Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise on behalf of the Liberal Party to pay tribute to not only a remarkable parliamentary librarian, but an inspirational servant of Parliament and of Canadians for over 20 years.
As my colleague, the co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the Library of Parliament, said, there have only been six previous parliamentary librarians: Alpheus Todd, came in with the country, Martin Joseph Griffin, Martin Burrell, Francis Aubrey Hardy, Erik John Spicer and Richard Paré. Each of these distinguished Canadians evolved the role of librarian to something way more than its traditional interpretation. This was not only about resources, but about the analysis and eventually, under Bill's watch, to the most trusted source of information that parliamentarians could receive. It means that each of us in the House performs to our best possible ability.
As Bill said in his interview in the Canadian Parliamentary Review on his appointment:
Most parliamentarians are here because they have a sense of purpose and public life-they are here to accomplish something. The Library's job is to help them succeed and to nurture the deliberative process for the benefit of all Canadians,
I first met Bill Young when he was the researcher on the HRDC committee in 1997 when I was first elected. I was pretty impressed then that he seemed to be able to have a relationship with almost every member of the committee. When Wendy Lill, the NDP member of Parliament, had pointed out that the issues of persons with disabilities had not really been discussed for over two years at committee, it became quite clear that Bill would help us form a subcommittee that I had the honour to chair.
That subcommittee became known as the tiny perfect committee. It ended up with Wendy Lill, Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral and Deb Grey. We all worked together to really fight for persons with disabilities, the disability tax credit, the Canadian pension plan disabilities. Under Bill's guidance, we were able to call ministers from all departments and commissioners. We were able to design one of the most interactive tools in terms of e-consultation that a parliamentary committee had ever done.
My love for Bill Young came, having him sit at my right shoulder for those five years, not only because of the institutional memory he carried for this place, but also the fact that when officials would come before our committee, he would whisper in my ear and said, “They said that last year”. It was only because of his coaching that we were able to get on and later understand his real understanding of the citizens of our country.
In 2000 I asked for help from the Library of Parliament, as I was concerned about the role of the citizen in our representative democracy and whether it was evolving over time. Bill wrote the most beautiful paper called “The Citizen Engagement and the Elected Representative” in which it began in his beautiful writing:
The social contract in our democracy is founded on the consent of the governed. This implies not just that voters select their governments, but also that there is more or less continuous contact between citizens and their elected representatives in order to exchange knowledge and opinions. It also implies the expression of preferences on the part of the citizen as well as a certain level of attentiveness and consciousness of what government is doing, or wants to do.
He helped us put together a conference in which Robert Putnam came from Harvard, Ted White, the Reform member of Parliament, Audrey O'Brien, Charles Pascal, Carol Goar, Monique Bégin and the hon. member for Toronto Centre. After that conference, we began to start to refer to this concept of democracy between elections, which is truly what the parliamentary librarian is able to provide us with.
Later in 2002, as co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the Library of Parliament, I was able, with our co-chair Yves Morin, as well as Deb Grey, working with Graham Fox, to work on the consultations 2002 called “The Parliament we Want”.
It is very interesting that in the conclusion of that document, again a lot with the leadership of Bill, said:
Our message, based on our consultations, is this. In weighing the many options we have before us, and in making decisions on the future role of Parliamentarians, we should keep in mind that the reforms should aim to:
lead to more meaningful work;
look to the future, not the past;
enhance Parliament’s oversight of government activity;
enhance Parliament’s contribution to policy debates;
strike a balance between the adversarial and the consensual aspects of our democratic system;
focus on committees as an immediate priority;
make Parliamentarians knowledge-brokers;
and strike a new bargain between Parliament and the public service.
That is, in short, the Parliament we want. Parliamentarians ask, and Canadians deserve, nothing less.
When Mr. Young was appointed in 2005, his biography indicated that he had a Ph.D. in history and was a professional historian. Mr. Young is the author of a number of books as well as academic and popular papers. He has also written many parliamentary reports.
It is, indeed, the case of Bill Young, from his Ph.D thesis on the role of the National Film Board and propaganda in World War II to the many reports he wrote on disability issues, with Dr. Halliday and Andy Scott, to the London diaries of Paul Martin Sr., to Sacred Trust, a book he wrote with David Bercuson and Jack Granatstein on Brian Mulroney and the Conservative Party.
Since his nomination, he has continued to embark, as we have heard already, on a significant renewal of the Library, with the modern controllership of its resources and the redesign of numbers of products for parliamentarians better suited to their needs in the time and format they need.
As well as the historian, he reconstituted debates of early years of Parliament for future generations with the digitalization project. He also worked with his posse of parliamentary librarians from around the world, like John Pullinger from the U.K. parliament of Westminster, Soledad Ferreiro in Chile, to commission Nick Nanos and others on the parliament of 2020 and what the future of Parliament would be like using the kind of evolving communication technologies and how that could support a more effective Parliament and a more engaged public in the future.
He was seconded to the Department of Social Development for two years, where he was the departmental assistant to the deputy minister. His minister, who Bill lovingly referred to as number 29, asked me to send Bill this message. It states:
Bill is the good civil servant. He embodies why doing a government's work matters. He believes good can be done, that better is possible, but he also knows that bad and worse are much easier to deliver. So he looks--every day--to do the good and the better and expose the bad and the worse.
He has a joy about him. A joy that comes from knowing why he does what he does, from a pride, but also from always putting people at the centre. He knows that it's with people that he does things, and for people that he does them, people with all their--and his own--wonderful strengths and wonderful foibles. So to Bill nothing is ever old and dry and boring.
He has a curiosity, this fascination, with life. He wants to know - everything. About everyone. Every delicious fact; every delicious insight; and every delicious morsel of gossip. Always, of course, delivered with that twinkle, and that laugh.
As Ken Dryden has said, Bill Young is more than an institutional memory. To me, Bill Young is the ultimate leader of vision, values and risk taking. He imparts that to his team and his team knows, as the best of every team leader, that it will be allowed to do its very best performance, but when it stumbles, he will be there for it.
Parliament is not only losing a great friend, a great defender of this institution, but also a great believer in the role of citizens in their democracy and the need to build better mechanisms between citizens and their Parliament and their parliamentarians to ensure that their voices are heard.
The eighth parliamentary librarian will have a tough act to follow, big shoes to fill, but the most important qualification will be the love of this place and the understanding of the good it can do.
We wish Bill and Philippe some well-earned time, but I cannot wait until the next chapter when he is back actually inspiring us all to just do better.