Senator P. Michael Pitfield announces his retirement after distinguished
career of public service

OTTAWA, June 1 /CNW Telbec/ - Senator P. Michael Pitfield (Independent) today released the following statement:

    "Today I have announced my intention to resign from the Senate, effective
    midnight, June 1st, 2010.

    I believe that service to our nation is the highest privilege that a
    Canadian can undertake, and for fifty years I have striven to serve
    Canada as a senior public servant and Senator. In my roles as Secretary
    to the Cabinet, Clerk of the Privy Council, and as an Independent
    Senator, I have sought to engage Canadians with public policy, and have
    worked to improve Canadians' understanding of and access to, our federal

    The Senate in our modern government is both ingeniously complex and
    uniquely Canadian. It plays vital roles in legislative review and
    regional representation, and many excellent women and men have worked
    hard to ensure its functionality and success as a second chamber. While a
    governmental system is never perfect, we must build upon the genius of
    the system to ensure its continued relevance in federal government and to
    the lives of Canadians.

    I have said, in referring to constitution-making, that the first step is
    almost never the final step, and that focusing merely on the change and
    not on its consequences is to invite chaos. This is as true in life as it
    is for the Senate. Throughout my career I have had the privilege of
    representing Canada in many different capacities In particular, over the
    past several decades, it has been a privilege to serve with my Senate

    Unfortunately, my declining health has increasingly diminished my ability
    to make the contribution I wish to make as a Senator to Canada's public
    affairs. For this reason, I will resign my position midnight, effective
    June 1, 2010, and allow another to undertake the vital duty of public

Senator Pitfield joined the Public Service in 1959 and rose to occupy its highest office as Secretary to the Cabinet and Clerk of the Privy Council. He was appointed to the Senate in 1982 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and has served since that time as a Senator without affiliation to any political party.

Biographical information follows.

Senator P. Michael Pitfield

P.C., C.V.O., Q.C.

Senator Pitfield has served Canada for fifty years both as a Senator and as a senior public servant. He remains Canada's youngest ever Clerk of the Privy Council and is most widely recognized for modernizing the public service, his role in the patriation of the Constitution and his dedication to mentoring young professionals to carry on his commitment to public service.

    Counsel to Prime Ministers

Senator Pitfield is best known for his work as Clerk of the Privy Council during the 1970s and early 1980s, where he worked with the governments of the Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau on all major files.

He is particularly acknowledged for his key role in the patriation of the Constitution and the establishment of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, arguably the crowning achievement of the Trudeau government. In his own words:

    The patriation of the Constitution marked the successful evolution of our
    country to maturity, without the trauma so many other nations are forced
    to endure during the course of their own development. There was a
    national will to build together, on the principle of the greatest good
    for the greatest number.

Senator Pitfield is also recognized for his significant contributions to decision-making processes of the government. During his tenure as Clerk, he recognized that the increasing complexity of government required a decision-making process informed by empirical evidence and reason.

In order to achieve this, he directed a substantial re-examination and transformation of the Cabinet committee system as well as the entire Cabinet government process. Memoranda to Cabinet were introduced for the first time under Senator Pitfield's leadership. In addition, a new structure of Cabinet committees was established including the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning. Senator Pitfield also established the first machinery of government branch of the Privy Council Office.

    Public Service Career

Senator Pitfield's public service career began in 1959 as Administrative Assistant to the Honourable Davie Fulton, then Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in the Diefenbaker government. His colleagues in that office included future Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as well as future Cabinet Ministers Marc Lalonde and Lowell Murray. During this time he obtained a diplôme d'études supérieures en droit (D.E.S.D.) at the University of Ottawa specializing in public law.

Senator Pitfield next worked as Secretary and Executive Director of the Royal Commission on Publications under the chairmanship of Grattan O'Leary, who had been tasked by Prime Minister Diefenbaker with examining Canada's troubled publishing industry. From 1961 to 1965, he served as Attaché to the Governor-General of Canada, His Excellency Major-General the Right Honourable Georges-Philéas Vanier,a position in which he advised His Excellency on constitutional matters.

In 1962, Senator Pitfield was selected as Secretary and Research Supervisor to the Royal Commission on Taxation headed by Kenneth Carter. The report issued by the Carter Commission contained far-reaching reforms to the tax system that continue to have relevance decades later.

Senator Pitfield joined the Privy Council Office in 1965. One of his first assignments involved serving as a member of a special committee mandated to create a new national honour. The result was the inauguration of the Order of Canada in 1967 -- Canada's highest national order which recognizes the lifelong contributions of Canadians to the nation.

From 1965 to 1973, he held several senior positions in the Privy Council Office, notably Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Plans), Senior Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet and Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council.

In 1973, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Deputy Registrar General of Canada. One of his major achievements in this role was to help design the "Time-Reader's Digest Act," which increased the advertising dollars available for Canadian publications and proved to be a major stimulus to the domestic industry.

Senator Pitfield became a fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University in 1974.

