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senators’ statements — Tributes

The Honourable Richard Neufeld

June 11, 2019


The Hon. the Speaker
[14:04]

Honourable senators, I received a notice from the Leader of the Opposition who requests, pursuant to rule 4-3(1) that the time provided for the consideration of Senators’ Statements be extended today for the purpose of paying tribute to the Honourable Richard Neufeld, who will retire from the Senate on November 6, 2019.

I remind senators that pursuant to our rules, each senator, other than Senator Neufeld, will be allowed only three minutes and they may speak only once.

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition)
[14:05]

Honourable senators, our colleague and friend, the Honourable Richard Neufeld, will be taking his leave of this place on November 6, when the Senate will most likely not be sitting. I’m very glad we have this opportunity today to thank Senator Neufeld for his dedicated service to the people of Canada over the last decade and, indeed, over the past almost four decades, including his time in municipal and provincial politics in British Columbia.

Senator Neufeld passionately defended his province in the Senate of Canada and he will be greatly missed.

Our colleague has previously shared with us the story of his family. He was adopted as an infant from an orphanage by his parents Peter and Jessie, chosen by his older sister simply because he was smiling. From this humble beginning grew a long record of public service, starting with municipal politics in the town of Fort Nelson, where he eventually served as mayor. This was followed by multiple elections to B.C.’s provincial legislature to represent the riding of Peace River North.

From the start, his political career has been guided by concern for the lives of the average, everyday Canadian. As he says, the Fred and Martha of our country, as he calls them. Their interests and their needs have always been his prime motivation.

Following his appointment to the Senate of Canada in January 2009, upon the recommendation of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Senator Neufeld has contributed greatly to the work of the Senate, both in the chamber and in committee. In recent months he has been involved in the debate and study of Bill C-48, concerned by the divisive nature of this bill and the negative impact he believes it would have on the region he calls his home.

Although our colleague has been a valued member of several Senate committees over the past 10 years, I’d like to highlight his work as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. Senator Neufeld’s long experience as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in the Government of British Columbia served the senator well as he guided the committee through its work. During his time as chair, the committee gave careful consideration to many pieces of legislation and undertook studies on such topics as underground infrastructure and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

In his first speech in the Senate chamber back in November 2009, Senator Neufeld related some advice he believed his mother would say in taking on his new role: “Son, Canada is a great and wonderful country. Be kind, be understanding, be true and, most of all, do the right thing and take advantage of good opportunities.”

Honourable senators, I think we could all agree that during Senator Neufeld’s time in this place he has more than lived up to those words. When he steps down later this year, the Conservative caucus in this place will miss his wise counsel and I believe the same holds true for all honourable senators. We hope he and his wife Montana will enjoy a very happy retirement filled with all the people and activities they love. This will surely include collecting and fixing antique cars and motorcycles, his long-time passion.

On behalf of all honourable senators, I wish Senator Neufeld nothing but the best.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Acting Leader of the Senate Liberals)
[14:09]

Honourable senators, on behalf of the independent Senate Liberals, I would like to join in paying tribute to our colleague Senator Richard Neufeld who will be retiring later this year.

Senator Neufeld is no stranger to politics and no stranger to serving the good people of British Columbia at every level of government. He has been a dedicated public servant for nearly 40 years. He’s been a town councillor and the Mayor of Fort Nelson, B.C. He served nearly 20 years in the B.C. legislature. His constituents rewarded his hard work with a number of consecutive re-elections.

He served as a provincial opposition critic and, when the tides turned, as they always do, as a provincial cabinet minister.

Now listen, as an aside about an interesting political career of a Canadian, he was elected as a Social Credit MLA in 1991, switched to the Reform Party in March of 1994 and then to the Liberals in October 1997, where he stayed until he left in 2009. You’ve been around the block, Richard.

Then he came to the Senate to continue his good work on behalf of British Columbians. He’s been here for 10 years, raising the concerns that matter most to his constituents. I’m certain my friend and colleague, Senator Joseph Day, would want me to mention that Senator Neufeld has been a long-time member of the National Finance Committee. At one time they served together as chair and deputy chair and helped bring about the demise of our humble penny. We are all a little lighter for that.

And over the years, Senator Neufeld has shown the same attention to detail he puts into fixing his vintage cars in poring over budgets and estimates and bills to get to the very heart of the issues facing Canadians.

Senator Neufeld, thank you for your service to British Columbians and to all Canadians. You have worked hard and worked collaboratively with all of us here in the chamber and you will be missed.

