Mr. Speaker, when I first put forward my name for nomination, an older friend asked me if I knew the similarity between politicians and babies' diapers. I said I did not but I bet he was going to tell me, and he said they should be changed often and for the same reason. Here we are, 19 years later, after six elections, and it is a time for a change for all of us.
I am here tonight to say thanks, first to the people of southwestern Saskatchewan, the best people in the world. Cypress Hills—Grasslands is a place where common sense still exists, where people feel both freedom and responsibility and where hard work is expected and rewarded. They have been exceptional in their incredible and unwavering support and it has been my privilege to represent Cypress Hills—Grasslands.
I have gained so many friends over the years. When one takes this job on, everything changes. Friendships, casual relationships, all of them, change. Much of the challenge for me has come from the massive size of my riding and the 10- to 12-hour one-way commute from home to Ottawa. Being gone much of the time, it was a challenge to keep up the friendships I have had in the past, but I need to thank our lifelong neighbours. Many of them have helped Sheila and I time and time again with renovations, blowing snow off the roads, feeding cats and dogs, and checking our house when we were gone. There are too many to mention, but that is just one more benefit of living in a small community.
As time went on, we made so many other friendships throughout the riding: small town leaders, grocery store owners, hockey parents, professionals, business people, fellow motorcyclists and people I met on the ferry. Yes, we do have a ferry in southwestern Saskatchewan.
It takes a while when we get here for members to settle in. The pace is crazy right from the beginning and there is not much of a training program, but over time, we cross paths with those who work here, in the cafeterias, on the bus and every time we enter a building. Over time, we become friends as we share small parts of our lives, including family issues, vacation plans and always the weather. Sometimes it amounts to more than just the Hill. I remember going motorcycling with some of the folks who work here on the Hill. I had the only Harley. It was the one that gave trouble and I was the one they gave grief to, but we went out together a few more times.
I need to especially mention Lynn, who serves us so faithfully on Wednesday morning. One of my most satisfying experiences has been the weekly prayer breakfast at 7 a.m. on Wednesday that has changed and cemented so many relationships here over the years. Lynn has served us for many years on Wednesday mornings.
I want to thank the young Conservative staff who have worked behind the scenes and made us look good. I want to thank my six elections' worth of colleagues. We have gone to war together. We have had victories and we have had losses, personal and political, and it has been my privilege to serve with them.
I would like to give a special thanks to those who have helped in the constituency and have been involved with us politically, some from the very beginning and others who joined later and put so much time and effort into helping us out. My friend Wayne Elhart showed up at our doorstep in mid-summer 2000 to encourage me to run. We chased him off, but he came back about three weeks later with my sister Wendy and her husband Wendell. We sat down together, had a conversation and began to pursue this. They were stuck with farming while I came and went, and now, 19 years later, their son Jeremy is running in the nomination in my riding to replace me.
I remember going to Swift Current for the first time to look for support and meeting with a small group. I got two things out that meeting: one person told me to go get a haircut and some decent clothes, and Alice Wall, who was the first person in Swift Current to say she would help me. She and John have been with me ever since and I thank them. Many others have been part of six campaigns and 20 years of board activities and fundraisers and all that goes with political life in a riding.
I am so grateful for my staff. Three of my four current staff members have been with me for over 10 years. They have had an incredible capacity to do the work. They addressed the issues, they gave great service to my constituents and they are known for that. It feels a bit like I am deserting them. This is where I have the most mixed emotions.
Over the years, many of them have become more than just workers. They have become friends. Many of them are here with me tonight. Victoria, Erin, Carla, Sarah, Justin, Craig and Patrick, thanks for joining us. Leanne, Naomi, Tim and Aaron are sorry that they could not be here. I hope I have not missed anyone on that list. It is fun for me to see past staff members running for nominations for our party and two of them are now candidates for 2019.
I have said our work here is often like getting a free world-class master's program; the best in the world are available to us if we are interested. We have done lots of work in our office, from Canadian Wheat Board stuff that took 12 years to get completed, to agriculture and trade work, as well as working on a motion declaring Parliament's support for religious freedom, and serving as a PS to 10 ministers, including natural resources, agriculture and foreign affairs, and then spending almost the last 10 years focused on human rights and religious freedom.
I want to thank Sheila, who is my love and my conscience. She is the one who has kept us going all these years and the one who has sacrificed more than anyone will know. We will be spending more time together.
To Amy, Andrew and Charis, Josiah and Ellis, and to Angela, who has become part of our family along with Hunter and Harley, we love them and thank them for being willing to pay the price so that I would have the privilege to do this job.
I want to thank my mother, Betty, who has prayed for me for decades.
I should mention that during my first campaign in 2000 there was a couple from Herbert, Saskatchewan, who helped me out, and at every turn, they mentioned their son-in-law, who was also running in Crowfoot, Alberta. When we came down here, the member from Crowfoot and I met. In our travel schedules of 10 hours to 12 hours one way for each of us, we both decided staying in hotels was not working very well for us and became roommates in early 2001. That must be some sort of record for Ottawa. I have to thank Darlene Sorenson, who has allowed her husband to share an apartment with me for almost 20 years. We have far outlasted much more well-publicized roommate relationships such as the one of the members for Cape Breton—Canso and Sydney—Victoria, who were elected at the same time.
Last and definitely not least, I thank God, whom I know is real. That knowing has changed every aspect of my life and is what brought me here. It is also what is taking me away. Although I do not know what the future will be, I do know that being an MP has given me a great opportunity and responsibility. It is our privilege to be a very small part of his work, and I hope and pray that I have been faithful in some way.
It is my expectation that my colleagues will form the next Government of Canada. While I know I will miss being here, I give them my support and best wishes. I will miss serving the people of Cypress Hills—Grasslands in the future. May God bless Parliament and may God bless Canada.