SENATORS’ STATEMENTS

The Honourable Howard Wetston, C.M.

June 2, 2022


Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain [ + ]

Honourable senators, the few minutes I have for this tribute won’t allow me to adequately recount all the highlights of Senator Wetston’s long and illustrious career. After devotedly serving on the executive side of government, Howard came to the Senate in 2016 to serve on the legislative side as a member of the first wave of independent senators — a historic change to the Senate — which he duly personified, having been appointed in his career to positions by Liberal and Conservative governments, both provincially and federally.

For more than 30 years before joining the Senate, Howard was in pursuit of the public interest, whether as a judge, an enforcement official or as the chair of several administrative tribunals. The prestigious honours he has received over the years are in themselves a testament to his immense contribution to Canadian public life, most notably the Order of Canada for the significant contributions he made as a public servant, jurist and regulator.

Senator Wetston has a breadth of experience and expertise in competition law and policy, securities regulation, energy regulation and administrative law. He has generously shared this expertise, most notably through his work on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, as well as the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. His contributions to the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators should also be highlighted as they are a key sign of his credibility among his peers, particularly because of his sense of justice and profound ethical values.

I would also like to emphasize his remarkable work on the Competition Act. Here is a senator who has taken advantage of the pandemic to accomplish something greatly useful. His consultation paper, entitled Examining the Canadian Competition Act in the Digital Era, is remarkable in that it offers a happy balance between vision and pragmatism. This demonstrates the wisdom of our colleague who understands that politics, being “the art of the possible,” requires one to sometimes deal with it step by step.

I will now conclude on a more personal note and say that being a senator, with all the demands and sacrifices, also brings the privilege of knowing exceptional colleagues. Howard is one of them, not only for his intelligence and wisdom but his great human values. Since childhood, when he was ostracized and experienced, among other things, refugee camps, life has provided him with its share of challenges — challenges that he overcame and which have made him an exceptional human being, open to the world and attentive to others.

Dear Howard, in the name of all members of the Independent Senators Group, thank you for all you have done, and all the best to you as you enjoy more time with your family and loved ones.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Honourable senators, on behalf of my colleagues in the Government Representative Office — feeling slightly bittersweet about this — I am pleased to pay tribute to Senator Howard Wetston.

Senator Wetston came to the Senate in the fall of 2016 as a respected public servant, a distinguished lawyer and jurist and an experienced regulator and executive. He had previously led the Ontario Securities Commission, the Ontario Energy Board and the Competition Bureau.

His passion to update best practices and rules governing publicly traded companies in Canada was clear during his sponsorship of Bill C-25 during the Forty-second Parliament. A main objective of the bill was to increase diversity and the participation of women on corporate boards and within senior management. It also improved corporate transparency, reduced the regulatory burden and increased shareholder democracy.

During committee study, Senator Wetston proposed three important amendments that were ultimately accepted by the government. One change allowed corporations to share information with their shareholders electronically in a broader range of circumstances. Two more amendments created a grace period of 90 days for current directors who were not re-elected under new majority voting rules to continue their duties. This commitment to transparency and fairness is a perfect reflection of the values that Senator Wetston brought with him to this chamber.

Senator Wetston also sponsored Bill C-85, legislation to enable to ratification of a new Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. The modernized and more robust trade agreement helped enhance the commercial relationship between the two countries.

More recently, as Senator Saint-Germain alluded to, Senator Wetston initiated a consultation process examining the appropriateness of the current Competition Act in the digital age. This initiative represents a really important and timely contribution to the public policy process in Canada and will stand as an important legacy that he has bequeathed us.

On a more personal note, I had the privilege of being sworn into the Senate just a few days after Senator Wetston, and we became friends immediately. He is a kind, sensitive and caring person. As we say in Boston, wicked smart, but not arrogant; gentle in demeanour, but principled and tough-minded; a no‑nonsense person with a great sense of humour. Simply put, a wonderful colleague and a true mensch. Howard, I will miss you terribly. On behalf of all of us in this chamber, we wish you all the best as you embark on this next chapter in your life.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, I also rise today to pay tribute to our colleague and friend Senator Wetston.

