Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 20, I would like to rise on a point of personal privilege. I appreciate the opportunity to do so.
To my colleagues here in the House, first and foremost, I want to say that I hold this place in the highest regard. Today, coming to this place and to this building, as I have many times, I have never once taken that for granted. The trust, the honour, the distinction to serve in this House, this House of Parliament, in the nation that I hold out as the finest in the world is an honour that each and every one of us uniquely hold. It is something that we should never, ever take for granted.
I am from Peterborough. I am Peterborough. I grew up picking stones in the fields of Peterborough County. I love that place. I love everything about it. The people of the riding of Peterborough have three times chosen me to be their representative in this House. What an honour. What an incredible honour.
I want to speak a little about the election in 2008. However, before I do that, I want to reinforce the fact that I have never been defeated in standing for election at any time. I first stood for the nomination in the Conservative Party as a relative unknown. The local papers called me a neophyte, asking “Who is this guy?” and “What business does he have to run for the nomination?”
I did run. A lot of people came out. I was 34 years old, and had been in business for 10 years. I had created dozens of jobs in Peterborough, and I am proud of that. I demonstrated to each and every one of them that I was a person of consequence, and that I would be a person of consequence, representing them if they gave me the honour. They did.
After a 56-day campaign, I was the Conservative member of Parliament for Peterborough. I never wasted a day. I have not wasted a day since April 14, 1994, the day my father died.
I fought for the people of Peterborough. In 2008, I sought re-election, but I sought re-election on a record that I was proud of, running for a government that I believed had done great things in a short period of time for this nation. We continued to work hard after 2008. I can list the achievements, things I have gotten done since 2008. The people in Peterborough know them well.
They know Peterborough today is a stronger city, a stronger region. It is more outward looking. If I was to speak to my achievements, I would start with the Peterborough Airport, a report that I wrote myself. So often in Parliament and in elected levels of government, at every level, we send away for reports. We commission reports to be completed. Not me.
I was always determined that I was going to be proactive, that I was going to force the issue, that I would be in every way working hard and making things happen for my region, because I thought that for years we had underachieved in Peterborough. Not anymore, not with me as their representative.
In 2007, I wrote a report calling for an investment into the Peterborough Airport. I got buy-in from the Peterborough City Council. I got buy-in from the federal government. I got buy-in from the provincial government. Today, that airport is now a gateway to the world. It used to be a flying club. It is not a flying club anymore. It is creating jobs each and every day.
We had significant investments into our downtown, such as the Market Hall theatre. The Hunter Street Bridge is completely redone. We have new seniors centres, the Mapleridge seniors centre. We have the Peterborough Lawn Bowling Club; it is brand new. We have a renovated arena in Ennismore. We have a renovated curling club in Ennismore. We have a renovated arena in Lakefield.
We have new wastewater treatment facilities and new water treatment facilities across the riding, meaning that people in my riding are drinking safe water and my small communities can actually grow and build themselves. I worked hard for all of them. We have better roads and bridges, but we also have people who believe in our region and believe in our community and believe in our potential.
When I went back to Peterborough in 1994 from university, most of my friends were leaving. I was the only one who went back. Almost my whole graduating class is somewhere else. As a guy with a business who had gone through university as an accounting and finance major, I was told to go to Bay Street because that is where I would make money, but I was convinced that my place was in Peterborough, the place that I loved, the electric city. God bless it.
I was re-elected in 2011, and people poured through those files. They poured through my election filings: 2006, 2008, 2011. I was re-elected in 2011, and I have not wasted a day since then either. In 2008, I set a record for the most votes ever garnered by a candidate in Peterborough. In 2011, I broke that record and it is not because of me. I hope colleagues will agree with me that no one person wins an election. We do not do it on our own; we have so many volunteers. Ultimately, it is about the people, the individuals who go out and cast their ballots. They leave their homes in the morning and at some point in that day they put an X on a ballot. It is such an honour for the candidate who they decide that X should be for. That is how elections are won.
