Mr. Chair, thank you for hosting us on a very special evening on this just another day at the office, but what an office to be able to come to each and every day.
I want to take some time to reintroduce you, Mr. Chair and colleagues, to my riding, the place that I have served in the House for some 19 years, every since March 25, 1996, following a byelection. Five other of my colleagues were elected that day and we have been very best of friends ever since.
Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is a treasure place. It is a place that I am so deeply proud to represent, mostly because it is my home. Before I reflect on my riding and all of its incredible people, its scenery and its heart, I also want to reflect on where I started in this place, because where I started is where I will finish.
My first days as a member of Parliament as I walked these hallowed halls were indeed very bittersweet. I started fairly early in a political career. I was the former executive assistant to a federal cabinet minister and went on to become an acting chief of staff to a premier. Then there was a byelection called for March 25, 1996 in Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. Politics was very much in my blood. I thought about running. I asked many people. I asked the most important person in my life at that time, an important person who is still deeply and dearly in my life today, my dad. I asked him if I should run. He looked at me and said “You can do whatever you want. Just know I'll be with you”. I did run. I ran for the nomination and I won. Then I ran in the byelection and I won as well. That was seven or eight elections ago.
It has been an incredible journey, one that has been filled with ups and downs. My first days walking in these halls were indeed bittersweet because my dad, who was my best campaigner, had cancer, but I did not know it and he did not know it. We walked the campaign trail together, successfully winning in March. My greatest joy would be to spend part of my career walking with him in Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, my riding. He was here, just up above me, as I was sworn in. He passed away on July 27 at 7 p.m., just three short months later.
I would do anything; I would surrender all if I could spend one more day with him. However, if I were to ask him if he could share another day with me, he would tell me “You have to share the next day with the people that are most important to you”.
That became my fundamental philosophy, to understand who I am and who I represent and who is most dear to me. With my dad no longer by my side but always in my heart, I kept his values and I stayed as the member of Parliament seeking reconfirmation of election in 1997, in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011. Finally, after 19 years of serving in this place, I said that maybe a change is due.
Nineteen years of living out of a suitcase is not easy. Nineteen years of representing the people of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte has been a pleasure. As now with my own family, I knew that a time would come that a change was necessary, and I hope to offer in a different place for a very beautiful place, called Corner Brook, in the near future.
My reflections tonight are on Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte and the people whom I owe so much to. I want to very dearly and sincerely thank Lisa Snow, who came to my office in a moment of chaos and turned it into order, Bonita Costello, who grew and became my executive assistant, Jerome Ward, my principal adviser on all fisheries matters, the very creative Jeanette Mulrooney-French, and Susie Bugden, who helped keep order in the office.
I had tremendous opportunity in my 19 years here. I served as parliamentary secretary to several ministers, and I also served in the federal cabinet of Jean Chrétien as ACOA minister. I will never ever forget those days. As heady as they were, they were filled with great satisfaction and joy. I want to thank Debbie Vickers, Corey Hobbs, Ralph Meachon, Olivia Letemplier, Denise Allain, and several others who helped me in that job.
It goes without saying that we are temporary custodians in this place, but this place does leave an indelible mark upon us. It also has moments of great joy, but also moments of great strain on our families, as we all know. There are two very essential and important people I want to take a special moment to thank.
My wife, Denise Gibbons, is probably one of the sharpest political advisers I could ever have from the sense that she knows how to run a family and she also knows how to run me. She knows exactly what needs to be done.
I come from a very political family, and I guess it was only natural that Denise and I would become a part of each other's lives. My father ran for the NDP in 1958 and 1962. He was a great advocate of natural social justice. He was a great campaigner and supporter of mine. My father-in-law was the president of the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador for several years.
When Denise and I were engaged to be married, we went to Monsignor Murphy, and in his dry Irish Catholic wit, noting my father's political allegiance and my father-in-law's political allegiance, he looked at the two of us and said, “I will consent to perform the sanctity of marriage, but we will all here today have to agree that this is very much a mixed marriage.”
That mixed marriage was a partnership that has served me so well. It produced for us a son, Gerry, who I love and adore more than anything. He has become my new rock and one of the reasons that, as much as I love this place, I must leave it. It is time for me to go home.
I want to continue to serve. I want to continue to serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, maybe now in a new role, if they will have me, as the MHA for Corner Brook district. Those days will come. Those days will be decided, but they will indeed come, as they always do. What shall be, shall pass.
There are many of us here who have regrets, and understandably so. This is not an easy life. I can honestly look in the mirror and into the eyes of the ones I love and say that I have no regrets because of those who I love. They have stood by me each and every step of the way. Without them I would be nothing. I wish I could be with my father. I cannot. Another day. I have my mom, and she is a great rock of support. She now needs my care a little more. I have my family.
This has been a great family while away for 19 years, but today is the day to say thank you and goodbye. I hope to see everyone again. I hope we can continue to work with each other in other capacities, in other roles. There is a lot of building to do in my province. There is a lot of building to do in Canada. If we continue on with the sense that we are all in this together one way or another, we all are a family, then I think we will all be better off.
Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte is a very special place, and if I could give one explanation of why people would see that to be true, there are sixteen UNESCO world heritage sites in Canada and two of them are in my riding of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. It is a reflection of the great natural and human history of the place, but it is also a reflection of the fact that it is where Canada first began, in many respects. It is one of the oldest places settled in all of Canada.
It has been a pleasure to be here. I want to thank my colleagues on the Conservative side, my colleagues in the NDP, and in particular my own colleagues here in the Liberal Party of Canada.
I have had great leadership and I look forward to great leadership from this place coming forward and making Canada a much better place. If I could have played a small role in that over my career as it was, that makes me proud. However, mostly, I am proud about being a friend to each and every member.
God bless. Best of luck to us all and I hope to see everyone soon.