Second-last of the independents - Macleans.ca

Second-last of the independents

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Bill Casey bid adieu to Parliament yesterday with a classy final speech (the Chuck Cadman story was particularly poignant). Tributes from Peter MacKay, Geoff Regan, Peter Stoffer,Claude DeBellefeuille and the Speaker followed.

Full speeches after the jump.

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, Ind.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce that this is my last day. I understand that I have served as a member of Parliament for 6,149 days. I just sent my letter of resignation to the Clerk and she sent me a letter back thanking me for it.

I want to say a few words and thank some people. I owe so much to this place and I want to take a few moments to acknowledge that.

Mr. Speaker, you and I were first elected in 1988 and we became embroiled in the free trade debate right away. A lot has happened in the chamber since that time. We have been involved in so many debates and had many great days. Some days were not quite so great, but they were all wonderful, interesting and rewarding. I am very glad to have had every single one of them.

I want to say how proud I have been to be a member of Parliament in this place. I have been proud to represent the constituents of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and I want to thank them all very much for supporting me for so long, 6,149 days.

I want to thank all those who worked to help me get elected. It was a job to get me elected but somehow they managed. I appreciate the campaign teams that worked so hard.

I have been here through three speakers and eight leaders, nine counting myself. I have served under five prime ministers. Every one of them has been interesting and has taken a different approach to politics. It has been a learning experience for me and every single one of them has taught me something. I have learned a lot about myself since the time I came into the chamber. I cannot say how grateful I am for those lessons.

In fact, I have been here so long I realized today I have my own traditions. One tradition is that every time I walk down the halls, I look at the ceiling and arches, and think what a wonderful building and place this is. If people have never looked at the ceiling, they should. They should go to the Hall of Honour and try to figure out how the artisans could have ever put it together. It is absolutely a work of art.

There is not a day in my life here that I do not look at that ceiling. I am sure people wonder what I am doing, but I marvel at it. I know, Mr. Speaker, you are an expert cabinet maker and can put boards together, but I cannot. I do not know how the Hall of Honour was ever put together.

Another tradition is that every day when I leave the House, I walk down the driveway, and I cannot help it, I stop, turn around, look up at the Centre Block and ask, how could I be so lucky to work in this incredible building with incredible people?

I have yet another tradition that maybe some members do not share. Sir Charles Tupper’s portrait is over the door through which we all come and go. Every day of my life here, I stop and say, “Hi, Sir Charles”. Sir Charles is my predecessor. He was prime minister in 1896. I was very young at the time but I feel like I know him because his portrait is there. When I was in caucus, his picture was on the wall. I always check to see how he is doing. He lived right across the street from my house. His house is still there, as well as the house I grew up in. I always felt a close attachment to Sir Charles Tupper. It is one of my traditions.

Every day that I am here I tell myself how lucky I am to work here. However, it is not just luck. An awful lot of people help all of us stay here. An awful lot of people help us do our jobs.

The one that helps me the most is my wife, Rosemary. Many members know her and know she is a wonderful woman. She has supported me and helped me through thick and thin. She stood behind me through everything. I want to tell her how much I appreciate her being with me through this. I hope she is watching.

I also want to thank her mother, Geraldine MacSween. She lives in Antigonish and her apple pies will solve any problem.

I want to thank my three children, Michael, Holly and Allison. They are all young adults out there helping people or running their businesses. I am very proud of them. They have made it through this but they pay a price when we, the members of Parliament, are away from home so often. We pay a price and they pay a price. It is a big challenge for them, and our children and spouses deserve a lot of credit. 

I am absolutely sure that this business is more challenging for spouses than it is for the members. We see the good things. All they see are the bad things. A lot of good things happen here and I am so proud of that process.

I have to thank my staff, which keeps me out of trouble and in line. They do my work for me and help me get my job done. Sandra, Marie, Lorne, Bonnie and Sandi are wonderful staff, the best staff on the Hill. I want to thank my former employees, especially Nancy Baker, who kept me out of trouble for 10 years. I will always remember her for that.

I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker. You have been a wonderful Speaker. You are always there for us. You do not always give me the decision I want, but you always give me a decision. It is always fair and just and I agree with every one.

