Thursday, November 26, 2020
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
First, I want to thank my colleagues from all sides of the House for giving me this opportunity to speak today. While I plan to stick around for a just little longer, the uncertainties that we as a nation are facing could make this my last chance to stand in this great chamber to say farewell.
And Mr. Speaker, I should warn you that I plan to be uncharacteristically non-partisan in my remarks. Because for me, today isn’t about the politics here, it’s about the people.
Whenever I’m asked what it’s like to be an MP, I always reply that it’s the most challenging, demanding, frustrating, worthwhile thing that I’ve ever done. There have been times over the past 16 years when I really did lose a lot – my husband, my father, my vision (temporarily), my appendix and my dear neurotic cat. But, I also gained more than I could have imagined – amazing experiences across Canada that have only deepened my love for this great country, friendships that will last a lifetime, an undying respect for this institution and those who serve it – and oh yeah, two titanium hips.
For some, becoming an MP isn’t something that they always aspired to do. Sometimes, it’s the issues of the day that really push people to serve. And, while the issues in 2004 were definitely the tipping point for me, my desire to help those in my community began much earlier in life.
When I was about nine years old, my mother sat me down the night before an election and explained democracy to me, how important it is, and how lucky we are to have it. I remember that conversation vividly, and I can tell you that from then on, I dreamed of one day fighting for the people at home.
To everyone in Haldimand-Norfolk – I can’t thank you enough for making that little nine-year-old girl’s dream a reality.
Now, I have say that it’s been one heck of a ride since 2004. From serving in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet for ten years to being named the Conservative Caucus-Party Liaison and a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, every position has come with its own memories, which I treasure.
Some of these include:
• creating the Universal Child Care Benefit
• promoting and delivering the Tobacco Transition Support program
• imposing measures to protect potential victims of human trafficking in Canada
• stick-handling numerous infrastructure projects in Haldimand and Norfolk through the federal bureaucracy
• breaking down barriers faced by persons with disabilities, and
• retiring and replacing Canada’s aging fleet of Sea King helicopters.
Through it all, I’ve been blessed to have amazing people by my side. People who have challenged me to do my best, who have stuck by me through the high times and the low, and who even laugh at my sometimes warped sense of humour on a somewhat daily basis.
And while I may have been labelled the “toughest bird in cabinet” at one point, I’m a firm believer that if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re not funny enough.
From the very beginning, my parents have been my champions. During many elections, my dad was right there at the doors with me, and my mom was always working in the campaign office. Thankfully, I still have my mother today.
Mom, I know you will be watching this – thank you for everything and I love you!
Of course, I also couldn’t have done this without my late husband, Senator Doug Finley. Many people knew him as the man who “always had a Plan F,” who was a staunch defender of free speech, and who, of course, led the Conservative Party to victory in 2006 and 2008 as National Campaign Director, while maintaining a leadership role in 2011 that resulted in a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government! But, he was also one of my biggest supporters, both personally and professionally. And as far as I know, we were the first married couple to sit in both Houses of the Canadian Parliament at the same time.
Mr. Speaker, I’d now like to thank those in my life who’ve made it possible for me to still be here today. In no particular order, thank you Marlene and Tom Stackhouse, Sharlene, George Santos, Howard Goode, Wally and Jan Butts, Jeremy and Chelsea McIntee, Frank Parker, Karly Wittet, The Amazing Ali, and the Johns in my life –Nieuwenhuis, Wehrstein, Bracken and Weissenberger.
To those who made life easier every day: Denis, Jojo, Ann, Jimmy, Mike Fraser, Michou and the indomitable Lynette, you have my heartfelt thanks.
And to Senator Plett, Ian and Vida, Koolsie, Spiro and Dustin, I’m so grateful that we’re still in touch.
To my former Deputy Ministers, Dick, Ian and Janice, thank you for your patience and wisdom.
And to my favourite former Prime Minister: thank you for the trust that you kept placing in me … and placing … and placing.
To my colleagues Karen, Raquel and John N: it’s a great relief to know that you’re taking on some of my pet projects going forward.
Of course, I also wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the thousands of volunteers and donors over the years who generously supported me and my efforts. Thank you!
And, to my Conservative family: it has been a pleasure getting to know all of you, and working hard with you to help Canadians.
You know, M/S, it’s the values that have kept me blue through and through. The values of hard work, showing respect for one another, looking after your family, smaller government, and lower taxes. I’m excited for the future of the Conservative Party under our new Leader, and for what my colleagues will continue to do for Canadians.
Most importantly, to the residents of Haldimand-Norfolk: thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know that I’m not at all biased when I say that Haldimand-Norfolk truly is the best place to live and grow up. As part of Ontario’s South Coast (Canada’s fourth coast, I may add), we have some of the most hard-working, friendly, salt-of-the-earth people. People who know what it means to pull up their socks to get the job done, or help out a neighbour.
It’s been an absolute privilege to be the MP for such amazing people.
But now it’s time for me to turn a new page. It’s time to hit the “refresh” button. It will soon be time for me to indulge my creative side, travel (hopefully), take some courses and finally get to my want-to-do list!
I’m looking forward to this next chapter of my life, and what that will bring.
And to all those young people out there who have a dream like I did, I urge you to go after it, chase it, live it. It might not be easy, but I assure you, it’s worth it.
Mr. Speaker, I’d like to close today with a quote from the nine-year-old me’s hero, Winnie the Pooh. It goes like this —–
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.