The House resumed from January 25 consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the citizens of the new riding of . I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the great member for .
Time is valuable in this place and, thus, I will get directly to adding a few comments that are of great concern to my riding.
The largest single void in the Speech from the Throne is that there is zero mention of the need to prioritize a new Canada-United States softwood lumber agreement.
Let me provide pause, for a moment.
In Princeton, British Columbia, over the past few decades, a lumber mill has been the single largest private employer in that community. The same goes for Merritt, British Columbia, where there are a number of lumber mills. I also have to say it is the same situation in my home community of West Kelowna.
These mills drive local economies. Make no mistake, for every lumber mill, there are many spinoff jobs and small businesses that also depend upon the health of the B.C. forestry sector.
It is not just softwood lumber and the forestry industry on which the throne speech is silent. There is also no mention of mining.
In , we are fortunate to have two major mining operations that provide hundreds of well-paying resource jobs.
Right now, the mining sector is very nervous, as our recently slighted our former prime minister in Davos over the very subject of natural resources.
I am here to tell members, clearly, that natural resources and resource development are not dirty words. They may not fit into the new 's narrative of sunny ways and selfies, but make no mistake, communities in my riding very much depend upon these well-paying jobs.
The should also know that the people who work in this industry are extremely resourceful, but they are also extremely technologically dependent. In fact, Canada is known to be the leader in the development and utilization of robotic mining. The mining sector itself is second only to the federal government in its use of computers in Canada. These are things that I think people should know.
Innovation drives the forestry sector because it is so dependent upon productivity. In fact, robotics and new methods of global positioning and satellite work are constantly being used to make that sector more productive.
To imply that resourcefulness is not involved in getting Canadian resources to international markets is an insult to those who work so hard to make our economies grow.
My other major concern in the Speech from Throne is the lack of clarity around infrastructure.
The throne speech references transit spending, social infrastructure, and green infrastructure, but it is largely silent on civic infrastructure.
Let me explain why this lack of clarity is a major concern, not just in my riding but throughout many parts of British Columbia.
The named only three members from British Columbia to his cabinet; however, none of these three has been named as the lead British Columbia regional minister. This creates challenges for municipalities—more so for municipalities located outside the Lower Mainland—as these Liberal ministers all represent ridings within a short distance of one another.
I have concerns on the throne speech, but the final point I will raise is that it is also completely silent on the subject of pipelines.
Why is that a concern? As an example, the Trans Mountain pipeline will generate $13 million annually in tax revenue for the regional district of Thompson-Nicola. Merritt alone, which currently collects $150,000 from the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, would see that increase to $250,000 a year, as a result of the expansion.
They are huge sums of revenue for small local governments, not to mention an estimated $419 million in pipeline-related construction just around Merritt and area and other communities.
Let us be clear. The Trans Mountain pipeline was first built in 1953. It does need to be replaced, and twinning is a cost-effective solution that would help communities in my riding.
However, the Trans Mountain project is not the only one missing from the throne speech. There is another kind of pipeline proposed for B.C., and that involves British Columbia liquid natural gas, or LNG.
B.C. LNG proposes billions of dollars of new investment for British Columbia. We should not overlook the good work of the B.C. government in signing roughly 61 agreements with 28 different first nation communities along the proposed LNG pipeline route.
Does the Liberal government support this critically important project? We have no idea. The throne speech was completely silent on these private-sector projects. Billions of dollars of investment is proposed for these projects at a time when jobs and investment are needed, and there is no mention of them in the throne speech.
Does everyone agree on these projects? No, but has there ever been a major project in any province at any time that does not draw naysayers? Absolutely, there has not. That is the final point on the throne speech that I will leave for this place.
For those who have been in government before—maybe they have served as a local councillor or as a mayor; maybe they have served as a cabinet minister in a provincial government—eventually, they all know that difficult decisions need to be made. Timelines are required. Processes need to have transparency as well as certainty. This is what attracts investment, creates jobs, and completes projects.
Naysayers and social licence did not create this country. Those things did not build Canada. It was hard work, investment, vision, and leadership from those who were not afraid to make those difficult decisions to build a bigger, stronger country. This is the vision my constituents were looking for in the throne speech. I might also add that these concerns are not only missing from this document, but many of the things I have mentioned today are also not mentioned in mandate letters, which is troubling and somewhat alarming to me.
In fact, as an example, we will take the important subject of interprovincial trade. Our has given himself the role of minister of intergovernmental affairs. However, where is his mandate letter for the minister of intergovernmental affairs? It is missing. What kind of message does that send?
There are many other concerns I would like to raise. However, I have summarized my comments today to illustrate some key concerns as they relate to my riding, to my province, and to things I would like to see as a proud Canadian. I would like to thank all members of this place for taking the time to hear my concerns today. I look forward to working with all of them together to build that Canada on which I know many of my constituents would agree we need to work together.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today as we continue debate on the Speech from the Throne.
Given that Her Majesty's loyal opposition hopes that the and his cabinet have received adequate briefings over the past two months to reconsider and recognize some of the promises made during the election campaign that could not or should not be kept, I will resist the temptation to say repeatedly, “We told you so”, and I will offer constructive suggestions on some changes and improvements.
I would like to use my time today to touch on a number of issues referenced in generalities in the throne speech that are priorities in my riding of Thornhill and I am sure in ridings right across the country.
It has been my pleasure over the years to participate in a variety of welcoming events for refugees from Iraq and from Syria, particularly those from oppressed minorities in those two broken states. I have been impressed, I have been inspired, by these newest members of Canadian society as they have embraced humble initial accommodation and have welcomed equally humble employment opportunities as they have begun the sometimes marathon process of learning new languages or waiting to have professional qualifications certified.
Notwithstanding Canada's traditional generosity in welcoming refugees from around the world, the government's rush to achieve targeted Syrian intake numbers has had a number of significant, although to be fair, I believe unintended, consequences. Welcoming refugees is one thing, but resettling them effectively and with care is quite another.
The original Liberal campaign promise during the bidding war in the campaign of 25,000 by year's end was clearly unrealistic. However, in the accelerated process, where almost half of the 10,000-by-January target were privately sponsored refugees, serious problems developed very quickly in the capacity of private sponsors and private sponsorship groups, such as religious organizations and community groups, to settle hundreds of new arrivals a week: finding accommodations, acquiring furniture and clothing, connecting new arrivals with schools and with services.
Privately sponsored refugees are allowed one night in hotels, then they become the responsibility of the sponsor or sponsors. On the other hand, government sponsored refugees have unlimited hotel stays, for weeks and even months, and that is not necessarily better. I am sure members have seen media reports of some government sponsored refugees held in hotels for weeks who have expressed frustration to the point that they have suggested that they would rather go home. I am sure that is only the frustration speaking, but it is something to recognize.
The government, to be fair, recognized the unexpected burden on private sponsors and implemented a pause last week, but of only five days. I have been advised by one of the more experienced private sponsors that they could actually use a pause of at least a month.
This is a non-partisan issue. There is no blame to be cast. There are no recriminations. Canadians can make this humanitarian effort work. However, adjustments must be made to manage the flow to some urban centres. In my riding of Thornhill, for example, available rental accommodation is extremely limited. In York region, we have a waiting list of affordable housing of more than 12,000.
I believe that the government should also reconsider the provision of one-night hotel accommodation to allow private sponsors and social agencies to locate, or give them greater time to locate, appropriate housing.
The second matter I would like to raise today has to do with the commitment in the throne speech “to work with Canada's allies in the fight against terrorism”.
The government is still incredibly vague and incoherent in explaining its fixation on fight fade with regard to the CF-18 component of Operation IMPACT. It defies the wishes of our allies. It defies the effectiveness of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It defies logic. It defies Canadian public opinion. Now is not the time for Canada to step back, to force our allies to take heavier burdens in the fight against Daesh, ISIS.
Canadians have been magnificent in accepting tens of thousands of displaced victims from Syria and Iraq. However, they are the lucky few, in all honesty. That is because in the long run, the most important thing democratic peace-loving nations can deliver to the millions of suffering souls in the Levant is the restoration of peace and stability, allowing the displaced to eventually return to their devastated communities to begin to rebuild their lives in their homeland.
Finally, the government has, I believe, unrealistically optimistic intentions to establish diplomatic relations with some of the most dangerous individuals and groups around the world today. I know that many of the hon. members opposite justify their policy positions with the simple statement “because it's 2016”. Because it is 2016, I would like to suggest that it is time to put aside some of the Liberal Party's dated concepts about diplomacy, about war and peace and peacekeeping, and about the solutions needed to address global challenges today. There is certainly a place for optimism and a place for hope and sunny ways, but certainly not for wishful thinking and simplistic solutions.
When it comes to Iran, it is time for a reality check on the government's plans to ease sanctions, to normalize diplomatic relations, to reopen Canada's embassy in Tehran, to allow the Iranian mission to reopen in Ottawa, and to encourage Canadian businesses to explore business opportunities with the regime in Iran.
I was, frankly, disappointed by the indecent rush by some European nations to take advantage of trade opportunities that the lifting of sanctions against Iran's nuclear adventurism would allow. I am equally disappointed that a minister of Canada's new government would voice the same commercial justification to consider delisting Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism; reopening our Tehran embassy, putting our foreign service professionals at risk in the face of the Iranian regime's selective protection of diplomatic establishments; and attempting to engage with a regime that continues flagrant testing of ballistic missiles and that promises to spend billions of dollars in released sanctions funds to sponsor terrorist groups that are committed to the destruction of Israel.
In conclusion, I sincerely hope that our government does not allow sunny ways cockeyed optimism to put Canadians at risk or to put any potential victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism at risk in the months and the years ahead.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for . It is a great honour for me to give my first speech in the House with my parents and my wife, Regina, in attendance.
I would like to thank the people of Pontiac who gave me a strong mandate and the privilege of representing them. I promise that I will serve them with determination, energy and integrity so that they can be proud of their federal MP.
The throne speech made our Liberal government's democratic vision for a dramatic change in Canada's political identity very clear. We made a specific commitment to listen to and work with other stakeholders and jurisdictions at community, municipality and first nation levels for the benefit of our country and our region in west Quebec.
My challenge will be to represent not only the diverse voters in the suburbs of Aylmer and Gatineau, but also those in rural Pontiac, who have so often been forgotten in the greater national capital region.
Together with my three Liberal Party colleagues in the Outaouais, I will help develop a regional approach based on improving social and environmental infrastructure.
I will stand up for rural Pontiac, which has so often been forgotten by the national capital region. We are going to develop a brand that is based on our wilderness, our farms, our forests, our arts, and our indigenous communities. Our people are our most precious resource. I will listen to them. I will listen to the diversity of Canadian voices that seek to define and redefine our electoral system, that strive for equality and who seek to defend our right to a healthy environment.
Over the past few months as I criss-crossed this rural riding I had the opportunity to listen to concerns far and wide. The simple fact is, our Canadian economy is not delivering for Pontiac. It seems to most of the people I speak with out in the country that our economy is stacked in favour of those who already have the most resources and those who live in big cities.
