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Mary Robinson appointed to help represent P.E.I. in Canada's Senate

Most recently, Mary Robinson has been serving as vice-president of the World Farmers’ Organisation, an umbrella group for national farmers’ organizations and agricultural co-operatives from all over the world. (P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture - image credit)
Most recently, Mary Robinson has been serving as vice-president of the World Farmers’ Organisation, an umbrella group for national farmers’ organizations and agricultural co-operatives from all over the world. (P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture - image credit)

Prince Edward Island no longer has any vacant Senate seats, with Monday's news that Mary Robinson has been appointed to Canada's upper house of Parliament.

The Prime Minister's Office announced that Robinson, whom it called "a globally recognized leader in the agricultural sector," would sit as an independent senator.

"She is currently vice-president of the World Farmers' Organisation and a managing partner of the Robinson Group of Companies, a sixth-generation farm and agribusiness in Albany, P.E.I.," Justin Trudeau's office said in a news release.

Robinson joins Percy Downe, Brian Francis and Jane MacAdam to form P.E.I.'s constitutionally guaranteed contingent of four.

"I'm quite relieved that I don't have to keep keeping the secret," she said when reached by CBC News late Monday. "I have to say, I'm a little overwhelmed by the amount of calls and texts and emails and reach-outs that I've had... It's been really heartwarming and exciting."

Robinson said Trudeau called her just over a week ago to ask if she would be interested in the Governor General naming her to the Senate.

Mary Robinson, pictured with daughter Catherine, is spearheading a proposal to study barriers to Island women working in agriculture.
Mary Robinson, pictured with daughter Catherine, is spearheading a proposal to study barriers to Island women working in agriculture.

A file photo from 2018 of Robinson with her daughter Catherine. At the time, she was spearheading a proposal to study barriers to Island women working in agriculture. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"I continue to wait to wake up from this dream," said Robinson, who calls herself a "proud Prince Edward Islander" at the top of her LinkedIn page. "I still can't believe that it's true or real, because to me it's such an incredible privilege."

Two recent retirements

The Island had not had the full four seats occupied since Mike Duffy left the Red Chamber in May 2021 at the mandatory retirement age of 75.

His departure was followed a year later by the retirement from the Senate of Diane Griffin, who went on to be named Chancellor of UPEI last month.

Back in 2019, Robinson was the first person from Canada's smallest province to be elected president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

"There's been a lot of support from home which has been lovely and I think P.E.I. typically is viewed at the national table as sending people who are quality people," she said at the time. "I think we've always been proud of the people we've sent."

The Senate is perhaps one of the least understood institutions in this country, and it's one that you can do the greatest work in, because as a senator you can dive into whatever topic you think there's merit to. — Mary Robinson

In Monday's news release, Trudeau said that Robinson's experience in agriculture and business "will bring an important perspective to the Senate, where she will be a strong voice for Atlantic Canada."

Robinson is looking forward to that, and said something that former P.E.I. premier and Senator Catherine Callbeck once told her has stayed with her.

"Her words... were that the Senate is perhaps one of the least understood institutions in this country, and it's one that you can do the greatest work in, because as a senator you can dive into whatever topic you think there's merit to.

"So I I look forward to that. I don't know much about it yet, but I assume I'll be learning a lot in the very near future."