Former senator, alumna talks to ArtsWire about her recent Order of Canada and UBC.
BC politician and journalist Pat Carney (BA’60, MA’77, LLD’90) received the Order of Canada earlier this summer for her public service as a journalist, politician and senator. Carney was the first woman Conservative Member of Parliament elected in BC and the first woman Conservative appointed to the Senate from BC.
You said in an interview with Cherie Thiessen for Aqua: Gulf Islands Living that “being elected is what I am most proud of.” How does being named a Member of the Order of Canada compare?
The Order of Canada is a great honour because it’s the country’s highest form of recognition for its citizens, and because to receive an Order of Canada you have to be nominated. To me, a vote from your fellow citizens is the supreme honour. Nothing can be a greater expression of trust than if somebody votes for you. We’re governed by our peers.
It’s always nice to be recognized, particularly as a woman, because often in our society women are not given the recognition that some of our male colleagues receive. Women don’t succeed until they’re credited for their success and the Order of Canada gives me credit for my contribution. The recognition it implies is very satisfying.
Have you noticed the effects of the legislation passed during your time in Senate? If so, what legislation has had the most positive effect?
I think in terms of legislation I was involved in, it would be the vote in the Senate that killed the bill that would have re-criminalized abortion. It was defeated on a tied vote and I voted against the legislation, so my vote was very important. Otherwise we would have had on the books a law that is really unenforceable. In that case, the bill was bad legislation, it could not be enforced and I voted against it.
Of course, my personal, private members bill, to preserve heritage lighthouses, will have hopefully, a very positive effect, not only in preserving our maritime heritage, but in creating opportunities for economic development in our coastal communities. Six-hundred-thousand people visit Peggy’s Cove, NS, because of the lighthouse and heritage tourism is the fastest growing tourism sector in British Columbia.
You continue to contribute to The Vancouver Sun, most recently with your July 2 special to the Sun: How the Celtic Tiger lost its roar. How do you stay informed? Since your retirement, what issues do you find most salient?
I live in a news environment. I monitor all Canadian news networks (CBC is a front runner in the use of social media) listen to CBC radio, monitor two national and two regional newspapers in digital or print versions, read The Economist and Macleans (and Gardenwise!) Young people today have more access to news sources but seem to use them less, except for the internet. I live on an island, but not in isolation.
I contribute to the Vancouver Sun and other newspapers because while professionally, I’m a planner, what I like to do best is write. I continue to write because when I find something fascinating, I want to share it with people. It’s exciting to share with people. After all, journalism and politics are the only two professions where we’re allowed to ask total strangers questions that other people might consider impudent.
I enjoy telling people how the economy works, how government works and why decisions are made. And then, I like to tell funny stories.
You’re often described as “tireless” in your professional and personal pursuits. Where do you find the energy?
I sometimes wonder how I ever had time to go to work and to raise my children. My energy is constrained by arthritis, so I have to learn to pace myself. I’m passionate about many things and my passion inspires the energy. Then I put my feet up and go line dancing, do tai chi and Qi Gong, and go swimming. Proper exercise definitely contributes to maintaining energy levels and pacing yourself so that you don’t burn out. It was hard for me to learn that.
Your pursuits take you to both UBC and Saturna Island. You were recently quoted in the Georgia Straight article: Former senator Pat Carney weighs in on UBC hospice dispute. Why do you choose to split your time between the island and campus?
I’ve always maintained a base on campus because for 10 years, when I was in the Senate, I was an adjunct professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning. I graduated in the 70s as a mature student and taught for nearly 10 years in the 90s. It made sense to have a condo on campus. I was very lucky that I bought it back then because prices have skyrocketed.
UBC is the best place in Vancouver to live. There are so many things you can do on campus; it’s like a mini globe. Where else can you go to a noon-hour concert, go down to the Museum of Anthropology, visit the UBC Farm, attend a performance at the Chan Centre, or with a short car or bus ride, attend a lecture at the Vancouver Institute?
Living at UBC is also practical for me. There’s no doctor on Saturna Island or physiotherapists.
UBC Archives holds in its collection the Patricia Carney fonds. Have your ties to UBC had an impact on your journalism and political career?
A lot of my material is in the National archives, but as a former UBC professor, I asked for a lot of my personal and BC material to be at UBC. I think it’s wonderful.
I came down to UBC from the Kootenays with my twin brother Jim, a television and film producer and director, at 17. We stayed at Acadia camp on campus. My current condo is within a few hundred yards of the original Acadia camp, where we lived in converted army bunk houses with iron cots and wooden tables. I haven’t gotten very far, if you think about it.
When we came down to UBC from the interior, we lived inside the gates, which is how you described living on campus. Now, with my part-time residence at UBC, I’m still living inside the gates. UBC is still very much home to me.
Carney currently serves on the advisory boards of the UBC School of Journalism and the Office of the Dean in the Faculty of Science at UBC.