The House resumed from December 7 consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to continue the speech I started yesterday evening.
I will also make sure that community and social clubs and organizations get the support they need so they can keep making a positive contribution to our communities.
I want local organizations in my riding, such as the Daughters of Isabella, the Knights of Columbus, Afeas, women farmers, Scouts, and sports, cultural, and community organizations, to know that I will always be available to help and support them. Quality of life in our communities depends on local people working hard to create active, united and welcoming places to live.
I will also ensure that the government addresses agricultural issues, such as problems with managing milk protein coming into Canada. On this as on matters facing rural municipalities, the throne speech was silent. It made no mention of agriculture even though the problem is urgent and agriculture is both a key economic sector and vital to our national food security.
I will work tirelessly to hold the government to account for all the decisions it makes, because if there is one thing I learned during my time as mayor, it is that people want to be represented by officials who keep their promises, while also remaining within budget. They want a government that respects taxpayers' ability to pay, a government that has the tools and means to keep its citizens safe, and a government that works hard to create conditions favourable to the development of our communities.
That said, I have to admit that I am skeptical about the government's plan, if there is one, and I fear that in order to keep its promises, which seem a little unrealistic to me, it is going to have to increase the tax burden on Canadians, make cuts to essential services, or increase the debt, forcing us into recurring deficits. However, since I am a good sport, I will give the government a chance. It will be judged on the results it achieves.
A few weeks ago, I was honoured and privileged to be given the trust of my party's leader and to be appointed deputy critic in support of my colleague the hon. member for , the critic for public safety and emergency preparedness. Again, there are a number of concerns in this area.
First, the fight against ISIS is currently one of the world's biggest security issues. However, while all of our allies are mobilizing, the government seems to be trivializing the situation, as evidenced the day after the election, when the announced the immediate withdrawal of our fighter jets from the coalition fight. I will continually ask the government to be accountable and to assure us that there are no flaws in its plan and that its soft military approach will not jeopardize our national security.
The same goes for welcoming Syrian refugees. The hon. member for and I have already begun to scrutinize this file to ensure that the refugees are integrated properly and that security measures are not overlooked in order to allow the government to meet its deadline.
In the coming months and years, I will be continually working on this file because it will take several months and even years, not just the next few weeks as the government is suggesting, to integrate these refugees.
In terms of public safety, I really want to know how the government is going to go about keeping its promise to legalize and regulate marijuana, which I vigorously oppose. As the father of three wonderful teenagers and the former principal of one of the largest secondary schools in Quebec, I am truly convinced that the legalization of marijuana is not in any way a positive move for our country.
At a time when we are trying to cut health care costs by promoting healthy lifestyle choices, downplaying the effects of drugs and proposing they be legalized is not the solution. It would be a first for a G7 country to go down that road. I hope that when the says that “Canada is back”, he is not using this type of initiative to supposedly enhance Canada's image.
When will the government explain how it intends to proceed on this file? Canadians will have many questions for the government.
In closing, I would like to remind the government that Canadians want a government that is doing something about the economy, a government that will not offload deficits onto future generations, a government that manages the public purse responsibly and takes into account taxpayers' ability to pay, a government that is aware of environmental issues, and a government that keeps the public safe and works with our allies to eliminate the terrorist threat jeopardizing our safety.
This is a major challenge, and the opposition will be here, standing strong, over the next four years in order to ensure that the decisions that are made here are what is best for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, as this is my first speech in the House, I would like to express my gratitude to the people of Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for the trust they have placed in me.
I want to give particular thanks to my parents. Today, my father is celebrating his 60th birthday. “Happy birthday, Pop”.
Also, I especially thank my wife, Rebecca, and our children, Gianna and Judah, for their love and support. I think that practising speeches with my two-year-old heckling me about her desire for a snack is pretty good practice for speaking in the House. Judah was born less than two weeks before the campaign started and so it has been a busy time for our family. My wife, Rebecca, has already sacrificed far more than I have to make this possible.
I am very conscious as I stand here today of the sacrifices that were made by my parents and grandparents to give us the best they could in life. In that vein, I will start my speech by talking about the experience of my maternal grandmother, the greatest influence on my life outside of my parents, and someone whose experience is particularly relevant to one of the debates we are having.
My grandmother was a refugee. She was born in Germany in 1930, the daughter of a Jewish father and a gentile mother. Hitler came to power in 1933 when she was three years old. She and her mother left Germany for South America in 1948 when she was 18, after a childhood that, frankly, was not a childhood at all. She met my grandfather in Ecuador, a Canadian engineer who was working for Syncrude, which explains how they ended up in Alberta.
All members in the House from all parties are deeply moved by the plight of refugees, myself in particular because of my family's experience. Therefore, out of genuine concern for those affected by the unfolding tragedy in Syria and Iraq, and also out of concern for our own national well-being, we must ask the current government hard questions about its refugee policy.
How will the Liberals ensure that the most vulnerable refugees, members of religious and ethnic minority communities who often cannot get access to refugee camps, are actually included?
How is the government going to ensure that it is only victims of violence and not perpetrators of violence who are coming to Canada? Profiling on the basis of gender and sexual orientation is not a reliable way to screen out extremists.
Most essentially, given the proportions of the current unfolding crisis, how is the government proposing to deal with the root cause, the ongoing civil war, and the emergence and growth of Daesh? People on the ground, members of diaspora communities, and all Canadians want to understand what the government is actually thinking here and why.
The Liberals say that sending fighter jets is not the best thing and that Canada can instead contribute in other ways. Really? Of course, Canada can contribute in other ways, but our bombing mission against Daesh has been extremely effective at reducing the amount of territory it controls. This sort of mission is, after all, the reason we have an air force, to protect ourselves and to project our values, and to use military force to protect innocent women, children, and men.
Now is a good time to re-ask a question that was asked and not answered in the lead-up to the election. If not now against Daesh, then what possible case is there in which the current government would ever authorize military action?
The Liberals say that they are withdrawing from the bombing mission because it was an election promise, but they have not been shy about breaking other election promises. They promised that 25,000 government-sponsored refugees would arrive before the end of the year. However, now they will only be admitting 10,000, and most them will be privately sponsored. Their justification for breaking this promise was that they wanted to get it right. It is no small irony, in light of many of the comments made during the campaign, that getting it right meant abandoning their refugee targets and coming close to adopting ours.
However, if getting it right was the justification for shelving the government's refugee promise, we would humbly suggest that the Liberals also get it right in the fight against Daesh and stand behind an effective military mission that actually defends the defenceless.
We need to be welcoming refugees in a responsible and effective manner. What refugees in the region want, even more than to come to Canada, is to have a country that is livable again.
What is the real reason for the government's planned non-response to an unfolding problem of violence against the innocent? It has yet to give any explanation for its planned withdrawal other than the clearly very thin arguments already mentioned. I do not think its response would have satisfied my grandmother or any other refugee of past or present conflicts. I do not think it will satisfy the 25,000 we may eventually take, and it certainly will not satisfy the millions who will be left behind.
At the root of this practical question is a moral question, a question about the kind of people we are and about whose lives we think are worth fighting for. Neville Chamberlain, the arch defender of appeasement, said in 1938:
How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is, that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here, because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing...
“People faraway of whom we know nothing”. At the time, my grandmother was just eight years old.
On this side of the House we believe that the lives of the people of Iraq and Syria matter. The lives of the 25,000 we may eventually take and of the millions who will be left behind matter. It is not important how far away they are, they share a common humanity with each of us. What is implicit and consistent across many different contexts in the statements of the appeasers, the non-interventionists, and of those mealy-mouthed “in-betweeners” who pursue the same policies without giving their reasons is the implication that those in the immediate path of an evil power do not matter enough for us to bother getting involved. Even if, to our shame, we wish to look away, the menace still spreads.
After World War II, many people said of the Holocaust, “If only we had known, we would have done more”. When it comes to Daesh, we know. We have genocide in progress, live broadcast over the Internet. We would not be worthy of the name civilization if we chose to do nothing about it. No good person likes a fight but the lives and security of Yazidis, Christians, Kurds, Turkmen, Shia Muslims, and other groups in the path of Daesh, the 25,000 we may eventually take, and the millions left behind are worth fighting for.
It is a great honour to serve in the Parliament of such a great nation. I quoted Neville Chamberlain on his case for disengagement so I will balance that out with a quote from Winston Churchill who said, “The price of greatness is responsibility”. I urge the government to take that seriously. We are and we remain a great nation, a nation that need not come back because it never left. When it comes to doing its part, we are a nation that has never before turned away from responsibility.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
Before I deliver my maiden speech for this parliamentary session, I would like to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Deputy Speaker of the House. I know that you will be a positive force for this chamber and for the work we do for our constituents across Canada. I am sure the constituents of are proud to see you in the chair.
I also want to thank the residents of Surrey—Newton for once again putting their trust and faith in me to represent them in the House of Commons as their member of Parliament. I proudly served as a member of Parliament from 2006 to 2011. I am honoured to be back and to be able to work hard on behalf of my constituents for the next four years.
I also want to pay tribute to my late father, Sardar Hardial Singh Dhaliwal, who passed away on September 28, three weeks prior to election night. I want to thank the health care professionals and support staff at Fraser Health for their compassionate care. My father, Hardial Singh Dhaliwal, and my mother, Amarjit Kaur Dhaliwal, are the reason I can stand here today as a proud Canadian serving as a member of Parliament in the name of public service. I say to my mom and dad, “I love you.”
The Speech from the Throne is a clear signal to Canada and the world that this government is taking a different approach to governance. The release of mandate letters for every minister was an early sign that this government is not afraid of public scrutiny. We believe we must earn the trust of Canadians. Never before have such detailed policy agendas been released for every Canadian to read. We have an ambitious road ahead, and we want Canadians to be able to hold us accountable.
The Speech from the Throne further demonstrates the trust this government puts in Canadians. This government's key message to the country is this: together, through open collaboration, Canada has no limits.
I want to highlight two key themes that demonstrate the Liberal government's new approach: democratic reform and collaborative governance.
Let me begin with democratic reform. Changing the culture of Ottawa means that we must do things differently to live up to the expectations of Canadians. The Speech from the Throne detailed a number of initiatives in support of this goal.
Senate reform will ensure that the red chamber is no longer a place that hosts patronage appointments. The will be advised by a new advisory board that will look for candidates based on merit. The Senate's sober second thought will once again be about the greater good, not partisan game playing.
This government will also proceed on electoral reform. The 2015 campaign will be the last conducted under the first-past-the-post electoral system, which is an exciting step toward modernizing future elections.
Last, but just as important, the way Ottawa functions will change dramatically. This Liberal government will end the use of taxpayer dollars for partisan advertising, and it will promote more open debate and free votes in the House of Commons, so that all members of Parliament can best represent their constituents.
These are real changes that will help restore the public's faith in our political institutions, traditions, and most importantly, the representatives they send to Ottawa.
The second thing that sent a very loud message to Canadians was the path toward collaborative government. This was another change by our , to value other voices in the spirit of working together.
