Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, this is the first time since I became the leader of the Bloc Quebecois that I have had the opportunity to pay tribute to the Prime Minister, and I hope it will also be the last. I am afraid that the tributes paid to him today might make him change his mind and attempt a comeback.
More realistically, the Prime Minister has decided, with a little help, to retire after 40 years of political life, including 13 as the leader of his party and 10 as the Prime Minister. After all these years, even a sovereignist has to recognize his feistiness and his unwavering commitment to Canada.
In politics, we must respect our opponents and recognize their strengths. The Prime Minister has been a feisty and tenacious politician. He has been a formidable foe. With him, politics has never been boring. Between opponents, we must also be able to deal with issues openly, while being respectful of our opponent's views. That is what I shall do today.
Giving the impression that I agree with everything he has said and done would not only be denying who I am but also would be insulting to him. When he was first elected, it was on the platform of amending the Constitution, not among the 10 provinces but between two peoples, as he put it then. I think that he in actual fact, for 40 years he has done just the opposite, that is he tried to reduce Quebec's status to that of a province no different from the others. He did so unwaveringly.
Upon his arrival in Ottawa, he immediately chose Canada. Over the course of 40 years, he never wavered. Here is just one example of that. He considers the unilateral patriation of the Constitution as one of his greatest achievements. By contrast, the National Assembly sees it as isolating Quebec. What was viewed as a triumph in Canada has left deep scars in Quebec.
The Prime Minister never once wavered, and in that he will probably remain unequalled. After 40 years of effort, the Prime Minister is leaving, convinced that the issue of Quebec has been resolved. He is one of a long line of prophets who have announced the demise of the sovereignist movement. Like them, he is wrong.
I will tell him that he can count on us. The issue of Quebec will not be resolved until Quebec has become a sovereign country. In spite of our very fundamental disagreements, I must recognize the strength of the Prime Minister's Canadian beliefs. I wish him a pleasant retirement and a very happy life.
I want him to know that he will always be welcome in a sovereign Quebec, at home, in Shawinigan.