaine was a pillar of the Alberta legal and business community. She was a close and influential associate to Peter Lougheed, one of Canada’s greatest premiers. She became a powerful cabinet minister and political thought leader in the turbulent 1980s in Alberta. She was an inspiration to an entire generation of women in politics, human rights and community affairs in our province.
During her time in the Senate, she had different roles in different eras. She had an outsider’s voice and perspective in the early years, and she was at the centre of the action during the past six years of evolution toward a modern Senate.
As a CSG colleague, I was touched to witness the wonderful, caring relationship that she had with her staff over these difficult last few years. Sara Caverly and Peter Price worked above and beyond to make sure that Elaine could contribute to the work of the Senate on a continual basis. I know Elaine was grateful to them.
I asked Peter and Sara if they would like to contribute some words for the record. Here they are:
Senator McCoy was entertaining and erudite — and if you were a kindred spirit, a devoted mentor, persistent with her encouragement and prolific in her connections.
Her singular qualities would shine through in everything she did to the very end, trying to evade life’s trickier realities. She applied her energies to setting straight problems with legislation in an extensive series of pamphlets and graphics. She took up gourmet cooking with enormous vigour. And she had been preoccupied with her retirement speech.
She had planned to share her deep conviction that to be truly effective, the Senate should always be an equitable forum that places primacy on consensus over control. She used the illustration of having an intricate tapestry of conversations to understand each other. Senator McCoy will long continue to bring people together.
Thank you, Peter and Sara, for those words. I hope we can live up to them.
I’m proud to have known the Honourable Senator McCoy and to call her a friend. God bless you, Elaine, and rest in peace.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
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Honourable senators, it isn’t easy to sum up a life and a career in a short statement, but I think it’s important there is a record of accomplishments and personal sentiment detailed in Hansard for posterity for our late colleague, the Honourable Elaine McCoy. She deserves that much and more for her years of service and dedication to this chamber and this country.
Senator McCoy passed away on December 29, 2020, after a lifetime of service to her province, country, and the issues and causes that most mattered to her. She was appointed to the Senate on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005. At the time, she chose to sit as a Progressive Conservative, a party that no longer existed federally. This choice was evidence of Senator McCoy’s independence and foreshadowed her influence on the Senate as it is structured today.
Senator McCoy’s life as a politician and Alberta MLA from 1986 to 1993 was as a provincial Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Minister responsible for Women’s Issues, Minister of Labour, and Minister responsible for human rights and for Alberta’s civil service.
As a senator, she was dedicated to her province and the issues for which she fought. These included women’s, human rights and environmental issues. She was also a fierce and loyal representative of Albertans here in the Senate.
When, in 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau began recommending independent senators to the upper chamber, Senator McCoy helped organize and became a founding member of the Independent Senators Group. As the most senior independent senator, she was appointed the group’s first facilitator and fought for fair representation on committees, the recognition of the ISG as a formal group, and she fought passionately for the modernization of the Senate.
When I was appointed, I understood the constitutional role of the Senate within Confederation, but I was not prepared for the rules and traditions of this chamber when I first arrived. It was Senator McCoy who helped me navigate our processes and learn our practices. She welcomed me, and I will always be grateful for her sage advice.
Elaine McCoy’s presence in this chamber will be missed. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I offer my sincerest sympathy to her family, her province and her many friends across the country. Rest in peace, Elaine.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
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Honourable senators, I also rise today to pay tribute to one of our own and my friend, the Honourable Elaine J. McCoy. Throughout her 15 years in the Senate, Senator McCoy was one of very few senators who sincerely reflected upon what the notion of independence truly is. From the moment she was appointed by Prime Minister Paul Martin to her last days in this chamber, Senator McCoy actively pursued her independence, while always being one of Alberta’s most passionate voices. It is without a doubt that she will be remembered for her staunch support of the residents of her home province of Alberta.
From her time in the provincial legislature in Alberta to the Red Chamber in Ottawa, she always displayed a deep commitment to her country. This unwavering commitment to her constituents informed everything she accomplished over her decades of dedicated public service. She had a very unique perspective on policies. Her foresight and formidable intellect made her an influential leader. Her contributions to public policy have benefited all Canadians.
