The House resumed from December 10 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for , a gentleman with whom I served on Barrie City Council. I am happy that he has joined us in the House.
Tributes have already been done for the hon. Deepak Obhrai but I want to say how much he will be missed not just by our party but by all parliamentarians. A member mentioned that he was quite quotable. Every time Deepak would speak, I used to sit here in amazement at how many times he would say “Mr. Speaker” or “Madam Speaker”. I think he said that more in his speeches than the content, but it certainly showed the level of respect he had for Parliament and for the Chair.
Since this is the first time that I have been up to speak in this 43rd Parliament I have a few people I would like to thank.
First and foremost, I would like to thank the people of Barrie—Innisfil for electing me for a second term. I am humbled. I am appreciative. I certainly will continue to work hard and smart on their behalf.
I also want to thank all of my volunteers who helped throughout the campaign, and my campaign manager. Most importantly, I want to thank my family, my wife Liane, and my children for their unwavering support and understanding for what I do as the member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil. I appreciate all of their support during the election campaign and their ongoing support as well.
As I rise today to speak about the Speech from the Throne, what I am going to focus on more than anything are the things that were not in the Speech from the Throne. There were a lot of things, a lot of platitudes and a lot of words, but there are issues that are facing this nation that were not in the throne speech and I am not quite sure why, because those issues that were not in there are issues of significant importance to this country. These are issues like national unity.
Coming from a province like Ontario, I do not think the people of Ontario really understand the magnitude and the depth of what is going on in western Canada. Obviously, we work with colleagues from western Canada and we hear on a daily basis what is going on there, and it is dire.
What we did not see in the Speech from the Throne from the government is how we are going to deal with the situation with respect to natural resources and how we are going to get our products to market. How are we going to deal with some of the legislation that was passed in the previous Parliament that is going to continue to affect our natural resource sector? This is causing significant unity issues.
Just this week the Premier of Alberta brought a delegation to Ottawa. We have heard the Premier of Saskatchewan and others speak about just how dire the situation is and yet the government is seemingly not paying as much attention as it should. Certainly it is not doing what it should and that is to repeal some of the pieces of legislation that are impacting our colleagues and our friends in western Canada.
Other things that were not in the throne speech were issues of economic and fiscal policy. There was no end in sight, nothing mentioned with respect to debt and deficit situations and the fact that the Liberal government will continue to spend. Although the Liberals call it investing, they are continuing to spend billions and billions of dollars. That is increasing not only the debt but also the deficit. In a minority situation, we will be under tremendous amounts of pressure from the other opposition parties to increase that debt and deficit situation. That is quite concerning as well.
What concerns me the most and I know coming out of the election what concerns the people of Barrie—Innisfil is our fiscal capacity to deal with a downturn in the economy. That is going to be one of the biggest challenges. By all indicators the economy is stalling. We saw that there were 71,000 job losses last month. Canada's position in the G7 is diminishing in terms of the debt-to-GDP ratio. We are quite concerned about the government's ability to deal with that going forward if we do face those strong economic headwinds.
Our role in the world was not addressed in the throne speech. The Canada-China crisis is worthy of attention, but that was not mentioned in the throne speech, and it took an opposition day motion to move the government in the direction we need to deal with those issues.
Those are some of the things that were not in the throne speech that caused me concern. The amendments that were put forward by the will address a lot of the issues that were not addressed in the throne speech. These include economic and fiscal policy, natural resources and how to work to make sure that we see an uptick in the economy of Alberta and western Canada and Saskatchewan. I am asking that the government take very seriously the amendments that were put forward in order for us to deal with those situations.
What we did see was a government that seemingly went all-in. Just as if it was a game of poker, they went all-in and splashed all their chips onto the table on the issue of climate change. There is not one person in this House or one person across Canada who does not believe that man-made climate change is having an effect. The challenge we are having right now is that we need to have a national conversation about it.
In the election there was a lot of rhetoric and political posturing of the parties with respect to climate change. I agree with the former premier of New Brunswick, Frank McKenna, on this issue, that if we are going to go to a zero-based carbon economy, we need to understand what the implications of that are on not just Canada's economy, but also Canada as a place around the world and how it can impact a global change.
Canada, quite frankly, is punching above its weight when it comes to the issue of climate change. We need to be free of that rhetoric. We need to get back to having a discussion of what that impact is going to look like and how we are going to position Canada to be economically competitive going forward when seemingly the rest of the world is not moving in that direction. That is a conversation that we should have and could have in this minority Parliament. Looking at the rest of the world, just recently China built a rail system. The sole purpose of that rail system is to move coal to coal-fired electrical plants. One of the things that we talked about throughout the campaign was that Canada has the ability to impact the global climate crisis. Even the acknowledged the fact that even if we were to go to a zero-based carbon economy tomorrow, it would have zero impact around the world, unless and until Canada leads the way when it comes to the type of technology and innovation that we can offer.
The other thing that I was disappointed in is the fact that during the campaign, one of the ministers came up to Barrie and announced that the Liberals were going to invest $40 million into Lake Simcoe. This was after the Conservatives had already promised an investment into Lake Simcoe and to reinstate the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund. I want to make sure that the government is aware of how important the health, vitality and sustainability of Lake Simcoe are to central Ontario and our ecosystem. We are going to continue to push the government on that.
Finally, the voters of Barrie—Innisfil asked me to represent them here. I am asking that the government listen to the voters of not just Barrie—Innisfil, but across Canada to protect our national unity, to protect our economy, protect our environment, protect the energy and agricultural sectors and keep life affordable for Canadians. I ask the government to support our amendment going forward so that we can move forward.
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for for sharing his time with me today. I served many years on council with him. He has been a great mentor to me. I look forward to spending the next four years here together in Ottawa, or maybe not quite four years. We will see how long it is going to be.
As I rise to speak in this 43rd Parliament, I wish to extend my gratitude to the residents of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, who placed their trust in me to represent them in the House of Commons. It is a great honour to represent the people of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte in the House of Commons and I commit to represent and help everyone to the best of my ability.
I would also thank my campaign team, especially Matthew Kelman, Marisa Breeze, and the hundreds of volunteers and friends who helped me get elected.
I would also like to acknowledge my predecessor, Alex Nuttall, for the fine work he did for four years, and wish him the best of luck in his new endeavours and in spending more time with his family.
Last but not least, I would like to also thank my wife Lisa and our two sons Wyatt and Luke, who put up with my being away from home for the long hours needed to run a successful campaign and are supporting me in my new endeavours in Ottawa.
At the beginning of the 2019 election, my team and I decided that we would run a positive campaign. Never once did we engage in personal attacks against our opponents. We kept the message clean. We knocked on an overwhelming 70,000 doors during the campaign. One thing we continuously heard from residents was that they were fed up with the constant negative campaigning coming from all politicians.
At the end of the campaign, I believe that all the candidates in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte campaigned in good faith, and we have all remained on friendly terms because of that. We may have differed on specific policies, but at the same time, we all wanted to make Canada and our communities an even better place to live. Therefore, it brings me great joy that when I come to Ottawa, the buzzwords in everyone's speeches that I am hearing are “co-operation”, “collaboration”, “congeniality” and “teamwork”. The people of our respective ridings elected us to get things done for them, not to bicker among ourselves in Parliament and trade petty name-calling with each other in the media. We must work together across party lines to realize the greatest dreams of the Canadian people.
Climate change was a big issue during the election, and I think there is a consensus among the parties that this is an issue the Government of Canada is going to have to deal with. The environment is a non-partisan problem, and I believe we will be able to find much common ground when it comes to tackling climate change in Canada and abroad. I know we can work across party lines because on October 9, during the election campaign, not two weeks after the Conservative Party publicly announced that it would bring back the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund, the then , now the member for , came to the shores of Lake Simcoe in Barrie and announced that the Liberals would bring back the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund after cancelling it in 2017. It was great to see the member for in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte.