A vision of Pontiac has emerged as I have spoken with people, from Cantley to Chelsea, westwards along Highway 148, down through Shawville, Campbell's Bay, Fort-Coulonge, all the way out to Allumette Island and Rapides des Joachims. That same vision is one I hear when I go up the 105, all the way up past Low and Kazabazua, Gracefield, Maniwaki, the whole valley of Gatineau. People want economic stability. They want jobs. My job, and the job of my colleagues in the Outaouais, is to help deliver for small businesses, bring forward this vision from our Speech from the Throne and deliver infrastructure projects and new job opportunities.
The Pontiac is a place that is steeped in history. It is a place that was first inhabited by the Anishinaabe, the Algonquin people. This is a great indigenous nation that has experienced many difficult changes. It is now time to invite reconciliation with the Anishinaabe people to address our colonial past and unceded territorial claims. I say meegwetch to the communities of Kitigan Zibi and Barrier Lake for working with me to achieve this reconciliation.
Since the 1600s, the Pontiac has also been home to agricultural settlers, traders, and foresters of European descent. Irish, English, and French communities live side by side in harmony. It is one of the most bilingual regions in our country. It is such a diverse community, and now it is home to some of the newest Syrian families in Canada. We are very proud of that.
Standing behind a vision of Canadian unity, the Pontiac people have had strong federalist roots for many years. So many people in the Pontiac serve our entire country working for the federal government in the civil service.
Thousands of federal civil servants are devoted to helping the federal government create a better Canada.
The Pontiac is a huge playground. We have the Coulonge falls and rafting on the Ottawa River. There is tremendous potential for a new national park. Among other attractions in our region are the Gatineau valley with its many cottages and Nordik Spa, one of the best in North America.
The Pontiac is a land of forests, lakes, and rivers that provides a livelihood for so many residents and abundant opportunities for recreational activities. It is a land of agriculture. It is a land of forests.
The Pontiac has a proud tradition of local producers, both small- and large-scale farmers who supply food to markets in the Outaouais, as well as Montreal and Ottawa. Our best restaurants are just 20 minutes from Ottawa. They offer a local menu, sourced from farmers in the Pontiac.
However, all is not well in the land of Pontiac.
Canadian society is less egalitarian than it used to be. Income disparity is increasing. Our government's throne speech clearly acknowledges that.
I am worried. Actually, I am outraged by the economic situation in the Pontiac. It is unacceptable that some areas of the Pontiac and the Haute-Gatineau have some of the highest poverty rates in the province of Quebec. Our region has been too long forgotten.
Our region's unemployment rate went up after the mills shut down. Our seniors living on fixed incomes and our young people are having a really hard time. On top of all that, there have also been massive cuts to the federal public service over the past decade, as well as to employment insurance.
Pontiac families today are stretched in so many directions, and so are their budgets. Out of pocket costs keep rising faster than wages. I hear this everywhere I go.
A single mom in Shawville talks about juggling a job and raising three kids. If only her child assistance payments were increased, it would ease that situation. Our government will be there to help.
There is the grandmother in La Pêche who works around the clock providing child care to her three grandchildren. She is proud of her work, but the pay is barely enough to pay the rent. She needs affordable senior housing. Our government will deliver.
There are the young entrepreneurs who dream of opening a small business but are hampered by substandard Internet connectivity and cell phone access. Our government will help.
All these trends are real and not going away, but they do not determine our destiny. The choices that we make for our nation and for Pontiac matter. The choices we make over the next four years will set the stage for the middle class and those who aspire to join it in western Quebec.
Our region, the Outaouais, needs a boost. That is why it voted in Liberal MPs and a government that will be able to raise employment rates, improve economic development in the region and restore respect for the public service, our workers and our seniors.
I am committed to working with the people of Pontiac so that, together, we can protect and respectfully and sustainably develop our natural resources. Our lakes, rivers, forests, and agricultural lands are the pride of our region. They unify us, serve as a source of well-being and prosperity and define who we are.
I would like to conclude by saying that I look forward to hosting an economic summit, bringing together all of the municipal and regional governments of our riding. I look forward to bringing together all of these small businesses and all of the communities who want to work together to build a better Pontiac.
I hope the next four years will be the best the Pontiac has ever known.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in the House in response to the Speech from the Throne.
As we all know, when we respond to the throne speech, when we look at the throne speech, we look at it from the background we come from. I look at it from my professional background. I was the general counsel of a multinational company with operations around the world. I understand the frustrations of Canadian businesses that are trying to do business abroad, and the frustrations in the R & D sector when we look at what monies companies are entitled to through R & D tax credits or otherwise.
I look at it through the perspective of having been an elected official at the municipal level for 21 years, 11 years as a city councillor and 10 years as a mayor. I fully understand why we want to look at the fact that municipalities are truly one of the levels of government that need to be represented at the table.
Finally, we look at it from the ridings we come from. Everyone in this chamber believes that his or her riding is the best riding in Canada. Of course, I feel the same. My riding encompasses the Town of Mount Royal, the city of Côte-Saint-Luc, the town of Hampstead, and Côte-des-Neiges NDG, which is a borough of the city of Montreal.
It is an incredibly diverse riding, a riding that has been represented by great men and women. The Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau represented this riding in this place, so did Sheila Finestone, and so did Irwin Cotler.
I have quite a legacy to carry on. I promise that I will be a member from Quebec who fights for a united Canada here and elsewhere.
It is very important to recognize that Canada is more than a collection of communities. Canada is a country with a vibrant population from coast to coast to coast.
As an MP, I will fight for bilingualism across Canada so that francophones can feel at home from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
An individual can be an English-speaking person and be at home in , in Montreal, and in Quebec City.
I will fight for a strong Charter of Rights and respect of individual liberties. I will fight for a country that recognizes our multicultural heritage and the fact that people who come from whatever countries in the world to Canada bring us richness and diversity.
I also intend to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor, Irwin Cotler, and be an MP who respects all parties in the House.
We need to get along in a non-partisan way. I was so pleased that the Speech from the Throne talked about a new tone in government that would also empower MPs with stronger committees, with no more omnibus bills that bundle different issues and make people vote in different ways that they do not want to. And most importantly, there would be more free votes for members in the House of Commons so that we would all have a chance to pronounce ourselves according to the will of our riding and our own principles.
I was also very pleased that the throne speech talked about infrastructure and the biggest infrastructure program that has ever come to Canada. Those of us who come from municipal backgrounds in cities and towns across this great country, in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick, know that we need money for hard infrastructure like roads, aqueducts, and sewers. We need more money for public transit in our great metropolises, particularly in Montreal, where we need the money for the STM.
In my riding, a project of particular importance is the Cavendish Boulevard extension.
Cavendish Boulevard is the most important missing piece of the Montreal Island road network. We have talked about it for 50 years and it still has not happened. All of the cities in the agglomeration of Montreal, which is our regional government, strongly support the Cavendish extension. Over the last 10 years we put $5 million into developing the engineering plans to make this project happen.
The cities in the agglomeration of Montreal have earmarked $44 million to cover a third of the cost. Money also has to come from the federal and provincial governments. I hope that everyone in the House will show their support. This project is very important to me.
I hope we can all make that a consensus as well.
In the campaign many of us did a lot of door-to-door and wore lots of pairs of shoes out. Fortunately, I wear a lot of sneakers. In the campaign I met many people who need our help, people who need social housing, people who are living in social housing where the agreements between the federal government and their place of residence expired and were not renewed. Their rents dramatically escalated. Seniors living on their own had to choose between buying medication and paying for food.
I am so pleased that we have in this budget money for infrastructure for social housing, money to give seniors with the increase of a 10% guaranteed income supplement for seniors living on their own, and money for families with the child care benefit that would allow people who make less to get more so they can take their children out of poverty.
I am also very pleased that our government intends to improve our relationship with our best partner and friend, the United States of America.
Having worked in a company where 80% of our business was with the United States, I know how important that relationship is. I was very pleased that it was singled out in the throne speech as being of paramount importance.
Finally, I want to talk about diversity. Like many members in the urban environment, I represent a very diverse riding.
Some of my constituents are among the wealthiest, while others are among the least fortunate.
I have people who have come from different communities from all over the globe, from over 100 nations and speaking over 100 languages, just in my riding of .
We have a unique riding in Quebec. In our riding, the majority of people speak English, and where the Jewish community forms a plurality of people. It is quite rare.
The heart of Montreal's Filipino community is in my riding. Despite our differences, despite our linguistic differences, our religious differences, our cultural differences, we get along like gangbusters and that is diversity of Canada. Therefore, if I can leave one message in this chamber, it is this: let us appreciate the diversity of this amazing country from the territories, to Newfoundland, to British Columbia. Let us appreciate the different peoples who have come here and our aboriginal founders, the English, the French and all of those communities that have come here to join us. Let us recognize that in working together as we have as Canadians, we have developed the greatest country on earth.
I know now that we have had this incredible honour of being elected to this place. All parties have the opportunity to convince Canadians that politicians should not be ranked next to used car salesmen at the end of the list of people they trust, but way up at the top. As a Parliament that works together across party lines, we will achieve great things for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the hon. member for .
As this is my first speech in this place, I would like to take the time to thank the people of Gatineau for putting their trust in me and electing me last October 19. It is an honour. After many years of public service spent advancing progressive, liberal values, I will commit myself completely to the well-being of my region and my country.
I would be remiss if I did not thank my campaign team, which not only worked day and night for the 80 days of the official campaign, but in some cases started working in June 2009. We knocked on many doors and participated in a great number of events. It was a good experience and an exciting one for all. Furthermore, I was inspired by the work the team did and their sense of community.
I would like to thank my wife, Janelle, who is an amazing businesswoman and mother, and also my three children, Liam, Cassandra, and Alex, who supported me throughout the election campaign. Like the members of any family that embarks on such an adventure, they made many sacrifices, and they are lending their father and husband for the next four years.
I also want to thank those with whom I have worked over the course of my time in public service. My colleague from remembers our first experience on behalf of the late Joseph Ghiz. I also thank my first boss, Frank McKenna, who remains the best mentor one could have and one of Canada's great promoters and philanthropists.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the Right Hon. Paul Martin, who asked me to play a small role in national politics and whom I will always be proud to call a friend.
I have the honour of representing an extremely dynamic riding, and I am humbled by that challenge. I am a Gatineau resident who is proud of his city, proud to raise a family there, and proud to live in such a spectacular region as the Outaouais, as my colleague from mentioned. Through our innovative entrepreneurs, our history, our cultural and athletic achievements, our workers, and our tradition of public service, the people of Gatineau have helped to build the Canada of today.
The people of Gatineau are proud to be both Quebeckers and Canadians, to be primarily francophone but open to the world and other cultures, to be residents of the fourth-largest city in Quebec and the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Canada, and to be part of one of the most dynamic cities in the country.
Gatineau's population grew by 10% from 2005 to 2011, and it is still growing. That only happens in cities that offer their residents a good quality of life and economic opportunities.
I also want to take this opportunity to commend the elected officials in the region, at both the municipal and provincial levels, with whom we have been working closely. I will continue to support all those who have high hopes for Gatineau, who are working on projects, and who are helping us to ensure that our city is making progress.
