The House resumed from December 6 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House for the first time.
Before I get into what will be a list of people I want to thank, I would like to reflect for a moment on when my wife and I flew here for the first time after the election for one of the orientation days. Although I had been to this chamber and to the chamber in Centre Block many times, it was an incredible experience to walk onto the floor of this House, the very epicentre of Canadian democracy, to see that so clearly demonstrated through the traditions represented, the desks, the very carpet, and all that these mean. It truly is a humbling experience, the burden that all 338 of us have as we sit here representing people from across this country.
Danielle and I took a few moments and reflected on the significance of what that means in our nation's more than 150-year history. The phrase that kept coming to mind, which I repeated often throughout the election, was the short statement in section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867, regarding the House of Commons and making laws “for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada”.
Although it talks primarily about delegated authority, over these last seven to eight months I spent a lot of time campaigning and talking with Canadians, the people of Battle River—Crowfoot. I thought time and time again the prime reason we are here is to ensure that we have peace, order and good governance. Each and every one of us has that responsibility in representing our many constituents in the diverse regions that make up this country and that we all work toward that in the midst of what often will be differences, sometimes passionate differences, on policy items. As we work in a unique minority Parliament there has to be a level of working together to some degree, while we all strive for peace, order and good government.
I would be remiss if I did not list a few of the people I wish to thank. I will get to the people of Battle River—Crowfoot in a minute, but I first I need to thank my family.
My wife Danielle is an amazing life partner. I thank her for the support she has given over these last eight months in the adventure of a nomination campaign and now during the early months as a member of Parliament. I thank Danielle so much. I am also very proud of my two boys, Matthew and Emerson, who are excited that dad gets to now work in a castle. They are a little young to understand the dynamics of it, but they like the fact that I work in a castle.
I thank my dad, siblings, aunts and uncles. When one comes from a farming family, one has a real understanding of the significance of what family is in a situation like this, and I thank my family.
I want to especially mention my late grandfathers, Jim Hutchings and Felix Kurek, who, throughout their lives, were such an encouragement to me. They were both very different people, but they demonstrated so well what it is to be Canadian and all that it represents. My grandfather Felix had a career in the energy industry. My grandfather Jim was a career farmer and demonstrated well what it is to be Canadian.
I thank my campaign team. By the end of the campaign, we had more than 200 people who participated in the nomination and election campaigns. It was incredible to have all of these people involved in the democratic process, and I thank my campaign team.
I would also like to thank my office staff, some of whom I have worked with before and some of whom are new, for their hard work, support and effort, especially over these last weeks as I have been learning the ropes as a member of Parliament.
I want to also thank my predecessor Kevin Sorenson. Kevin demonstrated well what it is to be a strong representative with a principled voice for east central Alberta. He is a principled, good guy. I appreciate Kevin's friendship and his mentorship. I am glad that he is still quick to offer me advice, even though I am now the one sitting in the chamber and he is farming and taking some well-deserved rest.
I want to talk about the people of Battle River—Crowfoot, and my response to the throne speech and the amendment that our Conservative caucus has brought forward. They go hand in hand.
I am a fifth-generation farmer from the constituency of Battle River—Crowfoot. Over the last seven or eight months I have spoken to over 10,000 people who are faced with the reality of the country in which we live. I need to first thank them for the honour of representing them with a strong mandate in this House. I will be their voice in Parliament, making sure that the concerns, the issues and all that makes up Battle River—Crowfoot, that 52,000 square kilometres of east central Alberta, get represented in our capital. I take that seriously. I thank them again for this honour.
As I have travelled over these last eight months, and as I have continued connecting with the people in Battle River—Crowfoot since the election, I have heard a consistent message. They are frustrated and they are not content with our country's status. As a proud Canadian, that is difficult to hear.
We have heard a number of speeches from some of my colleagues that have touched on this, but the level of alienation that we are hearing about is real. I would urge members opposite to take seriously the fact that there are lifelong proud Canadians who feel their country is not serving them. That is a problem and something that needs to be acknowledged. Unfortunately, it was not acknowledged in the throne speech.
I have spoken with energy workers, people who have made a career in the oil and gas sector, who have given up hope. These people are proud of the work they do, including the world-class environmental standards that they work hard to preserve each and every day. They were not recognized. They need champions, yet unfortunately, the throne speech does not even acknowledge them.
I have spoken with the agricultural industry. As a fifth-generation farmer, I am proud of that legacy. Farmers are stewards of the land in Alberta's special areas, yet producers have faced devastating consequences. Let me outline what that might look like for a producer, a farmer. Farmers are facing a drop in the price of canola from $13 a bushel to $9 a bushel. That has a devastating impact on a farmer's bottom line in an industry that already has very slim margins. We did not see those issues addressed in the throne speech. However, the government seems to brag about its relationship on the international stage when it is literally being laughed at on late night television.
I talked to other business owners and people within my constituency. They are all so close to giving up hope. That is devastating for a proud Canadian, whether it be workers in manufacturing, or whether it be those teachers, nurses, doctors in our small communities. If they do not have strong communities, those institutions cannot thrive.
My speaking time is nearly done and I look forward to answering questions. I would simply conclude by saying once again that I am so honoured to be the member of Parliament for Battle River—Crowfoot. I thank God for this country. It is such an honour to be able to participate in this democratic process and all that it means for the future of Battle River—Crowfoot and this nation.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is my pleasure to rise today to deliver my maiden speech in this hon. House as the member of Parliament for Don Valley North and to speak in support of the Speech from the Throne.
I would like to begin by thanking the people of Don Valley North for placing their trust in me to be their voice in Ottawa. I am incredibly humbled by this great responsibility, and I will strive every day to ensure that the perspectives, concerns and diverse opinions and beliefs of my community are thoughtfully and comprehensively represented in this House.
Throughout this fall's campaign, just like all of my hon. colleagues, I had the chance to speak to residents through the breadth and width of my riding about issues they cared most about, from traffic congestion and community safety to housing affordability and providing more support for our seniors.
The residents of Don Valley North and Canadians from coast to coast to coast have made it very clear. They asked all of us in this House to work together to address the issues that matter most to them and their families, and they expect us to deliver results not soon, not down the road, but now. That is why I am proud of the ambitious agenda this government has presented to the House in the Speech from the Throne.
This government has set forward a plan to address the most pressing issues faced by us as a society today. These include fighting climate change, strengthening the middle class, walking the road of reconciliation, keeping Canadians safe and healthy and positioning our country for success on the international stage. Canadians have chosen to keep our country moving forward, and that is exactly what this government's plan will do.
While I stand in this House speaking of the mandate handed to us by the Canadian people, my mind turns immediately to an encounter I had on the campaign trail in Don Valley North. While knocking on doors on Van Horne Avenue, I met a young mother completing her final year of post-secondary studies. Although beaming with pride as she told me about her daughter and how much she has accomplished over the years in the face of adversity and challenges, I could see her eyes slowly begin to fill with tears. She told me about her anxieties with regard to the possibility of not being able to complete her studies because of recent cuts to the new OSAP funding by the current provincial government. She spoke about the skyrocketing costs of living and child care and her fears about the type of planet her children will inherit.
It is encounters like this that have brought me to public life, and indeed to this House.
My hon. colleagues will know that the fears and anxieties expressed by this young mother are not unique to my riding. Indeed, they are not unique to the people of Toronto, nor to Ontario, for that matter. They are concerns shared by many Canadians in every riding across this country.
Therefore, as we debate this ambitious plan set forward by the government, which directly addresses the concerns, hopes and aspirations of Canadians from across our country, I ask this hon. House to think about the people who sent us here.
As parliamentarians, we are presented with unique opportunities. We have been sent to Ottawa by our communities with the expectation that we will not only govern, but, more importantly, we will lead, and lead for them.
Future generations of Canadians will judge us not on the words delivered in this House today or tomorrow, but on how we addressed the defining challenges facing our generation.
As members of this hon. House, we have a clear mandate from the people, and that mandate demands action now.
On climate change, Canadians have demanded that we take immediate action to tackle the crisis head-on. That is why our government is committed to protecting the environment by setting a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, putting a price on pollution everywhere, protecting and conserving nature and reducing plastic pollution.
To address affordability and strengthen our middle class, we are taking action to invest in affordable housing and make it easier for more people to achieve the goal of home ownership.
We know that raising a family is expensive and saving for retirement is a challenge, and that is why we will make before-school and after-school programs and child care more affordable and accessible while also strengthening pensions for our seniors.
