Appointed to the Senate by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien in November 2003, Senator Terry M. Mercer represents the province of Nova Scotia and the Senatorial Division of Northend Halifax. He is currently Senate Liberal Caucus Chair. Senator Mercer is deputy chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, as well as a member of the Committee on Transport and Communications and the Joint Committee on Library of Parliament.
Who inspired you to get involved in public life?
When I was young, I particularly admired our former Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson. His Liberal governments introduced such things as universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan and our new flag.
I started out in student politics while at St. Mary’s in Halifax and never looked back. It was those public policy initiatives, among Pearson’s many other accomplishments, and those of successive Liberal governments that inspired me then — and continue to inspire me — to be the Liberal I am today.
What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
Health care will always be on my list because it is one of the most important things we, as Canadians, should celebrate, especially when so many others around the world do not enjoy such universal coverage.
Another of my concerns is our youth, specifically how we get more youth involved in the political process in order for us all to prepare for the future of the country which the youth of today will eventually lead.
Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?
The government cannot function without the Senate. Period. It provides the checks and balances to the House of Commons through enhanced scrutiny of proposed laws that will affect every corner and every facet of our country.
The real problem is that we, as one of the houses of Parliament, do not communicate enough to Canadians about the important work we do. If we did, I think Canadians would realize how important our institution is and, as such, would care deeply about what happens in the Senate because it does affect their lives in ways they may not understand. We have started to do a better job of that but we can and should do more.
What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?
Of course, as a Nova Scotian, I am proud to be able to monitor issues that affect my home province. Protecting the interests of the regions in Canada is part of the reason the Senate was formed in the first place. I will always stand up for what is right for Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Region through legislation or committee work. One of the other reasons the Senate was formed was to protect minority interests.
I am particularly proud of our work on marriage equality too — it was one of the proudest moments of my life to be able to vote on that bill. Equality rights are Canadian rights and I will continue to protect and defend them.
You also would never think a city boy would be interested in or have a knack for agriculture policy. But I have been a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry for years and it is quite an interesting committee. Of the many noteworthy reports I worked on during my time on the committee was on bees and how truly important they are to our very survival. About a third of our diet comes directly or indirectly from plants pollinated by bees. It was a fascinating study.
What is a hidden gem in your region that more Canadians need to know about?
The history of Halifax and its surroundings is unmatched (in my unbiased opinion of course). Halifax has everything from old to new — Citadel Hill to the Halifax Central Library. It is not a long drive to visit places like Peggy’s Cove or Lunenburg (where the Bluenose was born). Our public spaces are second to none as well, like Point Pleasant Park and the Halifax Public Gardens. I think more Canadians should also visit Province House, Canada’s oldest legislature and the place where Joseph Howe successfully argued for freedom of the press in Canada.
Can you name a guilty pleasure song / album that always makes you smile and why?
Harry Chapin’s “All My Life’s a Circle”. It reminds me of my parents.
What is the last book you read or movie you saw which you recommended to someone else and why?
“Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen — it’s a captivating movie with diverse characters from a golden age of art and culture.
What sports team (amateur/professional) do you support?
Why are you proud to be Canadian?
That is not an easy question to answer because there are so many reasons why. Canadians do not sit back and stay complacent; we try to identify problems quickly and solve them through partnerships and co-operation with people of all races, colours, sexes, sexual orientation, religions, etc. Our multi-cultural society is a model for the World and we should be very proud of the influence that Canada has across the globe.