However, there are challenges associated with our growth. Gatineau estimates its infrastructure needs at $1.3 billion. This deficit is undermining our growth and our quality of life. Gatineau needs support for basic infrastructure, water and sewer systems, public transit, and roads.
Furthermore, since the Gréber report was released in 1950, we have identified the need for a new interprovincial bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau to ease traffic congestion, create economic opportunities on both sides of the river, and improve the quality of life of local residents.
The previous government, the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau, and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec agreed that the report released in 2013 would serve as the basis for the decision to move forward with this long-awaited project. I remain optimistic that this will be the case.
I am particularly pleased to see that our government committed to investing in infrastructure in the throne speech. These investments will benefit Gatineau, create jobs, and stimulate our economy.
The people of Gatineau also want the government to help diversify the region's economy. That is what I heard again during the pre-budget consultations I held last week with my Outaouais colleagues. Gatineau has lots of potential and plenty of opportunities to attract new industries and businesses. We have an airport, post-secondary institutions such as the UQO, and entrepreneurs ready to invest. I will support those diversification efforts.
All Outaouais MPs must be attuned to the needs of Canada's public service. I am the son of two public servants, and I understand how proud those people are to be working to improve the lives of Canadians. However, over the past 10 years under the former government, they grew discouraged. They were disappointed in the previous government's lack of respect for the public service. We promised to restore respect for our public service, and I am very pleased with the new culture that is taking shape.
Public servants are also concerned about the steadily declining use of French in the federal public service. In his March 2014 annual report, the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, talked about the “subtle erosion of bilingualism in the federal public service through neglect and the unintended consequences of budget cuts”.
I took note of the government's commitment in the throne speech and the ministerial mandate letters regarding the importance of Canada's two official languages. I am confident that our government will advance the situation and enhance the use of French within the federal government. When French flourishes, the entire country is enriched. Canada is stronger when Quebec and Quebeckers have a strong presence in all federal institutions.
Economically speaking, families and seniors in Gatineau are experiencing the same pressures as everywhere else: they are struggling to make ends meet; job prospects are sometimes limited; and they have serious social and health care needs.
I am proud to be part of a government that is making growth and support for the middle class its key priorities. We have already lowered taxes for the middle class, and we committed to helping families in need by creating the new Canada child benefit. We are going to create better opportunities for young Canadians by working with the provinces to make post-secondary education more affordable and create more jobs for students.
With the collapse in world commodity prices, the anemic record of economic growth that this government has inherited from the previous government, and the lack of progress in creating an economy of innovation over the last decade, this government will have to work hard to create economic opportunity for Canadians. I know my colleagues join with me in saying that is exactly what we intend to do.
We went through this in Quebec in the forestry and mining sector.
It is clear that work will have to be done through all of our industries to help create a 21st century economy, a tax system that favours investment, both foreign and domestic, and to help get our products to market safely and sustainably.
I am confident this government will create a means by which consensus can be reached on creating this future prosperity. It is unhelpful to participate in this economic debate by exacerbating regional tensions in Canada. I believe that when one region wins, we all win.
For my part, I will work with anyone in the House who wishes to roll up his or her sleeves and present real economic solutions for Canadians.
I am confident that the Liberal government's priorities reflect the aspirations of the people of Gatineau. We want a more prosperous and diversified economy. We want respect for the public service and the French language. We want investment in our infrastructure. We want Quebec to take its place in Canada and within the Government of Canada.
Finally, I am pleased to be part of a team that wants to work with all Canadians to make our country prosperous and progressive once again.
With the 's team and this government, we will meet these challenges. Gatineau will answer the call.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my very best wishes for the new year to my colleagues and all Canadians. I hope that 2016 will bring everyone happiness, peace, and prosperity.
The year 2015 was a busy year in many ways. I congratulate everyone here on their election. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the people of Rivière-des-Milles for the trust they placed in me on October 19. It is a true privilege, and I can assure them that I will show perseverance and diligence when working on the files that affect my riding, and represent with dignity the people of Rivière-des-Milles. It would not have been possible for me to speak in this place and respond to the speech from the throne without the invaluable support of the voters and my team of volunteers.
First of all, I would like to take advantage of the precious minutes I have been given to express my deep love for my riding, the place where I grew up and where my ambitions materialized. Rivière-des-Milles is located in the northern ring of Montreal. It consists of four municipalities and two RCMs, which are all quite different. These differences are the basis for the prosperity of Rivière-des-Milles, which can be considered the gateway to the Laurentians.
I will show the direct impacts of the throne speech based on examples from my riding.
First, the municipality of Deux-Montagnes, formerly known as Saint-Eustache-sur-le-Lac, is mainly residential. It is a great place for families to live. Why? Because it has high-quality community and sports facilities and new electrified transit infrastructure.
Deux-Montagnes is proof of the positive impact that modern infrastructure can have on the development of our municipalities and communities.
As indicated in the throne speech, our government will implement an ambitious infrastructure investment program based on the real concerns of Canadians. Canadians need to know that our government believes in Canadian families, and that is why we are going to make investments that will help them in their daily lives.
This infrastructure plan will allow me, in co-operation with my counterparts in the Quebec National Assembly, to ensure that work on Highways 13 and 19 is completed and that Highway 15 is widened to make room for a designated public transit lane from Blainville to the Montmorency metro station in Laval.
Second, today, Saint-Eustache, which was once known for the famous battle of the Patriots in 1837, is a vibrant city. Saint-Eustache has a diversified economy based on agriculture, the maple syrup industry, manufacturing engineering, and many emerging SMEs. One example is Nova Bus, which manufactures hybrid buses. I had the opportunity to visit the company's facilities in December and I realized just how great an impact it is having on public transit in Canada. Nova Bus will soon be building a model that is 100% electric and that could potentially be used by public transit companies across Canada.
In terms of agrifood, I cannot talk about Saint-Eustache without mentioning the Constantin sugar shack, which has been run by the Constantin family for four generations, or the Lalande and Jean Renaud & Fils sugar shacks, which are a source of pride for our community. Canada is extremely innovative, to say the least, and Rivière-des-Mille-Îles is no exception.
Saint-Eustache is not only economically diverse, but also demographically diverse. It is by far the biggest city in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, and like most municipalities in Canada, its population is aging. It is therefore extremely important for our government to support our seniors and ensure that they can retire with dignity, because we never want to forget all the work that they did to build a prosperous and forward-looking country for future generations.
Our government will take direct action with the provinces and territories to make sure Canadians will be safer and healthier in retirement. In Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Saint-Eustache is fortunate to have a hospital that serves a large part of the Lower Laurentians area.
The government will work towards its throne speech objectives with the various levels of government, and that is why our government will actively listen to the provinces to keep our seniors healthy and well.
The throne speech is part of our effort to bring about real change. This real change shows that the government supports Canadians who work hard and who are the driving force of the Canadian economy. Yes, I am talking about the middle class.
What a chance, being a member in this government, a government that understands the real issues, a government that will invest in the middle class.
What do we have to say to those who are struggling to make ends meet, to those who have the courage to work for themselves, or to new arrivals?
We say that we have confidence in them, their dreams, and their aspirations.
I met with middle-class Canadians during the last election campaign, especially in residential neighbourhoods like Rosemère. Rosemère is a rural municipality where I lived for nine years. I raised my young children there. This city's economic sector is directly tied to the middle class. As we said in the throne speech, we will lower taxes for the middle class. This will benefit not only middle-class households, but also businesses.
My father worked in the retail sector. He opened a family grocery store in 1969 in Boisbriand, which was then known as Sainte-Thérèse-Ouest. As in many other Canadian towns at the time, whose prosperity relied on a single industry, a large majority of Boisbriand residents worked for General Motors.
Today, Boisbriand is an important economic, agrifood, industrial, and commercial centre. Take, for example, Faubourg Boisbriand, or all of the fantastic restaurant and shopping options. I am very proud of the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in Boisbriand, and I am very proud to have lived there for over 18 years.
Technology and practices have evolved constantly over the past two decades. New sectors have sprung up and taken off. In Boisbriand, these changes have led to the diversification of eight industrial sectors and the birth of world-renowned industries such as Elopak, Aliments O’Sole Mio and a number of aerospace subcontractors, including DCM Aerospace.
The throne speech expressed our commitment to supporting these industries. Our government will make strategic investments in innovation and the clean technology sector. Canada's environmental leadership will help bring about real change. One thing is for sure: Canadians want a prosperous economy, but they also want it to be in perfect harmony with respect for the environment.
Today, in 2016, it is ridiculous to deny the potential repercussions of maintaining the environmental status quo. It is also irresponsible to muzzle scientists calling for political action to reduce GHG emissions. The throne speech conveyed our commitment to consulting civil and scientific communities in the coming years. The environment is a priority in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, and the ongoing development of industrial areas and the densification of urban areas is fully compliant with increasingly strict environmental standards.
The social environment is another important topic addressed in the throne speech. Massive investment in social infrastructure, including social housing, will permit a better distribution of wealth among Canadians. This initiative will have a significant positive impact on Canada as a whole and in my riding, especially in Saint-Eustache.
I am proud to be part of this government and such an experienced, dedicated team of people who are listening to Canadians' real concerns. I am proud to be part of the first federal government to form a gender-balanced cabinet. I am proud to see Canada's return to the world stage. I am proud to represent the people of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and to be their MP. I have long been involved in my community through my previous career in provincial politics, my role as an employer and job creator, and my community work. I am proud to be able to continue my involvement through public service. The mandate my constituents gave me on October 19 means the world to me.
I have hope for the people of my region and I have confidence in them. I have hope for their ambitions and dreams. Canadians can finally dream of and aspire to a better life. I believe in a Canada that is more inclusive, open, and forward-looking.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise in the House today to address the Speech from the Throne. Before I do, this is my first time speaking officially with a 10-minute speech in the House since the last election, so I would appreciate if my colleagues would give their thoughts and consideration to the people who volunteer, as we all do on our campaigns. Everyone here has a number of people to thank and be grateful for. I want to start with my campaign manager, David Parker, and all of the team. Shelley did an absolutely great job keeping me where I needed to be and on track, and that is not an easy thing to do in a marathon campaign. Jonathan did great work on Facebook. I thank everyone who did all the door knocking and canvassing in going door to door.
I have a brand new riding. At least half of the riding is new to me. I have been the member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin for the last 10 years, and now the riding consists of the north half of the city of Red Deer, the third largest city in Alberta. What an eye-opening experience for me to go door to door in a large urban area. As a country bumpkin who grew up on a farm north of Lacombe, even though I have always considered Red Deer the closest major city, the city where we would do our business, buy our groceries, and from time to time do all of our shopping, it certainly has changed since I frequented Red Deer a lot when I was a much younger man with my family.
Talking about family, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my family: my wife Barbara and my kids, Eryk, Kasandra, and Krystian. I still remember their names after 10 years of being a member of Parliament. Being from western Canada, I spend about 14 hours a week just in transit to get here and get back, not to mention all the events a person has to do on the weekends and so on. I could not do what I do on behalf of the people I represent without their love, patience, and understanding. I can attest to all of those things in my duties as a member of Parliament. I certainly appreciate all that they do.