We will be governing on the belief that a strong and growing middle class is central to a healthy economy. Consideration for the lives of Canada's middle class, and those working hard to join it, guides our key priorities. Implementing middle-class tax cuts, introducing the new Canada child care benefits, investing heavily in public transit and green infrastructure, and strengthening employment insurance are all designed to ensure most Canadians have a fair and real chance to succeed.
We are also beginning a new era of working together with the provinces, the territorial governments, and the municipalities across the country. This means that we are going to be talking regularly with the premiers through first ministers meetings and frequently consulting with the municipal leaders on infrastructure investment. Our government is not going to operate as an island. We cannot do this alone.
We recognize that diversity is our strength and working together is our future. Our government is renewing a nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous people. It is launching a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and it will be strengthening our first nations' education.
We will also be changing the immigration system to strengthen families and create economic opportunities for new Canadians and small businesses alike.
Our government recognizes that Canada's place in the world is founded upon engagement. When our states that Canada is back, we are taking real steps to demonstrate this internationally. Countries from across the globe are already taking notice, and they are happy that their partnerships with Canada will be fostered and strengthened by our government.
In conclusion, I would like to send a message to my constituents in Surrey—Newton. These two themes of openness and collaboration are also backed at the local level. This means that I always have, and will remain, highly accessible to the people of Surrey—Newton, and my staff is working hard every day to address key issues and concerns. Most importantly, I will always put my constituents' voices ahead of all other considerations. This has been the foundation of my history as an MP, and now it is strengthened by serving under our Prime Minister, who recognizes that working for our constituents as a number one priority is key to him and to all of us and to all Canadians, who have elected 338 of us to represent them.
I am truly humbled to be back, representing the amazing riding of Surrey—Newton. I would like to again thank the people of Surrey—Newton for giving me this opportunity. I would also like to thank all the volunteers and the team that worked so hard for my election. I would also like to congratulate the other three candidates who put their names forward but were not able to make it to the House of Commons.
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today for the first time in the House of Commons. It is an honour and a privilege to be the very first member of Parliament for Oakville North—Burlington, and I thank my constituents for the trust they have placed in me.
I would like to thank the member for for representing the Halton riding, which is now part of my riding. I would also like to recognize my colleague from , who has joined me here today.
I congratulate my colleagues on all sides of the House for their election, particularly those like me, who are here for the very first time. I look forward to working with them over the years.
I am hopeful that a new era of respect and civility will dawn in this Parliament and that the democratic reforms that will be coming forward will go a long way to making this a truly great Parliament. In my riding, residents share my desire for respect for all points of view.
I would like to thank my son, Fraser, without whom I would not be standing here, not only for all that he has done to work alongside me from when he was very young, but also because I have always looked to him as the future of my community and country. I have been inspired to take a longer vision of issues so that I can ensure that he has a clean environment and a healthy and vibrant community and country in which to raise his own children someday.
To the rest of my family, Taylor, Jill, Rob, Bayley, Betty, and Mitchell, and to my wonderful friends, I give thanks for their love and support. Those no longer here, my mom and especially my dad, and Max Khan, remain in my heart always.
This government was given a clear mandate to make real change happen, and happen in a way that includes Canadians, all levels of government, business, our indigenous people, and other stakeholders. Already, we are seeing collaboration in a way that is inspiring Canadians. This level of co-operation will be needed to tackle the complex issues that we will be dealing with over the coming years.
I have always said that what is good for the environment is good for the economy and for our health. Taking action on climate change and our environment by investing in clean technology and working in partnership to reduce our carbon footprint will make Canada a leader in the world. Listening to the Governor General read the Speech from the Throne, I was delighted to hear him talk about how a clean environment and strong economy go hand in hand.
Examples in my community include the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, whose climate change adaptation strategy for Canada, which called on the federal government to develop and implement a national strategy on climate change adaptation, was adopted this year by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Oakville Hydro jumped into renewable energy. Why? It did so because it is good for the bottom line. Leadership from the federal government will motivate other levels of government, businesses, and individual Canadians, who need to be partners in this journey, to tackle climate change.
Oakville North—Burlington is largely an urban riding, but it is blessed with abundant green space. It has extensive trails, Bronte Creek Provincial Park, and Glenorchy Conservation Area. The preservation of this green space and the growth of our urban tree canopy is of great importance to residents.
Many in my riding are young families, who will benefit the most from our tax cut for the middle class and the new Canada child benefit. I am a proud advocate for public transit and alternative means of transportation, both walking and, of course, cycling. Moving people away from single occupancy automobile use is good for everyone. Our investment in public transit will help to make the kind of behavioural change that we must make going forward. Many in my riding commute, and public transit will get people home faster and allow families in my riding to spend more time together.
I know only too well from my work on the Oakville Town Council that municipal governments need a federal partner on infrastructure projects. They need one that will work with them to invest in our communities, protect our assets, and grow our economy.
In 2012, I met two teenagers from my riding, Emma and Julia Mogus, who founded Books With No Bounds. Their dream was to send 500 books to their brothers and sisters in the north. Their passion for youth in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation inspired me to mentor them, and today they have sent close to 100,000 books, school supplies, and other necessities to first nations youth. As I heard the Governor General talk about working with first nations so that every first nations child receives a quality education, I knew that Emma and Julia shared my hope for the future of our friends in Fort Severn and all NAN communities.
I look forward to today's announcement by the minister on our missing and murdered indigenous women.
Our young people, like Emma, Julia, and so many more, are not just the leaders of tomorrow. They are leaders today. Moreover, our seniors built this country and bring a wealth of wisdom, and our veterans have served our great country so that I can stand here today to speak in this institution. We need to work side by side, each one of us, to move our country forward.
I represent a riding that is growing. We are proud of the diversity that growth brings. Youth, seniors, all cultures and religions, those with varying intellectual and physical abilities, those who are new to Canada, new to Oakville and Burlington, and those who grew up here all share one thing: our desire to be the best we can be, not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren.
One in five young people suffers from mental health issues. We lack the resources to deal with this and we need to remove the stigma.
We have an epidemic of autism in our country, and we must recognize that doing nothing is not an option.
People living with devastating diseases, such as ALS, like my friend Tim Robertson, face not only emotional and physical challenges, but also financial hardship for them and their family, and these can be devastating.
There will be opportunities to look at ways to help these people. We must explore all options. Our work with our provincial partners to negotiate a new health accord will be critical, particularly with an aging population.
I am proud of the work of the Halton InterFaith Council, Terra Firma Halton, our Halton regional chair, the mayors of Oakville and Burlington and their respective councils, the Halton Multicultural Council, the Oakville Community Foundation, and too many others to name, which have shown leadership in welcoming Syrian refugees to our community.
As a former municipal councillor, our commitment to investments in public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure is most welcome. I have seen first-hand the challenges that municipalities face on these issues. is a caring, compassionate community, one that values helping others. The need for affordable housing has never been greater. I look forward to working with Halton region and groups like Habitat for Humanity Halton, so that everyone in our community is able to have a safe and affordable place to live. With our investment in social infrastructure and by working with stakeholders and our provincial and municipal partners, we can work to end the cycle of poverty. We need to ensure that our young people can afford to stay in our communities and not be forced to move away.
I have had the pleasure of working with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793 and LIUNA. I applaud the important role they will play in training our young people and providing them with the skills they need to succeed in a changing workplace.
We face a skills shortage in Canada. This is another area where we need to work in partnership with the provinces and stakeholders, such as the operating engineers and LIUNA.
Small and medium-sized businesses are the drivers of our Canadian economy, and the Burlington Oakville chambers of commerce are their voice in our communities. I have had the great pleasure of working with the Oakville chamber on a number of issues, and I look forward to growing my relationship with the Burlington chamber. Both the Burlington and Oakville chambers are leaders in mental health in the workplace, which is an issue they recognize as not only important for their employees, but also good for business and good for our community.
While physically located outside the boundaries of , Ford of Canada's assembly plant and head office in Oakville are of vital importance to Oakville, the surrounding area, and Ontario. Ford of Canada makes a significant investment in our community. Its employees, through Unifor Local 707, are one of the largest contributors to the United Way and, through the United Way, to groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Halton, and so many others that make a difference in the lives of Halton residents.
Our National Day of Mourning, organized by a Ford employee, Tim Batke, through the Oakville District Labour Council, ensures that our community not only remember those who died in the workplace, but also reminds everyone about the importance of workplace safety.
As I stand here today, I think of those who came before, in the House, including in particular, Jack Burghardt, the former member of Parliament for London West for whom I worked here in Ottawa and whose values and beliefs about respect, fairness, and public service guide me to this day.
I am proud to be part of this 42nd Parliament that will make a real change happen for Canadians, particularly those I represent. I will take Terry Fox's words to heart, as I always do: “anything's possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try.”
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
This is the first time that I have had the opportunity to stand for a speech in the 42nd Parliament, and I want to thank the constituents of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for having the faith and trusting me to come back to represent them in Ottawa. I thank my constituents.
This was an 11-week campaign, and every person in the House could talk about someone who is 86-years-old who came in every day to help, or students who came in after classes and knocked on doors with us. Again, without those volunteers, we could never do what we do in terms of moving forward. It really speaks to the commitment and passion that these volunteers have for who they support.
Most of all, I have to thank my husband Gord. As he drives me throughout the riding, he tells everyone he is my volunteer driver. However, I want to say publicly for the record that he is so much more than that, and I thank him also.
We are speaking to the Speech from the Throne, and the speech has been noted for what it is missing. To be quite frank, there are so many things missing in the speech that are of critical importance to British Columbia that I do not see any way that we can possibly support it. Let me talk about what is important to the riding I represent, which has had no mention, no notice.
Agriculture does exist in Canada, and it is of critical importance. It has no mention. The only thing that is mentioned about natural resources is perhaps going to put more uncertainty into the process. We worked very hard to create certainty around time frames, around expectations, and, again, we have created a very uncertain circumstance. Softwood lumber is absolutely critical to British Columbia. We need to find a solution. We need to move forward on that file. It is not mentioned.
The Asia-Pacific gateway is critical for all of Canada, not just British Columbia. It is an important economic driver. There is no notice of that, and barely a word in terms of some of the most important trade agreements that this country is going to have the opportunity to participate in, both the trans-Pacific partnership and the European trade agreement.
There are some 60,000 jobs, direct and indirect, that have been lost in Alberta and our neighbour communities, and there is no recognition that we have some areas of our economy that are critically important. We need to have some focus on them.
The Liberals talked about and campaigned on a tax break. Apparently this tax break was going to be revenue neutral. We would tax the rich more and give it the middle class. We are not going to help the people who are the poorest, but we are going to help the people who earn up to $200,000. Then yesterday, it was, oops, we made a $1.2 billion miscalculation. It is significant, important, and it speaks to the fiscal discipline that is being shown.
Not all in the speech is bad, and I do want to recognize a few areas that are important. Our leader has tasked me with the role of official critic for indigenous affairs. First of all, I want to congratulate the new minister and the parliamentary secretary. We have incredibly important work that we need to do on this file. The speech did have some important focus in that area, and we support and need to move forward in terms of the education system. Again, that was perhaps one of the positives in the speech, though the government is going to have to flesh out some of those concepts.
