Mr. Speaker, I rise today with deeply mixed emotions. Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday that I first walked into this august chamber. It was so intimidating and, in some ways, even after nearly 17 years, it still is. What an honour, privilege and, most days, a pleasure it has been to have a seat here, one of 308.
I wish I had a minute for every year I have been here for there are so many to thank in such a short amount of time.
First, and perhaps most important, I want to thank the constituents of Prince George—Peace River for their trust, loyalty and consistent majority support throughout six elections and three party incarnations.
Second, I thank my party loyalists, those who served so generously on my board of directors or on successive campaign teams and who worked so hard over the years to win me this job pounding the election signs through snow and frost of winter campaigns, sitting through countless town hall meetings or all candidate forums in one of the eleven communities, large or small, in northeastern British Columbia.
The folks back home know who they are and there have been far too many of them over these many years to name them all. However, I do want to mention one, my mentor and great friend, Short Tompkins, a man of unshakeable integrity. His eulogy was another very difficult speech, for saying goodbye is never easy.
Third, I thank my caucus colleagues. There are about 250 MPs, past and present, who have served in the caucuses I have been privileged to be part of. Politics is best played as a team sport and I have been honoured to be a part of some of the best. I hope they will somehow forgive me for all those years I expected and asked so much of them as their whip or House leader.
Fourth, I thank colleagues from other parties because, no matter what our personal party of choice, we are all here for the same reason: to try our best to faithfully represent our constituents in this, Canada's house of democracy.
Fifth, I thank my staff, current and former, the dozens I have been privileged to have on my teams over the years, loyal, talented, committed and hard-working Canadians.
I only have time to mention the longest suffering, er...I mean serving, Mr. Speaker. These are: Charmaine Crockett, more than 14 years; Christine Wylupski, 10 and still counting; Ann Marie Keeley from the whip's office, on and off for the last 15; and, in my hometown of Fort St. John, Carol Larson, my senior constituency assistant for more than a decade, including serving as my campaign manager for the last three elections. Their steadfast support, exceptional talent, hard work and friendship over these many years made this life not only tolerable, but enjoyable. I will miss them all.
I thank Kera and Kenzie for being here as well today, along with a number of close personal friends.
My best parting advice for new members is that they choose their staff wisely because their choices can make or break their career.
Sixth on my list to thank is you, Mr. Speaker, at the risk of sucking up, for your guidance in all things procedural, your friendship and our shared adventures abroad as part of your delegations. On behalf of Leah and myself, thank you, Mr. Speaker, or should I say, PMilly? You have not only been our longest serving Speaker but, in many ways, one of the very best, despite what I may have said recently.
I also want to thank and pay special tribute to our table officers, clerks, guards and all the staff on Parliament Hill, especially for their terrific leadership, our Clerk and Sergeant-at-Arms.
I have had the honour to serve four times as the whip and twice as House leader both in opposition and in government. I thank the leaders who had that much faith in me, Preston Manning, like Short, a man of impeccable integrity and a true visionary.
I would like to thank our Prime Minister, whom I first met in Calgary's Heritage Park more than 22 years ago, prior to both of us running for the fledgling Reform Party in the 1988 election. Much later he and I shared adjacent offices in the attic of the Confederation Building, between 1994 and 1997. I was honoured and humbled when he brought me into cabinet in 2007 as secretary of state to assist the Prime Minister in addition to being his whip, and I hope I was of some assistance.
Then following the 2008 election I received the ultimate privilege when he named me the leader of the government in the House of Commons. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for entrusting me with such weighty responsibilities.
Next is my family: my father, now passed away, tragically something else that the PM and I share, for we both lost our fathers on the very same day; my mom, how can I every thank her enough; my older sister and three younger brothers, their partners and families; my three wonderful children who really were just kids when I began this journey, Holly, Heather and Heath. I hope someday they will forgive me for subjecting them to the political life and that someday they will be half as proud of me as I am of each of them and their partners. To Leah's father, Bill Murray, who is here today supporting us as he always has, and his wife Michelle, thank you.
Naturally, Mr. Speaker, I saved the best for the last, and you know her well. I thank Leah for helping with my transformation, not just from being the second worst dressed MP into the member who is notable for his terrific ties, but for chiselling off the rough edges, for making me a happier man, a much better person and a stronger representative for the great people of northeastern British Columbia. Leah's unwavering support, constant encouragement, persistent good humour and unbelievable work ethic throughout the past 11 years have been a huge part of whatever success I have managed to achieve.
Lastly, I want to say that the thing I will miss most about politics is the people, vibrant, passionate people. For life is about relationships, our personal ones with family and friends, our professional ones with workmates, staff and colleagues. Because of politics I have been privileged to meet great Canadians in every corner of our great nation, and indeed great men, women and children of many nationalities, religions, cultures and colours all around the world. It is those relationships and the ones with friends here on both sides of the aisle that I will always cherish and that I will miss the most.
However, in the end it is ultimately up to each of us to determine when it is the right time to leave, when the passion has begun to wane, when we may no longer be sufficiently motivated to give the job the 100% that our constituents deserve. We are fortunate if we get to choose the time of our departure rather than our constituents making the choice for us. For me that time is now, Mr. Speaker, for you will soon receive my official letter of resignation effective October 25.
Over the past 17 years I have come to respect, to honour and to cherish the traditions, practices and history of this place but in the end, I would ask all colleagues to reflect upon and to keep in mind the title of Erik Nielsen's biography, The House is not a Home.