Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is a great honour and privilege for me to stand here and acknowledge that we are standing on unceded Algonquin territory.
I would also like to acknowledge the leader of the Progressive Conservatives. I would like to thank him for his service and wish him well in the next chapter of his life.
It is not easy to be a politician in this day and age when there is a hard split of opinions on the left and on the right. It would seem to the public that people here with differing opinions are constantly at each other's throats. However, today we are seeing what we can do when we come together to acknowledge the humanity in each other and see that we are not just spokespersons spouting out political ideology but in fact living, breathing human beings.
It is this spirit of reconciliation that I believe the throne speech embodies, and since the word “reconciliation” is used many times in it, as a new member of Parliament, I have to say that this is the spirit that I embrace and that I intend to continue to put forward in the days, months and hopefully years to come.
I am a proud Nova Scotian. My riding of Cumberland—Colchester is a beautiful region in northern Nova Scotia. It is bound by the sea on both sides, by the Bay of Fundy and the Northumberland Strait. One of the issues we have is climate change, which is very real for us. Many of us are on flood plains, including my home of Truro, Nova Scotia. We have already had one big flood, which occurred 10 or 11 years ago when I had just become a member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia. One of the first tests of my leadership was a huge flood. At the time, it showed me what could be to come if we are not careful.
The Chignecto Isthmus is a piece of land at the top of my riding, and it joins Nova Scotia to the mainland of Canada. Right now, the seas have risen so far that the only thing that is keeping the sea from crossing over that isthmus and turning us into an island is a railway. There are 400-year-old Acadian dikes there, an incredible engineering feat that has managed to keep out the seas for this long in Nova Scotia, but the dikes are aging, and we are going to have to raise them. We will also have to take other measures to protect Nova Scotia from the rising seas. This is why I am very pleased to see so many mentions of the environment in the throne speech, as well as the idea that climate change is a crisis and that we need to act now.
Therefore, when I hear opposition members say that climate change is not necessarily a priority, it gives me great concern, because in my riding it is a huge concern. The first nations people, the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, have been very active in combatting all kinds of environmental degradation in our province. I am very proud to have stood with them on the front lines, fighting for government recognition and fighting to get these issues noticed, especially when big corporations are polluting the lands right beside the first nations communities.
In fact, one of the bills I introduced in the legislature in Nova Scotia was called “An Act to Address Environmental Racism”. It acknowledged the disproportionate amount of toxic waste sites, landfills, dumps and huge corporate pollution on the lands of first nations and black communities. I would like environmental racism to be talked about more often, especially in the House, as we move forward.
It is with great honour that I was elected to the House. It is my first time in Ottawa. I would like to acknowledge the people back home in Cumberland—Colchester who helped me get here. I will not let them down. I will fight for everything I believe in: human rights and justice for women and girls and dealing with human trafficking and domestic violence.
On domestic violence and gun control, I noted that at least 118 women and girls have been murdered across our country so far this year, according to the annual report from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. More often than not, that is a result of domestic violence, and shooting was the most common method of killing. This report comes on the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre at the university in Montreal. That shooting, which left 14 innocent young women dead, thrust the term “misogyny” into the public discourse in Canada. It still continues today, and it is a problem. Missing and murdered indigenous women are still a huge issue that we need to address on all sides of this House and in all provinces across this nation.
I would like to reiterate, in the spirit of reconciliation, that no matter which province we come from in Canada, we are still all Canadians and we still bleed red blood. We want our children and grandchildren to be looked after, have food on the table, have good education and schools, go to school in peace and not be afraid of violence. We want them to have affordable housing, which is also an issue in my area. We need to deal with poverty, including in the middle class, to help people struggling to become part of the middle class. We need to not forget them. As somebody who cares deeply about social, environmental and economic justice, as well as justice for arts and culture and for realizing how important they are to the fabric of our society, I intend to stand in the House as much as I can to remind us all of the importance of these values and doing everything we can to help every single person in Canada, not just a few.
In Cumberland—Colchester, there are a lot of farms and small businesses, and a lot of women have taken on small businesses. I have to say that it gives me great pride to walk down the streets of Truro, pop into a store and see a female entrepreneur who has been there for 35 years, as in the case of one of my friends. She has a dress store called “Moments”. She dressed me today and other days, and she was very excited about that. There are also many little restaurants.
