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Tribute: The Honourable Leonard J. Gustafson, P.C.

 

I moved in with Len in 1981, while working on the Ontario provincial election. At that time, I did not know him well, but I figured that anyone who beat Ralph Goodale twice was okay with me.

What a road Len has travelled. He built a large farm operation, owning some 10,000 acres of land, owning an automobile dealership, real estate holdings and a moving company. He then went on to a political career, winning four elections in the House of Commons and serving nine years as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Len is a unique politician, holding malice for no one, always extending a kind hand to his colleagues and adversaries and to anyone experiencing a difficult time or personal tragedy. He was a Conservative who understood the power of government to help people in tough times. He matched this with an open chequebook to help the hungry in other parts of the world.

Len saw his farm not just as an occupation but as a vehicle to feed the world. He believed that if you ask government to use other people's tax dollars, you should match this with a commitment to personal generosity and compassion.

Not far from Macoun is Rafferty Dam, a fitting tribute to the work of Len Gustafson, an oasis in one of the driest and most flood-prone areas of Saskatchewan, a dream of Premier Grant Devine that Len Gustafson, Prime Minister Mulroney and then Environment Minister Jean Charest adopted. These four made this project happen against tremendous skepticism and political opposition. Len worked hard to mend the relationship with the Western wing of our party that chose a different path in 1993. The personal relationships and friendships he built proved invaluable as Prime Minister Harper and Minister MacKay worked to heal the party.

In his personal life, Len let his actions speak for him. He practised tolerance and kindness to everyone, no matter race or religion, culture or economic status. Len did not have to make speeches about what a great guy he was. If you knew him, you knew it.

Honourable senators, Len was a good guy who finished first. He was helped by a great lady, his wife Alice, and children and grandchildren who love him. There is little else a man could want.