When the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund was created in 2007, Lake Simcoe was in a miserable state. Fish populations and species were dwindling and phosphorus levels were very high, causing destructive algae blooms to prosper and spread.
Since the cleanup fund was created, it has funded over 200 community-based clean water projects and planted over 72,000 trees and shrubs along the lakefront and nearby farmland. It has restored fish and wildlife populations native to Lake Simcoe and reduced the amount of harmful sewage and phosphorus entering the lake. The cleanup fund was a cost-effective, measurable way to improve our environment and combat climate change. It is in the spirit of co-operation and collaboration that I look forward to seeing the funding restored for Lake Simcoe in the upcoming 2020 budget. I look forward to the member for coming through with her announcement.
We need to stop making easy political decisions. This brings me to the topic of gun control. The words “military-style assault weapons” in the Speech from the Throne were used in bad faith to whip up fear against law-abiding firearms owners in Canada. We don't have a military-style assault weapon problem in Canada: Most of the gun crime in Canada is committed with illegally purchased handguns that have come across our southern border. Just because a handful of criminals commit criminal acts does not mean that politicians should start going after law-abiding citizens.
Fully automatic weapons are already banned in Canada and have been for decades. What exactly is a military-style assault weapon? The Liberal government has yet to define this term. These semi-automatic rifles do not have the same functionality and capacity as the firearms our great soldiers use on operations. At best, anyone using the term “military-style assault rifles” is woefully ignorant, and at worst, they are purposely whipping up public fear to distract from their inability to properly address the problem that exists.
Worst of all is that for all the rhetoric, the proposed new firearms laws will not address the root cause of gun violence, which is gangs, crime and poverty in our major urban centres. The solution to illegal gun crime is not targeting law-abiding farmers and firearms owners; the solution requires getting tough on the criminals using illegal handguns and addressing the root causes.
In Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, there is the Barrie Gun Club. This club has around 1,000 members, and I have to say that these are some of the nicest, most law-abiding people I have ever met. It makes me wonder why the Liberal Party is trying so hard to vilify them and treat them like criminals. This must end.
The government is not only responsible for our public safety but also has a large role to play in the economic lives of our citizens. While knocking on doors, I heard time and time again that times are tough. Essential items are becoming less and less affordable. A shocking statistic is that 46% of Canadians are only $200 away from insolvency. We are currently at a decade-long, all-time high for insolvency. This year, 2019, saw a dramatic increase in bankruptcies for both individuals and businesses. Personal debt is at a record level.
To make things even worse, it was just released last week that in November, Canada lost another 71,000 jobs. I would like to applaud the Liberals for rushing to bring in their middle-class tax cut. It is much needed, but it will not solve the economic situation. All of us here know that we need a strong, healthy economy in order to provide the social safety nets that are essential to those less fortunate.
I would like to relate an incident that occurred during my campaign. One day I received an email at my campaign office from a local doctor who worked in a palliative care unit at Royal Victoria hospital. The email stated that there was a patient in Royal Victoria hospital who would like to meet with a Conservative in the hospital. I had some things on that day, but I dropped everything I was doing and I went to the Royal Victoria hospital to meet with this gentleman, named Antonio. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought perhaps he was not happy with his health care, the Conservatives or something else, so I was a little apprehensive. Obviously, if a gentleman is in palliative care, it is something that needs to be attended to immediately.
I dropped everything and went to meet with this gentleman in the hospital. I went by myself. When I arrived there, I walked into his room and introduced myself. He was with his two grown grandchildren. I explained to him that I was running for the riding of Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. Antonio, who was still of sound mind, explained to me that the reason he wanted to meet with a Conservative was that he had concerns about the state he was leaving Canada in to his children and grandchildren. This was a gentleman in palliative care, on his deathbed. He could have asked to see a clergyman or for his favourite meal or a lot of other things, but he asked to see a Conservative. I went there that day not knowing what to expect, and it turned out to be a call to arms for my campaign.
When I left, I promised him I would do everything I could to win that day. I won my riding, but we were unsuccessful in forming government. To this day, there is still a sign in my office that says, “Win it for Antonio”. When times get a little tough, we remember him. I made a promise and commitment to him. After doing that with someone literally on his deathbed in palliative care, I hold that near and dear to my heart and I will never forget that moment.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
This throne speech addresses my priorities.
Canada is an attractive destination for investors. Sure, there are some challenges, such as a labour shortage. During the election campaign, a number of my constituents told me that they have a hard time finding skilled labour. The people of Sherbrooke are welcoming people and they are open to immigration to address the labour shortage and enrich our communities.
When it comes to social challenges, there is no group as large, as diverse and as important in economic and everyday life as women. As we recalled earlier this month the 30th anniversary of the Polytechnique massacre, the status of women in Canada and around the world continues to evolve and continues to be challenged.
It is certainly true that women excel in any and every field that they enter, be it engineering, academia, athletics or politics, to name only a few. However, women continue to face barriers to their entry and advancement in their careers. They have fewer opportunities and wage gaps relative to their male counterparts, and experience verbal and physical bullying and harassment and violence in all forms.
If we really want to tackle the social challenges in Canada and around the world, we must promote gender equality.
With respect to the environment, our government wants to achieve carbon neutrality. To do this, our government made the ambitious decision to put a price on pollution. Furthermore, our government has a clear plan to protect nature and eliminate single-use plastics. Climate change is not specific to Canada. Our government has worked with local and international colleagues on fighting climate change, and it continues to do so.
Our country wants to work with its allies on countering the forces that want to disrupt or destroy the rule-based international order. That is why our government wants to renew its commitments to the international community, in particular its NATO allies.
Given that Canada is a large country with diverse realities, national unity will always be an important issue. We cannot unite the country if we do not work on reconciliation between the Crown and indigenous peoples.
Our government will be taking measures to co-develop and introduce a bill to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We will also continue our work to eliminate long-term drinking water advisories on reserve and we will introduce a bill to ensure that indigenous people have access to high-quality, culturally adapted health care.
As far as economic development is concerned, we are working with our partners and businesses to ensure that Canada is a world leader in creating green technology companies. In the meantime, it is important that we be able to bring our natural resources to international markets and that we support workers in the natural resources sector as we make the transition to clean energy.
Lastly, our government wants to help the middle class and people working hard to join it. We will do so by investing in affordable housing, increasing the Canada child benefit, assisting first-time homebuyers, making child care more accessible and more affordable, and increasing benefits to and investments in our seniors.
Our government's throne speech is unifying, which is important to note in view of the current political climate. The throne speech also addresses priorities that are important not only to me but also to the people of Sherbrooke.
Madam Speaker, I am absolutely delighted to be here, re-elected as the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Rouge Park, to speak for the second time in the 43rd Parliament.
I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional land of the Algonquin people. I recognize the historical responsibility that rests on this Parliament to advance reconciliation.
I am indebted to so many people who worked so hard to get me elected. Permit me, Madam Speaker, to acknowledge them.
First and foremost I want to thank the voters in Scarborough—Rouge Park, all 31,360 of them, for entrusting me to represent their interests in Ottawa. I pledge to work for everyone living in Scarborough—Rouge Park and I look forward to working for them each and every day.
I want to thank my campaign team: those who knocked on doors, those who cooked for us, those who donated, those who made calls and those who installed signs, cleaned up and did everything to ensure that our message went out to the people of Scarborough—Rouge Park.
I want to thank all my volunteers for their tireless work and our staff for all they have done to support me. I want to thank my campaign manager, Tharani Rameswaran, and campaign director, Gowthaman Kurusamy, for their exceptional work in leading the team to attain the highest margin of any winning candidate in Ontario.
