Mr. Speaker, I have to say at the outset what a pleasure it is to see again my friend from Newfoundland sitting in her accustomed place at the right hand side of the Prime Minister.
One of the most commonly asked questions we MPs get when we go back home from our constituents is, “What is that MP like; what is that person like who you work with?” When it comes to answering questions about my friend opposite, I only had one answer and will always have one answer, and that she is one of the good ones.
There are so many reasons for that, but primarily it comes down to one thing. She just simply has a good heart, and that is the measuring stick I use when evaluating MPs, or citizens, or people whom I meet perhaps for the first time. Do they have a good heart? Not only does the member opposite have a good heart, but she has a big heart and that has been exhibited time and time again over the last few decades that she has been in public service.
I know what motivated her back in 2006 to seek public office and it was not the glamour, not the money; it was merely the fact that she wanted to help people. She wanted to make a positive contribution to her constituency, to her province, and to her country, and she has surely done that in spades.
From 2006 to 2008, she served in the cabinet of the Province of Newfoundland in several capacities. She was a minister looking after several portfolios. She did all admirably well. Then of course came the inevitable call to move up and onward, and she did. She arrived in Ottawa in 2008, and as the Prime Minister said, immediately demonstrated to all of her parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the aisle her work ethic, her competency, and her love for this place.
Almost immediately, she was appointed deputy House leader and fulfilled all of those obligations admirably, but I think she left perhaps her greatest mark on this Parliament starting in 2011, when she was appointed party whip. Mr. Speaker, I know that you understand and many others in this place may understand that being a party whip is not the easiest job in the world, and the Prime Minister has referenced that. Think of this. Not only is the job of whip itself a difficult position to attain and a difficult job to perform well, but this member inherited the job, was asked to do the job of party whip of a third party, a party that, as the Prime Minister explained quite rightly, had just suffered one of the most devastating electoral defeats that the grand old Liberal Party had seen in its long storied history. It was reduced to 35 seats, having only a few years previously been in government.
Not only was that a daunting task for anyone to take on, to be the whip of a morale-ridden party in third place—the interim leader at the time, Mr. Rae, asked my friend from Newfoundland to take on this job—but the challenges were even greater than one would think. First, she was a female in a very heavily ridden testosterone-driven caucus, whose morale was low, whose unity was questioned, and yet against all of those obstacles she not only survived but she thrived. Why? It was not only because she is competent, but she is the consummate team player.
As we all know in this place and in politics in general, loyalty is everything. My friend demonstrated her loyalty to her party, her friends, her colleagues, and her constituents time and time again, and for that I say not only do we thank her, but I admire her and respect her greatly, and I always will.
The year 2011, when my friend opposite inherited the role of whip, also brought with it some other challenges far greater than anything she had experienced before in her life, and that is when she discovered she had cancer. As many of us have experienced through our families' personal tragedies—family members who have contracted insidious diseases like cancer—it is not the easiest thing in the world to talk publicly about it. In fact, many people try to keep their condition private.
This member did not do that. She chose not to take that path. She chose to go public with her cancer, letting thousands upon thousands of women and men across Canada know that it is okay to talk about a disease that could potentially kill her. She wanted to demonstrate the fact that she was willing to fight as hard as she could to beat this terrible disease, and she did.
Back in those days, every Tuesday afternoon I had the pleasure of spending time with my friend opposite because we were both members of the House leaders' offices, I in government and she in the third party. From 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday we would have House leaders' meetings and would discuss all the issues of the day, come to some conclusions, and move on. That period of time was also when the member opposite was severely ill. Some meetings she could not attend, and others she did. I remember watching with great admiration how she faced this insidious disease head on with courage, equanimity, determination and, more than anything else, an unfailing sense of humour. I recall on several occasions wondering whether, if the situations were reversed and I were the one facing these health challenges, I would be able to meet the challenges with the grace and dignity of the member opposite. I think I could not.
To her I say this: she has demonstrated above and beyond not only her courage and determination, but also her unflagging spirit for life. She truly is an inspiration to all of us, and to all women across Canada who have battled a similar disease. We thank her for that. It will never be forgotten.
Thankfully her health has returned, and other challenges were just around the corner. As a matter of fact, if I recall, in 2015 there was an election in which the Liberals sprang from third party to government. Almost immediately, one of the first appointments the Prime Minister made, and I congratulate him for it, was the appointment of my friend to cabinet. I always learned and heard from my former boss Prime Minister Harper that the way he approached cabinet positions was simply to find the most competent people and give them the toughest jobs. My friend from Newfoundland must be competent, because the job she was given by the Prime Minister was almost unspeakable.
Think about this for a moment. Think about the files that the member had to manage in her time as cabinet minister: Phoenix and the payroll problems, Canada Post and the conflict of whether home delivery would be abandoned or retained, and Shared Services Canada with the massive government IT transformation. I would think those would be formidable for three cabinet ministers to manage, yet this cabinet minister did all three, and exceedingly well.
My only regret is that I was hoping that the minister would stay in Parliament and continue her roll. As chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, where the minister appeared on several occasions, I was looking forward to continued appearances by the member until at least 2019, when I hoped I would be meeting her as an opposition member. However, that is for another discussion that we will not get into now.
Without question, her level of politics has only been exceeded by her love of family. Anyone who knows this member knows that she has an unqualified and unreserved love for her entire family. They are her heart, her soul, her being. Family is everything to this minister, and for that I admire her so very much as an example of what can be done to combine both the love of family and the love of country in one very competent package. Even though we will miss her in Ottawa, I know that her family is going to receive her well.
Probably the only little people who are going to love seeing their grandma more are future grandchildren. I am sure that they will know, as I do, since I am a grandfather myself of two beautiful granddaughters, they are going to be receiving the greatest gift all. They will see their mother, their grandmother home at last to stay. I have no doubt that the member opposite will be the greatest grandma in Canada.
On behalf of all of my colleagues in Her Majesty's loyal opposition, I want to congratulate my friend for her many years of service to this place, to her constituents, and to her country. I wish her nothing but health and happiness in the future. Let me just conclude by saying that the member is and always will be one of the good ones.