Mr. Speaker, as Leader of the Opposition, it is my honour today to rise and pay tribute to the right hon. member for Calgary Centre and to his political career.
I wish to begin by admitting that we have not always been on the same side of political issues. I think we have spent most of our careers and political lives as opponents, but in this business, while this may colour one's perspective, it should not blind one to the abilities and accomplishments of others.
Because of the rivalries that we have had from time to time, the right hon. member and myself are sometimes compared, and I am sure will be more frequently in the future. These comparisons to me are, from my perspective, not always flattering.
I can give one example. A few months back I was on the road as I often am for a number of days at a time and left my family to travel alone back from the riding to Ottawa. My seven year old son Benjamin found himself seated with the right hon. member for Calgary Centre on that four hour plane flight.
Well, a few days later my harshest critic, my wife, delivered the verdict. She said, “Do you realize that lately you have been spending less time with your son than Joe Clark has?” Man, I tell you, some things hurt.
However, there was a point there. As we all struggle with the challenges of living in public life, we cannot help but admire an individual who has been in public life almost his entire adult life and who has not only managed those challenges but has sustained a strong family life, an enduring and loving marriage to his wife Maureen, and a wonderful father-daughter relationship with Catherine who I understand also grew up at Stornoway, like my daughter Rachel.
Today we pay tribute principally though to a long and distinguished career in public service. Whatever our differences, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre has had a career here of well over 30 years. He has by my count been elected to this House eight times. He has served with distinction in key roles such as the constitutional affairs minister and has been minister of external affairs.
He twice led a national political party. He occupied the post of leader of the opposition during some of the most critical battles ever to take place in the history of this Chamber. And it was almost 25 years ago that he received the mandate, albeit briefly as it turned out, to be Prime Minister of Canada, one of only 21 people in the entire history of this country to be so honoured.
As a consequence, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre will leave here with only history to judge him, which makes him a historic figure. Many people come here with the ambition to be historic figures but very, very few ever achieve this. And for that, we salute his career and we wish the right hon. member and his family health and prosperity into the future.