There were some concepts in the speech, and I want to speak directly to what some of them were. I am going to quote:
...the government will undertake to renew, nation-to-nation, the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples — one based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.
Certainly the concepts of respect, rights, co-operation, and partnership are important, but we are hearing language, the nation-to-nation language, and I think we need to flesh that out. I have talked to indigenous people in my riding and across the country, and I have spoken to many of them. Nation-to-nation has not been legally defined. I think we have a concept of what nation-to-nation means, but every person I talked to felt it meant something different. It will be incumbent upon the government to say what nation-to-nation means, but also what it does not mean.
The minister has to describe whether it means the royal commission. It talked about recognizing 50 nations. Is that what it means, or does it mean a nation-to-nation relationship with every band in the country? Some people think it means sovereignty; others think it means something different. It will be absolutely important to put meaning to the language. Language is very important in this Parliament, and we must describe what that will mean.
Today, I understand we will be hearing some very important news in terms of where we will go with the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. Everyone in this House knows that situation is totally unacceptable. It is tragic. Our hearts break with every story that we hear.
I will acknowledge that in the past our position was that we need to move forward with action. There are programs and services that work and will make a real difference.
We accept that many across this country believe that an inquiry is required, and our leader has offered full support for this inquiry. However, the inquiry has to provide peace and resolution to the families. How the inquiry is structured and the impact of the inquiry in terms of what it accomplishes will be absolutely critical.
I asked the minister a question yesterday. When the initial report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was tabled, within one hour the then leader of the third party, now the , committed to implementing every single one of the 94 recommendations. There was full commitment for implementation.
I asked the minister what the cost would be because it is important for us to analyze every one of those recommendations. What does the recommendation actually do? What will the recommendation cost? The minister responded that it was important that we not cherry-pick and that there is merit to the 94 recommendations.
I think there were some excellent recommendations from that inquiry. I believe we will not agree with every one of the 94 recommendations, but if the government is to move ahead with them, each one needs to be costed and shared with Parliament.
Again, I congratulate the government on the focus. We do need to look at what we are doing, where we are going, how we are doing it, and committing to the new relationship. Many of the leaders in aboriginal communities are very optimistic, but rhetoric needs to lead to reality. We need to make sure that there is not disappointment again.
Canadians need to know the meaning of many of these definitions, and they need to know the cost. In conclusion, I cannot see that we will be able to support this because there are so many gaps, but there are elements that I think are important. However, we certainly need a lot more details around them as we move on.
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for for sharing her time with me today.
First, I would like to thank my constituents of Cariboo—Prince George for putting their trust in me.
I congratulate all of my hon. colleagues in the House. In addition, I congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your nomination.
I would like to acknowledge the efforts of my team in all of our communities, because without them, I know I would not be here today.
I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge my daughters Kaitlyn, Kassi, Jordan, and my son Joshua for their continued support. I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge my wife, Kelly.
I am incredibly proud to call the Cariboo—Prince George riding home. I proudly champion my region in pursuit of trade and tourism opportunities all over the world.
The Cariboo—Prince George riding encompasses almost 84,000 square kilometres, from Vanderhoof, the town that would not wait, to the home of the world-famous Williams Lake Stampede, to the mountains and valleys of the great Chilcotin where people look one in the eye and say hello. When they ask “How are you doing?”, they generally care.
We have the first mosque in northern British Columbia and the second-highest population of first nations. Our friends and families are true examples of the can-do, never-accept-no pioneer spirit, which means we get the job done no matter the adversity we face.
The year of 2015 has not only provided a new member of Parliament for the first time in 22 years, but also allowed us to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city of Prince George. We showcased our region to the nation in hosting the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the largest multi-sport and cultural event for youth in Canada. We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the university in the north and for the north, the University of Northern British Columbia, which is Canada's number one university for its size. We proudly proclaim that the very first Dominion Day ever celebrated was in the world heritage site and gold rush town of Barkerville.
We have both opportunities and challenges that have national importance. The Cariboo—Prince George riding is also home to names that most in this room will also be familiar with: northern gateway, Highway of Tears, New Prosperity, Mount Polley, and the Tsilhqot'in land claims decision.
Cariboo—Prince George is a riding chock full of clean rivers, streams and thousands of lakes. Our region is known for world-class hunting and fishing. Yet again, not one mention of the tourism industry was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
As the economies of our small communities go, so does the economy of our nation. Our nation is dependent on resource development and our economy is predicated on the trade of the commodities we produce.
The last week announced that it was not her job to promote trade. Whose job is it?
Our region has been the economic engine of the province of British Columbia, just as western Canada has been the economic engine of our country. However, the Speech from the Throne has failed to mention any of the industries that are core drivers of our national economy.
Today we sit without a softwood lumber agreement, meaning more instability in an already uncertain industry. Forestry is critical to the riding of Cariboo—Prince George. Directly and indirectly, approximately 170,000 forest sector jobs exist in B.C. alone.
British Columbia is the world's largest exporter of softwood. Our nation and some of North America's largest forestry companies have been built on the backs of friends and families from my region. Yet despite our best efforts to diversify, the industries of forestry, farming and mining continue to be the lifeblood of our region's economy.
Investment in transit will not create jobs in my riding. This will not create the economic stability our region is looking for. The Speech from the Throne fails to recognize or even acknowledge the industries that support rural Canadians. In fact, by the sounds of it, our new is taking a page from the old Liberal playbook by shutting the door on economic development in the west entirely.
For generations my constituents have been dependent on these industries to put food on their table for their families. Let me put this into perspective. B.C.'s agriculture and agri-food sectors employ almost 60,000 people. It generates approximately $11.6 billion in annual revenue.
The importance of agriculture and agri-food to our national interest cannot be overstated. Canada is one of the world's largest agricultural producers and exporters, yet the government has failed to recognize the agriculture industry.
My riding is adjacent to my colleague's riding of , the region that has the port of Prince Rupert, the closest and fastest marine port to Asia. The port is one to two days closer to Asia than any other west coast port. This means products shipped to and from North America arrive at their destination quicker, with less fuel and less risk. We have the fastest and greenest road and rail networks into the U.S. Midwest markets running straight through my region. We have the Prince George airport that offers Canada's fourth longest commercial runway. All are key components in Canada's Pacific gateway program. These are just a few of Canada's competitive trade advantages. Surprisingly, they were not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
Even with these facts before it, the new Liberal government seems to have forgotten that the livelihood of rural Canadians is dependent on the very industries the government seems intent on ignoring. However, these are not my only concerns from the very first address.
The new Liberal government has caused further anxiety to our industries and investors with its promise to implement all of the 94 recommendations of the truth and reconciliation report. Of particular concern is recommendation 45, the adoption of the United Nations declaration of indigenous peoples.
In 2015, north central B.C. hosted approximately 39 active mineral exploration projects. Investors and industry are primarily concerned with land access and our first nations' land claims process. Adoption of these recommendations require thorough examination, and long-term impacts should be well considered.
Additionally, an open and transparent government would and should encourage debate and allow for the widest range of public input to occur. We must do more and be better at what we do. I believe in authentic engagement, but I urge the government to consider the far-reaching economic and social impacts that reckless promises such as this would have.
While I stand across the floor from my colleagues and opposite to their views, I offer my support in finding solutions that benefit and ensure equality for all Canadians.
The Speech from the Throne spoke of diversity, shared experiences, and our differences that make us strong because of, not in spite of, them. We can and should always recognize and celebrate each of our communities and the diversity from within, but we should never forget we are one country and one nation, Canada.
The Speech from the Throne mentions briefly the government's intention to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. I too, as our leader also mentioned, support this initiative. However, I offer that rather than asking the same questions previously answered in the dozens of reports, the government work with the families, the regional agencies, and the communities in developing sound safety, educational, and support programs that will help prevent yet another unnecessary loss of life. The monies invested in the process should help build relationships and trust within our communities among the RCMP, police forces, and our first nations. I ask that we collectively honour the victims and their families by leaving a legacy of action, not a legacy of books or reports on shelves.
I thank the leader opposite for providing me a mandate and a speech, which was a mere 15 minutes, I believe 1,700 words. However, Canadians expecting real change received a watered down, vague mirror of what we saw in the last Liberal term, which was big government, big debt, privilege, higher taxes, an ill-equipped military, and in the end, a nation that would welcome the return of a strong Conservative government.
I offer to my colleagues throughout this noble House that I will challenge and hold members opposite accountable to Canadians at all times, but also in times of need and personal need, I offer my hand in support.
I speak only a little French now, but I am working on improving my French.
I offer to my colleagues, friends, and family in this room, at home and in my riding, I may stumble along the way, but I will always work tirelessly in defending and championing proudly the Cariboo—Prince George riding. I will never forget who sent me to Ottawa.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I would like to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment to the position of Assistant Deputy Speaker.
As this is the first time I am speaking in the House, I wish to thank all 34,000 citizens of Nepean who voted for me to represent them in this august House. I pledge to work hard to serve all people of Nepean irrespective of their background and political viewpoints.
I would like to thank my friend, my partner, and my wife, Sangeetha, and our son, Siddanth, without whom I would not be here.
I would also like to thank the team of volunteers who committed so much time and energy to my campaign and who shared my vision for the great riding of Nepean.
I am also honoured to be one of only three Hindu Canadians who are members of the House. I am probably only the second person in the history of the Canadian Parliament to be sworn in by taking the oath on the Hindu holy book of Bhagavad Gita.
Canadians spoke loud and clear on October 19, echoing our call for real change. Of the several things Canadians voted for, I would like to highlight three issues. First, Canadians overwhelmingly voted against the politics of fear and division. Second, Canadians rejected the creation of second-class citizenship in Bill C. Third, Canadians voted for economic development through massive investment in infrastructure.
As I said, Canadians rejected the politics of fear and division. As the right hon. has said:
Fear is a dangerous thing. Once it is sanctioned by the state, there is no telling where it might lead. It is always a short path to walk from being suspicious of our fellow citizens to taking actions to restrict their liberty.
Canadians also rejected the second-class citizenship that was created by Bill . The previous government created two classes of citizenship, with the power to revoke citizenship resting with a politician. As has been said, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. We will repeal the unfair portions of Bill C-24.
Canadians also voted to stimulate the economy through massive investment in infrastructure to create long-term economic growth.
I have several objectives as a member of this esteemed institution. The first is to bring respect back for the public service and allow public service employees to deliver to the best of their ability. We will create policies based on scientific evidence, not ideological dogma. Prudence and pragmatism and not political ideology will influence decision-making. We will not legislate changes to service terms but work through the process of collective bargaining.
My next objective is to work on affordable housing. The wait time for affordable housing in my riding of Nepean is 15 years. There are more than 10,000 people on the wait list for affordable housing in the City of Ottawa. Research has shown that every dollar invested in affordable housing saves several dollars in long-term social costs.
My long-term objective is to work to develop a viable, alternative sector for the creation and sustainment of high-quality jobs in Nepean and Ottawa.
