Don Martin: Last words from Parliament's nearly departed
The House of Commons is pictured on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Published Thursday, June 6, 2019 5:52PM EDT
Amid the frantic push to complete the government agenda, forcing increasingly-cranky MPs to sit past midnight many nights, some of the better speeches are being delivered in the House of Commons.
They're coming from the MPs saying farewell to politics, either because they're sick of the place, fed up with the toxicity of the job or worried the voters might be ready to reject them.
Before they disappear into the pages of Hansard history, let's pause to quote some of the keenest observations from the nearly departed ranks of this Parliament.
Trust fun-loving Liberal Rodger Cuzner of Cape Breton to put the farewells in their proper context:
"Not every parliamentarian necessarily gets a final speech. Sometimes it is a concession speech back at headquarters. This is far more civilized," he quipped.
But many took the opportunity to vent their frustrations. Vancouver Liberal Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, packing it in after but a single term, had this to say about the mind-numbing task of desk-sitting:
"It will not surprise members to know that I am deeply disturbed by the stultifying and soul-destroying House of Commons rules that stipulate that the House sit on Fridays every week, or until midnight, or all night long. This is not democratic. This is not even humane. We should all be here in the House of Commons as our best selves, energized, not sleep deprived; optimistic, not frustrated."
Three-term Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin had similar objections to question period.
"We can do much better for Canadians. The tired lines and the bad theatre is wearing a little thin. I know that I do not look forward to it, and I know people on the other side feel the same way. Surely we can do better."
Many described how politics has taken a personal toll, none more graphically than Ontario Conservative Kellie Leitch, who took controversial stands on controlling immigration during the 2017 leadership race.
"What most Canadians saw during the campaign was people slandering me and my reputation. They saw me bullied continuously. I was subjected to the worst type of threats online. My home was broken into. My constituency office was compromised with hate banners illegally hung. My staff was intimidated. My Parliament Hill office even received long letters in which people outlined in graphic detail their plans to sadistically rape me."
Often voted the best orator in the House, BC NDP MP Nathan Cullen poetically summed up his experience.
"I believe we are actors passing across the stage. We all have our moment here, and we can lose perspective as we pass across this stage, yet others will pass behind us. May we, in all of our efforts, seek to not only leave Parliament a better place, but leave this country a better place."
But perhaps Larry Miller, the Ontario MP they call the keeper of the Conservative flame, best framed the future for these almost-retired MPs.
"It is time for more fishing and hunting, and much, much less politics. After 10 elections, my wife and I are both electioned out. Darlene says that my 'give a darn' button is busted. She is right. It has truly been a slice, Mr. Speaker, but I am out of here."
Amen to that. And farewell to some of the best MPs of this Parliament. Those are their Last Words.