Senator McCoy’s most recent impassioned and tenacious defence of Western Canada’s energy sector against the harmful Bills C-48 and C-69 was testament to her deep commitment to her home province and the thousands of people employed in the sector across Canada.
Please, colleagues, let me quote her directly:
Bill C-48 proposes to ban oil tankers from most of Canada’s west coast. The bill threatens national unity severely and significantly by pitting one region against another and communities against communities.
Canada was built on conversation, not conflict. We have always talked our way through to solutions that balance everyone’s interests; this has become a fundamental national principle. Bill C-48 promotes conflict, not co-operation.
The words of a great politician. I know very few politicians who can finesse words in such a simple way and yet bring forward such a powerful message. Her departure will leave a void of wisdom in this chamber. On behalf of the official opposition in the Senate, and myself personally, I wish to convey our most sincere condolences to her family, friends and our entire Senate family. May she find eternal rest and peace in the kingdom of heaven and our gracious Lord. Thank you.
Honourable senators, erudite, effervescent, elegant and enigmatic, the Honourable Elaine McCoy was a force of nature in the Senate and in all of her life. As someone whose early, formative period in the Senate was shaped by the late Senator McCoy, I’m honoured to pay tribute to her on behalf of the Independent Senators Group. She was, of course, the founding facilitator of the ISG.
I remember well the many occasions I visited her in her office on the fifth floor of Centre Block. Entering her office was like going into the private den of a philosopher sage auteure. In one corner, the books piled high; on the wall, the projector with the slide showing pictures of her life and her experiences and history; in the next room, a group of young people working feverishly on who knows what. And there was Elaine McCoy, sitting quietly on the comfy chair in the corner of the room, almost waiting for us to go to her, to learn from her, to listen to her, to speak with her. And we did. We did so on so many occasions. Her impact on all of us went much beyond what she said in this chamber and what she said in committees.
We’ve already heard that she was a pioneer of the more independent senate, and it’s hard to overstate the impact she has had on the modernization of this chamber.
She oversaw a number of important steps toward a more independent upper house, including that the Senate authorize CIBA — the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration — to provide funding for independent senate groups; that the Senate adopt a motion to assign committee seats based on proportionality, something which we now take for granted; that the Clerk of the Senate change the designation on all formal documents from non-affiliated to Independent Senators Group, which made it possible to recognize the ISG as a formal entity; and that the Senate adopt rule changes that put recognized parliamentary groups on par with recognized political parties. These are just some of her accomplishments in the modernization of the upper chamber.
If I can summarize her approach to modernization, it is that she saw this chamber as a place of continued evolution and a continued need for all of us to press for evolution and modernization and to not be bound or beholden to a fixed idea of what many call the Westminster model. If you have any doubt about her conviction and want to know more about her thinking, I invite you to read her tour de force testimony to the Special Committee on Senate Modernization on November 16, 2016.
Colleagues, Senator McCoy was fond of saying that her role was not to tell us what to think. Her objective, rather, was to be the “wind under our wings.” Elaine is no longer with us, but the wind will always be under our wings. Thank you.
Honourable senators, I would like to add my voice to those paying tribute today to our friend and our colleague the Honourable Elaine McCoy. As others have already mentioned, she was a fierce advocate for Albertans and for her province of Alberta, and, of course, for Canada. She truly demonstrated what public service should look like, first as an MLA and provincial cabinet minister, and then here in the Senate where most of us got to know her.
When Senator McCoy was appointed in 2005 by the Right Honourable Paul Martin, she chose, as Senator Gold said earlier, to sit as a Progressive Conservative. This was despite the fact that they no longer had an official caucus. This was just the first example of how she charted her own path and stayed true to her own beliefs. Senator McCoy was very forthright about her own views, and it was clear that one of her main values was fairness — fairness to people and to the institution.
This was reflected in how she dealt with the partisan nature of politics. Senator McCoy was truly an independent senator. She understood that there are always competing viewpoints, but she worked hard to find ways to bridge those divides and to work across party lines for what she felt was in the best interest of Canadians.
