PETIT DE GRAT: Former and current work colleagues, friends, fellow politicians, former constituents, and family members gathered to thank a former MLA and cabinet minister.
On May 25, Centre La Picasse in Petit de Grat hosted a tribute dinner in honour of Michel Samson, which was hosted by the Cape Breton-Richmond Liberal Association and was attended by about 210 people. Among those in attendance were MLAs and cabinet ministers Lloyd Hines, Patricia Arab, Labi Kasoulis, Ben Jessome, and Iain Rankin.
Cape Breton-Richmond Liberal Association president Peter DeWolf said the evening was a testament to Samson’s 19 years of service.
“It was truly an amazing evening,” DeWolf said. “We were blown away by the interest in the event and sold out early. We received so many notes and videos from folks who couldn’t make it that we didn’t have time to include them all.”
DeWolf said the night featured speeches and video messages from Premier Stephen McNeil and Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, as well as letters from former federal cabinet minister and current Cape Breton University president Dave Dingwall, former Premier and current Gaelic College president Rodney MacDonald, and former premier Russell MacLellan.
“Most striking to me were the kind messages from former colleagues of a different stripe in the legislature,” DeWolf noted. “The theme was clearly that they greatly respected his ability to work across party lines. It’s a stark reminder that with Michel returning to a career in law, there is a big political void in Cape Breton-Richmond, and that no one can match Michel’s skill, will, and desire to work on behalf of their constituents.”
For his part, Samson said he was humbled at sentiments expressed by those in attendance, as well as the work that went into the event.
“It was a wonderful event and I was very touched personally, as was my entire family,” Samson said. “To see a full room with many faces that have been with me since my first nomination victory in 1998 and supported me the entire time. It was a great evening.”
Samson also saw the event as a way to thank all those who helped him throughout his political career.
“While it was billed as a tribute dinner for me, it really was an opportunity for me and for my entire family to thank the residents and voters of Cape Breton-Richmond for the support them gave me over 19 years. And to certainly celebrate my parents, my sisters, brother, aunts, uncles, and all the extended family and close friends who were with me all along in this journey.
“When people decide to go into public office, families tend to be dragged along into it, and I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and loving family than the one I have that were with me right from day one until the very end, and are still with me today, and were all with me on Friday night.”
During last year’s provincial election, Samson lost the riding of Cape Breton-Richmond to PC candidate Alana Paon by 21 votes. In the following days, Samson decided not to contest the result and no recount was ordered.
Since last year’s election, Samson was hired as a lawyer with Halifax law firm Cox Palmer and took a volunteer position with the board of the Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia.
“I’m extremely overjoyed at spending some time in the private sector and the opportunities it brings,” Samson noted. “I think as most people have acknowledged it was a well deserved break after 19 years of public service.”
Although he will be living and working in Halifax, the former Strait area MLA said he still considers the area home.
“Isle Madame will always be home,” Samson said. “I intend to maintain my home there. I just put my boat in the water on Sunday, it’s at the Isle Madame Boat Club and I plan on spending quite a bit of time this summer back home, and I’m sure we’ll continue to be working closely with a number of individuals and organizations back home.”
While he is content in his new life, Samson added that he has not yet decided on his long-term plans. At the conclusion of his speech last Friday night, Samson recalled a moment with his father on election night.
“After the election, [my father] indicated that it was probably best to destroy and get rid of all our election signs, to which I told him, ‘not just yet.’”