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senators’ statements — Tributes

The Honourable Ghislain Maltais

April 11, 2019


Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition)
[13:34]

Honourable senators, I rise today to bid farewell to our colleague, the Honourable Ghislain Maltais, who will be leaving the Senate of Canada later this month. For close to seven years, he has proudly represented the people of Quebec in our chamber. His devotion to his home province was well known long before he was appointed to the Senate.

I know I speak for all honourable senators in expressing sincere appreciation for Senator Maltais’ work, both in committee and in this chamber.

Our colleague started out in the insurance field with Maltais Courtiers d’Assurances, the insurance brokerage he owned from 1968 to 1981. Two years later, in 1983, he was elected to Quebec’s National Assembly, where he represented the beautiful region of Saguenay for 11 years. He also served as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Forestry and to the Minister of the Environment, and the experience he gained stood him in good stead years later when he joined the Senate.

My honourable colleagues may not remember this, but in 1997, our colleague stood for the Liberal Party in the federal election. That shows his versatility. However, the Conservative Party of Canada is where Ghislain Maltais felt truly at home, and in 2009, he was appointed to the Senate of Canada on the recommendation of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Our colleague sat on many different committees over the years, but he will be best remembered for his work on the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, where he served as deputy chair and as chair. In recent years, the committee has produced important reports on market access, family farms, innovation in the agricultural sector, and bee health. Senator Maltais made a valuable contribution to these studies, and he is sincerely dedicated to exploring issues that are important to our rural and agricultural communities.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that, since 2014, Senator Maltais has had the privilege of being an honorary colonel in Shawinigan’s 62nd Field Artillery Regiment. I know he is very proud of that, and rightly so.

Senator Maltais is a passionate, outspoken man who always tells you what he is thinking and feeling. It is highly unlikely that he will be sitting back and enjoying a quiet little retirement; rather, he will be putting his passion to good use on the new challenges and projects that await him.

On behalf of all his Conservative caucus colleagues and all honourable senators, I wish Senator Maltais all the best in the future.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate)
[13:37]

Honourable senators, I am pleased but also sad to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Maltais.

Senator Maltais took his role as a senator and representative of his province of Quebec very seriously. His contributions to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, where he has been the chair and vice-chair since 2015, show how dedicated he is to this very important sector of Canada’s economy. No matter the size of their farms, Senator Maltais made farmers a priority and stood up for their interests.

Personally, I learned that, in Question Period, there were two possible answers to Senator Maltais’s questions: the right answer and the answer he wanted to hear. I like to tell myself that I was able to give him the right answer at least a few times, but I don’t think I ever managed to give him an answer that lived up to his expectations.

In addition to being a senator whose remarks in the chamber were always relevant and professional, Senator Maltais is also an extremely kind and courteous man.

When the Agriculture and Forestry Committee returned from its fact-finding mission to the People’s Republic of China, Senator Maltais told me that a young Canadian diplomat had been particularly helpful during the visit. Senator Maltais noticed that the young man’s family name was Harder, so he wondered if there was a connection. How many Harders could there be in Canada? Our colleague eventually asked the young diplomat if he was related to me. As it turns out, he’s very closely related. The diplomat in question is my son, Andrew.

Since then, Senator Maltais has regularly asked me for news about Andrew and his daughter, my granddaughter Atlin. That tells me Senator Maltais has his priorities straight, priorities inspired by love of country, family and friendship.

My dear Senator Maltais, on behalf of everyone in the office of the government representative, I wish you a happy and peaceful retirement that satisfies your greatest expectations.

Thank you very much.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals)
[13:40]

Honourable colleagues, I knew this day would come. I’m not very happy about it. I know that all members of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry are not happy about it. A loyal, committed member of that committee in this time and place, Senator Maltais added an awful lot to our debates. He has added a lot to our travels.

The new people here should know, if you travel with Senator Maltais, there are a couple of things you need to know. There had better be a Tim Hortons close by. Not only does he drink Tim Hortons, he also used to own a couple of Tim Hortons. He’s a good guy to know. He used to own the Tim Hortons in the Halifax airport. So every week, I would dutifully stop by the Tim Hortons in the Halifax airport, I would come up here, I would see Senator Maltais and give him a report on how things were going, whether there was a good crowd, whether the service was adequate. You know what? Not a single free cup of coffee.

