Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate this opportunity. I hesitated to give my farewell speech, because this is the third farewell speech I have given. I have had a rather zigzag career, so members have to pay attention, because I am going to outline it.
I was first elected in 1988 as a Progressive Conservative. Then, in 1993, I was defeated by a Liberal, if members can believe that. Then, in 1997, I was recycled as a Progressive Conservative and elected again. Several elections later, Mr. Harper came along and changed the party to the Conservative Party of Canada, and I ran for that party. He invited me to sit as an independent, which I did. Then, in 2009, I resigned my seat for health reasons, thinking I would never come back. I made a farewell speech at that time, which I just read, and it was kind of interesting.
Here I am, back again. In my last farewell speech, I said I had sat 6,149 days, and I figure that now I have spent something like 7,499 days in the House.
I want everyone to know that every single day has been fantastic. It has been the most interesting thing anyone could ever do, and I encourage people to consider running for office. The hours are long and the stress is awful, but representing people in a riding is the most wonderful job a person can do. For me, it has been a great honour and a great pleasure.
I do not know if Canadians knows this, but this place works. It really works well. We have a government, which could be one party or another, and we have opposition parties. The opposition parties have a job to do and the government has a job to do. Between them, they keep Canada between the rails of a highway, as I like to think of it. If the government goes too far to the left and hits the guardrail, the opposition brings it back. If it goes too far to the right and hits the guardrail, it will come back. This keeps Canada on the straight and narrow, and we never vary too much. We are very fortunate to have this system.
We are also really fortunate to have this system because, as a backbencher, I know that every single day the ministers are going to be here. I can walk across the floor and talk to them if I have an urgent issue from a constituent. I actually do this. The same thing goes for opposition members. I do not know of another system on the planet that has that availability of ministers to backbenchers and other members of Parliament. It is a good system and it works.
I also think that every single member of Parliament I have ever met has brought something to the table. If a person can get through the nomination process in this country and then get through the election process to get a seat in the House, he or she brings something to the table. Members bring experience, knowledge and personality to the table, and every single member of Parliament adds value, with the possible exception of the member for Cape Breton—Canso, but he is all right.
I want to acknowledge the contribution made by backbench MPs, as often the focus is on cabinet. Backbench MPs do a lot of good things, and I think they are not recognized enough.
I sit on the health committee. We have a great health committee, with NDP, Liberal and Conservative members. We are there for one reason only: to hear about the health concerns of Canadians. Nothing else matters. We have philosophical differences, but mostly we are there to deal with the health concerns of Canadians.
Today we heard about violence against health care workers. I had no idea this was an issue until witnesses came to our committee. It sounds like a frightening situation. Hopefully the backbenchers on that committee can advise the health minister on how we might be able to make a difference.
Committees work, and the backbenchers do a good job.
Another thing backbenchers do is propose private members' bills, and these change the lives of Canadians. I want to run through a few of them. As it happens, the five I will mention are from members of Parliament from Nova Scotia.
The member for Halifax brought forward a motion to ensure that sound environmental consultations are completed before infrastructure investments are made. I think this is a great idea.
The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour established a national strategy for safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. His mother, Joy, is my constituent, and she is my favourite constituent.
The member for West Nova brought forward a bill ensuring that Remembrance Day is formally recognized as a federal holiday. I always thought it was.
The member for South Shore—St. Margarets moved a motion ensuring that abandoned and derelict vessels are taken care of in a sound manner. That is now national policy coast to coast.
I, the very distinguished member for Cumberland—Colchester, had a bill asking the government to establish a system to help indigenous groups repatriate their artifacts. That passed unanimously.
There is another one I want to mention. The member for Calgary Confederation, a Conservative member, brought a private member's bill to enhance organ donation in this country. We are way behind in this. His bill is simple, and it is important that it get passed. It passed in this House unanimously. It is stuck in the Senate, and I hope it can move along with my bill and many others.