Senator Howard Wetston was appointed to this chamber five and a half years ago. He has served on several committees, but the two committees where I am most familiar with the work he has done are the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

Today, I wish to recognize the work you have done, Senator Wetston, especially on the Banking Committee report entitled: Cyber assault: It should keep you up at night. This report dealt with important issues for Canadians and showcased the positive work that can be done at the committee level in the Senate of Canada.

Another of your great contributions was your involvement in the committee with the Senate’s record-high number of amendments brought forward on Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Your expertise and knowledge in regulatory law were beneficial to everyone in this chamber, especially to former Senator Mitchell, who was the sponsor of the bill.

Your competence and past experiences in competition law and policy, securities and energy regulations, and administrative law enriched this chamber with a very specific expertise.

Although we haven’t served together much on committees, I wish to recognize and underline that I have a lot of respect for you and the work you have accomplished in this chamber. And I believe it is important to acknowledge your service to our country.

Howard, I know that we both share a passion for golf. With your imminent retirement, I wish you the very best in your future endeavours. I hope you get that handicap down a bit, and I hope you will be able to enjoy a lot more time on the greens in the weeks and months ahead.

And I am always open and looking forward to an invitation to playing a round of golf with you, Howard. Happy retirement.

Hon. Scott Tannas [ + ]

Honourable senators, on behalf of the Canadian Senators Group, I rise today to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, the Honourable Senator Howard Wetston.

He has proudly spent much of his career in public service as a judge, a regulatory official and chair of administrative tribunals. He has relentlessly pursued opportunities to make a difference. He has been duly recognized for his contributions to public law and other key sectors of the economy that have touched the lives of countless Canadians.

But the outpouring of affection we are hearing for our departing colleague has as much to do with his personal qualities of kindness, compassion and intellectual curiosity as it does with his distinguished career. Senator Wetston is one of those rare people who have deep networks in a multitude of segments of Canadian life: government, academia, business, law and multiple communities.

Some people build superficial networks for their own purposes and collect contacts like baseball cards. Howard has earned his through a lifetime of diligent and thoughtful work anchored in trust, civility and respect. In fact, I cannot think of anyone who has the universal respect and affection of people from so many walks of life as our friend and colleague, Senator Wetston.

I have had many different meetings where I have come away surprised, a meeting in Canada with academics, or with business people or with ordinary people, and at the end of the meeting, somebody says, “Say hi to Senator Wetston for me,” or more often, “Say hi to Howard for me.” There is no greater sign of respect, no greater mark of real achievement that I can think of than the numbers of people who admire, respect and have the greatest affection for you, Howard, and that includes me and all the colleagues here in the Senate.

We are all proud to have served with you in the Senate of Canada, and you have indeed made a difference here as you have in so many other places over the course of your life and career. I wish you a very happy birthday tomorrow. Thank you, Howard.

Hon. Marty Klyne [ + ]

Honourable senators, like many of you, I rise to pay tribute to our esteemed friend and colleague Senator Howard Wetston. He was appointed to the Senate in 2016 after a long and distinguished career as a public servant, lawyer and federal judge.

He served as the Commissioner of Competition, the head of the Ontario Energy Board and the head of the Ontario Securities Commission. Among his many accomplishments in that last role, he created a partnership with the RCMP financial crime program, spearheaded a paid whistle-blower program and implemented policies aimed to include more women on corporate boards and in senior management.

As a senator, he applied his broad experience and expertise to continue making a difference. During his six years in the Red Chamber, he worked tirelessly to enrich debate and improve legislation. For example, his knowledge informed many of this chamber’s changes to Bill C-69 regarding environmental assessments for resource development, with the House of Commons accepting a record 99 Senate amendments.

Senator Wetston also successfully sponsored two government bills through to Royal Assent. One was Bill C-25 to modernize federal corporate laws, including to increase diversity and gender equality on corporate boards and in senior management, with the House of Commons accepting all Senate amendments. The other bill was Bill C-85 on the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

During his time in the chamber, Senator Wetston also did important policy work to develop Canada’s competition law, encourage entrepreneurs and drive innovation. He released his detailed and consultative commentary in April, and that will be a resource for our country going forward.

