Who inspired you to get involved in public life?
I was inspired by local issues as a young adult to enter public life and became a candidate in the election of 1974 for a seat in the Yukon Legislature. I was successful in that election, winning the largest number of votes of all those contesting.
In 1978, party politics was introduced to Yukon and I served four additional terms as a member of the Yukon Territorial Conservative Party. During my 18 plus years in public office I had the honour of serving in many capacities, including as a Minister for 11 years, and as well as in the Opposition for the remainder of my territorial political career.
What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
a) The promotion and development of our natural resources to create jobs for young Canadians, as well as wealth for Canada;
b) The public security of Canadians and the real internal and external threats to the security of Canada from various actors (state and non-state), and;
c) the challenge of integrating over 500,000 immigrants who are welcomed to Canada every year.
Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?
The historical justification for the creation of the Senate by the fathers of confederation was to assure all provinces that their regional interests would be represented in Parliament. Today, as the founding fathers envisioned, the Senate serves as an important check on the executive through the 105 regionally appointed Senators who are eligible to serve until age 75.
Recent examples illustrate the Senate’s independence from the Executive when Senators acted to protect fundamental rights to meaningful collective bargaining in Bill C-7 on behalf of the rank and file RCMP members as well as the Senate’s debate on Bill C-14, assisted dying legislation, which resulted in amendments to the proposed bill.
What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?
Within the first year of my appointment, I had the privilege to sponsor in the Senate the legislation to repeal the Long Gun Registry which discriminated against lawful gun owners, especially those in Northern and rural Canada. I have also worked on Bill S-6, the Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board Act (2015), which modernized Yukon’s environmental assessment framework.
From a regional perspective, I was pleased to work with the government to support increasing transfer payments to the Yukon government; on capital projects which supported the expansion of Yukon College, First Nations cultural facilities and territorial water treatment facilities; and in maintaining the RCMP Auxiliary Constable Program. Another important item that I have championed is the funding for the multi-purpose cadet facility in Yukon which is projected to be completed in 2018.
Previously, as a member of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, I contributed to our all-encompassing Report on Canada’s energy sector, entitled Now or Never.
Since 2013, I have served as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. I am very proud of our Senate reports that include: Future Role of Canada’s Primary Reserves; Sexual Harassment in the RCMP; Ballistic Missile Defence; Canada Border Services Agency and our Interim Report on Threats to the Security of Canada, including terrorism. Additionally, the committee’s review of legislation has been very constructive and positive, especially in relation to the RCMP’s right to meaningful collective bargaining.
As a Parliamentarian I helped to establish the Canada-Peru Parliamentary Friendship Group as well as serve as a member of the Canada-US; Canada Japan; Canada India and Canada NATO Parliamentary Associations. I am also a member of a number of other associations.
What is a hidden gem in your region that more Canadians need to know about?
Yukon is a very special place! Geographically we have unlimited wilderness with a natural beauty that we enjoy every day and yet have all the modern conveniences of downtown Vancouver! We lead the country in negotiated final land claim agreements with our First Nation communities and we have a cosmopolitan population that is one of the highest educated per capita in the country. Our mining potential has been virtually untapped and our tourism industry continues to flourish with our international designated airport and all weather chip sealed highways providing ready access to the interior of Yukon and Alaska. Health and fitness has become the priority for our region and we have developed in our Yukon communities year round recreation facilities such as hockey and curling rinks, and well maintained cross country ski trails, downhill ski facilities, and world class mountain biking trails. Our Arts and Cultural community has earned a reputation that is second to none in the country which is supported by our local Yukon Art Centre. We also have a vibrant and well established post-secondary institution, Yukon College that has satellite campuses in all our rural communities. This institution provides Yukon residents with access to college/university programs as well as instruction for the trades. We have it all and it only takes 15 minutes to get to work!
What book have you read and would recommend to others and why?
NOMAD, by Aayan Hirsi Ali. This book is very well written and brings a human face to the implications of the Islamic Jihadist ideology of hate and intolerance that has spread throughout the world and why the western world has to take it seriously.
What sports team (amateur/professional) do you support?
Why are you proud to be Canadian?
Canada is the greatest country in the world. We are very fortunate to live here and we must strive every day to keep Canada as the best place in the world to live, work and raise our families.