In Ottawa, the federal government is the largest employer, and the City of Ottawa is the second largest. Then we have the technology sector, which has seen the booms and busts of the wireless and telecom segments. Our children are moving out of Ottawa in search of jobs. There is a need to promote the development of a stable technology sector.
I served on the board of Invest Ottawa, with Mayor Jim Watson as the co-chair, and other leading business and institutional leaders as fellow directors. Invest Ottawa is doing great work in making the city the best place for companies across Canada and around the world to come and set up shop. There are about 1,700 knowledge-based companies in the city, a vast majority of which are small entities. Invest Ottawa is also helping these companies grow.
One thing I realized during my stint there is that, for economic development to take place in the city of Ottawa, there is a need for all three levels of government, municipal, provincial, and federal, to work hand in hand.
The City of Ottawa and the provincial government have joined hands and have equally shared the costs of a $30 million innovation centre that is currently being built. Currently, there is zero contribution from the federal government for this much-required institution.
During the last 10 years, the interaction among all three levels of government for the economic development of Ottawa has been quite minimal. I pledge to work hard to rectify this deficit.
There are 12 million working Canadians who do not have a workplace pension plan. Only 35% of Ontario workers have a workplace pension plan. In the private sector, the percentage of workers with a workplace pension plan is just 28%. It is possible that many of them will retire directly into poverty, thus increasing social costs. There is already an increasing number of working families who depend on the local food banks. There is a need for an enhanced pension plan. Our government has pledged to work with the provinces and territories to achieve this goal.
To conclude, I want to bring my experience, dedication, and passion for my country to Parliament. I will work hard for the families in Nepean and work with others to make our country and community stronger. I want to showcase to our children and grandchildren that politics is about public service and about giving back to society.
Madam Speaker, as this is my maiden speech in these hallowed chambers, I would like to begin by congratulating you on your appointment to your position, and to also extend sincere congratulations to all members present here this morning for winning their election.
Canadians wanted real change, and they got it by sending over 200 new faces to these chambers. I am privileged to be one of them. I am humbled and honoured to have earned the vote of the residents of Davenport, a riding I am proud to represent as its first female member of Parliament. I would like to say a heartfelt thanks to them for their confidence in me.
What is particularly amazing is that Davenport, a riding with the highest percentage of ethnic Portuguese, at almost 30%, voted for a woman with the last name of Dzerowicz. Indeed, my grandparents were immigrants. They were living in a displaced persons camp, which today would probably be called a refugee camp, after World War II in Germany, and were desperate to find a new country they could call home where they could rebuild their lives.
They came to Canada in the early 1950s with nothing. They were broken people in every way, financially, physically, and spiritually. They were sponsored by a Ukrainian family and started off life in Canada like most immigrants, taking any job that was available and beginning the long path to Canadian citizenship while learning a new language and a new culture and establishing a home for their family.
My mother came almost two decades later, born in Mexico. Her family was originally from northern Spain, from the Basque region. Her name is Maria Amparo Lizarraga Zatarain but one would never know that seeing my last name, which is Dzerowicz.
Canada represented, to my grandparents and parents, a country that stood for freedom, progress, opportunity, fairness, and compassion. I grew up in a working-class family that struggled to make ends meet in less than ideal living conditions. In spite of the daily struggle, my parents never missed an opportunity to remind me of the importance of education and hard work, and to never take for granted that I was lucky to live in Canada.
Indeed, one of the key reasons I became a member of Parliament is that I believe everyone should have the same opportunities I have had growing up, access to excellent affordable education, a healthy environment, great jobs and opportunities, and a social safety net to help just a little when times get tough. All these things are essential if each one of us is to achieve our full potential. I became an MP to protect and fight for them on behalf of all Canadians.
That is why I am honoured to speak to the measures in the Speech from the Throne today. They embody the values that are the foundation of this great country. They help create a Canada that will allow a person, a family to prosper, even if they come with nothing but a willingness to work hard and a desire to take advantage of the opportunities that are available. The Speech from the Throne sets the stage for a country that will be a strong global citizen, a leader in combatting climate change, a leader in promoting peace and fighting poverty, both nationally and internationally.
It should be no surprise that the measures in the Speech from the Throne positively benefit the residents of the Davenport riding, and I believe will do much to improve their lives, individually and for generations to come.
Davenport is a riding located in downtown west Toronto. It was largely a working-class riding until housing prices appreciated considerably over the last 10 to 15 years. The riding has now moved squarely into the middle-class category with an average household income of $67,000 and a median household income of $56,000.
Jobs and economy are the number one priority for the residents of Davenport. The costs of living keep increasing, wages have been largely flat for many years, and the growth of the economy has been slow for a large part of the last decade. The government's commitment to reducing taxes for the middle class means more money directly in the pockets of most of the residents of Davenport. Additional dollars will go a long way to help residents who are struggling to make ends meet on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Davenport is a wonderfully ethnic riding that very much reflects the beautiful diversity of cultures, religions, and languages in Toronto. Over 50% of residents were born outside of Canada, and they have been part of the amazing immigrant community that has built this great country. However, for too many years immigration issues and how difficult it is to become a Canadian citizen have been top issues for so many residents, families, and organizations in my riding.
Like my grandparents and parents and all other immigrants who came before, potential Canadians are looking for a clear path to citizenship. Indeed, if we are to have a strong 21st century economy, we have to get our immigration policy right. That is why this government's commitment to changing key aspects of Canada's immigration policy is so important, including doubling the new applications for parents and grandparents, accelerating current processing times, and providing immediate permanent residency to new spouses entering Canada.
Taken together, these changes signal to current and future Canadians that being an immigrant is not an imposition on existing Canadians. Indeed, it is we who are lucky to have people who want to apply, want to become Canadians, want to establish their family and start a new life here in Canada, and want to help build Canada into an even better country than it is today.
For almost 40 years, Davenport's very popular member of Parliament was Charles Caccia, or Carletto Caccia, as the Italians of my riding would say, who ahead of his time, was a passionate environmentalist and a great advocate for sustainability. This dedication to a green and sustainable environment is an ethos that continues to strongly permeate the Davenport riding and to influence me.
The residents of my riding have for many years been looking to Canada to step up to its responsibility to be a leader at both the national and international levels on the environment and to take meaningful action on climate change.
In Davenport and in communities across Canada, people are pleased to see that the Liberal government is acting on our commitment to protect our environment while growing our economy. It is doing this by joining in the Paris climate change talks, in which Canada has been asked to facilitate the final negotiations which are currently under way; announcing an additional $2.65 billion for a total of $4 billion, to help developing countries combat climate change; and by committing to develop a clear plan to combat climate change with the provinces and territories within 90 days of the end of the climate change talks.
In just a few short weeks since being elected we have taken meaningful steps toward a real plan that will make a difference at both the national and international stages.
Words matter, actions matter, and leadership matters.
Over the last few weeks, this government has taken some very concrete actions to illustrate our shared values and our commitment to freedom, equality, opportunity, fairness, and compassion, the very values that brought my grandparents and parents to this country.
We have assembled a diverse cabinet, one that reflects the Canada that we want to live in and one that inspires Canadians of all cultures in Davenport and across this country that they can reach for the stars and become anyone they want to be.
For the first time in Canadian history, the leads a cabinet that is gender balanced, an equal number of men and women, proving that sometimes we do not need quotas or legislation, but true leadership to create real change.
Similarly, this Liberal government is acting daily and aggressively on our extraordinary commitment to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February 2016. This action reflects Canadian values at their best.
I know I speak on behalf of many in Davenport when I say these measures have brought Canadians together and have made us proud to be Canadian.
I will end with a statement that the made a couple of years ago that has always stayed with me because it is the heart of why I am an MP and why I will always fight to create an even better Canada, “If we do not give every Canadian a chance to succeed, we do not live up to the potential of Canada.” This is what I think is at the very core of what the Speech from the Throne is about, creating the Canada that we want to live in, that we are proud to call our home, and that will allow each one of us to achieve our greatest potential.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am extremely humbled and honoured to stand here as the first member for . I want to thank my constituents for entrusting me to represent them. I want to congratulate all of my colleagues for their election or re-election, and I wish to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment as Assistant Deputy Speaker. I am committed to working collaboratively with all members in this room for the betterment of the country. I am proud to speak in support of the Speech from the Throne.
is one six ridings in the former city of Scarborough, now part of the city of Toronto. We have one of the most diverse communities in all of Canada.
Permit me to take hon. members through some of the priorities of my riding and the region. We are blessed with the best that nature has to offer, with the Rouge River, a new national park, the Toronto Zoo, Highland Creek, and the Scarborough waterfront, all offering some of the most beautiful landscapes in the GTA.
The Rouge Park is at the heart of my riding. It is a life's work for many individuals and groups. Our government is committed to bringing the full potential of the park to life. I am excited that the has, in his mandate letter to the , asked my colleague to work with the Ontario government to enhance the country's first urban national park, including improved legislation to protect the important ecosystem and to guide how the park will be managed.
I am very confident that we can all come together to build a national park in our region that will reflect the needs and aspirations of the community and leave a legacy for future generations.
Scarborough, like many suburban regions in our country, needs infrastructure. Starting next year, the co-op agreement for the 12 co-ops that exist in our riding will be expiring. We have over 900 families living in co-ops. We need to ensure that we work for the co-ops to have stable, predictable funding.
The previous government ignored the much-needed infrastructure of our community. We could not find a better time to invest in infrastructure. We have historically low interest rates. We need proper infrastructure to create much-needed jobs and to attract employers, and we have inherited an economy in need of a boost. This is why our government will invest to build much-needed infrastructure.
In , we need to upgrade our housing for veterans, and transportation to allow families to spend more time with each other than on the road, and community centres for youth and seniors, and co-op housing for our seniors.
Youth are an integral part of the riding. I am proud to represent an area with a large youth population. The Malvern and Danzig communities are great, vibrant places where youth thrive when given the right opportunities. Our youth need the right support. They need to stay in school and have increased employment opportunities and feel like they are part of the community. Our youth employment strategy will be essential to ensure that youth are able to develop the right skills at the right age to prepare them for the jobs of the future.
We need to create jobs and opportunities in . To this end, I am excited that the Rotary Club of Scarborough has undertaken a new Scarborough revitalization project. As part of the project, the Scarborough Business Association was inaugurated earlier this year. It is my hope that this association will be the centre of business and industry development in Scarborough and will lead to much-needed job creation. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the issues in my riding.
I am deeply disturbed by the continuous stigmatization of refugees, both in the House and outside. We have, in recent times, defined refugees as terrorists, burdens, and undesirables. We demonize them. We fail to understand and empathize with human suffering and humanitarian crisis.
Today, as we gather in the House, refugees from Syria are preparing to come to Canada and call this their new home. The hopes and aspirations of these Canadians are no different from the generations of refugees that came before and, I suspect, will be similar to those who will come after.
Canada welcomes our newest refugees with open arms, the same way we welcomed the Afghanis, the Kosovars, the Somalis, the Tamils, the Vietnamese, the Ismailis, and so on.
Some of us in the House were refugees ourselves at one point, and like all those who came before, are proud to give back to this country. Our , our , and a good friend representing the riding of are just such examples of this contribution.