This approach was also useful as she tackled the competing issues inherent within two of her passions: supporting Alberta and its energy sector while also advocating for the environment.
Senator McCoy could take complicated issues and simplify them. Though she was very serious about her work, she also had a wicked but subtle sense of humour. I was always impressed by her ability to stand in the chamber and deliver compelling arguments without any notes.
Her voice is one that will certainly be missed by many, not only within the Senate but across Alberta and throughout the country. On behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to her family and to her friends. Thank you.
Honourable senators, Elaine McCoy has been a practising lawyer, an MLA, a provincial cabinet minister, an advocate and, of course, a senator. However, she is probably best described as a maverick. After all, she was appointed to this place as a Progressive Conservative by a Liberal prime minister, Paul Martin. She was later instrumental in forming and leading a new caucus composed of independents, the ISG. Then, as this group surrendered and succumbed to the joys and temptations of groupthink — and things even worse, perhaps — as she believed, she became an independent again. And last year she became a founding member of the Canadian Senators Group, which is composed of very independent senators. Thus, she founded two new caucuses.
Some people, including some senators in this house, think that being a maverick is a bad thing, that “maverickism” should be stamped out in all its forms. I am not one of those people. For me, maverickism equates with fresh thinking, rigorously developed and communicated. It is a willingness to stake out independent ground without worrying about the personal consequences of doing so. It is about following your own conscience and convictions. In other words, maverickism equates with hope and freedom.
For me, that is what Elaine McCoy represents.
She was an inspiration to me in partnering with my good friend Senator Paul Massicotte in holding a symposium on Senate modernization in October of 2015. She was among the first to sign up for it.
Her knowledge of the history of this place was unparalleled. Her deep understanding of the flexibility of the Westminster system will be missed; so too will be her wit in describing those Westminster dogmatists as suffering from a Westminster syndrome.
Senator McCoy spoke her truth plainly, with conviction, all the time. May she rest in peace. Thank you, honourable senators.
Honourable senators, as an Alberta senator, I want to speak first today to Elaine McCoy’s achievements in Alberta long before she joined the Senate. She followed quite literally in Peter Lougheed’s footsteps, succeeding him as the MLA for the riding of Calgary West. She became a cabinet minister as soon as she was elected in 1986 — the year, incidentally, I started journalism school. I remember vividly the figure she cut in Alberta’s legislature — tall, slim, strikingly beautiful. She had panache, elegance and a cool, take-no-prisoners wit.
As a member of Don Getty’s cabinet, Elaine McCoy was a woman ahead of her time: a champion of gay rights long before that was easy or mainstream; an environmental advocate, one of the first in the Alberta government — more than 30 years ago — to push for a real public policy response to global warming. When the Aryan Nations first began rallying in Alberta, she established a human rights investigation into white supremacist movements. She was the driving force behind the Lake Louise Declaration on Violence Against Women. She reformed the Alberta Securities Commission and came up with the original idea for the annual Family Day holiday.
In 1992, Elaine McCoy entered the leadership fight to be Alberta’s next premier. She ran as a fierce fiscal hawk but lost to Ralph Klein , who ran, ironically, on a far less fiscally conservative platform. The new Premier Klein paid Elaine McCoy the most sincere of compliments; he removed her from cabinet and then appropriated her budget-cutting platform as his own.
After leaving provincial politics in 1993, Elaine McCoy went on to do important environmental leadership work in Alberta. In 2005 she accepted Paul Martin’s invitation to join the Senate of Canada, where she served proudly, first as a defiant Progressive Conservative and then as a champion of a more independent, non-partisan Senate.
When Senator LaBoucane-Benson and I arrived in 2018, Senator McCoy welcomed us with an elegant lunch in the old Parliamentary Dining Room and a binder full of briefing materials on how to be a senator. I watched and learned as Senator McCoy dug deeply into Bills C-69 and C-48, using her expertise in regulatory law, her passion for the environment and her deep understanding of Alberta’s energy sector to seek thoughtful policy compromises.
