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David Sweet bids farewell to Parliament

 

David Sweet bids farewell to Parliament

Fkamborough-Glanbrook MP David sweet announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election. This week he made his final speech in the legislature. In the speech Mr. Sweet touched on the issue of mental health.

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Mr. Chair, for almost 16 years, I have had the honour of speaking in the
House of Commons chamber to represent the interests of Canadians. As the
adage goes, all good things must come to an end. On the day of the next
election, I bid you and my colleagues adieu and express my appreciation for
the many individuals who have made it possible for me to serve as a member
of Parliament and to serve my country.

First and foremost, my thanks go to my amazing and beautiful bride of almost
40 years, Almut Sweet. She has had to tolerate too many absences,
interruptions and stress that, unfortunately, our partners must endure for
us to be present in Ottawa. In Almut’s case, she also endured two cancer
surgeries and the tragic loss of our daughter, Lara. My sweetheart not only
has my undying love, but also gratitude and deep respect for her willingness
to sacrifice for my service and for our country.

My next thanks go to all my children, who, along with my wife, suffered many
absences due to my being here in Ottawa. All of them have been so gracious.
They always referred to my absences as a mission they approved of and were
thankful for my work representing our country. I am so looking forward to
spending more time with them, more time with Theresa, Christopher, Lucian,
Reuben, D.C., and grandchildren, far too many names to name.

Next are the constituents of Flamborough—Glanbrook, but also those of
Waterdown, Westdale, West Hamilton, Dundas, and Ancaster, whom I served for
quite some time as well. I ask them to accept my heartfelt thanks for
placing their trust and confidence in me to represent them here in this
House of Commons. Their vote gave me a privilege very few Canadians have
been able to experience throughout the history of our great nation, and for
that they have my sincere, undying gratitude.

I hope my colleagues forgive me, because one of the missions we had in my
office was to launch young people into successful careers in politics. My
staff over the years, and the list is long, deserve to be named: Doug,
Carolyn, Diane, Steph, Laurie, Erin, Justin, Kesha, Michael, Katherine,
Rebecca, Justin, Jacob, James, Nathan, Rachel, Monica, Alicia, Sandra,
Lewan, Chris, Jacob, Colin, Tracey and presently Patricia, Liz, James,
Simon, Denise, Alex and Dan.

All members should readily admit that without hard-working, dedicated,
patient staff, they would accomplish very little. I thank team Sweet for all
they did to make me look good, and more importantly for all they do for
Canadians. They are a gift to our nation.

As I just said, all of my staff are amazing, but there are very special
staff who believed in me and were with me from the very beginning, and they
deserve special mention. Doug and Carolyn Brown took on the task of
shepherding me through the process of establishing a constituency office,
and by so doing they set the standard remarkably high for all future staff.
Their professional, mature approach to constituent service meant that we had
a stellar reputation throughout the entire greater city of Hamilton and
consequently were able to successfully sort out the problems of thousands of
people, everywhere from rescuing Canadians from despot dictatorships around
the world to those dreaded CRA files. I am in Doug and Carolyn’s debt for
the rest of my days for their service and friendship. Canada is a better
nation for them.

Stef Rose was my first legislative assistant, who had such a drive to excel
that he interviewed many senior staff on the Hill to make sure he was able
to serve in his capacity with excellence, and he sure did. Stef, three
times, rewrote legislation for me that became one of the few private
members’ bills to pass with all-party support, the Fairness for Victims of
Violent Offenders Act. He managed committee work and so much more, but
ultimately always stood out because he was ready to go the extra mile. I am
so happy that my friend Stef is where he always wanted to be, and Canada is
a better and safer place due to his efforts.

Somehow I convinced a fine man named Dan Muise that I was the candidate who
needed to be elected to serve Canadians alongside Stephen Harper. Dan
started his career as a special assistant to Jean Charest, when he was
elected as a member of this House.

The riding was known as Ancaster–Dundas–Flamborough–Westdale in those days,
and, beginning in 2004, Dan helped me with virtually every aspect of my
parliamentary career, including when I was able to dump my frustrations on
him after particularly rough days.

Dan has served this country in ways that many will never know, and he will
never be adequately rewarded for it, yet Dan is not the kind of person who
does what he does for reward. His dedication to Canada is his love for the
same. I thank Dan for his service, hard work and dedication, and for our
deep friendship.

Then there are our best friends who help us keep our feet on the ground and
bring us a better perspective to life than what we get within this thing we
call the Ottawa bubble. They are the ones who helped us early in life, and
who know who we are and who we are becoming. Bob Baxter and Reid Meyers have
both departed this world for eternity, but they mentored a young man who had
a fleet of tow trucks back in 1982 and encouraged him to grow in character,
intellect and spirituality.

My best friends, Larry and Leslie Brune, have assisted me and my family in
every imaginable way. Their generosity, hospitality, dedication and kindness
are, in no small way, one of the substantial reasons I am here today. These
two individuals I speak of have quietly helped hundreds of people, and they
have done it so humbly and quietly that few know the amazing impact they
have had on large groups of Americans and Canadians. Their selfless efforts
to serve others is so great, the human language falters at trying to explain
their love for others.

I extend a special thanks to my friend Franc, a reserve officer in the
Israel Defense Forces, who always welcomed me to Israel. He is such a good
friend and brother, who I get to see so seldom. I wish peace and protection
to Franc and his family.

