Mr. Speaker, I have always respected both official languages of our country, but I will give my speech in French as it will be easier for translation. However, I want to tell everybody in English that I was proud to speak both official languages in the House.
Life is always good when you give yourself time and time can do its work. Given the schedule that was originally planned, according to which we were to adjourn a few days ago, I never thought I would have the opportunity to speak to the House as I am doing today. I want to thank everyone and all parliamentarians for what has happened in the last few hours. I also want them to have as many great moments as I have had here in the wonderful House of Commons.
I came here in 2007, after having been mayor. My first political life began in 2000. I have now been in politics full time for 17 years. I arrived here in September 2007 after winning the first by-election for the Stephen Harper government. At the time, I had an office on the sixth floor of the Confederation Building. I had just arrived here when my neighbour to the left knocked on my door. I did not have staff, I did not have a team and I was alone. The House had been prorogued, and nobody was in Ottawa. This person invited me to knock on his door if I needed anything, and he would be there. That person is you, Mr. Speaker. I thank you again.
Of course, I am sure everyone has heard by now that I am leaving politics in the next few weeks. I will use the coming weeks to honourably finish the work that remains, as I hope I have done for the past 17 years. I need to close my four offices, transfer files to the proponents that submitted them to me, do the summer festival circuit in my riding, meet with people, thank them, and help prepare the next by-election to make sure the Conservatives win, of course. That is how I will be spending the next few weeks. Today is simply an opportunity for me to say thank you.
I want to thank everyone in this beautiful place, the House of Commons, and the rest of Parliament Hill. We all need to make a point of thanking the people who help us do our jobs without too many headaches, from the person who washes the floor to the one who serves us our meals, from our security officers to the person who cuts the grass. The pages are there for us for every little thing we need, as we saw earlier. We can all be satisfied and proud of those individuals.
I first came here in 2007, and one year later, I became a minister because someone put his trust in me. A great man, a great prime minister, Stephen Harper, someone I will never forget as long as I live, did me the honour of entrusting me with considerable responsibilities.
Recently, the Minister of Transport was talking about how much work he had, and I joked that when I was the transport minister, I was also the minister of infrastructure, communities, and intergovernmental affairs, as well as the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec Regions, so he had no business telling me he had lots of work because he was practically on vacation.
I owe all that to Stephen Harper, a great prime minister, who had faith in me and led us to a balanced budget. He gave me mandates. When I got to Transport Canada, the new Champlain Bridge was not even on the radar. There was nothing going on with it. Just 140 days later, thanks to former finance minister Jim Flaherty and Prime Minister Harper, we made an announcement about that major project for the Montreal area. We also announced the Windsor bridge project. In fact, it was my honour to announce the Windsor bridge. Given what I am seeing now, maybe I should have appointed the board of directors too. I would have made different appointments, but that is another story.
I had the honour of developing this country's biggest infrastructure plan ever with a balanced budget. That is an important distinction. I could go on and on, but I will stop here. Mr. Harper put his trust in me, and I will be forever grateful.
After the election, another great woman gave me the opportunity to become deputy leader of the official opposition. The member for Sturgeon River—Parkland asked me to be her right-hand man, and I am still grateful for that honour.
I have a lot of confidence in the young member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.
One of the reasons why I can leave today with peace of mind is all of the people behind me. We have a new leader, who will demonstrate how empathetic he is and how in touch he is with people's feelings, while having a great economic vision and a lot of respect for Canadians.
Of course, I want to thank all the members of the Quebec caucus, past and present, who have always supported me. Today, they allowed me to leave. There were five of us, then 12. Now there are 11, but I am sure there will be more.
Canada's public servants are among the best in the world. When I was a minister, I had the opportunity to work with many great public servants from all departments. I have a soft spot for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec Regions. A Quebecker who comes from one of the regions loves being in the regions of Quebec. Every public servant I had the opportunity to work with showed me how qualified they are. I thank them from the very bottom of my heart.
I have had different families. There was the Conservative political family, made up of all the Conservative members that I had the opportunity to work with here in the House, caring and committed men and women. There was also the House of Commons family, made up of all members of the House. All members, regardless of their party, are here to work for the good of Canadians, and we need to continue to be accessible to them and to be respectful and open-minded. Behind all the political posturing are men and women with families and children. When someone attacks the person they love the most in this world, often their father or mother, it affects the whole family. Let us think about that when we engage in parliamentary sparring. Let us show respect for all members of the House.
I also found family in the various departments I have headed, with up to 42 employees. A few of them are here today. They became my second family. Some of them became my sons and daughters, and I thank them for that. Those were often very turbulent years, when we had to handle several files at once. There is never anyone more important than the team. In life, when we realize how lucky we are to be at the top of a pyramid or a group of individuals while respecting those below, that always makes things much easier. I have long and often said that I would be Denis much longer than a minister. It was just a job. Later, people will remember Denis, not my job.
I have often said that it was very nice to be important, but it was much more important to be nice. When someone is not nice, people remember. I will continue living my life that way and working to make things happen.
I thank everyone who has worked for me. I want to pay special tribute to my former chief of staff, Mr. Yan Plante. He has done an exceptional job, and he provides me with valued advice even today.
I also thank all of the constituents in my riding, where I was the mayor. I thank them for putting their trust in me.
Obviously, I would like to close by thanking my family. When public life is forced on our spouses, children, and grandchildren for 17 years, it is not always easy.
I would like to share a story. My granddaughter was in grade 4 at the time. She was told by her teacher, a political opponent, that her granddad was going to lose the election. It is hard to imagine a child of nine or ten being told that by someone, but these things happen. When we decide to get into politics, our families get dragged into it as well. We must remember to always protect our families and to help them protect themselves.
My life philosophy has always been the same. I have always said that we are all human, and no matter the colour of our skin or our political, religious, or sexual orientation, we should work together to build a better future and a better world for those around us. I am proud to call the Lac-Saint-Jean region my home, and I always will be.
I hope that I will be remembered as someone who gave of himself, as does everyone else here.