I want to speak a bit about the case that is against me. Yesterday, I watched the debate. I was not here. I had a new little girl born on Sunday. I still have the hospital bracelet on my wrist. She is a miracle I have waited a long time for. I think my wife is watching at home so I would ask her to give her a kiss for me.
I want to be clear that the matter that was discussed here yesterday is very much still before the courts. It may well be there some time. I wish it was not. I wish it was not a distraction. I wish it was not something that I had to fight, but it is and I will fight. People in this House know one thing about me; they know I am no shrinking violet. I have a big heart, but nobody should ever confuse that with any willingness on my part to ever back down. I often tell people that I have a distinct design flaw. It is that I was not built with a reverse gear. I only know how to go forward, and I will press forward.
As I said yesterday, I did not feel that people were very judicious in their comments, and I regret that. I understand it. There is a lot of politics in this place. However, I did want to come out and make a number of comments in that regard.
To begin with, I want to make one thing clear, and I stand by this: I did not donate too much money to myself. I did not, and I stand by my filings in 2008.
I also want to say something to the people at home who are listening, the more than 27,000 people who voted for me in 2008 and the almost 29,000 who voted for me in 2011. I want them to ask themselves a simple question, and not listen to the people on the blogs and the haters. There are lots of them out there. I wish there were not, but that is just the world we live in today.
However, those people who went out and cast a ballot for me in 2008 or in 2011, I ask them to ask themselves a question. Did they vote for me because somebody phoned them at some point and asked if they were going to vote for me? Or did they vote for me because they believed I was the best choice on the ballot, because they believed I was an advocate, because they liked what I had been doing, because they believed that I was the best hope for Peterborough and that the Conservative Party was the best hope for this country? I believe that is why they voted for me and nothing changes that.
When people say that I am guilty of fraud or whatever comments that were made the other day, they disrespect the more than 27,000 people in 2008 who voted for me and the almost 29,000 people who voted for me in 2011. Those voters would tell them, to a person, that it had nothing to do with how they cast their ballot.
If that position were true, then I would advise every person in the House to invest all their money in nothing but phone calls, which is the only sure way to be elected. That is what I heard here yesterday, that somehow this was a means of stealing an election. That is absolutely false. It is founded in absolutely nothing. The best way to be re-elected is to work hard, to be a person of conviction and consequence, and I say that for the people at home who are standing for election.
It bothered me yesterday that a day in the life of the House was wasted on this issue. I believe Parliament should be focused on attacking issues on behalf of Canadians, not attacking each other. Yesterday, that day was lost, and I will not see any more days lost on that.
I spoke about my love for Peterborough county. I will not be a distraction in Peterborough. I have talked about how Peterborough is more outward looking, about how I believe its future is bright and the people who live there believe the future is bright. I will do nothing to distract from that.
It is important, I would argue, that the people of this place, the people in Peterborough and the people across the country understand that this institution, Parliament itself, is fixed and focused on the issues that matter to them. We may not all agree on the best way to serve our constituents at home, but one thing we should agree on is that this place should always be used to better their lives, to better their outcomes and to better this great nation, and yesterday that was not the case.
I told a number of my colleagues in the Conservative Party that I would never ever put them in a position where they had to vote with respect to my future, my position in this place or otherwise, and I will not do that. A number of them know they are like my brothers and sisters, but all of them know they are my political family. They are the greatest hope for this nation, in my view. I know others in the House disagree with me on that, but I believe it to my core.
No united Conservative Party has ever been defeated since 1980. It has never happened. The members should stay united. I will not be the one to divide them. I believe too much in what they do and what they stand for, and it is with that, with appreciation, humility and gratitude, I tender my resignation, effective immediately, in the House.
I stand before the House as one of the most fortunate and blessed individuals that the good Lord has ever put breath into. Nothing will ever change that. I hope some day to be back in this place, but if I am not, always keep in mind it is a simple chair, but it represents the hopes, dreams and futures of the thousands who members represent, millions across the country. Never take it for granted.