Ontario Senator Pitfield retires

Independent Ontario Senator Michael Pitfield is retiring for health reasons.

Independent Ontario Senator Michael Pitfield has announced his retirement effective at midnight Tuesday.

Pitfield, who represents the Ottawa-Vanier region, was appointed to the Senate late in 1982 on the advice of then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

In a news release, Pitfield said he is leaving the Senate for health reasons.

"My declining health has increasingly diminished my ability to make the contribution I wish to make as a senator to Canada's public affairs," he said.

"I believe that service to our nation is the highest privilege that a Canadian can undertake, and for 50 years I have striven to serve Canada as a senior public servant and senator."

Pitfield was born in Montreal in 1937. He joined the public service in 1959 and served as secretary to the cabinet and clerk of the privy council from 1975 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1982.

Though he was closely associated with the Liberal Party and was a key figure in the Trudeau government's efforts to repatriate the Canadian constitution, he sat as an independent for his 27-year Senate career.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1980 and has served as honorary chairman of the Parkinson's Society of Canada since 2001.

The Conservative Party holds a plurality in the Senate with 51 seats. The appointment of a Conservative senator to replace Pitfield would put the party one seat away from the 53 seats required for a majority

The Liberals have 49 Senate seats, while two senators identify themselves as Progressive Conservatives. Pitfield's retirement brings the number of independent or non-aligned senators to two.