SENATOR MUNSON SPEAKS AT NOMINATION MEETING FOR PAUL DEVILLERS
When Paul asked me to come to Midland and speak to you this evening, I was humbled and honoured. As some of you know, my career has taken a recent turn, a turn that has taken me to the Senate of Canada where I am now the newest senator – not the oldest, but most definitely the shortest.
Like Paul, I am a product of a small town – Campbellton, New Brunswick. As a journalist, my work took me all over the world.
From Belfast, to Beirut, to Tianamen Square, I have seen many of the world’s hot spots. For the last couple of years I have been at another hot spot — Parliament Hill.
Parliament Hill, in many ways, is like a small town and like any other small town across Canada, one of the best ways to meet someone is at the hockey arena. It’s on the ice where I have had a chance to get to know Paul DeVillers – an able athlete and speedy skater, as many of you no doubt know. He’s also a fine backchecker, which is a good skill both on and off the ice in Ottawa.
I understand that Paul refers to himself as a “grinder”. I thought that was what he did when he was backchecking, but I learned instead that being a “grinder” is how Paul gets things done. It’s how he solves problems. It’s not a flashy and sophisticated approach to problem-solving. It’s a straightforward, determined approach. On Parliament Hill and here in his constituency, you can count on Paul to “grind” away at any problems in his path until he has turned them to dust.
And solve problems he has. Since 1993 Paul has been busy in Ottawa working on your behalf. If anyone ever asks the question, “what do you do in Ottawa?” they only have to look at Paul DeVillers’ record. Secretary of State for Fitness and Sport, Deputy House Leader, Chair of the Justice Committee, and Chair of Liberal Caucus from 2000 to 2002. This last job, in particular, put his “grinding” approach to the test, I can tell you. Because Liberal Caucus is not an easy group to lead, as all of us know.
À Ottawa Paul travaille pour le bien de ses commettants. Il a des racines très profondes dans cette région. Depuis plus de cent ans sa famille habite cette région. Et même avant d’être votre représentant à Ottawa, Paul a travaillé pour le bien de cette communauté comme avocat. Dans Paul DeVillers, les citoyens de cette région trouvent quelqu’un de chez eux – quelqu’un qui peut offrir des services en français et en anglais. Quelqu’un qui partage le patrimoine des peuples autochtones de la région.
Paul, like many people from a small town, understands the importance of roots and remembering who you are. He also knows about not taking himself too seriously.
Having a sense of humour and knowing your roots are very important.
I learned in Beirut what knowing where you come from can mean. My crew and I found ourselves in the wrong part of town during a bad time. Our car was surrounded by a group of angry militiamen.
They were definitely not out for a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive. All were well armed and were asking questions.
“Where are you from?” I was asked at gun point.
I produced my passport and answered in what I’m sure was a very high pitched voice. “Ottawa,” I said. My cameraman said “Vancouver”. Then my soundman, Francois Bission said “Alymer, Quebec and proud of it.……..”
Now Alymer, Quebec is a small bedroom community on the other side of the Ottawa River. No rifle toting Beirut militiaman will have heard of Aylmer, Quebec. I thought we would be shot or at the very least be taken hostage.
Then one man yelled out, “did you say Alymer, Quebec? The same Aylmer, Quebec with the British Hotel?”
“That’s right near my Dad’s home!” shouted Francois.
“My brother is a taxi driver in Aylmer, Quebec,” answered the militiaman. And then, to our great relief, he added, “Let these Canadian Brothers go!”
That day I learned that knowing where you are from and being proud of your roots is not only the key to success and happiness, but also the key to continued good health.
Certainly, I am proud of my roots. I know that an important part of who I am is due to my father, the Reverend J.E. Munson who passed away last fall. He was 93.
He was a great father, a man who believed in service for the greater good, a man who believed in the responsibility we all have toward making our communities and our country places of peace, goodwill, and shared prosperity.
My father took me with him to deliver hampers on Thanksgiving and Christmas as he visited families across the tracks from our comfortable home. He took me with him so that I would learn that we all have a responsibility to help those in need. It was one of my first lessons in social values.
My father also loved politics and took me with him when candidates for the general election came to our town of Campbellton. I was only eleven when John Diefenbaker’s campaign train rolled into town. My father and I went to see him and I got up close to shake his hand. But he didn’t shake it. Then we went to see Lester B. Pearson when his campaign train rolled into town. I got up close to shake his hand and he shook it.