I want to thank the Clerk and the Table Officers who have been so good to me. They have always helped me with my questions, questions I should know the answers to and I do not, but they always help me anyway.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the people who help us do our jobs, the people who clean our offices and serve our food here in the lobbies, the pages and especially the security guards who know us all by name. They make us feel at home and they make us feel like a really big part of this. I thank all of them.

I want to thank all the members of Parliament from all parties who have been friends with me, supported me and helped me. Last year when I had a serious health issue, I received cards, messages and phone calls from every corner of the House, and I appreciated that so much. The first card I received in the hospital was from you, Mr. Speaker, and that impressed everybody. I appreciated that so much. The second card was from the Clerk and the Table Officers. I thank all of you for that.

I received cards from every leader in the House, even the Conservative leader. Some members may not be aware of this, but we differ sometimes on certain things. However, he took the time to write me a note, and I very much appreciated that. I am sorry he is not here to hear that, but I appreciated the fact that he took the time to do write.

I want to take a minute now to tell the House a story about a member of Parliament who saved my life, and I am not exaggerating.

We all remember our colleague, Chuck Cadman. Chuck Cadman died of malignant melanoma. He did not have it diagnosed early enough to treat it. About a year after that, his wife hosted a clinic on the Hill. She had volunteer dermatologists come in and examine members of Parliament or anybody on the Hill who was interested in having a skin cancer screening.

I wanted to go, but could not because I had a conflict with my foreign affairs committee. However, for the first time in 16 years, the foreign affairs committee ended early, so I went. I did not think I had anything wrong with me. I just went. I was there for about five minutes and the dermatologist, Dr. Jim Walker, said, “You have malignant melanoma”. I had the same thing Chuck Cadman had. I had no idea. I had no symptoms. I was in the hospital the next day.

I only had that early detection because of the efforts of Chuck Cadman’s wife, and I owe her so much. She is now the member for Surrey North, so I thank her for her efforts.

I tell this story because I received a tremendous benefit out of that. I would not be here today if she had not done that. I tell this story so maybe some day a member will say, “Maybe I’m not too busy to get that check-up. Maybe I won’t put the committee before the screening. Maybe I’ll go get a check-up”. I urge everyone to do that. The only reason I am here today is because she had that clinic.

I want to say, again, how very proud I am to be a parliamentarian and I am proud of this system. People do not give this system nearly the credit it deserves. It does work. It works better than it looks. I want to give one example of how it works, one of dozens and dozens of examples. 

About a month ago, I raised two questions in question period concerning my riding and the rising sea levels because of climate change. The questions were answered, but after I received the answers, the Minister of the Environment invited me to meet with his deputy minister. He went through all the documentation that supported the issue and immediately put the steps in place to address the situation. That process is in place now. That is just one example and there are many more.

What people saw was the 35 second question and 35 second answer. They did not see the meeting with the minister and the deputy minister. They did not see the plan. They did not see the decision. Therefore, when something happens in the House, there is always a reaction, more than people see.

If I can leave members with one piece of advice, I urge them to try to find a way to let people know that positive things happen in the House. Yes, we have the opposition and the government, but we are not enemies. We are political opponents and we are all here for the same reason. Every member of Parliament has a purpose in being here. Every member of Parliament has a vote. We should try to improve the image of this place because it is better than people think.

I will now pass on to my final closing. Although it is really sad to be leaving today, I am very lucky to have a new job, which I start tomorrow. My new job is as the representative of my province of Nova Scotia in Ottawa. I get to represent the province and promote its strengths and its attributes. It will not be hard because Nova Scotia is the best place to live. It is the best place to start a business. It is the best place to go to school. It is the best place to go on vacation. Therefore, the job will be easy for me because Nova Scotia is clearly the best of everything.

I invite every member of Parliament to come to Nova Scotia to see all that we offer. If members cannot come to Nova Scotia, come on over to my new office at 350 Albert Street, have a little glass of Jost wine from Malagash, Nova Scotia and have a taste of Nova Scotia. 

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for his many years of service in this place, to Canada and certainly to his constituents.

I first came to know him not through Parliament, but through my father who had also served with the hon. member during his time in Ottawa. What he has presented here today is indicative of someone who not only holds his province, his country and his role as a parliamentarian dear, but he has demonstrated a tremendous high road human approach to what it means to be a parliamentarian.

His recognition of his family, his wife, Rosemary, his children, his recognition of other members of the House and his very heartwarming story about a health issue that he experienced and the miraculous connection he had with a prior member of the House, Chuck Cadman, demonstrates the line that connects us all.

