Mr. Speaker and colleagues, thank you for allowing me to address you today.
I am rising today to inform you that, after much deliberation and with an eye to the future, I have decided to resign from my role as member of Parliament for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount. I am very grateful to you for giving me an opportunity to address the House one last time after 14 years of service. It has been a wonderful 14 years. I spent seven years as an opposition member and seven years in government.
I am well aware that some of you wish I had spent more time on one side of the House than on the other, but my memories of my first seven years here are just as fond as those of my last seven years. I consider myself to have been extraordinarily privileged to have worked in the Parliament of Canada, to have served the people of Montreal, Quebec and Canada to the best of my ability, both in my riding and in this august chamber. I thank the Prime Minister for allowing me to serve Canada as a member of cabinet.
Members know that I am a by-the-book kind of guy. I have always respected the rules of this House and always obeyed its protocols, and for that reason I would never dream of pointing out that my family has joined me today for my final speech. It would be wrong of me to point out that my wife Pam, my daughter Simone and her husband Ozgor, my granddaughter Ela, and my sons Adrien and George are in the gallery, so I will not do it.
Those who work in this House and have families know all too well that political life is demanding on those families. My first thank you goes to my loved ones. I thank them for allowing me to engage in politics for more than 17 years.
I would ask my constituents to forgive me for leaving before the end of my mandate.
After the last election, I had the privilege of being appointed as the chair of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs and more recently as the joint chair of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying. I am extremely proud of the work of these two committees. Last fall, I promised my family that I would leave politics after tabling in the House the final report on medical assistance in dying, which I did on February 15. It was very important to me to accomplish that task.
My colleagues know better than most that every member of Parliament is supported by a dedicated staff. We could not otherwise do our job, so I want to thank my staff, beginning with those who have worked in my constituency office in Montreal. Their constant presence gave me peace of mind, knowing that they were always there. They reached out to the community to let people know they would be there to serve them. They took thousands of calls from citizens seeking our help. Most of those calls were polite, although on occasion some were not quite so nice. On a few occasions, there were even threatening calls and people forcing their way into our office, something that does not happen in most jobs. I thank them for their calm under pressure. I simply could not have done it without them.
I also want to thank those who kept my office on Parliament Hill running smoothly. They organized my life and made sure that I was available for as many meetings as possible, that I was on time to fulfill my duties in the House and that I was properly prepared to chair my two committees. Their comments about my performance in the House, whether good or not so good, were always appreciated. I thank them.
As for my departmental teams at Transport Canada and at Foreign Affairs, I have just one word to describe them: incredible. They were always there for me, ensuring that I was up to date on my portfolio, that I was prepared for oral question period, press scrums and appearances before parliamentary committees. They did all that while reserving a few moments here and there to allow me to breathe. I thank them for their loyalty and for their service to our country, even when I made their job difficult sometimes.
I also want to thank my many parliamentary secretaries. For those who do not know it, the work of a parliamentary secretary is extremely demanding. They have to be well versed on all the files. That being said, they always did a great job representing me. I thank them for their conscientious work and their dedication.
I thank those in the media for doing their job, especially those who took the time to do the necessary research and cover all perspectives on the issues at hand. I may not have been their easiest customer, but most of them were fair with me. We also got to know each other, and they have my respect.
Furthermore, allow me to thank the parliamentary staff, who make this House of Commons work so seamlessly and efficiently. They are incredibly professional in everything they do, from the pages who assist us to those who keep the building spotless and make sure that we are fed when we are on duty, to those tasked with our security, who put our safety ahead of their own, all the way up to the Clerk of the House. I am still in awe of those who can call out the names of every member in this House during votes. They all deserve our gratitude and admiration.
As members may know, I first ran in 2006 and was unsuccessful. I ran again in 2008 and was elected. Allow me to make a point about all those who run in elections. They never lose when they run for office. They are doing something that I consider to be noble and that requires courage. They are expressing their views on current affairs and exposing themselves to criticism; few people would deny that. So, no matter the outcome, they never lose in such circumstances. Democracy is always well served.
I would also like to pay tribute to all the public servants with whom I have had the pleasure of working over the past six years as minister. I thank them for their excellent work and their loyalty to the values of our highly esteemed public service. I have always believed that the easiest task for a government is deciding what to do, and the hardest task is implementing those decisions.
I know this because, for most of my professional career, I was one of the people responsible for implementing the decisions made by my superiors. This responsibility rests on our public servants, and I believe they always do their best, even when we ask too much of them. We need to be more aware that they need to be given the time and resources required before being asked to implement the decisions we are making.
Switching to my fellow caucus members, I thank them for their friendship. I thank them for expressing their thoughts and feelings to me over issues that were of concern to them. I am not the most demonstrative person in the world, but I did take it all in, and I truly believe that through our exchanges, I became a better MP and a better minister. I also want to thank them for allowing me to express my views and for listening to them respectfully, even when they did not agree with them.
To those sitting across from me, I want to say that I enjoy the thrust and parry in this chamber. I have always viewed those members not as enemies but as adversaries, and there is a difference. I know that every single one of them comes here wanting to make Canada a better place. We might have different views about how to do it, and that is fine, but when all is said and done, there is much more that unites us than divides us.
Although I tried not to be too partisan, if I could avoid it, Hansard will probably make a liar of me, having preserved moments where I, too, failed at this, particularly in the early days of my political career. That said, I do believe that I did get better over time. All that is to say to my colleagues in opposition that I enjoyed the exchanges with them, even though I was, on occasion, on the losing end. Although I may not have shown it often, I have watched all of them, some for a very long time, and I like and respect them, because I know what the job of being an MP involves.
Before I finish, let me issue a challenge to everyone in this chamber. Arrive each day in this House with the firm intention of showing respect for colleagues and for this extraordinary place. Be dignified. We must remind ourselves that when emotions run high, as they do for all of us, those emotions need to be channelled in a positive way, whether when supporting something or criticizing it.
We all know that we are capable of dignified behaviour. We all know that we are capable of being critical without resorting to yelling at the top of our lungs. We all know that we want to be heard and even listened to when we ask a question or give an answer. God knows that the Speaker of the House reminds us of this often.
My challenge to members is to find their better angels and put away the anger and false indignation. Criticize by all means, but do it with respect and maybe even wit. Make Canadians proud of this House and the people in it.
I would like to end on an optimistic note and address the younger generations of Canadians. Even though Canada is facing many challenges, we live in an exceptional country, a prosperous, safe and diverse country that is a great place to live. Let us be proud of it and protect it, its distinctive features and the institutions that make it work, like this Parliament.
Nothing is perfect in this world, but I would like to think that I always did my best to try to make it better. Although my gaze will remain on the future, as it always has been, I hope the young people of this country will fashion that future and protect our democracy.
Now it is time for me to go. It has been an honour serving my country alongside all members. I thank them and say farewell.