To keep Canadians safe and healthy, our government is taking direct action to crack down on gun crime, banning military-style assault weapons and helping municipalities to ban handguns, should they choose to, while also ensuring that all Canadians have access to high-quality, affordable health care by working with the provinces, territories, professionals and academia to ensure all Canadians have access to a good primary care doctor.
We know that as a government and as parliamentarians, we are not alone in taking leadership to provide a better future for Canadians. Across the country, countless community organizations are working tirelessly in helping Canadians who need and deserve our support.
In my riding of Don Valley North, organizations like the Armenian Community Centre, the Iranian Women's Organization of Ontario, the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services, Working Women Community Centre, Toronto North Local Immigration Partnership and Flemingdon Health are offering crucial services to new Canadians.
ACCES Employment, The Centre for Education and Training, and Springboard Employment Services are providing help to Canadians in search of employment and new skills.
Willowdale Community Legal Services, Adventure Place, Community Information Fairview, North York Harvest Food Bank and religious and cultural organizations are providing professional and social services to our country.
I am incredibly proud of the work those organizations and so many more in Don Valley North are doing. I am honoured to work alongside them as their member of Parliament to ensure all members of our community have an equal opportunity to succeed.
Our constituents are looking to us to lead. They are looking to us to take decisive action to create a better Canada where everyone, regardless of race, religion, sex, age or country of origin, can and will succeed. I am proud to say that the ambitious plan put forward by this government does just that.
Mr. Speaker, since this is my first opportunity to speak in this 43rd Parliament, I would like to start by congratulating you on your election as Speaker.
I would also like to thank the residents of Oakville North—Burlington for the confidence they have placed in me to represent them once again in this place. I would like to thank my son Fraser and his wife Taylor for their love and support, and my family, Jill, Rob and their son Bayley, as well as my incredible staff and campaign team, without whom I would not be here. I am incredibly proud of the work done over the last four years, and I am excited to continue that work in this new Parliament.
During the campaign, I had many conversations with constituents about their expectations for this new Parliament. They, along with all Canadians, expect us to work together as parliamentarians to make sure that we build an economy that leaves no one behind, take decisive action on climate change, make life more affordable, continue down the road to reconciliation and ensure that the health and safety of Canadians remains our number one priority through action on gun control and universal national pharmacare. The throne speech affirmed our commitment to delivering on those priorities.
The residents of Oakville North—Burlington are passionate about green space, the environment and fighting climate change. During the campaign, I met with the group Grandmothers Act to Save the Planet and others who want to see us take urgent action to save the planet. Two weeks ago, I attended a climate strike in Burlington organized by Caleb Smolenaars, a student in my riding.
Climate change is the defining challenge of our time, which is why we are taking bold, decisive action. In my riding, we have made investments in Oakville Transit, Burlington Transit and GO Transit so that service can be improved and people can get home faster. We have also invested in the Crosstown Trail and other walking and cycling infrastructure. We are offering incentives to get more people to use zero-emission vehicles. I have long advocated for better cycling infrastructure. Cycling is the ultimate zero-emission vehicle, and I will continue to work with the government and stakeholders to further advance cycling.
While we have taken action by introducing a price on pollution, there is much more work to be done. We are setting a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, protecting and conserving nature and reducing plastic pollution. Not long ago I challenged local restaurants to stop using plastic straws, and today I am pleased that most restaurants have stopped serving plastic straws automatically. Halton has some of the safest drinking water in Canada, so there is no need for plastic water bottles, yet we still have much work to do to reduce our plastic use in our everyday lives.
In our last mandate, we took steps to foster a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples and deliver a better life for families and communities, but there remains much work to be done. We will take action to co-develop and introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We will continue our work on eliminating long-term drinking water advisories on reserve by 2021 and will co-develop legislation to ensure that indigenous peoples have access to high-quality and culturally relevant health care.
In 2012, I visited the hospital in Sioux Lookout, a partnership between federal, provincial, municipal and first nation governments. This hospital provides culturally appropriate treatment and care, hospice and long-term stay care and a wraparound continuum of care that ensures better health outcomes.
We must also address the recommendations of the report on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and continue to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations. I am happy to see that in my community we are working with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, indigenous knowledge keepers like Stephen Paquette and Sherry Saevil, and the Sheridan College Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support and Elijah Williams to advance reconciliation. Today, the Mississaugas of the Credit flag flies permanently at Oakville Town Hall. The Oakville Community Foundation and Oak Park Neighbourhood Centre are working with indigenous leaders to move us forward on the path to reconciliation.
As a government, the health and safety of Canadians is our number one priority. Thoughts and prayers are not enough when it comes to gun violence. In my role on the public safety committee during the last Parliament, I worked with my colleagues as well as stakeholders like PolySeSouvient, the Coalition for Gun Control, Dr. Alan Drummond and emergency room physicians, and many others to strengthen our firearms legislation. I am proud of my work on Bill last year to introduce amendments to protect those subjected to intimate partner violence.
During the election campaign, I was proud to run on our record of responsible firearms legislation and investments in law enforcement, border services, and programs that prevent young people from getting involved in guns and gangs. The action proposed in the throne speech to ban military-style assault weapons, like the one used at Polytechnique 30 years ago, is long overdue.
We are the only country that has universal health care that does not have pharmacare as part of it. As former parliamentary secretary to the minister of health, I was able to work with the minister to make significant changes that will see the cost of drugs reduced for Canadians. No one should have to decide between putting food on the table and taking medication.
We know that women are disproportionately impacted by the high cost of drugs because of the precarious nature of their work. I have heard stories of women who stopped taking beta blockers after a heart attack because they could not afford them and women who stay with an abusive partner simply for the drug plan that covers the expensive medications they need. This is unacceptable. That is why our move to a universal national pharmacare program is welcome news for Canadians.
Too many Canadians have been touched by cancer. Certainly one of the highlights of my first term was the $150-million investment the Canadian government will be making in the Terry Fox Research Institute to create the marathon of hope cancer centres with its partners. Through my volunteer work with the Terry Fox Foundation, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. David Malkin and his work at SickKids with Terry Fox PROFYLE.
Cancer remains the number one disease killer of children. During this term, I will honour children like Carson, Ayverie and Teagan, who were taken far too young by this horrible disease, and support the work of Helena's Hope to ensure that our platform commitment to fund childhood cancer research is honoured.
Oakville North—Burlington is an affluent community, but that does not mean there are not those who struggle to make ends meet or who live in poverty. We must make sure we have an economy that works for all Canadians, including the most marginalized.
Affordability is an issue in my community. I have had the pleasure of working with Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga, which has said that our national housing strategy has been transformative for its work. Recently, Affordable Housing Halton held an event where Andrew Balahura from the Halton region talked about the work it is doing, with the help of our federal government, to support those who need a safe, affordable place to live. We must also ensure that young people can buy their first home. That is why the proposed changes to the first-time home buyer program will make a difference in my riding.
Ford Motor Company of Canada's assembly plant and head office in Oakville are of vital importance to Oakville and the surrounding area. It will be critical to ensure its success, not just today but in the future. Small and medium-sized businesses are the drivers of our Canadian economy and we will continue to provide an environment for them to grow and create well-paying middle-class jobs.
Gender equality and ending gender-based violence remain a top priority for me personally and for our government. I have had the privilege of working with some incredible local and national organizations, like Halton Women's Place, SAVIS, CAGIS, Actua and many more. I look forward to continuing our work. I am pleased to be launching the young women in leadership program shortly, which my team and I developed three years ago to give young women career mentors in Halton. The number-one obstacle to the full participation of women in the workplace is the lack of affordable quality child care. Ensuring that women have access to child care continues to be a priority for our government.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Nairobi Summit, reaffirming Canada's commitment to the agenda of the International Conference on Population and Development. I heard time and again that other countries look to Canada's leadership when it comes to empowering women, ending gender-based violence and poverty, realizing gender equality and taking urgent and sustained action to realize sexual and reproductive health and rights for all women at home and abroad.
Canadians are expecting us to listen and collaborate on the many issues where there is common ground between us. It is a rare privilege to take a seat in this place, and one that I do not take for granted. I look forward to getting to work and I appreciate the opportunity to speak today.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with the member for .
Though I rose briefly during Routine Proceedings last Friday, this is my first speech in the 43rd Parliament and I would like to take this occasion to give some additional words of thanks. As a temporary custodian of this seat in Parliament, I am deeply honoured to have the enormous responsibility of representing some 140,000 residents as part of a centuries-old tradition of protecting citizens by checking the otherwise unlimited power of the Crown. Parliaments exist in order to ensure that the Crown and its agent, the government, cannot impose itself on citizens without their consent. That consent is granted through votes in this incredible institution.
