Sharon Carstairs turned the provincial Liberal party for a time into a viable governing option, but the so-called Lady in Red has since made her mark championing end-of-life care in Canada.

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This article was published 25/3/2011 (3670 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sharon Carstairs turned the provincial Liberal party for a time into a viable governing option, but the so-called Lady in Red has since made her mark championing end-of-life care in Canada.

Carstairs, 68, announced this week that she will retire from the Senate sometime this fall, six years earlier than the mandatory retirement age of 75.

'The passion is still with me, but I'm tired' -- Senator Sharon Carstairs

JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

'The passion is still with me, but I'm tired' -- Senator Sharon Carstairs

Carstairs, who is in Brussels, Belgium speaking at an International Symposium on Palliative Care, said on Friday, "it is simply time.

"I have been in public life for 27 years. I will be 69 next month and my husband will turn 78 this year.

"The passion is still with me, but I'm tired."

Looking back on almost three decades of public service, Carstairs said her "happiest moment" was the 1988 provincial election where she took a perennially third place party and brought it to the official Opposition -- the first Canadian woman to do that.

"The lowest point has been the last few months in the Senate where there is little respect shown by this government to the work we do," she said.

But just because Carstairs is retiring from the Senate -- she said it will be this fall, but no date has been set -- it doesn't mean she'll be putting her feet up.

"My greatest satisfaction has been the movement we have made in caring for the dying," she said. Carstairs said in 1995 only five per cent of Canadians had access to palliative care, however, today coverage is up to 30 per cent.

"Clearly we still have work to do and I will continue to work in this area after I have retired as I am on the Champions Council of the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association."

Carstairs, who has authored two books, said she also plans to write a book on her "coast-to-coast-to-coast travels on behalf of palliative care."

Current provincial Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard called Carstairs "a friend and a wonderful person.

"She has made a great contribution to the Canadian political landscape the last 30 years. She did extremely well in the 1988 election and came quite close to getting the most seats and getting into government.

"And her work with palliative care here and around the world in the Senate has been quite incredible." Gerrard also credited Carstairs with encouraging more women to run for office.

Former premier Gary Filmon could not be reached for comment.

An interview request with Gary Doer, now Canada's ambassador to the U.S., but leader of the third-place NDP when Carstairs swept her party into second place, was rejected because of protocol after the fall of the federal government.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
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Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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