My dear colleagues, first of all I would like to congratulate all new and returning MPs. I would also like to thank the House of Commons staff for the helpful orientation sessions.
I applaud the diversity of Canada's House of Commons. All of us are here to voice our constituents' needs and concerns in this place. We must now continue to be passionate in our debates while being very respectful.
The position of speaker is based on three pillars. I will call the first pillar procedure and decorum. Canadians have entrusted each person in this chamber, opposition and government, with the responsibility to work together to find the best way for our nation to meet the challenges we face. However, we can only do this effectively if we conduct our work with fundamental respect for one another.
Maintaining essential decorum will be a critical role for the next speaker. Canadians have been disappointed that question period remains just that, question period. They expect a question and answer period.
The second pillar is the administration of the House and its services. The House has an annual budget of over $400 million. It is important to have someone with skills and experience to administer the House.
We also face increased security concerns in the House. Our mission is to protect the security of Parliament while at the same time allowing Canadians to continue to have access to Parliament. It is their House.
We also face another very important challenge, the family challenge. MPs are younger, and so are their families. After all, we are in 2015. This must be addressed.
The third pillar is parliamentary diplomacy. Canada wants to have a stronger voice on the international stage. We need to do more, both within Canada and abroad. We, as parliamentarians, need to become true ambassadors throughout the world.
Here at home, we also need to think about making our work more accessible to Canadians. For example, perhaps our committees might consider holding meetings in various parts of the country, whether it be in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal or Moncton. That would allow us to better connect with Canadians.
Who am I to request the honour of becoming your Speaker? I have been the member of Parliament for Brome-Missisquoi for 11 years. I was the minister for financial institutions and La Francophonie and the minister of state for Latin America and Africa.
It was as a member of Parliament that I created an MP-to-MP student exchange summer work program. This co-operation among parliamentarians provided thousands of students with the opportunity to live and work in a different region of the country while learning the other official language.
Why not once again see an MP from Gaspésie, for example, exchange 10 students with an MP from Calgary?
I am also a lawyer, and I was a president of the Quebec Bar association. I have always worked in Canada, and abroad, to uphold the values of democracy, human rights, and good governance.
I also co-wrote the rules of procedure for Quebec's administrative tribunals.
I have always been in business. I also co-founded a law firm specializing in agricultural law, and I started a vineyard, which is now the second largest in Quebec.
In closing, the speaker is many things: our referee, our ambassador to other parliaments, and the protector of our rights and privileges. My door will always be open to all members. Inside, they will find a speaker with an open mind and an open heart.
We are a big family. I want to forge the necessary ties of friendship among us. I said friendship, not necessarily love. Do not worry. I will still continue to refer to all of you as “honourable members”. I would like to preside over a Parliament in which all members work together in harmony.
I want to tell you how proud I am to sit here in the House with all of you. I ask you to support my bid.