Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to rise today, as it has been an honour to stand in this chamber for the last 10 years.
If the conventional wisdom is accurate, the Prime Minister will call the election some time in the next week. If that is true, this will be my last opportunity to speak as a member of Parliament in the House of Commons. While I support the motion before the House, I hope and trust that my colleagues will permit me this brief moment reflection.
Thirty years ago as a wife and a mother whose home was flooded because our neighbourhood was built on a flood plain, a generation later I stand here, a three term member of Parliament and the first woman to have been mayor of the city of Saint John, and a very proud grandmother.
Growing up in Saint John it was never my ambition nor my intention to seek elected office. I did not aspire to a career in public service beyond helping my friends, my family, my church and my community. Yet with each passing year and every election, I discovered there was more that needed to be done. As a councillor, I realized that the challenges facing our great city could not be solved unless we changed city hall. As mayor, I realized that the solutions to many of our most pressing problems were in the hands of the federal government in Ottawa.
As a member of Parliament I saw that our hopes and dreams were the hopes and dreams of all Canadians and that Saint John was not alone in its struggles.
As I stand here today, I am proud of what we have accomplished together. I am proud that we helped get the compensation package for our merchant navy veterans and for those who were used for testing mustard gas and chemical weapons. I am proud that we helped force the government into finally replacing our aging Sea Kings. I hope that continues to happen. I am proud to have worked on a daily basis on behalf of the men and women of the armed forces. I am proud that we continue to bring attention to the challenges faced by Canada's growing number of seniors as well. Most of all, I am proud that we were able to make a difference.
There comes a time in our lives when we must decide whether the journey is ours to continue or whether the torch must be passed to another. I have faced that decision many times, but this time was the most difficult. Being a member of Parliament is a great honour but it involves great sacrifices. It means being away from the people and places we love and it means our time is not our own.
For close to 30 years I have had the most wonderful and understanding family anyone could have. My husband, Richard, has been a source of constant strength and wisdom. He has stood by me through good times and bad, willing to share the obligations of an office he never asked to hold. Whichever decision I made, I always knew that I could count on his unconditional love and support. That was the greatest blessing of all.
As much as I love this place, and although there are many more adventures on the horizon, there is nothing I would rather do than spend more time now with Richard, our boys and their families. Therefore I decided some months ago that I would not seek a fourth term. Let me be clear that I am no less committed to the people back home in Saint John and no less grateful for their continued kindness.
While this marks an important change in my life, one thing will never change: Saint John is now and forever the greatest little city in the east and I hope everyone knows it. Although I will not hold elected office, I will continue to be a passionate advocate for the city in whatever capacity I can best serve.
The fact remains that our country and our city are now facing serious questions about the course we will take in the years to come. No one person has all the answers and no one party has all the answers. We need vigorous public debate between a principled government and a powerful opposition. Our common goal must be to improve the lives of individual Canadians and their families.
It has been a rare privilege to serve the people of Saint John and I have cherished every moment of it. I am indebted to the hundreds of people who have helped me in my various campaigns and the thousands more who gave me their trust.
To my colleagues on both sides of the House who have shared this great experience with me, let me thank each and every one of them for their friendship and wise counsel. To those Canadians who have written to me with their words of encouragement and their prayers, let me thank them for their kind words.
I want to thank the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker for their friendship and their guidance. I really appreciated it.
When I leave this place today it will be for the last time. I want to thank all the young pages for serving me my water each day.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.