I was fortunate to serve on the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce with Senator Wetston, including while he was chair. We also sit on the Agriculture and Forestry Committee together. I always appreciated hearing his well-reasoned perspective on the issue at hand.

Senator Wetston in a relatively short time has left a great mark on this institution and our legislative and policy record. It has been a pleasure working with him. Senator Wetston, I wish you the best in your well-deserved retirement. Here is to the many divots on the golf course. Thank you.

Honourable senators, clearly our life experience and that of our families inform our values, passions and priorities. This is profoundly true for Senator Howard Wetston.

He describes his parents and his grandmother as “strong, hardworking and resilient people.” Those humble words don’t capture the fact that they had to flee on foot from Poland to Uzbekistan to survive the Second World War.

After the war, they were transferred by train to a displaced persons camp in Germany. Howard’s mother delivered his late brother Sam as they travelled on that train to the DP camp, where Howard was born in 1947. Resilient people, indeed.

Senator Wetston recounted that, after the war, “Jewish settlers . . . weren’t that welcome.” His parents settled in Cape Breton, thanks only to a distant uncle’s sponsorship. Specifically, they settled in Whitney Pier, a community dominated by a steel mill that contaminated the surrounding air, soil and water, making it one of Canada’s most polluted communities. Senator Wetston recalls it as “a very diverse community, but we accommodated our differences.”

There is so much about Senator Wetston that we do not know.

What we do know is that when he speaks, he is a fountain of insight and sharp critiques against the status quo. There is a reason for that. It comes from a life and a career of fighting for those who could not fight for themselves.

At the Consumers’ Association of Canada, you may not know that he played a leading role in initiating the efforts to remove UFFI, or Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation, from the market.

In the 1980s, he started what would be a pinnacle of careers, each one, when he was head of what is now the Competition Bureau. Another pinnacle, he was a Federal Court judge and then chair of the Ontario Securities Commission and helped our country recover from the economic turmoil resulting from the financial crisis.

Regardless of the role, Senator Wetston championed the rights of those whose voices were often ignored; he championed diversity in the workplace and the representation of women in senior leadership roles.

I’m personally very grateful that Senator Wetston encouraged the Senate to study open banking, subject of one of our most read reports, and that he has reminded the government of the crucial role that competition law and policy play in shaping an economy that fairly delivers both prosperity and affordability to Canadians.

Howard, I am far from alone in saying thank you for being a dear friend and mentor. Be warned, though, I am among many others who will continue to reach out for your guidance.

As you pack your suitcase and move on from the Senate, we can’t wait to see what new challenge you will embrace, bringing even more honour to the strength and courage demonstrated by your grandmother, parents and brother.

Howard, on behalf of all of us, thank you so much.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond [ + ]

I am pleased to join my colleagues in this tribute to the Honourable Howard Wetston, who is leaving us tomorrow after five and a half years in the Senate.

I recall his warm welcome four years ago when he invited me to dine with Senators Marwah and Eggleton at a nearby restaurant. That evening, full of humour and advice, accompanied by good wine, was the best way to start my Senate career.

Of course, I already knew Senator Wetston, not only by reputation, but also from having met him briefly when we were young judges.

Before arriving in this place, Senator Wetston had a successful and varied career as a Federal Court judge, chair and CEO of the Ontario Energy Board, chair and CEO of the Ontario Securities Commission.

A man of great intellect and common sense, Howard is always ready to face new challenges as a trusted decision maker. Throughout his career he has also demonstrated a passion for competition law, a passion not shared by many. Though not always well understood by non-specialists, this is an important area of federal jurisdiction for Canada’s economic well-being.

This spring he published an insightful commentary on the Competition Act in the digital era, with the benefit of public and expert consultations conducted by him on his own.

Moreover, in the Senate, he has been a strong advocate for gender and ethnic diversity on corporate boards. I would like to add that I am very grateful to have worked with him on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. Senator Wetston has always shown himself to be wise, sensible and progressive in his interventions.