Health problems meant that she spent the last years of her life in Ottawa, physically unable to travel home to her family and to the province she so deeply loved. But she leaves Alberta an enduring inheritance and she leaves all Alberta senators, present and future, the enduring challenge of living up to her legacy. May her memory forever be a blessing.
Honourable senators, we all lost a keen and valued colleague at the end of December. In many ways, the passing of the Honourable Elaine McCoy brought to light, as others have said this afternoon, the very real distance the Senate has come in its reforms and independence over the past four to six years. I echo those thoughts of non-partisan developments that Senator Dean articulated last night.
I do not believe that any of us ever forgets the day we were appointed to this august chamber of sober second thought — the honour, the humility, the anticipation of what lay ahead, the tremendous responsibility to our province and to all Canadians that came with our appointment. In the midst of those overwhelming thoughts and emotions that tumbled within me that late October 2016 came the many, much-appreciated calls of welcome. Senator McCoy made one of those early calls to me.
Her genuine welcome, her grace, wit, depth of knowledge of parliamentary process and her obvious love of the Senate and its work was clearly evident. So too was her steadfast love of Western Canada and her province of Alberta.
Elaine McCoy, like me, was born in Manitoba, her birthplace being Brandon. Her pre-Senate background as senior legal counsel in energy in Alberta, her seven years as a member of the Alberta Legislature for Calgary West and her time as an Alberta cabinet minister served her well when she arrived in this chamber. The breadth and depth of her work and interests, her vision, her key role in forming the ISG, and her dedication to the rules and procedures of the Senate was inspiring, certainly to me. This elegant, experienced and dedicated woman was also very articulate — with or without a speech prepared in advance. Her ability to construct cogent arguments, based on fact, on the spot, is indeed an enviable gift.
Senator McCoy was also a key mentor to many. She certainly was for me as a new senator when the ISG was young and small. I remember well one instance in particular and very much valued her endorsement of a position I took based on the principles of my past experiences. At that point, I didn’t have enough Senate experience on which to base whatever point of view I took that particular day.
As a fellow westerner, I applaud Senator McCoy’s unwavering, steadfast support for all things and issues affecting Alberta. Canada was fortunate indeed to have Elaine McCoy give so ably of herself in her legal profession, in her home legislature and here in the Senate of Canada. I am fortunate to have had her as a colleague.
I thank her. I offer my condolences to her family and friends and province. May she rest in peace. Thank you.
Honourable senators, I also rise today to honour a great Albertan, a great Canadian and a very dear friend.
Aritha van Herk is an influential Alberta author and poet. She said:
The cowboy code of neighbourliness, loyalty, independence and uncompromising persistence is part of Alberta’s code. It’s unspoken, but it’s written larger than the looming mountains.
That was our Elaine — kind, loyal, independent, and as we all witnessed over the last several years as her health declined, uncomplainingly persistent. Elaine’s gift, in my opinion, was to take her intelligence and couple it with her bred in the bone instinct for people’s hopes and fears, and then to convert that to public policy action.
Just a few quick examples. As we’ve heard, in the late 1980s, Elaine led in developing a national action plan for the scourge of violence against women. This was the first-ever public declaration of this nature.
As important, in the early 1990s, 30 years ago, as Senator Simons pointed out, Elaine led and gave voice in Alberta to our concerns about climate change, and how to reconcile environmental challenges with the importance to Canada of our oil and gas industry. In 1993, she chaired a provincial task force on climate change. Thirty years ago, a pioneering thought leader. She then served as the vice-chairman of Climate Change Central, an important Alberta-based leadership group that develops funding for research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
I cannot stress enough to my colleagues how forward-looking and important this work has been. It has laid the paving stones for all the discussions and actions on climate change and the environment that surround us today.
Finally, colleagues, as has been pointed out and as we saw in her interventions on Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, Alberta has lost a tremendous advocate, and the Senate has lost a respected leader.
What I saw and respected so deeply was Elaine’s basic humility. She never forgot her simple prairie roots. She never forgot the privilege of public service. I can also tell you, from limited experience, that Elaine loved a party. Her Calgary Christmas parties are legendary if not notorious.