My riding has changed, but the issues that affect the folks in central Alberta have not changed. Whether one lives in Lacombe, Sylvan Lake, Ponoka, or the north end of Red Deer, all of these issues are the same. We all like to work hard and play hard, and of course we love the places we call home, wherever that happens to be in central Alberta.
I want to talk first and foremost about the absence of those issues that are most important to the folks in central Alberta that could have been or should have been in the Speech from the Throne. I will start by talking about agriculture. There was not one mention of agriculture.
I grew up on a farm. I was very lucky. I grew up in the same farmyard as my grandparents did, so I basically had two sets of parents. I had grandpa and grandma, who handed the farm off to my mom and dad. Of course, they are still on the farm right now. My sister is living there with her kids. That family farm and those generations continue to evolve. Agriculture is very important.
There was not one mention, not one signal of hope for the over 2.2 million Canadians that are either directly employed or work in the agricultural sector, whether they are farmers or producers on some 90,000 farms across Canada or whether they work in the value-added sector. They could be working in places like Canadian Premium Meats in Lacombe, which does custom slaughter of various animals, most notably cattle. It is the only EU certified slaughter facility in Canada at this time. It is able to export whatever the customer demands to any place in the United States or the European Union. It is doing an absolutely fantastic job. It is only held back by the fact that we do not have more robust trade and that we have not been able to ratify things like the Canada-Europe trade agreement.
These things are inhibitors to the bison ranchers who sell their bison products domestically in the central Alberta area. One can go anywhere in central Alberta and buy some of the best bison products one could ever want to eat. These products should be on store shelves not only around Canada but around North America and of course all through Europe. There was not a mention of the value that actually adds.
Whether it is regular products like beef or pork or whatever the case may be, these are all things we grow in great abundance. I have the largest number of dairy farmers in Alberta in my riding. There are over a hundred farms in my constituency. The chair and vice chair of Alberta Milk, who I call Albert and Heini, live just down the road. These are my friends. These are the people I have grown up with. These are people who work hard every day and deserve to have those kinds of mentions, at least about the products they grow and the services they provide and the value they add to our economy. There was nary a mention of it. It is very frustrating.
There was nothing about market access or diversification. There was nothing about product diversification or research and technology advancements in the agricultural sector to keep it a more viable sector than it already is. Where I live in central Alberta, the growing season is only a couple of months a year. If it was not for advancements in research and technology in the agricultural sector, we would not be as competitive.
We cannot turn our cattle out and raise them on grass 12 months of the year, like they can in Brazil and Argentina and other places around the world. We have to depend on these technologies to be competitive.
Before I go any further and start going on my rant and litany about the energy sector, I would like to remind the Speaker that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
I am very frustrated on behalf of all the farmers, producers, and ranchers in central Alberta who I meet at the coffee shop in Ponoka, or wherever I happen to be, who tell me that they are very concerned about the ability. We have had some good years in the last several years, but we have had no signal from the current Liberal government at all about these things being a priority, and that causes a lot of concern among the people I represent.
Let me get to the energy sector. I will make this a bit personal, if you will indulge me, Mr. Speaker.
I have been very lucky to have the background I have. As I said, I grew up on a farm, so I have some common sense. I am a bit of a mechanic, a bit of a welder, a bit of an electrician, and a bit of a carpenter. The reality is that I know how to work. I think with my head and work with my hands, and that value is easily translated into energy sector work, which is why we find so many people in the energy sector in Alberta. If one walks into any place that does service rigs or drilling rigs and says, “I am a farm boy”, one does not even have to hand in a resumé. People are asked when they can start, because employers know what they are probably going to get. They are going to get someone with common sense, someone who knows how to get up early in the morning, go out and work hard, work all day, expect an honest return for that, and go back home. These are the things I was able to do.
I would work in the summer for parks. I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoyed that very much. However, in the winter, rather than going on employment insurance or whatever I could have done, I decided it did not make any sense for a farm boy to do that. I went out and worked in the service rigs. I worked for Trimat Well Servicing, for Roll'n Oilfield, and for Northstar doing directional drilling, because I had those kinds of skills.
I am not talking about just me. There are tens of thousands of people like me in central Alberta right now who are desperate, and not just because of the low commodity prices. We cannot blame all of this on low commodity prices. Yes, that is a factor. I understand that there are certain things that are beyond any government's particular control, but one does not take a situation that is bad and make it so much worse.
Right now Albertans in the energy sector are feeling the pinch. They might not have believed us years ago when we said that if they elect a provincial NDP premier and elect a federal Liberal government things are going to be bad for them. Do they not remember the 1980s? Do they not remember walking away from their homes? People in central Alberta right now who are working in the energy sector and have a 10% equity position in their houses are in big trouble. The keys are going to be coming onto the desks of the mortgage lenders in a matter of months if things are not turned around.
One does not solve this problem by leaving a vacuum in leadership to the point where mayors in little municipalities or big cities across this country are making decisions, or at least are pretending to make decisions, about things like pipelines, which should be uniting this country from coast to coast. This is absolutely atrocious. It is beyond comprehension that these kinds of conversations are even happening. Unless one gets around Canada on a bicycle, whittled with a bone knife, made out of wood, one is a hypocrite, because we use energy. If we took everything out of this room that is made with a petrochemical product, we would not even be able to record the information that is here.
Let us be realistic about what the petrochemical industry and energy industry actually does, and let us start having a serious conversation, because people's lives, their well-being, their welfare, and their ability to look after themselves are at stake here. A government's job is to let people who can take care of themselves take care of themselves and to use the vast tax base left over from that to look after those who cannot. That is the role of government, and that is where this Speech from the Throne failed epically.
Mr. Speaker, let me use this opportunity to edify my clearly unedified colleague across the way.
Before I do, I would like to welcome a fellow Albertan to the House. He is going to have a lot of things to explain to the 4.5 million Albertans by the end of his tenure here, because I do not think it is going to go well for him.
I will remind him that before the last Conservative government, there were only five countries Canada had trade agreements with. As it stands right now, the member and his new government have inherited over 40-some countries that either are trading partners with Canada or are pending trading partners with Canada. All the government has to do is sign the ratification of the Canada-Europe trade agreement and the trans-Pacific partnership to make those things a reality.
We have not had a very clear signal about what the Liberals are going to do on that front, but if he is going to talk about things like pipelines, one thing they should not do is send a signal to the market that they are going to ban tanker traffic off the west coast to appease a special interest group, which will shut down the northern gateway pipeline that would put billions of dollars of Alberta crude into the marketplace, eliminating the price differential that Alberta's captive market currently is in the North American marketplace.
If you will indulge me, Mr. Speaker, in the last 10 years, the northern Alberta Clipper pipeline, applied for on May 30, 2007, fully in service in April 2010, produced 450,000 barrels of oil a day; TransCanada Keystone, not Keystone XL, applied for on December 12, 2006, fully implemented in June 2010, produced 435,000 barrels per day; the Kinder Morgan anchor loop project increased capacity by 40,000 barrels per day, and it was done in October 2006; the Enbridge line 9 reversal, applied for in 2014, has reversed and produced 300,000 barrels of oil per day. That is over 1.2 billion barrels of oil flowing in projects that were started and implemented in the last 10 years. That does not even include the projects that were applied for and approved and that are pending construction, waiting for a market signal from the current government.
Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise for my speech in the House of Commons.
I would like to thank all my constituents, the great people of Souris—Moose Mountain, for putting their faith and trust in me as their representative in this honoured institution. I have always believed and said that this seat belongs to the constituents of Souris—Moose Mountain, and I will be their voice here in the House.
It takes hard work by many people to get each member elected to these seats, and I wish to thank all of those volunteers who gave tirelessly of their time and efforts. An unfettered appreciation and humble thanks go to my campaign team and my EDA.
In addition, I would not be here today if it were not for the guidance, education, and love of my family, friends, and educators. My parents taught me to believe in four things: my country, my family, my God, and my queen. For this, I am extremely grateful. My father, the late Major-General Gordon Kitchen, served Canada with distinction and afforded me the opportunity to see many parts of the world, to learn about societies and governments. I know that my father, along with my mother, the late Joan Kitchen, look down on me today with great pride.
When asked who inspires me the most, my first response is my wife, Donna. We all know that spouses are our strength. For 32 years, she has stood beside me and supported me in all of my career decisions. She has raised three fantastic children who have become productive members of society. She is caring and compassionate as a mother and a registered nurse. Whether it has been caring for infants at Sick Kids Hospital, teaching nursing skills to aspiring nursing students, or assessing seniors in long-term care, she has been dedicated to each and every job, and still works diligently with her clients today.
I cannot forget to mention the positive encouragement and support I receive from my children: Andrew, Kathryn and Stephen. I would be remiss if I did not thank my daughter Kathryn for all the work and extra effort she put in during the campaign. I am grateful for the support of my brother-in-law, my in-laws, my brothers, and my sister who is with us here today in the gallery.
For those who do not know it, let me introduce the wonderful riding of Souris—Moose Mountain. Our riding is a rural riding of an area of 43,000 kilometres. We are bordered by Manitoba to the east and the United States to the south. Its two major centres are Weyburn and Estevan. From the northeast to southwest corners, Rocanville to Coronach, is a five-hour drive. From the southeast to the northwest corners, Carnduff to Kronau, it is a four-hour drive.
I mention the geography because over the past 26 years I have travelled these roads and seen steady growth in the economy, traffic, activity, and residents. Now with the collapse of the oil industry, this has made for dire times. When I drove to Regina on Saturday, the silence brought by the inactivity was deafening. Where I used to see drilling rigs, service rigs, water haulers, tankers, and workers out and about, there are none. There have been thousands of layoffs, store closures, restaurant closures, empty hotels, and houses for sale. Where there used to be a beehive of activity, there is now just a trickle. There is a 33% increase in employment insurance. It is not just the rig hands; it is office staff downsizing and consultants looking for work.
Our economy is struggling. Canadians are struggling. Canada's oil producers are struggling. Our vast prosperous energy sector is being hit hard by the fall in global oil prices. This has drastically affected our national economy and brought hardship to many Canadian families.
We cannot ignore the many Canadians who are losing their jobs and shutting their company doors as a result of the global oil price. While the Canadian government is not responsible for the global oil price, we will be responsible for the ongoing hardships if we do not intervene with meaningful steps to assist Canadians while they go through this struggle.
I have heard from many constituents that the west, in particular the oil industry, is fearful of the way it has been treated by previous Liberal governments. The throne speech did nothing to allay those fears. Endorsement of the energy east pipeline, which runs through the northern portion of my constituency, would assist to dispel this statement.
Furthermore, it would bring great benefit to all Canadians. It is the safest way to move oil product. It would enhance the movement of oil from Saskatchewan and Alberta, and get it to tide. Processing it and getting the product to tidewater and markets around the world would be a value-added boost to the industry. The economic benefit to Canada with the jobs created in building the pipeline would help to strengthen the middle class with good-paying jobs, a mandate the Liberal government claims to be a priority.
