Mr. Speaker, last week, like all Canadians, I was deeply saddened to learn that Judge Tom Bell, a fellow New Brunswicker, had passed away.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences and the condolences of the Liberal Party and of all of our Liberal colleagues to his wife Patricia and to their four children, Michael, Andrew, James and Melanie, whom I have known for many years and have had the pleasure to teach, and to his brothers, Robert and Lawrence.
Tom Bell was elected in 1953 to represent the riding of Saint John-Albert, which is now part of my riding of Fundy-Royal, where, as my hon. colleague from Saint John has just said, he went on to serve seven consecutive terms as the member of Parliament, spanning more than 20 years.
During his political career he served in numerous positions. He was the opposition House leader, the party whip and the parliamentary secretary to the ministers of industry and justice.
We younger members of Parliament are sometimes told that things were different in the old days. We are told that, even when debate in the Chamber became heated, outside it was civility and courtesy that prevailed. Often when we are told this, we are told that the reason for this was that there were leading members like Tom Bell.
Tom Bell was that kind of member who could be vigorous with his advocates, vigorous on behalf of his constituency and vigorous on behalf of his region and his party in this House. Harsh things could be said in debate, but afterward they were not only fully prepared to relax and talk things over with colleagues and adversaries alike, if they were like Tom Bell they sought out their fellow members, regardless of their political affiliation.
It was for that reason that Tom Bell had only friends here. A tough partisan in the House, outside he was a convivial and wise friend and counsellor to all.
On leaving politics he was appointed a provincial court judge, where he served the people of Saint John for 20 or more years, presiding over family, youth and traffic courts, as well as carrying out general provincial court work.
He is remembered as the gentle judge, as someone who always maintained a positive demeanour and who took an avid interest in those who came before him. Many will remember him fondly for his humour, his wit, his enthusiasm and his positive outlook.
Judge Bell had strong ties to his community. He was a lifelong member of branch 14 of the Royal Canadian Legion. He belonged to the Carleton and York Club and he was a former member of the Kiwanis Club. He was the former chairman of the 26th Battalion Overseas Association, president of the Byng Boys Club of Saint John and chairman of the board of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island division of the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires.
I first became interested in politics in my early teens and it was Tom Bell, his stature and his integrity, that inspired me to look on politics as an honourable profession. I know that even members of my family supported Tom Bell, the man, in spite of political affiliation.
I knew Tom Bell and of his commitment to his family, his God and his country which is unrivalled and unsurpassed in Saint John. I am proud and honoured to have known him and our community is richer for his life which lives on in a better New Brunswick.
Perhaps Dennis Boyle, a Saint John lawyer, summed it up best when he said that the community will be a poor place because of this loss, but it will be a better place because he was in it. With his passing last week, our country has lost a great public servant and we will all miss him.