Senate Speaker Pierre Claude Nolin
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney appointed Sen. Nolin to the Upper Chamber on June 18, 1993 to represent Quebec. When the then-43-year-old lawyer asked Mr. Mulroney why he was doing it, Mr. Mulroney said, “That’s none of your business.” He moved into his first office in the Victoria Building shortly after.
Sen. Nolin jokes that he started his political career in 1966 when he was 16. He had just gotten his driver’s license and his dad asked him to help out on a campaign as a driver getting voters to the polls. In 1976, when he was at law school at the University of Ottawa, he joined former Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark’s team because his classmate was Maureen McTeer. He joined Mr. Mulroney’s leadership campaign in 1982 and the two remain very close. The party he joined, however, ceased to exist in 2004 when it merged with the Canadian Alliance. Here he’s speaking to media on the Hill the day of the first caucus meeting of the newly-formed party. “Being a Conservative and not always being in line with the various policies of my new political party, that was for me an important challenge which I overcame because the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper was wise enough to build a tent where I could fit in. I think it was definitely a plus,” he told P&I.
Sen. Nolin told P&I that one of the highlights of his more than two decade career so far was being a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, of which he was president from 2000 to 2004. He says it helped him understand why Parliamentary diplomacy—which is more inclined to building relationships—is important. “I can tell you, Parliamentary diplomacy is a feature, a role, that when it’s properly achieved and when a Parliamentarian really decides to get involved, that person, he or she can really do a lot.” He’s pictured here with Russian representative Viktor Ozerov in 2007 at a NATO-PA meeting in Quebec City.
During his time in the Senate, Sen. Nolin says being chair of the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs was important to him. He’s also served on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade committees. He’s pictured here in October 2012 at the National Defence Committee.
As a Conservative, Sen. Nolin has no difficulty speaking out about issues that don’t align with his party. In 2012 he voted against the government’s omnibus crime legislation, saying he opposed the new drug sentences and is for legalizing marijuana. He says he’s proud of his inquiries into the role of the Senate and says before reforming or abolishing the chamber, Canadians need to understand it better. He’s pictured here at the 2007 Throne Speech.
Sen. Nolin was recently speaking to spouses of Members of the House of Commons. When he was finished explaining the Senate’s role in Canadian democracy, they asked him to inform their husbands as well. “It tells you how bad we were, reaching out to Canadians and explaining the Senate,” he told P&I. As Speaker, he wants to change that. “If we can find the appropriate ways to reach out to Canadians, explaining our role, who we are, why we exist, I will be very happy with my tenure as Senator and Speaker.”