The Speech from the Throne provided little comfort for my constituents. There was no mention of the agriculture industry, the energy sector was left to swing in the wind, and promised infrastructure spending appears to be a lifetime away. As a professional, I am a chiropractor. An analogy I use is that the backbone of my riding is the agriculture industry and the appendages are the energy sector.
In my research of prior throne speeches, I came across a response to the Liberal government's 2004 throne speech by my predecessor, Mr. Ed Komarnicki, former MP for . At that time, he stated the government showed no support of agriculture, as well—and, now, we see its reincarnation.
To continue to survive, our farmers and ranchers need markets to sell their products to. Saskatchewan is a major exporter of its resources and opening new markets is a tremendous benefit to our producers. The trans-Pacific partnership is just such an opportunity. Not only would it open new markets for our producers, it would reduce excessive tariffs on both our canola and cattle producers. The government needs to step forward, bring the trade deal to the House and not just sign and endorse it, but ratify it.
Within the past couple of weeks, I have been receiving many inquiries and requests for information on infrastructure spending. In fact, last week, the city manager of Estevan contacted my office about a billion-dollar infrastructure funding he had heard rumours about. There has been a significant need for infrastructure funding in my region. With the age of structures and the prior rapid growth, communities are lagging behind in their basic infrastructure and, in particular, water treatment facilities.
The Speech from the Throne talked about infrastructure investment. If the talk about this $1 billion is true, we need to know the rules and procedures for communities to access this; more specifically, what the parameters are, who can apply, when it will be available, and how oil-depressed areas will be defined.
The Speech from the Throne talked about investing in clean technology and support for companies seeking to export these technologies. It appears that the main economic focus is to grow a clean environment and a strong economy in tandem. While we all agree with the sentiment that environmental protection and economic strength are not incompatible, the government must realize that we cannot wait for the passage and implementation of environmental policy to begin stabilizing and growing Canada's economy. We need to utilize the technologies we have today, such as carbon capture, to better our economy today.
is home to Canada's state-of-the-art post-combustion coal-fired carbon capture and storage project at Boundary Dam, utilizing low-emission power generation, which was financed with $249 million from the previous Conservative government, Estevan's Boundary Dam can take one million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year out of the environment, which is the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road.
Coal is used to provide power around the world. It is cheaper to use. However, we do need to reduce greenhouse gases. This technology reduces our impact on the environment. This is a ready-made project. It needs to be implemented.
My constituents' concerns are exacerbated by comments made with respect to Canada's resourcefulness. The extraction of our vast natural resources is a job that requires what lies between the ears. For the people of , the extraction of coal and oil is a complex process that has required the brainpower of engineers, geologists, economists, and accountants. It requires schooling, safety training, and above all, common sense.
The same goes for our farmers. It would be grossly inaccurate to assume that farmers rely solely on what lies under their feet. Ranchers and farmers in are business owners who plan, seed, harvest, sell their crop, maintain equipment, and manage their staff. As I am sure all farmers and resource workers would agree, they can be the smartest in these respective fields, as resourceful as they can be, in cutting costs, finding buyers, but if the resources do not exist and the markets to sell them are not open, then what lies between their ears becomes moot.
Finally, I would like to end my remarks with sincere thanks to my party leader for making me an official opposition critic for sport. I look forward to working with the to enhance the health of Canadians through sport and recreation.
I encourage all members to regularly stretch and be active whenever possible, whether by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or by walking to their destination.
In closing, the government talks about Canadians wanting their government to do different things and to do things differently. I truly hope there is more to come because, as I have indicated, it appears to be more of a reincarnation of the same old.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment and your place in the chair. It is also wonderful to have you back in the House after a brief hiatus.
I rise for the first time in this 42nd Parliament, and I would like to begin by thanking the good people of the riding of Lac-Saint-Louis in Montreal's West Island for investing their faith in me once again. It is a weighty responsibility and one that, of course, I take very seriously. I look forward to working hard again in this Parliament to represent my constituents well here in the federal Parliament.
The throne speech, which we are debating today, is a fitting reflection of the themes of the election campaign. It speaks to a desire for real change in this country. It is an eloquent statement of the government's intention to bring about the real change Canadians have clearly said they want, change Canadians know is needed in order to move this country forward.
I am not trying to be partisan. Blind and gratuitous partisanship is not constructive. It is not an avenue that leads to sound public policy; in any event, it is not what my constituents like or want. It is fair to say that there was a sense expressed across this land, from the Atlantic provinces, through Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, and Alberta to British Columbia, that a new impetus was required to deal with the steady accumulation of challenges, including most importantly on the economic front, that the previous government was no longer able to effectively address with its ongoing approach to governance and policy; and that it was time to move past a certain policy inertia in so many areas, from the economy, to aboriginal and foreign policy issues, to the environment, which is itself today so essential to economic policy.
On October 19, Canadians responded in the affirmative to the view that new ideas and the will to implement these were needed for Canada's future prosperity in a fast-moving, highly competitive and complex world and that new ideas were also the key to our cultural and social progress. That is what the throne speech is all about: new ideas to address lingering issues and meet new rapidly emerging challenges, again with a special focus on making meaningful progress on stubborn economic problems that are undermining Canada's middle class.
The core of our government's economic message is that we need to invest in the future in order to bring tangible benefits to Canadians and their families today and tomorrow. We responded in our election platform by, among other things, committing to doubling infrastructure spending over the next 10 years by a total of $60 billion in extra spending. I cannot say at this time what the profile of that spending will be over time. The and the are working diligently on that question as we speak.
As I mentioned, we have an ambitious agenda, which was at the core of the Speech from the Throne. I think you might say that it is custom-made for my riding. That is not the case. This agenda is custom-made for all ridings in Canada, and I am talking about our commitment to increase our investment in infrastructure.
We have made a commitment to invest in Canada's infrastructure, and in three components in particular: green infrastructure, public transit, and social infrastructure, such as social housing.
My riding of Lac-Saint-Louis is a typical middle-class riding. However, it has some needs that the Liberal platform will address, especially with respect to infrastructure investment, to which we are committed.
My riding is a good, middle-class riding with a vibrant economy and a growing population. It has a wonderful natural environment. It is surrounded on three sides by water, including the mighty St. Lawrence. There are pockets of serious and urgent need in my riding, and all three parts of our infrastructure plan will respond to these needs. I would like to go through all three aspects of our infrastructure plan and just relate how those aspects will help the people in my riding of Lac-Saint-Louis.
For example, a group called the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped has prepared a shovel-ready project. It is ready to go as soon as the funds can be unlocked. This project would create a community centre that would provide much-needed space for the organization to expand its existing activities for families with special needs children. However, it would be more than that. It would open itself to a broader set of needs in the community. For example, it would provide a place for parents to meet and talk to each other about how their children are learning, behaving, and playing and how they can encourage positive development through parenting, even in a low-resource family. That meeting place would also be used, no doubt, to bring people together to create maybe some social enterprises, some businesses that are run to raise revenues to finance a more social mandate. Our government's infrastructure plan will hopefully help an organization like the West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped to bring this dream to fruition.
Second, our funds for public transit will be welcome. There is a project on the table called le Train de l'Ouest. It has been in the works for about 15 years. It was the idea of my predecessor Clifford Lincoln, who represented my riding for 10 years before I was elected. This project started as a germ of an idea, and today it is shovel-ready. We are awaiting a decision by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec as to its financing for the project. Our new infrastructure program and the additional funds in that program mean that the federal government would be able to be a partner in that project and hopefully influence the shape of that project. I am looking forward to working with our government and with the mayors of my riding and the MNAs, the provincial representatives, to make this project finally come true. We need public transit on the West Island of Montreal. We have a train, but it shares the tracks with freight trains and the service is not what it should be.
Finally, I met with the mayor and some councillors of the village of Senneville in my riding a couple of weeks ago and they talked to me about the need to replace their sewage systems. That is just the kind of project that would fit well with that aspect of our infrastructure plan, which we call investing in green projects.
I look forward to working with my colleagues and with other stakeholders in making sure that our plan fills the important needs of my community, as I know it will fill the important needs of communities across this country.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to the Speech from the Throne.
As the member for the great riding of Don Valley East, there are significant steps noted in the Speech from the Throne that will have good, long-term benefits for my constituents and for all Canadians.
Let me begin with the recognition in the throne speech that diversity is our strength. In Don Valley East, close to 60% of the population are first-generation Canadians. People have come to Canada from different parts of the world with one common purpose: to provide a better future for themselves and their families.
Many people in my riding, having established themselves, are giving back to newcomers. A wonderful example of this is an agency called The Clothing Drive. It provides clothing, boots, shoes, school bags, and so forth to hundreds of newly arrived Syrian refugees. I was proud to have participated in the official opening of its office in my riding.
This organization started as a Facebook post stating, “I need help.” Within four weeks it grew to hundreds and thousands of volunteers from all different backgrounds and cultures whose one main purpose was to help. This is the Canadian spirit. When we work together, we are a phenomenal force for change and for the betterment of society.
The past 10 years have been years of divisiveness. People are tired of that type of nastiness and they want to take back their Canada. This generosity and caring became evident in the riding after our set the example and tone for all Canadians. Thanks to his leadership, we are utilizing this caring nature.
Two weeks ago I welcomed 300 refugees into my riding and was overwhelmed by the generosity of the faith groups, the civil societies, and the individuals who came forward to offer their assistance. As an example, a church group in my riding raised $3.6 million, which is fantastic. It wants to sponsor 17 Syrian refugee families. That is wonderful. It would like to relieve the government of those 17 families. There are synagogues and mosques that have already sponsored four and five families each.
A touching example was when I held a town hall meeting on Syrian refugees. One member from a church group had just picked up his family from the airport and was looking for suitable accommodations. Lo and behold, a generous Canadian offered his basement there and then. He remodelled his house for the family's needs. I am happy to say that an Iraqi Christian family is well settled in a Muslim house. That is the type of pluralism we should work toward. I am glad to say that with this government, Canada is back.
Our government committed to growing the middle class. The first order of business for our government was to reduce the tax rate for those earning between $45,000 and $90,000. This tax break is beneficial to 90% of the population.
In my riding, almost half of the residents earn less than $50,000. They are hard-working people who contribute to the Canadian economy. Our government's tax break is important as it will put money back into the pockets of 90% of Canadians. With this extra disposable income, they will help grow the economy.
I am sure there are many hon. members in the House who are dealing with high rates of unemployment in their riding. In Don Valley East, the unemployment rate is 11%, much higher than the national average. Why? Because over the past 10 years we have not invested in the right form of economy. The unemployment rate is even higher for our youth. Investing in the middle class means that people who need help will receive it. This includes people who are struggling to make ends meet and who want to improve their standard of living.
The government understands that investing in people and our future generation is important. How we invest is as critical as in whom we invest. Our Canada child benefit is a strong pillar in helping to grow the economy and the middle class. Raising a child is expensive. There are parents who work at two to three jobs just to make ends meet. These are survival economies. Therefore, our targeted Canada child care benefit would help those people who need it the most.
