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Ontario senator and former top public servant Ian Shugart dead at 66

Shugart was appointed to the Senate in September 2022 following a career in the public service that spanned more than 40 years under both Liberal and Conservative governments

Ian Shugart
Ian Shugart attends a state dinner at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, April 1, 2019. The Speaker of the Senate announced today that Shugart, an Ontario senator, has died. Photo by Justin Tang /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ian Shugart, an Ontario senator and former top public servant, has died at the age of 66, Senate Speaker Raymonde Gagne confirmed on Wednesday.

The Senate was expected to hold a moment of silence for Shugart on Wednesday afternoon before adjourning for the day.

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Shugart was appointed to the Senate in September 2022 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, following a career in the public service that spanned more than 40 years under both Liberal and Conservative governments.

National Post

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He became the clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet in 2019, becoming the highest-ranking member of the public service and serving as its main link to Trudeau and ministers.

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He also served as a deputy minister for the federal environment, employment and foreign-affairs departments.

Sen. Marc Gold, the government’s representative in the Senate, said he’s deeply saddened to hear of the death of his colleague.

“His time in the Senate followed an illustrious career in Canada’s civil service,” Gold said on Wednesday.

“His wealth of experience in health, environment, social development and foreign affairs will be missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

The cause of his death was not disclosed, but in 2021 Shugart took time off for treatment following a cancer diagnosis.

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Ontario Sen. Bernadette Clement said she was grateful that he took the time, even in the height of his illness, to exchange ideas with her by phone.

Manitoba Sen. Don Plett said Shugart’s journey in the Senate was short “but his lifelong public service speaks to his dedication to our country.”

John Ivison, a columnist with the National Post, said he had tea with Shugart last summer.

“He knew his time was short but was revelling in his new role as a politician, free to take positions after a lifetime as a neutral public servant,” Ivison posted on X.

Shugart noted that transition in his maiden speech in the Senate in June, which came months after he was appointed due to health issues.

“It has certainly been interesting to transition from the executive branch to the legislative branch. It has also been somewhat difficult,” he said.

“Canada is facing great challenges on many fronts: social justice, environmental crises and major economic and international security threats. To survive these realities, let alone thrive, we have to be at our best. The alternative is mediocrity.”

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