Mr. Speaker, after the tributes I have received from the member for Davenport, the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, the member for Calgary Centre, and the member from the New Democratic Party, I am at a loss for words.
What I found most touching is that everyone mentioned my wife Aline. She has been by my side since 1963, through very difficult political battles and tense moments in this life, which we love so much but which is so fraught with pitfalls. I benefited from her incredibly good advice and very sound judgment on political situations and on people. I thank her for everything she has done for me, the party and the country.
Mr. Speaker, when I arrived here in 1963, as the leader of the Bloc Quebecois said, indeed I had some different views. However, when I came to the House of Commons and I met the representatives of all parts of Canada, some of my views changed.
As I said in a speech one day, I was, like many young Quebecers, a very proud Quebecer, a very proud French Canadian. When there was some crisis, for example the case of Marcel Chaput, I had a hell of an argument with some of my colleagues in Trois-Rivières after court. I socked it to you anglophones on that lunch; my friends, you do not know how much.
There was one friend of mine who had been studying previously in Ottawa and in New Brunswick. He said to me bluntly, “Jean, you are talking through your hat. You've never been out of la Mauricie. You've never been outside of Quebec, in the rest of Canada”, and he was right.
When I left that lunch, I was not happy. I was inclined to want to extend to him the Shawinigan handshake. After 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles on the way to Shawinigan, I began to say to myself that he might be right. A few months later I was a candidate for my party. I came here and learned what it was all about to be a Canadian.
Some of my views changed for the better. After 40 and a half years, I am still here. It is a great institution. We have very different points of view, but I know everybody is working on behalf of his or her constituents to make this country better, to make everybody's life better.
It is a coincidence that the member for Edmonton North, who just left the House, is quitting at the same time as I am. I remember when she arrived as the first member of the Reform Party. She was a very aggressive person who was really tough on me. I was sometimes a bit tough on her too, but I have great respect for her and I would like to wish her good luck.
I went to raise money for the member from West Vancouver, but I thought he would keep his money in B.C. and not come to Ottawa.