Mr. Speaker, thank you for those kind words.
I want to thank my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House for their kind and generous tributes. It is rare to get compliments in the House, which makes my colleagues' words today all the more meaningful.
I really want to thank all my colleagues in the House, from all sides of the House, for their thoughtful and generous tributes. It really has been the privilege of my life to serve as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Before I get to thank yous, I wanted to make a point.
As we all know, for this place to function, we also need a good opposition, no matter what party. A great Canadian prime minister, the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, said once, “If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution His Majesty’s” or as we know now “Her”, “Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions.”
When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured....It must be vigilant against oppression and unjust invasions by the Cabinet of the rights of the people....It finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and molds public opinion by voice and vote. It must scrutinize every action by the government and in doing so prevents the short-cuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make.
I hope I have in some small part done my job as Leader of the Opposition.
I am overwhelmed by the kind comments and good wishes from my colleagues. However, for members who are new in the House, if you are wondering how long it takes, or how long they have to be here until people say nice things about you, you actually do not have to wait; you just have to quit.
I really want to thank my good friend and our House leader for her heartfelt words she conveyed on behalf of our caucus and the members of our party. It is truly humbling. Of course I want to thank my caucus, because those members put their trust in me to lead the party for this time. I have loved every minute of it. In large part, that is because I get to work with this amazing group of people every single day, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished together.
I know people say that being the leader of a caucus is a challenge. I am sure the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP know what that feels like. I hope one day the leader of the Green Party will know what that feels like too.
People say that leading a caucus of politicians is like herding cats, but at least it is better than dealing with the media, which is like giving a cat a bath.
I sincerely want to thank the Prime Minister for his generous words, especially after I just hammered him in question period. In all seriousness, we have had a very respectful working relationship. I want to thank him for supporting my private member's bill and, with all sincerity, I want to wish him the best. To Sophie and the kids, and his whole family, all the best. It must be said that never again will two competitors be so well matched up for the battle of best hair.
I want to thank the leader of the NDP for his words, for his friendship and in particular, I want to thank him, and he mentioned it, for his unequivocal support for my private member's bill. I also need to tell him he is on some very good western street cred. He and my spouse J.P. have now become really good friends, which always happens when anyone meets J.P. He found out that the leader of the NDP wore cowboy boots all the time, and not just any cowboy boots. He wears the kind of cowboy boots that real cowboys wear. I want to wish him and Catherine and the whole family all the best.
I also thank very much my friend from the Green Party and my colleagues from the Bloc for their great words. They are truly humbling.
I want to thank my parents who are here. I am so fortunate to have them in my life. They are amazing people who taught us the important things like respect, compassion and integrity, and I want to thank them. I want to thank both my brothers who are here. All these years, we are still good friends, even though one of them votes NDP. Who knows, Mr. Speaker? Maybe they both do. I do not know.
I am also thankful to have my in-laws here and so many friends. I am so incredibly thankful to all of them for being supportive, loving, and extremely patient through these years.
I want to thank my constituents and my volunteers back home who have worked with me over the years on many campaigns and have been especially understanding over the last 18 months while I travelled across the country as leader.
Of course, to all my staff over the years in all the offices—in the riding, here on the Hill, at the Conservative Party headquarters, and the leader's office—I thank them for their commitment, their passion, and their professionalism. We have had a lot of fun.
My staff, even those who have left the Hill, have always referred to themselves affectionately as “Team Ambrose” and the great little group that I travel with now on tour calls themselves the “Rontourage”. They have made work a lot of fun, and truly my success is their success.
I also want to take a moment to give a special thanks to my friend and mentor the Right Hon. Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen. He gave me his trust and his friendship, and for that I am forever grateful. I thank the two of them because they have just been wonderful.
Last and most important, of course, I want to thank J.P. and the kids because they make my life so great. When they came along, they embraced this crazy life with so much enthusiasm, and I thank them for that. In fact, it is great because it reminded me about how important the little things in life are.
It reminds me of a story. When Garrison was only six, he asked me what I did today. At the time, I was the minister of health, so I proceeded to tell him about the important meetings I had that day, the important people I met, the important decisions I made, the press conference I had, and the millions of dollars I gave away to some stakeholder, and he said “Huh, what else did you do?” That says it all.
Like many members, I have seen that the exposure to this life has really benefited them, and they have thrived on it and loved it. Makena, when she was only eight, did a speech about the International Day of the Girl in front of 1,200 students, to talk about the importance of girls' education.
Garrison was only eight when he actually talked about the importance of science for kids, and this was in front of 2,000 people before he handed the microphone over to astronaut Chris Hadfield. They have done quite well in this life.
One of our favourite memories is when I had to work on a weekend and they had some friends here in Ottawa. We came to Parliament so I could do my job, and a security guard gave them an all-access pass—I hope that is okay—and they literally had the run of the House and played hide and seek. I am thankful that my life has afforded us such fun and lasting memories.
Last, I want to thank J.P., who has been a rock for me since the day we met. He embraced this life and in so doing, he made it a partnership from day one, and we have had a blast together. He always says never would he have imagined, as a former bull riding champion, that he would be hosting tea parties at Stornoway, but he did. He brought his down-to-earth love of life and love of people to everything he did.
It was not just tea parties. He handed out candy to the kids on Halloween at Stornoway, but it was not really fair, because he dressed up as a cowboy. He brought beer pong tournaments for the interns to Stornoway, karaoke for the press gallery parties, great bands, and even a mechanical bull for our caucus party. The truth is that everybody loves J.P. In fact, one of my caucus colleagues actually said this to me: “Rona, the truth is that if J.P. ran against you in a nomination, I'm not sure who I'd vote for.”
Words cannot express our love and thanks to our friends and family for making this such an unforgettable part of our lives. We are excited to start a new chapter of our lives. We will not be far away, and I am still here until June.
I want to say what an honour it has been to serve in this great place. Thank you. I have enjoyed every minute of it.