I want to share with the House my story. I am a proud Tamil Canadian who came here as a refugee from Sri Lanka. The Tamil people are a persecuted nation. Over 100,000 Tamils have died in a bloody war. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has found that war crimes and crimes against humanity took place in Sri Lanka in the last phase of the war. Tamils are seeking justice, an international independent criminal investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Although the war ended in 2009, peace has evaded the island. There are reported cases of sexual violence; the military occupies land traditionally owned by Tamils; and Tamil political prisoners are lingering in jails, in some cases for decades. It is in this context that people fled, seeking a safe, secure place to raise their family.
In 2010, I had the opportunity to meet some of the Tamil refugees who came on the MV Sun Sea. I met countless men, women, and children. I will never forget the story of one of those women. In the last days of the war, she was hiding in a bunker with her husband and three children. She went to get water for her family. As she left the bunker, a shell hit and destroyed her life. Her three young children and her husband vanished in seconds. This mother had the courage to get on a ship with strangers, risking her life so that she could put her life back together. This is one refugee experience.
Canadians are doing the right thing to protect and give new life to 25,000 Syrians. We are focusing on getting the most vulnerable from the millions of prospective refugees currently in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. I wish to note on the record the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for working diligently to process and assist the millions of refugees. Canada's commitment to give an additional $100 million to UNHCR is welcome as the agency deals with one of the largest migrations in recent history. We will need to do more.
Finally, Canada is a shining example to the world of tolerance, equality, justice, and human rights. We are leading by example by bringing in and integrating refugees from Syria. In fact, over the course of our history many different peoples have called Canada home. We have built a just society that in many ways is the envy of the world.
Yet, in this just society there is great injustice. We have collectively failed our indigenous, Inuit, and Métis peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report has many stories of survivors. I encourage members to look at some of those stories. Our government has accepted the recommendations of the TRC by Justice Murray Sinclair. The recommendations, if fully implemented, would set a new way forward.
One of the recommendations in the report calls for an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls. Imagine a major Canadian metropolis, be it Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal or Halifax. Now imagine if 1,200 people went missing from any one of those cities within a span of 40 years. Then imagine 1,200 cases were unresolved. Can members imagine the outrage in those cities? How do we as Canadians accept 1,200 murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls in 40 years? Where do we even start addressing this issue?
I am proud that our government has committed to beginning this process of obtaining justice for the families. Our has demonstrated much-needed leadership on this issue. I am proud that our government will outline the mandate for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. The healing needs to start, but it cannot truly begin without a full understanding of the different parts that have led to this tragedy. This House, this Parliament, this time, we can reset the direction of our first peoples.
I wish to conclude by acknowledging that we are on the traditional lands of the Algonquin people and today, collectively in this House, we stand at the foot of history as we direct a new course, nation to nation, between Canada and its indigenous, Inuit, and Métis people.
Mr. Speaker, it is the greatest honour to rise in the chamber today as the new member of Parliament for South Shore—St. Margarets in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I wish to sincerely thank the voters of the riding who have put their faith in me and have given me the mandate and privilege of representing them in the House of Commons.
Becoming a member of Parliament has been a lifelong dream since my days as a young Liberal at St. FX University, and I know I will cherish this experience and never take it for granted. Like my new friend and colleague, the hon. member for , I am especially proud to become the first woman member elected in South Shore—St. Margarets and only the second member of the Liberal Party to represent the constituency.
I would like to take a moment today to express my thanks to my predecessor, the former member of Parliament for South Shore—St. Margarets, Mr. Gerald Keddy, for his 17 years of service to the riding and his commitment to the people he represented in the House. I know many of my colleagues from all parties served with Mr. Keddy over the years and can attest to his genuine kindness, hard work and dedication to his role as a member of Parliament.
As every elected member of the House knows, in addition to the residents of our communities, there are a few people without whose tireless support, loyalty, and dedication we would not be here today. I wish to extend the most heartfelt thanks to my family, my husband Dave and our three children, Isaac, Mason, and Rebecca, whose support and influence mean the world to me and made my election possible.
I would also like to commend my campaign team and those volunteers and supporters who gave up their time and worked many days and nights to elect all 338 members of the House. We all owe a great deal of gratitude to them.
On October 19, I was incredibly fortunate to be part of an historic change that Canadians asked for when they went to the polls. While I was inspired by the energy, enthusiasm, hope, and vision for a better Canada that would present incredible opportunities for our new government, it was the challenges that we faced in both my home community and right across the country that pushed me through the election campaign.
South Shore—St. Margarets is a vast and beautiful coastal region of Nova Scotia. It includes picturesque small towns, remote rural areas, and the suburbs of western Halifax. South Shore—St. Margarets is reflective of many ridings in our region and encompasses a significant variety of all of what life has to offer in Atlantic Canada. It also faces many of the common challenges. The out-migration of youth, chronic unemployment, industrial decline, and difficulty attracting newcomers are issues that I know many members face in their own communities. While we must overcome similar challenges, we also share many familiar possibilities for growth and prosperity.
For most of my life, I have been extremely fortunate to call this riding home. My passion for this area and the stellar examples of people making positive change in their communities was what inspired me to seek a seat in Parliament. I love my home and I want to see it grow and prosper, while maintaining its uniqueness.
Our government sees the potential of all Canadians, in all regions of the country, and believes that to grow our economy we have to give every Canadian a fair chance at success. To do so, we need to make the necessary investments to ensure that struggling communities and individuals can get ahead.
Throughout the campaign, I heard from those who had grown tired and cynical about government, believing no matter which party was elected their daily lives would remain the same and they would see no meaningful impact. I have great hope for this 42nd Parliament, that we can be the ones to start shifting this perception and we can support the kind of change families can see when they go to their grocery stores, their jobs, and when they care for and support loved ones.
That is why I am so proud to stand today as we prepare to introduce our plan for fairness, which was outlined in the Speech from the Throne. It is a plan for hard-working parents and individuals, families, and those who they support. It provides a helping hand to those who need it by asking a little more of those fortunate Canadians who have more to give.
Sustainable communities require a sustainable health care system. Through my role with the Health Services Foundation, I have seen first-hand how much changes at the federal level affect our local health systems.
The current Canada health and social transfer formula will see Nova Scotia lose $1 billion in health care funding over the next 10 years. That equates to $100 million a year in a province struggling to grow its economy and serve its citizens. This is why our government is committed to not only a new health accord, but also to collaborating and co-operating with the provinces to ensure that these investments are working to improve health outcomes on the ground.
Our plan will also involve significant investments in addressing the social determinants of health, including improvements to affordable housing, first nation education, and supporting seniors. The Canada child benefits, which I am incredibly proud to be supporting, will also help achieve this end in giving thousands of children across Canada a better chance for success from day one.
The South Shore is an area where our survival is intimately connected with our natural environment. The beauty that surrounds us provides prosperity and wellness through the industries and lifestyles that make us who we are. From forestry to fisheries, tourism to farming, to rocks and minerals, we depend on nature to sustain our communities. This is why, and I cannot stress this enough, the environment and economy are deeply intertwined and not mutually exclusive.
We must listen to our scientists when they tell us about the impacts of industrial policy on our natural resources, species at risk, and, of course, on climate change, though it does not seem that I need to tell our new this, as some exciting advances were made in Paris just this past week.
To this end, the government knows that we can grow our economy by making strategic infrastructure investments that will create thousands of jobs and opportunities for Canadians, while building the physical assets that we need to ensure our communities thrive, not just survive. This government will invest not only in roads and bridges, but in green infrastructure and technologies that will protect our environment, while promoting economic growth.
People in this riding also recognize that in the modern era we do not live in isolation from broader national and global pressures. This challenges us to think also in the best interests of all Canadians, not just those in our communities, and to also consider the struggles and issues facing our neighbours in the global community.
As an exporting nation and an exporting province, the demand for many of our products comes from partners in foreign markets who see great value and quality in the goods produced in the South Shore—St. Margarets area. Our seafood, lumber, agriculture, and manufactured products are among the best in the world. Therefore, we are highly connected to and interested in events around the globe.
We are also not immune to the tragedies we have seen emerge in other parts of the world. As Canadians, we must consider Canada's role on the world stage and our reputation for promoting and protecting peace, security, and human rights. We must continue to be a world leader in humanitarian aid, diplomatic influence, and provide a warm and welcoming environment for refugees fleeing terror and trauma in their home countries.
I am very proud of the efforts of the as well as the work done by the province of Nova Scotia to remind the world of who we are and what we stand for.
It is not just the efforts of governments; it is also the work of community groups across the country that are making these dreams a reality for those in search of a better future. A small community in my riding, Petite Riviere, will be welcoming a Syrian refugee family. I know how hard it is working to prepare for that arrival as early as January.
To address these complex issues in the long term, we must consider how these conflicts emerge in the first place and how other policies and practices lead to or prevent them from occurring in the future. We must always respond to these events in a Canadian way, with care, compassion and forethought, not only for our own but also for those around the world. These are the visions and values embraced by our government, and were evident in the Speech from the Throne.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the task and opportunity that we have at hand. We must show Canadians an unparalleled level of co-operation and unity of purpose with the provincial governments and municipalities, and encourage collaborative thinking. I trust this will happen under your leadership, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the illustrious member for .
I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the Liberal government's first Speech from the Throne. This is my first time rising in this new Parliament as the member for the newly configured riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. I am also the official opposition critic for wildlife conservation and Parks Canada.
First, I would like to thank the voters of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa for placing their trust in me yet again, and to take a moment to congratulate my fellow members of Parliament, both new and re-elected, on their victories in the last federal election.
As the official opposition, Canadians expect us to hold the government to account and ensure that we present an alternative vision to the Liberals' agenda. That is why much of what I heard in Friday's throne speech concerned me greatly.
First, there was no mention about how to create a climate for investment and economic growth. I expected this, since the Liberals and their fellow travellers on the left, the NDP, focus on spending as much money as they can while never advancing or promoting policies that will actually create wealth.
I would remind them that a focus on creating wealth is a necessary prerequisite to spending. However, I hold little hope in this regard. Deficits will balloon under the government, while investment will wither on the vine as businesses and wealth creators are increasingly punished for creating jobs. The new payroll tax, in the guise of a changed CPP, is a perfect example.
Second, as a member of Parliament for a large agricultural and natural resources-based constituency, I was amazed and very disappointed by the complete lack of any reference in the throne speech to agriculture and rural Canada. Agriculture generates over $100 billion for the Canadian economy, and Canada's natural resources industries, largely based in rural Canada, are the backbone of the Canadian economy. Well, that is until the Liberals finish off the natural resources sector with punitive taxation and a regulatory regime designed to endlessly delay any new natural resource development anywhere in Canada.
In fact, rural communities appear to have been largely forgotten. The Liberals have made specific promises regarding public transit, for example. Of course, public transit is important in large urban centres, but it is largely non-existent in my riding.
How do the Liberals plan on compensating our communities? We do not have public transit where I live and where I represent, but we do have infrastructure needs. Will the Liberals match the investments in urban transit with rural infrastructure projects?