Walking in here last week, I realized the enormous sacrifices we all make to be here. It is an incredible honour to be here each and every day, but there is a cost. For me it is the sacrifice of my family. Every day that I am here I am away from them. I know that Bairavi and Sahanah, my daughters, know more now than they did in 2015 of the work that we do here. In fact, Bairavi was part of the climate action rally and speaks to me about the need to address climate with an urgency. They are the reason I am here, as many members with kids can probably attest, and I am part of a government that makes this world a better place. I cannot thank them enough for all their sacrifices and will work each and every day to ensure that we leave a better future for them.
As many know, Harini, my partner, is my rock. I am so fortunate to have her candid advice, support and unwavering love. I thank Harini.
I wish to thank all members who served in the previous Parliament and to welcome the new ones from all parties who have taken their seats with the determination and resolve to work for their constituents. While I may not agree with their viewpoints on some issues, I pledge to work collaboratively to make life better for all Canadians. I am so excited to be able to work with the Scarborough caucus, all six of us, to advance local priorities for the people of Scarborough.
I am very proud of the Speech from the Throne and the priorities outlined by our government. I know that many of my colleagues have spoken in support of the throne speech, and I agree with all of their sentiments.
I want to highlight some priorities for our government and for me personally in the work I do in Parliament.
Our government fulfilled a commitment to establish the Rouge National Urban Park. It is 79.1 square kilometres and was established fully in the last Parliament. We have a management plan. We will continue to ensure that ecological integrity is front and centre in all the decisions that are made relating to the park.
There are so many organizations that worked hard to establish the park, and I want to thank them for their tireless efforts. We cannot even contemplate the depth and breadth of the park once it fully comes to life. Much of the work has been done in the last five years, but there is much more work to do. For their work and collaboration, I want to thank the Toronto Zoo and the City of Toronto and all the surrounding municipalities for their support in establishing and expanding the park.
As part of our commitment during the campaign, we committed to planting two billion trees. I hope at least a million will be planted in the Rouge National Urban Park.
During the election campaign, there was a recurring theme at the door: Why has our government not moved fast enough to address climate change? Over the past several weeks, I visited several elementary, middle and high schools. Our kids in grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 and in high school kept asking why we are not moving fast enough. They are challenging us to do more. In fact, Canadians as a whole have challenged us to work together to do more to address climate change.
Our government intends to do just that. Building on our climate action plan that places a price on pollution, our government is committed to attaining net-zero emissions by 2050. We will ban single-use plastics by 2021. We will protect 25% of our shores and 25% of our land mass by 2025, and that number will be 30% by 2030. Attaining net-zero emissions will not be easy. It will require enormous commitment from everyone to ensure that we are able to reach this target by 2050.
Finally, I will highlight several very important human rights issues that I have been working on. I will start with Sri Lanka, where recent developments have brought into question the challenges the country is facing.
This year is the 10th anniversary of the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. Last June, Parliament unanimously passed a motion asking the United Nations to undertake an investigation into genocide on the island. Sadly, Sri Lanka has returned a war criminal to power with his cohorts of despotic military leaders, who have sent chills down the spine of civil society actors on the island and worldwide. Now more than ever truth, peace, accountability and reconciliation on the island seem far out of reach.
I am deeply saddened to hear that media personnel are muting their voices and their reporting. It pains me to see lawyers and civil society activists self-censoring and limiting their advocacy. I am shocked to see that embassy staff are intimidated by the Sri Lankan secret service. I am extremely offended that Shavendra Silva, accused of international atrocities, continues to lead the Sri Lankan military. I am stunned that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was the minister of defence and in charge of the Sri Lankan army forces during the brutal final phase of the armed conflict in 2009, has become its president, and that his brother, who was the president in 2009, is now prime minister. Sadly, respect for pluralism, diversity, tolerance and justice cannot be found on the island.
Sri Lanka and similar countries, like Myanmar, have enjoyed international impunity from prosecution for atrocities committed, and their leaders have come to power notwithstanding their past behaviour. Sadly, a democracy where the rule of law on the island is in shatters, where strict majoritarianism prevails and where the international community has failed to seize its responsibility to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities cannot last forever. While history has taught us that justice may be delayed, I am absolutely certain that similar to what is happening in Myanmar today with the International Court of Justice, Sri Lanka too will face justice.
I work with a number of very important human rights organizations, and I want to highlight the work of the Scholars at Risk program. There are currently 23 post-secondary institutions in Canada working to support scholars and academics whose lives are at imminent risk. I support the work of SAR and hope we will have an opportunity to support it in this Parliament.
I came to Canada as a refugee when I was 10 years old. For me, the issues of refugees have always been important and at the centre of the work I do. In the last Parliament, like many of my colleagues here, I took part in welcoming refugees from Syria as they landed at our airports. Like many others, we were supporting them.
Today, there are 70 million people who are displaced and 26 million refugees. While we as country have done a lot, there is a lot more we need to do.
The very important unfinished business we have from the last Parliament is the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues here to implement UNDRIP.
There are many more things from a human rights perspective that I wish to advance in this Parliament. As I said yesterday on Human Rights Day, human rights is not a partisan issue. It involves all of us and is fundamental to this Parliament. I look forward to working with each and every one of my colleagues to advance human rights both locally and internationally.
Madam Speaker, today I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is a pleasure to stand today and address the Speech from the Throne, but before doing so please let me thank the voters of Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon for putting their trust in me. To my core campaign team, Jeff Wilson, Alison Rachel, Baljinder Brar, Marc Vella, Christopher di Armani, Jagjit Toor, Jalen Kropf and Sukhpreet Kang, I am thankful for their efforts and contributions. To all my volunteers and donors, I thank them for their time and generous financial support. My wife Kathleen has sacrificed and given so much to allow me to stand in this House. I thank her from the bottom of my heart.
I thank my two boys, Declyn and Nicholas, for their sacrifices and the sacrifices to come. Their dad is here to serve, set an example and fight for a better future for all Canadians. They are both young, but if they learn anything from my time here and what it took to get here, it should be to fight for what they believe in, be relentless in their efforts for excellence and do it all for the glory of God.
Turning to my riding of Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, it is an enormous riding, encompassing parts of the Fraser Valley Regional District, Thompson-Nicola Regional District, and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. My riding is one of the most beautiful regions in all of Canada, with endless potential. It is rich in natural resources, fisheries, rail transportation and agricultural land. The area is a world-class tourist destination and a nature lover's paradise. We are home to world-class river rafting in Lytton. Rugged Lillooet hosts the award-winning Fort Berens Estate Winery and a burgeoning agricultural sector. There is the Sasquatch ski resort in Harrison Mills. Ashcroft features the vital Ashcroft Terminal, a key component of Canada's Asia-Pacific gateway and a key interior port for the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways.
The Fraser Valley boasts the richest and most productive agricultural land in all of Canada. We have the highest farm gate sales per capita. The community of Yale is intricately tied to the history of British Columbia, the gold rush and the foundation of our province. First nations have inhabited these lands since before recorded history, and all have a common connection to the Fraser River. The Stó:lo people, for example, are the people of the river.
Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon is 22,000 square kilometres of ruggedness and complexity that literally spans climates and cultures, between the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon regions. This brings me to the challenges that we face today on the Fraser River, challenges that our salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, eulachon and many other species face as well. These challenges were not even touched upon during the Speech from the Throne from the Liberal government. Pacific salmon are an iconic feature of British Columbia, and the Fraser River is one of the most productive river systems, if not the most productive river system, in the entire world. The future viability of some of the most threatened populations of these once-vibrant salmon species is under threat.
