Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my time as a parliamentarian.
This is not something that I ever aspired to, going through my air force career or during most of my financial services career. I did enjoy writing to cabinet ministers and occasionally poking them in the eye with a sharp stick, primarily over issues like, in my opinion, flawed defence and foreign affairs policy and decisions.
One of my more colourful letters actually earned me a CRA audit, which I am sure was random, when I wrote to the then foreign affairs minister and explained why I thought he was the buns of a jennet. I think what annoyed him most was that he had to go to the dictionary to figure out what a jennet was. A jennet is a small Spanish horse.
I was happy to volunteer for and sit on the board of my then and still MP, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc. As I became more frustrated with what I viewed as Canada losing its way in the world, the idea of throwing my hat in the ring was being urged upon me by others, specifically to take on the then deputy prime minister.
My wife was dead set against the idea for all the right reasons, so I had some convincing to do. My clever and very transparent plan was to host a single malt and stinky cheese party, where I would supply the goodies, while friends like the hon. members for Edmonton—Leduc, Edmonton—Spruce Grove, then Edmonton—Strathcona, and others worked on Judy to convince her that the team needed me. She saw through my clever little plan of course, and we had a conversation a couple of days later about how badly did I want to do this.
My response was that if I did not do it soon, it would not happen, but most important, I did not want to look back in 20 years and regret not giving it a shot. She succumbed to my whining and allowed as how we could take one shot at this, but that we were not going to tilt at a windmill forever.
It was game on and through two nominations, one for the Canadian Alliance and one for the Conservative Party of Canada, we fought the campaign in June 2004. We had a terrific team and a great campaign with lots of fun and excitement, and lost very narrowly to the lady who had become affectionately known as "Landslide Annie".
I was prepared for that to be my one shot, but all our volunteers, actually led by my wife, said that we had to do that again. As always, I obeyed my wife and we simply carried on campaigning, knowing that, with a Liberal minority, another election opportunity would present itself. Sure enough, round two happened and on January 23, 2006, after another great campaign effort by a fabulous team, we convinced 25,805 of my closest friends that I deserved their trust.
I am very grateful to every one of those people and to the 46,186 people who sent me back here in 2008 and 2011. I have done my best to serve them, and all those who voted for someone else or, shamefully, did not vote at all.
At this point, I want to thank the many people who helped put me here, and who have helped keep me here.
First and foremost, I have to thank my wife of almost 47 years, the beautiful, brilliant and extremely tolerant Judy. Without her and Jennifer and Robb in my corner, nothing that I may have received credit for could have happened, and I love them all very much.
There are too many to mention by name and I apologize to those I will miss, but I do need to single out a few key people: Richard and Marion Lotnick for my first nomination win; my campaign managers, Vitor Marciano and Peter Watson; and key team leaders like Nancy Strand, William McBeath, William Lo and Marnie Simpson, and a recently deceased very dear friend, Mary Delaney, who was the door knocker at the age of 96. We had complaints from the others door knocking with her who, only in their seventies and eighties, did not want to go out there any more because they could not keep up.
Teams need leaders and foot soldiers, and I want to sincerely thank the hundreds of volunteers who did the myriad things that made for a successful campaign, and three out of four is not bad.
EDA boards are also critical to electing a member of Parliament and keeping him or her there, and I have been blessed with very active and very dedicated boards.
My first experience on Parliament Hill set a very positive tone for my time here. In February 2006, when I walked in under the Peace Tower for the first time, the very first security guard that I met said, and please forgive this small indiscretion, Mr. Chair, "Good morning, Mr. Hawn, welcome to Ottawa". I was very impressed and that impression about the people who work here has not changed. Their dedication and professionalism in everything that they do make it possible for us to do our jobs is incredibly well appreciated.
Regardless of who we are or where we have come from, we all come to this place for the right reason, and that is to make a positive difference for our constituents and for our country. I believe we all want basically the same things, like financial and personal security, good education and health care, a sustainable and healthy environment, a respected place in the world community, and pride in ourselves and pride in our country. What we argue about is the road that we are on to get there. As difficult as it is around here, if we could spend just a bit more time on each other's road, we might all get a little closer to our common destinations. When I have had the opportunity to do that, it has been a very satisfying experience, and I want to cite one example.
I have great respect for Bob Rae as a brilliant parliamentarian, and despite our ideological differences, we could work together behind the scenes on things like the mission extension in Afghanistan. I do not say this with malice at all, but Bob made it clear that if there were political advantage, he would stab me in the heart, and I would stab him in the right circumstances too. However, we would stab each other in the chest, eye to eye, and not in the back. I can certainly respect that.
