Introduction to Lowell Murray, October 2012


October 2012

I am deeply honoured, really, to be asked to introduce Lowell Murray tonight. Doug is right when he says I have followed his career for a long time. I have been a political scientist at St. Francis Xavier University now for a long time. I came in 1984, so that kind of qualifies me as a gray beard and a veteran around here. I see a lot of my students here, I see a smattering of them - maybe more than a smattering – and I'm quite pleased. I have lived through a lot of the political events that Lowell Murray was not only involved with but sometimes at the very centre of these political events; during that period of the 1980s and early 1990s when Lowell Murray was a key member of the Mulroney government - and in fact, one of its chief ‘spear carriers’ I would say - during the tumultuous constitutional years of the Meech Lake Accord, the Charlottetown Accord, and so on. When politics in Canada really seemed exciting, and really meant something. We were discussing the future shape of our country, the kind of institutions we should have, the kinds of rights people should have as citizens, and it seems so different today. As a political scientist I sometimes yearn for those old times. I don't know if Lowell does? But he is unusually qualified, I think, to give us an insiders’ perspective on so many years of politics, decades of politics.

I guess I should introduce Lowell Murray - that is my job tonight. Although I must say, having attended almost every MacEachen lecture since its inception - I did miss a couple when I was away on sabbatical - but I was in Doug's position for many years as Chair of the committee and organizing those early lectures. Lowell Murray was someone that we could count on, that we could call upon in the past to do what I am doing right now, but to do a much better job of it I can assure you. The danger with having Lowell introduce somebody is that the introduction tends to out-shine the talk. So, I'm not going to try to match that kind of introduction tonight. I'll give you some basic facts.

While I do consider myself a friend of Lowell Murray I'm not an old friend of Lowell Murray. We are of different generations and I was never a player or a politician, in Dalton Camp's words. (Although I sometimes think of myself as a gentleman.) But Lowell has been a player and a politician for virtually his whole adult life as far as I can tell, beginning at StFX maybe even before StFX. (He might say a word about that). He is a native Cape Bretoner, from New Waterford. And like Allan J. MacEachen, he grew up in a coal mining family. Allan J. was from Inverness and he grew up in a coal mining family too. So they both learned about the realities of working class life and hard work at an early age. Like Allan J. too, he has had a life of extraordinary public service. He has been involved in public life all of his adult life. He certainly was deeply involved in politics before he became a senator and he was a senator for a long time. He was involved in politics as a public duty but also as a passion, I think. At the level of working as a strategist, as an advisor to a number of different prominent politicians. He did come to StFX as most Cape Bretoners did, I think, who had the privilege to go to university back in his time. He graduated in 1956 with his B.A. and he later got a master’s degree from Queen's University in public administration; that was in 1976. So, he had a little break from studies there - a twenty year span. I wouldn't recommend waiting quite that long to my students, you know if they get their B.A. maybe they should go back a little sooner. But I think he was busy in the years in between, to say the least. And he was certainly an active participant in student affairs while he was at StFX. It was a much smaller student body back then. But I think his activities went well beyond the campus Progressive Conservative club, although I'm sure he was deeply involved with that, probably running the show. He was given an honorary doctorate as Dr. Riley already told you from St. Francis Xavier University in 2005.

As I mentioned, he was campaign organizer, a party person, and political strategist for many years, working for Robert Stanfield, for Richard Hatfield, for Joe Clark and for Brian Mulroney, and that spans a long period of the Progressive Conservative Party. He was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1979, where he served until his retirement in 2011. So that's 32 years. Thirty-two years in an institution that many Canadians disparage. I have to say, I sometimes have disparaged the senate too, in front of my class. But not because of the people who served in the senate and certainly not because of Lowell Murray. We have had some extremely hardworking and knowledgeable people in our senate that we should be very grateful that they have been there. The senate is an institution that we have always had and I think it is an institution we will have for a long time to come. And the better quality of people we can get in the senate, the better off we are for having that. And certainly, Lowell Murray represents for me exactly that quality of person. He is someone who is widely respected by his colleagues, who is deeply knowledgeable about Canadian politics and Canadian political processes and who is a keen observer of politics both from the inside and from the outside. And I have heard Lowell Murray give keynote addresses before, recently at a 'festschrift' for Donald Savoie, also a former honorary doctorate at this university, and it was truly enlightening and knowledgeable experience to go through because he was able to bring his vast experience to bear on an important question of change in Canadian politics. And I think we will hear more from him on that topic tonight and I am personally looking forward to that.

