Mr. Blaine A. Thacker (Lethbridge):
Madam Speaker, I feel privileged to rise and speak on this adjournment motion on the last day of this Parliament and on my last day here as a legislator, having spent some 14 years in that capacity.
On the one hand when I listen to the members who have retired from the classes of '72 and '68, the ones who have been here 25 years, 14 years seems like a very short period. Maybe I should be running again. On the other hand when I realize that the average tenure of a member of Parliament is less than five years, 14 years seems like a long time and 25 years seems like forever.
If I might I could spend my whole time rebutting the points made the hon. member for Kamloops. In fact I could give his speech, never as good as he does, but I could give all of the points he has made because he makes them again and again and again. He continues to make those points in spite of the fact that they have been carefully answered to the fullest extent and to show that they are simply not correct. But I will not do that.
Suffice to say with respect to the comments that my friend from Kamloops has made, Canada has to decide If we want to be part of the global world economy, which we must as a trading nation when over one-third of our income comes from global trade, or whether we want to be a little island of 26 million people with a wall of China around us. Canadians know instinctively that we cannot isolate ourselves and have the high standard of living we have.
In the election in Alberta the New Democratic Party was entirely shut out. It did not get one seat. That is simply a reflection of how well the ordinary citizen understands the difference between the socialist philosophy and how that reflects itself in the reality of their lives having seen what has occurred in B.C., Saskatchewan and particularly in Ontario.
I am confident that Canadians, when they get to an election, will once again choose a Progressive Conservative government because in fact, like the distinguished member for Calgary Centre, we face facts. We make
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decisions based on the reality of today rather than on some ephemeral idealistic socialistic view of the world.
I am here first of all to express my thanks to the electors and citizens of Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta who by their votes have permitted me the privilege of being their representative here in Ottawa for the last 14 years. They did so in four general elections and they returned me with majorities each time. For that I thank them.
You will notice, Madam Speaker, that I used the word representative because to me that is a special word as compared to the word delegate. I have never believed that I was a delegate with an obligation to go home and to try by some mechanism to decide what a majority of my electors from Lethbridge would want to do. That is what a delegate would do and would come down like a machine and cast a ballot.
No, no. A member of Parliament is a representative. I represent that area. But I am a member who speaks for all of Canada and must consider the interests, the judgment and particularly the points of view of other Canadians. A representative has an obligation of course to listen to the views, the opinions and the judgment of one's electors. One has an obligation though to listen to the views expressed by other members of Parliament who themselves have been elected by 100,000-plus people and come with a different perspective.
The big difference in our country now, Madam Speaker, as you so well know is no longer Catholic, Protestant, French, English, Quebec, the rest of Quebec. The big differences now are people who come from large metropolitan areas and those of us who come from smaller cities and people who come from the rural parts of Canada. That is the adjustment, the compromise and the consideration that we have to spend a lot of time on as members.
We also as members and representatives have an obligation to read about the topic in the legislation we are faced with and to study the issue and then face the ultimate responsibility to make a judgment call and to act in the best interest of all of Canada.
I have been very proud to be a representative and even though I have made decisions that many people in my riding have been opposed to, most of them have come
and said that I have been a reasonable representative and have acted fairly in the interest of the country.
Another word of thanks would be to my staff who over a period of 14 years have served me very well. I cannot name them all but there are a few who I would like to mention. Mrs. Sheelagh Brown served on this Hill many years before I came and continued with me for many years as did Mr. Robert Harrison. Mr. James Christie has worked many years in the riding. Those people face a particular problem because all of the anger and the unhappiness of people tends to be focused upon our staff. Mr. Jamie Christie has served me so very well in that capacity. Mr. David Robins, Mr. Darrell Pack, Mrs. Kathy Dedo-Markus, Ms. Cathy Tron, my present staff in Ottawa, Anne Lanier, Alan Andron, Bridget Pastor Jr. and Meagan Thompson have all worked hard not only for me but for the best interest of the people of Lethbridge. For that I thank them.
