Pat Carney


The Hon. Pat Carney
P.C., C.M.

Born in Shanghai, China, the Honourable Pat Carney has strong roots in British Columbia, where her Irish grandparents settled in the Okanagan Valley in the 1890’s. She was raised in the Kootenays, attending Nelson High School in the West Kootenay district. She holds a BA in Economics and Political Science and an MA in Community and Regional Planning, both from the University of British Columbia. She began her journalism career at the Vancouver Province and the Vancouver Sun, covering BC business and the Parliamentary Press Galley in Ottawa. In 1970, Pat Carney and her young family moved to Yellowknife where she opened her own business, Gemini North, consulting on northern socio-economic issues. Miss Carney returned to the West Coast, where she was a Canadian pioneer in the development of distance learning systems and in 1977 she received the British Columbia Institute of Technology award for Innovation in Education for “diligent and creative work” in the Satellite Tele-Education Program Hermes Project, one of 26 national projects to experiment with the world’s first geostationary interactive communications satellite.

In 1980, she was elected Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre, a seat she held until 1988 when she retired from politics because of health issues. From 1984 to 1988, Pat Carney held three cabinet posts in the Mulroney Conservative Government; Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Minister of International Trade, and President of the Treasury Board. She was the first woman to be appointed to these senior economic cabinet positions.

As Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, she was responsible for the dismantling of the National Energy Policy and for both the Atlantic and Western Accords. The Atlantic Accord was a landmark agreement that ensured Newfoundland and Labrador’s place as equal partners in Confederation and laid the groundwork for the province’s subsequent prosperity because of the province’s oil and natural gas revenues. As Minister of International Trade she was the minister responsible for the Free Trade negotiations with the United States, and the Asia Pacific Initiative. During her tenure as President of the Treasury Board, Minister Carney initiated a Task Force on Barriers to Women in the Public Service, “Beneath the Veneer”, which was released on April 23, 1990.

Pat Carney was summoned to the Senate of Canada on August 30, 1990. She was the first Conservative Senator to be appointed from British Columbia since 1931. Miss Carney retired from the Senate in March 2008. As a Senator, Miss Carney served on several Senate Committees which included:  Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources; Deputy Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Member of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs; and Member of the Senate Fisheries Committee.

She also initiated and co-chaired the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Lightstations following the government announced plans to distaff the lights (eg. removing lightkeepers from major lightstations). The committee held public hearings up and down the west coast to deal with the safety issues surrounding the destaffing of lighthouses. The government amended the decision and the lightkeepers remained on many lightstations in BC. In 1990 she was appointed honourary member of the BC Coastal Community Network, which she helped found.

Miss Carney also fought to protect the dismantling of our coastal lightstations. In 2000 East Coast senator Mike Forrestall introduced a Private Member’s Bill to protect Canada’s heritage lightstations. Following the death of Senator Forrestall, Miss Carney assumed sponsorship of successive bills until the Act was passed with the unanimous consent of all parties in both the House of Commons and the Senate. Canada finally adopted a new law to protect heritage lighthouses. The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act received Royal Assent in May of 2008 and came into force on May 29, 2010. Heritage designation means that the lighthouses cannot be destroyed, moved or altered without public notice.

Miss Carney was subsequently appointed by the Minister of Parks Canada to chair a consultative group to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which advised on the implementation of the legislation. There are now 76 heritage designated lighthouses in Canada out of 348 petitioned by the public, and some 21 of those are located in BC.

Her dedication to the preservation of Canada’s lighthouses and maritime history was recognized in 2008 with the creation of a new “Governor’s Award for Heritage Conservation” by The National Trust for Canada (known then as the Heritage Canada Foundation), for her “extraordinary effort” in championing legislation to designate and preserve heritage lighthouses in Canada.

Her community activities include co-founder and honorary patron of the Saturna Heritage Centre, which renovated the former Fog Alarm building at Saturna’s historic East Post Lighthouse and features island history, including Moby Doll, the world’s first orca captured from the ocean off Saturna Island in 1964, and the maritime explorations in the 1790’s by the Spanish, the first Europeans to sail the waters surrounding the southern gulf islands.

She has also been a tireless advocate for arthritis research in Canada for more than 20 years. In November 2009 she was the recipient of the Centre of Excellence Canadian Arthritis Network Award of Merit in recognition of her “spirit of dedication and commitment” to the Network as a member of the Board of Directors. Miss Carney helped launch the first Canadian Arthritis Network sponsored study on rheumatoid arthritis among aboriginal populations. She is a founding director of the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada.  She has also served on the Board of the Arthritis Society of BC and Yukon and received an honorary membership in 1998.

Miss Carney holds a Honourary Doctor of Laws degrees (LL.D.) from the University of British Columbia, from Simon Fraser University and from Newfoundland’s Memorial University. She is also a Honourary Member of FRAIC (Fellow of the Royal Architect’s Institute of Canada). Miss Carney was an Adjunct Professor at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning from 1990 to 1999 and received the UBC Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 1989. 

In 2011, Miss Carney was awarded the Member of the Order of Canada. The citation stated: Patricia Carney’s achievements as a journalist, politician and senator have contributed to Canada's economic and political development. As a Cabinet minister, she helped shape Canada's economy through her leadership in negotiating the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and energy agreements with the provinces. She has been a strong advocate for arthritis research, equal rights for women, and the preservation of Canada's heritage lighthouses and maritime history.

Miss Carney is the author of the best seller, Trade Secrets: A Memoir, and her soon to be published book entitled On Island – Life Among the Coast Dwellers, a lively, engaging collection of island stories. Miss Carney is also a regular contributor to Canadian newspapers and magazines. She also served on several volunteer boards including Our Emily Commemorative Statue and Music ByThe Sea.  She lives on Saturna Island, one of BC’s southern Gulf Islands.