Lowell Murray did sit in the senate until 2011 but since 2003, he was sitting as an independent Progressive Conservative; 2003 was the year that the Progressive Conservative Party was merged with the Canadian Alliance to create the new Conservative Party. I think it is safe to say, choosing to sit as an independent senator suggests that Mr. Murray was not exactly a big supporter of that merger. He was sworn in as a cabinet minister and a member of the Privy Council in 1986, and appointed as Leader of the Government in the Senate in that year and a position he held until 1993, of course when the Progressive Conservatives where reduced in stature somewhat. (Let's say, from 169 seats to 2 - I had to bring that up, I know, it’s a painful memory.) He served as Minister of the State for Federal-Provincial Relations from '86 to '91 and as I mentioned, during a very tumultuous time. He was the Government of Canada's lead salesmen if I could put it that way - it does not fully grasp all his role - of the Meech Lake Accord, which was a constitutional accord attempting to bring Quebec into the constitution which had Quebec's agreement and the agreement of most of the provinces. However, in the end it was unsuccessful. One of his early critics was Frank McKenna at that time, who was the Premier of New Brunswick. However, Mr. McKenna later decided that he would support the Meech Lake Accord. At that time he faced as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Allan J. MacEachen. (I'm not sure what Senator MacEachen's position was on the Meech Lake Accord? I did not check with him before tonight.) But, of course, Mr. Murray served under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at that time. So think of it. This was the apex of Canadian politics, when we were discussing momentous changes in Canada's constitution. And we had four St. F. X. graduates who were key players: Mr. Mulroney, Mr. Murray, Mr. McKenna and Mr. MacEachen. St. F. X. was really at the centre of things in those days. And I was a young academic soaking it all in; it was great time. He has chaired many senate and joint committees over his years in the senate, as well as duties on many other bodies including international bodies such as the Trilateral Commission. He has been a great friend to St. F. X. over the years, of that there can be no doubt. He also is both an old political foe as well as a great friend of Allan J. MacEachen, for whom this lecture is named. And, as I mentioned, to the MacEachen Lecture Committee. He did introductions on two previous occasions, for two previous speakers with whom he was intimately familiar and associated, and that is Flora MacDonald and the third lecture we had from Dalton Camp. Now I know students might not recognize that name of Dalton Camp but Dalton was a prime mover in the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, as well as a prominent journalist, columnist and political commentator. We all miss Dalton Camp and listening to Dalton Camp's wisdom on political affairs.

Lowell Murray is married to Colleen MacDonald, who is also a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University. He has two sons, William and Colin; William in Ottawa, Colin in Cornerbrook. And they now live in Margaree Forks, Cape Breton which is not too far from Lake Ainslie where Allan J. MacEachen also calls home, for part of the year at least. To finish my little introduction, I'd like to take a little paragraph from his introduction of Dalton Camp. This was in 2000, the third MacEachen lecture. Dalton Camp had been involved in party politics his whole adult life as a very active participant. And Lowell was trying to say how important it was, party politics, and how we should not disparage party politics or think of it in a cynical way as just a corrupt process. I know party politicians and politicians in general, in public surveys, rank very low in people's estimation. People do not hold politicians in high regard. This is what Lowell said at that time about Dalton Camp and I think that it could be said about Lowell Murray himself. "He is a deep believer in party politics. A romantic admirer of those ordinary and sensible people who maintain and assure the vitality of partisanship. It is a pity Dalton Camp wrote, that so few journalists understand the requirement for partisan politics and its role in a democracy. But it is difficult to educate or enlighten people who do not, as we used to say in Carlton County, New Brunswick, ‘know their arse from their elbow about politics’ but delight in disparaging its practices and defaming its practioners." Now I am sure they would not use that terminology in New Waterford, but I do think that it is good to think differently about the possibilities and the potential and the necessity of party politics and the practitioners of party politics and their importance to the democratic process when we are talking about people like Lowell Murray. So I would like to welcome him here tonight and ask you to welcome him as well.


Political Science Department

4th Floor Mulroney Hall
2333 Notre Dame Avenue
Antigonish NS B2G 2W5