How come I am the first one up, Mr. Speaker?
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. Wayne Easter: Will you bring this place to order, Mr. Speaker.
Madam Speaker, who was there before, is my floor mate on the 12th floor of the Valour Building. Congratulations to her in her role in the chamber.
It does seem rather strange to be making this kind of statement virtually rather than in the chamber, where I am so honoured to have served for nearly 28 years. As members know, I am currently the third-longest serving member of the House, a whole four hours ahead of the member for Vancouver Centre, my oftentimes seatmate and wonderful colleague for all those parliamentary sessions in government, in official opposition, as the third party and again in government now. I will not say anything about her shoes, the ones we pretty much need sunglasses for to sit beside her.
This chamber is a place of history and of decisions, good and sometimes not so good, that have built this country to what it is today, a country that is recognized as one of the best places in the world in which to live. Sometimes we, from all parties, often through strenuous debate and sometimes late-night votes, have the opportunity to influence the legislative mandate and governance of this country. We may not always get our way, but this is the place, in this chamber, where we can have our say. It is intimidating in the chamber and inspirational at the same time. I have been honoured, as we all have been honoured, as one of a small percentage of Canadians over time who has called the House his workplace.
When I ran for the Liberal Party nomination for Malpeque in June 1993, it was a fairly active nomination that went into the wee hours of the next morning. I must thank each and every one of the candidates who has actively supported me ever since. The Malpeque executive, the campaign managers, the campaign teams, the people in communication and supporters are every bit as responsible for me achieving nine electoral victories as I am. I sincerely thank them for their active support and encouragement.
To the constituents of Malpeque, what can I say? It has been an honour to serve as their MP for the past three decades. Their support is very much appreciated, from my heart. Their active involvement, whether through visits to the office or on the streets, always meant good advice to keep me grounded and in touch with issues that matter in Islanders' lives.
Sometimes a constituent would go a little overboard, like the time during an election that a farmer friend of mine put a four-by-eight plywood sign along the highway demanding that the minister of agriculture and I get our butts over to the GATT negotiations and protect supply management. We did and we were successful, but he was very, very demanding.
Words cannot be found to express my appreciation to my family for their support. I was not supposed to get emotional. As all members in this place know, as MPs our time is really never our own. Worse, families may have to put up with our political procrastinations, which sometimes we think on first blush are brilliant, but that may not be true.
I give a huge thanks to Helen, my spouse, our children Kimberley and Jamie, and their extended families with Marc and Gaya. We are fortunate to have four grandchildren born during my time as a member: Alexander, Sophia, Ila and Fiara. Immediate family members always were, as they still are, available with advice, even when it was not asked for.
The unsung heroes for any member of Parliament work in our constituency offices: our constituency and Hill staff. At the constituency level, they deal with real-life issues that impact people daily on the ground such as EI, CPPD, immigration, seniors issues and many more. Casework is what we call it. There are too many past employees to name, but I thank them along with current folks Robin Moore, Alan Waddell, Kim MacDonald and Krystal Rice for their work on behalf of Islanders.
Much appreciation goes to Hill staff for their efforts in casework, research, legislation and a multitude of responsibilities in support of my efforts at committees on issues, legislation and the Canada-U.S. IPG. I give a big thanks to current staff James Auer and Jeremy Wains for their work on behalf of Canadians. There were many late nights spent working on those issues on Parliament Hill.
I also appreciate all the work my previous employees on Parliament Hill have done and I want to mention one: Michael O'Neill, who passed away following the 2015 election. We worked together for 22 years and he was always happiest when we were challenging our own government. There are many employees on Parliament Hill who assist us in our work, from parliamentary pages to clerks, security guards, cafeteria staff and janitors, translators, interpreters and analysts with the Library of Parliament. Their work does not go unnoticed, and I thank them on behalf of all Canadians.
I want to recognize one Library of Parliament analyst whose work with the Canada-U.S. IPG over many years has made possible the personal relationships many of us have with our American counterparts today, which truly assist in leading to cross-border solutions. I know I speak for my co-chair, Senator MacDonald, and past co-chairs Rob Merrifield and the late Gord Brown. I want to thank June Dewetering for her exceptional service to Canadians as a result of her knowledge of U.S. politics and her friendships with congressional and Senate leaders.
I have been fortunate to have served in many roles in Parliament. I have served on numerous committees, and as parliamentary secretary to fisheries and parliamentary secretary to agriculture. I thank Prime Minister Chrétien for appointing me to cabinet as Solicitor General. I remember vividly the call to Attorney General John Ashcroft when cabinet made the decision not to join the war in Iraq. That was an interesting chat with my U.S. counterpart.
It has been my privilege to serve under three prime ministers while in government: Prime Minister Chrétien, Prime Minister Martin and the current Prime Minister. They carry a heavy responsibility, as all prime ministers do. I have sincerely enjoyed chairing the finance committee and working with members of all parties.
I will say that I came with tremendous experience from having been president of the NFU, and I had seen much of Canada. I firmly believe that Canada as a country can be stronger than the sum of its parts. I have seen the country from coast to coast, and I want to give a bit of advice. Members of Parliament have to know this country, and we are a little too restrictive on the travel that MPs are allowed to do. When I first started, before there was the Internet, members were able to take tours of the country. We could see it, meet people on the ground, understand it and see their lives in real life. This place has to get back to that again to give MPs the opportunity to know their country.
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize you and all of the previous Speakers for attempting to keep order in the House, mostly successfully, although one Speaker cut me off during the chicken dance I was doing with the member for Carleton.
Let me close with this. I said yesterday in remarks, and you say in your prayer, Mr. Speaker, that we are fortunate to have the freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy in Canada. That is so very true. It has been my honour to work with and serve the residents of Malpeque, and it has been my honour to work with all members across political lines. It is the discussion, it is getting to know each other and it is the debate that, at the end of the day, makes for better policy and a better country.