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


Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to join with the leader of the house in his expression of the loss which the house has suffered through the death of one of its number-which reminds me that the sickle of the grim reaper has been very busy of late in this chamber. I should like also to join in offering my sympathy to the right hon. gentleman and his party in the loss they have sustained through the passing of an experienced supporter of their cause and their principles. Doctor McKay was not personally well known to me, but I knew him as a doughty warrior, as one who had firm convictions as to the policies of his party and a robust and vigorous manner of expressing them. That he occupied a very important place in the councils of his party was apparent, I think, to us all.
It is somewhat difficult to look back upon a life that extended over so many years. He was a boy of twelve when confederation was accomplished, and, if my information is correct, he participated in every general election from 1873 to 1935. He was familiar with the giants of the Liberal party in its early days, and he might be regarded as a cross-section of that fine type of Scotsman that came into Canada in the early days and made so great a contribution to the laying of our foundations, legislatively and otherwise. The firmness of his convictions reminds one of Morley's observation that fidelity to conviction is one of the mainsprings of human progress. There are those who would seriously differ from that view, but I think that Doctor McKay's life, his work and his experience, were eminent justification of its soundness.
In this Ottawa valley, and particularly in the community in which he lived, Doctor McKay played a noble part. He was known to almost everyone of importance in his riding and many who were not of his party, and, as the leader of the house has said, his contribution to the public life of this country may be measured, not by his presence or absence from this house, but rather by the influence of an example in public and private life that cannot but be of the utmost value in the years that are before us. For it has well been said by one
whose name escapes me, that if a star were quenched on high, its light still travelling on would influence men for many years.
So, when a great man dies,
For years beyond our ken,
The light he leaves behind him lies Upon the paths of men.
It may be said of Doctor McKay, not that he was a great parliamentarian, not that he participated actively in the legislation of the house, but rather that, by the influence of his example in his profession, in his public service to his community, in his service through small organizations that are so vita! to the creation of sound public opinion, in the councils of his party, on the hustings, and, if I may use the term, in the organization work of his party-believing that party was intended to serve the public and existed for the state and not the individual-his life was indeed one of great usefulness to this country.
It is a tribute to him that after nearly fourscore years of life in the community he was elected to the House of Commons in 1935, when he was about eighty years of age. That in itself is a striking tribute to his qualities of heart and of mind and to the influence of his life upon his fellow citizens; for it does not often happen thus, especially in view of the fact that he had had but one term in this house during all those years.
I can only say how sincerely we on this side of the house regret his passing; for it is the severing of one of the links that join the present to the remote past-the passing of one who was able to speak intimately and with knowledge of the men who in days gone by, in the chamber of the Commons House of Parliament, did much to lay the foundations of the dominion as we now know it. It may well be said of him that he has passed to his fathers having lived a life full of good works; and those who are left behind him can say of him:
Life's race well run, [DOT]
Life's work well done,
Life's victory won,
Now cometh rest.

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