This brings me to the Big Bar landslide. Satellite imagery confirms that over a year ago, a landslide occurred on the Fraser River, just north of Lillooet B.C. in the northern part of my riding near the Big Bar ferry crossing. A large rock slab calved off upstream in a narrow portion of the river, creating a significant blockage and resulting in an over 16-foot high waterfall. However, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans only became aware of the Big Bar landslide last June. Since then, to its credit, it has been working with provincial and indigenous partners to address salmon passage around and over the obstruction. Sadly, this is too little and too late for many of the salmon that attempted to return to their natal spawning grounds this fall. Approximately 60,000 fish were captured, stored in tanks and transported past the obstruction by helicopter or other means, while others made it through when water levels subsided. However, Fisheries and Oceans has said that the majority of the fish that did make it through were too stressed to spawn, and it has yet to release the mortality numbers of those transported around the slide.
In a year of already record-low returns, this will devastate future generations of salmon in the upper Fraser.
There could very well be a total collapse of the salmon stocks above the slide. That is not fearmongering. In fact, scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reported to the Pacific Salmon Commission that there is “a meaningful chance of extinction” for three salmon runs as a direct result of the Big Bar landslide.
Despite this, the federal government only issued an emergency request for information to the private sector to solicit plans and solutions for how to solve this crisis on November 26 of this year. That was two weeks ago, for a landslide that occurred in October of 2018 and that has been on the radar of the authorities since June 2019. That is simply not fast enough for the many indigenous communities, hunters and anglers who rely on these fish for their commercial, ceremonial and cultural well-being.
I have heard directly from numerous concerned individuals and share the frustration of those who have demanded and continue to demand quicker action to save our iconic wild salmon in British Columbia. Just this week, the Pacific Salmon Foundation called this a salmon crisis, and I join with the first nations leadership council in British Columbia in calling on the federal government to declare a state of emergency. If the work to remove the slide debris and remediate the area is not completed now, over the winter months, when water levels are lowest, then next season's returning salmon will again be impacted and threatened with extinction.
As a side note on British Columbia history, a natural slide occurred during the construction of the railway in British Columbia in 1914, and it took over 50 years for the fish to maintain their stocks after that slide.
Therefore, I call on the federal government to take whatever immediate, extraordinary action is necessary to get workers and resources to the site, declare a state of emergency and free up the funds necessary to immediately solve this crisis and save the fish.
I would like to thank my NDP colleagues, including the member for who has raised this issue in response to the Speech from the Throne. I look forward to working with all sides of this House to address this crisis. This is not a political issue, it is a Canadian issue that we must work on together.
After question period, I met with the , and she is aware of this crisis and is doing her best as a new minister to address this. I will be holding her to account to make sure our fish are saved.
I wish I could say that the Big Bar landslide is the only major threat to the Fraser River watershed and the wildlife that call this ecosystem their home, but unfortunately that is not the case. In the southernmost part of my riding, between the cities of Abbotsford and Mission, the District of Mission has been working tirelessly to replace its sewage pipeline, which crosses beneath the Fraser River to the sewage treatment plant in Abbotsford. Close to 50,000 people rely on this critical piece of infrastructure. The existing pressurized pipe is over 30 years old, at capacity and at risk of imminent failure. According to Mission's engineers, it is not a question of “if” but “when” this sewage pipeline fails. The environmental devastation of raw sewage lining the banks of the Fraser River would be unprecedented.
In 2017, the District of Mission was allocated $6.9 million from senior levels of government, but only a small portion of that funding has actually been transferred to date. Since that time, construction costs have skyrocketed, and government review after government review has bogged down the process with red tape. An immediate cash injection is needed to see this project through. This will provide an essential service to an expanding community and ensure our environment is protected for future generations, as the District of Mission in the Fraser Valley continues to grow at an accelerated pace. I cannot stress enough the importance of moving quickly on this critical infrastructure issue.
In conclusion, the health of the Fraser River ecosystem is far too important to leave to chance. As previously mentioned, this year's salmon returns were already troublingly low. Faced with development pressure, warming waters, climate change, poaching and overharvesting, our salmon cannot afford additional stressors. There are viable, timely solutions to these looming challenges, but only if the federal government and this Parliament take action now. I stand ready, as a member of the Conservative Party, to work with the , the and the on these pressing issues.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to give my first speech in this great chamber as the member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre. I want to take a moment to thank the constituents of my riding for putting their trust in me to voice their concerns in this important institution. My promise to them is to represent their interests forcefully, with the utmost integrity and conviction.
This opportunity would not have happened without a dedicated group of volunteers who knocked on over 70,000 doors, many who have helped me for over six years. To the hon. Laurie Hawn who first approached me to serve, I thank him for his belief in me and his service. I will not let him down.
I want to express my profound gratitude to my family for their endless dedication and selflessness in helping me get here today. My wife Debbie has supported me in every adventure I have travelled on for over 37 years. I thank my kids Garrett, Taylor and Kennedy, son-in-law Steven and granddaughter Maya. Dad and Papa C will make the family proud.
I would like to give a special shout-out to my son Garrett. He has inspired me every day as I watch him reach his goals as he overcomes the challenges of living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Garrett gives me the energy and resolve to fight for what is right every day.
I now want to discuss the nothing burger that the Liberal government across the aisle served us last week. It was badly cooked, had a stale bun, lacked Alberta beef and had just a sprinkling of condiments that left us completely unsatisfied.
All in all, the Liberals' Speech from the Throne was full of platitudes and not much else. It did not touch on healing our regional divides, strengthening our position on the world stage or getting prairie Canadians back to work.
Instead, we got a whole lot of grandstanding with no actual plans to do anything for small business owners struggling in this declining economy. This was a disappointing experience for me as a newly elected member hearing my first throne speech.
As an Albertan, I was also disappointed that the economic engine of our country was ignored. The plight of 170,000 unemployed Albertans has been continuously treated with indifference by the party across the aisle. My constituents of Edmonton Centre recognized this and responded accordingly in the last election, and I will not take their trust for granted.
This past fall, I met a family in my riding in the neighbourhood of North Glenora where the husband had lost his job with a drilling company that had redeployed capital to Texas. He has since found a new job, but his income was reduced by $5,000 a month. In order to get by, his kids moved in to help pay the rent. There are thousands of other stories similar to this one that the Liberals do not care about when they throw around their space-time continuum nothingness.
The recently appointed me as shadow minister for small business and export promotion. In that capacity, I want to make some remarks about the missed opportunities in the Liberals' Speech from the Throne.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, business leader and former Chamber of Commerce CEO, I have heard and experienced what impacts small business success over the years. I am grateful that I can use what I have learned and put that expertise to use in this chamber.
The Liberal government has so far completely ignored the plight of small businesses across the country, and the difficulties they face as the private sector tries to create more jobs and expand during these uncertain times. Small business owners are risk-takers and hard-working entrepreneurs. They need to be respected, which the government has failed to do, even to the point of calling them tax cheats, which I find to be a great insult.
The throne speech did not touch on the massive job losses, personal bankruptcies or the regular flight of capital that businesses across the country, especially in Alberta, are battling. In fact, just last week, Statistics Canada announced that over 71,000 jobs were lost in November, which brings the overall unemployment rate to a high of 5.9%, the biggest increase in a decade. In October alone, over 13,000 Canadians became insolvent. That is a 13% increase, which is a 10-year record.
In 2018, the Fraser Institute reported that the amount of money Canadians invested abroad increased by 74%. Business investment in Canada also declined 2% in recent years, and foreign direct investment dropped by 55%. Investments in intellectual property are also down. These are just some of the reference points to give my colleagues an indication of how bad the situation in the private sector is, and why our economy is bleeding.
