Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to deliver my farewell speech in the House of Commons, a place that I have been honoured to be in for 19 years, close to two decades.
Although there are a number of friends and family here tonight, one person is not here who I wish was. It is my seatmate, the member for Langley—Aldergrove, who is in a hospital tonight in Langley. If he is watching or listening, our prayers are with him tonight, not just those from me and my family but those from our entire caucus.
I also have another very close friend, Dale Markwart, who is lying on a bed in a hospital in Castor, Alberta tonight. He is in a tough battle. Dale is a close friend and he means a lot to us all.
After six elections, 19 great years and various positions in the official opposition and the government, it is now time for me to spend more time with my family, which had so selflessly and stoically stood by my side through this long and demanding journey. It is time for me to return to the farm and dedicate more time to those who mean the most to me: my family, those in my community of Killam, Alberta and those in the county of Flagstaff.
However, I do so with a very heavy heart, as I have so much enjoyed the privilege of being not only a member of Parliament, but a member of Parliament for the riding of Crowfoot, which later had its name changed to Battle River-Crowfoot.
I cannot thank the good people of my riding enough for their support. For 19 years, they were my boss. Every day I have received letters, emails, telephone calls and face-to-face words of encouragement and prayers that mean more to me than they will ever know.
I was first elected in November 2000. I stood in the House, on February 1, 2001, to deliver my maiden speech, in which I said:
I thank all the people of Crowfoot for bestowing their faith in me. I promise to respectfully and truthfully represent their views and concerns here. I pledge to work hard, with the same diligence that the majority of the people of Crowfoot demonstrate daily as they go about their occupations and their careers in our predominately rural riding.
I have worked hard to keep my word. I firmly believe that is why I was returned to Parliament in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015.
The people of my riding are important. However, it has been my faith in Jesus Christ and the hope he offers the world. That has been at the heart of my keeping my word, staying principled, serving with humility and respect and working hard every day to earn the trust of my constituents.
When I thought about writing this speech, I thought I better go to Wikipedia to see what it said about me. It sounds a little selfish and vain, but I just want to mention some of the things Wikipedia views as accomplishments.
It says I represent “a riding that is very conservative even by the standards of rural Alberta.” Well, as my staff has reminded me, a three-legged dog could win in Crowfoot as long as it is a Conservative. It also says, “most of his territory has been held by a centre-right MP without interruption since 1935.” I love Crowfoot. It goes on:
He has won the riding by some of the largest margins ever recorded in Canadian politics. He was first elected in 2000, taking 70.5 percent of the vote, and since then has never dropped below 80 percent of the vote. In January 2006, he was re-elected with 82.5 per cent of the popular vote, the highest total recorded by a Conservative candidate in that election.
Wikipedia also notes that I chaired the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan while the Conservatives were in government. In opposition, I have received a remarkable amount of enjoyment out of chairing the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
These opportunities, as well as being the public safety critic while in opposition, have given me such an appreciation for the institutions and traditions that have shaped this place and such respect for the many and varied stakeholders who come to us to plead their cases for change, accountability and principled policy that makes a difference in the everyday lives of average Canadians.
Being appointed to these positions as a member of Parliament has been the greatest distinction in my working career. All of it is thanks to the tremendous support of the amazing constituents of Battle River—Crowfoot, the many volunteers on my election campaigns and the dedication and the sage advice of my board of directors and executives.
I want to mention some of my campaign managers: Norman and Marian Steinwand, Bill and Judy Wilson, and for the last five elections, Steven Snider, as well as my president, Martin West. There are so many people I could thank.
I thank my current and former staff for their outstanding work and support in running my Ottawa and constituency offices: Leslie Olson; Gail Nordstrom; John Howard, who passed away while he was employed in the office; Emily Gilroy; Kirsty Skinstead-Lutz; Amy Jackson; Damien Kurek; Jeannie Smith; Linda McKay; Nancy Stewart, Dan Wallace; Melissa Johnston; and Paula Wilkie. Without them and their tireless efforts and loyalty, we could not have provided the first-class assistance that my constituents so richly deserve and have received.
