Mr. Speaker, I suspect that this will be one of the final times I will get to speak in this amazing place. What an honour it has been.
I come from southwestern Ontario, from a little place called Denfield, which one cannot find on a map. All my life, all I ever wanted to do was farm. For those who have ever had a dream and lived it, that was my dream.
I graduated from agriculture college and had the great opportunity to become a dairy farmer and a cash crop farmer. It was an opportunity in my life when we exported cattle nationally and internationally. I also remember at that time, which was the 1980s, that for those of us who were in the business, who were expanding our business or who were buying farms and those types of things, 23% interest was a little more than a challenge. For people who were retired, it was a blessing. I was a long way from being retired. There were major bumps in the road.
Also at this time, I had been married to this amazing woman called Barb. Over those years, she has been with me with me, and together we went through those times. We survived it. We became stronger along with our three children.
Over 35 years ago, I got a call. I was asked if I would become a fence viewer for Lobo Township. I will not go into the details because likely nobody knows what a fence viewer is. Following that, I got a call asking if I would sit on the planning board for the township.
We had just finished planting soybeans when my councillor drove into the yard. He said that he was not running in the fall and asked me if I would run in his place. After 20 years, being a councillor, then deputy, then for 16 years being reeve, mayor and then warden of the county, it was time for him to step back. At that time, when that call came for the job of fence viewer, little did I know it would be the beginning of a political career.
It was a bit of a challenge because when Barb indicated that it would be a great idea to get married, she said she would never marry a politician. At any rate, she has been there with me all this time. Never in my life did I ever think I would be in politics.
After 20 years in municipal politics, some people showed up at my door and said they would like me to consider putting my name in to run for the Conservative Party of Canada. I said that it was not on my radar screen and it never had been. I told Barb and she said, “I think we need to pray about this.” This was the same beautiful woman who many years before had talked about me not being in politics. We prayed about it. Prayer has been one of the solid things in our lives and in our marriage. She said to me, “Whatever your decision is, I'll be there with you.”
I ran in 2004 and lost, and that was good. Not many people would say that, but there were things that happened in the two years before 2006 that make me thankful I was at home with our family.
Then on January 23, 2006, the people of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex allowed me to be the member of Parliament for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. There should never be an election in the winter, not in Canada.
At any rate, for those who have been through this, there is no staff, no office and, as I found out, had a limited understanding of what the load would be with this job. I have referenced it as being like trying to drink water out of a fire hydrant. After a while, the hose gets smaller and then to gets to where a cup can be put under it and the water can be nourished and drank. It does all come together.
I am thankful and privileged to have served under the Right. Hon. Stephen Harper, a man of wisdom and a man of integrity. During that time, we all had our things, and I was so fortunate to have two private members' motions become legislation. The first focused on agriculture, which was the harmonization of the science for the registration of agriculture inputs. The next one was a motion that would end up, because of my colleague from Grasslands, establishing the Office of Religious Freedom. It would fall under the Minister of Foreign Affairs and would be responsible for monitoring religious persecution around the world. What an honour it was to have representatives from parties in the House support in those motions.
Now we have a new leader, who I believe has a new clear vision for Canada and who I believe will become the prime minister in October.
I want to thank the member from Yorkton for the prayer breakfasts we have on Wednesday mornings. What a stabilizer it is for those of us who have a strong faith.
After nearly 14 years, I could describe this as a walk in life because of the amazing people around me. That, my friends, is what makes it a journey.
I want to thank the special people in my life: my wife Barb, our three children, Cheryl, Greg and Chris, and our 10 grandchildren, with whom I will get to spend much more time.
I thank the incredible people who became my staff over the years and those who carried me through, people like Yvonne Hundey and Pat Davis, who have been there since day one; Stephanie Cattrysse, Todd Gurd and Sarah Brown, who is my corporal in Ottawa. To all the staff who have worked for me, they made a mark in my life and I thank them very much for that.
How do I thank neighbours and friends, the people who take care of things when I am not there? They look after my home and ensure Barb is safe when I am not there. I hope my thanks is enough.
Larry Weatherhead is an unsung hero. He would be embarrassed, but he is a friend and an employee. He carried a lot of the farm workload while I was not there over the years. I thank him.
To my colleagues in this place of all party stripes, I thank them for the friendships we have built and sustained.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank all the people who supported me as well as the ones who did not but who put up with me.
I pass the torch to Leanne Rood, the candidate for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex in October 2019. May the torch be held high.
May God bless each and everyone in this Parliament and may God bless this great country of Canada.