Good morning. For all of you coming into this Chamber for the first time, welcome.
For all those returning to the House of Commons, welcome back.
I congratulate all of you on earning the confidence of the constituents in your ridings. Undoubtedly, you will represent them well in this Chamber.
I was first elected in 2004 and have been through three minority governments. Since then, I have developed a real appreciation for what we are about to experience. However, after all these years I am still in awe of this place and immensely honoured to represent the people of Nipissing—Timiskaming and to work with each and every one of you.
This morning, we will be holding a second, very important election, to select the Speaker of the House.
Ever since I was first elected, I have made myself available and open to discussion with my colleagues of all political stripes. If elected Speaker, I would maintain that approach. My door will always be open.
Over the last weeks I have had the opportunity to speak with many of you. Thank you for taking the time to discuss with me what you believe is working in these revered halls, and especially how you believe we can improve the operations of Parliament. I look forward to working with you should I be elected as Speaker.
The concern expressed most often by you was maintaining order and respect within the Chamber. The Standing Orders and precedents have a lot to do with how we can enforce decorum. However, the pertinent factor to maintaining decorum is how the rules are implemented and enforced by the Speaker. Maintaining a balance between the right to express oneself and respecting the dignity of others is key. The Speaker's personality is a core component to ensuring that we have a respectful House.
It would be hard for me to list my skills and abilities in the few minutes I have left. Members returning to the House got to see me in action over the past four years. I am confident that my performance as assistant deputy speaker was firm, respectful and, above all else, fair.
For those of you who are new to this place, I encourage you to speak with those who have seen me in my role as Assistant Deputy Speaker and to discuss my ability while I was in the Chair. The terms that I hear when many of my colleagues describe my performance are firm, respectful, effective and, above all else, fair.
Many of you suggested having more activities where we could get to know each other. One very simple example that I am committed to implementing is having regular gatherings with small groups of MPs from different parties to get to know each other on a personal level. It is a practice that I was very familiar with under Speaker Peter Milliken, and that I plan to continue.
One of my first actions will be adopting an idea put forward by the hon. member for Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, who came up with a great suggestion: a suggestion box. Members will be able to continue to submit ideas on how we can improve the House. If elected, I will be installing one as soon as I can get one built.
All members of the House have the right to a voice and for their opinion to be heard.
I will encourage more meetings between the House leaders, the whips and, needless to say, the members, to ensure that our institution has harmonious parliamentary procedures that are based on co-operation and, above all, respect.
Canada is a bilingual country. It is vital that the Speaker of the House be fluent in both French and English. Learning a language is very important, but the secret to understanding a people and experiencing their culture is to understand what it is like to be immersed in that culture on a day-to-day basis.
Working collaboratively, we can improve the decorum, process and overall operations of the House. I have a great deal of respect for this institution and all of its members, and believe that all members should take part in improving our procedures.
The upcoming parliamentary session will certainly be interesting. Canadians have chosen us to come to Ottawa to represent them and to perform our duties to the best of our abilities.
I am running for Speaker of the House of Commons, and I am ready to work with each and every one of you. On this momentous morning, I respectfully invite you all to vote for me.
I respectfully ask for your vote this morning.