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'Unlike anything I have ever experienced': Senator Diane Griffin

Senator Diane Griffin, centre, stands with Senator Peter Harder, from Ontario, and Senator Elizabeth Hubley, from P.E.I., in the senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this file photo.
Senator Diane Griffin, centre, stands with Senator Peter Harder, from Ontario, and Senator Elizabeth Hubley, from P.E.I., in the senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this file photo.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — P.E.I.’s newest senator said it’s impossible to put into words what it felt like to walk into the Red Chamber for the first time.

“It’s pretty well unlike anything I have ever experienced,’’ Diane Griffin told The Guardian in a phone interview from Ottawa on Thursday.

“The amount of protocol and pomp associated with the senate is very different from our provincial legislature in Prince Edward Island, which has a fair amount of pomp and ceremony, but this is even more.’’

When asked what it felt like to sit in the senate for the first time, Griffin poked a bit of fun at herself.

“I was surprised that the chair was actually quite comfortable. My feet actually did reach the floor which is not always the case because modern chairs are made for taller people,’’ she laughed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Griffin and eight others as non-partisan senators last month.

The nine senators are the first ones to be chosen under an arms-length process that saw more than 2,700 Canadians apply to fill the 21 vacancies in the 105-seat upper house.

Griffin, 69, is filling a P.E.I. seat that had been vacant since Catherine Callbeck reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July 2014.

Griffin is already brushing up on her senate history, telling The Guardian that there have only been 960 senators sworn in during the lifetime of the senate.

“The culture of the senate will be different because of all the new people, for one thing, and the fact they are non-affiliated with any political party is going to make a big difference. It’s going to be fascinating to watch this changeover.’’

Griffin sits as an independent senator, even though she ran unsuccessfully in the 1993 provincial election in P.E.I. as a Progressive Conservative and had seriously considered running federally as a Conservative candidate.

Griffin said she’s had numerous calls from different senators, offering congratulations and advice. Kind words have also come from P.E.I.’s contingent of senators, Percy Downe, Libby Hubley and Mike Duffy.

She had special kind words for Duffy.

“When you’re one-on-one (with him) he’s much more friendly; immediately puts a person at ease. He has that ability.’’

Of all the advice she’s been given, it’s what Callbeck told her that sticks with her the most.

“Senator Callbeck told me ‘you’re going to be busy all the time’. That had not quite hit me until she told me that.’’

Griffin reiterated that she expects her focus as a senator to be in the natural resources field.

“Now, that is a big field (so) within that I’ll have to focus on something.’’

dave.stewart@tc.tc

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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