House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was restitution.

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Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

October 4th, 2010 / 3 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with deeply mixed emotions. Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday that I first walked into this august chamber. It was so intimidating and, in some ways, even after nearly 17 years, it still is. What an honour, privilege and, most days, a pleasure it has been to have a seat here, one of 308.

I wish I had a minute for every year I have been here for there are so many to thank in such a short amount of time.

First, and perhaps most important, I want to thank the constituents of Prince George—Peace River for their trust, loyalty and consistent majority support throughout six elections and three party incarnations.

Second, I thank my party loyalists, those who served so generously on my board of directors or on successive campaign teams and who worked so hard over the years to win me this job pounding the election signs through snow and frost of winter campaigns, sitting through countless town hall meetings or all candidate forums in one of the eleven communities, large or small, in northeastern British Columbia.

The folks back home know who they are and there have been far too many of them over these many years to name them all. However, I do want to mention one, my mentor and great friend, Short Tompkins, a man of unshakeable integrity. His eulogy was another very difficult speech, for saying goodbye is never easy.

Third, I thank my caucus colleagues. There are about 250 MPs, past and present, who have served in the caucuses I have been privileged to be part of. Politics is best played as a team sport and I have been honoured to be a part of some of the best. I hope they will somehow forgive me for all those years I expected and asked so much of them as their whip or House leader.

Fourth, I thank colleagues from other parties because, no matter what our personal party of choice, we are all here for the same reason: to try our best to faithfully represent our constituents in this, Canada's house of democracy.

Fifth, I thank my staff, current and former, the dozens I have been privileged to have on my teams over the years, loyal, talented, committed and hard-working Canadians.

I only have time to mention the longest suffering, er...I mean serving, Mr. Speaker. These are: Charmaine Crockett, more than 14 years; Christine Wylupski, 10 and still counting; Ann Marie Keeley from the whip's office, on and off for the last 15; and, in my hometown of Fort St. John, Carol Larson, my senior constituency assistant for more than a decade, including serving as my campaign manager for the last three elections. Their steadfast support, exceptional talent, hard work and friendship over these many years made this life not only tolerable, but enjoyable. I will miss them all.

I thank Kera and Kenzie for being here as well today, along with a number of close personal friends.

My best parting advice for new members is that they choose their staff wisely because their choices can make or break their career.

Sixth on my list to thank is you, Mr. Speaker, at the risk of sucking up, for your guidance in all things procedural, your friendship and our shared adventures abroad as part of your delegations. On behalf of Leah and myself, thank you, Mr. Speaker, or should I say, PMilly? You have not only been our longest serving Speaker but, in many ways, one of the very best, despite what I may have said recently.

I also want to thank and pay special tribute to our table officers, clerks, guards and all the staff on Parliament Hill, especially for their terrific leadership, our Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms.

I have had the honour to serve four times as the whip and twice as House leader both in opposition and in government. I thank the leaders who had that much faith in me, Preston Manning, like Short, a man of impeccable integrity and a true visionary.

I would like to thank our Prime Minister, whom I first met in Calgary's Heritage Park more than 22 years ago, prior to both of us running for the fledgling Reform Party in the 1988 election. Much later he and I shared adjacent offices in the attic of the Confederation Building, between 1994 and 1997. I was honoured and humbled when he brought me into cabinet in 2007 as secretary of state to assist the Prime Minister in addition to being his whip, and I hope I was of some assistance.

Then following the 2008 election I received the ultimate privilege when he named me the leader of the government in the House of Commons. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for entrusting me with such weighty responsibilities.

Next is my family: my father, now passed away, tragically something else that the PM and I share, for we both lost our fathers on the very same day; my mom, how can I every thank her enough; my older sister and three younger brothers, their partners and families; my three wonderful children who really were just kids when I began this journey, Holly, Heather and Heath. I hope someday they will forgive me for subjecting them to the political life and that someday they will be half as proud of me as I am of each of them and their partners. To Leah's father, Bill Murray, who is here today supporting us as he always has, and his wife Michelle, thank you.

Naturally, Mr. Speaker, I saved the best for the last, and you know her well. I thank Leah for helping with my transformation, not just from being the second worst dressed MP into the member who is notable for his terrific ties, but for chiselling off the rough edges, for making me a happier man, a much better person and a stronger representative for the great people of northeastern British Columbia. Leah's unwavering support, constant encouragement, persistent good humour and unbelievable work ethic throughout the past 11 years have been a huge part of whatever success I have managed to achieve.

