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Tribute to Senator McCoy

Honourable senators, erudite, effervescent, elegant and enigmatic, the Honourable Elaine McCoy was a force of nature in the Senate and in all of her life. As someone whose early, formative period in the Senate was shaped by the late Senator McCoy, I’m honoured to pay tribute to her on behalf of the Independent Senators Group. She was, of course, the founding facilitator of the ISG.

I remember well the many occasions I visited her in her office on the fifth floor of Centre Block. Entering her office was like going into the private den of a philosopher sage auteure. In one corner, the books piled high; on the wall, the projector with the slide showing pictures of her life and her experiences and history; in the next room, a group of young people working feverishly on who knows what. And there was Elaine McCoy, sitting quietly on the comfy chair in the corner of the room, almost waiting for us to go to her, to learn from her, to listen to her, to speak with her. And we did. We did so on so many occasions. Her impact on all of us went much beyond what she said in this chamber and what she said in committees.

We’ve already heard that she was a pioneer of the more independent senate, and it’s hard to overstate the impact she has had on the modernization of this chamber.

She oversaw a number of important steps toward a more independent upper house, including that the Senate authorize CIBA — the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration — to provide funding for independent senate groups; that the Senate adopt a motion to assign committee seats based on proportionality, something which we now take for granted; that the Clerk of the Senate change the designation on all formal documents from non-affiliated to Independent Senators Group, which made it possible to recognize the ISG as a formal entity; and that the Senate adopt rule changes that put recognized parliamentary groups on par with recognized political parties. These are just some of her accomplishments in the modernization of the upper chamber.

If I can summarize her approach to modernization, it is that she saw this chamber as a place of continued evolution and a continued need for all of us to press for evolution and modernization and to not be bound or beholden to a fixed idea of what many call the Westminster model. If you have any doubt about her conviction and want to know more about her thinking, I invite you to read her tour de force testimony to the Special Committee on Senate Modernization on November 16, 2016.

Colleagues, Senator McCoy was fond of saying that her role was not to tell us what to think. Her objective, rather, was to be the “wind under our wings.” Elaine is no longer with us, but the wind will always be under our wings. Thank you.