The third pillar in growing the economy is to invest in infrastructure, both social and physical, like roads, transit signals, etc. In a place like Toronto or Vancouver, the prices of housing is unattainable for those earning between $45,000 and $50,000. Therefore, investing in social infrastructure is important.
I had the opportunity, together with my other colleagues, to meet with the mayor of Toronto, the Hon. John Tory. The mayor and his team of councillors understand the importance of this investment and are ready to partner with the government. They are excited that the federal government is back in business, that the government is communicating with them and treating them with respect by allowing them to choose projects that would have the maximum return on investment, both from a social justice perspective and job creation perspective.
The mayor was particularly pleased with investments in transit as well. Canada's productivity, as we know, has fallen over the past 10 years. Intelligent investments in transit in a large city like Toronto is important. It helps move people faster, helps in reducing commute times, and helps in reducing stress times, thereby increasing the overall productivity. In my riding, a large number of people rely on public transit to take them to work or school, or to help them volunteer. Therefore, our investment in public transit makes it possible for them to be more efficient, effective, and productive.
To grow the economy we need a cohesive strategy, and that is exactly what our government has done by cutting taxes for middle income people; investing in our future through our Canada child care benefit; investing in infrastructure, including social housing, transit, etc.; and investing in post-secondary education. This is a sure way to boost the economy.
However, the sustainability of the economy relies on a clean environment. For the past 10 years the previous government had denied the effects of climate change and was not willing to diversify its resources. Had it done so we would not be in the situation we are in today. We would have had a cleaner, more prosperous economic environment. Through the previous government's inability or negligence, we lost 74% of the clean energy market. Our government therefore is taking the bold step of engaging with the provinces and territories in ensuring we have the best scientists, engineers, good researchers, and that we regain the market share as we move forward. We have committed to investing in green technology and the jobs of the future.
In Don Valley East, we have a very well-educated population. In my riding, 40% of the residents have either a university or college education, which is above the national average. These well-educated people would benefit from our investment in the jobs that are created through our partnership with the environment.
Our government is committed to making real change. We were elected on our commitment for a better, prosperous Canada, an all-inclusive Canada, a Canada that respects its diversity, a Canada that is strong because of its diversity. The Speech from the Throne delivers that message very clearly.
Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with my colleague, the member of Parliament representing .
Because this is my first full speech in the House, I want to thank the voters and volunteers of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, and my family and friends for the honour of their support and the great privilege of being in this House. I also salute my local government colleagues and constituents who taught me a great deal over four terms serving in office.
I also want to state the privilege of living on the unceded territory of three first nations in my riding, Snuneymuxw, Stz'uminus, and Snaw-naw-as or Nanoose First Nation, along with many Métis and indigenous leaders in the community and many residents. They are teaching me every day about the importance of reconciliation around working on right relationship, work that Canada needs to do vitally. They are teaching me about the importance of holding an inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women, implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, implementing recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and moving forward in a true nation-to-nation relationship.
Those were all common cause commitments between the Liberals and New Democrats through the election campaign, but in the throne speech there were no details and no commitments. That makes it hard to pin good intentions down. For concrete actions that might build goodwill, I would love to have seen the Liberal government commit to dedicated investments and a clear plan around its commitment to eliminate boil water advisories on reserve. This is too important for our country to build hopes high and then not to have them implemented.
I am going to flag a few other hits and misses in the throne speech. I am very relieved to see the government reiterate its commitments to infrastructure investments, but we want detail on how much and how they will be distributed. Inter-regional public transit is an example of a win-win-win investment. It is good for our economy, community, and environment.
Nanaimo—Ladysmith has a transit gap between its two communities. We cannot take public transit between Nanaimo and Ladysmith and they are only 20 minutes apart. That makes it hard to get a job outside one's immediate community, it is bad for business, it is bad for the environment. Better yet, supporting inter-regional transit into the riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford would connect the burgeoning campuses of Vancouver Island University. Inter-regional transit connecting those two communities would be very good for student affordability, let alone the economy and environment.
In my home community, Gabriola Island, residents got tired of waiting on long lists for public transit funding, so they established their own regional service. For a community of just 4,000 people, they have funded three biofuel buses, with some support from the regional district of Nanaimo. They run the whole system on volunteers and on Saturday they celebrated their 33,333rd passenger. It is fantastic work by a very small community organization. I am very proud of what they have done, but running public transit should not fall only to community volunteers. We badly need strong federal and provincial government partners to make public transit work.
Last year, New Democrat members of Parliament representing very reliant communities asked the federal government to make it permissible for BC Ferries to apply for infrastructure funding. Ferry users in our communities have been hit very hard by skyrocketing fares originating from the semi-privatization philosophy of the provincial Liberal government in British Columbia. It is very hard on communities and on affordability. BC Ferries represents our marine highway. As the progressive opposition, New Democrats will keep pushing the Liberal government for strong, reliable, long-term investments in public transit infrastructure.
The throne speech promised legislation that will provide greater support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I cannot overstate how badly Nanaimo—Ladysmith needs such support. We need to prevent violence against women. So much has fallen to front-line organizations that pick up the pieces every day.
One such organization is Nanaimo's Haven Society. It fields eight distress calls every day. Every year, it serves close to 4,000 people in the region, all victims of sexual abuse, physical, emotional abuse, and violence. However, because of inadequate finances, Haven Society has to turn away 75 women every year who are ready to leave abusive relationships, but there is no shelter for them. Imagine the heartbreak of that. They simply do not have enough shelter.
Across the country, there is a powerful network of domestic violence shelters picking up the pieces. One night alone 8,000 women and children were in such shelters in our country. Another night that same year, shelters turned away more than 500 women and children for lack of space.
I acknowledge the personal commitment of the across the aisle. I deeply hope that her and her cabinet agree that finding solutions is vital. I salute the work of shelters and anti-violence workers across the country. I hope that we have a government that supports them and keeps the vulnerable safe.
Climate change is the challenge and threat of our time. I see it right at home with salmon struggling to spawn in drying and warming streams, like the Cowichan and Nanaimo rivers. Just at the time when we need to have more resiliency and food security, I see farmers in Cedar and Lantzville struggling with drought, in a rainforest. Like many Canadians, I am very glad that the government believes in the science of climate change, but good grief that we would even be celebrating that is a testament to this dark decade that we have just experienced.
Despite that commitment from the government, the throne speech only said that the government would provide leadership. There is no concrete action plan. There is no commitment to reducing emissions. There is no commitment to making the government accountable in law for setting targets and for meeting them. Three times, New Democrats have brought to this House just such legislation. I believe the Liberals have supported us, almost every Liberal, every time, when they were the second or the third party, so why not now.
Also, climate change should be included in environmental assessment and National Energy Board reviews, but that was not in the throne speech either. The Liberals, on campaign, promised to strengthen pipeline reviews, but so far are letting Kinder Morgan carry through with its pipeline and its tanker traffic expansion, carrying through under Harper government rules. The Liberals must live up to their commitments. It is long past time for a review process that includes climate change, that allows full cross-examination, and full public participation, that takes into account local communities, indigenous people, and climate change.
Nanaimo—Ladysmith is a centre for health care. We have many patients, families, and front-line workers that we hear from all the time. All through the campaign we heard how much they are under pressure and how much the public health care system is under pressure. I am very glad the Liberal throne speech acknowledged a commitment to reinvest in a new health accord, which the Conservative government had abandoned. However, again, there is nothing concrete.
My favourite piece that I would love to see is a commitment from the Liberal government to do everything it can to provide a family doctor for the five million Canadians who do not have one. I would love to see a quick fix to the foreign credentials program. I heard from a family in Nanaimo whose son was born and raised in Nanaimo. He went to the States to get his medical degree and wants to come home to Nanaimo to be a family doctor here, but Canada does not recognize his foreign credentials. How frustrating that is.
There is much work to do, much hope and much opportunity. When the economy is in trouble, it is the most vulnerable and those with the least who suffer the most. The government can and must play a direct role in reducing that inequality and New Democrats will push the Liberal government to take concrete actions to do so. Tom Mulcair and our NDP team will be standing up for such action every day in the House.
Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few moments to thank the people of Berthier—Maskinongé for putting their faith in me for a second term. I also want to thank my family, who supported me during the longest election campaign in history, all the volunteers who helped out, and all the candidates who put their names forward in the last election. That is commendable.
I want to talk a little bit about the riding of Berthier—Maskinongé, which has changed a bit since the last Parliament. I represent three RCMs: the D'Autray, Maskinongé and Matawinie RCMs. Matawinie includes Saint-Jean-de-Matha, Saint-Félix-de-Valois et Saint-Damien. I represent 37 municipalities. It is one of the most beautiful ridings in Canada, and I am very proud of that.
My speech today will be about the throne speech, which contained a number of positive points for the people of Berthier-Maskinongé. First, the government spoke about renewing the nation-to-nation relationship. It is important to adopt all of the recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and I am pleased that there is finally going to be a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
It is particularly important to point that out today, given the report that was issued by the Human Rights Tribunal indicating that, for many years, the government has not been helping first nations or providing adequate funding. It was very important for the government to mention help for our first nations in the throne speech, but we would like more information and concrete timelines.
The throne speech also mentioned the pension plan. After years of inaction by the Conservative government, it is important that something be done to enhance the Canada pension plan. We eagerly await real action with regard to the guaranteed income supplement in order to help lift 200,000 seniors out of poverty.
The return of the long form census was also good news. The data it provides are needed to understand the socio-economic realities of every community and for many other reasons. Infrastructure development was also mentioned, but once again, there is no real plan.
I also want to mention the change in tone this government has brought about. It advocates openness, transparency and co-operation, but here again, it has to walk the talk. It has to take meaningful action to prove that it means what it says.
Employment insurance was also mentioned in the throne speech, but once again, we do not really know what the government's plans are. We must reform our employment insurance system to ensure that all of the workers who contribute can benefit from it without undue delay.
Unfortunately, a lot was missing from what was a very short throne speech. It laid out a vision but did not say anything about timelines or concrete measures. I am optimistic about what is to come, but the throne speech did not mention the regions, such as Berthier—Maskinongé, and I think they bear mentioning. It is also important to help the less fortunate and the elderly.
I am honoured to be the agriculture and agri-food critic, but the throne speech made no mention of that sector, not a word. I am therefore eager to work with the , his parliamentary secretary and my Conservative opposition colleague.
We know that small businesses create 80% of Canadian jobs.
Regional economies depend on our SMEs and the farming community. Improving infrastructure is therefore extremely important.
During the election campaign and over the past four years, there was a lot of talk about access to high-speed Internet. That is very important in the regions, and yet hundreds of municipalities still do not have access. This is important to the development of SMEs and to people who are self-employed. This also helps keep young people in the regions and helps draw people there. I would have liked to see that in the throne speech, but there was no mention of it.
The government made some promises regarding Canada Post and home mail delivery. However, we do not yet know if it plans to restore that service. I cannot help but wonder whether the government understands the importance of home delivery for our seniors.
In the previous Parliament, my colleague from Trois-Rivières and I worked hard to make sure that all members of the House were aware of the issues facing the victims of pyrrhotite in Mauricie. Unfortunately, we were not able to get any support, money, or help for those victims from the Conservative government, but we are confident that this government will offer some support.
