Bidding a Fond Farewell to Dear Friends of Canada
One of the best parts of my job as your Member of Parliament is the opportunity to meet so many incredible people.
Throughout the past 15 years I have been fortunate to encounter individuals in Prince George-Peace River, and throughout Canada and around the world who inspire me with their dedication to their community or country, to a skill or a cause, or to helping others.
And every once in a while, I have the privilege of calling these people a friend. This week I must bid farewell to two of these dear friends.
The United States Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, and his wife Susan, are heading back to their home in South Carolina after a three-and-a-half year term in Canada. Quite simply, David and Susan Wilkins are terrific people and committed friends to Canada, and will be missed by many.
Ambassador Wilkins became the 21st U.S. Ambassador to Canada in June 2005. But he is so much more than an accomplished diplomat who has conducted himself with the utmost professionalism and diplomacy and who threw himself into the task of learning everything he could about Canada, its people and its issues (and was even quizzed on an episode of This Hour has 22 Minutes!). During their stay in Canada, David and Susan captured the hearts of politicians of all stripes, diplomats and journalists, and the many Canadians they met in their cross-country travels, with their warmth and southern charm.
This respect and admiration stood strong in the face of some rather contentious issues that arose between Canada and the United States. Ambassador Wilkins? term saw our two nations grapple over the Softwood Lumber Agreement, Mad Cow Disease (BSE), along with international debate over conflict in the Middle East, the war on terror and military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet through it all, David Wilkins maintained respectful and collaborative relationships that transcended politics. His main objective was to keep the lines of communications open between Canada and his President and government in Washington.
As with any good friend, I wanted him to experience the magnificence of the people and landscape of my home. And so, in May of 2008, he became the first U.S. Ambassador ever to visit Prince George. Then he and Susan joined my wife Leah and I as we travelled through the Pine Pass and onto Chetwynd, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.
In Fort St. John, the Ambassador was the keynote speaker in the unveiling of the Charlie Lake Monument to the 12 U.S. soldiers who perished there during the construction of the Alaska Highway on May 13, 1942. Not only was David instrumental in securing financial support for the project from the business community, but he and Susan took the time to speak with family members of the fallen soldiers on hand for the ceremony.
As he prepares to leave next week, David told me, ?I will forever remain Canada?s biggest fan and very much want to stay connected to Canada.? Leah and I will truly miss David and Susan Wilkins not only as our dear friends but as true friends of Canada.