Once again, I thank the voters of Calgary Rocky Ridge for electing me to be their servant in the House. I also wish to thank the 270-odd volunteers who assisted my election campaign. I thank them for their support, for their commitment to their community and for their love of their country. I could not have done it without them. I would like to thank the other candidates who contested the election in Calgary Rocky Ridge for giving the voters choice, without which there is no democracy.
Finally, I wish to thank my family. My three daughters, it seems I began the last Parliament with three young girls who are now three young women. My loving wife, Kimberley, I thank for her love, her understanding, her patience, her unwavering support and for always keeping it real in the Kelly house. To my parents, Marnie and Duane Kelly, I thank them for their constant love and encouragement.
Today we are debating last Thursday's Speech from the Throne. My response to the Speech from the Throne is coloured by the recent experience of having knocked on a little under 30,000 doors with my re-election team. What I heard on the doorsteps is what informs my remarks and my impressions of the Speech from the Throne.
To be blunt, the government has virtually no support in my riding. That is simply a fact and it is supported by the election results. I knocked on doors in the communities of Calgary Rocky Ridge in every provincial and federal election over the last 30 years as an activist and in 2015 and 2019 as a candidate, and I have never experienced anything quite like it.
It was never easier. People have never been more forthright in coming forward and identifying themselves as Conservative supporters. However, at the same time, I have never had more difficult conversations on doorsteps than I did in this election with people who suggested that they intended to support me, my party and my leader.
For most candidates in most elections, conversations with our own supporters are the easy ones, but not in 2019 in Calgary Rocky Ridge. Some of the conversations I had with supporters were downright heartbreaking. I spoke with people who had not worked in years. I heard from people who told me that they were on the verge of losing their homes. I talked with people whose spouses were working in Texas and coming home for a couple of weekends a month or were working in the Middle East or other parts of the world and only coming home a few times over the course of a year.
I talked with a man who has lived in his neighbourhood for 20 years and he said that since 2015, seven previously stable families on his block had come apart in divorce. Economic stress and anxiety from unemployment and failing businesses have taken their toll on families, tearing apart the very fabric of our communities.
I spoke with people who openly and candidly expressed their despair, anger and incredulity over what they see as a failure of their country to respect their province. For decades, Alberta has welcomed Canadians from across Canada and indeed people from around the world to be a part of Alberta's economic opportunities. It has transferred much of that wealth back to other provinces and continues to do so despite a recession that has been going on for five years.
My constituents are demanding action. They cannot wait. They made it abundantly clear to me that regardless of which party was to form a government after the election, they would expect me to speak clearly and without ambiguity about just how devastating these past four years have been.
They expect me to be candid about just how upset they are with their federal government. They told me that they wanted the no-more-pipelines bill reversed. They told me they were stunned that a tanker ban on Alberta exports was brought in while tankers continued to bring in oil to eastern refineries from Saudi Arabia.
They told me that they could not understand why a government was running such large deficits at a time of economic expansion. They told me that they were appalled by the constant parade of ministers to the Ethics Commissioner, by a prepared to bully his own cabinet and break the law just to get his own way, and by the way the Prime Minister's personal conduct never matches his moral preening.
They told me, at door after door, that the is a constant source of embarrassment on the world stage, and that they do not believe that he is up to the diplomatic challenges of our times, because they believe that he is fundamentally an unserious person.
With the campaign behind us, with the country's divisions laid bare in a minority Parliament, last week the had an opportunity to acknowledge the failings of the last Parliament, which cost him seats and votes in every region of the country.
He had an opportunity to chart a new course to address the concerns of Canadians who rejected his government's track record. Instead, he delivered a speech full of the same flowery language and grand aspirations that we heard throughout the last Parliament with only a few inadequate words for my constituents in a partial sentence, kind of as an afterthought, where he claimed that the government would “also work just as hard to get Canadian resources to new markets and offer unwavering support to the hard-working men and women in Canada's natural resources sectors, many of whom have faced tough times recently.”
Really? “Unwavering support” and “have faced tough times recently”, is that it? Since 2015, hundreds of thousands of energy workers have lost their jobs. Over 100,000 of them are out of work in Alberta right now. There is $100 billion in energy investment that has left Canada since the Liberal government took office.
Encana, which was once Canada's largest company, and TransCanada PipeLines are changing their names to remove “Canada” from their business names and relocating to the United States because that is where the work is. However, all the had to say in his Speech from the Throne was “unwavering support” and “tough times recently”?
The has been unwavering in his stated desire to phase out the natural resources sector, and he is succeeding. One incredibly insulting sentence that contained a flagrant untruth was all the had to say about this in his entire speech.
If the meant what he said about getting Canadian resources to market, it would require him to undo much of the work of the last Parliament. It would require him to repeal Bill or implement every single one of the Senate amendments that were rejected last spring.
It would require him to repeal Bill . It would require him to champion Canada as a reliable source of ethically extracted resources and to disown his own prior anti-Canadian-energy rhetoric. It would require him to actually take concrete steps to ensure Trans Mountain could be completed. It would require him to apologize for chasing its private sector proponent out of Canada and for having to send $4.5 billion to Texas so they could compete with us by building pipelines elsewhere.
The Liberals think they deserve some kind of credit for buying a pipeline that should never have been for sale in the first place. I can assure them that not one single person I met in my riding, where pipelines are a huge issue, thought that buying it was anything other than a last-ditch solution to a problem 100% of the Liberals' own making.
To sum up, the throne speech contains nothing for my constituents. I received a strong mandate from the people of Calgary Rocky Ridge, and I expect them to hold me to a high standard. My constituents expect nothing less.
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in this 43rd Parliament, so I would like to take a short moment to thank the voters of North Okanagan—Shuswap for placing me in their seat in the House to serve as their representative. I am scheduled to have an opportunity to speak later today and will wait until then to expand on how grateful I am for the opportunity to be here.
At this time, I am rising to speak to the Speech from the Throne, so I will use this valuable time to do so. We are expected to use this time to respond to the Speech from the Throne and express our position with respect to the mandate given to us by the voters in our ridings and in relation to the portfolios to which we have been assigned.
I honour that opportunity and intend to capture what I heard on the doorsteps of constituents of North Okanagan—Shuswap, at 15 all-candidates forums and at countless meetings across the riding over the past four years.
I also plan to address issues relating to the ministry of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for which I am honoured to be shadow minister.
One of the key issues I heard regarding North Okanagan—Shuswap was about affordability, that life had become less affordable under the previous Liberal government. I heard continuously that people were concerned about the debt load that was being passed on to future generations, children and grandchildren, who would be forced to pay for the short-sightedness of a tax-and-spend government.
Unfortunately, little has changed. The suggestion to cut taxes for the middle class, a class that has never been defined, with no plan to equivalently reduce government spending is once again a reckless one. It is even more reckless when there is no real mention in the speech of how the plans to rebuild the confidence in Canada's business sector for Canadian and foreign investors, whose confidence is needed to build our economy, an area that should be foremost if we are truly concerned about keeping life affordable for Canadians.
Business owners in the North Okanagan—Shuswap have told me they are not willing to invest in expansion or capital projects under the current government's direction, sectors like the forest industry. In March of 2016, we were told that within 100 days there would be a framework for a softwood lumber agreement. Three and a half years later, there is still no deal and no mention of forestry in the throne speech. Sectors like agriculture have suffered from strained international relationships and lacklustre trade negotiations. Agriculture is another economic driver that is not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
If the government is truly responsive to the message the electors gave at the polls, it should recognize these sectors. They are an important and large component of life in the regions of the country where the Liberals lost seats. They should recognize that actions are needed, more than words of platitude, to bring a sense of Canadian unity back to those regions, regions that have been a source of relative wealth for all of Canada.
I also want to take part of my time today to address issues related to fisheries, which is my portfolio in the official opposition shadow cabinet. Fishermen and indigenous and non-indigenous groups across the country have grave concerns about Canada's fish stocks, their livelihood and the future of their communities. The fishers, processors and communities that rely on stability of access and markets to make investments in their boats, plants and infrastructure are all looking for certainty. Unfortunately, what we are seeing are more signs of uncertainty, signals of closures of access to the fishing grounds, conflict over who has access and when access may be granted and whether they will be consulted before decisions are made that will affect their work, their business, their communities and their future.
Canada already has some of the strongest protection measures for its waterways and marine areas through fishing and operational regulation and legislation. These factors must be taken into account when negotiating with global forces set upon locking up Canada as the world's park.
The commitment to protect 25% of our oceans by 2025 cannot be done without abandoning meaningful consultation processes with affected communities and current operators.
