Mr. Speaker, like many last night, I was shocked and surprised by the announcement by our friend across the way of his decision to step down as foreign affairs minister and to not seek re-election. Like many people, I spent the night thinking about the minister's contributions to this place, to our country, and to our city.
As many will know, we were both elected in 2006, but members should know that our connection was very close prior to his being elected to this place and Queen's Park. It was as early as grade nine. He was chosen by his school to represent the school and to meet the then mayor of Ottawa, and that happened to have been my mother. Some people have accused her of his being motivated toward politics because of that visit, but I know more. I know that at an early age, he was inspired by a teacher, someone who was involved in politics in the Progressive Conservative Party, who led him to become a young activist within the Progressive Conservative Party, along with a fellow minister down the way.
What always drove the minister, as far as I could tell, as for many of us in this place, was making a genuine difference in his community, in this place, and obviously, recently, on the world stage.
It was after having had a wonderful time with my family this past Labour Day weekend that I received a call. I was asked to accompany the minister on a trip to Iraq. I certainly was not planning on this trip. It was not part of my itinerary.
I have to share with the House and Canadians that the way the minister conducted himself on that trip, also with my colleague from the Liberal Party, showed his professionalism. It showed that he cared about this country and that he was a responsible minister and parliamentarian. On every visit with dignitaries, he included us. He asked for our advice and actually followed up on some of the issues we were advocating for.
Make no mistake. I have a long list of disagreements with the minister, but that is what politics is about. It is about putting forward ideas and presenting them in the best way possible, but I want to underline a couple of issues in the foreign affairs file the minister has taken on and led. When he was first named as the foreign affairs minister, I reached out to him and talked to him about the issue of women, peace, and security and the whole issue of sexual violence. He has led on that internationally. He recently had the government earmark $10 million to carry on that fight against sexual violence in Iraq. He should be applauded for that. He took leadership on that, and for that I thank him.
He also, time and time again, stood on the world stage and spoke out against discrimination against people, wherever in the world, because of their sexual orientation. As minister, he led like no other minister on the world stage when it came to the persecution of gays, lesbians, and transsexuals. Again, I want to thank him for what he has done in putting Canada in a good light with regard to fighting discrimination against those who are GBLTQ in this world.
I also want to talk about the dichotomy that is the minister. As passionate as he can get, as partisan as he can get, and he can, he is also someone who reaches out. He is someone who understands the importance of getting things done. He has done that here in Ottawa with his leadership on NCC reform, his reform of accountability in this place, and his focus on making sure our capital is going to be a place that shines. His voice in cabinet was absolutely extraordinary when it came to this city.
I want to finish by talking about why we get involved in politics and what I think the minister is about. He acknowledged in his comments that he has grown into his role.
I would argue that anyone who comes here and is static does not belong in politics. This is a place for growth. This is a place to learn. This is a place to engage.
The minister has done that. He found his best footing as the Minister of Foreign affairs, in my opinion. For that, he should be acknowledged. I think we all get into politics for good reasons and, ultimately, it is to make a difference.
The minister's service record is strong and distinguished. He has always served his constituents and his country with pride and passion.
The member has served this place with passion. He served his electors well. If I might say,“Rusty” may be gone but will not be forgotten.