The Canadian natural resources sector is suffering, as are those natural resource-dependent communities in rural Canada. Crude oil is below $40. With the proposed carbon tax and onerous regulatory regime layered on top of low prices, it is clear that the Liberals and their fellow travellers in the NDP have basically declared war on Canada's energy sector and our natural resources industries.
I find this appalling because when it comes right down to it, the energy business is basically a people business. Let me explain. Canada's natural resources sector employs over $1.8 million Canadians, and the energy sector supports about 300,000 jobs alone. In the winter of 2009-10, like many of my constituents, I worked in the Alberta oil sands conducting environmental monitoring. In that capacity, I met Canadians from every province who were supporting themselves and their families by working in the oil sands. I met senior couples saving for a dignified retirement, young people saving for their first home, and moms and dads putting away money for their children's education.
Apart from the fact that Canada's oil sands operate under a strict regime of environmental compliance and real excellence, it is the people and employees, supported by the oil sands, who are the real driving force behind this vital industry. It is Canadians from all across Canada who will be affected by the Liberals deliberate strategy to shrink the oil sands.
How much of the expected $570 billion that was earmarked for new investments will now not be spent? How many manufacturers in Ontario and Quebec will not get equipment orders? How many vehicles will not be purchased by energy workers? How many homes will stay unsold? How many people from high unemployment areas who formerly commuted to the oil sands will now be forced to stay home collecting employment insurance? How many vital public services will now be starved for funds?
I had the honour in the last Parliament to be a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, and the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Both fit well with my experience as a fisheries biologist and my careers in natural resources and conservation. In those capacities, I have developed a singular focus on the delivery of real and measurable environmental results for every public dollar spent.
That was the policy of our government, and I am very proud of our record in delivering real and measurable environmental results from our programs.
Under our watch, most measurable environmental indicators showed marked improvements. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions declined. On our watch, the UN, in 2010, declared that Canada ranked number two in terms of the quality of our water when compared with other industrialized nations.
Our government set aside an area for national parks that is twice the size of the province of New Brunswick. We cleaned up hundreds of contaminated sites, introduced major fisheries habitat conservation programs, improved wetland conservation, and initiated major work to improve water quality in Lake Winnipeg and the Great Lakes.
I would point out to the House that within their first month in office, the Liberals have made eight funding announcements, costing Canadians almost $2.85 billion. None of that money is going to be spent in Canada, and none of those funds were approved by Parliament or even announced when Parliament was sitting. Most will be spent on international climate change projects.
The question I keep asking, both with this $2.85 billion as well as with other points in my speech, is what do Canadians get for these funds? Government spending is all about priorities, and pressing environmental investments need to be made right here in Canada. For example, Lake Erie is being seriously affected by nutrient inputs, primarily from the United States. In fact, all of the Great Lakes, where 40% of Canadians live by the way, are experiencing eutrophication from an ever-increasing number of non-point sources.
These are the kinds of environmental issues that Canadians expect governments to work on, yet the Liberal government's priority is to send almost 400 delegates to Paris, more than the U.S., Britain, and Australia combined. Generating real and measurable environmental results is what Canadians expect but will certainly not get from the Liberal government.
By the way, it was truly astonishing that the first act by our new was to allow Montreal to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence, one of Canada's most iconic waterways. This was in direct violation of section 36 of the Fisheries Act. So much for the Liberals' vaunted concern for the environment.
In the throne speech, the Liberal government promised to introduce a carbon tax, thus increasing cost to industry, further depressing energy investments, and increasing direct energy costs to Canadians. There are two groups of Canadians who will be directly affected by this carbon tax, namely low-income and rural Canadians, the kind of people I represent. If it were not so serious, I would find it laughable that the Liberals claim to care so much about low-income Canadians. They are doing their best to put at risk the incomes of poor people and those who live in remote rural regions.
I would note that both low-income people and rural people spend a higher proportion of their incomes on energy than other Canadians. It is my expectation that any carbon pricing be revenue neutral and have a mechanism to offset the negative impacts of such a tax on low-income and rural people.
Furthermore, it is obvious that the federal Liberal government wants to take us down the same energy path as its friends in Ontario. How is that working out? Ontario's Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, recently valuated the Ontario Liberal's vaunted green energy strategy. She noted that Ontario electricity ratepayers have had to pay billions for these decisions. Between 2006 and 2014, this cost consumers an additional $37 billion in Ontario, and will cost ratepayers another $133 billion by 2032.
In the Toronto Star recently, of all places, there was an article by Thomas Walkom entitled “Ontario's green energy botch-up a lesson for those fighting climate change”. This article talked about Ontario's approach of massively subsidizing the production of electricity from solar and wind and biomass, resulting in a massive overproduction of power from Ontario that has to literally pay other jurisdictions to take its power. Interestingly, Ontario's annual average energy surplus between 2009 and 2014 was equal to the total power generation of my province of Manitoba, one of the major hydro producers in this country.
Furthermore, by dumping excess power on the market, Ontario has depressed energy prices for all producers. As Walkom notes, “Canadians are willing to pay a price now to save the future. But these same Canadians will rebel if they believe the governments inducing them to pay carbon taxes are incompetent, venal or both”. What we see in Ontario is the likely outcome of the energy policies of the federal government.
I would like a quick word on the firearm's issue. I was chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus, and my critic portfolio includes protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms owners. The Liberals have declared their intention to attack law-abiding firearms owners once again. The Liberals are soft on crime and tough on law-abiding firearms owners. Talk about reverting to type. Again, we see them wanting to repeal Bill , the Common Sense Firearms Licensing Act, which ensured public safety was protected while at the same time protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms owners.
In conclusion, I have stressed just a few of the questions that Canadians have been raising in regard to the Liberal agenda.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand before you today in this honoured House in response to the government's Speech from the Throne.
I would like to begin by thanking my constituents of Langley—Aldergrove for, once again, giving me the great honour to be their voice in Canada's Parliament. I and my beautiful wife, Diane, love our community of Langley—Aldergrove. Four generations of Warawas have called Langley their home and, with our five children and 10 grandchildren, we expect many more generations of Warawas are to come.
I also want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your posting as Deputy Speaker.
I also want to thank the member for for the incredible job he did in the number of Parliaments in which I served with him. He is passionate about the environment and has been very effective in working on the environment for Canadians.
I also want to thank the interim leader for Canada's official opposition, the member for . She has given me the great privilege of being Canada's voice for seniors across this great country. Taking care of Canadian seniors has always been a priority for the Conservative Party, and Canadians appreciate greatly the work that the previous government did for seniors.
I am very concerned that the new did not appoint a minister for seniors. I am also concerned that seniors were not mentioned at all in the Speech from the Throne and that the new Liberal government has no plan to keep the promises it made to seniors during the election campaign.
The speech delivered by the Governor General on behalf of the new government called on the chamber to represent the diverse voices of Canadians, which include seniors. It also called on parliamentarians to work together collaboratively to improve the lives of all Canadians, and in this spirit, I stand before the House today. While I agree with the government that the economy and the job creation is very important, as is the strengthening of the middle class, there has been a serious omission. The government forgot to address a growing Canadian demographic with unique concerns. Seniors have been forgotten or ignored.
As we know, right now, one in six Canadians is a senior. In 14 short years, one in four Canadians will be a senior. That is a fundamental shift. Canada needs a sustainable plan for seniors that will meet their needs. While the Speech from the Throne mentions an enhancement to the Canada pension plan for future generations, the Liberal government does not have a plan for seniors' needs today. It is vitally important not only that Parliament create programs that are beneficial to Canadians, but that those programs be financially sustainable and secure. This would ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the stability and economic security that we all enjoy today, due to the past government. Changes to the CPP in the future will not address the needs of seniors today.
I am very concerned that health care and the health of seniors do not appear to be a priority of the new government. The development of a new health accord does not address the growing need for a national palliative care strategy due to Canada's aging population. It is very important that the Liberal government present a plan to ensure quality of life for seniors and all Canadians.
In May of last year, in the 41st Parliament, members voted on a private member's motion calling for the creation of a national strategy on palliative and end-of-life care. That motion passed unanimously in the House, and I want to thank the member for for bringing it to the House. Every Conservative, Liberal, and NDP member supported that motion, including the new . I urge the new Liberal government to keep that promise and immediately start to create the national strategy on palliative and end-of-life care.
One important aspect of palliative care is the caregivers. Caregivers are both medical professionals—such as doctors, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists—and family members and friends. All of these groups and people must work together to create a healthy, supportive, and loving environment for a dying person. That is not to say that the task is either easy or free of economic concerns. Too often the painful choices that families must make in the care of their loved ones are tied to financial concerns.
This is why the compassionate care benefit was developed to help Canadian families struggling with the impending loss of a loved one, in order to ensure that families have the ability to leave their employment for a period of time to care for the dying loved one or friend. The program was launched in 2004, and it has been growing ever since. When the program was launched, it provided financial support to a very restricted list of caregivers for a period of up to six weeks in a 26-week window. I am very proud that our Conservative government expanded the benefits from six weeks to six months and let the dying persons choose who would be their care provider. It is also important to note that Canadian women represent 75% of claimants of the compassionate care benefit.
In addition to the increase in eligible time that can be claimed for the compassionate care benefit, our Conservative government of the past nearly doubled the funding for this important program from $6.9 million in 2004-2005 to $12 million in 2013-2014. This is part of what led to the increase of caregivers, that they receive the support they need. This support is a real demonstration that the government can show Canadian caregivers and their loved ones that their federal government cares about their plight and wants to help them in the painful ordeal of losing a loved one.
While the government is on the right track to follow our support for caregivers, it does not address the other issue raised in Motion No. 456 in the last Parliament. I would like to encourage the government to present this House with a national palliative care strategy that takes into account Canada's geographic, regional, and cultural diversity. As legislators, we are faced with the challenge of an aging population. In my role as critic for seniors, I must shine a light on this important issue, and that is why I bring it up today.
Another concerning omission from the throne speech is the issue of elder abuse. How is the legalization of marijuana going to prevent elder abuse? While I applaud the government's decision to provide further support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, preventing violence against seniors is just as important. Elder abuse exists in numerous ways: physical and sexual abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, financial abuse, and neglect. All of these areas are harmful when they occur to any Canadian, but there is a special grievous nature to the crimes when they are committed against the most vulnerable Canadians.
To give an example, we were all shocked and saddened to learn last year of the restraint and robbery suffered by a 101-year-old man, Second World War veteran, retired Colonel Ernest Côté, here in Ottawa. This crime rocked the community and shone the light on a vulnerable demographic that is growing. While on this case, I mention the crime was perpetrated by a stranger.
What makes elder abuse unique is that quite often the abuser is an individual who is trusted by the senior. Family members, assistance providers, and friends can provide important care, or they may be a danger to a senior. It is important that Canadians, especially seniors, are aware of the signs of elder abuse, and that they know who they can call for help. What is the government's plan to educate seniors and the public about signs and dangers of elder abuse? We do not see anything.