I have other connections with the hon. member, too. We have neighbouring ridings. I know the hon. member shares a great passion for cars and has a large collection of vintage automobiles. There were a number of projects we worked very diligently on, including the Joggins Fossil museum, the female prison in his riding and the Pugwash Peace Exchange with which he is still affiliated.

I expect he will do well in his new role representing our province of Nova Scotia because of his long connection with the people and the places during the many years he has served Canada and served constituents.

I thank him for his many years of service as a parliamentarian and for his tremendous representation of the province of Nova Scotia. I was in Nova Scotia today. I am pleased to tell him it was 28° and sunny, as we made some announcements with Premier Rodney MacDonald. I know he will represent the province of Nova Scotia with the same vigour, the same enthusiasm and the same passion he has brought to this place over his many years as a parliamentarian.

I also thank him for having allowed Nancy Baker to come and work with me and continue some of the great work she did while in his office. I wish him the very best, in his health and his continued passion for being on the sea. I know he will continue to work in Ottawa, but his passion will also include spending time on his boat in Nova Scotia, back on the coast, and, first and foremost, with his family.

The very glowing tribute he paid to his wife and to his children is what really grounds us all. First and foremost, we owe a great deal of gratitude to our families that support us through what can be a very rigorous and rough place at times.

I thank the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. It has been a pleasure to call him a colleague and a friend. I look forward to still working with him in the days ahead on behalf of Nova Scotians and all Canadians.

Hon. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to join with my hon. colleague, the Minister of National Defence, and other members of this House in offering my best wishes to the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.

The member referred to the letter received back from the clerk thanking him for his letter of resignation. I am sure she was only being polite. I am sure it was not an expression of pleasure. I see she is acknowledging that that is the case. I know all of us are disappointed to see him go, although we are glad he will be staying nearby in his new role.

The member mentioned that Sir Charles Tupper, a predecessor, was here in 1896 and that he was very young at the time. After that, I hesitate to ask him what year it was that he graduated from StFX. However, I know that he has certainly upheld the motto of St. Francis Xavier, which is Quaecumque Sunt Vera, “Whatsoever things are true”. I congratulate him for that.

He was first elected in 1988 and has been elected a total of six times, which is a remarkable achievement.

As my hon. colleague mentioned, he is a former used car salesman. Speaking of cars and highways, there was a time when he was known as “Highway Bill”. Forgive me for using his first name in the House. Some of us can recall that the name had to do with an issue in Nova Scotia surrounding a toll highway in his riding, on which he had a lot to say. It was a topic on which he was very effective and I think that assisted in some of his elections, but that went along with the good work he did in many other areas.

I can recall, when I was on that side of the House as a minister, that he had a way sometimes of coming over after question period or after a vote to raise an issue and have a chat with the minister. The next day, sometimes we would see an article in the paper saying that he had a meeting with the minister, and it was true. The point I really want to make is that it was a clever and effective way of raising the issue, not only directly with the minister, but also getting it in the media and putting pressure on the minister to get something done on that issue for his riding. For that he is to be commended. It was, as I say, very effective.

He showed his true character, as we can all recall, when he was the only Conservative to stand up for Nova Scotia and vote against the offshore accord betrayal even though he ended being kicked out of the Conservative caucus.

I remember during his health issues last year that when he was here I would ask him why he was her. He would say that his party required him to be here, and, of course, he was his own party. He was an independent.

In a recent poll in his riding, when the Truro Daily News asked readers if he deserved his job as the new representative of Nova Scotia in Ottawa, 56% said that he deserved it and only 7% had a different view. I can only think that they must have wanted him to stay on in his present job because he has done a great job.

His commitment to his constituents and to his province are an example to everyone. He has always conducted himself, not only in this House but elsewhere, with dignity, humility and honour. He has been a respected role model. I cannot recall the member going over the top, raising his voice or being nasty. Unfortunately, in this House, as we all know, sometimes that happens. Sometimes we get carried away, Mr. Speaker, despite your exhortations, but I do not recall any occasion when the member has done that and for that we should all salute him. He has been a role model for us. He will be missed.