On behalf of my caucus colleagues, I wish you and your wonderful wife, Montana — whom I had the pleasure of meeting on a trip that we did together to New Zealand many years ago — all the best in your retirement and good health and happiness always.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo
[14:11]

Honourable colleagues, I’m pleased to add some words of thanks and congratulations to Senator Neufeld on behalf of the Independent Senators Group.

Senator Neufeld has devoted his life to Canada and to British Columbia. He began his political career in 1978 on the Fort Nelson town council. His career has spanned over four decades. When I speak to folks in the northern part of British Columbia, everyone knows Senator Neufeld and everyone speaks of him with great respect and admiration.

He has always represented and supported the concerns and needs of British Columbians, particularly in the area of natural resources. As has been mentioned, he served as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in the B.C. government. This was a time when natural resources industries in B.C. grew very rapidly.

Senator Neufeld came to the Senate and brought a special passion and energy and expertise in the very area of energy, natural resources and the environment, and he, of course, chaired that committee for a number of years. I had the privilege of working with him the last few years on the report around decarbonizing the Canadian economy and, most recently, on our Bill C-69 legislation.

I’ve also had the privilege from time to time of travelling with him from Vancouver to Ottawa, sometimes sitting next to him on the plane and observing, every time, how diligent he is on the flight over, poring over his notes for what needs to be done when he gets here. I, on the other hand, am usually catching a snooze.

In his very first intervention in the Senate Chamber on February 12, 2009, Senator Neufeld said:

I am a proud Canadian; I can tell you that. I have my political beliefs, but I can also work with people to try and make things better for Canadians, and that is what we should be doing in this chamber.

Senator Neufeld, that is what you did in this chamber, and we thank you for that.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition)
[14:13]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a parliamentarian of distinction, a fellow British Columbian and my friend and colleague, the Honourable Richard Neufeld.

Senator Neufeld will officially retire from the Senate of Canada on November 6, 2019.

His service in public office spans four decades. He served as a councillor and as mayor of Fort Nelson and represented the riding of Peace River North in the B.C. legislature. He was Opposition Whip in the B.C. legislature and served as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and managed other portfolios and provincial cabinet committees over the course of 18 years.

In his own words, we understand how and why he has been able to serve the good people he has represented with integrity and unwavering commitment:

As a legislator, I’ve always believed in doing what is right, not what is popular. I did not get involved in politics to win a popularity contest. Rather, I’ve always strived to provide the best leadership possible and defend the interests and rights of Fred and Martha, your everyday Canadians.

Richard and I started our journey in the Senate chamber together on Jan 26, 2009, as fellow B.C. senators, and shortly thereafter as seatmates. I had known of Richard as a well-respected B.C. politician and minister of the Crown. Little did I know the journey we would experience together as senators and the friendship we would forge in and out of this chamber.

As seatmates and as members of the same caucus for more than a decade, I’ve gotten to know what is most important to him. Above all, Richard is a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Today is all the more special that your wife and best friend, Montana Currie, who has stood by your side all these years, is present in our chamber. I also thank your amazing children, Chantel, Nathan, Ryan and Kathryn, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Faye, Bryson, Rylan, Jessy, Javion, Connor, Tristan, Grady and Darby. Every time you speak of your family, especially your three-year-old granddaughter, you burst with pride and adoration. I thank each and every one of them for sharing you with us over your decades of public service.

Colleague, thank you for your wisdom, leadership and, above all, your friendship. I look forward to beginning our riding adventures, you and Montana on your brand new Indian, and me on the back of my husband, Doug’s, Harley. You will be greatly missed and will always be a respected and cherished member of our Conservative family and our Senate community.

Hon. David Tkachuk
[14:16]

Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to my colleague and my friend, Richard Neufeld. You know him as a senator but his life in the world of Canadian politics stretches back 40 years, and that’s something to be proud of. That long experience in the world of politics and the legislative arena is something this place has richly benefited from during his time here.

He was first elected as an MLA in Peace River North in 1991. He was re-elected three times and for 10 years, from 1991 to 2001, he served as Opposition Whip and critic on several portfolios: Transportation, Agriculture, Aboriginal Affairs, Energy and Mines and Environment, Lands and Parks.

While in government from 2001 to 2009, he served as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. In that capacity he was responsible for the implementation of two energy plans in British Columbia in 2002 and 2006. Both of these plans were innovative and forward-looking, placing special emphasis on conservation and energy efficiency.