Where were all these losses? They were in the private sector of course, which is the main driver of our economy and which the government continually fails to support and encourage. Small businesses cannot grow and create jobs if the Liberal government continues to burden them with higher payroll costs and a carbon tax that increases the input costs on everything. Compliance costs and regulations are also issues that kill businesses' ability to compete.
There was virtually no discussion around lessening the burdens on competitiveness in the throne speech, which begs the question why the and his government are behaving like this. Why do they not take pride in Alberta's energy sector? It is respected and admired all over the world for its ethical labour standards, regulatory compliance, environmental conservation efforts and community commitments.
If given the opportunity to export our energy and technology, we could grow the Canadian economy and lower global emissions at the same time.
When will the government start focusing on policies to bring this country together rather than pull it apart? This is why more Albertans sent us to Ottawa, to voice their concerns and frustrations and make Liberal members across the aisle hear what is going on in that part of the country that they so frequently overlook and downplay.
This is why our Conservative caucus now forms the strongest ever official opposition in Canadian history. We will hold the government to account and stand up for our constituents and Canadians across the country.
The Liberals were given a humbling mandate to work collaboratively with the members across the aisle. However, I am skeptical, given the promises in the throne speech. Compared with their 2015 draft, this recent one was double the length, which did not mean more policies were put in, just more platitudes and empty promises and far fewer sunny ways, as members might have noticed.
We can all see that sunny ways and Care Bear economics led to an unemployment rate of 5.9% across the country and to tens of billions added to our deficit, not to mention sky-rising economic debt and the ballooning of government spending of taxpayer dollars with no return to balanced budgets, which is a big concern both for my constituents and for small business owners too.
In fact, government spending during the first half of this fiscal year compared with the same period last year increased by 9%, which is staggering. We all know that we cannot spend our way to oblivion. Someone, somewhere down the line, will be paying the price for the unstoppable spending habits of the Liberal government. That means we will all be chipping in to correct this damaging behaviour sooner or later.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate my gratitude to my family, volunteers and community for putting their trust in me. I look forward to representing their interests and concerns and serving in my roles, as member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre and shadow minister for small business and export promotion, in this great place.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Let me begin by thanking the people of for once again putting their trust in me, giving me the privilege of serving them and for fighting for what is important to them in this place.
Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your new role, as well as all members of Parliament and returning colleagues on their success. I look forward to working with colleagues, particularly on the issues that matter to : strengthening the middle class, protecting the environment and keeping our communities safe.
I love serving our wonderful community and families. Etobicoke is home. It is where I was born and raised. I went to Dixon Grove Junior Middle School and Kipling Collegiate, schools where many of our Etobicoke North students attend. Etobicoke is where I have chosen to live my life and serve the people I care deeply about.
Etobicoke North is proudly one of the most diverse communities in the country. Over half our population is first generation and another third of the population is second generation. They, like my own family that came from Scotland and Ukraine, came to Canada to build a better life and particularly a better life for their children. I want to thank our families for teaching me their beautiful languages, cultures and religions. I want to thank them for including me in the family celebrations at our churches, gurdwaras, mosques and mandirs.
I also want to highlight some of the many organizations that do important work in our community: the Albion Neighbourhood Services; the life-saving work done at the Ernestine's Women's Shelter; the Rexdale Community Health Centre; the Rexdale legal clinics; the Rexdale Women's Centre; and the Youth Without Shelter.
I would like to recognize the work of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 286 and 23 Division of the Toronto Police Service.
The people of Etobicoke North work hard for their families, many work two and three jobs and many work six and even seven days a week. They tell me that the middle-class tax cut our Liberal government introduced makes a real difference in their lives. The Canada child benefit helps even more. In fact, the CCB is helping 25,000 children in our community.
However, our government also understands that there is more work to be done to make life more affordable for families. Therefore, our very first order of business is to lower taxes for the middle class and people working hard to join it.
Starting in 2020, this change will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians by increasing the amount of money they earn before paying federal income tax. Once fully rolled out, nearly 20 million Canadians will benefit, saving a single person close to $300 a year in taxes. For a couple or family, including families led by a single parent, the savings would be even greater, close to $600 a year.
The people of Etobicoke North and Canadians understand that climate change is real and that it is happening now. It is the most pressing environmental issue we face. It is important to point out that in this election a majority of Canadians voted for serious action on climate change.
Our Liberal government has already put in place 50 important measures to tackle climate change. While we are making real progress, we know there is much more work to do. We are working collaboratively with provinces and territories to take even stronger action to reduce pollution and invest in a cleaner future. We will plant two billion trees over the next 10 years, reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and protect 25% of our land and oceans by 2025.
I would like to acknowledge the tremendous advocacy of our Etobicoke North youth council on fighting for climate change and environmental action.
The last issue I would like to raise is the need for stronger gun laws.
The 23 Division of the Toronto Police Service serves Etobicoke North and is one of 17 divisions in the city of Toronto. Tragically, the area served by 23 Division has had the second-highest number of shootings since 2004.
I have been fighting for real action on guns and gangs since I began serving as the member of Parliament for Etobicoke North. While in opposition, I spoke repeatedly to ministers and obtained funding to help our youth exit gangs. I brought grieving mothers to Ottawa to meet with members of Parliament from all parties and held a vigil on Parliament Hill for our children. I also brought all levels of government, along with dozens of organizations, together in Etobicoke North to address the violence and so we could all take real steps to end it.
Let me explain why. When I attend a meeting of 100 or so people in our community, it is common for mothers to tell me that they are the parent of one of the young men who has been gunned down. These violent killings are one of the most devastating traumas parents can experience. They are left suffering emotionally and psychologically. Devastated families must be supported, and our communities must receive support in building resilience.
Grieving mothers and community elders say, “These were the children who were supposed to bury us. No one asks about our pain because no one wants to know.”
Grieving mothers in our community have reached out to other bereaved mothers to establish groups, such as Positive Change, for mutual support, to take real action to stop the violence and to improve the lives of other youth. Positive Change's brochure says, “50 sons, brothers, grandsons, friends lost. Together let's stop the violence.”
Our Liberal government has worked hard to keep illegal firearms off our streets by passing legislation that ensures better background checks and sensible licence verification, best practices in record-keeping and safe transportation of firearms. However, gun crime is on the rise. In Etobicoke North, the availability of guns and the prevalence of gangs are the key causes of violent crime.
Elsewhere, and all too often, people are killed or injured because criminals have used military-style assault weapons. These guns are designed to inflict mass casualties and have no place in Canada. Our Etobicoke North community is tired of excuses and know that “thoughts and prayers” do not make our community any safer.
As promised in the recent election, we will ban military-style assault rifles. For more than four decades, police chiefs in Canada have been advocating for restrictions on assault weapons. We have listened and we will act. We will also work with provinces and territories to give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns. We will continue to fight gang-related violence by investing an additional $50 million a year, for five years, to help municipalities meet the needs of communities at risk. As well, we will ensure that the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP have the resources they need to detect and stop the flow of weapons at our borders.
I have spoken at length about the violence that affects our community because I am always going to work to make our community safer. However, I want to make it clear that I could not be more proud to come from our community and to serve our wonderful hard-working families. I love to see these families in our schools, at their events and in their homes. Families make our communities strong and our country better.
I would like to wish all my colleagues a very merry Christmas, happy holidays and best wishes for the new year.
Madam Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. We are pleased to see you. You have been a fixture up there for the last several years and it is always pleasant to have you. Also you always remind me to speak through you and through the Speaker, but somehow in the House we have a habit of looking at each other and forgetting that.
I am thrilled to be back. It is 20 years that I have been here and it is as exciting today to be here and speaking as it was when I was first elected 20 years ago. I continue to enjoy what I do and I am so honoured to be elected again by the constituents of Humber River—Black Creek. It is such an honour and I love them very much and look forward to having a few years to make a difference in their lives.