In 1975, at age 37, he was appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau to the position of Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, the most senior post in the federal public service. He was the youngest Canadian ever to occupy this role. He served this capacity for four years, helping steer the government through the turbulent economic challenges of the mid-late 1970s.

In 1979, he briefly left the public service to teach at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, as the MacKenzie King Professor of Canadian Studies.

In 1980, Prime Minister Trudeau asked Senator Pitfield to return to Ottawa and again serve as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet. He remained in that position until December 1982, when he was summoned to the Senate of Canada.

During this time, Senator Pitfield also played an active role in the establishment of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP). He was a member of the first Board of Trustees in 1973 and, in 2002, on the occasion of IRPP's 30th anniversary, was made a Lifetime Fellow of the Institute.

    Appointment and Tenure in the Senate

On December 22, 1982, Senator Pitfield was summoned to the Senate of Canada, where he sat as an Independent. He continued to engage with and work for Canadians on matters of public policy both behind the scenes as well as in the Senate and its Committees. He also continued to represent his country abroad, serving in 1983 as the Canadian Representative at the 39th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

That same year, Senator Pitfield chaired the Special Committee of the Senate on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which was asked to study the bill that would establish CSIS. After three months of close examination, the Committee tabled its report. Especially relevant today was its concern in maintaining a balance between security and the preservation of individual rights. The government accepted a number of the Committee's proposed amendments to the bill, which was passed into law in June 1984.

Senator Pitfield has long been an advocate of Senate reform, saying he is convinced it is both desirable and feasible so long as certain precautions are not ignored. He has previously summarized his views on the Senate as follows:

    In constitution-making it is important to bear in mind that the first
    step in reform is almost never the final step.... Focusing merely on the
    change and not on its consequences as far as the eye can see is to invite
    mistakes and chaos.

    Equally, it is important to build on the genius of the system itself, to
    avoid trying to achieve some sudden change of direction by simply
    declaring it to happen. ... It is important... to build on what exists,
    not on what is envisioned as ideal. At the same time, it is essential to
    recognize what is uniquely Canadian, to avoid seduction by what can be
    taken discretely from other systems because it simply happens to look
    good in another context. Chances are that transplants would cause, in
    practice, grave distortions to our own system of government.

Throughout his years in the Senate, Senator Pitfield has served on numerous Senate Committees, spoken out on national issues (such as the Clarity Act), taught at Queen's University in the Program for Public Executives, and worked to improve Canadians' understanding of and access to their federal government.


Senator Pitfield was born in Montreal on June 18, 1937, the youngest son of the late Grace MacDougall and Ward C. Pitfield, founder of Pitfield, Mackay, Ross Ltd.

He completed his university entrance requirements at the early age of 14. Too young for admission to a Canadian university, he enrolled at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, from which he graduated with a B.A.Sc. in 1955. He was also a member of the Royal Canadian Army (Artillery) as an Officer Cadet (Regular). He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, later serving with the Royal Canadian Navy.

He then entered the Faculty of Law at McGill University, obtaining a Bachelor of Civil Law degree (B.C.L.) in 1958.

In Montreal during this time, he was active in the academic and intellectual ferment that led to the Quiet Revolution in Quebec and the evolution of political life in the 1960s. A native and proud Montrealer, Senator Pitfield has always been a strong proponent of bilingualism, national unity and building understanding between Canada's two linguistic communities.

Senator Pitfield went on to receive many honours and distinctions throughout his long career. In 1979, he received an Honorary D. Litt from St. Lawrence University. In 1972, he was appointed a Federal Queen's Counsel; in 1982, he became a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his work on the Constitution of Canada; and, in 1984, he was made a member of the Queen's Privy Council.

From 1983 to 2003, Senator Pitfield sat as a Trustee on the Board of the Twentieth Century Fund in New York. In 1984, he was appointed Vice-Chairman of Power Corporation and a Director of Power Financial Corporation, positions he held until 2003 when he was named Director Emeritus of Power Corporation of Canada.

Senator Pitfield has also devoted extensive time and effort to health-related causes. For nearly two decades he served on the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Heart Institute, and was Chairman of the Board from 1994 to 2000. In September 2003, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute created the Michael Pitfield Chair in Cardiac Surgery at the Heart Institute.

In 2001 he became the Honorary Chairman of the Parkinson's Society of Canada in recognition of his work to raise awareness of the disease. Senator Pitfield was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the late 1980s.

His proudest achievements remain his marriage to his late wife, Nancy Elizabeth Snow, their three children, Caroline (1973), Thomas (1975) and Kate (1978),and their three grandchildren.


For further information: For further information: Hazel Lachapelle, Office of Senator Pitfield, (613) 992-2784

Organization Profile


More on this organization

Custom Packages

Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.

Start today.

CNW Membership

Fill out a CNW membership form or contact us at 1 (877) 269-7890

Learn about CNW services

Request more information about CNW products and services or call us at 1 (877) 269-7890