Particularly notable to some of the discussions we are having today is a press release that came across from September 2007 from an energy minister’s conference held in Whistler, B.C., which Richard co-chaired along with Gary Lunn, the federal energy minister at that time. I was struck by the spirit of cooperation between the federal minister and provincial minister on the strong environmental focus.

In that press release, he said:

Both the federal and provincial governments take energy issues very seriously. It’s only during these kinds of collaborative meetings that we can share our best practices and work together to find solutions.

The wisdom continued when he was appointed to this place in January 2009 where, as Chair of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, he oversaw several extremely important study, in particular, Powering Canada’s Territories, which looked at nonrenewable and renewable energy and at emerging technologies in Canada’s three northern territories.

On a personal note, it took Richard and me a long time to become friends. We kind of circled each other and met a little bit here and there, but we never really — then, of course, life takes strange turns. For me it was cancer, for him his heart. We took that opportunity to console each other and found out a lot about each other, including some of the past problems we have both shared together and both overcome.

I love Richard Neufeld. He was my friend. I’ll miss all those great dinners together and I’m glad Montana has you back. You know what? I’m leaving at the same time. We’re both going to miss each other but not from this place.

Anyway, Richard, I wish you the best of luck.

You know, he is the Canadian story. From humble beginnings, he is the Canadian story. From nothing he became an elected member, elected by his peers in his town, elected by his province and became a senator here in Ottawa.

Thank you so much, Richard, for your service to the people of Canada.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett
[14:20]

Let me start by thanking my colleague across the way, Senator Gold, for allowing me his spot in paying tribute to our friend.

As has already been said, Richard was appointed in January 2009. I was appointed about six months later. Richard has been here since I got here, and he has become not only a friend but a mentor.

I need to apologize to Richard publicly. I have done so privately many times, and he won’t forgive me doing it privately, so I will do it publicly. Senators Woo and Martin have talked about travelling with Richard. I didn’t travel with Richard a lot, because I’m from Winnipeg and he travelled through to Vancouver. However, we were on the same plane one time when Richard had to go through Winnipeg. Of course, as Air Canada so often is, they were a few hours late. We landed in Winnipeg around midnight. Of course, Richard had missed his plane to Vancouver. I was not the hospitable person I should have been in Winnipeg. There, I knew my colleague was going to have to spend a night in Winnipeg. I grabbed my luggage and said, “Have a good weekend, Richard” and away I went.

Richard has not let me forget that. I want to publicly apologize to him for not being a better host. Hopefully, one of your trips will bring you through Winnipeg, Richard, and I can correct that.

Richard, Senator Tkachuk briefly mentioned some of the health issues, and even with the health issues that Richard has had, he has made every effort to be here at the risk of his own health. Montana and Richard, thank you. As the whip, that has been a tremendous asset to me.

I want to wish you well. I wish you safety at your age, travelling around on a motorcycle. The saving grace is that it has three wheels, not two. We trust that you will be safe as you travel around. We want to have you around for a while, Richard.

Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your help to me personally. Thank you for your help to the Conservative cause. God bless you. All the best to you and your family.

[14:22]

Honourable senators, Senator Neufeld has many redeeming characteristics. We’ve heard many of them this afternoon. Perhaps the most important of these characteristics may not be known to most of us, and that is that despite his ardent, frequent and vocal defence of all things British Columbian, he was originally an Albertan, growing up on a farm in southern Alberta. That, of course, speaks to his humility and common sense, except that he actually left Alberta.

Throughout his life in B.C., Senator Neufeld dedicated himself to public service. He was elected mayor of Fort Nelson in 1981, and he held that position for five years. He sat as an MLA in B.C.’s legislature for 18 years, the last eight of which he spent as Minister of Energy. Eight years in a position like that, as demanding and stressful as it would be, and being able to leave, as he did, on his own terms is a clear testimony to his determination, dedication and perhaps most significantly to his competence.

In 2009, he was appointed to the Senate, bringing his career in public service to a total of 33 years.

It is also a testimony to the support of his wife, Montana, that he has been able to sustain a successful political career for that long a period of time. The warmth, pride and the frequency with which he speaks of Montana reflects how much he appreciates her and her role in his life and career. I offer special recognition to Montana for her contribution to his being able to do what he has done for British Columbia and Canada for so long.