It is such an honour and a privilege for me to listen to my colleagues, especially the first-time ones. We all came here to make the world a better place and there are lots of opportunities for us to do that. Listening to my fabulous colleague from and the commitment that she has brought to the House and the work that she has done over her many years is an example for many of the new members to follow. Passion and caring are things that matter and she continues to be re-elected because of the very same things that she commented on. She cares about the people that she represents and continues to fight against the gun violence that many of us in the Toronto region unfortunately have to deal with.
Since we are in the process of changing Speakers, I am going to congratulate our other new . I welcome you to that chair, Madam Speaker. Remember that the first time you sat in that chair was the first time I spoke in this Parliament, so that makes it extra special for me.
I want to thank my husband and family and my staff and all of the volunteers for the tremendous work they did in the last election. We had a great campaign and it was a tribute to each and every one of them. I would be remiss if I did not congratulate each and every member in the House. We all came here for the same reason. We are from different parties, but they are just party labels. We are all here for one reason, to try to push an agenda that makes a difference for all of us and to make sure that we are doing the right things.
Regarding the comments by the member for , he talked about his desire to make sure that small business is represented here and so many issues. There are opportunities for him and others to do that work here. I really look forward to working with everyone to advance the agendas that we all care about.
The throne speech is a road map that will guide us to making a better Canada, because it can always be better. We try to bring in policies that are going to affect the residents of Humber River—Black Creek and to give them an idea of what our plans are on this side of the House, and I would hope many of these ideas are shared by the opposition parties so that we can advance these issues together.
We are talking about climate change and what a serious issue it is. The world has now woken up to the fact that climate change is severely eroding our quality of life. It does not matter what part of Canada we come from, whether there are forest fires or floods, it is having a significant impact on the infrastructure of our country as well as the lives of Canadians being driven out of their homes by tremendous fires throughout different parts of Canada. Climate change is a serious issue. Clean air and clean water are the basic fundamentals that I know we all care about and it is critically important that we are investing in this. When we talk about infrastructure and concerns about how we are doing it, we have to make sure that climate change is number one as we move forward.
There are new technologies, as the member for mentioned. There are many new technologies coming forward constantly, and it is important that we maximize the opportunity with them to ensure that we are doing everything we can do reduce emissions and improve air quality for Canadians. Our government cares, as do all of the opposition parties, about a cleaner and safer environment for all Canadians.
Cutting taxes is something we all talk about and would like to see happen. If we can do that, we can make the lives of Canadians better. However, in my riding of Humber River—Black Creek, there are a tremendous number of challenges, whether we are talking about small businesses and their desire to advance themselves or about single-earner families struggling to make a living, keep a job and advance their family.
Of course, our Canada child benefit was a tremendous help to thousands and thousands of residents in my riding, as I can tell members after the recent election, when I was knocking on doors and talked with many single mothers. Having that extra money deposited into their bank account at the end of the month allows them to ensure that they have better meals on the table. It is not for frills. It is not put away in a bank account for someone. It literally changes the nutrition that those children get every day. Children are getting better lunches and they are eating better.
All of those things sound simple, but to some of the families that I represent in certain parts of Humber River—Black Creek, there is a real challenge to provide the very best they can within a limited income.
Affordable housing is another major challenge facing Humber River—Black Creek, as it is all across Canada. One gentleman who came to see me gets $1,080 a month in disability, but his rent is $1,000 a month, because it was increased. Dealing with these kinds of issues is extremely difficult. I asked that individual how he managed if he was paying $1,000 and was left with only $80. He said, “I live off of food banks.” Looking at this gentleman, I would never have imagined that he had to live off food banks, but that is the reality.
Really, a lot of what we are trying to do is make a difference in the quality of life of the people we represent and throughout Canada. It is a fairness issue for people to have those opportunities as they continue to move forward, young families in particular. The fact that we have lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty is a tremendous thing. It is important for each and every one of us to carry that on as we move forward, and make sure that families have that money right away. There is also the maternity and parental benefit. A lot of the policies we put forward are about affordability and quality of life.
In the case of seniors, I was thrilled to hear the platform announcement of the increase in OAS by 10% for those over 75. This will be my favourite. I, along with all of my colleagues, will fight to make sure that is a reality. We see that many seniors at 75 years of age have increased expenses, and they find it much harder to manage. They may need additional home care that they have to pay for, for example, so that 10% increase will be a significant help to them and for many of the seniors that I talked to.
Again, it is about trying to make a difference in the quality of life of Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I look forward to seeing you in that chair many times. I congratulate you on your recent election and on achieving this wonderful post as Deputy Speaker.
Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me time to comment on the latest Speech from the Throne. I will be sharing my time with my new colleague, the member for .
I would be remiss if I did not take the first few moments to thank the citizens of our riding of West Nova for putting their faith in me to represent them in this 43rd legislature. I also want to thank my election team and the volunteers for working so hard all summer and into the fall. They are all rock stars to me.
The election in West Nova was pretty civil, regardless of the intensity of the national campaigns. I would like to recognize my opponents for putting their names forward to represent our riding: Liberal Jason Deveau, Green Party Judy Green, NDP Matthew Dubois and Veterans Coalition Party Gloria Cook. They believed passionately in their positions and ideas, and I hope to echo some of them in my work here as a very proud MP for West Nova.
I need to thank my family, especially my wife Anne and my boys André and Alec, for allowing me to let my name stand for a sixth time. They were my bedrock during the past 16 years as a provincial politician, and I hope to make them proud during this federal adventure.
Nova Scotia rules allow an MLA to actually speak for an hour to respond to their throne speech, so it is a lot of work here to smush this into 10 minutes.
My riding of is quite rural. It is 300 kilometres long by 50 kilometres wide and it is located in southwestern Nova Scotia, bordering the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy.
My beautiful riding has a rich heritage, since our communities and historic sites date back to the early days of our country. For example, Port-Royal, located near Annapolis Royal, is the first permanent French settlement in the New World and was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1605. West Nova is home to a few large Acadian communities, such as Clare and Argyle, where the language of our ancestors is still spoken, 264 years after the expulsion of 1755.
On a related note, I was very disappointed that the protection of linguistic minorities was barely touched upon in last Thursday's throne speech. I look forward to hearing the government make some real commitments to protect the French language, since the ongoing battle against anglophone assimilation is very real in all francophone minority communities back home and across the country.
I am proud to support the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse and all associations that are doing excellent work, since our language and culture face significant challenges. Every year, our language and our culture are more at risk.
As opposition critic for official languages, I will work hard to ensure that the voices of minority francophone communities in my region and across the country are heard.
Another point of the throne speech that needs more detail and was the number one issue at the doorsteps in West Nova is health care. People in Nova Scotia are having a tough time accessing primary care, specifically a family doctor. Currently in Nova Scotia there are 50,000 people who do not have a family doctor. This is unacceptable and causes tremendous difficulty and uncertainty, especially in our rural areas. Imagine being a senior, a diabetic or having cancer without access to a family doctor. As incredible as it sounds, it happens all the time in our area, forcing these patients to present themselves at emergency rooms, causing useless long wait times, if they show up there at all.
Health care is a basic human right and we should all ensure the dignity of our loved ones. The government has the responsibility to listen attentively to the provincial premiers, and it should, especially with their request for an augmentation in their health transfers.
West Nova's economy is based on natural resources, such as agriculture in the Annapolis Valley, fishing in the southwest, and forestry in all of its regions.
Agriculture in the valley is very diverse and innovative, but its core depends on supply-managed commodities like dairy and poultry. They need to see the concessions of the new NAFTA, the USMCA, so they can have a better feeling of how their industry will be going forward. Then they can have faith in their industry again and continue to invest and grow. From that base, the industry in our valley can continue to grow other commodities, like wine, apples, beef and many horticultural products.