I know we all wish him very good health. I know he will be busy in his new job but I hope he will find some time, along with spending time with his family, to visit a certain establishment in my riding run by his son and daughter-in-law, Finbar’s Pub in Bedford in the Sunnyside Mall. Hopefully, we will run into one another for a bite there sometime. I do wish him every good wish to him and his wife, Rosemary. I look forward to seeing much more of him.

Mrs. Claude DeBellefeuille (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to congratulate the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for his work as a member of Parliament for almost 17 years. We know it is a demanding job, one that takes its toll on the individual and his private life. To his credit, he gave of himself to those who voted for him and he shared his knowledge and his talents with all members in this House.

I do not know the member very well because I was only elected three and a half years ago, but I know that he is a very determined and principled man. I watched as he made choices, perhaps even difficult ones for him. But his principles, values, devotion to and love for Nova Scotia shone through and withstood the test. I applaud him for his determination and the love he bears his province.

Once again, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois caucus, I wish him good luck in his new endeavours and hope he will enjoy life and delight in having more time with his wife. 

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness and gratefulness that I am able to stand in the House today on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party to offer our best wishes to our hon. colleague, the great member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, and his family. May he have a long career, not just in representing his province but in whatever he chooses.

The hon. member and I share a distinction. In 2004, our ridings were redistributed. At that time, I had the pleasure of representing Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. In 2004, it changed and the first thing the hon. member did was change the name of his riding from Cumberland—Colchester to Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.

I could not believe it. In the 2000 election, there were a lot of orange signs along the Musquodoboit Valley. In 2004, there were a lot of blue signs along the Musquodoboit Valley. It showed the tremendous respect that the people, not just in the Musquodoboit Valley but in his entire riding, had for who was known at that time as “Highway Bill”.

I want to congratulate and personally thank the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Rodney MacDonald, for his great choice in choosing who I thought was a fabulous candidate to represent the entire province and all politicians in the House and Senate in bringing forward the concerns and issues that face our beautiful province from day to day. However, he did make one little mistake in his presentation. He told us to come to his office for a taste of Nova Scotia. I should inform the House that he forgot to mention that the world’s greatest lobster also come from the province of Nova Scotia.

That is without question, even though my colleagues from New Brunswick, P.E.I., the Gaspé and Newfoundland and Labrador may offer a slight difference of opinion. In a committee hearing in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia two weeks ago, it was said on the record that the world’s finest lobsters come from the province of Nova Scotia and, if I may be more specific, from the eastern shore. However, that is something that I am sure the hon. member will be able to promote in his years of doing a great job as a sort of ambassador of Nova Scotia in this regard.

He gave a very poignant story of what it means to look at our responsibilities as members of Parliament and then to look after our own health needs. Many of us were so proud of the hon. member, Chuck Cadman’s wife, for what she did in honour of her great husband, who, in many ways, also showed the same example of courage, determination, forthright honour and dignity. In many ways, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley is almost like a twin brother to the late Chuck Cadman because they were both of the same ilk. They were very dignified gentlemen who handled adversity, no matter what came their way, in a very respectful manner.

We will have many times in the future to say hello to our good friend, to his great riding association and to all the people he has met over the years. He has taught me a few things. He being six foot three and I being five foot seven, I can say that I always liked to look up to my hon. colleague.

On behalf of our leader, all the New Democrats from coast to coast to coast and, I am sure, on behalf of all my colleagues in the House of Commons, I thank my hon. colleague for his service to his country. I thank his wife and family for lending him to us so that he could do the great job of all parliamentarians. May he have a blessed future and may God bless him and his family. We thank him very much for his service to his country.  

The Speaker: On behalf of all members of Parliament, I would like to add my best wishes to the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley on his retirement from Parliament. 

I know he will be greatly missed by hon. colleagues, as has been made manifest by the statements made today following his announcement.

As a member who was elected when he was, in 1988, and who has had the privilege of serving with him in this House all the time he has been here, I want to express, on behalf of the class of ’88, if I may, our appreciation for his kind words today and for his many years of participation in the activities of the House which all of us have enjoyed.

I am delighted that he is not moving away too far, that we will be able to visit him nearby in his office from time to time. I suspect that he might come up here as a former parliamentarian from time to time. In that sense at least, our association will continue into future, and I am delighted at that.

I join with all the others in passing on my congratulations to the hon. member and our best wishes for a long and enjoyable retirement from the House but additional work on behalf of his province here in Ottawa. All the very best.