The other thing you need to know is that he is a walking advertisement for Nova Scotia honeycrisp apples. He loves Nova Scotia honeycrisp apples. Any time he was anywhere within reaching distance of a honeycrisp apple, he had it and, as a matter of fact, he brought it up again last week.

I have had the pleasure to work with Senator Maltais as he was chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. As I was reading his bio this morning, I don’t understand where we went wrong. As I go through your résumé, I see the word “liberal” here, time and time again. He was the Liberal member for the Quebec National Assembly, representative for Saguenay from 1983 to 1994 when he did not get re-elected. While he was there, he was a member of the National Assembly’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Commission from 1982 to 1985. Then later on I see he was a Liberal candidate again. Ghislain, over here. I don’t understand where the conversion happened.

Ghislain, I see my time is almost up. I want to wish you the best because you’ve become a good friend of mine. I’ve enjoyed our time together. We worked very well together on the steering committee over the past number of years. It shows that politics doesn’t get in the way of doing good work for the Senate. It doesn’t get in the way of doing good work for Canadians.

Ghislain, all the best, my friend. Let’s keep in touch.

Hon. René Cormier
[13:44]

Honourable senators, I rise on behalf of the Independent Senators Group to pay tribute to our honourable colleague, Senator Ghislain Maltais, whose tenure in the Senate of Canada has come to an end today.

I would therefore like to take advantage of your final moments in the red chamber, honourable colleague, to thank you for your ongoing commitment to the people of your province and to all Canadians.

Throughout your lengthy career, you have been a businessman, founder of an association and chamber of commerce, president of the North Shore School Board Association, provincial MNA, parliamentary assistant and senator. Above all else, however, you are a good man, a passionate, engaged citizen who loves his region and his constituents.

Over the years, you have done a stellar job of juggling numerous responsibilities, which has earned you many distinctions, including being made Honorary Colonel of the 62nd Regiment of Shawinigan.

Despite these accolades, you have always remained close to the people and involved in your community, always being true to yourself and your loved ones. Whether the topic of debate was agriculture, the fishery, forestry or any other sector, you always focused on the concerns of workers, the women and men you are so happy to serve.

Some of our colleagues in this chamber know you much better than I do, given the years they have spent with you. Having said that, Senator Maltais, I would like to describe the person I met when I became a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, and later its chair. Colleagues, as you are all aware, Senator Maltais is a passionate person, especially when it comes to official languages and his beautiful home region, the North Shore. In the Senate, we have had many opportunities to listen to Senator Maltais defend the language rights of parliamentarians and all Canadians.

Every week at the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, my colleagues and I have observed how your spirited interventions, which can be hard to interrupt, are always inspired by a deep love of the French language and how you keep a watchful and benevolent eye on the needs of official language communities across the country.

As you know, as legislators and representatives of minorities and regions, we senators work in an environment where every word that is uttered is important. It can be intimidating for young senators to speak with ease. That obviously does not apply to you, dear colleague, and in that regard, you are a true inspiration to us all. We all appreciated your outspokenness and honesty, as well as your ability to defend your ideas and ideals without any written notes. Your comments have always been direct and frank, and we appreciate that.

We will certainly miss your great zest for life and your manner of speaking, which you yourself have called a bit bougonneux, or grumpy — and I say this affectionately.

That said, if your love for life and people is any indication, your career path will not end today when you leave the Senate. Honourable senator, on behalf of my colleagues in the Independent Senators Group and all senators in this chamber, I wish you all the best. May you enjoy good health, peace, joie de vivre and love from your fellow Canadians and may you continue to inspire us for years to come.

Happy retirement, senator.

Hon. Leo Housakos
[13:48]

Dear colleagues, I am pleased to pay tribute to my good friend Ghislain Maltais on the occasion of his retirement.

Senator Maltais grew up on the shores of the Saguenay. He attended Université du Québec à Rimouski, founded his company in Charlevoix, was a member of the Quebec National Assembly for Saguenay, and currently resides in Quebec City. It is no wonder that he knows eastern Quebec so well and has always connected with the humour of the people in those regions.

Senator Maltais was often the voice of reason in parliamentary debates and in caucus. He was also a source of historical references. As a member of the National Assembly from 1983 to 1994, he was there for Mr. Lévesque’s “beau risque“ constitutional debates surrounding the Charlottetown Accord referendum.

It took some skill for a proud federalist like him to maintain his popularity in such a nationalist riding. He was also a proud Liberal — at the provincial level, of course, and once at the federal level.