I often refer to the difference I see between conservation and preservation, with conservation being the wise and conservative use of resources so there is a benefit or revenue attained from that use, allowing for a portion of those benefits to be turned back into the health and growth of that resource, whether it be forestry, land use, fish and wildlife or other natural resources. On the other hand, to me preservation means locking up those resources so there is no benefit or revenue coming back in to use or divide up and put back into maintaining that resource, requiring funding from other resources to be tapped into so it can be used to support that resource that is now locked up.
I will always defend the value of conservation over preservation.
There must also be action on the ground and in the streams if Canada is to rebuild its salmon stocks to the abundance that is possible. We have seen little in the past four years that made a difference in any place other than meeting rooms. Limited resources have actually hit the ground, and now we have seen nothing in the throne speech to even recognize Canada's fisheries and the people who rely on them.
It is a pleasant dream to live in a world where nothing is taken and nothing is used, but it is not sustainable in a world where everyone wants more than we had yesterday.
In speaking today, I respect the viewpoint that criticism should not be given directly without offering an alternative or solution, so I offer that instead of implementing legislation and policies that will only make life more difficult and expensive for Canadians and make them more dependent on government, let us look for ways to promote our Canadian ingenuity and technology in Canada and abroad to tackle things like climate change and ocean pollution in areas of the world where it is the worst. Let us consult with resource users and developers on how we can do things better and continue to grow and prosper. Let us work with our remote and coastal communities, listen to them and their willingness to protect our lands and oceans, while still deriving a living from the resources available to us.
In the spirit of working together and co-operation, I offer these alternatives to the way things have been laid out. While holding the government to account during the coming term, I also offer to work together toward solutions that are best for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in this chamber and I want to start by thanking my constituents in Parkdale—High Park for returning me for the second time to this chamber. It is an honour and a privilege to serve them, one I do not take lightly.
I also thank the most important people in my life in terms of getting me to where I am today, the people who gave me guidance as a young child and then as a young man: my parents, Lou and Sul Virani. My dad just celebrated his 78th birthday this past Saturday. I thank my sister Shakufe. My immediate family has been a rock of support through all of this.
I will confess that it has been a little more troubling and difficult for my youngest son this go-round. In 2015, he was one year old and did not have much conscious memory of what transpired then. This go-round, he was five and missed his dad a great deal during the election, as did my eight-year-old son. However, it is for them that I do this work and for children around the country that we all do this work. It is important to keep them in mind. I love Zakir and Nitin very much. I am not wearing a shirt with cufflinks today, but I have the cufflinks with their initials on them in my pocket, as I always do on important occasions.
The most important person is obviously my significant other, my wife Suchita, who has been a rock of support. We do not come from a political family, but she has, nevertheless, been steadfast and by my side constantly throughout this entire endeavour, even to the point of pulling the vote on election day this past year, which was a first for her. I thank my wife Suchita. I love her dearly. I thank her for allowing me to do what I do, serving this country and my riding.
We have just had the Speech from the Throne, which contains a series of initiatives the government is pursuing. I want to highlight six of them. Members will recollect from the previous Parliament that I remain a litigator who likes to stay organized in his prepared comments.
My first point is climate action. We know that climate action is urgent. The country heard about it during the course of the campaign and prior to it. We know we need to take bold action, and we have taken the steps toward that bold action. However, I am going to highlight one important thing because it dovetails with the message sent to us by constituents right around the country: what they are looking for in returning a minority Parliament is more co-operation, and there is no monopoly on a good idea. We need to take best practices from across the aisle, across the country and around the world and implement them as best practices here in Canada.
I will point to one. We have taken some very bold action with our carbon price in our plan to phase out coal and our initiatives in the just transition. One thing we need to do was not contained in our platform but the platform of a party opposite, the NDP. It talked about a climate accountability mechanism that government would report to. That is exactly the kind of mechanism that is worth studying. I was at COP24 last year in Katowice, and that is the model that is used in Britain that was championed at COP24. I brought that idea back to Parliament and immediately started talking about it. I am glad to see it in the platforms of other parties. It is the kind of idea that we need to take up, because there is nothing more pressing than addressing climate change as an initiative.
My second point from the throne speech is that affordability rang true throughout the country. This is not only germane to my riding, or the city of Toronto or urban centres; this rings true regardless of where one is, from region to region, rural to urban. I would point to a very important commitment in the throne speech that was reiterated when the throne speech was read, which is that the very first act we will be taking as a government is to reduce the taxation burden on low- and middle-income Canadians. How are we doing that? We are increasing the basic personal exemption.
Again, it is not a partisan issue, but I will point out a subtle difference that lays bare the difference between the two major parties in this chamber. Conservatives presented the same idea and would have had it universally applicable. Liberals said it is a great idea, but we are going to make it applicable to everyone, except for the top 1%. Why? It is because we fundamentally believe in targeting our measures toward those who need it the most.
We were criticized in the past, perhaps fairly, for having a middle-class tax cut that applied to people earning between $42,000 and $85,000 roughly, if I remember correctly from the last Parliament. People said, rightfully, that low-income people need taxation relief as much as anyone else. We are delivering that in this campaign platform and with this first initiative. That subtle difference, by ensuring that the benefit goes to those who need it the most and not those who do not need it, is what definitely identifies us as a centrist Liberal Party attempting to address the needs of the most vulnerable.
The third point I want to touch on is housing. Housing is critical. The issue I heard time and time again when I knocked on doors during the last campaign was housing. Whether it was support for housing, affordable rental housing or the ability for people to buy their first homes, people are feeling the pinch. They are feeling squeezed out of the housing market.
It is incumbent upon all of us to address that pinch clearly and vigorously. We are doing just that with a $55-billion plan that is 12 years deep to address housing.
The campaign is over. It is time to implement those policies, starting with the Canada housing benefit, which will be a portable benefit so that a person is not attached to a particular apartment or unit. People take that benefit with them wherever they move in a riding, in a city or around the country.
The fourth important theme is critical. It is gun control. I want to talk about this a little bit, because when we speak about gun control, we are speaking about the needs of all Canadians. This need not be a rural/urban issue.
I was so excited to get going on the throne speech that I neglected to mention that I would be splitting my time with the hon. member for . I congratulate him on his return to the House.
With respect to gun control, this past Friday was a noted anniversary. It was the 30th anniversary of the Montreal massacre.
I remember that time 30 years ago very clearly, because my sister was a young student at McGill University. Since she was in Montreal at the time, many people called to make sure Shakufe was okay, that she was safe. We knew she was okay, because she had let us know. We were lucky; our family was lucky.
There are 14 families who were changed forever that evening. What troubles me is that sometimes people think that while Jacinda Ardern has done really well on gun control, hot on the heels of a brutal massacre in New Zealand, we do not need to wait for another massacre to act. We have had our share of troubles. We continue to have our share of troubles, such as 30 years ago in Montreal and on January 29, 2017, in Quebec City.
We have had incidents of people being slaughtered through guns that are used only for the purposes of mass killing. Those are not hunting rifles; those are not legitimately pursued weapons; those are weapons that have no place in Canadian society. We made a bold commitment to get rid of military-style assault weapons. That was reiterated in the throne speech and I am determined to ensure that we see that through its course, and see it through quickly.
However, it does not just stop there. As a Toronto member of Parliament, I believe firmly in the need for gun control. Yes, there are many facets that contribute to the gun problem and to violence in cities like mine. There are gang problems and there are border control problems, but part of the problem is also the availability of readily accessible handguns that serve no place in a city like Toronto, or in many of our urban centres and centres otherwise.
This issue impacts our communities, including our racialized communities. It affects mental health and those who pass on by suicide. It dovetails with domestic violence, particularly violence perpetrated against women. We will address all of those issues by addressing the nub of the issue, which is gun control.
The fifth theme that I want to touch on is indigenous reconciliation. I was very proud to see that reiterated again in the speech, as it needs to be. This will take seven generations to resolve. We made gigantic progress in the last Parliament, in terms of addressing monetary needs, boil water advisories, child welfare legislation and the Indigenous Languages Act, which I was very privileged to work on as the parliamentary secretary to the then minister of heritage. What I learned on that file is that, notwithstanding my own background on equity issues and on fighting discrimination, we will get nowhere in this country in rectifying all sorts of other issues that deal with inequality unless we address the core and foundational issue, which is 400 years of colonialism and racism fomented against indigenous people.
The sixth theme I wanted to talk about is pharmacare. In an effort to reach across the aisle, we have heard about this from many different parties in this House. The time is now to address the lacuna in our current situation of policy. In the entire OECD, we stand alone as the only country that supports medical care and not medicine with publicly financed support. That is a minority of one that I personally do not want to be in and I know the colleagues opposite share that view.
