Mr. Speaker, as I pre-warned you, this is my last speech in the House of Commons after 17 years and I trust you will not be tough on relevance to the topic at hand.
It was 29 years ago that I first ran for and was elected to municipal council, and 18 years ago that I first entered the House of Commons as a member of Parliament. They have been fabulous years.
I want to thank all my constituents in Ottawa West--Nepean who have placed their confidence in me through five consecutive elections. I also want to thank the hundreds of volunteers and those who have contributed financially to campaigns. Volunteers are the fuel of our democracy. It is not money, but people who help fight elections and win or lose them. These individuals make democracy work at the grassroots.
I want to thank my staff who have worked unbelievably hard hours for an unbelievably difficult boss and for constituents who are not always friendly, as we all know. They have done this with great goodwill and with a determination to do whatever they can to help when it is needed.
I want to thank my family. Nobody in the House is unaware of the fact that our families pay the price when we have the great privilege of serving in this place. They pay it in time away, missed birthday parties and missed Christmases. They miss a normal relationship with a parent, a child, a granddaughter or daughter.
For all of the above, I thanks because serving in this place is a great privilege.
Very few Canadians will ever have the privilege of sitting in this chamber, playing a role in the history of our country and helping shape public policy that creates a country that we will be leaving to coming generations.
When I first walked into the House of Commons as a member of Parliament, I sat in my seat very aware of those who had come before me, those who had helped create a country that is the envy of the world. I was very aware also of my obligations to try to do the same for generations to come, to leave them a better country than I found it.
Parliament is the crucible of the country. Here we hear all the voices of Canada, the east, the west, the north, small communities, large communities, urban communities, rural communities and resource communities. It is here we try to deal with the diversity of our great country and make decisions that will affect all our citizens. It is here that we hopefully resolve differences so we can move forward as a nation.
I have been very privileged to take part in some of the great debates of our time such as the debate on free trade and the debate on how we manage the fiscal policies of the country so we can afford those programs that Canadians want and need.
I have been privileged to see the implementation of the first new national social program in a generation, the national child benefit. I have been privileged to see us address the problems in our health care system and to participate as we tried to address the important environmental issue of climate change. I leave here proud of what I have contributed and proud of the people with whom I have served.
I also leave here with some sadness. In the last 12 years I have not seen one iota of improvement in the representation of women in this chamber. In my view that is one of the greatest democratic deficits we have to address.
I also leave with sadness at the disrepute this place and those who come here to serve have fallen into. I attribute that to repeated criticism and negativity both among us in the House and in the media. It has contributed to an impression that neither this place nor the people who serve here deserve
I have been privileged to work with people from all parties and from all parts of Canada. I know they come here to serve their country and their constituents. They work hard at great personal sacrifice. Members serve with integrity and with honesty. They do not deserve to be tainted with the brush that belongs to a very small number.
If I have one message to leave the House and Canadians, it is that. The people who serve here and this place deserve our respect. When people lose respect for their institutions, in my view democracy itself is at risk.
I call upon all the members who will return to remember that what people think of this place matters. It matters more than the criticisms we might want to launch, and important as they are, they too are a part of democracy. However, let us not do it at the expense of respect for this place and respect for all members as people.
My father chose this country as his adopted country more than 70 years ago. From the time when I was a little girl, I learned how lucky we were to be Canadians. The first morning I walked into the House of Commons through those great big doors and into the Hall of Honour, as a member of Parliament, I thought of my dad. He had died only a few months before that election. I said to myself, “Okay, daddy, so what is the daughter of a lousy immigrant tailor doing in this place?” The fact that I was able to make that journey and sit in this place is a measure of the value of the country and what it stands for.
I thank all members for the privilege of serving with them and the opportunity of serving my country.