Lastly, I want to say that the thing I will miss most about politics is the people, vibrant, passionate people. For life is about relationships, our personal ones with family and friends, our professional ones with workmates, staff and colleagues. Because of politics I have been privileged to meet great Canadians in every corner of our great nation, and indeed great men, women and children of many nationalities, religions, cultures and colours all around the world. It is those relationships and the ones with friends here on both sides of the aisle that I will always cherish and that I will miss the most.

However, in the end it is ultimately up to each of us to determine when it is the right time to leave, when the passion has begun to wane, when we may no longer be sufficiently motivated to give the job the 100% that our constituents deserve. We are fortunate if we get to choose the time of our departure rather than our constituents making the choice for us. For me that time is now, Mr. Speaker, for you will soon receive my official letter of resignation effective October 25.

Over the past 17 years I have come to respect, to honour and to cherish the traditions, practices and history of this place but in the end, I would ask all colleagues to reflect upon and to keep in mind the title of Erik Nielsen's biography, The House is not a Home.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, with the remarks we have just heard from the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River, I hope that these few minutes in the House today may prove to be one of those rare occasions when this place can climb above itself to a better plane. I think the hon. member has started this in a good direction.

The member for Prince George—Peace River, the former House leader and whip for the government, has told us that he is not only not running in the next election but that he will be stepping down from his office as a member of Parliament very soon. For most of the member's time in House leadership, various roles as whip and particularly as House leader for his party, it was my lot to be his counterpart for the Liberal Party and I can tell the House honestly and sincerely that I am sorry to see him go. That is not because we usually agreed on everything, or indeed anything, but for the most part we had what was a constructive and most importantly, respectful relationship.

We are both from the west. We both share backgrounds in agriculture and in rural Canada. We were both elected to this place in every election since 1993, although I did have a head start on him in 1974. Neither of us really wanted to be House leader for our respective parties, but we were on both the government and the opposition sides. Both of us have a great deal of respect for Parliament and for the fundamental institutions of democratic governance in this country.

We both now, by coincidence, share offices here in the Centre Block side-by-side each other. Until today's announcement I was thinking that it would be absolutely impossible to shed this guy because he moved in right next door.

The member for Prince George—Peace River was one of those MPs who could hear and understand and respect somebody else's different point of view. I found that I could always deal with him on a straight-up basis.

I remember one incident when I prepared a very detailed email about House tactics and I fired it off to my assistant whose name started with “Ja”. His first name was Jamie. In the flow of emails, I hit the wrong button and that very detailed memo went to another guy whose name started with “Ja” but ended with “y”. I called him and said he just might want to ignore that email. He said that he did not think it was intended for him and not to worry, that it had already been destroyed.

More generally, we could have candid discussions about serious issues as House leaders. We would rarely agree, as I mentioned before, but we could come to a conclusion about how the parliamentary procedural dimensions of those issues ought to be handled. We could look each other in the eye, shake hands on it and be absolutely confident that each would keep his word. That element of trust is fundamental to the functioning of this place and is a rare quality, and I always respected that in that particular gentleman.

I say to my friend from Prince George—Peace River, yes indeed I am sorry to see you go. I will not have to listen anymore to your long-winded answers to my very short and succinct Thursday questions about House business, but I will miss your goodwill, and your respect for Parliament and for the people who work here on all sides of the chamber.

I want, on behalf of the official opposition, to wish all the best to the member for Prince George—Peace River, to his wife and to his family. He leaves this place with a reputation for decency, and that is a high accomplishment for all of us who serve in public life.

May I leave him with a short poem that I think neatly sums up the life of a House leader in the House of Commons. All party leaders should pay attention to this:

It's not my place
To run the train
The whistle I can't blow.
It's not my place
To say how far
The train's allowed to go.
It's not my place
To shoot off steam
Nor even clang the bell.
But let the damn thing
Jump the track...
And see who catches hell!

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today, as deputy leader of my party, to pay tribute to the member for Prince George—Peace River, who has announced that he is retiring from politics after 17 years of service to his constituents in northern British Columbia. It surely cannot be easy to leave his political family and his colleagues who have walked this road with him over the years. We can understand how intense the emotions must be when one decides to leave politics.

When we think about the career of the member for Prince George—Peace River, the true meaning of the phrase “public service” becomes apparent. Over the course of his political career, the member for Prince George—Peace River spent many years as parliamentary leader and party whip, which required his continued presence on Parliament Hill during periods when the House was not in session.