Senators, Elaine loved Alberta. She loved our majestic beauty, our huge skies, our vibrant cities, our quiet solitude, and she loved our promise. She will be missed. Thank you, colleagues.
Honourable senators, it is with great sadness and humility that I pay tribute to our beloved and respected colleague the late Senator Elaine McCoy. Senator McCoy was a generous and wise mentor to me and many other new senators. She guided us with her one-on-one counsel, her Senate 101 training and, most importantly, by her own example of thorough study of legislation and her intelligent, compelling debates in the Senate Chamber. When Elaine spoke, we listened.
In conversation with Elaine this past summer on the topic of Senate modernization, she reminded me of the importance of understanding the subtle and powerful role of the Senate. She said, “You have to come to agreements to make laws.”
She valued collaboration. We all witnessed her herculean efforts aimed at bringing a middle-road solution to the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act. Elaine abhorred bullying and raised caution to groupthink or vesting too much power in the hands of leaders or any one group. As she said in her 2018 Policy Options article:
The capacity of individual senators to act autonomously and critically, beyond coercive strictures, is the bedrock that makes it the kind of legislature that Canadians want. At the same time, they must rise above ideologies and personal loyalties to work collaboratively with senators of every stripe.
Senator McCoy, a Progressive Conservative with extensive experience in the Alberta legislature and cabinet, was appointed to the upper chamber in 2005 — Alberta’s centennial year.
In her first speech in the Senate Chamber on Senator Andreychuk’s inquiry on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol, Senator McCoy spoke of the deep questions facing Albertans. She said:
. . . how should Alberta be contributing to our nation’s future? How can we shape that future so that it benefits not only Albertans but also Canadians? How can we help Canada be at the leading edge of the 21st century so that it secures not only Albertans but all Canadians a prosperous 21st century?
She went on to answer her own questions by saying, “In Alberta, we are now big enough, rich enough and mature enough to be nation builders.”
How I wish she was with us today so I could thank her personally for her wise guidance, her exemplary conduct, her efforts to forge a Senate for the 21st century and her countless contributions to her cherished province and our nation.
Senators, thank you for this opportunity to honour the legacy of the Honourable Elaine McCoy, a superlative Albertan, a magnificent Canadian and standout woman leader. Thank you. Wela’lioq.
Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a great parliamentarian — someone I had the privilege of meeting when I came to this institution. I had the privilege of befriending her, and I had the privilege to listen carefully to her. Even in the last few days, when we had exchanges, she stimulated my mind and warmed my heart. Elaine McCoy: great intellect, sharp sense of humour. Her sense of fairness and justice is unparalleled. A media outlet, a few years ago called her a “symbol of defiance.” Many called her a maverick. I call her a great parliamentarian and someone who brought civility to Parliament and to parliamentary debate.
Elaine McCoy served at various levels of parliament and in our political discourse with honour and integrity. Even as a cabinet minister in Alberta, she spoke truth to power — even when she was a member of the executive. That’s who Elaine McCoy was. She fought for citizens who were the underdog. She fought for those whom she believed did not have a voice and she was that voice. What an ultimate choice Paul Martin made to appoint a great parliamentarian and senator to speak on behalf of those minority voices.
She served, of course, as the last Progressive Conservative senator in the institution. She served in the Canadian Senators Group and in the Independent Senators Group, but she was ultimately the definition of an independent senator: someone who fought for her convictions and principles and was never a follower.
Elaine McCoy understood that her independence came from her tenure and was crafty in how to use that independence to keep — I remember when I was serving in government — government to account and to challenge government on a daily basis. Often she did that alone as the only true independent voice. When I served as Speaker, I learned to admire and respect her. Of course, in opposition, she inspired me as she did so many.
Elaine McCoy. God rest her soul. God bless her soul. None of us should forget that glint in her eye that lit up the Senate of Canada for a decade and a half.
Honourable senators, at the end of December, we lost a respected colleague and friend to many of us: Senator Elaine McCoy. An accomplished legal mind and intrepid politician, she was at the forefront of Senate modernization. She advocated for greater independence of senators — as was clear from the start when she styled herself as a Progressive Conservative, a party that no longer existed here in the Senate when she was appointed.
