Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Guelph, who was good enough to share his time with me, as well as all those individuals from different political parties who have been so supportive and helpful over the years.
It is with mixed emotions that I rise today to give what will be my farewell address in this chamber, the people's House.
Thirty-five years ago, the people of Niagara Falls first elected me as their member of Parliament, and I will be forever grateful to them.
I am proud today to be wearing the Nicholson tartan tie for this occasion. I am pleased as well to be wearing a medal that was given to family members of World War I veterans. I received this when I was over at Vimy Ridge a couple of years ago. I was told that the Borden government encouraged people who were related to people who served in World War I to wear the medal. I had two grand-uncles, Gordon Gunn and Stewart Gunn, who fought in World War I. I have been very proud to wear this in public since that time.
As a boy, I took an interest in Prime Minister John Diefenbaker during the Cuban missile crisis. We talked about it all the time and I got quite caught up with this. I wrote to Mr. Diefenbaker and told him of my support for him, and it started a fan club in my class on his behalf.
Among other things, I would like to point out to the chamber that on this day, June 10, 1957, John Diefenbaker won his first election as Prime Minister of Canada. That was a great day for our country.
At the age of 13, I had the privilege of meeting the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker, who asked me if I wanted to become a Conservative MP some day. I said for sure I would.
What I did not know at the time was that since the creation of the Niagara Falls riding, the Liberals had won five straight elections. It came as no surprise to me that years later my teacher, Mrs. Gordon, told me that when she told other teachers I wanted to be a Conservative MP some day, one of them said she should have encouraged me to become the captain of the Zeppelin instead.
In my 24 years in the House of Commons, I have witnessed much, such as the rise and fall of governments, including my own. Regardless of political stripe, the important thing is that our democracy works. There is not another country in the world that does it better than Canada.
At citizenship courts and others, I always say that to be a Canadian means that one has won the lotto of life. That was consistently true in the roles I have had as defence minister, foreign affairs minister and justice minister.
Wherever I went in the world, representatives of other countries were always and completely consistent. They were appreciative of and grateful to Canada.
I remember being in Afghanistan a few years ago, talking with government officials. They wanted to talk about the difference Canada and our allies had made in that country. They told me that in 2006, 75,000 girls went to school in Afghanistan. They pointed to me and said that two million girls now went to school in Afghanistan, that this was the difference Canada and its allies had made. What we heard was so consistent with what we hear wherever we go.
One of the other things that always struck me was Canada's influence. I remember getting off a plane in Ukraine and being asked if I would wear a poppy on my left lapel. This was in March. I said I would. Everywhere I went I could see posters of people wearing poppies. I checked my briefing notes, but I did not see anything on this in particular. When I asked about it, I was told that up to a couple of years ago Ukraine had commemorated its war dead the way the old Soviet Union did, but had decided to do what Canada did, which was to wear a poppy. It is a perfect example of Canada's influence.
I remember getting off the plane in the United Arab Emirates and meeting Prince Abdullah, who was the foreign minister. We made a bit of chit-chat. He told me his son had just completed the Terry Fox run. I asked if he had visited Canada recently, to which he replied no, that the run was in Abu Dhabi, where 20,000 people participated in the Terry Fox run. He said that they got the idea from Canada, to which I replied “I know”.
This is so consistent with what we have heard about Canada. Canada has always been there for the right reasons.
Over the years, I have always emphasized the great opportunities for our country. Sometimes we do not underscore that enough.
I remember, back in 1988, I had a meeting with an American congressman. We were going to have an election later in 1988, and he said to me, “Do you have your money lined up?” I told him that my party had a few dollars in the bank and that we could spend only $50,000, because that was the limit. He said, “Fifty thousand? I don't think I could open an office for $50,000.” I asked him how much he had, and he said, “I am running for re-election as a congressman, and I have $2 million in the bank right now.” I thought to myself, what a wonderful country this is. One does not have to have a couple of million dollars to become a member of Parliament. We do not need that kind of money, and we are not dependent on people for that.
We are truly blessed to live in this country. In the words of Prime Minister Diefenbaker:
I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.
May all of us in this House continue to value those ideas, because that is what makes Canada great.
It was a great opportunity to be elected in 1984, and it was a great day for Canada when Brian Mulroney was elected prime minister. I have had so many amazing experiences that I would need much more time than I have today to recall them all.
I do remember, for instance, that very soon after being elected, Brian Mulroney sent several of us MPs over to Ethiopia and Sudan to observe that aid was getting through to the people of those countries. It was no surprise to me that it was getting through. Canadian aid was being delivered to the people of Sudan and Ethiopia. Again, this is one of the things that are so characteristic of this country.
I was proud to be a member of the government that enacted the acid rain treaty between Canada and the United States and the free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, and I was proud of the fact that Brian Mulroney took such a determined stance against apartheid and was the first western leader to recognize the freedom of Ukraine.
One of the last pieces of legislation to be passed under that government was legislation that made the possession of child pornography illegal in Canada. I am most proud that as a government we stood to protect children from falling prey to this heinous crime.
I also had the honour of serving under Canada's first female prime minister, the Right Hon. Kim Campbell, first as her parliamentary secretary and then later as minister of science and small business.
Serving in the cabinet under the Right Hon. Stephen Harper was one of the great chapters of my life, first of all as his House leader, minister of justice, minister of national defence, and minister of foreign affairs. I thank him, because on the world stage, he stood up consistently for what is right. He stood up for the integrity of our justice system and the rule of law, and for victims of crime. I believe he will go down in history as one of Canada's greatest prime ministers.
During my time as an opposition member these last few years, I was very pleased to have passed my private member's Bill C-233, on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. One of the most poignant memories I have, after the passing of my friend and colleague Gord Brown, was my initiative to distribute aspirin pill holders in his memory.
I also want to thank the hon. Leader of the Opposition for having placed his confidence in me. I am grateful to have served under him as shadow minister for justice and shadow minister for procurement. I thank him for putting my name forward for the national security committee. Canada is fortunate to have the Leader of the Opposition.
There are many I would be remiss if I did not thank. The countless volunteers who gave up their personal time to elect me are all remarkable Canadians, and I owe them a debt of gratitude. I want to thank all those who worked on my federal campaigns, people like the Lyon, Gibson and Stockton families, and members of my own family who have helped me for over 35 years.
This is also for Maureen Murphy and the outstanding staff I have had the privilege of working with in my ministerial portfolios, on the Hill and in the riding. I cannot name all the people who worked in my Hill and constituency offices, but I will name those who are with me today: Stewart Graham, Tracy Alway, Anna Annunziata, Jenn Stockton, Billy Morrison and Cheri Elliott. I want them to know that it has been an honour to work with them, and a great privilege for me.
To my beautiful wife and partner, Arlene, so often she displayed extraordinary graciousness in not having her husband by her side when duty called. There were many special occasions I was not able to be present at. I often tell people, though, that if a spouse does not completely support them in their candidacy, they should not get into this job, because it is a 24-hour-a-day job. One of the blessings I have had is the unequivocal backing of my wife, and I thank her for her love and support. I am looking forward to being there for my wife and my family. I love Arlene dearly.
To my colleagues in the House and those who work with us, I am grateful. It has been a privilege serving with them, and Canada is a better place because of them.
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. Now is my time and season to say farewell to this venerated chamber.
This marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life for Arlene, myself and our three children, Rob, Peter and Christine. I have enjoyed the journey thus far and look forward to what the future holds. I have always been proud to be a loyal subject of Her Majesty the Queen, and I am proud that the people of Niagara Falls have given me the privilege of serving in this place.
I thank everyone for the memories, for they will last long after the goodbyes.