I am equally indebted to my former ministerial staff led by chief of staff, Bram Sapers, who also professionally helped me navigate cabinet committees, memoranda to cabinet, departmental briefings and the onerous and exhausting budget preparations.
I have had the privilege of serving under amazing leaders. Preston Manning was the one who got me excited about politics and interested in making a change in this country. Stockwell Day showed confidence in me after one year by appointing me as the public safety, or solicitor general in those days, shadow minister.
I also need to thank our former prime minister, the right hon. Stephen Harper for the faith that he placed in me as the minister of state for finance, a position I served to the very best of my ability. I am so proud to have called the hon. Stephen Harper my Prime Minister, my leader and more importantly, my friend.
He led his caucus and this country with unparalleled wisdom, humility and, yes, the tough veneer that is so necessary as a respected world leader of his calibre. I was proud to stand by his side and give him unconditional support as we negotiated trade agreements, steered through the recession and balanced successive budgets to ensure the future of this country and that of our children and grandchildren.
Serving in his government was the highlight of my political career. Likewise, it is an honour to serve with our current leader, Andrew Scheer. I campaigned for him in 2004. We saw him as the Speaker of the House and hopefully as our next Prime Minister.
For many of my colleagues and I there were some negatives. We will always remember the terrible day on October 22, 2014, when we feared for our lives and the life of our Prime Minister, as shots were fired just outside our caucus room doors. Corporal Nathan Cirillo had already been fatally shot a the Canadian National War Memorial before his killer made his way up here to Parliament and into Centre Block. Shots were fired. People were hit. All parties were in the midst of their caucus meetings. It was a long and scary day that is forever embedded in one of the darkest memories that I have of Parliament.
The other was 9/11. I remember my nine-year-old daughter running onto the deck and telling me that a plane had hit a building. Less than a year after being elected and six months after being made public safety critic for the official opposition, I was tasked with responding to the ministerial statement calling on the Liberal government for anti-terrorism legislation.
Those dark days are all but washed away by the many fond memories I have of Parliament Hill and the friendships I have forged. There are so many that I need to thank.
First of all, more than anyone, I will miss my good friend and roommate for 19 years, the member of Parliament for Cypress Hills—Grasslands. David and his wife, Sheila, have become lifetime friends. Thank you for all the late-night chats as we ate pizza and popcorn, solving all the problems of Canada and the world, sometimes frustrated with political correctness. Today is his anniversary and he has been together with Sheila a little longer than he has been with me.
To my parents, Ralph and Jean Sorenson, and my in-laws Ben and Alice Redekop, I thank them for their prayers and support. They have meant so very much to me and to my wife Darlene. My father, who watches most question periods with my mom, is now 93 years old and I am not hearing anymore, “Dad, it's time to get a life.”
To my wife Darlene, and our children Ryan, Kristen and her husband Matthew, and now my grandson Kayden, words are not enough to express the deep appreciation and love I have for them all. I am so proud of each one of them. Darlene has been my partner, my sounding board, the anchor that has kept our family grounded and so much more. She has given speeches on my behalf, has campaigned and has always been there beside me. I love her more now than I have ever loved her.
Once again, and in conclusion, I thank the people of Battle River—Crowfoot for bestowing their faith in me. They are truly the best constituents in all of Canada. I will miss this place. I will miss this job. It has been an honour to serve the people of Battle River—Crowfoot.
Finally, to my colleagues here this evening, I thank them for indulging me. I thank them for helping me along the journey of being a member of Parliament. I thank them for allowing me a few moments tonight to reflect and to give thanks. I want to give God praise. God bless everyone here tonight, and may God continue to bless this great land that is the greatest country in the world: Canada.