Senator McCoy served as an MLA, cabinet minister and eventually senator, where she continued to proudly represent Albertans. She did this with compassion and strong ideals — ideals she was not shy to share with all those she met.
I remember many conversations with her and our old friend Senator Norm Atkins, which, for me, were indicative of the nature of this place and how we should work together across ideological boundaries to accomplish what is best for our provinces and our country.
If you were never at her Christmas receptions, you have missed quite a collection of guests. Former Liberals, former Progressive Conservatives and, indeed, former prime minister Joe Clark, were always in attendance — and they were quite the shindigs.
A truly independent mind and defender of the Senate, Senator McCoy’s four decades of service to her province and to the country will live on, especially by those she leaves behind.
I extend my sincere condolences to her family and friends, and I encourage us all to continue her legacy of independence and advocacy for those we represent. Thank you, honourable senators.
Honourable senators, Senator McCoy was the first senator I met when I came for orientation a month before I entered the Red Chamber, and her office the first senator’s office I visited. She shook my hand warmly and motioned to a chair. I will tell you, I didn’t know senators had offices — I don’t know why I didn’t know this. I just didn’t. You see, Senator McCoy recognized immediately that I probably knew little else.
She gave me the advice many senators give to new prospects and revealed things I did not know. She revealed the importance of the Senate itself, the obligations senators are sworn to and the necessity in Canadian democracy of the Red Chamber.
She was first — and the best — to tell me why the Red Chamber mattered, why the very institution itself was sacrosanct. She said it as if she knew I was out of my depth at that moment and that it would take some time to get my feet under me.
Like so many Canadians, I did not know the vital workings of the place where I was about to sit. I did not know the facts about legislation and how bills, both private and public, came about or about the committees that debated the bills. She mentioned all of this to me and told me that if I had any problems or wanted to know procedurally how things might work, her door was always open.
Before I left, we began to talk of other things. Elaine said, “I hear you’ve written a fishing book. I fly-fished for years.”
“Well then, we’re friends and we’ll go fly-fishing together,” I answered.
And that is what we planned to do. She would come to the Miramichi and fish for salmon, and I would travel to the Bow River and she would take me trout fishing. That was our plan. And though there were certain motions and bills and amendments that she would ask me to consider, it always came back to fishing for us. And she always said she would go, until, finally, one day, she told me she did not think she would ever be able to make it.
“Look,” I said, “I have friends who have guided all their lives. We’ll get you to the Miramichi, to the river, to a canoe, to a pool, and you will feel a salmon pull. Senator, you’ll never forget what a Miramichi salmon takes.”
She smiled at me that soft, crooked smile she had and said, “Sure.”
Then the pandemic hit and put a kibosh into everything. She phoned once, a few months back, to ask if I could help locate a friend of hers who lived on the Miramichi. Unfortunately, I wrote and told her I had no luck. I never saw her again.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t get fishing. We’ll get together some day, senator; I guarantee you that. The river will be a grand one, probably quite like the Miramichi, and the fish will run forever beneath our canoe.
Honourable senators, so many senators have spoken about a person we cared so much about: Elaine McCoy, a Western woman; Elaine McCoy, a free spirit; Elaine McCoy, a fierce debater; Elaine McCoy, a voice of reason.
On the in memoriam page on our Senate website, I love the words from Senator Black, who is also from Alberta:
This was a woman who just cared. She cared about her friends. She deeply cared about public service . . . .
She never forgot where she came from and that’s why I think she was so effective.
Those are very important words from Doug Black: “She never forgot where she came from . . . .” I think we all bring to this chamber a sense of where we come from. We all have a pride of place, and that’s a good thing. It is those values we share with others that make this a great country. Elaine McCoy loved to hear other views, but she was never afraid of giving her own.