Pyrrhotite is a mineral found in concrete in some 2,000 homes in Mauricie. This mineral causes the concrete to crack. As a result, the value of the affected homes has dropped by 40%. The homeowners have to raise their homes to have the foundation rebuilt.
On May 30, 2015, a march was held in Trois-Rivières. Roughly 3,000 people attended this non-partisan march to urge the government to provide funding.
Michèle Comtois and Denis Beauvilliers, who live in the Lac-à-la-Tortue area, had this to say about the pyrrhotite crisis:
...the federal government has a lifeline that it must quickly throw to those who are drowning in this crisis.
These people are really in a tough spot. The provincial government has released some funding for them, but the federal government has never done anything.
Some people have proposed some ideas. I get a lot of emails with suggestions on what we can do. For example, a constituent from Saint-Étienne-des-Grès proposes a tax credit. I have quite a few ideas and I hope to work with the Liberal government to get help for the victims of pyrrhotite.
I have already mentioned that I am the deputy critic for agriculture and agri-food for my party. Last year, Quebec lost 250 farms. The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is striking fear into our producers. We need clarification with respect to the compensation that the Conservative government announced. We are unsure about what the Liberal government is going to do about this issue.
The problem of milk proteins is another important issue that hopefully can be resolved quickly. At present, medium-sized producers are losing about $50,000 a year. If the government would just tell us when it will take action on this matter, and what it is going to do, I believe that many producers in Quebec and Canada would be relieved. I wanted to explore these important issues.
I also want to bring up another important matter. Every newspaper is reporting on food prices. Naturally, we cannot control what happens to the dollar. However, a plan could be put in place to ensure that the poorest Canadians have access to food. I would like the Liberal government to introduce a strategy to ensure that Canadians will have access to fresh food. I have a number of articles that indicate that the price of these foods will increase by another 4%.
I hope to work with the Liberal Party, and also with my Conservative colleagues, in order to benefit Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the hon. member for .
It is truly humbling to be here today in this magnificent and historic chamber. As I stand here today, I reflect on the words of a former prime minister who said:
The past is to be respected and acknowledged, but not to be worshipped. It is our future in which we will find our greatness.
By being with all members here in Parliament today, we are connected to thousands of men and women who have come before us to lead this great country. They, in fact, had a vision.
People from every region of the globe have chosen to make Canada their home, and almost 500,000 people have chosen Niagara as the place to raise their family, to start their business, to develop new technologies and new medicine, or to discover more about our galaxy. That diversity in Canada is reflected throughout this Parliament today.
As we debate the Speech from the Throne today, I think of the men and women who have stood in the House of Commons before us and debated the following: how to care for and honour our veterans after the Great War; Canada's role during the Second World War; the vision to construct the Welland Canal as an integral component of the overall St. Lawrence Seaway system, which connects Thunder Bay on through Niagara Centre to Toronto, to destinations in the wonderful province of Quebec, and on to Europe, Africa, and China; the creation of UN peacekeepers; the design of our national flag; the development of the Auto Pact; and the creation of medicare. More recently, we can look at the debates about the patriation of our Constitution and the Charter of Rights, which have allowed Canadians to fully control our destiny. I also reflect on the acid rain agreement and NAFTA , which showed how well Canada can work with our neighbours to improve our environment and create new jobs and opportunities for this, our generation.
These are just some of the thousands of issues and debates that have been held in these hallowed halls. It is now up to all of us, on both sides of the floor, who have the honour of being elected by our fellow Canadians to the 42nd Parliament, to pick up the torch that has been handed to us and hold it high. It is with this that I commit to the great people, citizens and businesses, of Niagara Centre and to everyone in Niagara, along the Great Lakes, and across our great country of Canada, that I will do my best to live up to their expectations and humbly accept this challenge to be their voice in Ottawa. I extend my sincere appreciation to the constituents within the Niagara Centre riding for placing their trust in me and allowing me to continue a tradition of public service at the federal level of government.
Niagara Centre is Canada's canal corridor riding. The Welland Canal goes through the riding and connects Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence to Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes. This feat of international co-operation and engineering is within one day's drive of over 44% of North America's annual income and connects us as a country to markets around the world. With over 164 million metric tonnes travelling through the seaway, Niagara Centre is at the heart of an international multimodal transportation system.
As we debate the Speech from the Throne, I ask my fellow members what we, as a team here in the House, will leave for our grandchildren. In the early to mid-1900s, our predecessors stood in this chamber and decided to build the St. Lawrence Seaway. It opened to navigation in 1959, and 60 years later that investment is responsible for 100,000 Canadian jobs and injects almost $2 billion in annual taxes into municipalities and provincial and federal governments. That was vision.
As Canada looks to reduce our economic dependence on carbon transportation, the Welland Canal within the Niagara region, within Niagara Centre, offers an alternative way to move goods throughout central North America. Shipping on the water, reducing our dependence on trucks for long-distance transportation, would result in five times lower greenhouse gas emissions, carrying the same goods the same distance as shipping on our Great Lakes. Not only would placing an emphasis on a strengthened multi-modal network help Canada reach our COP21 goals, but it could also help address Canada's infrastructure needs.
Today, Great Lakes shipping removes 7.1 million trucks from our roads and highways and saves an estimated $4.6 billion in highway maintenance. Imagine what more we can do to grow our economy and protect our environment with smart and deliberate investments like a strengthened multi-modal network. Once again, that is vision. I remind members of this House that now it is our turn.
What will be this generation's contribution that will benefit the next generation 60 years from now? Canada's canal corridor and Niagara Centre are ready to help Canada reach its environmental goals while growing our economy. Just as Canada is diverse and has faced together, as a country, challenging times with optimism and innovation, the people of Niagara Centre are ready to face every obstacle with an inspiring determination to succeed. We are Niagara. We will help strengthen our nation's vision that will ensure Canada is a country where everyone belongs. Most important, we will in fact work hard with other members to contribute to making it happen.
Once again, I am forever thankful to the people of Niagara Centre for asking me to be their voice here in Ottawa. I want to assure them that, as economic development, infrastructure, public safety, training and education, and trade and exports are debated here in this House Commons, I will ensure that their voice is heard—whether it is advocating for a free trade zone to compete with the American free trade zone just across the border from Niagara Centre; additional infrastructure to get people to work today, in turn ensuring our vision contributes to a better Canada tomorrow; enhanced employment; retraining to help everyone adjust to the changing work reality; or reduction of interprovincial and international barriers to Niagara wine.
As I start this adventure of advocating for Niagara Centre in Ottawa, I have to thank my loving family for their continued support and their love: my wife Lisa, my daughters Logan and Jordan; and my mother and father Claudette and George. To my siblings and their families and my friends, their continued support is very much appreciated.
In conclusion, as we debate the Speech from the Throne, may we ensure we look at it through the lens of a triple bottom line mind set—social, environment, and economy—ensuring our efforts contribute to a clean environment and a strong economy for our middle class.
Although we may be on opposite sides of the House, I strongly believe that this vision will put forward the interests of those for whom we are here: future generations. Our number one priority is to satisfy those we represent, not the party we belong to; to satisfy those we represent today, while not compromising the generations of tomorrow. As we work closer together in the House to ensure our nation succeeds today, we will work together in the House to ensure our nation will walk together forever.
Mr. Speaker, I was told at a meeting recently that the throne speech was a good opportunity for new MPs to get up and speak in the House and give their maiden speech, so I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity.
It is a great honour and privilege to represent the great riding of the Yukon. I am really moved by the honour of being elected by my peers, particularly in my riding, which is very diverse and politically eclectic. It was really gratifying for me to have the support of the people of the Yukon.
I have to commend my riding. We had the second-highest turnout of any riding in the country. In particular, I would like to commend the first nations people and youth of Yukon who came out in record numbers to show their commitment to democracy.
Of course, all of us have to thank our families. I thank my wife, Melissa. She is such an empathetic, understanding, and supportive spouse. I thank my 7-year-old daughter, Aurora. She is very sensitive and creative, and bilingual on top of that. She speaks a little Spanish from Dora. She also speaks Southern Tutchone, a first nation language from Yukon. I also thank my dynamic 4-year-old, Dawson.
Today, there are number of things in the throne speech we could speak about, but I would like to speak about the vulnerable. That is because it is often said that one grades the success and effectiveness of a country by how it treats its most vulnerable. It has always been a high priority of mine in politics. One of the main reasons I am in politics is to help those who really need it. If it is not to help them, why are we really here? The people who can deal with government on their own are not really our first priority.
Who are the vulnerable? All of us at any time in our life cycle could be one of those vulnerable. It could be all Canadians at a particular time in a particular situation in their lives. I want to talk to a few of those situations and how we are proposing to help out.
First, let us talk about seniors or elders. I am very happy that we are lending them our support. I just cannot imagine, when we look at the size of their pensions and the costs of things today that have gone up exponentially, how they survive. Many members must know seniors who have to make a choice between nutritional food and turning the heat on in their place. It is not a decision that any of us like. It is a bit hard for us in the House to understand a decision like that when we do not have to make it. We need to think about them as we make decisions in the House.
I am glad that we will index and increase the old age security supplement. The indexing would be based on a package of goods that seniors use more often than the average person, because they use particular items. It would be more sensitive indexing. Also, our government wants to increase the CPP. That has to be worked out with the provinces and territories. That is not an easy task. If that does not go ahead and the provinces go ahead on their own, I ask that they somehow make it better for seniors so they have a livable income in their final years.
I am also glad that we have offered a large increase for home care so that seniors could more happily stay in their homes. Also, we would open the discussions on the cost of drugs when they become very expensive for particular seniors.
Another vulnerable group is immigrants. In recent years there has been a gradual creeping up in the time it takes to bring in certain categories of immigrants such as spouses and grandparents.
I think members know how important grandparents are in their families, for them to work with kids and be friends with the kids. Can members imagine if they did not have them for five years? Even worse, can members imagine if, tomorrow, someone took their spouses away and said they could have them back in two years? Immigrants have to face such timing. It is very tough. We do not have to face those types of things, but we have to try put ourselves in their moccasins.
People can be very vulnerable when it comes to needing health care, and so I am delighted that discussions have started with the provinces to come up with ways of ameliorating that system.
EI is another area. It is hard to imagine people who have to go home one night wondering if they have to move because they do not have enough income to pay the rent or the mortgage, or they do not have enough to pay for groceries, and have to tell their children that because of this flex in their life they will have to move somewhere, but do not know where. That would be very difficult for any of us. Once again, think of those people. That is why I am glad that EI changes will be coming up, ones that are particularly important for my riding because we have such a short building and working season. It is very limited sometimes because of the number of hours a person can get in.
I think we are all sympathetic to the veterans who fought for the freedoms that we have today and want them to be treated in the best way possible. Many of them have been injured physically or mentally and, of course, we should do everything we possibly can for them. I am excited that we have promised to increase the service standards. Some of the long waits I have heard about over the years for the service they deserve are just unacceptable. I think people in the House would definitely agree with that.
