senators’ statements — Tributes

The Honourable Joseph A. Day

December 12, 2019

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate)

Honourable senators, today we bid farewell to one of our longest-serving colleagues, Senator Day. In Senator Day, we have a Renaissance man: engineer, lawyer, military man, marathoner and senator.

Of course, the sum of every person is much more than what they have accomplished in their professional lives; what we remember of a person is who they are much more than what they do. In the case of Senator Day, we have a man who combines great accomplishments with great humility and kindness. All of us have had our day brightened by his ready smile, such as just now, and all of us in this chamber know that in a political environment, such qualities are invaluable.

Senator Day’s life has been one of consistent public service. In addition to his contributions in committee — Banking, Trade and Commerce, as well as National Finance, as deputy chair of the former committee and then chair for the latter — Senator Day also served as a member of many interparliamentary associations, including as international vice-president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

I also want to commend him for his leadership in the independent Liberal caucus.

Also, I would like to commend him for his work to rebrand this group as the progressives and, in doing so, accurately identifying the common ideology of this group in a non-partisan way. Remember that it was as a progressive that Senator Day introduced Bill C-2 in the last Parliament, “the middle-class tax cut,” a bill that helped millions of middle-class Canadians pay less in taxes.

In this Parliament, in recognition of his leadership and years of service, I was pleased to ask Senator Day to introduce Bill S-1, an act relating to railways, a ceremonial bill to be sure, but one that asserts the Senate’s indelible and continuous role to legislate as an independent chamber.

Senator Day, thank you for everything you’ve done for New Brunswick and Canada. Thank you for being such a great colleague, for always being cordial, and for demonstrating an admirable work ethic. We will miss you.

Your beloved New Brunswick, I wish your days filled with happiness and good health among family and friends. Thank you for your ongoing service to Canada, and indeed to this chamber.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, for just over 18 years, our colleague, Senator Joseph Day, has been a strong advocate for his home province of New Brunswick here in the Senate of Canada. Serving as Leader of the Senate Liberals, and the recent progressive senate group, he has provided his fellow caucus members with principled leadership.

As a chair, deputy chair and member of more committees than I have time to mention, he has made a lasting contribution to the work of the Senate. For these reasons, and many more, when Senator Day takes his leave of this place next month he will be missed by all honourable senators.

Since his appointment to the Senate upon the recommendation of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in October of 2001, Senator Day has been a dedicated member of this place. And as a marathon runner, Senator Day knows the importance of pacing yourself, taking the long view and enjoying the journey. No matter what has been thrown his way over the last few years, he has dealt with the ups and downs of life in Parliament with versatility and good humour.

The discipline, integrity and professionalism instilled in Joseph Day over 50 years ago as a cadet at the Royal Military College of Canada has served him well as a senator. His deep understanding and appreciation of the Canadian Armed Forces can be found throughout his work here in the Senate.

In 2003 Senator Day co-sponsored Bill C-411, which established Merchant Navy Veterans Day held every September 3. He has been a mentor to the RMC cadets during their annual day on Parliament Hill, hosted the annual Air Force Day on the Hill and served as one of the international vice-presidents of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

The men and women of Canada’s military have always had a steadfast supporter in Senator Day. I know that will not diminish with his upcoming retirement.

For nine years, from 2006 to 2015, Senator Day served as Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance. He led the committee with careful attention to detail, treating all members fairly and with respect. Senator Day has previously said that, although it may be difficult to get a clear understanding of government expenditures, it is our obligation as parliamentarians. Our colleague performed a difficult task in untangling complex public spending, and, in doing so, he did a service to Canadians by holding their government to account. Colleagues, we all develop many friendships across party lines as we serve together in this chamber. Over the last 10 years, I was blessed to become good friends with Senator Day and his wife, Georgie. We got to travel on numerous trips to Asia and I always found them both a pleasure and a delight to be with.

Senator Day, we will miss your presence in this chamber. On behalf of our entire Conservative caucus, I wish you a happy and active retirement filled with the people and things you love. May you return to your family home in Hampton safe in the knowledge that you have served your fellow Canadians with distinction.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo

Honourable senators, on behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I rise today to add my voice in bidding farewell to our colleague Senator Joseph Day. Senator Day has contributed much to this place, and with a little help from some of his friends I will highlight just a few of the ways that he left his mark on Canada’s upper chamber.

Senator Day’s list of accomplishments is long. He graduated from RMC in 1968 and was named best all-around graduate and outstanding college athlete. He has completed nine marathons, and many of you will have had glimpses of him flashing by in his gym kit on the streets of Ottawa on his daily jog to the Senate.

He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a Juris Doctorate, a masters in law and he has been a member of the bars of New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Senator Wetston reminds me that, before he joined the Senate, Senator Day had a distinguished career as a lawyer specializing in intellectual property in Toronto.

Throughout his 19 years in Canada’s upper chamber, Senator Day has been a constant advocate for veterans, Indigenous people, New Brunswickers and Canadians on the international stage. His numerous contributions to furthering Canada’s international relations include his role as vice-president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and a member of both the Canada-Japan Interparliamentary Association and the Canada-China Legislative Association.

