Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, this is one of those very rare days in this place where we amaze Canadians by setting aside our partisan differences to offer a singular tribute to a singular man of this honourable House, someone who has earned the respect and affection of all members, a true patriot, a legend: the Right Hon. Herb Gray.
His record speaks for itself: 13 straight times elected a member of parliament; over 14,000 straight days as an MP; and a record for consecutive years of service. He served in nine cabinet posts. He served as leader of the opposition. He served in my cabinet with great distinction as leader of the government in the House, as solicitor general and as deputy prime minister.
Figures and titles, however, do not do proper justice to all that Herb Gray has represented for the Liberal Party, for the entire country, for our government, for this House and for myself personally.
I remember back to my arrival in the House in 1963, when not much French was spoken here. Herb, however, was one of the few who made an effort to speak French. He took the trouble to reach out to those of us who did not speak English.
We moved up through cabinet together. We went through the political good times, and there were many, and the bad times together.
When things were bad, his unfailing instinct came to the forefront. He was the very incarnation of coolness and a source of wise counsel. He was the voice of the Liberal Party's conscience, a truly progressive spirit with a firm conviction that government could make an active contribution to improving society.
He was one of the founders and most staunch defenders of our social programs. Thanks to his leadership during a very difficult period, the auto industry remains today one of the pillars of Canada's prosperity.
At a time when it is said that political allegiances are no longer very solid, Herb Gray's career is all the more impressive.
His relationship with the people of Windsor West has been extraordinary, and most indicative of his devotion to his riding. What distinguishes the man more than anything else, however, is his attachment to the House of Commons, its rules and its traditions.
He was a tough partisan fighter, and I considered it a privilege to have fought by his side. One of the greatest pleasures of my time in the House was to watch him perform in question period, to watch the “Gray” fog roll in and to see him defeat attack after attack. For me he always will be the master of the forum. Indeed, I would like to ask him to name his favourite answer, but I fear that he will reject the premise of my question.
Herb was a tough fighter but he was also fair, always respected by his opponents and he respected them too. Despite our differences, he recognized that we were all in the business of the people. We are all committed to public service and this perspective has earned him the respect of all parties, a respect that could not be more eloquently expressed than by this celebration today.
Herb Gray has been a public servant in the truest and the best sense and is more than worthy of the highest title that can be given to public office holders in Canada, that of right honourable. It has been an honour for me to serve with him in opposition and in government. We all admire him and we will miss him a lot. However we also know that he will continue to serve the people of Canada with his customary dedication with the International Joint Commission.
Come what may, I know that all members will join me when I say, Herb, our friend, this House will always be your home.
Subtopic: Right Honourable Herb Gray