Mr. Speaker, on May 2, 2011, I was granted the tremendous honour of being elected to represent Hochelaga. I was the first woman and the first New Democrat to represent that riding federally. The class of 2011 had to learn fast. Less than a month after we got here, the government was forcing Canada Post employees back to work.
During what Tom Mulcair called the week of four Thursdays, when NDP members fought for workers' rights day and night for 58 hours, the government misled the public by saying the strike was hurting small business, when it was really the employer that had locked employees out and had only to let them back in. In addition to forcing people back to work, the government also forced workers to accept a wage increase that was well below what the employer had offered. When it comes to interfering in the business of Crown corporations, the Conservatives cannot be beat.
My first speech in the House focused on the reason I had recently become involved in politics. I wanted to protect Canadians' rights and make their lives easier. I worked on that speech all night, but I was proud to be part of the NDP team on that day, June 24, even though it meant I would miss my first national holiday as the MP for my riding. On that day, the NDP proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it stands up for workers and gives Canadians a voice.
I remember asking someone to sign a petition and hearing that it was the first time she felt that what she had to say was important and that she was being listened to. Listening to the public is supposed to be our job. I wanted to give the people a voice, a voice that would be heard by the Minister of Transport, so I agreed to sponsor a petition and take other steps to show that citizens are opposed to the proposed location of an overpass for trucks between the highway and the Port of Montreal in Hochelaga.
As my colleagues know very well, housing is a hobby horse of mine. My nationwide tour and my lengthy discussions with housing advocacy groups clearly showed me that the cuts and lack of ambitious investments by successive Liberal and Conservative governments are responsible for the current crisis. That is why I fought for years, using bills, motions, questions and statements, for the right to housing, the renewal of social housing agreements, an overall housing strategy and a targeted strategy for indigenous housing.
In order to properly represent Quebec's vision, I repeatedly told the minister responsible for housing that it was important to maintain a general and community-based homelessness partnering strategy. Unfortunately, the Conservatives do not believe that housing is a right, and when the Liberals finally came up with a housing strategy, they did not have the guts to make the budget choices that would have ensured its success.
In Hochelaga, an elected official who is not present in the community, who does not do his or her job, and who is not in touch with the people will soon be a former elected official. There have been many dedicated, loyal assistants who have helped build an excellent reputation for the NDP team in my riding over the years. They are François, Catheryn, Maxime, Chantal, Patrick, Philippe, Olivia, Éric, Julien, Ariane, Anne, Alexandre, Niall, Sandrine, Samuel and Émilie. I learned a lot from them. People from other ridings that I will not name regularly call us to get the help they could not get anywhere else, because they heard about the work that we were doing.
I owe a debt of gratitude to all of my colleagues. Thank you. It is because of their help that a homeless shelter was able to reopen, that Jessica got the federal funding she needed to help her take care of her children who have disabilities, and that Enet and her two young children were able to stay in Canada and escape the threats of Mexican cartels. Every year, my colleagues also helped plan the CAP St-Barnabé share store, which I believe is the largest share store on the island of Montreal and helps feed hundreds of local families in need.
With the help of some generous volunteers, including those from the NDP riding association in Hochelaga and some ingenious interns, my office has held many celebrations this year for new Canadian citizens to make them feel welcome and appreciated. We give everyone a certificate and take nice family portraits. They love this activity. Another very popular event is our lively annual brunch, where we get together and chew the fat. People talk about what their local MP can do for them and get a chance to meet their neighbours. The next one is scheduled for Saturday, and, like every year, we are expecting a full house.
We are also working on problems caused by gentrification and the opioid crisis. As you can see, we are always hard at work in Hochelaga.
I have learned a million things, and I have been very blessed in this job. I got to speak before the Council of Europe, through the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association. I also visited every Canadian province.
I was NDP whip for three and a half years, and I had the opportunity to work with Rob, Anthony, Christian, Chuck, Theresa, Wassim and Audrey. These people are so generous and compassionate, and they are an endless source of information. With the help of them, some of my colleagues and the Speaker of the House of Commons, I was able to make Parliament more accommodating for young families, and I am very proud of that.
I must admit that we are spoiled in the House of Commons. The staff treats us like royalty, which makes our job much easier and much more pleasant. I thank them for that.
I want to apologize to my friends, and above all to my family and in-laws, for all of the events that I have missed. To my father Gilles, my mother Solange, Jacques, Elena, Michel, Karina, Claude, Sylvie, Guy, Manon, Lynda, Richard, Peggy and Marnie, I love you.
Without the support and love of my husband Doug, my sons Alec and Nicholas and their partners Lauren and Anne, I simply would not be here. They believed in me, gave me self-confidence and pampered me. Did I ever tell them I love them? Only a million times.
I urge the people of Canada to bring all these terrific NDP members, and more, back to Ottawa in October. They are here for their constituents, not for themselves. Working to make the world a better place is in their DNA. I know them well, for they have become my good friends over the years. Canadians can put their trust in them.
I thank the people of Hochelaga for being so warm, imaginative and genuine. They gave me the honour of allowing me to represent them, and they have been so delightful. I just hope I was able to help them in some way.
I will be 64 in October, so I have decided to retire. There are so many things I have not yet had time to do.
Before becoming a member of Parliament, I was an archaeologist and guide at a museum. I worked in the labour movement, but I had never been involved in politics. My uncle, Marcel Pelletier, was a clerk in the House of Commons for many years. My ancestor, Charles Alphonse Pantaléon Pelletier, served as an MNA, an MP, a senator, speaker of the Senate—no one is perfect—and lieutenant governor of Quebec. Perhaps Anne-Marie Aubert and Jack Layton sensed something, and my political career was foreordained.