Mr. Speaker, those of us who have had the privilege of serving in this 42nd Parliament have experienced some truly historic moments. We celebrated the 150th anniversary of this Parliament. We welcomed President Barack Obama into this House to speak to us. We witnessed the return of the CCF after half a century, contributing to the largest number of independent MPs in Canadian history. We served in the Centre Block and in this new House.
I was honoured to be part of that history, but my interest in politics has always been motivated by an interest in public policy, so I want to talk about some of the issues that I have raised in this Parliament, both as a member of the NDP caucus and as an independent MP.
During my time in the NDP caucus, I was the first MP in the House to call for federal funding to help restore bus service in Saskatchewan. I was also the first MP to call for a federal role in keeping SaskTel public. As part of the NDP caucus, I even managed to sneak in one member's statement advocating for the use of Regina-made steel in the Trans Mountain expansion. It has been even easier to advocate for Regina-made steel as an independent MP.
In the NDP caucus I tried to raise the idea of border adjustments to carbon pricing to ensure a level playing field for our Canadian workers. As members know, I got into some trouble with my party leadership for debating that issue, which brings me to my time as an independent. Of course, I have been more free to speak up for the use of Regina steel in Trans Mountain and for extending federal carbon pricing to the carbon content of imports while rebating it on Canadian-made exports.
I have been the only member of this Parliament to advocate for restoring VIA Rail service to Regina and for a federal investigation of the Regina bypass. I was the first member of the House to advocate for federal assistance to our canola farmers when China closed its market.
In addition to the issues that I have been proud to raise on the floor of this House, I also want to speak to some of the issues that I have been able to work on through committees.
In this 42nd Parliament, I was the only western Canadian MP to serve on the all-party steel caucus. We travelled to Washington to advocate for a Canadian exemption from American steel tariffs and I am extremely pleased to see that goal has been achieved.
I served as the NDP vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
Mr. Erin Weir: I hear some of my colleagues from that committee. I think it was a very co-operative committee and I actually went to the same high school as the chair of that committee. I think it is probably a rare thing in this Parliament to have a committee chair and a vice-chair from the same high school, Campbell Collegiate in Regina, in this case.
At that committee I was able to ask about the Phoenix pay system, even before it became a national scandal. I pushed to keep the government's feet to the fire on paying our federal public servants correctly and on time.
Our committee also conducted a major study on the future of Canada Post. Talking about Canada Post, one of my proud moments in this House was occupying the Prime Minister's chair during committee of the whole to speak up for collective bargaining rights in response to back-to-work legislation for postal workers.
The government operations committee also undertook a major study of whistle-blower protection in the federal public service. The report that we prepared was a truly unanimous report without any dissenting or supplementary reports from any political party. I believe it is a fairly rare accomplishment in this Parliament to achieve that level of agreement at a committee, so I am certainly very proud of that report.
When I became an independent MP, I had no guaranteed spots at committee. On the other hand, I had the freedom to try to intervene on any committee. Most recently, I have participated in meetings of the agriculture and trade committees to advocate for federal assistance to canola farmers, and I am pleased that the government has expanded the advance payments program to provide some assistance to those producers.
I also participated in hearings of the justice and ethics committees on SNC-Lavalin. I was able to ask questions of the now independent member for Vancouver Granville, Gerry Butts and Michael Wernick.
I do not believe that I would have been able to play that role on those committees as a member of the NDP caucus, so on reflection, I am pleased to have been able to spend part of this term as an independent MP. It is something I would recommend to other members of the House, especially those who might be on the fence and considering joining our growing corner of Parliament.
I am going to stop short of thanking the federal NDP leader for removing me from caucus and making me an independent, but I do want to thank all the local volunteers and donors who helped elect me in a very closely fought campaign.
I also want to say that the support of family, friends, staff and other people across Canada through difficult times has meant so much to me. I particularly want to thank all the former elected officials, national commentators and grassroots activists who spoke up for due process, common sense and local democracy.
Most of all I want to thank the people of Regina for entrusting me with the great privilege of representing them in Parliament, which has been the greatest honour of my life.