The real test for the current Liberal government is whether it will deliver. Canadians want promises kept and a sustainable plan that will lead to long-term results, given our Conservative values that seniors are important, but unfortunately they are not a priority to a Liberal government.
The official opposition cannot support the throne speech as it has been presently written.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I hope that I can take a moment to enjoy this moment because it is truly unique. Many of us, 200 plus, are enjoying what I am enjoying right now. I would like to also relay my thanks to the good people of who, with their support, have made this moment for me possible and I hope to serve them with honour.
It has been a long time since I have been considered a rookie at anything.
I hope that one day I will be much better at speaking French.
For me to go any further would be harmful to the ears of my colleagues who are proficient in French. My high school French goes only so far, but even at my age, I intend to work on this, because this place is the place of expansion of ideas, expansion of spirit, an expansion of things getting done.
Of course at home, the languages I could learn would include Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Tagalog, and many, many others. In fact, was described by a member of the B.C. Legislature as a mini-Canada. We have our industries to the north along the Fraser River. Along the Serpentine River, there are grand areas of agriculture.
We have very diverse neighbourhoods in , robust Muslim, South Asian, and Asian communities that really do build the character of the community. Of course we have the Katzie First Nation on Barnston Island as part of our riding.
Truly, like Canada itself, ours is a community that draws its strength and its character from its diversity, not in spite of it. It is a privilege to be here in the Commons to be its voice.
It is also a privilege to once again collaborate with many present in this House. Of course I have my new colleagues from Surrey who have also been successful in the election, but as I look across the way, there are some who have worked with me in the past. For instance, I recognize the member for who, with me, worked on initiatives to reduce the number and severity of traffic crashes in British Columbia, and very effectively indeed.
Almost 17 years ago now, the member for , then a cabinet minister in the government of British Columbia, was instrumental in working with me and the Vancouver Police to remove a product called rice alcohol from the streets of Downtown Eastside. The Downtown Eastside is racked by many problems. This very toxic potion was one of them and it was being sold under the counter in convenience stores. With that member's help, we got it regulated and off the street, and out of the misery that contributes to people in that part of Vancouver.
In recent years, the member for and I worked with many others to advance the cause of light rail rapid transit for Surrey, she as mayor, and I as a senior staff member at metro Vancouver's regional transportation authority.
The people back home will be happy to see all the new Liberal members from Surrey, plus the member for , and our former mayor, collaborate to bring light rail to reality for the people of Surrey. The election campaign was my first, and it proved to be a real privilege to take a message of real change to so many people in , to so many different doorsteps.
People in , as in the rest of Canada, have high expectations that this Parliament will accomplish many things, not just the people on this side of the House, but people on all sides of the House, as we collaborate and move things forward. If it is a good idea, it does not matter who has it, it should be discussed, debated, and enacted. That was a clear message out of our election campaign.
itself is a relatively prosperous riding. Our Fraser Heights area is beautiful. We have estate homes in beautiful settings. Our Fleetwood and Chimney Hills communities are very solid middle class. It is a place where family, community, and individual initiatives have become the foundations for a very, very strong community and a very prosperous one.
However, during the campaign on the doorsteps in Guildford, it was a different story. It was clear that many families, and many of them newcomers to British Columbia and to Canada, were having a tough time.
It was a serious matter to be able to talk to them about a tax cut on middle incomes and about a non-taxable Canada child benefit that would put more money on the kitchen table for them each and every month. We could see in their eyes what a difference those measures would make. What we saw in their eyes was hope. Because of that, I was very proud of our party, our program, and our leader, because we could offer them the hope that real change would bring.
Beyond that, I was also immensely proud of the way our community responded. People seemed to realize once again something that had been missing from the national dialogue. We got too used to being conditioned to be taxpayers and consumers. During the campaign, we discovered that we are also citizens of a country that, historically, has shared care for the common good.
As the votes were counted from our well-to-do neighbourhoods, I became even more proud of because, let us face it, they were the ones who would see their taxes go up as a result of the Liberal program. However, it was clear when the tallies came in that so many of them had validated our leader's faith that those who have a lot will not mind paying a little more to give a hand up to the people who need it.
Our program to build the nation's foundation through infrastructure investments resonated very strongly with people. We could also see in their eyes that they lived in nice houses and they had families who were doing well, but there was this shadow of an economy that threatened their jobs, and the security of our economy was of critical importance to them. They could see how the investments of an activist government that was just not prepared to sit back and let the private sector carry the load meant something to them.
There were so many others, people who make up a large percentage of our population, who agreed with us that would-be Canadians should be measured by the size of their hope, courage, and spirit, and not just by the size of their wallets. I am an old guy. I grew up in Canada in a time when it earned its reputation as being a refuge for people in distress. I remember the news in 1956 and 1957, when we welcomed 38,000 refugees from Hungary, with a population of just 15 million people. I remember from 1975 to 1980 the Vietnamese boat people. There were 55,000 of them from a war-torn part of the world who came to Canada. I also remember the 6,000 Muslims who were given 90 days to leave Uganda. We took them in.
This is the Canada that I grew up with in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, when I was truly a rookie at almost everything. Now, it is the Canada that we are seeing again. Synagogues, Sikh temples, mosques, and churches have gathered together to welcome the Syrian refugees. Just last Sunday, the BC Muslim Association hosted an event in Surrey that in one night raised $300,000 to welcome these people properly.
I have to say that, on balance, it is a pleasure to be a rookie again and work at restoring and preserving the Canada that we love and that the world loves for myself, my kids, and all of us here.
Mr. Speaker, congratulations.
I want to begin by thanking my wife, Amy Symington, my parents, and my family and friends for their love and support through this year's marathon campaign. I thank also the hundreds of volunteers who worked tirelessly to give me this opportunity and all the residents of Beaches—East York who put their trust and confidence in me.
I am especially proud of my community's recent efforts to come together in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis. Many neighbours have pledged both their time and money to welcome refugees into our community. I commend the work of local churches, community organizations, and hard-working, caring individuals.
It is an important reminder that long-term peace is forged by a compassionate and inclusive society. I see those values as my fellow neighbours work to welcome newcomers into our community and do their part in our world. Equally, our response to the Syrian refugee crisis is a reminder that we can and should work to put politics aside. In doing so, we have the ability to accomplish great things.
I am one of 197 new MPs, and my home riding sent me here to take a new approach, one focused on honest debate, respectful disagreement, and building consensus.
Pollsters tell us that less than a quarter of Canadians have faith in our democracy. I am asking everyone in this House to help change that. I believe that politics is a noble profession and I am naive enough to want every Canadian to feel pride in the work that we will do here when they watch us in action. Canadians agree on more than we often realize. Rather than scoring points and tearing each other down, we should work as hard as we can to prioritize agreement.
In the throne speech, we were promised a government that is smart and caring. Those two themes are important: fiscal responsibility and social progress — matching a social justice perspective and an investment outlook.
There are any number of issues where we may disagree on why we support a given policy or initiative, but we do in fact agree on the end conclusion. It is our job to point these out, and many of these issues were rightfully highlighted in the throne speech. I will mention five.
First is a recommitment to science, evidence and data-driven government. In the U.S., former officials in the Obama and Bush administrations estimate that less than one out of every hundred dollars of government spending is backed by even the most basic evidence that the money is being spent wisely. We experienced similar problems here in Canada, yet good data is central to good decision-making. We need to collect better data about the policies and programs that work, to fund or increase funding for what works, and to direct funds away from those programs that fail to achieve measurable outcomes.
I am proud that 2016 will be a census year, but that must be only the beginning. Fairness requires that our social programs are effective. Reason requires that they are also efficient. Good data is essential for both.
Second, we should work across the aisle to end poverty in this country. Our Canada child benefit is one significant piece to that puzzle. It is effectively a guaranteed annual income for kids and families in need. As an aside, a basic annual income has been advocated by those in both the traditional left and the traditional right, including the hon. Hugh Segal.
Bringing kids out of poverty is obviously a matter of social justice. It is on its face the right thing to do, but we also know that kids lifted out of poverty are more likely to finish high school, go to university or college, and contribute to our economy in a serious way, not to mention the savings in future social assistance, criminal justice, and health care.
In 1989, this House unanimously committed to ending child poverty by the year 2000. It is now 2015 and over one million children still live below the poverty line, but the importance of that objective should not be forgotten.
Our benefit aims to bring over 300,000 of those kids above the poverty line. More work obviously remains to be done, but it is an important initial commitment. We will not dictate how the money should be spent. We will simply ensure that the money is targeted to those families in real need.
Third is public infrastructure investment. We talk a lot about deficits in the House, but we should be clear which deficit most concerns us. My primary concern is the infrastructure deficit. It exceeds $120 billion across the country, according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It costs our economy billions of dollars in productivity every year.
The Board of Trade of Toronto has estimated that congestion costs the GTA economy at least $6 billion every year. The C.D. Howe Institute estimates that this figure exceeds $11 billion in the GTHA. If we do not make investments in core infrastructure and public transit now, it will cost us more in the long run. With interest rates at historic lows, we have a unique opportunity to invest.
In the spirit of not scoring points, let me remind Canadians that investment in infrastructure rose from 2.5% of GDP a year in 2000 to 2006 to 3.3% in 2007 to 2012. In other words, our former Conservative government understood the need for public infrastructure investment, made historic investments, and we are continuing and expanding upon that work.
Fourth is our environment. The provinces have moved forward in the absence of federal leadership over the last 10 years. We need to work with them. Without question, there is a significant future cost to climate change. Reports tell us that inaction will ultimately cost us more than action.
For starters, we need to ensure effective carbon pricing across our country. In 2008, B.C. implemented an effective carbon price that is revenue neutral. I am encouraged by similar efforts to date in Alberta.
The spoke of intrusive government yesterday, but there is a consensus among economists about the usefulness of a carbon price. It is supported by those who believe in free markets. It emphasizes the principle that polluters should pay. It is a classic economic response: internalizing the externalities imposed on our environment that are not adequately captured in the current price of fossil fuels. When Preston Manning and the cross-partisan Ecofiscal Commission are calling for carbon pricing, it is quite clearly not the job-killing tax on everything that Canadians have been repeatedly told.
Fifth is health care, including preventive health care and a focus on the social determinants of health, poverty alleviation, and better support for nutrition and physical activity programs. There are many steps we can take to improve Canadians' quality of life, all the more important when one considers that an unhealthy Canadian costs our public system $10,000 more per year than a healthy Canadian.
Similarly, we must heed the call of the Canadian Medical Association and invest in home care and long-term care facilities. Hospital stays can cost over $1,000 per day, long-term care $130, and home care as little as $55 a day. As seniors already represent 50% of health care spending, it is incumbent on us both to improve the quality of care and to create savings in our health care system.
There are many other ideas and issues to add to this list, from expanding the housing first initiative to reversing unjust tough on crime policies that put more Canadians in jail at an average annual cost of $120,000, to a public health approach to drug policy, and on and on.
Finally, there are a number of initiatives that respect the rights and freedoms of Canadians and the openness of government without affecting the public purse. Our merit-based and practical plan for Senate reform to remove partisanship and patronage in the upper chamber is endorsed by constitutional experts.
