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SENATORS’ STATEMENTS — The Late Honourable Leonard J. Gustafson, P.C.

April 6, 2022

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, today I wish to pay tribute to the Honourable Leonard Gustafson.

Senator Gustafson’s outstanding career in public life is one that Canadians and, more specifically, Saskatchewanians recognize with gratitude. The Honourable Leonard Gustafson served four mandates as a member of Parliament for Assiniboia, a riding that became Souris—Moose Mountain, Saskatchewan, from 1984 to 1991. During this time, he was entrusted with the role of parliamentary secretary to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, who later appointed our former colleague to the Senate in 1993 until his retirement on November 10, 2008.

While in this chamber, Senator Gustafson was a member of several Senate committees. In particular, he served with distinction on the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. Although our tenure in the Senate did not coincide, his passion and determination to champion and advocate for Canadian farmers generates my respect, admiration and appreciation.

He never missed an occasion to represent the working class. As a businessman and farmer himself, he knew exactly the value and worth of hard-working people and understood the challenges they face better than almost anyone else. With nearly 30 years of service to our great country, he contributed to making Canada better without a doubt, and yet he remained humble and down‑to‑earth.

Colleagues, I doubt that anyone in this chamber could say:

My grandfather came to Canada in 1909 and began farming; my father farmed; I farmed; and I have ridden tractor with my grandson.

Senator Gustafson said those words in his maiden speech, which was in the middle of a labour dispute that caused serious repercussions and had grain products backed up due to the West Coast port operations strikes of 1994.

He was a man well ahead of his time. He understood the importance of food security — an issue that is still very current today. He would often say that Canada needs to move its agricultural products into the international marketplace. He was proud of his rural roots and understood Canada’s great capacity to produce and feed not only ourselves but the world. He spoke with authority, hands-on knowledge and integrity on behalf of farmers.

He could not only identify the challenges they faced — indeed, the challenges our country faced — but also work with tenacity in finding solutions for the betterment of us all. He was a man with strong Christian values who showed kindness with a gentle smile and discreetly gave time and money to many charities near and dear to him, such as Feed the Hungry.

His dedication to Canada was remarkable. As a matter of fact, he was recognized for it by the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, who appointed him to the Privy Council in 2009.

On behalf of the official opposition in the Senate, I wish to express my deepest sympathies to his wife, Alice, and to all of his family members. Thank you for sharing your husband, your father and grandfather with all of Canada.

May God bless you. Thank you.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer [ + ]

Honourable senators, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about our dearly departed colleague and friend Senator Gustafson, who was a farmer, a businessman and a Tory — and a proud one at that.

First elected to the other place in 1979, he went on to be re‑elected three times, until his appointment to the Senate in 1993. His service to this country was also recognized by his appointment to the Privy Council in 2009, an honour bestowed upon the few and the worthy.

When you are appointed to the Senate, there is a steep learning curve, as many of you know. Back then, there were two caucuses, and Len and I were on opposite sides of the chamber.

It was in committee, though, where those divisions were less pronounced. Len and I still played for different teams, but I saw him as a coach, with me as the rookie, especially on the Agriculture Committee. I knew nothing about agriculture. For a city boy from North End Halifax to serve on the Agriculture Committee, it was an even steeper learning curve than for most. I do not think that Senator Gustafson knew then just how much I was paying attention to him, the only farmer on the committee at the time.

I and many others learned a lot from Len, and we are all the better for it. He was a great teacher and a steadfast mentor. His passion for farming, his home province of Saskatchewan and the country were on display every day.

Honourable senators, my condolences go to his spouse of 70 years, Alice, their children, grandchildren, great‑grandchildren and all his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Hon. Denise Batters [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to mark the passing of Senator Len Gustafson, a true prairie son of southeastern Saskatchewan. He was a seasoned politician who won four elections as the member of Parliament for the Assiniboia, and later Souris—Moose Mountain riding before being named to the Senate. He never became “Ottawashed.” Senator Len Gustafson was a down-to-earth and unpretentious man, a dedicated farmer who believed in kindness, loyalty and service to others.

Len Gustafson hailed from a farm in Macoun, Saskatchewan, and by the time he finished his lengthy parliamentary career, he had helped put Macoun on the map. He served as an MP from 1979 to 1993, defeating Liberal Ralph Goodale not just once in his first MP election, but twice — a man after my own heart. As a member of Parliament, he quickly proved his skill, and in 1984 he was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, a designation he held throughout the remainder of his time as a sitting MP.

In 1993, former prime minister Brian Mulroney named him to the Senate, where he served capably until his retirement in 2008. He was appointed to the Privy Council by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2009 in recognition of his long record of service to Canada.

A passionate advocate for rural issues, Senator Gustafson was known especially for his work as the chair and deputy chair of the Agriculture Committee. He was always armed with the latest daily statistics on agricultural commodity prices. Often, Len would relate the topic of the committee back to his life on the farm in Macoun. It eventually became a running gag, with other members on the committee stopping to ask, “How are things in Macoun today, Len?”

Len Gustafson was devoted to his family, his community, his faith and his principles. He was the kind of parliamentarian that inspired others to want to become involved in politics. My late husband, former member of Parliament Dave Batters, was one of the young people inspired by his MP, Len Gustafson. Growing up in nearby Estevan, Dave worked on Len’s federal campaigns when Dave was a kid in high school. When Dave and I attended political conventions together as young adults, Len Gustafson always made a point to take time out of his schedule to stop and visit with us and the other Progressive Conservative youth delegates. I remember being very impressed that Dave knew him.

Senator Len Gustafson was generous with his time, his charity to others and his commitment to the people of Saskatchewan. He never forgot where he came from, and he would not let Ottawa forget it either. His strong roots in rural Saskatchewan grounded him and motivated him to always stand up for the rights of farmers and rural Canadians.

Senator Len Gustafson had a long and distinguished parliamentary career, logging over 10,000 days in service of the public. His accomplishments are many but, above it all, he was a farmer, a man of the land with a kind heart and generous spirit, and this chamber and Canada are better for his service.

Our prayers and condolences today are with Len’s wife, Alice, his children, his 12 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren — his greatest legacy of all. Thank you for sharing Len Gustafson with Canada.

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