Exploring dental care is another fine suggestion that was brought forward in the NDP campaign platform. It was mentioned in the throne speech and I believe it is worth exploring.
Mr. Speaker, you know that I came to this chamber as a human rights and constitutional lawyer. You know, because we served together, that I came here as a refugee from Uganda and that I have taken advantage of the opportunities that were provided to me in this fine country and I have worked to make it better. We have made great strides over the last four years, but there is so much more work to be done.
I just want to finish on this note and say four things that I thought about after getting re-elected, which I would commit to myself, my constituents and this chamber.
The first is to continue to speak out about what I have always believed in: fighting discrimination, promoting equality and making Canada more inclusive for all.
The second is to continue to champion human rights, both here and abroad, at every opportunity that presents itself.
The third is to ensure that housing is not a fanciful ideal, but is something that manifests for people in my community.
Finally, the fourth is to ensure that we will always work harder, faster and more ambitiously on climate change because climate change is the most pressing issue of our time.
In a spirit of co-operation and collegiality, I offer congratulations to all the new members and returning members to this House. I hope to work with all members collaboratively to better this nation and this Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, through you, I wish to congratulate the member for on his election as Speaker. I am very happy for the member and I know he will do a wonderful job for everyone in the House.
I am pleased to speak during the opening days of the 43rd Parliament to respond to the government's Speech from the Throne.
I would like to begin this speech with a big thank you.
I thank the residents of Vaughan—Woodbridge for placing their faith and trust in me for a second term. The citizens in my riding humbled me with a strong vote of confidence in my ability to represent them, tripling the margin of victory and achieving over 50% of the votes cast that evening. It is a wonderful vote of confidence and I wish to thank them.
The results speak to a lot of hard work and an unwavering commitment to my constituents that I always will represent them to the best of my capability and will always be their strong voice in Ottawa. Whether it is through visiting residents in their homes and listening to their concerns and issues, or always being available to our wonderful seniors, whom I love dearly, or listening to the opinions of the dynamic, entrepreneurial and very successful business community, which over the last five years has created over 60,000 new full-time jobs in the city of Vaughan, I will ensure their voices are always heard.
My team of volunteers, those individuals who canvassed, put up signs, sent positive vibes and made the phone calls that count are an inspiration to me. I say a gracious thanks, merci beaucoup, grazie mille.
My wife, Rose, and my children, Natalia and Eliana, are watching today. I love them so much and thank them every day for much patience and love while I do this remarkable job here in Ottawa.
The Speech from the Throne, in my view, is analogous to a blueprint, a blueprint for a more prosperous and inclusive Canada for all Canadians, a blueprint to move the country forward and ensure that we are facing not only the challenges today, but as important, preparing for the ones that may come tomorrow to this beautiful country we call home.
As MPs we have many duties and fiscal responsibilities to fulfill. I believe the most important responsibility we have as members of Parliament is to advocate for policies to provide Canadians with what I call equality of opportunity. Let me elaborate.
It is the utmost responsibility for every single MP to ensure that every Canadian, every citizen, has the opportunity to fulfill their capacity as individuals. That can only be achieved through one thing and one thing only. We ourselves need to demonstrate leadership, but leadership only comes from when we serve. Every single member of Parliament is a servant. As noted by Martin Luther King, Jr., life's most important question is: What are we doing for others? Writer and businessman Max De Pree said:
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.
It is time for all 338 MPs in this wonderful House in the 43rd session of Parliament to be servants, to listen, to act with humility and to ensure that we build a stronger, more inclusive country for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast, one that leaves a healthy environment as well as a prosperous and optimistic future for our children and all the children across this wonderful country.
The throne speech laid out a number of themes that our government will focus on together working with all parties. These include fighting climate change, reconciliation, making life more affordable while we continue to strengthen the middle class, all much important work. I would like to focus my remaining time on the last theme, about the middle class and strengthening our economy.
Capitalism in the 20th and 21st centuries created enormous wealth across this world. It lifted billions of people out of poverty across this globe and allowed innovation, an exponential increase in agricultural yields, advances in technology, medicine and social innovation to occur. The world is more connected than we ever knew it and who knows what will happen in the years to come, but it is a very exciting future.
We as a government will continue to ensure that our policies are based on the values that we fundamentally believe in and care about in this country and are in place to grow the Canadian economy and create good jobs and an optimistic future for Canadians.
Continuing from our first mandate, we will encourage competition, encourage risk-taking and investment by entrepreneurs. We will give Canadians the skills to respond and adapt to an ever-changing global marketplace. We will provide for tax fairness to put more money in the pockets of Canadian families with that goal that we as a government continue to strengthen the middle class, create a more optimistic future and remain the envy of the world.
We saw the results over the first four years with over one million jobs created, primarily full time in where I like to see them, the private sector. Over 800,000 Canadians were lifted out of poverty including over 200,000 to 300,000 children. Those are real stories across Canada. We can pick a province or pick a city and we will see there are Canadians who benefited directly from the policies that we put in place in our first session.
As we did in 2015, our government will again provide tax relief for millions of Canadians. We did it once and we are going to do it again. A promise made will be a promise kept, with a tax cut aimed at those Canadians who need it the most. All Canadians who earn income, whether it is income earned at work, pension income or even investment income, will see a rise in the basic personal exemption amount. This is something that I argued be put in our platform and it is great to see it there. The amount we earn before paying federal taxes will be increased quicker than would happen naturally, from $12,000 to $15,000, while remaining to be indexed. For taxpayers in Canada who earn approximately $15,000, that will mean $300 more in their pockets to spend on the things they deem to be important. Whether they are saving for their kids' future or paying for everyday necessities, it is their money and we are going to give it back to them. This tax cut will provide over $5 billion annually in tax relief to Canadians.
I am proud to be part of a government that is focused on lowering taxes for middle-class Canadians. I am proud to be part of a government that will provide tax relief to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The first time, nine million Canadians benefited from our tax reduction of approximately $20 billion over five years. Over the next two to three years, we will see $15 billion to $20 billion of tax relief dedicated to those families who need it the most, not the wealthiest 1%, not those earning over $200,000 or $300,000. Average middle-class families in Canada earning $70,000 or $75,000 will see over $600 more in their pockets. That to me is great news.
I am blessed to represent a riding that is defined by dynamic entrepreneurial spirit and a can-do attitude. It is an attitude I see every day in the nearly 12,000 small businesses that are located in the city of Vaughan and the approximately 4,000 that are located in my riding. It is a spirit of asking what they can do for this country rather than the opposite. It is a spirit of hiring and growing our economy, a spirit of getting to work and making things happen. These business owners and entrepreneurs have my utmost respect. Their success is not due to luck but due to hard work and perseverance.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs and private enterprises in this country are in my riding. I know first-hand that we must focus on policies that encourage investment, but also provide for what I call inclusive growth, which is when growth occurs, all Canadians benefit.
That has been the focus of our government from the beginning. It is a focus on returning money to Canadians through our middle-class tax cuts, a focus on the Canada child benefit, where eight or nine out of 10 families in Canada were made better off. In my riding, every month, $5 million arrives tax-free to the families in my riding, helping almost 18,000 children and over 10,000 families. That is real change. That is the change that Canadians elected us on in our first mandate.
In this session, I am glad to see in our platform further adjustments to the Canada child benefit that will help families not just in my riding but, more importantly, from coast to coast to coast. We will continue lifting children out of poverty. We will continue creating those good, full-time jobs in the private sector that we saw in our first four years. In fact, for the last 12 months, starting in November 2018 to today, almost 300,000 new full-time jobs have been created in Canada. We still have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world, depending on how we want to use the measurements. However, if we compare apples to apples, we are among the lowest.
I spent over two decades working in global financial markets. I grew up in a small town and worked at a pulp mill, a grain elevator and McDonald's, which was one of my first jobs. I know the value of hard work. Hard work is what defines this country. It is what defines the constituents in my riding. That is why we as a government will continue to listen to the hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We will continue to put in place policies that grow our economy.
I see some of my colleagues from the opposition parties who reside in the beautiful province of Alberta. We will make sure the TMX pipeline gets built. It is being built. This will bring our resources to new markets and make sure we are capturing that full price and lower the differential between oil prices that has hampered the economy of Alberta for the last several years. We need to make sure we get full price for our products and our resources.
I look forward to working with all my colleagues from all parties, in the 43rd Parliament.
One of my hallmarks of the 42nd Parliament was to reach out to individuals from other parties, to say hi, to become friends with them and get to know them. If many of us in this House do that, we will see a much more congenial place and a nicer attitude. I see some smiles across the aisle.
Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to say good morning and bonjour à tous. I would also like to say a special good morning to my kids, and tell them to stay strong, that daddy loves them and he will see them soon.
With that, I look forward to questions and comments.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the member for . I look forward to those remarks as well.
I cannot begin without thanking the constituents of Calgary Midnapore for sending me here again. I am so very overjoyed to be back in the House representing them. I am truly grateful.
My parents are my constituents, so my mom is probably watching. I promise to be extra good in the House at this time.
I am very sad for my family today. My mother is from Quebec and my father is from Saskatchewan. It is not uncommon for Canadian families to have one parent from the west and the other from the east. We heard a similar story on the other side of the House last week. Families becoming divided has become a Canadian story, and that is very sad. We are divided because the other side of the House spent the past four years playing all kinds of political games. The government split us right in half. It pit regions against one another. That is truly sad.
My region, the west, and more specifically Alberta, where the energy sector has no support, obviously comes to mind. Also coming to mind are several bills, such as Bill , which makes it practically impossible to start new projects. There is Bill , which makes it practically impossible to build a pipeline and transport oil. That is very sad. The carbon tax is another example. Bills that impede the energy sector have serious consequences on families and individuals. Bills like these are completely destroying families and people's lives. The government claims to want to eliminate poverty, but it is actually creating poverty with these kinds of bills.
On more than one occasion, the has said one thing to one part of the country and the opposite to another. The President of the United States called that behaviour “two-faced”. The President of the United States and Canadians have seen those two faces.
With the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister had an opportunity to put the country on a new path. Sadly, he let that opportunity pass him by. However, he had previously taken certain steps in that direction. He specifically appointed a minister of provincial relations. He held numerous meetings with various provincial premiers. The Prime Minister and the promised to listen carefully to what the premiers had to say. The Speech from the Throne would have been the perfect opportunity to prove that they had listened. Unfortunately, the speech shows nothing of the kind. The situation is different from what it was before the election.
There were words, but not much was said. There were platitudes, like talking about the good of our community and clichés such as “no challenges are too big.” There were also false attempts to show empathy and understanding for regions. There were parts of the speech that said that as much as Canadians had instructed us to work together, they had also spoken clearly about the importance of their regions and their local needs.
What did Canadians say when they spoke? Did they say how their father had not been able to find a job in three years because the corporation he was working for left because of instability due to political regulations? Did they say how their neighbours could not get out of a deep depression because they had spent their entire retirement savings on just surviving? Did they say that they sent a suicide note to their member of Parliament because they had absolutely given up hope of ever finding a job?
We do not know, and we will never know, because it was not in the Speech from the Throne.
The speech said that regional needs and differences really mattered. Today's regional economic concerns are both justified and important. However, in what year on the planetary spacecraft will Canada's energy workers get an apology from the ; when he sheds a tear for those who have committed suicide because they are completely destitute or for the women and children who have been beaten because, after years of not having a job, dad finally snapped? What year on this spaceship is that? Is that when we will know that regional differences really matter? For now, we do not, because the speech does not say so.
This was the opportunity to demonstrate action, and if not action, true understanding, and if not true understanding, at least respect. It would not have taken much: a timeline for the TMX pipeline or a promise to look into the national energy corridor. However, it was not there.
We can pretend that the world is simple and that the solutions to Canada's problems need not be complex or detailed, but that is not true. We can pretend that we do not need one another and that we are not dependent on one another, but that is not true either. Anyone who denies those facts will suffer for it eventually, even if they refuse to acknowledge it today.
This is not the way of Albertans.
What a great day to be in the House, the day when my predecessor and now premier, the incomparable, the Hon. Jason Kenney, is here to get a fair deal for Alberta. He brings with him my counterpart, minister of children's services and MLA for Calgary-Shaw, Rebecca Schulz. Together Minister Schulz and I will work tirelessly for the children of this nation.
We Albertans love Canada. We have always been proud to work hard and to share the fruits of our labour with the nation, to do our part for Confederation. We have never told others how to live their lives or that their way of life is not welcome in our country.
We will not let the divide us and we will not let the government push us out of Confederation. We will not allow that to happen. The government had an opportunity to do something profound, to say something profound and to unify, and it did not.
That is why I am sad today. I am a woman from Alberta. My mother is from Quebec and my father is from Saskatchewan. I am here for unity. I am here for Canada. Unfortunately, the throne speech is not.
Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute delight to present my first speech in the 43rd Parliament. To begin, I have to thank the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London for re-electing me.
Just to take a moment, I would like to thank my incredible campaign team. They were out there knocking on doors, putting up signs and having a great time spreading the word of what we can do here. I know I got back here because I have the most incredible office staff. They know about my constituents, they know what their needs are and they are always there to serve them, so a special thanks to Cathy, Jena, Scott, Jill and Charli.
I would like to thank my family. Without the support I have from my family, my mom, dad, sisters, brother and of course my husband Mike, I would not be here. We know this job, especially for any of the newer parliamentarians, is not a job. It is a life. When members take this role on, it is not just a career choice. We live and breathe being a member of Parliament trying to always work for our constituents, and making sure what we are doing is in the best interests of our community and the country.
Following the election, I lost two dear friends. One was my former campaign manager, Brian Clements. May Brian rest in peace. He was my uncle, my dad and everything under the sky and I will miss him forever. The second was Dave Dillon, our regional coordinator, who I worked with as part of the Conservative Party for over the last 16 years. I thank Dave for always having that smile and crazy giggle.
It is because of people like them that I am here today and have the courage and strength to talk about what the throne speech mentioned and listen to the debate on how Canada needs to move forward.
It is very simple: We have returned to a minority government. Within Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces we saw huge changes. However, we also saw the wiping out of the Liberal Party in the west. When we talk about Saskatchewan and Alberta, we are all Canadians, so it does not matter where my friends are living. It is my job to worry about them as well.
One thing I have to say is that, throughout this debate, I see division is so strong. It is very hard to listen to my colleagues from the Calgary area talk about job losses and suicides and the fact that no one is taking those issues seriously because they need to diversify. Yes, that is fine, but let us please have compassion for those people in the west being impacted by some of these laws and regulations being made by the government. It is great to say that, but we are not losing friends and neighbours like people from Alberta and Saskatchewan are. I ask for a bit of compassion.
For the last number of weeks, I have been fortunate to work on many files. One of the big files I worked on was the CN Rail strike. The reason I am mentioning this is that one of the big things that the Liberals have said is that they are going to work with people. I wanted to bring up the CN Rail strike because it impacted Ontario a great deal, especially southwestern Ontario.
I received a call from Dowler-Karn CFO Dan Kelly, who is also the chair of the board for the Canadian Propane Association. He let me know that they were going to stop delivering all propane to any farmers who were going to be drying their crops. Last year in Ontario, we had bad mould on our crops and this year we have grain that cannot be dried. Whether it is soybeans, wheat or corn, they cannot be dried. With that, farmers are going to have a lot of damage and financial loss.
I received the call on a Thursday night, and by Friday morning we were working with our team and the member for . We sat down with about 50 farmers and stakeholders and pushed this issue.
The next thing I did was reach out to my Liberal counterparts, and I would like to say a very special thanks to the member for , who actually picked up the phone and told me that the Liberal government was going to pick up the phone, call people and find out from stakeholders what was going on.
She did not know until she had that conversation with propane stakeholders what the impact was to our farmers and what the impact was to people who did not have natural gas flowing down their pipelines because they live in rural parts of Ontario. She was willing to take that phone call.
She was one member of Parliament from the Liberals who took my call. No other members returned my call and others sent messages saying they were not getting involved.
If we are going to work together, my stakeholders are everyone's stakeholders. That is why I am telling people that when I want to do something, I am going to make that phone call and I want my stakeholders to be heard. If I am wrong on something, please have the Liberal stakeholders contact me too. I want to know the whole picture. Instead of slamming the door and saying this issue is not important, please remember it is important.
The reason I bring this up goes back to what I am hearing from Calgary. It went viral on Facebook, and we saw a lot of comments on this. People from Alberta and out west were saying, “We do not care about Quebec. Who cares if they get propane?” People from Quebec were saying a different thing, recognizing that propane is heating their homes. We heard about nursing homes that were one day away from not having propane.
The reason I bring this forward is because I did not hear a single word from the government. We knew that our grain producers were going to lose money, and we knew that people were having problems with home heating but that the government would not stand up for them. If not for Conservatives, we do not know what would have happened when it came to some of the grain farmers because their voices were not heard.
One of the other things I hear a lot about is climate change, and of course that is going to be a theme throughout the current government. I do not think there is a person in this room who does not talk about climate change with his or her constituents. For me, it is one of those things that, as we are moving forward and talking about it, we all have different ways of looking at climate change.
