Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 30

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Honourable Rose-Marie Losier-Cool Speaker pro tempore

Hon. Sharon Carstairs, P.C.

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize one of our colleagues, Sharon Carstairs. Last week, in her capacity as the chair of the Special Senate Committee on Aging, she tabled a formidable report on the implications of Canada’s aging society.

She saw a need for the Senate to address this issue and she has worked hard to ensure that the needs of Canadian seniors are met. Her stellar work on this subject matter is no surprise, as her work on palliative care in Canada is legendary.

Today’s tribute is in the honour of the anniversary of a spectacular career achievement. Honourable senators, it was 25 years ago that Senator Carstairs stepped into her first leadership role as the leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party. Sharon became leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party when it held no seats in the legislature, and would serve in this role unelected for two years before being elected for the constituency of River Heights in 1986. That year she was the only Liberal elected to the legislature.

Honourable senators, many would have given up; but two years later, Sharon Carstairs would reinvigorate the Manitoba Liberal Party and lead it to an unprecedented electoral success, the likes of which it has not seen since. The Liberal Party achieved official opposition status, with 20 of the 57 seats in the provincial legislature. In that moment, she shattered a huge glass ceiling for women as she stepped into her role as the first woman leader of the official opposition in a Canadian legislature.

During her time as leader of the Manitoba Liberals, I recall how selflessly she gave her time to help the British Columbia Liberal Party, then under the leadership of Gordon Wilson. At the time, I was working alongside him and recall being in awe of Sharon as she worked tirelessly for us. A friendship emerged right away, an enduring one that has brought me a great deal of comfort and counsel over the years as I have worked to build my political career.

When I was appointed to the Senate in 2001, I felt her kind and generous hand of mentorship. At the time, she was the Leader of the Government in the Senate. She personally chose my office, a comfortable fit for me right away. Sharon has stood by me through some of the toughest times in my life and I know she is a true friend.

My friend, Sharon, given all that you have achieved in your life, by now most people would be sitting on their laurels, but not you. You are now travelling all over the world to help free parliamentarians unjustly imprisoned by their governments. Some are alive today because of your work in this area.

Sharon, on your twenty-fifth anniversary of this career milestone, we salute you for the service you have given to Canada and Canadians.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!