I am thrilled and excited to help put Cumberland—Colchester on the map and bring more tourists to my beautiful region. There is great wine in Jost, which has many types of incredible wines, including a new red wine called “Great Big Friggin' Red”. For anybody who likes barbecues, spaghetti or steak, it goes with them.
Madam Speaker, the people of the south shore of Montreal are probably watching today and getting a kick out of the fact that my neighbour is sitting in the Speaker's seat. I am so proud to be your neighbour.
First, I would like to thank the people of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, who on October 21 sent me back here with a larger level of support. I also want to thank my beloved family, who have put up with this crazy job for the last four and a half years. Of course, I would also like to thank my friends in Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne and Brossard—St-Lambert who have stood by me.
Over the last four years, we have heard a lot from folks about doing things differently. Yesterday my friend and colleague from gave a beautiful speech on our friend Deepak, whom we lost this year. He reminded me of something. He reminded me that we are supposed to be here talking from the heart and representing the people who sent us here, so this is the first time in the House that I will be speaking without a speech. I am going to try to emulate my colleague across the way, so please bear with me if I muff this up.
I am happy to speak on the Speech from the Throne. In it, we said we are going to do things differently. Canadians asked us very clearly on October 21 to work together in a collaborative way. I hope that my colleagues across the way will agree with me that this has always been the way I have worked.
A lot has changed for me in the past year. As many members know, my mother passed away right before Christmas last year, unexpectedly. This happened at the same time that our older son was deployed overseas for his first deployment. Since then, I have been taking care of my dad and my family while being a parliamentarian. What I have learned over the past year is we have had a lot of ups and downs. As I said, my mom passed, but we have also had some great news in the family. Our older son came back from his first deployment and got married, and our military family grew. We also went into an election and I am happy to say I am back.
I want to do things differently. I want to continue to work across the aisle with my colleagues. I have had great conversations, especially with the member for , regarding how we can support the brave men and women in uniform and the families who serve them.
I had the pleasure of working with the member for , and I am sorry I am pointing him out. We worked on a committee for electoral reform, a special committee that was set up in June 2016. The great thing about that committee was that the Liberals did not have a majority. I had the great pleasure of experiencing what it is like to work in a minority government. I want to thank my colleagues who were on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform with me, because we got to become friends and got to work together. It was a very good example of how we can work together.
In the Speech from the Throne we talk about the importance of affordable housing.
In my riding, Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, nearly 3,000 people are on the wait list for affordable housing. I have been working with my provincial and municipal counterparts to address this issue.
My father is on that list, as are many people in my riding.
Nearly 4,000 seniors in my riding receive the guaranteed income supplement.
I know that increasing the personal exemption to $15,000 will help a lot of our seniors as well.
Now let us talk about public transit. As people know, Taschereau Boulevard is hell during rush hour. We need a streetcar on Taschereau Boulevard. The mayor of Longueuil has clearly stated that she needs our support. That is why I am very proud to lend my support to that project, and I hope we can all work together to see it come to fruition.
We have talked a lot about the environment, and our government has made incredible strides in the last four years with respect to the environment and climate change. There is still so much to do. Quebec has had the largest pickup in electric vehicles purchases since our incentive came into place on May 1. The provincial incentive and federal incentive combined, there is up to $13,000 in rebates on the purchase of electric vehicles. I know people in my riding are very excited about that.
With all of the actions we have taken on climate change, there is one thing I have learned from listening to my friends across the way, especially those from Alberta. Over the past week and a half I have listened to the debate on the challenges they are facing and I want them to know that I am listening and that I hear them and want to hear more. I think we can absolutely find a balance between protecting the environment and helping those who work in the resource sector.
Most people in this place know the reason I decided to run in 2015: I have two children serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. In 2015 I was quite worried, not about their being in the Canadian Armed Forces but what would happen if, God forbid, they became ill or were injured in the line of duty. I was quite concerned about how we treat our veterans. As most people know, parents can either complain about something or do something about it. As a parent I decided to do something about it, and I ran for office and won.