One of the remarkable things about this place is that you do get to learn from others. As a former reporter, I was always supposed to be objective, but I am a person from the East and when I covered the West, I did not always appreciate the Western voice. You know who helped set me straight? Elaine McCoy. It may have taken a lifetime, but I got to understand the Western view, and it was Elaine McCoy who helped me along the way. Her dissertations on Alberta energy and environment should be read by all Canadians. I walked away with a better understanding of the Western view and, more so, the Western reality.
The original slogan of the Reform Party was, “The West Wants In.” Elaine McCoy was not a Reformer but a Progressive Conservative who instinctively understood what the West wanted — respect and to be a player on the national stage. She helped shape that argument during her years in the Peter Lougheed government and, later, here in the Senate.
She did it her way, the McCoy way, with a steely determination. But when the sittings were over, she could be found in her soft-lit Centre Block office with a welcoming smile, a glass of wine or something a little stronger and a desire to keep the conversation going. After all, it was only midnight.
Honourable senators, I, too, rise to pay my tribute to Senator McCoy. When the first seven independents — Senators Lankin, Petitclerc, Pratt, Sinclair, Gagné and Harder and I — were appointed, Senator McCoy was in the process of pulling together the first independent, non-partisan group. I think it is a validation of her vision that, today, just four short years later, there is not just one independent group but three.
Looking back, I appreciate all the hurdles that Senator McCoy faced to establish the independents. She persuaded; she cajoled; she insisted; she convened; and she kept things moving with a focus on getting us off the ground. And here we are today.
There was a defining elegance about her. I once told her that she reminded me, in some ways, of the Duchess of Windsor. She was reed-thin, always beautifully dressed, always with that signature piece of jewellery. Her favourite perch on the weekends, no surprise, was high tea at the Château Laurier, where you found her presiding, almost always with a cocktail in her hand, or something stronger. She would be with one of our group, advising, coaching and sometimes insisting, because we all know that she would be persistent and sometimes stubborn on matters of principle.
But she was also elegant in spirit as well. After my first speech in the Senate — I was horribly nervous — she sent me a copy of that speech wrapped in a red ribbon as a reminder. I still have that in my office.
She coached me when I took on the job of sponsoring a major piece of government legislation through the Senate. Because, as the sponsor, I could not myself table an amendment, she quickly picked it up, studied the subject that she previously did not know much about, and spoke to it with a thoroughly researched brief. When that amendment was accepted by the House of Commons and passed into law, it got a fair bit of media time and became known as the McCoy amendment. She was somewhat bemused by all of this, and she jokingly said to me, “Ratna, you have made me famous.”
Truthfully, she deserved fame and reputation on many more fronts — for her vision, for her steely focus on achieving it and for her principled contributions to this chamber. She will be missed.
Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Elaine McCoy, who passed away recently.
I am grateful to Senator McCoy for giving me such a warm welcome when I was appointed to the Senate in November 2016. She was the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group at the time. Her unreserved welcome made it easier for me to adjust to my new role.
I will never forget her piercing gaze. Over the past four years, I have had the opportunity to see that she gave her all to her role as a senator.
Senator McCoy, your steadfast commitment to public service will never be forgotten.
Honourable senators, in 2016, upon arriving in the Senate, of course I would choose a group led by a woman, the only woman leader at that time, Senator Elaine McCoy — a mentor and a friend known always on my team and in my office as “The McCoy” in the Scottish clan tradition.
I also received my first speech wrapped in a ribbon. Warm smiles and many vibrant debates ensued thereafter — because our offices were near to each other — often ending with that stronger beverage, a good scotch.
I want to quote briefly from one of the last notes I received from Elaine. When I contacted her to ask how she was doing with all of the COVID-19 isolation, she wrote back with a note about her cat:
Oliver loves having me at home and I love Oliver, despite the fact that he broke my lamp. Ah, well. Love is more to be treasured than artifacts.
So when I heard Sarah’s voice on December 29, I knew that the news was not good. I had talked to Elaine just two weeks before, and I knew that there was a struggle. Colleagues, when it is possible, I hope you will join Senator Griffin and me in what we’ve decided is a very appropriate tribute to our wonderful friend, femmetor and a spectacular senator, with a jot of Famous Grouse.
Farewell, dear femmetor and friend. We are so grateful to have known you and learned from you.