Mr. Speaker, I was just saying to my dear colleague from Toronto Centre that this is a very sudden development.
Nonetheless, it is a great pleasure for me to commend and congratulate the hon. member for Toronto Centre for his long and distinguished career in the House of Commons and outside this chamber.
I do want to take a few minutes to recognize and to appreciate the incredible career, really a lifetime career, of the hon. member for Toronto Centre.
It has been noted already by both the member and his leader that he took a long time to get here and was very persistent in trying to get here. I must say I went through a similar experience. I ran once and was defeated. I still cannot find anyone who voted against me, but I am sure he knows the same phenomenon as well.
Nevertheless, I think what is important to note is that all this perseverance to come to the House of Commons and to engage in public service was not something that the hon. member for Toronto Centre really needed in any way, shape or form.
He had, long before coming here, an outstanding private life. He was outstandingly successful as a corporate director, as a lawyer, and as an academic whose expertise was valued both nationally and internationally.
He certainly had no need for the trials and tribulations of elected public office, but nevertheless he took those on, was ultimately successful in his electoral quest, and then went on to achieve great things in a parliamentary career.
Before he even entered cabinet, he had a long parliamentary and interparliamentary career, as noted, as committee chair, a career, frankly, that was very successful.
He then of course went on to hold two of the most important and most highly visible cabinet positions one can hold in the Government of Canada, first, as minister of foreign affairs and then as minister of national defence.
He served with great distinction in both roles. However, I think he served, if I do not mind saying so, with highest distinction in the job he was to attain next and that was to be leader of the opposition.
I should tell members, and I certainly have conveyed to my friend opposite, that leader of the opposition is never an easy job to have. It is certainly the one job in the country where everybody, including it seems at times everyone in one's own party, thinks they can do it better and very often there is a sense that they would like to do the job.
The hon. member for Toronto Centre had more than that sense. In fact, while he was doing the job, several of his colleagues were actually out there competing for it, which I am sure did not make that job any easier.
However, I have to say, as I have said before, I do think, and I think we should all recognize, that he really did a tremendous job as leader of the opposition. He conducted himself with great intelligence, with great passion and with great integrity, and I think we should all appreciate his efforts.
Of course in that role, he and I disagreed about very many things. I recall on one occasion we even disagreed about the various ways in which one should or should not wear silk. So, it is fair to say that our disagreements covered a wide range of issues.
However, in retrospect, I think we agreed on a couple of subjects where I think the country was better for our agreement and where that agreement will prove to be recognized over time.
As the Leader of the Opposition already mentioned, the hon. member for Toronto Centre is a great advocate and promoter of French in Canada and of Canada's French heritage.
He joined us and our party on the matter of a very important resolution for the history of this country, the resolution that recognizes the nation of Quebec within a united Canada. I want to thank him for his contribution to that debate.
Also, Mr. Speaker, as the minister of national defence the member for Toronto Centre was involved in another difficult decision and that was to support Canada's involvement in the United Nations action in Afghanistan.
The member made many difficult decisions while he was minister of national defence regarding Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. He has stood by those decisions and stood by that mission, and I know that we on this side and I think our troops deeply appreciate his commitment in that regard.
I assume that a member and a gentleman as active and accomplished as the member for Toronto Centre will now be involved in a life of activity as well as some retirement. I would say whether it is retirement or whether it is the future endeavours of whatever combination, I hope the House will indulge me in wishing Bill, Cathy and all of their family all the best in the future.