What I have heard over the past four years, in my capacity as a member of Parliament and as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, are the challenges of transitioning faced by many veterans and their families.
In our Speech from the Throne we also talked about how important it is for every Canadian to have a family doctor.
I know that health care delivery is a provincial jurisdiction, and I fully support that. However, there is room for a federal contribution.
Often when members of the Canadian Armed Forces leave, they are left on their own to find a family doctor. If they are ill and injured, the difficulty is that to get the services and care they need, they must have a diagnosis. They therefore need a family doctor.
I am excited to be working with our new because I know she feels as strongly as I do about working in collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners to make sure that veterans and their families have access to a medical doctor.
We also addressed the homelessness of veterans. I had the great pleasure of meeting two phenomenal people from Nova Scotia, Jim and Debbie Lowther, who run VETS Canada. They work tirelessly on the ground to help veterans in need. We need to continue to support organizations like VETS Canada and others to make sure that we end veteran homelessness.
As folks who were with me in the last Parliament can attest, I have said many times in the House that we really need to work together. Our common cause is the people we represent, and I am always willing to work with anyone who wants to sit down and have a constructive conversation about how we can move things forward.
I am so pleased to be part of the 43rd Parliament. I think that, together, we can do what Canadians have asked us to do.
They asked us very clearly on October 21 to work together, and it is with that in mind that I offer my help on any file we can move forward together.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I wanted to once again thank the constituents of London—Fanshawe for electing me to the House. I have worked here for more than a decade, actually in a different capacity, as a parliamentary staffer for many amazing NDP members of Parliament: Chris Charlton from Hamilton—Mountain, Wayne Marston from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Jean Crowder from Nanaimo—Cowichan and most recently, the former MP for Essex, Tracey Ramsey. I was also raised by another incredible and powerful woman, who represented London—Fanshawe for the past 13 years: my mother, Irene Mathyssen.
I come to this House with many mentors and supporters, and I stand here because of them. It is when I consider important votes, like on this throne speech, that I will always think of the people who elected me here.
I hear every day from people in my riding who need help now. If this is all that the Liberals are willing to offer to help Canadians, it is not good enough. I represent a riding where many people are struggling. The average household income in my constituency is well below the national and Ontario averages.
I see it every day. People are working harder than ever to keep a roof over their head and to put food on the table. I also see a community that is consistently coming together to support one another, to answer calls for help and to push for more. They deserve better than this throne speech.
For more than a decade when someone needed help in London—Fanshawe they knew that they could turn to their member of Parliament. Irene's office was a place that would consistently go above and beyond to advocate and push for anyone who walked through the doors. I will proudly continue that tradition.
While my constituency office will work hard to help, I know that more and more people are seeking that help. The policies of past Liberal and Conservative governments are failing them. In the House, in this 43rd Parliament, we have an opportunity to change the direction of the country, one that should put less focus and attention on how well the rich and powerful of this country are doing and more on how everyday Canadians are doing.
One disturbing trend we have seen is that people are continuing to come to the office in search of affordable housing. Housing prices continue to skyrocket in London as many people are being pushed out by other markets around the GTA. What once was a starter home found throughout London—Fanshawe has become out of reach for too many families. Instead of more empty words, the Liberals could have worked with us to invest in affordable housing so that everybody in Canada could have a place to call home.
Canada is in the midst of a national housing crisis impacting every area of the country. Average rents rose in every single province last year, and today 1.7 million Canadian households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. A major part of the long-term solution to the problem is to ensure that more affordable rental units are built across the country.
One in three Canadians is a renter. In many cities, the few affordable apartments available get snapped up quickly, and people end up either living in inadequate housing or forced to spend a huge chunk of their income on rent. If the Liberals are willing to work with us to address the housing crisis in our country, we are ready to deliver for Canadians.
Another trend I have heard too many stories about is how people cannot afford their medications. One gentleman came into my office during the campaign who had suffered from a workplace accident. He told my team and me how he had been injured at work. He was going to physiotherapy and attempting to heal and get better.
Although he is not well enough to return to work, he knows his benefits are running out. He needs his medication. He cannot live without it, but he also knows he cannot afford it on his own. He told us that he is being forced back to work, even though he is not ready, knowing he is putting his own life in danger.