I want to go back to Landslide Annie for a minute. We had two very hard-fought campaigns, but we never trashed each other personally, and each of us visited the other's successful campaign on election night to offer sincere congratulations. To this day, we still say kind things about each other in public.
We can be political adversaries, but we certainly do not have to be enemies. We should, and we do, take our jobs very seriously, but we should not take ourselves too seriously.
I have been very fortunate in my nine-plus years here and I want to sincerely thank all of my colleagues on all sides of the House for the honour and privilege and, mostly, pleasure of working with them.
I want to especially thank the Prime Minister for his strong and principled leadership at home and abroad, many times taking some unpopular decisions if that was what needed to be done.
I want to thank him for the confidence he showed in me and the assignments that he gave me. My favourite position was as parliamentary secretary for three and a half years, under someone whom I consider to be the hands down best minister of national defence of the 27 ministers of national defence that I have known since I enrolled in the air force 51 years ago, and whose helicopter flight, by the way, did not actually cost the taxpayer a single penny.
I am grateful for the honour of being called “Honourable” as a Privy Councillor for the rest of my life and for the roles on cabinet committees such as Treasury Board and the deficit reduction action plan subcommittee.
I do joke about the Prime Minister being a very practical man for giving me cabinet-level duties without cabinet-level pay, but it has been a great honour and I would not have missed it. However, I did spend several months being secluded with the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, poring over 20,000 pages of Taliban detainee documents looking for a smoking gun that did not exist.
There have been some memorable moments in this place, and I want to highlight only two.
I believe that the most critical challenge that we need to solve nationally and rationally is the future of Canada's aboriginal peoples as full participants in the great opportunity that is Canada. That will take work on all sides, and one of the great moments here was the Prime Minister's apology for the tragedy that was residential schools.
The other great moment for me was last October 23, when this House sat the day after the terrorist attack on this place. We cannot and will not allow our democracy and its institutions to be threatened in any way.
I have certainly enjoyed working in this place on many issues, such as military and veterans affairs and as Canadian co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Permanent Joint Board on Defence, but some of my favourite moments as an MP have been spent away from this place.
Probably at the top of that list would be the opportunity to spend time in Afghanistan on seven occasions. There was something very special about serving Christmas dinner to troops in the field, and especially about waking up five Christmas mornings in a row at a forward operating base in the Panjwai with the exceptional Canadians who were there serving and sacrificing.
Colleagues, we are part of a very exclusive club. According to the Library of Parliament, there have been 4,216 members of Parliament in Canada's history. According to Don Cherry, there have been over 7,000 players in the history of the NHL.
We all work hard to get here and we all work hard to stay here. Public service is honourable and we all play an important role, so if someone sneers that any of us are mere backbenchers, ask them which bench they have sat on and how many years of their life have they devoted to the welfare of others.
It has been a slice, and I am grateful to my staff for their tremendous work in trying their best to make me look good. I could do nothing without such people as Oula Sanduga, Lindo Lo, Jen Gray, Jordan Fraser, Rachel Petrenko, Averil Grant, and all my earlier staff and interns.
So why am I leaving now? There are several reasons.
When we got into this, my wife and I said we wanted to serve for eight to ten years. It will have been nine years and nine months, and that is in the window. Not to ever compare myself to the Great One, but 99 is always a good Edmonton number.
Together my wife and I have worked for more than a century, and 100 years is certainly a big enough round number.
People often stop me and say that they are sorry I am leaving. My reply is that that is why I am leaving, because people will not say that forever, and I do not want to be there when that happens.
My final reason for leaving is that I want a life back. To use a football analogy, I know that I am in the fourth quarter and that I cannot count on overtime, and I want to get some stuff done before the two-minute warning. We all have something ticking inside us, and we do not know when the two-minute warning or the final whistle will sound.
Jim Flaherty's situation did not drive my decision, because it was already made, but it certainly reinforced my decision. Whatever may be any of our reasons, my sincere wish and advice to colleagues is to not leave it too late.
I plan to stay busy in retirement and continue to serve my community in a variety of ways, or I may just wear my pants up around my nipples and complain about the government full time.
I think it was either our colleague Chuck Strahl or Stockwell Day who said that if you can leave this place with your reputation and integrity intact and with the same family that you arrived with, you have been successful.
It is time to bid adieu to this place and get my life back in 130 days, but who is counting? Judy will get a husband back. Jennifer and Robb will get a dad back. Jeff and Kiran will get a father-in-law back, and most importantly, for Tyler and Raiya Lily, Grampa will be all theirs.