Mr. Chair, it is a real honour. It is certainly an honour to follow my friend and colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's but also to be here with all my colleagues and with you, Mr. Chair.
As I rise in this place, perhaps for the final time, I too wanted to share some thoughts and reflections on the last 18 years and the gift it has been to be part of this institution, this formidable place. It is beyond question. The House of Commons and our Parliament of Canada has stood for almost a century and a half, and I suspect that now, as in the future, it will remain a work in progress. Clearly, the physical and political infrastructure and the construction that continues around this place will go on.
As I pass through, I will remember, first and foremost, the people. The majesty and the splendour of these gorgeous buildings and this remarkable chamber leave one breathless. However, so too do the gracious and hard-working people who populate it, the people who work here, the people who keep us safe, transport us, feed us, and keep us moving forward in our daily tasks.
Of course, no one would be here without the people we represent, our constituents. My first words of thanks are to the people of Central Nova. My northern Nova Scotia constituency comprises Pictou, Antigonish, Guysborough, parts of Halifax County and soon parts of Musquodoboit Valley, which I will inherit from my friend from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, who I now call the last man standing.
Although the name changed, the people remained the same: strong stock, hard-working, industrious, loyal. They are communities and people I was always proud to represent. I have held their confidence as their member of Parliament for six terms. It is a true honour in every sense of the word.
I listened to the eloquent words of colleagues who have spoken before me, and I share so many of those sentiments. I cherish so much of this shared life, this political life, here in Ottawa and throughout the country.
My fellow parliamentarians, and those in particular of the Conservative Party, my political home, also went through an evolution during my tenure. There has been throughout our history, from John A. Macdonald to our current leader, the Prime Minister, an unbroken continuity in our political bloodline and a commitment to the building and advancing of our Canada. I am proud to have served as a Conservative and am comfortable in the knowledge that we are a strong, united party with strong values, Canadian values, a progressive political party deeply ingrained in the origins and future of our nation in our outlook and orientation.
As was mentioned as well, it is a party that I believe brings about many shared recollections. I am glad to share them with my colleague opposite, the previous justice minister, the member from Mount Royal, who was for me, in many ways, a mentor. I was his critic, and today he is in some ways my critic. However, that criticism is always constructive and respectful and indicative, I think, of the very best of this place when we come together around important ideas and important notions that move the country forward.
My efforts, first and foremost, have always been to improve the lives of those of my constituents in Central Nova, whether it be through infrastructure, through investments or programs, or through personal support, much of which can only occur through the work of those in our constituency offices. Other members, of course, have made the same observation. I have been so fortunate to have a remarkable team.
Through government portfolios I have held in the last nine years, I hope I have been able to contribute, through bills and debates over the years, as have all who have gone before me. Though some would inevitably be spoken with words of passion and even great emotion, this is a place of ideas and healthy debate first and foremost. Debate should flourish, as it does.
In this place, this formidable institution, our House, I hope I may have left a small impression, not on the physical side, not carved in limestone or in wood, like the words, figures, and symbols found throughout this place, the work of gifted craftspeople and masons from all parts of Canada, but through the decisions and the debates, governance, rules, and regulations we are duty bound to respect but also to amend and modernize over time.
Many previous speakers referenced family, and I, of course, will do the same. There was one small contribution from my days as an opposition House leader. As my friend from South Shore—St. Margaret's mentioned, we came to this place together, young, idealistic, and ready to bring about change. I was a single man, and I argued successfully for the installation of baby change tables in all of the parliamentary precinct washrooms, both male and female, and I used one the other day with my son.
I made that presentation at the Board of Internal Economy, but it was really the brainchild of my good friend, John Holtby, a giant in my eyes, who remains one of the most knowledgeable parliamentary procedural experts in Canada, an author and intellect, an icon and a friend. He is now back growing his garden, and like my grandfather, he loves to watch nature grow, including budding politicians, who he took under his able wing.
It has been my honour and privilege to serve in this House of democracy, and I thank all of those, of all political stripes, past and present, and my colleagues, too many to recall here, I served with. Although we sometimes lined up on different issues on different sides of this place with different parties, we served alongside one another.