Imagine if we had a system that rather than worrying about how this person is going to survive, to pay for the medicine that he needs to live, he could focus on getting better and returning to work when he is able.
In the days before medicare, New Democrats saw their neighbours suffer because they could not afford the health care they needed. We saw people lose their homes, their farms and their businesses as they struggled to pay their medical bills. We saw illness destroy entire families.
In response to that reality, New Democrats led the fight to establish universal public health care for all Canadians. Medicare changed the lives of millions of people and it is one of our party's proudest achievements.
Millions of families cannot afford to take the medications they need because they have no employer-provided drug coverage. The number of uninsured people forced to skip their medications is growing as more people work on contract, are self-employed or have jobs that just do not come with health benefits. Too many seniors are putting their health at risk because they do not have drug coverage and cannot afford out-of-pocket payments.
The stress and worry that people feel is not an accident. It is the direct result of deliberate choices that have been made by Liberal and Conservative governments. They choose to let drug companies gouge patients and they choose to leave millions of people uninsured or under-insured, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket for the medicine that they need.
Today, Canada is the only wealthy country in the world with a universal health care system that lacks universal prescription-insurance coverage. We pay the third-highest prices for prescription drugs in the world and must deal with a patchwork of programs and coverage, if we are lucky enough to have coverage at all.
When I look at this throne speech, I see there is no language about any pharmacare being universal, comprehensive or public. There is no funding amount and no timeline. Since the Liberals have been promising pharmacare since 1997, we can see why New Democrats are a bit skeptical. We need to see a real commitment to deliver universal, public, single-payer pharmacare.
We are ready to work with the Liberals and deliver for Canadians, but it takes concrete measures to help improve lives.
There is a growing urgency to also address the climate crisis. I was proud to join hundreds of people from across London at the climate strike in September. I joined them because we need action now and we need bold targets.
The real plan to address climate change is needed now. That is why this throne speech is so disappointing. There is nothing on stronger emissions targets for 2030 and nothing to confront the urgency of the problem. In the last four years, the Liberals gave billions of dollars in subsidies to fossil-fuel companies instead of investing in renewable energy and job creation. After being lobbied more than 1,500 times by the fossil-fuel industry, the Liberals are putting big oil first.
We also need action to protect our fresh water. With growing algae blooms and invasive species decreasing lake levels, as well as flood damage, we are in need of a national freshwater strategy. A strategy that would set national drinking-water standards would solve the problems presented by piecemeal provincial strategies and years-long boil-water advisories on first nations reserves.
I have been meeting with members from Oneida Nation of the Thames, just outside of London. There, the drinking water has failed to meet provincial standards dating back to 2006. Upstream, London dumps millions of litres of raw sewage into the Thames River that serves as the community's water source. This is unacceptable. Our municipal government recognizes the problem. It wants to help, but there is no action from the government to help address the water situation at Oneida.
After claiming its most important relationship is with indigenous people, the Liberal government continues to break its promise. It refuses to commit to dropping the appeal against fairness for indigenous kids, while also refusing to fix the problem with the child welfare system. It is simply unacceptable.
The throne speech offers nothing for our seniors, either. Everyone deserves to be able to age with dignity as a valued member of the community. The Liberal government refused to protect workers' pensions, while dragging its feet on the creation of a real plan to deal with the health challenges faced by seniors.
As more Canadians enter their senior years, we need to make better choices and we need to be ready to meet their needs to ensure everyone can age with dignity. With the right leadership, we can make sure our institutions and public services are strong and prepared, and that all seniors have access to the health and social supports they need to make life easier.
One group my mother, in her capacity as a member of Parliament, was so proud of and honoured to work with was our veterans. It is time for the government to do right by our veterans. They should not have to wait weeks or even months to receive the services they need.
Unfortunately, for too long veterans have had to fight for the benefits they have earned. Veterans need investments into their services and increased access to caseworkers. There is also much more that we can do to ease the transition from their life in active service to becoming a veteran.
While I have so much more that I could talk about, I want to finish with this. As it stands, there is not enough in the throne speech for Canadians. People need help now. We urge the Liberals to offer more than just pretty words and to put forward concrete solutions that start to deal with the systemic poverty and inequality that too many face.