My thanks go to so many supporters and donors who gave of their time, their
talents and their money to make sure I could continue to wage successive
successful campaigns. Their assistance is so important in our democracy, and
it often goes unnoticed, but they really are the engine behind every
candidate and determine their ultimate success. I thank them.

I would now like to give a message to my colleagues. All of us in this
chamber should reflect often on the magnitude of responsibility we have and
the fact that we live in a nation that still, for the most part, elects
individuals on their merit and not on their social status or their wealth,
as we see in some other nations. We are blessed to live in a country where
voters determine the outcome of an election and not individual political
parties with the right to establish lists for voters or a regime of evil
elites who tell voters how they should vote. This is a rich gift that has
been carefully protected by past generations. It has been fought for with
Canadian blood in past conflicts.

No matter which party members are from in this chamber, their individual
responsibility as a member is to guard this cherished institution. That is
exactly why we are obliged to swear an oath to Her Majesty the Queen of
Canada. We do not protect this institution because we are privileged. We
guard and protect this institution because this chamber is where critical
issues that concern individual Canadians are debated and resolved.

I thought I had a good handle on what I was just talking about until the
evening we were to vote on whether we would sustain our troops in
Afghanistan. I knew the issues, and I knew the good work our troops had
accomplished. I knew about the young girls and women who had never
experienced freedom until our troops arrived.

However, when the bells began to ring, the weight of what we were about to
vote on reached a much higher level of severity than it had in my entire
life. I realized that my vote would not only allow a continued effort by our
troops to accomplish their good work, but it also meant that our young men
and women were going to continue to be placed in harm’s way, and it meant
Canadians would die.

There were many poignant times in my career that were transformative and
gave me a deeper clarity regarding the magnitude of our responsibilities,
but sustaining our troops in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan,
areas other countries had abandoned, was the most sobering. I encourage all
of my colleagues to think for themselves, bearing in mind the oath we have
taken, and their concerns for their constituents and all Canadians.

Political parties are great institutions in and of themselves, and I am very
grateful for my party, the Conservative Party of Canada, and my band of
brothers and sisters, my colleagues. Consequently, I want to encourage all
members from all parties to, yes, be a team player but also be ready to
think through all issues and steward their own integrity. Members want that
confidence when they look in the mirror every day, that they are their own
person.

Some of my colleagues have become good friends, and I will keep them long
past politics.

The member for Niagara West is such a good friend. He phoned me up after I
was elected and said, “Come on up here. I’m going to show you the ropes so
you can hit the ground running and you’re not going to have to figure
everything out for yourself”. He has been profoundly generous, and I want to
give Dino my gratitude.

The member for Brantford—Brant is a great gentleman, and I have appreciated
his character and candour. When we have colleagues we can disagree with,
debate and still be friends, it is priceless.

Dave Van Kesteren retired before the last election, but for all the time he
served with me and was my seatmate, we became great friends and sorted out a
lot of important issues, and we had a lot of fun.

The member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame made our trip to London and
Scotland a special treat as did the member for Gatineau in joining me for
the most scenic jog in my life down the River Thames in London.

For almost 15 years, I served with the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston
on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights and with two fine Liberal
members, Mario Silva and Irwin Cotler. We worked together to stand up for
people who were being jailed, persecuted, tortured and killed. We were able
to save many lives working together. I am so grateful for their co-operation
and work with me.

Finally, some have asked me why I am leaving Parliament. Well, the truth is,
I am not fully well. I want to take this opportunity to encourage others who
are not well to get help.

I thought a lot since January, when I made the decision not to run in the
next election, about what caused my mental health jaundice. I do not know if
it was the four years of incarceration in a juvenile institution when I was
12. It may have been when I was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant in
Lockport, New York; or the betrayal of business partners when I was a young
businessman; or losing two children, one who died in my hands while I was
trying to deliver her and another who took her own life. Maybe the terrorist
attack here on Parliament Hill played a role and the too many funerals I
planned, because I was always looked to as the guy who could handle it. The
fifteen years of hearing the worst stories of human suffering in the human
rights committee, I know, played a role. Likely, the entire lot played a
role as did the current draconian lockdowns.

We should all respect that everyone has a limit, and that it is different
for everyone. Thankfully, there are many who have greater limits than us,
like many who are in the Canadian Forces, and for those individuals, we are
so grateful.

All of us need to be conscious of what our limit is and ensure that we get
relief and help when needed well before it becomes crippling. This is what I
am doing, and I encourage all those who can hear my voice and need help to
seek it and be relentless to get what they need. They need not feel any
shame. We all need help sometimes.

I also plead with those who do not currently need help to be patient and
help others. Just this past weekend, my friend, Nicholas Lauwers, a
psychotherapist himself, was there for me and helped me to get back on track
just by being willing to listen. I thank Nick for that.

My final but most important thanks goes to the Lord Jesus Christ. The
reconstruction of my life that happened after I made a commitment to Christ
is what animates every aspect of my life. Of all I am grateful for, my
gratitude to God is far beyond all the other thanksgivings I can give.

On the Centre Block arches are three scriptures, “Where there is no vision,
the people perish; “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy
righteousness unto the king’s son”; and on the other, “He shall have
dominion also from sea to sea”.

These are words that guided principled people as imperfect as they were to
build a nation that people from the four corners of the world want to get
to, to call their home. People are not staying up all night thinking they
have to plot and scheme on how to get to Iran. They are not saying if they
could just get to Russia, everything would be okay.

All around the world, people are plotting, scheming and thinking if they
could just get to Canada.

May God continue to bless Canada and make it glorious and free.

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