Senator Day has not only been a role model with respect to his work in the Senate, but he has also demonstrated professionalism, generosity and mentorship to senators of all groups and experience levels. If you will indulge me, I would like to pass along anecdotes from my colleagues in the ISG and beyond. There were so many of us who wanted to stand today and pay tribute.

Quite a few of the anecdotes had to do with encounters in the airport and particularly introducing some of our colleagues to A&W burgers. There were references to badminton connections, and expressed pleasure from all of my colleagues who have had the opportunity of travelling with you; they were such pleasant experiences, whether it was on short trips or trips to remote places such as the Arctic.

Senator Cormier wanted to highlight the fact that Senator Day, who comes from an English-speaking region of New Brunswick, went out of his way to master French and express himself so well in that language.

Even Senator Day’s former colleagues have reached out to me to offer their tributes. Former Senator Jack Austin specifically asked me to pass along that Senator Day exemplifies dedication to the public interest of the highest standard, and that he represented the finest level of Canadian values.

I will end with a quote that former Senator Austin asked me to pass to Senator Day:

My personal best wishes to Senator Day, and my advice: Don’t retire; rewire.

Hon. Percy E. Downe

Honourable senators, Senator Day’s very impressive achievements have been well covered by other speakers today, so I will not repeat them. But many years ago, when Prime Minister Chrétien was looking to fill a New Brunswick Senate seat, I was tasked with the responsibility of determining if the quality of Joe Day’s resumé matched the quality of the person.

I remember well meeting Joe Day in my office at the Prime Minister’s office to determine if he was Senate ready. I was struck then, that notwithstanding his outstanding education and career, he was a very humble person, only motivated to help others. I was pleased to report to the Prime Minister that Joe Day was a high-quality candidate, and his body of work in the Senate over the years has proven that assessment was indeed correct.

In addition to his education and career, Senator Day had another very appealing quality: a passionate love of politics, and particularly the Liberal Party. However, Senator Day has the political misfortune of living in a part of New Brunswick where Liberals are often on the endangered species list.

Notwithstanding the difficult political odds of running in elections when the tide was going out for the Liberal Party, he tried his best to get elected. In the end, Senator Day answered a higher calling and was able to serve the citizens of New Brunswick in the Senate of Canada.

I know how much they appreciated his work on their behalf.

One of the many things that has always impressed me about Senator Day was his ability to arrive in Ottawa, often landing late at night from somewhere — usually China — and then give a detailed speech the next day on Supplementary Estimates (A), followed by another long, detailed speech on Supplementary Estimates (B), and the supplementaries seemed to go on and on. Not only did Senator Day have a speech, but he took all questions from senators on the financial items enclosed in those documents. This is an amazing example of his dedication to the work of the Senate.

Colleagues, in closing, I would like to relay some personal information you may not know about Senator Day: He is, among other things, an expert on beer. He combines that knowledge of beer with a running routine, so he enjoys the occasional beer but avoids the corresponding weight gain.

Also, Senator Day, as we all know, is a very positive person, but he does have one quirk. He is always concerned that former senators don’t live long after they retire from the Senate. But as we heard from Senator Woo, Senator Austin, who I believe is 87, is still very active. I checked others and they all seem very active. For example, Peter Stollery, your former colleague, is 84, and the last I heard, he was headed to a fishing trip in the Indian Ocean.

Senator Day, we look forward to hearing for many, many, many years about your activities after you leave the Senate of Canada. Senator Day, I know you will miss the Senate, and the Senate will miss you.


Honourable senators, after more than 18 years in the Senate, our friend and colleague, Senator Joe Day, will soon be leaving us. As a young man, he left his beloved Hampton, New Brunswick for Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, then went on to graduate from the Royal Military College with a degree in electrical engineering.

He went on to law school at Queen’s and completed his master’s at Osgoode Hall Law School. In the intellectual property law days, he worked at some of the most prestigious law firms in this country: Borden & Elliot, Sim & McBurney, Ogilvy Renault and Gowling & Henderson. He also worked as legal counsel to J.D. Irving, Limited. Every New Brunswicker does that, I think.

At one time, he even made a foray into electoral politics in his home province when he ran in the riding of Fundy Royal, albeit unsuccessfully.

When he came here to this place in 2001, he brought with him all the skills and experience of his previous life. His ability to pore over technical material served him and, indeed, all Canadians well as he pored over budget implementation acts, supply bills and estimates. He ably spent more than a decade as Chair and Deputy Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, proving that he does, indeed, understand how budgets work.

He was Deputy Chair of the Banking Committee, and Deputy Chair of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, a nod to his RMC background. In fact, every year, he hosts an RMC cadet visit to Parliament Hill, as well as the Royal Canadian Air Force Association’s Air Force Day on the Hill and the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada’s World IP Day on the Hill.

Since June 2016, he has been the leader of our merry band of senators, once the Senate Liberals and now the progressive Senate group. For more than three years, he helped steer our ship through this new Senate and provided our group with steadfast representation. We thank you for your service in that regard, Joe.

Joe, your loyal progressive colleagues and I will miss you and your mischievous smile terribly, though not your enthusiasm for the minutiae of the budgetary process. We wish you and Georgie all the best for the next chapter of your lives. Thank you, Joe.