In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Tribute to Senator Banks

Posted 12/15/2011 by Grant Mitchell

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 This Saturday my dear friend and colleague Senator Tommy Banks will be retiring from the Senate.  We will miss his intelligence, passion and dedication to public service.  Below is a tribute I gave to Senator Banks in the Senate Chamber.

 Tommy Banks is acknowledged by his Senate colleagues for his integrity, courage, determination to do what is right, intelligence and grasp of the issue. I have marveled at how he could grasp the nuance and complexity of an eclectic range of public policy issues. It has been a thing of beauty to share the table at various committees and to see him get exactly to the heart of a given issue in way that no body else had seen, express it clearly, and ultimately propose a solution.

Amidst all of the "to-ing and fro-ing" in the political arenas, Tommy Banks has remained above the partisan fray, has remained respected by all sides and has engendered a great deal of fondness amongst colleagues.

He is truly irreplacable and he will truly be missed.

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I have been dreading the inexorable advance toward the retirement and departure of Senator Banks for a long time. Senator Banks made a remarkable contribution to the work of the Senate, of course, and to the lives of Albertans and Canadians. He has been an absolutely delightful colleague in every way. I became very aware very quickly after arriving here of how much I would miss him — all of us would miss him — when he left.

Being from Edmonton, for most of my life I have had a clear impression of Tommy Banks as a great musician. I certainly respected and admired him as a musician and as an enduring celebrity as I was growing up in Edmonton. I have always believed anyone who is really good at jazz must be very, very smart because this is a complex language that must be expressed intuitively to be at its best, and Tommy Banks knows this language intimately. In fact, he is fluently bilingual.

I met Murray McLauchlan several years ago and proudly told him that I worked with Senator Banks. This launched Mr. McLauchlan, a Canadian icon in his own right, of course, into a wonderful and animated description of his many fond memories of working with Senator Banks on various music projects, his obvious admiration for him and his genuine interest in how he was doing. When I think of that encounter, I can see myself and so many other colleagues, fans and friends launching into exactly the same kind of spontaneous explanation of how much we admire him and of how fond we are of him.

To play music at the level he has played music and to sustain his kind of creativity and energy for it over all these many years truly requires a certain genius, a genius that I believe has been equally apparent in his career as a senator. Senator Banks took so many of those attributes that made him great in his first career — a keen intelligence, a disciplined mind, compassion, passion and, of course, an ability to perform — and he transformed himself seamlessly into a skilled and respected senator, advocate and leader in the public policy arena in Canada.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly he grasps a new issue, sees something in it that no one else has seen, expresses the essence of the matter and proposes a solution. He always inspires me with his profound empathy for people and the human condition, with his courage and integrity and with his passionate advocacy for what he believes to be right for his community of Edmonton, the environment, the military, the arts, the farmers, Canada and Alberta.

I am very sad about having to say goodbye to Tommy Banks. He is irreplaceable, and he will be truly missed.


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