Immigration is very important to our regions. Over the past 20 years, we have seen a mass exodus of talent and expertise that were once well established in our regions. Right now, small business owners are having a lot of trouble finding and keeping people who are interested in taking on and running their thriving businesses. Now more than ever, we need to focus on ideas that will contribute viable solutions and help with transfers so that we can make sure these vital businesses and services stay open and available to local residents.
Another important point to emphasize is that West Nova has the largest air force base in eastern Canada, CFB Greenwood, home of 14 Wing. We must continue to support our troops, making sure they have the adequate equipment needed to do their jobs. We also need to make sure that our veterans have the services they require during their service and after they have served our country with dedication and honour, which I was happy to see included in the throne speech. However, I am sure it is short some of the things we really need.
I need to talk about our fisheries. By far, the largest employer and economic driver in West Nova is our fishing industry. Hundreds of millions of dollars of fish products are landed on our shores. Scallops, groundfish, herring and tuna are landed at many of our ports, but lobster is king. Between the last Monday in November and the end of May, the worst time of year to go fishing, when the big boats are all tied up at the wharf, the little boats go out there for a billion dollars' worth of lobster, or somewhere close to it, to be caught and sold around the world.
It may seem like the fishing industry is going strong and is happy with the government. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fishermen are up in arms over about numerous issues involving this government.
For one thing, they are furious about the tax changes rolled out by the Liberal government, which lopped millions of dollars off our hard-working fishermen's family trusts. Thousands of fishing boats had been registered as small businesses to facilitate tax planning. That option was suddenly eliminated by the Liberal government, which also called our fishermen tax cheats. That was an outrage and an insult to them.
I am proud to be my party's critic for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and I want to make sure the government stops going after the honest workers in our industries.
Fishermen feel that with the economic activity they create and the taxes they pay they should have safe and modern ports to work from, but they are wrong. They have woefully inadequate facilities that cannot accommodate the larger vessels they are using, or they are actually falling into the ocean. The Liberals boasted during the election of the investment they have committed but I can assure the House that it pales in comparison to what is really needed.
I look forward to working with the and the to assess the real need to make our ports safe and to be able to seize the opportunity that our oceans truly are.
I could talk about a lot of other things but I am running out of time. I could talk about climate change and gun control. I could talk about MPAs. I could talk about Internet and cellphone service and the loss of our local call centre. Unfortunately, however, I do not have an hour to actually do it.
In closing, I am certain that all my colleagues in the House will agree with me that we have much work to do to ensure that Canada remains strong and united. The throne speech was not reassuring in that regard.
Our country is unique in the world; it is a good place to live and a remarkably welcoming country. We have a duty to ensure that all Canadians have access to adequate health care, can look forward to a prosperous future and can obtain services in both official languages.
I have been a committed citizen and politician for many years, and I will spare no effort to ensure that the government fulfills its responsibilities towards taxpayers and respects them.
Madam Speaker, I wish everybody a merry Christmas.
Madam Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.
I am very happy to be here today representing Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge. I want to thank the residents in both communities for electing me, and I want to thank all my volunteers. As all members here recognize, we just cannot do it without them. I also want to recognize my staff whom I have hired in Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge. I have Sean-Mark Gillespie, Linda Kingsbury and Nancy Nagy. Two of them have worked with me in the past. I have Jay Denney here in Ottawa, and he will be working with me beginning next month.
Most of all, I want to recognize my wife Marlene. We have been married for 34 years and she has been a tremendous support to me. When I was elected provincially, she came with me most times when I was in Victoria and she will be with me a lot of the time here. My constituents are getting two for one.
Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge are two wonderful communities. We live in a stunning part of the country and the world. People would never believe that within minutes of my communities they are lost in nature, whether it be in Golden Ears Provincial Park or Widgeon Creek, on Pitt Lake or wherever. It is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. If members do not believe it, they can please come and visit. It is very picturesque.
Both communities are growing rapidly. A lot of millennials are moving to the region into new subdivisions that are happening all over the place because they are more affordable. That is a very relative term for the Lower Mainland.
Transportation infrastructure is a need. I know the Liberals have made many promises. They promised tens of billions of dollars, but 40% of those projects have gone nowhere. It is one thing to make promises. It is another thing to put those promises into action. We are looking forward to seeing that in my communities.
Also on the provincial side of things, the NDP has made sweetheart deals with its preferred unions. That has made projects a lot more expensive than they otherwise had to be and it has reduced the number of projects getting done, at a much greater cost to taxpayers.
For me it has been a long journey getting here. In 2003, I attended the Teacher’s Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy here in Ottawa. I am a teacher by profession. It was the best professional development experience I have ever had, and I recommend that teachers across the country apply for it. I believe the next one is in February. I saw democracy in action and it gave me a tremendous passion to get involved even more in politics.
I actually ran in the nomination for the Conservative Party when I had just joined in 2004. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose and I lost. Randy Kamp became the member of Parliament. He won that year and he was a great member of Parliament, representing the area for many years. It was then a minority government and there was an election in 2006. I won the nomination the next time but in a different riding, Burnaby—New Westminster. I won the nomination but lost the election.
That is not the end of the story. I moved on to provincial politics. I won two terms representing Maple Ridge—Mission. It was a great experience, I enjoyed it very much and was able to accomplish a lot for my constituents. I want to give a shout-out to my former B.C. Liberal colleagues and staffers. A number of them work on the Hill on both sides of the floor. My future director of operations, Jay Denney, will also be working for me.
My heart has always been to eventually serve in the House of Commons. I have always had a vision for Canada and its place in the world. I was raised in a military family, born in Germany. My dad was in the RCAF. I lived on bases throughout Canada. I lived in Quebec in Chibougamau, up north. It is a little chilly up there but a beautiful place to live. I also lived in Valcartier, near the City of Quebec, as well as in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and throughout the country.
My mother is French Canadian.
She was a Beaudoin. She was one of 18 children in her family, which was originally from near Kapuskasing, in northern Ontario. In the 1940s, the family moved to northern Alberta, near Falher, which is well known for its bees and great honey.
I have hundreds of cousins, aunts, uncles and nephews who are part of the Franco-Albertan community.
On my mother's side I am French Canadian, but on my father's side I am Métis. I trace my roots to the Red River Colony in the early 1800s and with the Cree in the Lesser Slave Lake area. My indigenous roots are very important to me, my brothers and sisters and my grown children. One of my roles in the B.C. legislature was as parliamentary secretary for aboriginal relations.
Canada's indigenous population is the fastest-growing population in Canada, as well as the youngest. It is a vital and integral part of Canada's present and Canada's future.
My constituency of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge is a bit of an anomaly in the Lower Mainland. It has a growing population of Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Farsi and Indo-Canadian people, but the largest minority is the indigenous population. I want to recognize the Katzie First Nation and Kwantlen First Nation peoples, and I look forward to having a good relationship with them and working with them.
I am a member of the Golden Ears Métis Society, GEMS, which is a vibrant association affiliated with Métis Nation British Columbia that is under Clara Morin Dal Col as its president.
When I was a teacher, I led exchange trips to Quebec. I felt it was important for students to experience our country, grow an appreciation for the wonderful country we live in and discover what a beautiful place Quebec is. It was good to have students from Quebec visit British Columbia to see what a beautiful country they are a part of.
National unity is extremely important to me. I take no pleasure in hearing people complain about Quebec. I adore that province and its people. I like their joie de vivre and their passion.
However, I also feel similarly about Alberta, where I have deep roots and graduated, as well as for British Columbia and all of Canada. I have travelled from coast to coast to all of the provinces and two of the territories. We have an amazing country.
I am disappointed and truly troubled by the way the Liberals are governing our magnificent country.
