Mr. Chairman and hon. colleagues, I want to express to each member my congratulations on their re-election or first election to the House.
It is always a pleasure to serve the House as a member of Parliament and I am grateful to the electors of Kingston and the Islands for giving me the mandate to represent them here once again.
For those who are back, I am delighted to see them back. For those who are new, I express my congratulations, and I hope they enjoy their experience as a member of this place.
As members know, I have been considered by some as a bit of a procedural junkie since my election here in 1988. I have enjoyed working in procedural matters from the beginning, whether it was on the opposition side, the government side or in the chair. I have been a chair occupant now since 1996, either as Speaker or Deputy Speaker or Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole House.
During that time I always appreciated the cooperation of the hon. members from every party in the House and I wish to be able to continue in the role of Speaker during this Parliament.
There are three important aspects to being the Speaker of the House. Tomorrow the Speaker will deliver a short speech to the Governor General addressing the most important aspect, namely that the Speaker is a servant of the House.
As such, I believe the Speaker has a role to play in moderating debate and choosing who speaks next and so on, but there is also a great deal of cooperation that Speakers demand from members of the House in making the House function properly. I have always appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with other members, with the whips and House leaders of the various parties and of course with the independent members to ensure that the House functions, not always smoothly, but that it does function.
The Speaker must also represent the House and the hon. members.
Over the years, I have often had the opportunity to explain to Canadians the role and responsibilities of the members of Parliament and make Canadians aware of the importance of the work that the hon. members do here in the House and in their ridings. After all, as I said, the Speaker represents the hon. members and I believe it is very important to continue to explain their role to Canadians.
I also feel that the Speaker has a role in making very impartial rulings in the House. I have had many occasions when issues have come before the House that required a decision from the Chair, including, of course, a number of ties on votes, which happens from time to time and sometimes involves the Speaker in making a decision. On each occasion I have appreciated the support of hon. members, even when they were on the losing side of the casting vote, because I think the Speaker has to try to make the decision based on procedural practice, which of course I have sought to do on the three occasions that have happened during my term as Speaker.
In every case I have worked with members in promoting the House and its values, in promoting this place as a debating chamber, as a place where we can work together, and where parties are encouraged to work with one another to ensure that the business of the House gets done.
I feel that over the past few years the House has accomplished quite a bit. We have addressed many bills presented in the House and considered every motion introduced here.
We have had considerable progress despite the fact that we have had minority governments and of course shifting seating arrangements in the House.
I would appreciate the support of hon. members in the voting later today and I appreciate the years of support they have given me in the past.