When I was actively involved in the Action démocratique du Québec, Ghislain and I had many debates. We did not see eye to eye on who could best lead Quebec, but we knew that both of us had Quebec’s best interests at heart. We fully agreed that under Stephen Harper the Conservative Party was the best party to lead Canada.

I appreciated how much respect Senator Maltais had for the parliamentary system. He always understood that exchanges in Parliament must be frank, but also respectful.

It was a pleasure to work with him when I was in the chair. His counsel was, for the most part, sound. I said “for the most part” because Ghislain could sometimes confuse the Rules of the Senate and the rules of the Quebec National Assembly.

Thank you, Ghislain, for all your years of service to Quebec and Canada. I also want to thank your family for their sacrifices. We all know that a life in politics can often be hard on loved ones. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours, my friend. Thank you.

Hon. Serge Joyal
[13:50]

Honourable senators, Senator Maltais was known for his unique perspective on our deliberations, and when he retires next week, we will feel his absence in our debates. When Senator Maltais rose to speak in the chamber, we knew that he would be sharing his experience, based on life in what is known as “the regions.” We listened to him because he shared concerns from people working hard every day to earn a living. This perspective is essential to debates on bills, because these bills often affect the lives of millions of people who do not have anyone lobbying for their interests and do not have the same economic power as major banks or corporations.

Senator Maltais was the MNA for Saguenay, which is a region, and, as our colleague just noted, he knows the North Shore well. Nobody can match his on-the-ground experience there. He has always been close to the “real workers,” the people of the land and the forest, who earn a living by the sweat of their brow. When he speaks in this chamber, it’s their voices we hear.

That’s why I’ve always listened closely to what he says. I truly believe he speaks from a place of common sense and conveys people’s real-life concerns. We all know how easy it can be to slip into abstraction when debating political problems and how quickly the debate can become disconnected from reality. But the full force of the law applies to everyone, every day. A recent example of that was his intervention in support of Canada Post workers and their families during the debate on the back-to-work bill in December 2018.

There was another contribution that Senator Maltais made, a contribution that is incredibly important to the definition of Canada. Senator Maltais ensured that the voices of francophone Quebecers were heard. As they say, his heart is in the right place. When he rises, he speaks for Quebecers, telling the Senate all about their concerns and views. His francophone instincts serve him well. He is endowed with the wisdom and unflappable strength of the old francophones families, the ones rooted in tradition that have held on to their unassailable sense of identity throughout the centuries, secure in their ability to endure and claim their place in a united Canada. He belongs to the generation that lived through Quebec’s two independence referendums, first in 1980 and again in 1995. He was part of the group that proclaimed their attachment to this country loud and clear. He personally played a role in keeping Canada together, and for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Those events have passed into history, but those who lived through them can never forget. Every day, they know that the only reason why Canada survived as a country and continues to be the envy of the world is that they had faith in our ability to resolve our differences and reaffirm what brings us together.

Debates in this chamber were always more thorough when Senator Maltais took part. Over the years, he consistently offered us an informed perspective, based on his long experience with community involvement and service to others, in a frank and objective way. As he heads into retirement, he leaves behind colleagues who are proud to have served alongside him.

Thank you, Senator Maltais.

Hon. Paul E. McIntyre
[13:54]

Honourable senators, I would like to join my colleagues in paying tribute to Senator Ghislain Maltais and recognizing his contribution to the Senate. I echo the remarks made by other senators who underscored his long-standing commitment to his province and his country. He is a father and a grandfather. He has children and grandchildren. His long list of accomplishments includes being a member of the Quebec National Assembly, a senator, and a great defender of francophones, both in this chamber and on the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.

Senator Maltais is one of the rare senators who speaks without any written notes, and his speeches are always both interesting and eloquent. Naturally, he has a gift for telling it like it is and sharing what is on his mind. His departure will be a great loss for the Senate. A few months ago, I started trying to prepare my colleagues for what it would be like when he left by quoting the Bible passage that says “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

What I like and appreciate about Senator Maltais is his fighting spirit, his wisdom, his independence, his intelligence and, above all, his fervent desire to ensure that the Senate plays its role as a chamber of sober second thought. That will be his legacy.

I am honoured to have had the privilege of working with him and serving with him on the Official Languages Committee. Senator Maltais, thank you so much for your great work. You are certainly leaving big shoes to fill in the Senate. I wish you a happy retirement and all the best in your future life with your wife, children and grandchildren by your side.