The Liberals have been putting the demands of the wealthiest and the rich corporations ahead of the needs of Canadians for too long. We are ready to work with them and deliver for Canadians, but it takes courage to make the necessary choices that will truly help improve their lives.
Madam Speaker, I rise in humility, humbled by the confidence my constituents and neighbours placed in me to be here today to carry on the working-class values of Hamilton Centre that were brought to this House by my predecessor, the always honourable Mr. David Christopherson. He exemplified the nobility of public service, which I hope to emulate and pursue in my work in this House.
I rise in gratitude to the dozens of grassroots volunteers who organized hundreds of door knockings, went door to door, street to street and neighbourhood to neighbourhood talking to my neighbours in Hamilton Centre. Without them I would not have the privilege to serve in this duty, and for that I am forever grateful.
I rise to share the sentiments of the leaders we heard here today talk about the importance of being a parent in this House. I rise to give thanks and gratitude to my incredible spouse, who has been there from day one to support me. I thank all the spouses of members of this House, who sacrifice and bear the brunt at home so we can be here.
I rise for my son, who is three years old and is excited to see daddy's new place of work. The most sacred time in my day starts around seven o'clock when I put my son down to sleep. I read him bedtime stories that try to imbue him with the characteristics for the person I want to see him grow up to be and teach him the values I want to see him grow up with.
My son's name is Langston. In his namesake, I am reminded of the poem Dream Deferred. In the words of the throne speech, we have heard the aspirations expressed to the government. We have heard them before, as we did in 2015. The question is whether this is also going to be a dream deferred.
We have heard today many people talk about the divisive nature of our society right now. Some would try to frame it as it being about east versus west. I would agree there is division in this country, but it is not a geographic division. It is between the ultra-wealthy and the working class.
I rise as a former city councillor, a very proud city councillor in Hamilton. I represented Ward 3. I would often say that my ward is to Hamilton what Hamilton is to the rest of the country. When times were good, our steel sector literally built this country. The working-class people had enough to provide for their families. They had benefits and pensions that they could rely on. However, through some of our free trade deals, we saw these jobs shipped overseas to districts that had lax environmental regulations and lower wages.
We have seen a bit of a resurgence in our city. We have also recently seen the erosion of our manufacturing sector with the loss of a company like Hamilton Specialty Bar, which was bankrupted by Bain Capital. Generations of workers are left without the opportunity to provide their families with good benefits and pensions. I stand here for those workers.
I stand here today for the water protectors in our city. They are protecting and holding accountable the degradation of our Hamilton harbour through a recent spill that happened.
I stand here today for the youth, for Fridays for Future and the students who campaign on the urgency of climate change. These youth will not accept words. These youth want action now.
I stand here today for organizations like the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, an organization I am very proud to represent. It stands on the front lines against the rise of growing white supremacy and far-right organizing in our city. I am here for the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, which is fighting for the most vulnerable in this country. I am here for groups like SACHA, the sexual assault centre, which is fighting for women.
I have heard the conciliatory comments across the way about collaboration. I would put it to the Liberals that if we want to close that division, that profound inequality that we see in this country, we only have to look to the wealthiest 87 families who, from 2012 to 2016, amassed $800 million in wealth. Those families have more wealth than the 12 million lowest-earning Canadians. We have to fight back against the commodification of our housing markets, the commodification and financialization of every aspect of our lives.