This work, which is demanding for any parliamentarian, is particularly so when one's riding is thousands of kilometres from Parliament Hill, as is the case for the member for Prince George—Peace River.

This desire to serve his constituents has undoubtedly had significant repercussions on the personal and family life of the member for Prince George—Peace River, which makes his 17 years of public service all the more admirable.

My colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and I have had the chance to work alongside the member and we have seen just how determined and thorough this man is and how courageous he is in defending his convictions concerning decorum in the House of Commons.

Sometimes we have worked together, sometimes we have disagreed, but no matter what the circumstances, we have always appreciated the honesty and availability of the member for Prince George—Peace River. He respects his opposition colleagues, which is worth mentioning because it is such a rare thing these days.

In closing, I wish the member nothing but success in his future endeavours. We share with him the joy of being with his family members who, for the past 17 years, have been waiting to spend more than just a little time with him.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today on behalf of NDP members to say a few words about what I think his constituents always think is the guy from Peace River. That is how they will remember him.

I had the good fortune, as well, to work with the hon. member as House leader for the NDP when he was the House leader for the government. Over the years, I have become used to the member and his straightforward way, his blunt way of just laying it on the table, no BS, there it is, this is what it is, and he is to be respected and admired for that.

We heard the member say that he was elected six times, but maybe what some members have forgotten, and maybe even his constituents, is that the first time he ran, in 1988, he came in third after the NDP. Therefore, maybe there is hope for us yet in Prince George—Peace River. We are counting on that now.

In reviewing his various party affiliations, to which he alluded, we should go into this just a bit more. I think people might see that the member is a bit of a radical. He started off with the Reform caucus, the Canadian Alliance caucus, the PC/DR Coalition. He then went on to an independent caucus with some of his colleagues, then back to the Canadian Alliance caucus and now his political resting place in the Conservative caucus. There is quite a lot of switching around, so the member might have a bit of a radical bent to him.

I also noted that his bio does not list his publications, but our whip, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, who worked with him as whip, reminded me that there is one that we will not forget. That is the great publication, the committee handbook of dirty tricks. It was not quite a bestseller and I do not think it made it to second printing, which probably is for the best.

On a serious note, the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River has always been a fierce whip and House leader for his party. I think it is possible that his own members feared him more than we ever did in the opposition.

However, as I worked with him as House leader, I know one thing he did really try to work on very hard and that was decorum in the House. How many discussions did we have about that? Maybe in his political retirement he can write a new handbook on decorum in the House. That would be much appreciated.

We know the member as a dedicated parliamentarian, a very snappy dresser and someone who has served his constituents and the House well. We wish him and Leah, his wonderful partner, all of the best.

The member for Prince George—Peace River has always been forthright and upfront with us and we have respected that. I remember when he told us loud and clear that he was fed up to the teeth with the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and that he would cut the debate. That is exactly what he did, and we expected it.

We thank the member for all of his work. It has been a pleasure to work with him. We wish him all the best in his new life outside of this place, and we know there will be many good years.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has nothing he can usefully add to the discussion that has already taken place.

I would also like to thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River for what he has done and especially for his work on the Board of Internal Economy.

The Minister of Transport is rising on the same point and he will have something to say.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, responding to a retirement announcement, thankfully, is not the same as a eulogy although a twinge of nostalgia might be allowed as the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River moves on to enjoy the next chapter of his exceptional life.

My friend and I were both elected back in 1993 and even before then I clearly recall him saying to me “We'll get elected, partner, we'll go to Ottawa and we'll look after each other's backs”. Seventeen years later, we are still best friends and, true enough, we have been looking after one another's backs since the beginning.

As might be expected of best friends, our careers have had some similarities along the way. We both started out life in the resource sector, running heavy equipment and learning to manage a crew of pretty rough characters. It probably prepared us for what we are doing here today.

We have both been whip and House leader for our parties, although my colleague did it better and longer than I ever did. We were both asked to serve in the cabinet. Throughout it all, we came to appreciate that the support of the voters at home was the underpinning of all good things political.