Hon. Pierrette Ringuette
[13:57]

Dear Senator Maltais, some might say that we are friends because we form a small caucus of two smokers. But that is not the only thing that fuels our friendship. We shared experiences as members of provincial legislative assemblies at a time when our country was in the midst of tense constitutional discussions. Some may recall that there was a time in my life when my name was Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais. Now my name is Pierrette Ringuette. You will note the difference. Senator Maltais always took great pleasure in teasing me, saying that Pierrette could never stray far from the Maltais.

For more than six years, Senator Maltais and I have been taking part in The Many Facets of Parliament Hill. We like to rib each other during that activity, much to the delight of parliamentary employees who see supposed adversaries laughing together. Our friendship helped put employees at ease around senators and showed that senators are not as boring as they are often portrayed in the media. We often reminisced about our youth and our involvement in church choirs. Let’s just say that the vespers and Agnus Dei sung by Senator Maltais were quite different from the ones my generation sang. To make up for it, he did not shy away from openly and publicly singing Le rossignol, or The Nightingale, by Luis Mariano. Senator Maltais certainly has the voice of a nightingale.

We also share a friendship with Cuban parliamentarians and the people of Cuba. A few years ago, we met with several organizations in Havana at our own expense. I can’t sit down without sharing a little story about the time Senator Maltais and I were on a parliamentary visit to Barbados. Once we arrived at the hotel in the early evening, our little caucus of two smokers went and sat on the chairs on the beach to smoke our cigarettes and talk about the day’s meetings. I turned around and saw three men with hats, one of whom made a smoking motion with his hand. I said to Ghislain, “that poor man wants a cigarette.” I waved him over and offered him a cigarette. As he approached, the young man took a different kind of cigarette out of his pocket. Of course, Senator Maltais began laughing at my naïveté until he nearly choked.

Please be assured, Senator Maltais, that your wisdom as a parliamentarian will be sorely missed in the deliberations of this chamber, but I will never forget our conversations and the jokes we shared as friends.

As you spread your wings, dear nightingale, and fly towards your retirement, I hope it’s filled with love and laughter. I hope your fishing trips with your children and grandchildren leave you with many fond memories. Please also know that you are welcome in my home at any time to share that beautiful singing voice. Enjoy your retirement, my dear friend.

Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu
[14:01]

Honourable senators, I also rise to say farewell to Senator Ghislain Maltais, a colleague and friend, and to thank him for the many years he spent in politics serving his province, his country and the Senate of Canada.

I would like to highlight the many lives of Senator Maltais. As you know, he will be retiring from the Senate in a few days. I do not believe the word “retire” is in his vocabulary. A lover of politics, the senator is a walking encyclopedia on Quebec and Canadian politics. He may not admit it, but he has most definitely been the most active Quebec and Canadian politician of his generation. First, he was the MNA for Saguenay — a Liberal one — in Quebec’s National Assembly from 1983 to 1994. Later he was appointed to the Senate, where he finally saw the light.

Throughout his political career, he rubbed shoulders with the giants of Quebec and Canadian politics such as Jean Charest, Lucien Bouchard, Robert Bourassa, René Lévesque and Brian Mulroney, to name a few. If you ask him, he can tell you stories about all the politicians he worked with. However, he will only share secrets and confidences with his closest friends.

Even as a successful strategist and organizer from 1994 to 2007, his feet were firmly planted in politics. He was appointed to the Senate in 2012. Throughout his tenure, I always knew him to be a staunch defender of Quebec’s interests. Having travelled all across Quebec, from east to west and north to south, he knew the province like the back of his hand. He knew Quebec like he knew his best friend, and he was just as loyal. He is an intellectual but down-to-earth man who gets close to people so he can listen to them — and especially to political decision-makers. Senator Maltais has left his mark in the Senate as a Canadian politician who is proud of Quebec, proud of his roots and proud of Canada. He shared this pride with dignitaries all over the world whom he met on his many trips as a member of the Senate’s parliamentary delegations.

Ghislain, I join all those who worked with you in the Senate, both senators and employees, in thanking you for all the years you have spent in service to your country.

In closing, I would like to express just one wish: please stop smoking so that your retirement lasts as long as possible and you can continue to offer the best of yourself to this world. Thank you, dear Senator Maltais.