Now that I have listed his talents, I will close by underscoring one of his great qualities: his humanity. Family, friends and colleagues are what is most important to him, and he is always ready to listen, advise and help.

Senator Wetston, I wish you good health and happiness in this next phase of your life, surrounded by your loved ones. Best of luck in your future endeavours, as I am sure there will be many. Take care.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo [ + ]

Honourable senators, what does one do for an encore after a life of accomplishment which includes having served in top jobs on consumer protection, transportation, competition policy, energy, the courts and securities regulation?

Well, Howard Wetston, at the age of 70, applied to become a senator. Setting aside every other contribution he has made in the upper house, the fact that he considered a Senate appointment a worthy next chapter for an already illustrious career raises the bar for aspiring applicants and puts us in very fine company indeed. Here I’m referring not simply to the positions he has held in the highest echelons of the Canadian establishment but also to the leitmotif of his career, which is public service.

Senator Wetston came to the Senate to continue his lifelong commitment to serving the public. It is our loss that we only had him for just under six years, three of which were attenuated by COVID. But what an outsized contribution he made in that short period of time.

If your measure of senatorial impact is column inches in Hansard; number of sponsored bills, amendments, motions and inquiries; social media hits; or a paparazzi following, Senator Wetston would probably get a B-minus.

But if you were interested in the quality and timing of interventions, willingness to take on difficult and unglamorous assignments and, above all, the trust and respect of colleagues, he surely would graduate summa cum laude.

Have you noticed how, when Senator Wetston speaks, the room gets appreciably quiet, heads turn in his direction and ears perk up? How a seemingly innocent question or comment that he might pose in the middle of a dead-end meeting suddenly changes the trajectory of the discussion and provides fresh avenues for enlightenment? Such was the case on Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, on which he served as the legislative lead for the Independent Senators Group, ISG, and on which I worked very closely with him.

Bill C-69 was divisive, to put it mildly, but Senator Wetston was one of the few people to whom all sides of the debate went for advice, from pipeline and mining advocates to eco-justice champions and First Nations representatives. He was less about providing answers than about clarifying: clarifying the principles underlying a policy objective; clarifying the institutional framework that all policies must function within; clarifying the aspirations for a better Canada that are necessary if changes in policy are to have any point; and clarifying the trade-offs that come with every difficult decision.

Five years and seven months of Senator Wetston is not enough. He has accomplished so much in that time, and yet I know he wishes that he could have done more. His unfinished work in the Senate is for us to take up. This leaves us with a burning question: After climbing yet another peak in his career, what does Senator Wetston do for an encore?

Howard, we look forward to your next chapter and wish you and Debbie all the very best.

Hon. Tony Dean [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise on behalf of Senator Sabi Marwah and myself to say a few words about our friend and colleague Howard Wetston.

Howard is a highly trusted policy-maker, a nationally renowned regulator, a Federal Court judge in his past, a senator, a collector and player of electric guitars, a tennis player, a snazzy dresser, a recipient of the Order of Canada and — I have just had to write in — golfer.

When we arrived in this place six years ago, Sabi and I were in awe of being appointed alongside Howard. That was because if you got anywhere near the complex world of energy policy, energy regulation or securities regulation, and the major debates about a national securities regulator in Canada, you know about the legendary role and massive contributions of Howard Wetston, including his tenure as a jurist.

I certainly knew about Howard; I had heard about him often, but our paths seldom crossed. Therefore, it has been such a privilege to work alongside you, Howard, and to see your vast experience, scholarship, judgment and, let’s face it, dry sense of humour, which we’ve all seen in full flow.

Howard held senior influential and highly impactful roles as the chair of the Ontario Energy Board and the Ontario Securities Commission. Many things stand out. First, as chair of the Ontario Energy Board, we saw Howard’s balanced emphasis on the thoughtful regulation of electricity and natural gas, directly rooted in legal principles and economic rationale. He enjoyed a distinguished and closely watched tenure as chair of the Ontario Securities Commission, and he was a strong advocate of the concept of a national securities regulator and worked hard to make it a reality, which he has noted as a missed opportunity to create “a best-in-class, state-of-the-art, modern 21st century regulator.”