What can I say in summary? It is certainly better to win than to lose and I have done both. It is better to be in government than it is to be in opposition and I have been in both. The reason it is better to be in government is that you can, even as an individual member of Parliament, have an influence and change the legislation and the policy of this country. Even when you make a mistake, and we have made a few, you can regroup in the morning and come back and try to do better because you still have the power.
As a westerner I can remember when I first came here. We had three traditional beefs that we were all raised upon and fed with at the knees of our grandfathers, grandmothers and our parents. One was the manufacturing tariffs that it was felt in the west put an unfair burden upon us because most of the manufacturing products came out of central Canada. There is quite a bit of mythology around that and factually often it is not correct. But that was the mythology. Now they are all gone and we do not have that historic complaint in the west. That will go a long way toward making us feel more and more like we are part of the whole country.
Transportation inequities. We always heard how we had to pay the freight on the raw products leaving the prairies and on the manufactured goods coming back. Over the last few years we have had a very sophisticated
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manufacturing sector in the west and the transportation inequities have been substantially done away with. For example, the cost of shipping on the railways has dropped some 27 per cent since 1984. That is very helpful to us. The tariffs which are essentially taxes upon our own people are now largely a thing of the past.
With regard to the lack of continental marketing, from western Canada there was a lot of support for the Liberal Party when it was the party that wanted to get into laissez faire in free trade agreements in continental marketing. That was the traditional Liberal position. The Conservative Party opposed it because the Conservative Party was so locked into its trade links and its idea of being part of the British Empire that the Conservative Party opposed free trade again and again. That was never in the interest of western Canada.
I have been proud to be part of a government that had the courage to face it, take the hard decisions and then go to the people and actually win. In my judgment the last act of emancipation of Canadians which freed us up as a true country and nation in the world was the reaffirmation of free trade where they returned us to power having put that to them. Canada truly grew up when we realized we were part of the world and could face the world under a free trade agreement.
On an entirely personal basis, I want to say how much I enjoyed working on the policy and the legislative end, whether that was in transportation, justice or a little bit in agriculture. I really thank the Prime Minister for giving me interesting assignments as a committee member, as chairman of standing committees and legislative committees and two parliamentary secretaryships. The access to information and privacy report which we put in a number of years ago will one day come to be seen by parliamentarians as the basis for making changes to those statutes. I sat on a task force that reviewed national security which gave me a very interesting perspective of this country and more recently a report involved in the recodification of the Criminal Code.
I also want to thank the Prime Minister for the national leadership that he has provided on federal-provincial relations, on fiscal matters and on social matters. I am firmly convinced that history will vindicate the positions that he took and will see him in the proper
light. I must say that of all his strengths intellectually and on the issues, he never lost sight of the fact that we were his caucus.
You will know, Madam Speaker, that I had an operation in 1990. I was recovering during the Christmas period. On Boxing Day, lo and behold the telephone rang. I just picked it up in the normal course and it was the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was personally calling a backbencher who is not important at all in the scheme of things day to day, but he was concerned enough that he phoned. I thought that was quite a wonderful thing.
My only regret is the treatment that the national media have given because they really refused in the case of our Prime Minister to give a balanced presentation of his persona.
If they had done that, had they even just been fair, he would have been around here for many more years because he had so much more to give.
This brings me to my last issue and it relates to the role of the media. It is not I think for Parliament to do anything about it but I believe the national press gallery has to somehow come together and set up a governing body and a disciplining body where they can bring some internal self-control and discipline upon themselves.
Regretfully I have noticed that over the last 14 years they have become highly destructive toward the public life of this nation. They have focused on personal traits of members of Parliament and other people in positions of responsibility in this nation. These are personal traits that are largely irrelevant to their ability to govern the nation. In short, they have been unbalanced and they have been unfair.
As I say the solution is not a statutory matter but a question of professional discipline. As better and more educated people go into journalism and aspire to a higher professional standard of journalism that should stress balanced reporting, both sides of the story, fairness and more than anything else relevancy to the issue at hand. At that time I believe the public life of the nation will be much better.
In conclusion, I am proud to have been a politician.
June 16, 1993
Topic: NATIONAL NEIGHBOURHOOD ACT