Last Saturday night, following a private dinner at Sagard – the Desmarais estate north of La Malbaie, Que. – I was asked to say a few words on behalf of the weekend guests of Paul and Jackie Desmarais. Paul was quite ill and unable to attend, but he insisted that Jackie proceed with some close friends.
I spoke extemporaneously. What follows is a reconstruction of those remarks I delivered three nights before his death:
An Irish poet once wrote that: "The past is consumed in the present and the present is alive only because it gives birth to the future."
The film that you all saw last night about Jackie and Paul personified that truth.
I have known Paul Desmarais for almost 50 years and we became the closest of friends as the years went by.
Paul has not had a conventional life.
His life has really been a love story – of absolute devotion to Jackie, his family, his friends and his country.
His magnificent success has been a tribute to that life, and his extraordinary generosity has gone to the very core of his being. He believes that sharing generously the benefits of one's success with family, friends and country is the only road to genuine happiness. And Paul Desmarais – as you all know – has achieved that rarest of personal objectives: happiness on Earth!
As prime minister, I came to know very many people from all walks of life. I don't know if the number was in the thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions. But I know it was a lot.
Canada is now 146 years old with 35 million people who have developed one of the strongest and most impressive economies in the world.
Many millions of people have held Canadian citizenship over that period of time.
So, while I certainly did not know everyone who walked the face of this country, I can tell you with absolute certainty that, in its almost century and a half of existence, Canada has never produced an individual more honourable, more principled and more accomplished than Paul Desmarais.
And no couple has given all of us more love than Jackie and Paul – they have come to exemplify, for us all, elegance, kindness, friendship and grace.
So, to Jackie who is here and to her beloved Paul who is nearby, I simply say tonight to you both – on behalf of all of your guests – that we are honoured to be in your company.