Yes, that was the deal. He is trying to make another deal, but the member for Calgary Centre is not in agreement with the deal. The member for Davenport said that one of the very important tasks of the leader of the government was to ensure that the opposition was extremely well divided. I think, collectively, we have been quite successful.
I disagreed with the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. This is indeed a fundamental question. There must be mutual respect. I have of course changed some of my views, but who has not over a lifetime? I have, however, always held the conviction that my pride in the French language and in my ancestry is the best way to preserve what is precious to me, to my family and to my neighbours. All of my ancestors were French speaking. I am a true blue, one hundred percent Quebecer, pure laine, au coton as we say. I have always held the fundamental belief that if the French fact has survived in America, it is because there was a Canada.
It is my own family history. My father spent his early years in the United States. He was involved in the battle to preserve the French language in his part of the country, where there were a great many francophones.
He was involved for 50 years in trips to Manchester as a member of the board of the Association canado-américaine, a fundamentally francophone association for the people of New England and of Canada. He saw that it was impossible in the other country to retain the French language, but that it was possible in Canada. That is why, when he came back to Canada with his family, he was such a proud Canadian. He showed us that the best solution for survival as a francophone was the Canadian solution.
In a democracy we respect everyone's opinion. I respect the opinions of those who do not share my beliefs. That is politics, after all.
I come now to my good friend from Calgary Centre. We have had a lot of nice little exchanges over the years between us. I remember one day when there was a convention for his party. I was chatting with him and I said, “You should run”. He said, “Why?” I said, “For a few reasons. One, you are from Alberta and you are a junior. If you do really well, you will become senior in Alberta. Second, you are a red Tory, so you speak like a Tory from Ontario but you are from Alberta. Third, you speak some French. And fourth, I am sure that if you do not run, you will not win”. I studied philosophy and I have found that.
So he ran, and we kept having a good time. He was the critic for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, along with the member at the time for Kingston. Imagine, he and the member for Kingston, Flora MacDonald, were the critics when I was the minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I used to call them the flora and the fauna, because he is a tiger, that guy. He served his country very well. We have disagreed on a lot of problems, but his commitment to Canada is great.
I am very pleased he mentioned some of the things that we shared, even if we are not from the same party and the same philosophy, such as the problems of the natives of Canada and the problems of the people in Africa. These are two problems that in many ways are not very good to win votes, but these are the types of preoccupations that members of Parliament need to have to make sure that the world will be better in the future than it was in the past. It is what this institution is all about, the exchange of ideas.
When I arrived here, there was another member of the NDP who welcomed me, Doug Fisher. He was almost as big as the member. He is the one who got me to move around the House. My seat was in the corner, quite far. In the discussion I said, “I do not like it here. I would like to be in the front eventually”. He said, “Young man, you have to work for that”. He said, “Get up in the morning, go to the committees, work hard and if you work hard, they will notice you”.
This is a great institution. This institution has changed somewhat because television is here, and we talk too much to the crowd that is listening rather than to each other. It used to be a great debating club here, where we talked to each other, not to the gallery. In that time members of the press were always there. They were not somewhere else. They do not even have notepads anymore. They had to watch us work, and it was the real place where there were great exchanges, where we debated more ideas than we do today because we talk too much outside rather than talk to each other to advance ideas.
In those days we did not have the right to have speaking notes. We had to speak our minds, in both official languages which was always a problem for me. I am the only one, besides Maurice Chevalier, who ever had to practise to keep the French accent in English.
I hope we will keep that in mind.
We have to respect each other. We try too much to attack the personalities and the so-called conflicts of interest and so on about everything and small things. I urge all members of Parliament not to fall into the trap that sells newspapers but destroys the institution.
We are elected from all parts of Canada, and we come and share. So many of you coming from the east, the west or the north, when you have spent a couple of years in the House, meeting other members, going to committees, discussing, having lunch with others, very often you make friends easier with the people on the other side because you see them. That is dangerous.
We learn a lot about the country. We learn because now members are travelling. They go outside the country and when they come back they all know that we are very, very, very privileged to be Canadians.
I will be forever grateful to the people of Saint-Maurice who voted for me when I was 29 and sent me here. I will be forever grateful to the people from Beauséjour too, who cut me a seat when I was out of the House.
I spent three great years with francophones outside Quebec and learned that the French fact does not exist only in Quebec. It is everywhere in Canada. I learned so much from those people.
Now it is time for me to move on. When I started out in politics, I told my wife that I would stay in politics for 10 years. Now it has been forty and one-half years, and her comment is, “You never put it in writing”. Under the French legal system, things have to be in writing.
I will sorely miss this House, these companions, these comrades, who are here to serve their constituents and to make this a better country.
I will have time to read more. Somebody gave me a book today about Gladstone. Gladstone came back when he was 86. So I say to all of you, watch me.
Topic: Oral Question Period
Subtopic: The Right Honourable Prime Minister