My point is that private members make a difference in the lives and the environment and the health of all Canadians. They deserve a lot of credit, and sometimes that is overlooked.
When I made my last speech, I did not know I was going to come back. I thought I was done. I had health issues and did not think I would ever see this place again. However, in 2014, I got an email from the leader of the Liberal Party, which was in third place at the time. He asked if I would be interested in running. These are the people who defeated me back in 1993, but I felt very comfortable with them. I had gotten to know the member for Papineau when I sat over there as an independent with him. It has been a very productive three and a half years.
I am so glad that through Parks Canada we designated the Acadian village of Beaubassin as a national historic site. Parks Canada has now erected a pavilion and commemorative plaques and is going to have signage right away that will enhance that location.
Another project was Isle Haute, a wonderful pristine island in the Bay of Fundy. In 2001, the government was considering divesting it. It took from then to now, but just three weeks ago we designated it a wilderness preserve, and it is preserved forever. I am so grateful for that.
I am really glad that the issue of rising sea levels and climate change is being recognized, because I live at the head of the Bay of Fundy, and everything at the Bay of Fundy is exaggerated. The tides at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy are five or six feet; at the head of the Bay of Fundy, they are 50 feet. They are exaggerated, so a little rise in sea level at the mouth is a big rise at the head of the Bay of Fundy. The Government of Canada has now identified two different programs to deal with erosion and rising sea levels, which are critical.
In a month, we are going to recognize the Amherst prisoner of war camp. It was the biggest prisoner of war camp in Canada in World War I. It is going to have its 100th anniversary, and the ceremony will include the entire German Luftwaffe band. I encourage everybody to go to amherstpowcamp.ca and have a look.
In this short time, I have a lot of thanks to give and I am going to rush them because I am running out of time. They should not be rushed; they do not deserve it.
I want to thank my staff in Amherst, Truro and Ottawa: Sandra, Jon, Deby, Trish and Joel, and all those staff who helped me over the years to make me a successful member of Parliament. Every single one of them is dedicated to helping people and giving the help they need.
I want to thank the security people on the Hill, everywhere. They help us all the time. They protect us, but they also help us.
I thank the pages, who make sure we know what we are doing and where we are.
I want to thank the clerk and the table officials. They understand this place like none of us do. We can go to them and find out what is going on all the time. Not only that, but they remember every single one of our names, somehow.
Of course, I want to thank the voters who sent me here under three different party flags and as an independent. I am truly honoured to represent the interests of Cumberland—Colchester. I am grateful to every single person in the riding, whether that person voted for me or not. I appreciate them very much. This has been an honour, off and on for 30 years, and I will never forget it.
I want to thank our Liberal caucus, our Nova Scotia caucus, Atlantic caucus and national caucus. I went to the first Liberal caucus and on the way home I called my wife and said, “You know what? They laugh at the Liberal caucus.” It has been a great experience to get to know everybody, and I have made some great friends.
Finally, I want to thank my family. My number one person in my life is Rosemary, my wife of 49 years and five months. Everybody everywhere should know that this job is hard on spouses. We see the cut and thrust, but we also see that when the cameras are off we get along pretty well. All they see is the cut and thrust, and I find that it puts an awful strain on spouses. Everybody should keep that in mind. It is a very difficult job for spouses; it is hard on them.
I want to thank our children, Michael, Holly and Allison. I am very proud of them all. They are working their way through life and they have made a sacrifice for 7,499 days while I was a member of Parliament as well. I appreciate it. I want to recognize our grandchildren, Willow, Jasper and Autumn. They bring joy to our life, and they even seem to like us.
With that, I want to say thanks for this opportunity. I want to thank everybody in this House, from all parties and all positions, for the opportunity to work with them. It has been an honour. I am not done yet. I am going to be here for a while, but this is my opportunity to speak. It is truly an honour to be part of this, in this building and the other building. I could not have done anything for 30 years that would have been more rewarding, more satisfying and more interesting. Thanks very much.