[14:24]

Perhaps my most compelling impression of Senator Neufeld is from my experience as deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources when he was the chair. Those were some of the best years of my experience in the Senate. He maintained the objectivity that great chairs bring to that job. He was impeccably fair. He ensured there was always a balanced roster of witnesses, no matter the topic of study or how he might have felt about it.

He rarely questioned my recommendations for witnesses. If he did, it was in good faith and with good judgment. He was not afraid of the other side of issues, nor was he resentful that I was almost always on it. He was highly respectful of his steering committee. He was an exceptional leader and exceptional person to work with.

Senator Neufeld was also always very respectful of the Senate staff who supported the committee, from clerks, to Library of Parliament researchers to any number of assistants and other support staff.

From time to time in this chamber, we witness special and often unforgettable moments. One occurred several months ago when Senator Neufeld rose to speak about being adopted. He spoke in very moving terms of his good fortune, appreciation for the life his parents gave him and for his deep love for them. I expect that had we had the chance to know them, they would have been quick to tell each of us of their good fortune, their appreciation of what he brought to their lives and their deep love for him. I know that they will have been very proud of the life he has led and the contributions he has made.

I am very sorry to see him leave. I will miss his friendship, advice and the quick laughter we shared so often. I appreciate very much, as each of us do here and throughout the country, the contributions you have made to your province, community and your country. Thank you.

Hon. Pat Duncan
[14:26]

Honourable senators, I rise today as one of the newest members of this chamber and also as Senator Neufeld’s neighbour. Wikipedia or Google Maps will tell you that Fort St. John is just a 16-hour drive from Whitehorse. Northerners and Senator Neufeld will tell you it depends on what you drive. What we drive may be different. Senator Neufeld, I look forward to seeing you travel through Yukon on your new motorcycle.

We share service to our respective regions, provincial and territorial legislatures, and service in this chamber.

Honourable senators, I want to thank Senator Neufeld for his service to British Columbians and to all of Canada. I also want to thank him for his warm welcome of me and his collegiality. The love of family that Senator Neufeld and I share in recognition of their sacrifice in our political careers was evident when Senator Neufeld very graciously, with that Northern hospitality and can-do attitude, delivered a care package this weekend to my daughter in Fort St. John. That neighbourly kindness, sentiment and love of the North are just some of the qualities I’ve come to admire in the short time I’ve worked with you, Senator Neufeld. I will truly miss your shared understanding of living in Northwestern Canada in the chamber in the coming days.

Thank you and your family for your service to all of Canada.

Hon. Percy Mockler
[14:28]

Honourable senators, it’s never easy to say goodbye to one of our own.

I have learned in my almost 35 years serving the public that people do not care who we are until they know what we care for. Richard Neufeld, people know whom and why you care. Humble beginnings.

It is not an easy task to talk about Richard Neufeld in three minutes, but I will do my best with the 180 seconds.

Who is Senator Richard Neufeld? First, Richard, I want to say to you that your adopted parents, Peter and Jessie Neufeld, chose a remarkable baby in 1944. Who would have ever thought that you would become a reputable, envied parliamentarian who is finishing an extraordinary political career in the Senate of Canada, retiring in 2019?

British Columbians and Canadians from all walks of life respect you because they trust you. They admire your keen sense of fairness, transparency and your high standard of accountability. It is said you were the go-to guy in B.C.

Richard, there is no doubt in my mind that no one ever predicted, when you were driving your truck up and down the Alaska Highway, making deliveries in the north of Canada, you would become the parliamentarian that you are today in the Senate of Canada.

Richard was a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 1991 to 2008. He served as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources from 2001 to 2009. He also served on the Fort Nelson City Council from 1978 to 1986, five of those years as mayor. Richard, you left a remarkable legacy.

The great Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Well, Richard Neufeld, no one will ever deny the fact that you have always skated to where the Freds and Marthas would go for help and advice. You were the guy to go to.

Senator Neufeld, Winston Churchill once said:

. . . it is better to be both right and consistent. But if you must choose — you must choose to be right.

In my book, you have chosen to be right.

Honourable senators, as a great parliamentarian once said:

As a legislator, I’ve always believed in doing what is right, not what is popular. I did not get involved in politics to win a popularity contest. Rather, I’ve always strived to provide the best leadership possible and defend the interests and rights of Fred and Martha, your everyday Canadians.

Honourable senators, the great statement that I just read was Senator Richard Neufeld himself. Johnny Cash would say — and the song goes — Richard, you’ve been everywhere, man.

May God bless you and your family for many years to come.