Mr. Speaker, thank you for your services and your patience with us, and especially, sometimes, with me.
I thank our colleagues also for allowing us this time. I thank colleagues from all parties who have shown me many times, in an undeserved way, measures of respect, which I will always appreciate and value. Often we do not get, maybe with some good reason, certain levels of respect beyond these doors, but I can say of my colleagues, all of whom I have met and worked with, that famous Latin phrase certainly applies: Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam, “They desire a better country”. I can say that of the people with whom I have served.
I also have to reflect in a primary way and say that I thank God. I thank God that I can stand here and thank God and that I do not fear the fate of a dear colleague of ours only weeks ago, Shahbaz Bhatti, who for that crime paid the ultimate price. I thank God that we are an assembly where people can stand and say that they do not believe in God, that they can share equal ground in this place and that others beyond this place, who write and comment, can even ridicule either of those two positions and also not worry about that fate. Our forefathers paid a great price for that freedom.
I, too, thank my constituents. Responsibility and representation for one's constituents is truly the highest order of democracy. Recognizing that and recognizing the vote is a sacred trust is something that guides us all and must continue to do so. When I think about how we sometimes conduct ourselves here, myself included, I wonder, is this why my constituents sent me here. That elderly gentlemen whom I talked to in the voting line in one election said, “This is the only chance I get to have my say”. I thank those constituents for the times that we have been able to do that and to represent them.
I thank the people who have worked for me and volunteered, and also different staff through the years, for the way they have been able to put up with me, the way they have helped me in my times of failing. On the few times I have had successes, they have been the ones who have literally got the puck to me so occasionally I have been able to put it in the net. I thank them.
I thank the people who serve in this place, who clean this large building, who take care of our security, who do all the things that we do not have time to do to make this place look presentable and represent the democracy for which it stands.
I thank the Prime Minister because of his respect for democracy. It is somewhat sad that people do not get to see how, in our places of discussion, we are able, as individual MPs, to bring forward the views of our constituents to argue and even to change his mind on issues when it comes to matters of importance to our constituents.
Last, Mr. Speaker, and I see you leaning forward and I know it is not to burst out in applause, I want to thank my family. My sons were younger when my wife and I first made the decision to go into provincial politics, recognizing that at the federal level we would not have wanted to leave them for long periods of time. It would have been a disaster in the house if we had not been there. Despite the fact that we were close during those years geographically, there were still times I had to apologize. Now that we are blessed with many grandchildren, I do not want to start another cycle of apologies. I have that in consideration.
My wife is here today so I have to be on my best behaviour, as I tried to be during question period. I have said many times that I might not have the perfect marriage, but I do have the perfect wife. Any deficiencies in the relationship are mine and the perfections are hers. She is president of the National Parliamentary Spouses Association. She shares a title of president with me. I can honestly say she is more popular among members here than I am. It was a former head of state of the nation of Israel who said of a good woman “her children rise up to call her blessed and her husband rises and praises her”, and I praise her this afternoon.
I close thinking of the words of my father, who passed away not that long ago. When we would go camping with him as kids and it would come time to tidy up as we packed up the tent, we would pick up all our stuff. However, there were times when he would tell us that there was some paper over there in the bush or there was an empty can over there by that tree and we would tell him that we had not put it there. He would remind us by saying, “Always leave the campground in a little better shape than when you found it”. I hope I have been able to do that.