Howard, as we know, sound policy proposals and good ideas never go away completely, so don’t give up.

Howard has also worked hard to improve diversity on corporate boards and has been publicly recognized for this. He has continued that work here in collaboration with Senator Omidvar and other colleagues.

In his inaugural speech, Howard talked humbly about his past achievements, saying that he had worked in two of the three major fields occupied by our work here in the Senate, the first two being public policy and the law — both of which Howard is well informed about — and the third one is politics. Howard, I hope you have enjoyed the third leg of the stool, my friend.

Howard has made huge contributions here as chair of the Senate’s Banking Committee and as a member of several other committees. He brought with him his vast experience at senior levels of institutions and boards. His legacy, as many colleagues have noted, will be his major study on competition law, which we can now build on.

Howard has always been highly respected as the quintessential public servant: lots of integrity, he cared tremendously about the public interest and he was always perceived as being wise. Howard has quietly shared that wisdom with many of us here, particularly colleagues who have had to tackle complex issues associated with policy and legislation.

Howard, we have been privileged to work with you, learn from you and benefit from your wisdom. You will now have more time to grow and play your collection of electric guitars, and to sharpen your competitive edge in your tennis games even more.

We will miss you here, Howard, but you haven’t seen the last of us. We are going to stay in touch. All the very best, and thank you for your friendship.

Hon. Brent Cotter [ + ]

Honourable senators, I would like to first share a few personal words about Senator Wetston and then talk about his remarkable career.

I’ve known Senator Wetston, or Howard Wetston as he then was, for over 50 years. Howard and I started law school in 1971 at Dalhousie in Halifax. Howard was the star of that star-studded law school class graduating class of 1974. Howard and I have remained friends over the years, occasionally overlapping in work or sports. As some of you well know, Howard was and still is a formidable athlete, as we’ve heard, when his health permits.

We have grown closer in the Senate. Here, he has been my mentor, friend and guide. On my first date day — in fact, in my first hour in the Senate — Howard came over to my seat, up there in the nosebleed section, where Senator Quinn is presently, and offered his advice and support. We had dinner together that first week and had regular coffees, all with gentle guidance to help me navigate the mysteries of the upper house. He made calls of encouragement pretty well every week.

All of us have benefited from Howard’s wisdom — yes, wisdom — and his generosity of spirit, but I think none more than me. Thank you, Howard.

Second, he’s had a career of excellence and distinction at every stage, as you’ve heard, as a Crown prosecutor in Nova Scotia, Director of the Competition Bureau Canada, judge of the Federal Court of Canada, chair of the Ontario Energy Board, member and chair of the Ontario Securities Commission, not to mention his amazing contributions as a senator.

The law school from which he graduated is known for its “Weldon Tradition,” a commitment to public service. It is named after its founding dean, Richard Weldon, himself a member of Parliament over a century ago. As I listed off Howard’s contributions, you might well think, as I have, that this tradition of commitment to public service could have aptly been named the “Wetston Tradition.” All of this emerged from extremely humble beginnings about which Senator Wetston only occasionally speaks.

His contributions to this country have often been at the cost to him of opportunities foregone, sacrifices so that Canadians could benefit. In some ways, he is a superman, which brings to mind, for me, the closing lines from the Crash Test Dummies song, “Superman’s Song,” sung by Brad Roberts. Some of you will know it. It goes like this — and I won’t try to sing it:

Kept on changing clothes

In dirty old phonebooths ’til his work was through

And nothing to do but go on home

Superman never made any money

For saving the world from Solomon Grundy

And sometimes I despair

The world will never see another man like him

A man like Howard Wetston.

Thank you, Howard, for your kindness to me, and for your lifetime of work on behalf of Canadians.

Hon. Lucie Moncion [ + ]

Howard, how can I possibly pay tribute to you in such a short time and tell you how much I value your brilliance? I am privileged to count you among the people who have enriched my life in so many ways.

You are a skilled, subtle and cunning speaker with great emotional intelligence. Very respectful of your colleagues, you accept and consider the ideas and suggestions of others.

