The two men walked the halls of Parliament together in deep conversation: Pierre Trudeau, his brow furrowed in concentration, and Michael Pitfield, stooping slightly to disguise his six-foot, three-inch frame. They were more than boss and employee. The Prime Minister and his cab-
inet secretary considered themselves intellectual equals, fellow philosophers and friends. But their partnership, which dominated federal politics from 1975 to 1982, ended last December when Trudeau appointed Pitfield to the Senate. Now Pitfield, 46, spends an average of three days a week in New York, rep-
resenting Canada on the United Nations disarmament committee. He has just completed four months of chairing the Senate committee examining the government’s new security legislation. His date book is packed with speaking engagements, university lectures and meetings. He is even practising some law—estate planning—on the side. In fact, now his top priority is to “focus myself better.”
When Pitfield left the Privy Council Office (PCO), he lost not only the exhilarating sense of being the most powerful public servant in the land but also his phalanx of clerks and secretaries. A year ago he supervised a staff of about 300. Now he has one secretary and a chauffeur, but his work load is as heavy as ever. When he left the PCO Pitfield made a promise to his wife, Nancy, and their three young children that he would make up for all of the late nights and weekends he had spent, over the years, at the office. It is a promise that he has yet to keep. Since October he has spent nearly half of his nights in hotel rooms. Says Pitfield: “It has been difficult for them. At least the Privy Council Office did not take me out of Ottawa.”
Many of Pitfield’s former colleagues and critics still wonder why he went to the Senate. Constitutional experts regard the staid Upper House as, in Sir John A. Macdonald’s words, the chamber of “sober second thought,” but most Canadians are more inclined to agree with the definition offered by Opposition Leader Brian Mulroney: “a highly paid retirement home for a bunch of Grits.” Pitfield admits that he sometimes feels uncomfortable surrounded by former politicians, local dignitaries and party fund raisers. But his year in the Senate has also convinced him that the Upper House is an important part of Parliament. Unlike the House of Commons, where issues fade as quickly as they flare up, senators have an opportunity to step back from the day’s headlines and debate the long-term issues.
Pitfield’s performance in the upper chamber has earned him respectful reviews from his fellow senators. Said Independent Senator Eric Cook of Newfoundland: “I think it is a jolly good appointment. He is a very clever and busy man and he seems to be acting in a modest and straightforward manner in the Senate.” Added Conservative Senator James Balfour of Saskatchewan: “As far as I am concerned, he has done very well.”
At the end of his first year, Pitfield himself remains ambivalent about his performance as a senator. “You are not always sure that you are not sort of foolish and out on a meaningless, selfadvancing toot,” he said. “But I did not plan to vegetate—and I do not think I have.” -CAROL GOAR in Ottawa.
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