Mr. Speaker, for 35 years, it has been my good fortune and great honour to be part of this magnificent institution, our Parliament, and to make, in my own way, a contribution to public life.
For all that time, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice was also present, successfully taking on one important political function after another. The most important, of course, is that of being our Prime Minister for the last 10 years, and what a Prime Minister he has been.
Yes, what a Prime Minister he has been and what demonstration of political instincts he has displayed. He is a man of infallible political instincts who pressed forward with the clarity bill and ensured that any future referenda would be fair and understood by everyone. He is a man of infallible political instincts who knew how to keep the right divided and put the Bloc Quebecois on the ropes and on the brink of extinction. He is a man of infallible political instincts who understands Canadian values and who knows what Canadians want from their government.
He is a man of infallible political instincts on the world scene who recognized Canada's obligation to the global community in resolving the difficult problems posed by climate change by ratifying the Kyoto accord. He is a man of infallible political instincts in moving forward the G-8 agenda resulting in NEPAD, the new partnership for Africa's development, a true breakthrough for the African continent, in the improvement of the condition of people in the least developed countries, in an impressive global partnership, and in the program for the destruction of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. He is a man of infallible political instincts in the United Nations Security Council, in keeping Canada, in true Pearsonian tradition, loyal to multilateralism and the United Nations' approach on Iraq which, if it had prevailed, would have saved so many innocent lives and the lives of so many soldiers.
Finally, he is a man of infallible political instincts who could have led the Liberal Party of Canada to a fourth consecutive majority victory.
If the Liberal government shows up so well in public opinion polls, it is in large part due not to deficit elimination or debt reduction, but to the courageous and timely leadership given by the Prime Minister on so many issues over the past 10 years, including his recent stand during the Iraq crisis.
Major initiatives which can be traced back to the influence of the member from Shawinigan include the national child benefit, the millennium scholarship, the creation of 10 new national parks, the federal-provincial-municipal infrastructure program, the endangered species legislation, the Romanow commission, and now the ratification of the United Nations law of the sea.
Appointments, much maligned by so many, also carry his imprint. For example, there is the recognition of 52% of Canada's population, women: the Governor General, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the leader of the government in the Senate, the lieutenant-governors in many provinces, our whip, the improved number of women candidates at election time in Parliament and in cabinet. There is also the unprecedented number of appointments of visible minorities and aboriginal Canadians.
One should also reach back to 1982 and the fact that 20 years later the member from Shawinigan is still pursuing the ideals of the charter through his reinstatement of the court challenges program, his commitment to legislation on same sex benefits and marriage, and his longstanding efforts to improve the quality of life of aboriginal Canadians.
Throughout his long and remarkable career in Canadian politics, he has never lost sight of the fact that the role of the state is to serve citizens, not corporations or special interests. He never lost sight of the essential Liberal values of tolerance and equality of opportunity.
Canadians have been well served by the Prime Minister and he is justly deserving of the high esteem in which they hold him. This esteem does not stop at the Canadian border. Among his many friends and supporters abroad is Nelson Mandela who, in praising Canada, referred to the Prime Minister by saying, “Whenever we have needed support, he has never been found wanting”.
What a Prime Minister. What a fine record. What a fine reputation for which Canadians can be proud.