What members will hear and read is that within our party and within Parliament the MP for Prince George—Peace River has had an exceptionally productive career and an exceptionally positive influence. While all of that is true, it is also true that our colleague has always been an impact guy. In early days he earned a reputation as a pugnacious political fighter. Right from the start, our colleague was a local folk hero in his beloved Fort St. John, consistently topping the polls in our province. He was “Jay of the North”, a no-nonsense guy who knew what he knew and was not afraid to tell anyone how things were in the real world outside of the Ottawa bubble.

However, somewhere along the line our colleague made a conscious decision to change tactics. It was not enough to simply challenge the status quo. He decided to make the most of the leadership opportunities offered him, and a leader is what he has become, using his considerable abilities to positively influence not only his political party but the House of Commons as well. It was a big shift for a crusty old roughneck from the oil patch, but he did it. He did it successfully and with panache, and let us face it, in the early days he would not even have known what panache was.

Like all of us, our colleague has a private life and there, too, he has emphasized the things that really matter. Being a good father is important to him and his positive relationships with his three children, Heather, Heath and Holly, now all adults, has been and always will be a priority, as is his relationship to his soulmate and partner, Leah Murray.

He is passionate about relationships and that means those fortunate folks who are closest to our colleague get to see a man who cares about them and is not afraid to show it. Deb and I are proud to call all of them our friends.

Our colleague will soon move on to the next stage of life, secure in the knowledge that his legacy in this place and as a member of Parliament for Prince George—Peace River is safe in history. He was and is principled, direct and results-oriented. He is a straight-shooter everyone wants in their corner when the going gets rough.

The member for Prince George—Peace River should enjoy the next stage of his life and he should know that wherever he goes and whatever he does, I have his back.

Resignation of Member
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am happy to join all hon. members in wishing the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River the very best in his retirement from the House. I am sure we will see him around and about occasionally with his wife. We hope that happens on a continuing basis.

Passport Fees
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition calls on the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce U.S. and Canadian passport fees. American tourists visiting Canada are at the lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by five million in the last seven years, from 16 million in 2002 to only 11 million in 2009.

Passport fees for multiple member families are a significant barrier to traditional cross-border family vacations and the cost of passports for an American family of four can be over $500. While over half of Canadians have passports, only one-quarter of Americans have them.

At the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and 500 other elected representatives from 11 border states and 3 provinces, a resolution was passed unanimously, which reads as follows:

RESOLVED, that the...Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism;

...we encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this resolution be submitted to appropriate federal, state and provincial officials.

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call on the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and to promote a limited time, two-for-one passport renewal or a new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.

Multiple Sclerosis
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by a number of fellow Canadians, mostly from the national capital region, although some of them might be a bit outside of it. Therefore, they are mostly from Quebec and Ontario.

They call on the ministers of health of Canada and the provinces to get together to discuss allowing hospitals, private clinics and individual doctors to test for and treat CCSVI in all Canadians who desire testing and treatment and to plan and implement a nationwide clinical trial for the evaluation of venography and balloon venoplasty for the treatment of CCSVI in persons diagnosed with MS.

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions to present.

The first is for the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare. There are hundreds of petitioners from Windsor and Essex County who call for the strengthening of animal welfare rights across the world.

There is a recognition that animals around the world suffer during natural disasters, as well as during cruelty inflicted on them on a regular basis. The petitioners call upon the government to support the universal declaration on animal welfare and that Canada become part of that effort.

The second petition also relates to animal welfare. The petitioners call for strengthening animal transportation regulations. They understand that sometimes animals can be transported for hundreds of kilometres, for hours and even days, sometimes without food, water or basic proper shelter.

Hundreds of petitioners call upon Canada to strengthen this act to ensure there will be proper humane conditions for animals in transport.

Sri Lanka
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition deals with an issue related to Sri Lanka. The petitioners call for humane and just support for those who have been affected by the war there and to be a country that supports ensuring that human rights abuses are not committed upon them.

Canada Post
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the last petition is signed by hundreds of petitioners from Windsor and Essex County. They call for the retention of Canadian postal services. They are worried that postal services will be reduced, which they consider vital infrastructure for their communities.

The petitioners call upon the government to maintain those facilities as they currently stand.

Prorogation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition in which the petitioners note that the prorogation of Parliament is becoming an ever-increasing event used in the House. They also note that each occasion of prorogation creates a delay in parliamentary activity and that there is a potential for prorogation to be used to avoid the expression of parliamentary will.

The petitioners ask that Parliament enact legislation to prevent the use of prorogation unless deemed necessary by the majority of the members of Parliament. The petitioners and I look forward to the minister's answer.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?