I was talking about the carbon tax in Elgin—Middlesex—London. If people are talking about the carbon tax in downtown Toronto, they are not going to talk about what my farmers are talking about in Elgin—Middlesex—London. They are not going to talk about the carbon tax that was put on their propane bills or put on their energy bills.
People had a $400 carbon tax when they were trying to dry their tobacco. How are they going to go forward if they have a new $400 tax that is already put on that? Those are the things we are seeing all the time, and they are extremely concerning to me.
People in cities do not understand the impact. I should not say that, but people who are in downtown ridings may not understand as well as those people who receive the bills what a carbon tax looks like when trying to dry grain, when loading up kids and going to a grocery store that is 20 minutes away, when people are buying grocery items and know a carbon tax has been applied to them because the cost of transportation has been increased. All of these things impact us.
A carbon tax is the decision that the Liberals have gone with, though there are many other ways we can look at this and other technologies that we need to address. I am asking the current government to please be listening.
I ask the Liberals to listen to our farmers, listen to our agricultural producers and the agricultural businesses that are wrapped around that. I ask that they make sure they understand, when the farmers are drying corn, how much it actually costs and what the carbon tax adds to that. There are lots of things that farmers are doing throughout this country to make farming work. We know that when the cost of inputs becomes higher, at the end of the day farmers are not going to be able to succeed. I ask the government to work very closely on that.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be in Aylmer at an event with about 700 people from the Bradley Street Church of God, and I can say that when we speak to Canadians there is a lot that we agree on. In this church assembly there were 700 people, families who were gathering for the Christmas season. Their issues were the top three for many of us here. It is about seniors. It is about veterans. It is about our drug epidemic. Those are some of the social issues that we need to address as well.
We know our seniors are having a tough time. We know that with interest rates not being as high as they used to be, seniors are relying on their old age security and on their Canada pension plan, and some of the savings they have are drying up. We have to be cognizant of that. We have to ensure housing and make sure seniors have a good way of life. We need to be there as a government.
For our veterans, I applaud the government on the fact that we are looking at veterans' homelessness. That is something that we all need to do. We need to do that together, so I appreciate that.
Also, I am asking about the drug epidemic. We have had over 10,000 people die in this country and we could be doing better. It is not just the fentanyl that we are talking about. It is the crystal meth and it is all of those drugs. We need to work with all levels of government. Therefore, I ask the government to learn how to work with all levels of government, learn how to work with the Conservative Party, learn how to work with the provincial Premier of Ontario, unlike what it has done over the last months, and to please work with our municipalities. If the Liberals really want to get something done, I ask them to please work with us.
Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise and address those in this beautiful chamber. I would first like to thank the constituents of Winnipeg North for once again affording me the opportunity to be here representing what I believe is the best and most diverse riding in our country. I suspect there might be 337 other people who might challenge that thought, but it is an absolute privilege to be representing the residents of Winnipeg North.
That said, I want to reflect on a number of the issues I heard from constituents. Another member gave his perspective earlier on what people were saying. We often hear about the middle class. When I sat in opposition in the Stephen Harper era, it was very rare to hear about Canada's middle class. If one were to perform a word search, one would find that to be the case. We would hear it periodically, but this would come from the Liberal Party, the third party at the time, and particularly its leader.
Nothing has really changed with respect to this government's priority. Whether as the third party or as we are now, having received a second mandate, we talk about the importance of Canada's middle class. We understand and appreciate how important the middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it are to our society, economy and the social fabric that we call Canada today.
In terms of some of the actions that have already taken place, the today talked about another tax break coming to Canada's middle class. One of the very first actions we took after the 2015 election was a tax break to Canada's middle class. We have seen consistency from this government with regard to Canada's middle class, which I believe is the reason we have seen, with the help of Canadians in all regions of our country, the generation of a lot of good, positive news. This is highlighted by the fact that over one million jobs were created in the last four years.
I know there are significant portions of the country that have not done as well as others. If we look at the history of Canada, we find that at different points in time some areas have been more challenged than others and that at times it is necessary for the government to be more involved. We have seen this in the Prairies, specifically with the province of Alberta and the federal government. When one region has been suffering more economically than others, the government has listened very carefully and supported regional interests where it could.
I suggest that members take a look at issues surrounding western diversification funds and their allocation or at the percentage of infrastructure dollars that have been committed or in many ways spent in some of those areas. This federal government has worked more with municipalities than Stephen Harper ever did, because we recognize that in many ways it is the municipalities that deliver so many of those services, particularly in relation to infrastructure services.
For Canada's middle class, Liberals have made huge strides in the area of international trade. We have seen a government that has not only had discussions but has also signed off on some very important trade agreements around the world. In fact, this government has signed off on more trade agreements with other countries than any other government. We even did more than Stephen Harper did, because we understand and appreciate the value of those trade agreements.
No matter what the Conservative Party attempts to say about trade, it cannot rewrite history on the facts. What I just stated was factual.
There are many things we have done over the last four and a half years that have had a profound and positive impact on all regions of our country. Thinking about the years ahead and reflecting on the mandate, and based on discussions I have had with my constituents, I believe Canadians want us to continue moving forward on the many progressive policies that we have brought in over the last four years and to lobby and advocate for those progressive policies. A vast majority of them would want me to say that. I am committed to doing that, and I believe the government will continue to do that as well.
I also recognize that Canadians want to see a higher sense of co-operation, a higher sense of responsibility from members on all sides of the House, not just from the government side.
The biggest disappointment I had at people's doors was a negative attitude toward politics. Many people did not vote because they were discouraged by the negative attitude that too many politicians have, and we see it virtually every day when the House is sitting.
In my previous speeches in the House, I often talked about the character assassination by the official opposition of the , the or other selected individuals, whether justified or not. Conservatives put politics before people. It is that sense of negativity, the “Prince of Darkness” negativity or whatever we want to call it.
At the end of the day, Canadians want to see a higher standard in the House. I would suggest it could start right on the floor of the House. We do not need to make things as personal as we have witnessed over the last four years. It is not warranted. As my colleague would say, park the politics as much as possible. Personal character assassination does not do well to build a consensus.
There are many areas we could agree to support. The previous speaker talked about the importance of our children and that she is going to work with the minister in Alberta regarding them. This government has done a great deal for Canadian children. We have lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty through the Canada child benefit program. This has helped children in every region of our country. Over $9 million a month goes into Winnipeg North alone through the Canada child benefit program. That has an incredible impact on disposable income to support our children. It helps to lift children out of poverty.
I have good news for members opposite. This government is going to continue to support our children in all regions of Canada. As the Conservative member opposite just alluded to, when we have positive measures, and there are a lot of positive measures, members can support what the government is doing.
There has been some criticism of the throne speech. I have been a parliamentarian for 30 years and I have been in opposition for most of those years. I hope to tie it up at the government level at some point. It was 20-plus years in opposition and five or six in government. I am an optimistic person.
I am suggesting that, at the end of the day, throne speeches are very much general documents. We are always going to find things, whether it is in this throne speech, Harper's throne speech or the 10-plus provincial and territorial throne speeches that come out. It is very rare that one will get into the real nitty-gritty specifics. We are always going to find things that we would like to have seen incorporated into a throne speech.
However, if we take a look at the important issues that we are highlighting, such as Canada's middle class, the environment and reconciliation, these are all ideas that I believe should generate support from both sides of the House. One does not need to vote against it because it is a government throne speech. There are many things within this throne speech that I suspect everyone will, in fact, support. I would suggest the vast majority of things stated in this throne speech are things members on both sides of the House should get behind and support.
I have heard members across the way talk about seniors. We did a great deal in the previous four years. I ask members to remember that one of the very first initiatives we did was to reverse the Conservatives' decision to increase the age of retirement for OAS. When I was first elected a person had to be 65 in order to collect OAS, old age security. The former Stephen Harper government increased the age to 67, but one of the very first things we did was to put it back to 65.
In addition to doing that, we recognize that there is always a limited amount of finances to be put into any given envelope. We wanted to help the poorest of our seniors, so we substantially increased the guaranteed income supplement, which lifted hundreds plus thousands of seniors in all regions of our country out of poverty. In Winnipeg North alone, hundreds of Canada's poorest seniors were actually lifted out of poverty because of that particular initiative.
However, it does not stop there. We talk about moving forward with our seniors, and there are a couple of other items, one of which is highlighted quite well in the throne speech.
My New Democratic friends talk about the guaranteed income supplement increasing at age 75 and ask why not have it increase at age 65. That is a good question. It is a very good question. I raised this issue at the doors of my constituents. If there are x number of dollars to put into supporting seniors and trying to assist seniors in the best way possible, there is a big difference between a senior who is 65 years old and one who is 75 years old. I am going to be 65 pretty soon myself. I am 57, turning 58.
