Mr. Speaker, let me begin by simply saying that the member for Kings—Hants is rude. He has frequently criticized my speeches in Parliament and elsewhere as long, very, very long. He calls them, and I quote, “the Regina monologues”. Today, he will just have to sit and listen.
The member for Kings—Hants is a centennial baby, born in 1967, so he missed this country's entire first century. However, I think we all might agree that he has rather made up for all of that in the following 51 years.
Finance, the economy and business have always been of great interest to him. He got his education in these fields at Dalhousie University. He was already an entrepreneur during those university years. He rented small refrigerators to his fellow students. To their parents, he distributed brochures showing those little fridges stuffed with vegetables. To the students, he showed the brochures with fridges stuffed with beer. He liked to think of himself in those days as a “fridge magnate”, which maybe was a precursor to his later careers.
After university, he joined an equity firm, invested in a paint company, and moved to New York City. It was there that he was discovered by Jean Charest, who persuaded him to return to Nova Scotia to contest the 1997 federal election in the constituency of Kings—Hants as a Progressive Conservative. He was 30 years old at that time, and the Progressive Conservative Party had two seats in the House of Commons. I remember well because I was there. His political adventure had begun. Obviously, he was an optimist.
Over the intervening two decades, the member for Kings—Hants has been a backbencher, a front-bencher, in government, in opposition, a committee chair, a parliamentary secretary, an official critic, and a minister twice. He has been elected, resigned, been re-elected and crossed the floor. That diverse experience shows at least three things.
First of all, he cannot keep a steady job. Second, he has broad experience in, and I think from what we have seen today, the deepest respect for the institutions of parliamentary democracy. Third, to continually win and retain the loyalty of his voters, no matter what partisan hat he might be wearing at any given time over all of those elections, it is obvious that he has never forgotten for a second where he came from and where his roots are.
Indeed, the people of Cheverie and Nova Scotia are probably the most frequently referenced demographic group in caucus and around the cabinet table, because he makes sure they are always mentioned.
He ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, and after reinventing himself he also ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party. He was quite a kingmaker. After dropping out of the PC race, he then backed Jim Prentice, thus cementing a victory for Peter MacKay, and after dropping out of the Liberal race, he backed first Bob Rae and then Michael Ignatieff, cementing a victory for Stéphane Dion.
He did not win the leadership but he has, throughout his career and again today, proved himself to be a smart, funny, principled, decent, devoted trailblazer, with friends on both sides of the House.
The member for Kings—Hants embodies and helped drive some of the biggest social changes our country has ever seen, becoming Canada's first openly gay cabinet minister.
That mattered, not just because of the benefits that we know diversity brings to every organization and society that embraces it, but it mattered for a generation of LGBTQ2 people to see themselves in those holding some of the highest offices in the land. Representation matters, democracy matters, and there could have been no better role model.
On many other fronts, he worked human rights protections into free trade negotiations, even though he was not in government at the time but sat in the opposition. In government, he got the estimates process changed to help MPs follow the money in government spending; he championed regulatory reform to augment Canadian competitiveness; he concluded 17 collective bargaining agreements with public servants; and he has led the drive toward digital government in the modern economy in Canada.
The member for Kings—Hants has been blessed with excellent staff, as he mentioned a few moments ago, throughout his parliamentary career. Today, for all of us who serve in this place in whatever capacity, I am sure we would want to take this opportunity with him to recognize those devoted people who work with us. Those on many sides of the House have had the opportunity to work with Tisha, Dale, Edward, Adele and the others he has mentioned. How they endured all of those years, how they put up with all of that aggravation, is hard to believe.
We also want to thank Max, Claire and Rose for sharing a spouse and father with all of Canada. Whether on that side of the House, this side of the House or outside of Parliament, just by watching this man, we could tell the moment that Max and then Claire and Rose came into the life of the member for Kings—Hants. Something fundamental changed.
The member for Kings—Hants has done more than most in our chamber for diversity and inclusion; for accommodation and respect; for young people and role modelling; for making Canada a more fair, decent and wonderful country where more and more people, whatever their colour or creed, whatever their gender or orientation, whatever their ethnicity or heritage, whatever their abilities or exceptionalities, where more and more people of all kinds can be and are equal, first-class Canadians. All of us together live in a country that is the finest example of pluralism that the world has ever known. This is the cause to which the member for Kings—Hants has devoted his parliamentary life, and together we say, “Thank you and Godspeed”.