I know you as a humble man with an avid curiosity to constantly acquire additional knowledge and understanding. You are an active listener, balanced, calm despite everything, open-minded and analytical. You enjoy silence and peace, but you also enjoy the company of others, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge.

Howard, you have an impressive track record. Before you were appointed to the Senate, you served as a counsel at Goodmans LLP. You are a prominent Canadian leader and a respected public servant, a distinguished lawyer, jurist, regulator and executive. You are an expert in competition law and policy, securities regulation, energy regulation and administrative law. You were a judge of the Federal Court of Canada for six years. At some point during your career, you were Director of Investigation and Research with the federal Competition Bureau, chair and CEO of the Ontario Securities Commission and chair and CEO of the Ontario Energy Board.

Howard, you were at the heart of many significant changes and played an important role in Ontario.

You were called “Suitcase Wetston,” and you provided the explanation for the nickname, saying to me:

I worked in the public service for most of my career. I looked at whatever job I was in as an opportunity to make a difference — I packed my suitcase and went wherever an opportunity arose. When I didn’t feel what I was doing was making a meaningful difference anymore, then I moved on. To me, the nickname was a metaphor for taking a risk — I was willing to take risks with my career. My career in public service was a lifelong experience of learning.

I know you are an active reader, an avid tennis player and that you count among your close circle an impressive number of friends. You are a busy person, but despite your active lifestyle, I have an assignment for you, Howard. You have a story to tell. Please write your biography. From the time of your family’s immigration to Canada to the brilliant career you forged for yourself and the amount of knowledge and experience you have acquired over the years — all of that needs to be shared.

I am an avid reader of biographies and would immensely benefit from reading about you, your life, your involvements, your knowledge, your expertise and your lessons learned.

You are an excellent writer, a good storyteller and a brilliant man. Howard, please let us know; let the world know. Keep well, my friend. You will be missed.

Hon. Donna Dasko [ + ]

Honourable senators, I still remember the announcement in The Globe and Mail in 2016 saying that Prime Minister Trudeau had appointed Howard Wetston to represent Ontario in the Senate. How lucky for the Senate, for Ontario and for Canada.

Howard Wetston has been a marvellous colleague and the model of an excellent senator. He brought to this chamber a depth of expertise in an area that is extremely relevant and vital for government, and I always appreciated his wisdom, judgment and willingness to share his knowledge.

Senator Wetston came to this chamber as a leader in administrative law and regulation with expertise in securities, energy and other regulated industries. He led the Ontario Securities Commission, the Ontario Energy Board and the Competition Bureau. He is a former federal judge and much more. Our colleague was truly a regulator for the 21st century, and I can say that, because I had first-hand experience.

Howard Wetston was my client in our previous lives. As chair of the Ontario Energy Board two decades ago, he brought in processes that were actually considered revolutionary for a regulator. He consulted widely with stakeholders, not only the big electricity and natural gas distributors, but consumers, academics, industry groups and the media. He set goals for his organization, he made them public and he measured his progress and made that public too. That is how I got to know him, as my firm was retained to conduct surveys with stakeholders and consumers.

I also learned at that time that Howard loved discussing and debating just about everything, which was a fine quality that has made him such a wonderful senator and colleague — none of this top-down style of leadership from him.

There’s much, much more. Here is just one: While chair of the Ontario Securities Commission, he took on the challenge of implementing a comply-or-explain policy with respect to women on corporate boards to promote gender equality in the private sector. He expanded this approach when, as senator, he sponsored Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, which required corporations to report whether they had implemented policies regarding diversity, what these policies involved, and, if not, why they had not implemented such policies.

As he said in his sponsor speech:

Talent is not gender-specific. Talented people must be given the opportunity to succeed regardless of gender or ethnicity.

Empowering our diverse and skilled talent to lead Canadian corporations will only benefit our investors, competition and the Canadian economy at large.

Howard, thank you for your service, for your help and advice, for your generosity of spirit, for your collegiality and good humour, and I offer my very, very best wishes to you in the years and months ahead. Like many of my colleagues, I hope to call on you for advice going forward.

Thank you, very, very much, Howard.

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