Mr. Speaker, it is a great day. When we pay tribute to a member, with all the rancour that takes place around here, on days like today we all say nice things about each other. Either on the first day one is elected a leader or on the last day one leaves it seems that is when that happens.
It is with some sadness but immense respect that we join today in paying tribute to one of our most respected colleagues.
The member for Ottawa Centre has graced this House with his presence during two eras, He has earned the respect and affection of all members on all sides of the House.
I will not say he is old, but I will say he was elected several years before I first came to this House in 1972. I have enjoyed the years getting to know him as a great Canadian and a representative of his party.
He made history and he did it while he was leader of the NDP. It was under his leadership that the NDP had 43 members in this chamber following the 1988 election, the largest number ever elected. I think I can say, in a bit of a partisan way, that he can retire secure in the knowledge that his record will never be broken, at least not in the next election.
A former colleague, Doug Fisher, once said that we could learn who the people of Ottawa and members of Parliament liked and respected by watching the public galleries and checking attendance in this chamber. Back when people followed debates closely, before television was here, the galleries would fill, as would the seats of this chamber, when word went out that certain parliamentarians were scheduled to speak. I remember it was like that in 1972 when I arrived here. When someone like the member for Ottawa Centre would get up to speak, one always wanted to be in the House to listen, just like John Diefenbaker and other great Canadians, former prime ministers on the Liberal side too, to whom I would even come to listen.
The member for Ottawa Centre is that sort of an individual. He commands the respect of all members from all parties and enjoys attention when he rises to speak.
The hon. member has another quality we respect in members of Parliament. He can participate in fierce and partisan debates, but the rancour that one might find on this side of the curtain vanishes when we meet on the other side. That is a mark of a true and honourable parliamentarian.
Just two Sundays ago, we were at the CTV studios doing Question Period . It was an enjoyable encounter. Quite frankly, we exchanged opinions on the big issues facing Canadians today and we were surprised to learn that we were in full and total agreement. One would think that a Conservative and a socialist could not agree on anything, but that simply is not true. We were absolutely in total agreement that the Liberals had to be replaced. And since we both have residences in Ottawa Centre, we agreed his seat, when he leaves it, must never return to that side of the House. I said that before the hon. member graced this House with his presence.
We should also mention, and it has been mentioned very gracefully by his leader and the Prime Minister, his beloved wife, Lucille, who has graced his life and made it a better one.
On behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada, and indeed all Canadians, I want to wish the hon. member and his charming wife, Lucille, all the best in the years to come. We are indeed speaking from the heart when we call him an hon. friend.