Mr. Speaker, fellow MPs and parliamentary staff, I rise today to say goodbye. I have come to know many of you over the last 19 years here. We have spent many long days and late nights right here working together for Canadians right across our wonderful country.
Over 338 of us have the honour to sit in this chamber representing and working for our constituents back at home. Today I would like to recognize the ones who helped me get to this special place.
First, I would like to recognize my parents, John and Jean Eyking. I am so fortunate that they emigrated from their homeland, the Netherlands, not only to come to Canada but to start a new life on the beautiful island of Cape Breton. They raised 10 of us while being successful in business. They contributed to major projects in Cape Breton, and helped many in need. They will be recognized next week in the Cape Breton Business and Philanthropy Hall of Fame.
My parents cherished democracy and told us that voting is very important, but it was close friends of our family, George and Sharon Unsworth, who encouraged me to enter politics. I will never forget the day George came looking for me in the broccoli field and asked me to run.
I feel so fortunate that I became part of the Liberal team. Prime Ministers Chrétien, Martin and our Prime Minister today not only helped me achieve so much for Cape Breton Island but also gave me the opportunity to work with all Canadians, whether here in Canada or internationally. I look forward to more great work done by our Prime Minister after October.
I would like to thank so many back in Cape Breton who helped me get here. I cannot name them all, because we would end up sitting here until midnight, but I recognize the teams that worked on the ground to get me elected six times.
I thank Meryl Buchanan and the Victoria County team; Bob Jardine and the northsiders; Vince MacLean and Gerard MacNamara, from the Sydney team; Chief Leroy, from the Eskasoni team; and the dynamic duo, Dave Wilton and Mary Woodman and their New Waterford team. Of course, we can never forget our sign guys, Stan and Charlie. I thank the team for not only getting me re-elected but for putting on fundraisers every year to pay the bills.
I would especially like to thank everyone from my riding of Sydney—Victoria who had faith in me and checked off my name at the ballot box. Through my years of representing them, I had the opportunity to meet them in their kitchens, community centres, places of worship, and of course, workplaces. I was fortunate to represent such a diverse group of people with so much compassion and resilience.
When I was elected, my mom said, “Work hard for Cape Breton, and behave while you're up there.” One might say that is a bit challenging when I was sharing Cape Breton and living with Rodger. I know I am not supposed to call him Rodger. I am supposed to call him the member for Cape Breton—Canso, but we are too close for that. We not only pulled off a lot for people back home, we had a lot of fun doing it. I stand here today to recognize him, along with all my fellow MPs, who through the years supported me every step of the way.
All of us in this chamber get a lot of credit when we succeed in doing important work for our ridings, but we all know that our staff is one of the keys to our success. They must respond at all times not only to us but to our constituents when challenges arise.
My staff, John Patrick, Elizabeth, Ann, Meghan, Ryan and Sean not only take care of things back home but keep things running smoothly up here on the Hill.
I would also like to thank my previous staff who helped me: Darlene, John Coady, Diane and Kirby.
Every day our office faces new challenges. Some days it is helping a constituent. Other days it is assisting communities with projects or dealing with emergencies. We had the tar ponds and we had the major floods during Thanksgiving.
We have a workload at home and also in Ottawa, whether it is the work in this chamber or at committees. In our caucus it is crucial for bringing this country forward, and it all comes from our staff.
There are so many on the Hill who also deserve recognition. Whether they work in departments or help me get to the Hill by cab or get me on the airplane, they all help to get the job done, and I thank them all very much.
Over my 19 years, one of my biggest focuses has been the extension of the EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks for those who need it the most. I would like to thank my staff for the important research and all the organizations that supported me in this pursuit. I would like to thank all the members in this chamber for unanimously passing my motion last week, Motion No. 201. We know the extension of EI sickness benefits is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.
Some people ask how I got through so many challenging situations over the last 19 years. It is because my team helps me get the job done. As I said, we do not get through politics alone. There are many sacrifices in politics, and many proud moments. I encourage all Canadians to get involved, whether by putting their name on the ballot or by encouraging and supporting someone who wants to put their name forward. People who do that are so important. We live in the most beautiful country in the world, whether it is our landscape or our culture and diversity, but without a solid democratic foundation, it is all for naught.
I am now going to thank the person who made my life complete.
Forty years ago, my wife Pam and I met. It started after a dance. She came back to the farm with me that evening because we had just received 10,000 new baby chickens. She helped me feed them. Her being from Dartmouth and my being from Cape Breton made for a lot of travel back and forth to see each other, and we are still doing that today.
Pam and I started a vegetable farm, and we were very successful. We received many awards. We had wonderful, hard-working employees who helped us achieve success, people like Joe King, Eldridge, Sissy and of course our special Whitty Mom.
I was not the only one to be successful in getting elected. Pam was elected the MLA for Victoria Lakes. Again, we worked hard together to accomplish many projects in our region, especially the one we are most proud of, doing a makeover of the world-famous Cabot Trail.
We were blessed with four wonderful children, Mieka, Josh, Bethany and Jonah, and along with their spouses Christian, Natalie, and Wade, we now have six beautiful grandchildren and one on the way. This is one of the main reasons that I am leaving this wonderful place. I am so happy that two of my grandchildren have joined me on the Hill today, Lucienne and Davie.
I would like to say goodbye with my personal definition of how to be fulfilled in one's life: May you live in the place that you love; may you do the things that you enjoy; and most importantly, may you be surrounded by those who share those goals with you.
I was truly blessed.