I look forward to helping craft death-with-dignity legislation to protect the constitutional rights of the terminally ill; to demanding better customer service from our government agencies for Canadians in times of need, especially in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; to fixing Bill to ensure that our charter rights are respected; to bringing animal welfare laws into the 21st century; and to adopting long-overdue electoral reform, not only making every vote count but also strengthening Elections Canada and respecting the freedom to vote our conscience, as promised by the Right Hon. Prime Minister.
I want to end on this note and stress the importance of independence in the House, the importance of thoughtfulness, and the importance of respectful disagreement. I am a proud member of the Liberal caucus, but I am prouder still of standing here in the House as the voice of all residents of Beaches-East York.
I look forward to being a strong voice for my riding in the House over the next four years and to working with each and every member in the House for all Canadians, to build consensus, to prioritize those issues where there is consensus, and to be a government that gets things done.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
As this is my maiden speech in the House of Commons, I would like to thank the people of Vancouver East for giving me a strong mandate to represent them in the House of Commons, in the people's House.
Vancouver East is a wonderfully diverse group of neighbourhoods and communities that come together to form an incredibly diverse part of our city, our province and our country. Whether refugees, immigrants, new Canadians, retirees, young people working to make a start, artists and writers from the creative community who feed our soul, or people who are homeless, grappling with addiction issues or mental health challenges, or grass-roots activists who give strength to the fight for a better tomorrow, in Vancouver East everyone makes a contribution to our community. The activism in Vancouver East is unparalleled. We fight hard for what we believe in. We are so proud to be a pro-democratic movement for social, economic, and environmental justice in an unequal world.
In Vancouver East, we know that addressing the social determinants of health is key to healthy communities. We are never afraid to fight to be the agent of positive social change for the entire nation. The way forward for a better future demands that we address the root causes of past injustices. Canada has a shameful chapter of how indigenous peoples have been treated. The effects of colonialism have had a profound effect for the first peoples of this land. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released a report to say, “The disappearances and murders of indigenous women in Canada are part of a broader pattern of violence and discrimination against indigenous women in the country.”
It makes my heart sing to see in the throne speech the government's commitment to a national inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. I do hope, with all my heart, that this nation will finally address the root causes that exacerbate the violence against indigenous women and girls. The New Democrats stand ready to work with the government to fulfill this important election promise.
The throne speech stated, “...the Government believes that all Canadians should have a real and fair chance to succeed”. If this statement is to ring true, and I do hope that it does, is it not time to have a national plan with real targets and progress reports to end poverty? After all, it is 2015, and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent's motion to eradicate poverty, supported by every member of the House, was made in 1989. It is startling to me that in Canada 19% of the children live in poverty. That is 1.3 million children. In B.C. alone, that is 170,000 children.
It is a myth to say that people choose to be on welfare. People do not choose to live in poverty. A parent does not choose to send his or her child to bed hungry. The majority of the people on income assistance are people with disabilities, people who are just trying to make ends meet, and people who are working multiple low-income jobs, minimum wage jobs. It does not have to be this way. If we ask the people of Vancouver East, they will tell us that closing stock option loopholes and investing in a plan to eliminate poverty is an easy choice for the government to make.
Though the throne speech did not mention child care, I do hope that the government will recognize that an affordable national universal child care program would ensure that we are taking care of future generations by laying a strong foundation for success.
In East Vancouver, it is a struggle to find accessible, affordable, quality child care, yet we know that early childhood development is good for the child, the family, and the economy. Families and business leaders know that a national child care program equals economic prosperity for the nation. What goes in tandem with that is a national housing program. We do not have to be rocket scientists to know that ending homelessness is not just plausible, but possible. It requires political will.
During the campaign, Liberal candidates promised to renew the co-op housing agreements that were set to expire and to bring back a national housing plan. While housing was not mentioned in the throne speech, I do hope those are not just empty words. It is important for Vancouver East that the federal government gets back to being a committed housing partner and starts building safe, secure, affordable, social housing, and co-ops once again.
From the young to the old, our seniors deserve dignity and support in their golden years. They should not have to worry about not being able to access health care, prescription drugs, home support or having a roof over their heads. Lifting seniors out of poverty by increasing the guaranteed income supplement and returning the retirement age from 67 to 65 is what the government has promised them. In the days ahead, I hope the government will lay out its plan to deliver on that promise. We are worthy of a Canada that honours all those who have sacrificed so much so we can have a better future.
My parents immigrated to Canada because it was a beacon of freedom, hope and opportunity. They dared to dream for a better future for their children, they dared to seek opportunities to make a better life, and they dared to cherish our freedoms and civil liberties.
I am honoured to be the NDP critic for immigration, refugees and citizenship. I look forward to working with the minister and his parliamentary secretary, along with the Conservative critic and deputy critic, on this important portfolio. From honouring the commitment to bring 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees to Canada, to eliminating the backlog for family reunification, to spousal sponsorship applications to getting rid of arbitrary quotas, to addressing concerns with the temporary foreign workers program and removing barriers to citizenship, there is much work to be done.
No Canadian should be made to feel that they are second-class citizens, not immigrants, not those with dual citizenships, no one. The Liberal government promised to repeal Bill . It promised to reverse the invasion of privacy and threat to civil liberties in Bill . Canadians are ready for change. In the days ahead, I hope to see concrete plans and timelines for these election promises, because it is important for the government to deliver on what it promises. The plans that were campaigned on were ambitious, but the expectations need to be met post-election.
We have a collective responsibility to leave our country a better place than what we inherited from the last generation. I look forward to working with all members of the House to do just that.
As the final words in my maiden speech, I want to also thank everyone who worked on my campaign team: the volunteers, the staff, the people who put their trust in me and who toiled in a long election campaign to send me here. I will live by the words of the late Dr. David Lam to “bring honour to the title” that the people have bestowed in me with the work that I do.
Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to thank the voters of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River who have placed their trust in me to represent them in this Parliament. I thank them very much, for my volunteers and the support I have received in my riding.
I am standing here today as a Dene woman from a small village in the northern part of Saskatchewan called La Loche. From my front door, I can see the rich boreal forest and can hear the children playing by Lac La Loche where generations of children have played and mothers have washed their families' clothes from time immemorial.
In my mind, I can travel along Highway 155 south to where it meets the Churchill River at Île-à-la-Crosse. From there the river travels north to the tiny hamlet of Patuanak, east through the boreal forest to Pinehouse Lake, then on to Stanley Mission, where the river seems of two minds: continue east to Pelican Narrows and Sandy Bay, or cut out north to Wollaston Lake where the currents curve back to the west, to Lake Athabasca and then into Alberta to join the mighty Mackenzie River.
Even as I say the names of these places, I cannot help but feel a little homesick, because it is a place of a beauty beyond parallel for me.
The proper appreciation of that environment means protecting against its destruction and recognizing the traditional owners of that land. This is done by recognizing the treaties and inherent rights of the Métis to maintain their traditional way of life, which is intrinsically tied to this geography, and for these people to be included not as an afterthought or as courtesy, but as equals. They must be consulted about any use or occupation of this traditional land.
This past summer, we lived through a devastating fire season. The elders say that we will have another one again soon.
The immediacy of climate change is all too real for people who live in this part of the boreal forest, who see the summer storms coming over from the west, bringing only lightning strikes that ignite fires, instead of replenishing the lakes and rivers.
For us in the north, climate change is all too real, and it is apparent we must take real action. How often, though, do we reflect on northern Saskatchewan with much different thoughts in our minds than its natural beauty? We hear that the north, as we call it back home, has the highest incidence of violent crime and interpersonal violence, highest rates of suicide, highest rates of alcohol consumption and abuse, highest rates of mental illness. However, sometimes we are also the lowest: lowest rates of educational achievement, lowest rates of employment, lowest average incomes.
My first thought is to stand here and ask for help. That is what a leader would do, and I have been asked to do that from time to time. However, that implies that we are helpless, and we are not.
Our communities and population want recognition of these problems and want understanding. We want it understood that, when we speak of interpersonal violence, we are not talking just about an act a person perpetrated against another person. We need to talk about the whole context of that act.
When we talk about an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, we are not asking for an incident report or even a string of incident reports that only itemize criminal facts. That would have no purpose.
Even the phrase “an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women” acknowledges that this violence is neither normal nor acceptable. Clearly, we would not have an inquiry into something that is normal or acceptable.
Perhaps the biggest danger we face as a community is to say that it is just a normal thing that happens in these places.
It is the entrenchment of complacency when communities themselves think that this violence is normal, that it is acceptable, and that it is the northern way. How can healing take place when we are conditioned to accept that this level of violence is normal?
An inquiry amounts to recognition that this is not a problem for any one community, nor is it a problem that can be resolved in isolation at the community level. What is required is for all groups, including indigenous groups, governments, our justice systems, and our police, to work together to help our communities heal and to give them space to heal. By “space”, I do mean physical space in some cases.
In northern Saskatchewan, we only have one women's shelter for 40,000 people. That is one structure for all of northern Saskatchewan where women and children can go to escape violence.
While climate change and the inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women are issues that touch me and the communities I represent, the people in my riding have many other concerns.
Ours is one of the most diverse ridings in the country. Our large boreal forests and lakes are bordered to the south by rich agricultural farmland. North and south, there are only a few cities. Mostly, our riding is a collection of villages and small towns. Many of these are thriving, but some are struggling. The boom and bust cycle means that economic hard times are never far away from resource-dependent communities. The challenge for parliamentarians is how we can help create economic opportunities to ensure the equality of opportunity to break the cycle of welfare dependency. That is the key to getting people out of stressful situations, and to help children grow to be strong, resilient, and proud.
It is a question that I ask myself now, and because I am standing here, I am asking that question of the government.
Clearly, education is one of the keys. For first nations and for everyone, equality of opportunity means, above all, equal access to educational resources. It means funding schools on reserves as well as the schools in the villages or towns down the road are funded. We know that the government has committed itself to that end. If it is able to deliver, I will gladly commend it for that. However, I will remind the government that, while commitments are good, action is better: more of the first, and even more of the second.
I told my constituents while I was campaigning that I would fight for equal access to child care spaces. My constituency has one of the highest natural population growth rates in the country. It also has very high dependency rates. That is a lot of kids to look after. What good are employment opportunities for young mothers if there is no one to help take care of the children or if child care is simply out of reach?
In addition to that, I want to flag the deplorable state of housing in rural and remote communities, particularly on first nations. It is among the many challenges that stand in the way of breaking the silence that has led to many negative outcomes in northern communities right across Canada.
In closing, I want to remind the Liberals that they were elected on a call for change, and they cannot take their time if they expect to maintain the good will of Canadian voters. The history of their party is filled with uneven results and long timelines that saw election promises repeated from one Parliament to the next. Theirs is the party that imposed the 2% funding cap and wrote the white paper, which were the causes of many problems. They are now in a position to right some historical wrongs.
New Democrats are committed to many of these goals, and we are here to roll up our sleeves and make sure this Parliament works. The government has signalled its intent to work with us on the important issues and challenges that Canada faces. I am certain that, if that actually happens, the real winners will be the Canadian public.