Parliament: Tribute to Outgoing Ministers McCallum and Dion

Ms. Elizabeth May:

– Translation –

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to add a few words. The members for Markham—Thornhill and for Saint-Laurent have been my friends for a long time now. It is funny to think back and realize that our relationship started because of the Sydney tar ponds on Cape Breton Island.

– English –

It started off that I got to know the member for Markham—Thornhill in 2001, which was when we first started having a real friendship, and it was because I was not in politics. I was the executive director of the Sierra Club, and I was on a hunger strike right in front of this building.

New members will not know that before 9/11, we could be right in front of the members’ door, and I had permission to sit there and be on a hunger strike. That lasted 17 days. By the way, if I had known when I started that it would take 17 days for Allan Rock to crack, I would not have done that.

The member for Markham—Thornhill spent a lot of time chatting with me, and this was not because he was interested in the Sydney tar ponds. It was because it was a great place for a smoke break, and that is how we got to know each other.
He used to sit right over here, as he was just remembering. The current Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard used to call this the smoking section, the little group we had over here. However, over all the years, I was never so glad to have laid a foundation of friendship with this wonderful man. I loved sitting with him when the Liberal caucus was over here. As the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill quite rightly pointed out, he has an immense knowledge, an immense background, a stunning academic CV. I could run over and check economics; it was very handy.

However, he became minister of immigration and did the magnificent job on behalf of the Prime Minister and the commitment of Canadians to open our arms to Syrian refugees. He will know that I had many specific families, and I went to him over and over again begging, and he always listened and took action. I am so deeply grateful, as are nearly 40,000 families who live in Canada now because of his enormous effort.

I worried about his health then. I thought he was working himself down to nothing, and I know his wonderful wife Nancy shared some concerns, but now I think he will just have an easy time. I think his workload will be enormous, but there is one thing that will not happen in China: he will not be allowed a place as a smoker any more, so perhaps we can wish him good luck and that he still try to give up the smoking, and take care of Canada’s interests.

– Translation –

I will now say a few words about my friend and hero the minister who was the MP for Saint-Laurent and who is now saying goodbye in the House. For me, he is a hero because of the work he did as minister of the environment in 2005.

– English –

That was the last good conference of the parties of all those that led right up to Paris, and it was not easy. It was 24-hour, round-the-clock work. People do not understand what it is like to take that stress, and as minister of the environment in 2005, the current member for Saint-Laurent worked tirelessly to get Kyoto confirmed, and against the objections of the Bush administration. It was not easy. I do not say this just out of friendship. I do not just have admiration for people across party lines without it being deeply deserved.

From there he went on to be leader of the Liberal Party, a colleague again.

It is one of the greatest honours I have ever had knowing both the member for Markham—Thornhill and the member for Saint-Laurent as friends, having the enormous honour to be the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and being able to work with them, alongside them, both in opposition and now across the aisle.

I am so glad, so grateful, that the member for Saint-Laurent has accepted the Prime Minister’s offer. With COP 23 being hosted by Fiji, and Fiji not having capacity to welcome the world to negotiate, the negotiations will be in Bonn. I do hope the member, our ambassador for Germany and the European Union, will find a way to participate and help along those negotiations at COP 23, so I do not have to say au revoir, but only à la prochaine.

– Translation –

My heartfelt thanks to the two hon. members for all their hard work and remarkable talents.