Parliamentarians all come with true hearts, clear heads, and an intent to bring positive change. It is a great privilege afforded to all of us by our constituents and is a shared experience, a common goal, to leave this place and the country stronger.
This pursuit is an honourable calling, despite its frailties and its failings, like democracy itself. As the great Sir Winston Churchill said of democracy:
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried...
I am humbled by this privilege and hope that my record will show that I did my best for my riding, and indeed, for all of Nova Scotia and Canada. My grandmother encouraged me to do so.
Since 2006, the Prime Minister has bestowed on me the privilege of serving as foreign minister, minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency responsible for the Atlantic gateway, minister of national defence, and currently Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. In addition, I have represented Nova Scotia in the federal cabinet and other provinces. I have chaired cabinet committees. I thank the Prime Minister for his confidence and support in all of those positions. I did my best to fulfill our Conservative government's promises to Canadians.
I thank him personally, as well, for the request that I continue in my role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General until the election, and I relish the opportunity to finish with a flourish and to finish out my mandate as the member of Parliament for Central Nova.
In each and every portfolio, I have worked with dedicated public servants who work hard and put in long hours to help implement changes and improve policy and programs. From deputy ministers to those throughout the ranks, I thank them for their service.
As many in this chamber will know, I was honoured to work with the Canadian Armed Forces for some seven years during a war. Those folks, our greatest citizens, who sign up and literally put service to their country first and foremost and put their lives on the line, are truly remarkable. I remain in awe, humbled and inspired by those who serve our country in uniform, and I was honoured to be called their minister.
I have been well served in my time here, from literally day one, by Madeleine and Krista, who I met in a previous occupation in the law, and so many others back home, who I named and spoke of, many of whom have been with me a long time.
I thank all of my staff, who have been exceptional in their loyalty to me, to the government, and to Canada. I thank them for their public service and their dedication. They are a keen, hard-charging team that I have with me to this day, and it makes me lament the fact that I will no longer have the joy of working with them. They are, in my estimation, an all-star team.
Marian, my chief of staff, wore out her knees walking these halls and can match minds with anyone in this place. Her Irish makes it hard to disagree with her once her mind has been made up. There is Marc Charbonneau, who, like many I have known, would literally take a bullet for me, which takes on real meaning given the events of last October. I will miss them, not as employees but as friends and colleagues.
The relentless pace here sometimes make it feel like we are living life in fast forward.
Finally, I would like to thank my family, the undeniable reason I chose to move on from this place. My parents and grandparents made me all that I am and gave me all that I have. They instilled in me good values, a fine example in their lives, and the sacrifices they made for my siblings and I remain my greatest inspiration.
My father was a parliamentarian. He set a high bar. My mother would have been an excellent and compassionate member of this place as well, with a heart that would fill this chamber. She would have been a great debater as well, and I never want to debate my mother. I thank them for their love and support. It has been my lifeblood.
My siblings are my closest and dearest friends. Most of all, I thank my wife, Nazanin, who I met here as a member of Parliament, in fact, in this lobby just behind me. Were it not for politics, I would not have met the love of my life. She remains my compass and my confidante. Her values, kind nature, and disposition are in our son Kian's DNA. Our wonderful, healthy, and curious boy has given my life real meaning. I cannot wait to meet our unborn daughter.
Appropriately, my last words are spoken with passion and love for this place but are only outweighed by my hope for more time with the people I love more.
As I close, I borrow the words of the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, who said:
Adieu! a heart-warm, fond adieu... With melting heart, and brimful eye, I'll mind you still, tho' far awa'.
À bientôt, mes chers collègues, till we meet again.
I quote, as well, the great John Diefenbaker, who said that “parliament is more than procedure—it is the custodian of the nation's freedom”.
Time and time again, we have proven that when Canada's collective freedom and security is threatened, it does not matter where we come from or what our political background. When it comes to Canada, we come together for the betterment of our nation and our constituents. That is when this House is at its best.
May this place never be without our truly dedicated citizens, who above all else, stand for the betterment of our nation.