If we have the choice of giving a greater increase to those people who are 75 as opposed to those at the younger age of 65, I suggest that there is a greater benefit to society if we can give a larger percentage increase to those who are 75 and over. As a direct result of targeting it that way, we are going to be able to assist them more. My colleagues will find that there are many 65-year-olds who choose to continue to work. It does not mean that we have to stop there.
At the end of the day, one of the good things we did was to bring forward a seniors directorate. This is a government that genuinely and truly cares about the future of our seniors. That is one of the reasons we have been very selective and effective at getting more money into the pockets of the seniors who need it the most. That is what we should be striving to do, and we have been very effective at doing that.
I ask members to stop and think about this. We are giving a bigger increase to those who are 75 and older. We are giving another tax break to Canada's middle class. These are things that reinforce the tax cuts and the increases that we gave to the Canada child benefit and the GIS in the previous Parliament.
All of those money breaks are going to put money into the pockets of Canadians in every region of this country. By doing that, we are increasing overall disposable income, and by doing that, we are allowing Canada's economy to do that much better. With an increase in disposable income, we see more expenditures in our communities. That is one of the reasons that this government has been so successful. By investing in people, we have had an economy that has done relatively well.
I was a bit discouraged when one member tried to point out that because of job losses there have been people committing suicide, and that somehow the government should feel guilty. When hundreds of thousands of people were finding themselves out of work in the manufacturing industry, in particular in Ontario and so forth, the Liberal Party cared. We were compassionate toward that. Equally, we care about and are compassionate toward those who have been losing jobs in our natural resources sector.
Sadly, when a person loses a job, and it does not matter in what region of the country, it can be a very trying time. To say it is one person's fault or the government's fault is somewhat irresponsible. Let us look at the bottom line and the way the economy and policies have been presented in the last four years. If we listen to what is being said in the throne speech and what is being said by the in the many speeches he delivers, and the speeches of ministers and many of my colleagues, we will see that we are on the right course.
That is why a major theme for us going into the election was that we want to continue to move forward on what is important to Canadians. We know it is important to Canadians because we have a who has continually said to members of Parliament, in particular Liberal members of Parliament, that here in Ottawa we represent the constituents first. We do not represent Ottawa to our constituents. It is the constituents and their interests that we represent first, here in Ottawa, and that is why we have the relationships that we have built within our caucus.
We have a great caucus that is committed to the long-term viability and strength of building Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it. We have a caucus that understands the importance of the economy and social programs. One of those social programs that has to be highlighted is Canada's pharmacare program.
Prior to this , I very rarely heard the word “pharmacare”. It is only because of this Prime Minister and this government, and through the members of Parliament and their constituents that we have raised that whole issue to where it is today, a point where I feel very confident that we will have a national pharmacare program.
I would like to see all members of this chamber, whether they are New Democrat, Bloc, Conservative, Green or independent, get behind a national pharmacare program. This has taken a great deal of time to put together.
We have a government that is prepared to work with all the different stakeholders and listen to what they have to say. However, if the need is there to make that decision, we should make that decision for the betterment of all Canadians. This is a government that understands that every day is an opportunity to work hard and provide better results for all Canadians in all regions.
Mr. Speaker, this being my first formal speech in the House, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my campaign volunteers, who worked so hard to get one more Bloc Québécois MP in this place. I am so grateful to them.
I am also very pleased to thank the members of my hard-working election committee, without whom it would have been hard to win this election, because the Liberal candidate was a tough opponent, I have to say.
I also want to thank my friends, who have always been there for me and who nudged me into politics and political life in the first place. It feels so good to know I have their support, and I am grateful to them for that.
Obviously, I also want to thank my family, namely my wife, without whom nothing would be possible, and my children, who were willing to share their father with Quebec politics. I am very happy that they support what I am doing, and I really appreciate it.
Lastly, I want to thank the people of La Prairie for their trust, though I have no illusions that it was just about me. The reason people put their trust in me is that they trust the Bloc Québécois and my leader. They voted for Alain Therrien, for the leader and for the party. I will work hard to represent them.
When the people in my riding do great things, that is worth celebrating. I want to salute the two hockey teams in my region. Over the weekend, they put up an amazing showing at a tournament. Since hockey is a national sport, I could not let these achievements pass without a mention.
The Étoiles du Richelieu Atom BB team won the provincial tournament in Blainville with an overtime goal. This was tough for the people of Candiac. I want to congratulate these hard-working kids, who were masterfully led by coaches Nicolas Leclerc and Martin Tétrault. There are no words to describe the parents' joy as they watched these boys hoist the cup.
I also want to congratulate the Étoiles du St-Laurent Atom AA team for making it to the finals. The team's ranking cannot overshadow its exceptional talent, energy and journey.
To wrap up my tribute to these kids, I just want to say, “Go Étoiles!”
My father always told me that if I wanted to understand reality, politics or the economy, I had to know my history. It is from history that we are able to understand and even predict future events. I would say that the throne speech is no exception to my father's advice.
The creation of Canada dates back to 1867. We need to understand why and how Canada was created to understand how it works today. Canada was not created by a mass movement or a revolution. It was not created by people taking to the streets and saying that they wanted to come together as one nation. The reason Canada was created is simple. It was a matter of economics.
In 1840, our main trading partner was Great Britain, which decided in the early 1840s to start looking to Europe to do trade. In a way, Great Britain abandoned Canada.
Discouraged at not being able to export to what some of us here would consider the motherland, Canada decided to turn to the United States. In 1854, it signed a reciprocity treaty that made it possible for Montrealers and local producers from Canada, which had not yet become Canada, to export to the United States, achieve some economies of scale and make a lot of profit.
The reciprocity treaty they signed was in place from 1854 to 1864. This treaty would not be renewed because the American Civil War broke out and Great Britain made the regrettable decision to support the South. In retaliation, the Americans told their neighbours to the north that all trade between them was at an end.
Seized with panic, the Fathers of Confederation decided the most important thing was to protect the wealthy and provide a market where they could sell their goods. These people created that market artificially. That is what Canada is today. It was created to make rich people happy back in 1867. That was the Fathers of Confederation's only motivation.
The new Canadian federation needed a strong central government. I can already hear the NDP and Liberal Party members clapping. They are descended directly from those founding fathers. To establish a strong government and avoid a civil war like the one to the south, which was a bad experiment if ever there was one, it was decided that all of the powers would be given to the federal government and the provinces would get the crumbs. That is what these people did.
With regard to spending, the government held on to marine transportation, customs and borders, and rail transportation. The provinces were left with a pittance: health and education. It was a pittance at the time because the clergy took care of those things. The state was not yet secular. Maybe my colleagues will infer something from that.
To ensure a strong central government, customs and excise duties were given to the federal government. The provinces were given income tax revenues, which were not very significant at the time. It was almost nothing.
Those are the foundations of Canada, our country, or rather that of my colleagues opposite. How we operate is based on those foundations. The fundamental problem is that the Fathers of Confederation could not have foreseen what was to come.
In the 1960s, health and education became the primary expenses in Canada. It is what was most important at the time. Today, half of all of Quebec's spending goes to health. The federal government is not there. The same goes for education. What was thought to be negligible at first became extremely significant. The only reason the federal government can intervene is because during Confederation in 1867, the federal government put the Canadian provinces in a position where they had to beg. Their revenues were so weak that they depended on federal transfers. They were under the control of the federal government.
In 1954, following successive attacks by the federal government to control provincial income tax, the provinces finally caved. Only one province decided to take back control because it felt it was important for its people to have a financial tool to allow it to achieve its dreams and objectives. Only Maurice Duplessis, in 1954, said he wanted to keep that system. That is another reality.
What does this mean? The throne speech mentions health, but that is not the government's concern. Health expenditures are the responsibility of the provincial governments and of Quebec. When the government starts saying that it would like to have this and that, it is not their business. What is important is for it to give the provinces and Quebec the money they need to fund their services and serve the people, who keep saying that health is their absolute priority. The government must respond to this appropriately and not in the way it did in the throne speech. That is important.
According to the Thomson report tabled in 2014, maintaining health services for Canadians in light of inflation, aging and the increase in the population, as well as progress in health technologies, required a 5.6% annual increase. However, Harper and his gang started capping the increase at 3%. That is scandalous. The provinces are asking the government for an increase of at least 5.6%. That is what it needs to give them to maintain provincial health systems. That is why it is important to increase provincial transfers and to listen to Quebec and the provinces.