Another vulnerable group these days is average Canadian, which everyone here was a couple of months ago. We know how expensive things are getting, especially for those with families. Just getting by is very difficult for some average Canadians. I am glad we have provisions for that.
Also, with respect to the poor around the world, I am glad we are looking at this issue again because there are, as we all know, some incredibly horrific situations occurring around the world that people are barely surviving, if surviving at all.
Another issue in my particular riding concerns people in rural areas, where employment is often much harder. There are very long distances to services, including medical and dental services. Not all of those services are available in rural communities, including the great rural communities of Yukon such as Dawson, Carmacks, Ross River, Teslin, Faro, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Mayo, Carcross, Old Crow, Mount Lorne, Ibex Valley, Pelly Crossing, Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, Marsh Lake, Tagish, Stewart Crossing, Elsa, Rancheria, West Dawson, and Keno, with its 11 residents, to name a few.
Of course, aboriginal people are very vulnerable. Their quality of life and the determinants of the quality of their lives, of course, are much lower than for other Canadians. I am delighted that there is a whole number of items that we have promised in that respect, which I will to speak to in another speech.
Moreover, of course, there are the provisions to help youth, who are obviously very vulnerable, especially financially.
Finally—and I saved the most important point for the last—is the money that we have put in for families, especially low-income families, which will take hundreds of thousands of children off the poverty level. If there is anything that I want to accomplish in this Parliament, that would be it.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
Today it is once again such a great honour for me to be able to rise in the House to participate in our democratic process on behalf of those who elected me from the greatest riding in all of Canada, Kitchener—Conestoga. It is with my constituents' best interests in mind that I speak to the government's Speech from the Throne.
As the MP for an urban-rural riding, I am concerned about the glaring omission of any mention of agriculture. Yes, agriculture is important to rural communities in my riding, but it is also very important to the urban communities that I represent as well. Farmers do feed cities. In my riding there are over 1,200 farms, approximately 1,400 in all of the region of Waterloo, accounting for $473 million in gross receipts in 2010. Farmers are professionals. They want to meet their social obligations in protecting the environment, protecting the health and welfare of animals, and providing the best quality food and products for their families, for their communities, and for the world.
The family farm is the foundation of the Canada we love today. Products have evolved and technology has advanced, but one thing remains constant: from before sunrise to long after the sun goes down, Canadian farmers do the hard work that feeds our country.
The Canadian agriculture and agrifood sectors account for more than $100 billion in economic activity every year and employ more than two million Canadians. The importance of agriculture to our national interests simply cannot be overstated. One in eight Canadian jobs depends on agriculture, those in primary agriculture, food processing, horticulture, farm markets, and more. By the way, I hope that all of my colleagues have taken the opportunity to visit the world-famous St. Jacobs farmers' market, in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga.
Over 100 years ago in 1900, one Canadian farmer produced enough food for 10 people. Today one farmer feeds more than 120 people. These are not people the government should be ignoring when setting out its agenda for this coming session. The Liberal government should be aggressively pursing new markets for our producers while protecting supply management. It should be investing in cutting-edge agriculture and agrifood technology; levelling the playing field for our producers, so they can better compete with trading partners; making science-based regulatory decisions; ensuring an effective and efficient transportation system; and all the while keeping taxes low for these producers and processors.
Our party has always placed high value on our agricultural sector and we will continue to do so while in opposition. Unfortunately, in three months since the election, we have already seen enough inaction on this and a number of other files to make Canadians uneasy about the future.
In terms of the economy and taxes and deficits, our leader said it best in her reply to the throne speech when she said, “We trust Canadians and the money they work so hard for is better left in their own pockets than in the hands of politicians here”. The constituents in my riding would prefer to invest and spend their own hard-earned money rather than have government determine how they can or cannot spend it.
Three topics I would like to focus on in this section are trade, the government's commitment to lowering the TFSA limit, and its promise to run a large deficit to increase infrastructure funding.
First, on trade, I am very happy to hear the Liberal government has signed the trans-Pacific partnership deal. However, the government needs to ratify the TPP at the earliest opportunity as it is in the best interests of all Canadians. The TPP would provide access to new markets with which we do not currently have free trade agreements, such as Japan, the world's third-largest economy. Ratifying the TPP would preserve Canada's privileged access to our largest trading partner, the United States, and would strengthen our partnership under NAFTA.
Ratifying this deal is especially important to our agriculture sector and again I am thinking of Waterloo region farmers. The TPP would allow these hard-working farmers preferential market access to products from great Canadian beef and pork to sweet Canadian maple syrup. By the way, Kitchener—Conestoga is home to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, which is the world's largest one-day maple syrup festival, and it will be held on April 2 this year.
By generating opportunities for Canadian agriculture and agrifood exports, the TPP would protect and create jobs and enhance economic opportunities and financial security for Canadian businesses and workers and their families in all regions of Canada.
As it relates to the tax-free savings accounts, the Conservative Party is proud of our introduction of TFSA that encouraged Canadians to be responsible in saving for their own future needs. A few days following the Speech from the Throne, my office received a phone call from a senior who begged and pleaded that I, along with my office, do everything that we can in order to ensure the Liberal government does not reduce the limit that she can contribute to her primary source of saving. This woman, by the way, was not someone who had a large income, contrary to what the Liberal government would like Canadians to believe. Many Canadians have come to rely on these savings accounts when planning for their future. These negative changes proposed will make life less affordable for Canadians who are trying to save for their vulnerable years.
In terms of infrastructure, in December, I wrote a letter to the and key members of his cabinet regarding commitments he had made to infrastructure funding, specifically in my riding. During the campaign, our current Prime Minister assured that an elected Liberal government would fund a two-way, all-day, rail link to Toronto so that commuters could travel to and from the region throughout the entire day. I would urge the Liberal government not to renege on its promise as its Ontario counterparts continue to drag their heels.
As we all know full well, these projects do come at a great cost. The government made it clear in its platform that it will be taking the surplus the previous government left it and entering into a deficit. The problem is that what was once a promise to keep the deficit to $10 billion has now ballooned to $20 billion or possibly even $30 billion. Every week we hear of more holes in the Liberal costing of their platform. More recently, a report from the parliamentary budget officer contradicts the Liberals' claim of a cost-neutral tax increase to Canadians. Instead, the PBO has found that it will cost the government upwards of $100 million per year to fund these so-called tax-neutral measures. It is clear to Canadians that there is always one party that will always look out for hard-working taxpayers and that is our Conservative Party.
We heard in the Speech from the Throne a commitment to keep Canadians safe and to strengthen relationships with our allies. Conservatives have said that in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies, Canada must maintain our commitment to the air combat mission against ISIS and leave our CF-18s in the fight. The has still not explained how pulling CF-18 fighter jets out of the fight against ISIS is helpful to our coalition partners. If Canada truly wants to strengthen our relationship with its allies, this is not the time to withdraw our CF-18s. We should be standing side by side with our allies.
The Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Air Force have been carrying out training and air strikes successfully in the region for almost a year. The suggestion that Canada does not have the resources to do both is simply not consistent with the contributions we have already made and is a disservice to Canada's strong record. The brave men and women of Canada's Armed Forces are always willing and able to do the heavy lifting which includes degrading and defeating ISIS, a terrorist group that is committing mass murder and unspeakable atrocities. It is clear that remaining in the coalition fight against ISIS in a combat role is therefore in the best interests of Canadians both here and abroad. It is also for the refugees that we have welcomed in our communities with open arms and hearts that we must remain in this fight. For many of them, a safe and stable homeland remains their ultimate desire. It is our job to provide that for them so that if they wish, they may return to their country of origin and live free from oppression and fear of death.
The constituents of my riding are expecting the government to work hard for all sectors of the economy. The Liberals must address what they plan to do for our farming communities. Furthermore, they expect the government to steer our Canadian economy in a time when global markets are fragile, while stewarding their hard-earned tax dollars well and maintaining the principle that we should not spend money we do not have on things we cannot afford.
Last, as many of our closest friends around the world ramp up their contribution to the fight against this barbaric group ISIS, Canadians expect that we will stand alongside our friends. Unfortunately, these have not been addressed in the Speech from the Throne.
It is my hope that the Liberal government will see the error of its ways and take action on behalf of our global friends, on behalf of our small and medium-sized businesses in expanding trade opportunities, and especially on behalf of our vital agriculture sector to ensure that family farms can succeed and that Canadians can continue to have access to the very highest quality food in the world.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the voters from the Richmond Centre electoral district, who have once again placed their trust in me to be their representative. This is the third time that I have been fortunate to be elected and it is always a privilege to speak on behalf of my constituents, previously for the Richmond electoral district and today for Richmond Centre.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my supporters and volunteers in Richmond and, most important, my husband Enoch. His encouragement, support, and sacrifice have made my endeavours in Ottawa possible.
At around 8 p.m. on election day, one of the major television networks declared my defeat and, hence, my early retirement. It took another couple of hours for Elections Canada to count the rest of the ballots and, fortunately, I am here today to talk about it.
That very evening, one of my constituents sent me a line by a famous author, Mark Twain. It states, “the report of my death was an exaggeration”. Here I am today to tell my constituents that I will be holding the Liberal government to account as part of Her Majesty's loyal opposition.
I would like to comment on the throne speech and discuss some of the issues I have heard in my conversations with many of my constituents from Richmond Centre.
I have been assigned the role of critic for small business. In the Richmond Centre electoral district, small businesses are a huge engine of job creation. Whether it is in top-in-the-world restaurants, tourism, or import and export businesses, my riding is full of people who are either owners or employees of such businesses.
International trade, especially with Pacific Rim countries, is of major economic concern to my constituents because they are right in the Pacific gateway of the nation. This is why proceeding with the trans-Pacific partnership, the TPP, and continuing to implement free trade agreements is economically beneficial. Of note was the free trade agreement that our Conservative government signed with South Korea, which will stimulate economic activity for both countries and will create jobs in the Vancouver area and across Canada.
Equally important is maintaining a low-tax burden for small businesses. The Conservative government, through Bill in the last Parliament, reduced the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%, to be phased in over the next four years. I call on the new Liberal government to maintain this prudent measure, which will strengthen the job-creating small business sector.
Let us now look at the throne speech again to see if it talked about business. How many times did we see the word “business” in the throne speech? None; zero. How many times did we see the word “employment” in the throne speech? Only once, in reference to the employment insurance system, when people receive benefits for not working, whether through losing their jobs, sickness benefits, or maternity leave.
Speaking of employment insurance, we will also be watching very carefully the impact of increased payroll taxes on small businesses, which create jobs. Increased payroll taxes represent a real cost to businesses. Lower costs will create an environment for more jobs.
The throne speech does not mention how the private sector will be supported, whether with lower taxes, a reduction in red tape, training, or other measures that will encourage job creation and economic activity.
Indeed, it is disturbing to see the government going in the exact opposite direction, where a large government will be causing large deficits, large deficits will accumulate large debts, and large debts will increase the interest and expenses the government will have to pay. We all know who pays the government's bills. It is the taxpayer who will be paying for these upcoming Liberal deficits. This upsets a lot of people.