Mr. Chair, over 13 years ago, I answered the call and agreed to run in the byelection in the riding of Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel. With the support of my family, friends and constituents, I managed to get elected and then re-elected for five consecutive terms.
As one of the rare MPs who was born in his riding and has always lived there, I was very proud and humbled to agree to represent my riding here in Ottawa. I was very touched that my peers would entrust me with this great responsibility.
Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel is one of the most diverse ridings in Canada. Although that diversity presents some challenges, I have always considered it to be a great source of strength and vitality. Since I was first elected in 2002, I have sought to advance the issues that are important to our community, but always with a view to improving our country.
It would be hard to list every single thing that I accomplished in these 13 years. However, having served under two Liberal prime ministers, I had the opportunity to support a number of very important decisions—both national and international ones—that benefited Canada. In this time I also had the opportunity to help my community more directly by playing a role in ensuring that the Canadian Grand Prix would remain in Montreal, under the right hon. Jean Chrétien. Then, under the right hon. Paul Martin, I am proud to have helped the Italian channel RAI International obtain a broadcasting licence in Canada.
Other moments in my career as a member of Parliament that come to mind are when I was elected chair of the Standing Committee on Finance in 2004, after less than two years as a member of Parliament; when the House of Commons passed my private member's bill, Bill C-302, the Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act, on April 28, 2010; and when I worked with representatives from the Department of Finance to amend the regulations to make it easier for the people who need it most to access the registered disability savings plan.
However, the most rewarding part of my work here was when I was able to help people deal with issues that did not fall under my direct mandate. What I will remember most about my time as a member of Parliament is the opportunity to have a direct impact on another person's life, since the main reason I decided to run for public office was to help others.
Meeting Canadians from all over our great country and visiting their communities has also been an extraordinary experience for me. We live in a big, beautiful, eclectic country. I had opportunities before being a member of Parliament to travel this country, but as MPs, we are inspired by how amazing Canada is, which is why I was motivated to introduce a private member's bill called the discover your Canada act. The goal was to facilitate and encourage all Canadians to travel in Canada to get to know this country. Unfortunately, the House was not as enthusiastic about my idea as I was, and the bill did not pass, which is one of the disappointments of being a member of Parliament.
We all come here thinking we are going to change the world, and sometimes we succeed, even if it is in a small way. There are also times when we come up short, and for one reason or another, moments like that can be frustrating. In those times, I have always remembered that the most important thing is to never stop listening and to never stop trying to help people.
As many members know, being a member of Parliament is an extraordinary experience and privilege that gives us an opportunity to take action that can improve the lives of our fellow Canadians. When we see something that needs to be changed, that is a priceless gift I have appreciated immensely.
As well, I am grateful that this job has allowed me to cultivate a closer relationship with my community. Whether as a school trustee, a volunteer soccer coach for my daughter or hockey coach for my son, or a member of various community-based organizations, I have always been active in my community, before and during my tenure as a member of Parliament. As an MP, I have learned to be much more, because my constituents shared their concerns, their hopes, their frustrations, and their opinions with me on a daily basis in one way or another. This job has given me a perspective few people have the privilege to experience, and that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank all the people who have walked this journey with me or simply made doing this job possible. I salute the staff of the House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada for their dedication and professionalism. This place could not function without the support of clerks, librarians, assistants, pages, support staff, maintenance workers, IT specialists, shuttle bus drivers, and of course, security staff, and many who are the engine of our democracy.
I thank my own staff, past and present, for giving 120% when I needed them to go above and beyond, and for not giving less than 80% even on those long summer days when Montrealers are more interested in spending time on terraces than in calling their local MP.
I say a special thanks to my employees who spent more than five years working for me. I actually have more employees who have worked more than five years than who have worked less: Sylvie Vogels, five years; Adele Cifelli, six years; Ben Niro, seven years; Pina Frangella, 12 years; and Suzanne Bertrand, more than 12 years.
To my constituents, it was an absolute honour to serve them. We come from a very special place, where in spite of all our differences, we never forget that we are all in this together and that our ability to show compassion and understanding is the truest measure of our community's success.
This kindness we have in Saint-Léonard Saint—Michel has sustained me during these last few months, which have been the most trying of my career. I can wish no person what I have gone through over this trying time, but good and bad things happen, especially in politics, and we must always be ready to deal with them. I remain positive and look forward to the future with my head held high, knowing that I have done no wrong and have represented my constituents honourably.
To my friends, who are too many to name, I thank them so much for their unwavering support. Of course, I thank my family for their love—my wife, Danielle; my son, Carlo; my daughter, Briana; my parents, Alessandro and Filomena; and my sister, Silvana, and brother, Franco, and their families. Without them, these last 13 years would not have been possible. I got to live out a dream because I had them all backing me up, and words cannot begin to express the depth of my gratitude to all of them.
I leave here with a sense of accomplishment.
[Member spoke in Italian as follows:]