Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to present a retiring statement.
It has been an honour to represent the residents of the riding of Oakville and to have served as a member of the 42nd Parliament. I want to begin by thanking the residents of Oakville for this opportunity.
It has been fascinating to be part of our democratic legislative process and to have worked beside, and sometimes against, other parliamentarians as we have debated and sought the best path forward for Canada. I have never gotten over the sense of responsibility that overcomes members as we walk up to the Parliament building, enter the door and take our seats in the chamber. I have also never gotten over the feeling of gratitude I have for the residents of Oakville for entrusting this responsibility to me.
I am proud of what our government has accomplished over this term. From renegotiating NAFTA, to supporting middle class families, to fighting climate change, to lifting 825,000 Canadians out of poverty and stimulating the creation of over one million new jobs, the government is making real and positive change in the lives of Canadians.
I entered this role with a focused set of priorities. I want to reflect on those briefly tonight, but I also want to talk about the unexpected things that have happened to me over the past years that have enriched my understanding of my community and, surprisingly, of my family.
When I was elected, at the top of my list was working to protect the Canadian health system. It was an honour to be asked by the Prime Minister to serve as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health and to speak on her behalf with Canadians and in the House of Commons. I was delighted to be part of the Standing Committee on Health. We issued numerous reports and recommendations on issues affecting the health of Canadians.
Another big priority for me was my concern that coverage of essential medicines is not part of our universal health care model. Canadians should not be denied access to essential medicines because they cannot afford them. I was part of the standing committee that issued a clear recommendation that universal, single-payer coverage is critical to ensuring that all Canadians have equal access to essential drug therapy. I was overjoyed to see provisions in the 2018 budget to appoint a council to study the implementation of national pharmacare and to see provisions in the 2019 budget to create a Canadian drug agency and to take steps toward the development of a national formulary.
I was honoured to chair the all-party health research caucus, which worked with Research Canada to profile in Ottawa the amazing health research that is happening across Canada.
Besides health, I was focused on jobs and ensuring that the government was creating the right conditions for success in the advanced manufacturing industry. In Oakville, Ford Canada is the largest employer. I was honoured to have chaired the Liberal auto caucus and to have fought hard for appropriate funding to stimulate innovation in the sector, including in zero emission vehicles and autonomous operations.
As vice-chair of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, I participated in and once led a mission to promote trade between Canada and the EU.
Finally, with the leadership of Andrew Quinn, my executive assistant, I was happy to see our motion, Motion No. 168, protecting net neutrality in Canada, receive unanimous support in the House. Hey, Andrew, “Velociraptor.”
These are the things I set out to accomplish when I was elected, and I am happy with those achievements. However, what about the unexpected experience that I did not anticipate?
Here on the Hill, in the House, I have been struck by the integrity of all parliamentarians in representing their ridings and speaking passionately about their beliefs and aspirations for the future of Canada. Likewise, I have been impressed by the breadth and scope of committee work. This activity is invisible to most Canadians, yet I learned that it is at committee where most non-partisan discussions are held to amend legislation and make thoughtful recommendations to government. I will miss the collegiality and the give and take with my fellow parliamentarians.
Some of the most unexpected experiences and learning happened in the riding of Oakville.
I was invited as the member of Parliament to tour many businesses. I had no idea of the diversity of manufacturing enterprises in the riding. Do members know that every time people land at the Ottawa airport, it is highly likely that the landing gear that drops down and safely puts them on the tarmac was manufactured and assembled in Oakville? Every time a person buys a glazed donut product or fruit-filled product at Tim Hortons anywhere across Canada, the glaze and filling came from Oakville.
The restoration of the Pickering and Bruce nuclear plants was dependent on parts from Oakville. The raw products for Crisco, Becel margarine and other famous edible oil products are refined in Oakville. Of course, we also have the Ford assembly plant, which assembles over 270,000 vehicles a year and supports a rich ecosystem of parts manufacturers.
I move on now from learnings about the diversity of industry to learnings about the diversity of faith.
I am a long-time member of the United Church, and I was honoured to be invited and warmly welcomed at mosques, the synagogue, the temple, the gurdwara and the many churches of my community. I learned first-hand that although religious observances are different, people are drawn to their houses of worship for the same reasons: to seek a closer relationship with a sacred, holy spirit; to ask for atonement and reconciliation; to be part of a community of faith; and to unite their families in long traditions of religious celebration.
Then there is Sheridan College, a world-class education facility right in my backyard, producing Academy Award winners in animation and acting as a crucible to develop world-renowned artistic shows like Come From Away. What an amazing opportunity we have as MPs, and what a luxury to be introduced to so many aspects of our home community and to have those shared with us so openly. I wish everyone had that opportunity.
I mentioned learnings about my family. My wife's family members are refugees. They fled Poland in the early 1980s, when my wife was about 12 years old. They sought refuge in Austria for about six months and then received permanent refuge in Canada. My wife's younger sister married a Vietnamese gentleman who, along with his family, was likewise a refugee, so when I sit down to eat supper with my wife's family, I am the only non-refugee at the table, yet they do not think of themselves as refugees. They are Canadians who are hard at work building their families, running businesses, and in my wife's case, being a school board trustee.
While I have long known my wife's background, it was not until I met with refugee families from Syria and elsewhere in the world in Oakville that I fully realized the hardship and challenges the parents were facing: language barriers; unemployment; separation from family, loved ones and networks; and learning new cultures.
I want to say a huge thanks to Barbara and Waldemar Krasowski for having the courage to leave their homeland and for persevering through these challenges to seek a better opportunity for their children. Through them, I thanks to all the refugee and immigrant parents who have known these challenges and shown such incredible courage and sacrifice. I hope they all know the successes that my wife's family has enjoyed.
ln closing, I would like to say thanks and acknowledge the tremendous contributions made by my staff: Fiona Fraser, director of operations; Andrew Quinn, executive assistant; Nancy Buchan-Terrell; Valerie Campbell; Hannah Wieler; Lori Weston; and Mala Sharma. They have provided superb support not only to me but, more importantly, to the community we served over these past four years. I could not have done any of this without their tireless work. Most have been with me and supported me from the very beginning; way back when I sought the Liberal nomination. I thank each of them so much for their support and steadfastness.
I also thank the Oakville Federal Liberal Association, under the capable leadership of Alan Johnston, and the hundreds of volunteers who worked with me during the 2015 campaign.
Finally, the real burden of a parliamentarian's job falls hardest on our families, those who are closest to us and whom we love the most. We are absent from home while in Ottawa and often absent from family activity and being with family during constituency weeks. I hope every member is blessed with a family as supportive as mine, and I thank my family for its unwavering support. My family includes my loving and lovely wife, Joanna Oliver; my fabulous children, Rachel, whom I congratulate on the new job; Alexander, whom I congratulate on his film; and William, whom I look forward to hanging with; my inspirational mother, Ellice Oliver; and my sister and brother, Heather and Richard Oliver. Sadly, we lost my father, Peter Oliver, during this Parliament, but we remember him through his long-time friend Annie Chandler.
It has been said that families are the compass that guides us, our inspiration to reach great heights and our comfort when we falter. My family is my blessing. I thank each of them from the bottom of my heart for their ongoing love and encouragement.