For the Liberals, it seems to be all about politics and trying to stay in government regardless of the tremendous stress and negative impact their policies are having on this great nation of Canada. There is a reason the Bloc Québécois has rebounded, and the onus falls on the Liberal Party and its leaders. There is a reason the Liberals were wiped out in Alberta and Saskatchewan and lost seats in British Columbia, the Maritimes and Manitoba, and why western separatism is being discussed in pubs and on streets in places like Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Regina and Saskatoon. The onus falls on the Liberal Party and its leader.
I have heard it said that the difference between a statesperson and a politician is that the politician is looking to the next election and the statesperson is looking to the next generation.
I believe that members opposite have good intentions, and I would encourage the Liberal Party to stop playing identity politics and dividing Canadians. It should do what is good for all of Canada, not just where it has the most, or any, seats.
My team and I went to tens of thousands of doors during the election. It was a lot of work, and I enjoyed it. It was an opportunity to listen to people, get to know them and hear their concerns. The number one issue I heard about was affordability. Bear in mind that in my riding, the average family income is about $90,000. Families are finding it tough. It is not how much one makes, it is how much one is allowed to keep. Taxes from all different levels of government are approaching 50%. The Conservative message of reducing financial stress on families resonated on the doorsteps in my constituency and throughout British Columbia.
The Liberals say they are planning on reducing the tax burden, but they do it with a sleight of hand, giving with one hand and taking more with the other. We—
Madam Speaker, it is delightful to see one of my former seatmates sitting in that chair again tonight. Congratulations.
I know all my colleagues have heard this a lot, but it is an absolute honour to rise in this place in my first opportunity to speak in the House during the 43rd Parliament.
I want to take a moment to thank the amazing people in my constituency of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, the greatest riding in all of Canada, with all due respect to the members who have had amazing speeches in the House today and gave me a chance to hear about so many wonderful ridings across this country. This is one of those first few weeks of this sitting of the House that I truly do love, as I get to hear about the amazing ridings in this wonderful country.
I want to thank the tireless volunteers who worked so hard to share our progressive message on the doorsteps. We had an incredible, diverse group of volunteers, from new Canadians to business owners to seniors and lots of young people. I want to give a shout-out to what we call our “teen dream”, all of the young people who worked so hard on our campaign. Our volunteers gave so much of their time and their energy to make sure that we could continue the important work that we are doing for Canadians. I want to thank them.
I would be remiss if I continue to forget the fact that I am sharing my time with the member for .
None of us get here without the help of our partners and our families. I have to thank my loving wife of 20 years, Anne, and my kids, Bruen and Ava, for supporting me through the campaign and through every day that I am either in the constituency or in this wonderful place.
I also want to take a moment to thank the hon. member for for his service as the Speaker in the 42nd Parliament. He worked hard to bring decorum and respect back to the House of Commons. That is a tough job, and for that I think he deserves all of our gratitude.
I also wish to congratulate our new Speaker, the hon. member for . I have no doubt that he will also serve honourably and will continue the work of the member for in holding all members accountable in this place.
Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is filled with community-minded, compassionate people. My hometown is the kind of place where folks help one another, where neighbours help neighbours, where doors are open wide to those in need. There has never been a better time to live in Dartmouth. I say that a lot.
Our business community is flourishing and vibrant. We have many incredible entrepreneurs who are opening businesses all across the riding. From Selby's Bunker in Cole Harbour to Lake City Cider in Dartmouth, we have numerous restaurants, cafes, brew pubs, shops and more that are all worth exploring. Businesses such as the Village on Main, the Cole Harbour and Area Business Association, the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission and the Greater Burnside Business Association are doing an incredible job in advocating for businesses across the riding. Memberships are growing, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to work with them to make sure that the decisions that we make as a government help local businesses grow, succeed and continue employing people at home.
Our arts and cultural community is alive. There are always festivals, performances and exhibits at Alderney Landing.
From the Salt Marsh Trail to Shubie Park, our green spaces add to the livability of our community. Of course, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is known as the home of hockey players Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, but hockey is not all that we are known for. Our lakes and waterways are the focal point and the heart of our community. Lake Banook is known around the world as the greatest lake in the world for paddling, kayaking and rowing. I look to the new member for to back me up on that.
Just for a second, going back to hockey, many colleagues know, as I have mentioned it a time or two in the House, that hockey is my favourite sport. Some folks even say that hockey was founded on beautiful Lake Banook in Dartmouth. However, as I have ties to Windsor, Nova Scotia, all around me, I am not going to enter that debate if I want to stay married.
A stone's throw away from Lake Banook on what is now the Shubenacadie Canal Greenway park, is where Starr Manufacturing produced the first-ever commercial hockey sticks. Of course, we cannot forget their incredible Starr skates.
Although Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is succeeding, we know that not everyone is benefiting from this success.
There are incredible organizations like the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre, VETS Canada, the Public Good Society of Dartmouth, Margaret's House and many more groups and people working hard to ensure that as we succeed, folks are not slipping through the cracks.
It is important to me that we recognize the good work that these organizations do, that we learn from them and that we continue to support them. The partnerships of folks working hard on the ground, at the grassroots level, are the only way we will be able to successfully lift our communities.
From clean air to healthy waterways, we need to ensure we leave this place environmentally healthy and better for future generations. My constituents and the majority of Canadians overwhelmingly asked us to take stronger climate action and to protect our oceans.
I am from Atlantic Canada and we are seeing first-hand the harm of rising sea levels. We are seeing the damage that plastic pollution is causing to our sea life and to our communities. Protecting our environment is top of mind and it is a major priority for me personally.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in the last mandate, we worked hard to produce a report on protected areas. That report has led to historic investments in protecting nature across our beautiful country.
Our efforts are helping to protect areas like Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes in Nova Scotia. Through protected areas, we are helping species like the Nova Scotia Blanding's turtle and mainland moose and we are helping to protect the ecological integrity of our province.
In my first term as a member of Parliament, I had the opportunity of bringing forward private member's legislation and I used this opportunity to work toward a healthier environment. My private member's bill, Bill , the National Strategy for Safe and Environmentally Sound Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act, is now law across Canada. I want to thank all members on both sides of the House for supporting that bill. The act is helping to keep dangerous mercury out of our land, air and waterways.
Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is home to a growing and thriving clean technology industry. Companies like One Wind are promoting clean, renewable energy, while at the same time employing hundreds of folks across our riding. In fact, the only impediment to its continued growth is the ability to find more skilled labour.
We are home to Mara Renewables, a company that discovered a marine algae strain that is used to produce healthy Omega 3 nutritional supplements, without needing to harvest fish. It is brilliant.
In fact, the ocean technology sector is exploding in Dartmouth, especially through COVE, the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship. On the waterfront in Dartmouth, COVE is an incredible hub of ocean tech research and industry.
In the last mandate, I also advocated the zero-emission vehicle incentive. This incentive has been helping more Canadians afford to make the switch to an electric vehicle. However, we need to do more. We need to do more to encourage people to try out these vehicles, to ensure that the supply is there for all Canadians and to ensure more and more Canadians are aware of the benefits of electric vehicles.
We know that we need to do more to strengthen health care across the country. We remain committed to working with the provinces and territories to strengthen health care and to ensure that all Canadians receive the care they need when they need it.
Over the past few years, I have heard from constituents in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour who are forced to choose between putting food on the table or paying for the prescription drugs they need.
I know that throughout the previous mandate I sounded like a broken record, but Canada needs universal national pharmacare. The throne speech called pharmacare the missing piece of universal health care in the country, and I could not agree more. This government will keep working to make this a reality for all Canadians. I can tell the folks back home in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour that I will not stop advocating for it.
Congratulations to you, Madam Speaker, and to all members in the House who were elected for the first time or re-elected.