Mr. Speaker, this year's end of session is a little more melancholy than usual, as we get ready to close down this building, which has been a second home for me for 35 years.
As members know, Centre Block had to be rebuilt after a major fire and reopened in its current form in 1920, nearly 100 years ago. I have spent more than a third of a century walking its corridors. I could go on for hours about everything I have seen and heard under this roof. I first set foot in this place in 1984, under the banner of the Progressive Conservatives. That was during the time of the “beau risque”, as it was called by René Lévesque. Quebec nationalists were giving Canada a second chance and wanted to carve out a place for themselves with dignity.
I was a member of the House when that ambition was consummated in the Meech Lake accord. I was also here when that deal failed. I was part of the group that crossed the floor to sit as independent members following that insult to the Quebec nation. I was in the House 27 years ago when that parliamentary group became a party, the Bloc Québécois. Under this new banner, but still in the same building, I was here when separatists formed the official opposition in 1993.
I experienced the days of the 1995 referendum both here and in Quebec. The debates were very acrimonious, as everyone knows. I was also here during the debates on clarity. Today, however, people remember the good times, not the bickering. We remember the historic moments shared by great parliamentarians of all stripes. This Parliament is founded on deep mutual respect among those who are here to serve their constituents. Here, our ideas are different and our debates vigorous, but we recognize that each and every one of us sincerely wants to do the best we can for the people we represent.
I remember some of the great moments we have shared, such as when Nelson Mandela addressed the House in 1990, just a few months after being released from prison, where he had served 27 years for fighting to liberate his people. I remember great moments like the recent visit from young Malala, who was awarded the Nobel Prize at just 17 years of age. I remember great moments like the official apology for residential schools.
I also remember some sad times we experienced together, such as when our former leader, Lucien Bouchard, was fighting for his life. I will never forget that a member of the Reform Party placed a white rose on his desk and that Preston Manning greeted Mr. Bouchard warmly upon his return to the House, as the entire chamber applauded.
I will also never forget the pain we went through when two of our Bloc Québécois colleagues, Benoît Sauvageau and Gaston Péloquin, lost their lives in car accidents while in office.
There have also been some funny and enjoyable moments in the House. With more than 300 members of Parliament and countless staff members spending long hours confined in this building, there is no shortage of funny stories.
For example, I remember when the Hon. Jean Chrétien welcomed Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie Blair, to the House. Mr. Chrétien delighted in calling Mrs. Blair by her first name, Cherie, because he said she was the only woman he could call chérie without his wife giving him that look.
It is for all of those reasons and moments that I feel a bit anxious today at the thought of leaving this building. One gets attached to its decor, its history and its ghosts. I hope that those ghosts will follow us to the new building. If there is one thing that we should keep from this chamber and bring with us to the new building, it is the memory of all those who sat here in a spirit of respect for the ideas of others and with a willingness to serve the people who put their trust in us.
Happy holidays everyone, and I hope the move goes smoothly.