Oldest MP Bows Out, Quietly

Parliament’s oldest MP is retiring at 78 after declining to give a goodbye speech to the House of Commons. “I’m not big on farewell speeches,” said Ray Boughen.

“Age is an accident of birth,” said Boughen (Conservative-Palliser, Sask.); “I feel 50ish, but I’m 78 and that’s too old to become a senator – not that it’s a good idea given the current circumstances.” Senators must retire at 75.

“If you do this job properly, four more years is a long time,” said Boughen. “Seventy-eight plus four, that’s too old to be a parliamentarian.”

Forty-three members of the 41st Parliament have resigned, retired or lost their nominations to date. Boughen said the work of an MP “can get to be a hundred hours a week pretty quick”; “Some days are pretty long,” he said.

“I’d say to new MPs, watch what you do; don’t rush to judgment,” Boughen added; “It’s a busy life and you must rely on your family and the folks at home.”

Boughen, a former two-term mayor of Moose Jaw, said he planned to retire to his home province. “I’ve lived there all my life,” he said.

The all-time record as Parliament’s oldest legislator is held by Georges-Casimir Dessaulles (Liberal-St. Hyacinthe, Que., pictured top right), who served in the Senate till 102. Dessaulles died in office after escaping a 1930 house fire in his hometown. He was survived by 43 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Another senator, David Wark (Liberal-N.B.), served to 101. Wark spent fifty-nine years in public life as a New Brunswick MLA and Senate appointee. Wark delivered his last speech in the Senate at 100, and once told a reporter his key to longevity was to skip lunch. Confederation-era rules that saw senators appointed for life were repealed with a 1965 mandatory retirement amendment to the Constitution Act.

“This doesn’t have to be a young person’s game; it’s about commitment to do the best job you can do,” said Boughen. “Do you have to be a certain age to handle the stress? That’s relative. I’ve never found it all that stressful.”

The Commons record for seniority is held by William Black (Conservative-Halifax), who died in office in 1934 just two months short of his 87th birthday. Black served four terms as MP and a brief stint as Minister of Railways in 1926.

By Tom Korski

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