And I’ve been a Liberal ever since.
In my many years as a journalist, I studied politics with a view to tell a story. I also learned as a journalist to do my research.
So I was very interested to do some reading about Paul’s opponent in the upcoming election, Mr. Peter Stock.
In fact, Peter Stock is one of my most regular correspondents. He has organized mass mailings to the Senate to oppose Bill C-250, the Hate Propaganda Bill. He claims the Bill will deny people of faith their freedom of expression. I do not agree.
Peter Stock also believes families are threatened by same sex unions. I do not agree. Peter Stock rejects bilingualism, gun control, and employment equity. Once again, I do not agree.
What strikes me from what I read of Peter Stock, is the narrowness of his vision. The list of what Peter Stock rejects is much longer than the list of what he embraces. It is a short-sighted vision of limits and exclusions.
One thing is clear.
When election day comes, the good people of Simcoe North will have a clear choice to make. They will be able to choose between this narrow vision of Peter Stock and the broad, long-range vision of Paul DeVillers. They will be able to choose between Peter Stock’s politics of exclusion and Paul DeVillers’ politics of inclusion.
I have faith in the people of Simcoe North. I believe they will do what they did in 1997 when they rejected the Reform Party candidate, a man named Peter Stock.
I believe they will do what they did in 2000 when they rejected the Alliance Party candidate, a man named Peter Stock. I have no doubt that at the next election, the people of Simcoe North will reject the Conservative Party candidate, a man named Peter Stock. I believe that the people in Simcoe North will do what they have done since 1993. They will re-elect a “grinder” from Penetanguishene, the Liberal Party candidate called Paul DeVillers.
As I said earlier, I come from a small town in New Brunswick where we have several local expressions, some more polite than others. But one expression comes to mind when describing this community. And that expression is: SOME GOOD.
I think Paul feels SOME GOOD to be a part of this community and the reason I am here tonight is to tell you that he does SOME GOOD on your behalf in Ottawa.
Since 1993 Paul has been a crucial part of the Liberal government – the same Liberal government that brought about a historic turnaround in Canada’s economic picture. The same Liberal government that turned deficits into surpluses. The same Liberal government that brought in the National Child Benefit, historic investments in health care, research, and innovation. The same Liberal government that put in place historic tax cuts. The same Liberal government that has tabled its seventh consecutive balanced budget and re-affirmed its commitment to good government, health care, learning, and increased opportunities.
Paul DeVillers proudly upholds the Liberal legacy of Pearson, Trudeau and Chrétien, a legacy that stresses the importance of social policy in the political equation of the times. Canada can be proud to have one of the most successful liberal regimes of any country in the world.
There are some that believe that recent events – the sponsorship scandal – have tainted our party. I think that people who think that way have very short memories.
They have forgotten that the government of Jean Chrétien put in place the audits that brought to light the problems with the sponsorship program. They have forgotten the faith Canadians had in the former leader – faith enough to elect Jean Chrétien’s liberals to three consecutive majority governments. And faith enough to soon elect Paul Martin’s Liberals to a fourth consecutive majority government.
Peter Stock, the Conservative Party candidate, wrote last December that the combination of the Canadian Alliance party with the old Progressive Conservative party is more of an acquisition than it is a merger. He expects social conservatives like himself to take the helm of the party and remove words like “progressive” from the party constitution. He writes that social liberalism is anathema to his new party. He expects people will leave the new Conservative party and join the Liberals. So be it, he writes.
Well, so it will be Mr. Stock!
There is plenty of room in our party for fiscal conservatives with liberal social views. They will be comfortable with Paul Martin’s Liberal government. They will be comfortable with Paul DeVillers as their Member of Parliament. Remember. Our party is about inclusion. Our party is about diversity. Our party is about possibility and opportunity. Our party is about long term vision and long term goals. The Liberal party builds bridges. We don’t burn them to keep people away.
A true statesman understands history and the importance of perspective. He will not let headlines and hysteria drown out the pride of good old-fashioned policy-making for the public good. We all do well to remember that.
I know that Paul considers government as an agent of good. As a parliamentarian, he helps create the conditions that provide individuals and communities with opportunities to flourish. Paul is a true statesman. He understands where he comes from and takes great pride in that.
He will never forget who he represents in Ottawa and you will do well to make sure he continues to do just that. He will work toward the common good. And I think all of us here can agree that that is SOME GOOD.
Thank you very much.