Mr. Chair, it is a real pleasure to rise and speak in the House tonight.
In 10 minutes, it is hard to put across one's entire career in politics, whether a short-lived career or one that has greater longevity. However, for my political career, June 2 marked 18 years. I remember coming to this place 18 years ago as a young parliamentarian, quite frankly green as grass, and walking onto the green floor of the House of Commons, which of course, represents the grassroots.
It is not just representative of the grassroots of Canada, but it goes back to another era and another time, to the time of the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. King John, of course, was granting greater taxation abilities to the knights and nobility. Because he was the king, he forced the knights and nobility to dismount and stand on the grass, and that is where the expression “grassroots” comes from. It was because they were standing on the grass sod.
We know, in today's terms, that it was a very elite group, certainly the cream of society, whereas in this place, under true democracy, everyone—even myself, a kid growing up in rural Nova Scotia—has an opportunity to come to the House of Commons of Canada. It is a great gift to be passed to other Canadians.
I think back to my nomination speech, and we all went through one. We all got our supporters out and dragged them to a fire hall or town hall somewhere and got them all to vote. I cannot tell members what I said in my nomination speech. I really have very little idea, because I was extremely nervous. However, I do remember quoting Robert Service from The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and I think it stood me in good stead for this job. It was probably the only part of my nomination speech that was delivered fairly well. I quoted this part:
When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
I always felt that put me in the right frame of mind to come here, because this is a very adversarial chamber at times, with quite a rowdy crew at times. At times, we could be mistaken for that barroom in that piece of poetry written by Robert Service.
However, in all honesty, there are many times when we work more collaboratively and actually do a good job, and I think everyone comes here with the right intent. Regardless of our political affiliation, people come here for the right reasons. Sometimes they get led astray a little bit, but the majority of us are here for the right reasons, doing a good job on behalf of our constituents and on behalf of the country.
I wrote down “politics can be frustrating, demanding, perplexing, and gratifying”. I think all of my colleagues would recognize those words. However, we are all here because we have partners in life, family, friends, supporters, and all of the volunteers who have been kind and generous of their time, and who allow us to stand in this chamber and discuss the events of the nation.
Certainly, I need to first of all thank my family, my wife Judy, our six kids, my brothers and sisters, and my friends who have been supportive over the years. I know we are not allowed to draw attention to anyone in the gallery, and I have no intention of doing that, but I am pretty sure that my wife Judy, my sister Marsha, my brother-in-law Charlie, my friends Peter and George are probably watching this tonight.
I need to recognize my staff in the riding: Kim who has worked for me as long as I have been a member of Parliament, Jennifer, Shauna, who has now left and is working in New Brunswick, Cathy, who works in the Barrington office, and Ben, who works in my Ottawa office. They really are the glue that holds us together. As important as the support and love of our families are, members could not do this job, as was mentioned earlier this evening, without the quality, expertise, and professionalism that our staff shows us every single day. That includes former staffers, many of whom have gone on to great careers in political life themselves.
I want to take a moment to talk about the volunteers. All members, whichever side of the House we work on, have got here because of the hard work of dozens, hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of volunteers. Here in Canada, we are a volunteering society. People volunteer at their local legions, churches, and food banks, but it is somehow a dirty word to say that someone volunteers in politics. Quite frankly, shame on us, because those volunteers are the other part of the glue that binds this democracy together. We need to recognize them and thank them for their contribution to the work that goes on, whether it is the Parliament of Canada, the provincial and territorial legislatures, or the municipalities. We could not do this job without them.
I want to thank all of my colleagues. I am not going to name everyone and I do not mean to steal the Minister of Justice's line, but we were elected at the same time, on June 2, 1997, and at that time we were a small band that had come to Ottawa trying to make big changes. It took us a long time to do that, but quite frankly, because we put the two parties together, we are standing here today not just as retiring members of Parliament but retiring members of Parliament in a government that has made real, serious change to this country, for the better.
I want to recognize and thank the Prime Minister for putting his faith in me and allowing me to serve as parliamentary secretary. That is something I will always appreciate. I was able, in that role and capacity, to work on some large files, which I never would have been able to do otherwise.
Private members' business was mentioned earlier. When I first got here, I was looking at reducing or eliminating the capital gains on privately owned woodlots in Canada, and I was able to bring that forward in a private member's bill. The government of the day did not see fit to pass it, but it did bring in the legislation itself and it became law. I also had a private member's bill on fisheries capital gains. We brought that in as an election promise and did it. It has been a huge boost for private woodlots and fisheries.
I also had the great honour of working on the Heritage Lighthouse Preservation Act with folks like Barry MacDonald from Nova Scotia. We were able to preserve forever a number of ancient lighthouses in Nova Scotia, one in particular on Cape Sable Island in my riding. The Minister of Justice and I were able to make the announcement on the other one just outside of my riding, the Sambro Island light. The Sambro Island light is the oldest lighthouse not just in Nova Scotia, Canada, or North America but in the western hemisphere. That is a piece of heritage that we were able to help preserve.
I want to say to all of my colleagues, family, and friends that it has been an honour and a pleasure to serve.