February 15, 1937 (18th Parliament, 2nd Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, hon. members will have observed from this morning's press that since the house adjourned on Friday evening last another hon. member has been taken from our midst by the hand of death, the member for Renfrew North, Doctor Matthew McKay. Doctor McKay's death is the fifth since its last session, that has taken place in the membership of this house; he is the fourth hon. member to have been taken from this side of the house.
Doctor McKay was one of the oldest members of parliament. There seems to have been some doubt as to whether he was the oldest member of this house. I believe it is a fact that Doctor McKay was born in Simcoe county, Ontario, on October 5, 1855. In terms of actual years, therefore, it would appear that he was the oldest member of the House of Commons. Be that as it may, his appearance certainly belied his years; few men of advanced years have appeared keener or more active than did Doctor McKay. His vivid personality and his energetic ways would have led one to believe that he was nearer sixty than eighty.
It is a little difficult for those who were not in the house with Doctor McKay from 1921 to.1925 to appreciate, what his life meant to this House of Commons and to the country. Indeed, it is difficult to judge from the doctor's years in parliament how continuous, how keen and persistent was his interest in public affairs. He was in point of fact, a member of this House of Commons only during the present parliament and the parliament of 1921 to 1925, though he was a candidate in the general elections of 1926 and of 1930. He took in the house very little part in debate; singularly enough, while he was fearless and outspoken on the public platform, owing to a certain timidity of nature or reserve he hesitated to speak to any extent in the House of Commons. The number of his speeches was very few indeed. It would be a mistake, however, to. attempt to measure, simply by his achievements in the House of Commons, the influence in public life of one who has played an important part in public affairs. It would be indeed unfortunate for public ^ life itself if the most useful public activities were necessarily restricted to membership in parliament. Doctor McKay all through his life had been deeply interested not only in municipal affairs of the community in which he lived, but also in provincial politics and federal politics. He was one who believed it was possible to render great service to his country through serving well the political party whose interests he believed it was best for him to serve. He looked upon a party not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end, a means whereby men and women who feel and think alike on great problems are able to unite their efforts to ensure the putting into effect of principles and policies in which they believe. It is difficult to express how much a political party owes to men of Doctor McKay's type.
The late Matthew McKay

Their politics are based upon principle, and for principle, they are prepared to make almost any sacrifice, no matter how great. They never know the meaning of defeat. To them the justice of the cause is everything.
Doctor McKay had deep convictions with respect to Liberal principals and policies. As regards old country politics, he was very much of the school of Mr. Gladstone. In federal politics he was a loyal, ardent and uncompromising follower of Sir Wilfrid Laurier; in provincial affairs he was one of the school of Oliver Mowat. Doctor McKay was familiar in all their details with the politics of the part of the country in which he lived. He was one to whom leaders went to seek counsel and advice with respect to policies arid as regards the conditions governing in their respective communities. His name and his interests had an immediate association with what we speak of as the Ottawa valley. It might almost be said that there has not been a political battle, either provincial or federal, of any significance fought in the Ottawa valley in the last fifty years in which Doctor McKay did not participate or with respect to which in some oapacity his political services were not sought on behalf of the party to which he belonged. I imagine he rather liked to be thought of as a political war-horse, and indeed he was that in every sense of the word. I can think of no one in our public life more deserving of the term "old reliable." For these reasons he played the all-important part which he did over a period, as I have said, of fifty years.
It would be a great mistake, reflecting on a life of service as long as that which the doctor enjoyed, realizing the extent of his achievements, of the honours which crowned his efforts towards the end, to think at this time only, or mostly, of the loss which we of this House of Commons have sustained. Rather may we rejoice at what has been given by way of inspiration, by such a life and such an example, to the young people of our country who have a desire for community and public service and who hope to play a part in public affairs.
Within a few months, Doctor and Mrs. McKay would have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. This morning, as I was writing a line of sympathy to Mrs. McKay, there came suddenly to my mind those lines of Robert Browning:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made;

"for which the first was made." I could not but think that when fifty years ago Doctor and Mrs. McKay began life together in Pembroke, his public as well as his married and professional life was then just having its beginnings. He brought to his profession and to the community a mind well trained and stored with information gathered at the public school, at the normal school and at Queen's university. He brought habits of industry as well as habits of thought, and these he sought to turn not alone to his individual and personal advantage, and to the furtherance of the work of his profession, but also to the good of the community in which he lived. He there began the bringing up of a young family, seeking to give to his children educational advantages greater even than those which, as a lad, he himself had been privileged to enjoy. He began to interest himself in community activities and public work, serving at one time on the school board, at another in municipal affairs, and offering himself on different occasions as a candidate for parliament. He became president of the political association of his party and, increasingly the moving spirit in its affairs.
Such were the beginnings of his life. Let us look for a moment at "the last of life, for which the first was made." We see him at the close of life occupying a foremost position in his profession, and looked to by the community generally for guidance and direction in its different activities. We see him with children grown up, themselves taking an honourable part in affairs, and surrounded by grandchildren, bringing their comfort and their Cheer to his advancing years. We see him when nearly eighty years of age, signally honoured by his fellow citizens as mayor of the town in which for fifty years he had lived and carried on his work. We see him at the same great age returned a second time, and with a large majority to the parliament of Canada as a member for the constituency in which he had lived throughout that half century of time. More than that, we see him, as his life draws to its close, a national figure much respected by members of parliament of all political parties, and greatly beloved by those of the party to whom he belonged.
For such a life we have reason to be deeply thankful. It is true that we shall miss him keenly, particularly those of us on this side; our loss is very great indeed. I am sure that to every one of us, as I know it is to myself, the doctor's sudden passing has brought a

The late Matthew McKay
sense of personal loss which it would be difficult to describe. We shall miss him about these halls. We shall miss him in our political gatherings. We shall miss him in our campaigns. But we shall be grateful always, I believe, that one who was spared to serve his country up to eighty years of age and beyond has left behind a career so honourable and a name so greatly honoured.

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