Mr. Speaker, I truly will miss Wednesdays around here.
Mr. Speaker, thank you so much for this opportunity to address the House. You will remember that 18 years ago some of us, including yourself, arrived here in the House. I must admit that you still have some of the black hair that you had when you came here in 1988. We might even have been a few inches taller than we are today.
However, as everyone in the House knows, I am a man of few words. I rise today to inform my colleagues, my constituents and all Canadians that I will be resigning my seat as a member of Parliament. This decision has not been an easy one, however, from time to time all of us have to decide what we want to do, where we want to be and how to serve.
As I reflect on this day in this incredible place I know everyone in this room knows and believes how privileged we are to sit in the highest court of the land and, each and every day, to do our very best even though there are differences between us. The fact is that there is one common interest and that is the common interest of Canada. I know this place looks the same as it did 18 years ago and it still brings this enormous responsibility to do the best that we possibly can.
I have always said that this is not a job, it is a calling. It is a calling by a number of people who wish us to serve. Therefore, I would hope that in the future this institution is given respect and that we give each other respect. Albeit the journalists and some people might think we are not up to par, the fact is that parliamentarians work hard each and every day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day for the betterment of their communities and their constituents and we ought to be very proud of that.
I came here 18 years ago as a young city councillor from the city of London which happens to be, I believe, the epicentre of Canada. It is a great place. All members have been there and I invite them all to come back. However I came here 18 years because I wanted to speak for the ordinary person and the women who wake up each and every day and make the economy work by protecting their homes, their families and working really hard for their communities and their country; for small business entrepreneurs who, believe it or not, pay the freight for an awful lot of people and create all the jobs; and for the newcomers in our community because I was one. In 1954 my father and mother brought us here and gave me the privilege of living in this incredible country.
Lastly, I think we have all succeeded to ensure that cities and towns, rural and urban, are appreciated for their values, for their communities and for what happens in cities and communities. I know that our government and successive governments believe that cities and communities are where things happen, and I know that will continue.
All of the things that we do around here could never occur without the support of our families. They in fact are the true heroes in this place.
I want to thank my wife, Vicky, my sons, Hugo and Michael, and my daughter, Jennifer. While we do our work, our partners, our spouses, do the hard work of ensuring our families are safe and I pay tribute to them.
None of this would happen unless we were blessed with a whole bunch of friends, supporters and colleagues from all walks of life to ensure democracy happens. I thank each and every one of those friends, supporters and colleagues here and on the other side for the great amount of support and the fact that we have been able to work so well together over the past number of years. Without their support that would not happen.
I also would like to thank my London constituency staff. We all try to take the credit for the work that is done at our constituency level but I am sure all members believe as I do that without our staff nothing would happen. They, in fact, take the brunt of the good words and everything else. Over the past 18 years I have been blessed with some exceptional people in my London, Ontario office. I want to thank my staff: Michelle Barberi, Danelia Bolivar, Jennifer Buchanan, Cathy Edgerton, Bobbie Hampton, Kathleen Keating, Mary Ludy, Louisa Oats, Ingrid Pawley, Susan Pawlek, Lissa Regan, Lisa Scafe, Lidia Solovij and Doreen Vanderweddering.
In my Ottawa office I want to thank my staff: Katherine Abbott, Michael Cairns, Tom Chervinsky, Christina Dona, Andrea Fahel, Joey Galemberti, Genevieve Georget, Chantal Gobeil, Peter Graham, Sylvia Haines, Tony Hodgkinson, Kevin Langlands, Patrick LeBrun, Susan Lindsay, Meredith Logan, Paul McCarthy, Andrew McDermott, Gio Mingerelli, Martha Murray, Carl O'Brien, Krista Pawley, Kristy Pearson, Gray Picco, Jazmina Redzepi, Humaira Somra, Perry Tsergas and Chris White.
One might think that is a lot of people but that is because they all wanted to work for me.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention that I had the incredible opportunity of working for three former prime ministers: Mr. Turner, Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin.
We all know how tough a job it is not only to be parliamentarians but also to be leaders of parties and prime ministers. With regard to the present Prime Minister and even the former prime minister, Kim Campbell, whom I had the privilege of serving, I can say that it is an immense responsibility for leaders of all parties. We know how tough it is but in Canada they are respectful of one another.
When I came here many years ago I wanted to talk about housing and about the most vulnerable in our society. I wanted to talk about working men and women. I had the opportunity as both the minister of housing and labour to talk about employment standards, wage earner protection, the homeless and the very vulnerable in our society.
Each and every day in our communities there are people who want and need help. At the end of the day all they want is a helping hand. In Parliament, decisions must be made but decisions are complex and money must be spent. However, I hope and pray that each and every day that members continue their work that they will always think of the most vulnerable in our society because I know that is how we feel about the people in our communities.
I told the Prime Minister yesterday, when he came over to say that he had heard I was going some place, that I was not sure that he had heard the last of Joe Fontana. I told him that given the opportunity, hopefully by Londoners, that I would continue to press that cities and communities be an important part in this Parliament and that I would see him, hopefully, in another way and in another venue.
I have travelled the country and the world, as most members have, and I think all members would agree that we live in the most incredible country on the face of this world. I am sure that while our Canadian astronaut is going around and around and looking down at Canada he sees the incredible geography, but more important, he will know and understand that we built a country that other countries of the world want to be, where we have differences and where we respect one another and come together. When we think of the differences that bind us but also the common interest, the world looks to Canada to help it because it is a very troubled world.
The last thing I did as a member of Parliament was to be with the veterans on Saturday as they proclaimed Legion Week. I hope and pray again for the 100,000 veterans that have given their lives over the course of a century and a third that we have existed as a country that they have done it so that we can enjoy such a great country.
A country that allows a four year old immigrant boy to later become a member of Parliament and a minister is a country of incredible opportunity for all. That is what I hope and pray that everyone continues to do each and every day of their lives. God bless Canada.