It is in the spirit of co-operation and conciliation with my friends across the way that I would like to move a subamendment to the throne speech. I move:
That the amendment be amended by:
(a) replacing the words “tax relief for Canadians with a path to a balanced budget”, with the words “making Canada's millionaires, billionaires, and biggest corporations pay their fair share, ensuring that we can fund critical services and make needed investments for the long term”;
(b) adding, after the word “potential”, the words “including building half a million affordable homes and expanding healthcare to include a universal public pharmacare program and a national dental care program”;
(c) adding, after the words “climate change”, the words “with a bold plan including stronger targets and eliminating subsidies to big polluters who are already profitable, (v) addressing the rising cost of living by taking on the big telecom companies to bring down the high cost of phone and internet services that families and small businesses need”;
(d) replacing the words “regimes in Moscow and Beijing, and protecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic”, with the words “climate crisis and the rise of the far-right extremist leaders”;
(e) replacing the words “with traditional allies such as NATO, Ukraine and Israel”, with the words “for multilateralism, peace and justice”;
(f) replacing the words “strengthening the relationship with our largest trading partners”, with the words “ensuring that any future trade deal is fair for workers, people and our environment”;
(g) deleting all of the words after the words “unity crisis, which requires” and substituting the following: “(i) taking immediate action to ensure Indigenous communities have clean drinking water, and access to healthcare and support; (ii) respecting provincial jurisdiction and supporting a strengthened Quebec within a united Canada; (iii) helping workers, particularly those in Western Canada, struggling to make ends meet within a rapidly changing global economy; (iv) restoring confidence in our national institutions, starting by bringing ethics and accountability to the federal government and making sure that the government listens to people and not just to the wealthy and the well-connected.”
Madam Speaker, congratulations on your election to assist the Chair.
I want to start by thanking the constituents of Beaches—East York, everyone who supported me in the campaign and at the outset of my political career when nobody knew who I was. It is a humbling experience, being a candidate in politics, where hundreds of people come together, all acting on behalf of me and my party and helping us, as individuals, come to this place. I sincerely thank the hundreds of people who have contributed not only in this past election, but also over the years. Of course, I also thank my family and especially my wife Amy.
I am not sure whether it is because of the last four years in this place, or in spite of the last four years in this place but I continue to think that this role of being a parliamentarian, being in government, being in politics remains a pathway to making one of the most positive differences we can make in the lives of our neighbours and our fellow citizens. It remains, I think, a noble profession, and we have an opportunity to display that to our fellow Canadians over the next two, three or maybe four years as we seize the opportunity of this minority Parliament.
Minority parliaments hold the potential for greatness. Peter Russell is an academic and long-time political scientist who studied minority and majority parliaments around the world, including here at home. He has called minority parliaments here in Canada some of the most dynamic in our history.
Of course, the throne speech makes reference to Pearson. When we look to the Pearson years, we see co-operation that was able to deliver the Canada pension plan, Canada student loans, public health care and the flag. During those five years in Canadian history, Parliament accomplished more than most Parliaments we have seen before, so this minority situation holds potential for greatness. It is up to us, and how we conduct ourselves in this place, whether we seize the opportunity or whether we succumb to partisan politics.
One of the jobs in this place, as we hopefully seize the opportunity, is to work across the aisle. In the last Parliament, I had the good fortune to work across the aisle with Murray Rankin of the NDP on cannabis amnesty and with Fin Donnelly of the NDP on the shark fin trade. I had the opportunity to work across the aisle with current members in this House from the Conservatives and the NDP to tackle election interference, platform governance and privacy protections. I think if people watched our committee in the last Parliament, they would be hard pressed to determine who was the Liberal, who was the member from the NDP and who was the Conservative. That is how this place should operate, particularly at committee.
I hope we see more of those opportunities in this place going forward. I also worked really hard in the last Parliament to carve out some space, which is not always the easiest thing to do in this business, for principled independence. If I heard anything from my constituents in this last election, it is that they want me and the people in this place to work together as much as possible to accomplish big ideas for our country. They also want us to be less partisan and to carve out more of that principled independence and to carry that with us.
I want to echo the throne speech and the message that Canadians sent us here with a clear message, which is to work together, and I hope we all take that very seriously going forward.
Canadians were also clear about the need to tackle climate change in a much more serious way. I had the good fortune in early June to introduce a bill to require the government to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. I was incredibly happy to see that as a core commitment in our platform, and as a core and early commitment in the throne speech.
Our principal goal in this Parliament is to set Canada on a credible path to net zero while we ensure a just transition for affected workers and affected regions. That is our principal challenge in the coming years. We have come a long way over the last four years. In early 2016, Environment Canada told us that projected 2030 emissions were 815 megatonnes. After four years of policy-making that included methane rules to reduce methane emissions by 40%; phasing out coal-fired electricity; the price on pollution; massive investments in public transit, clean tech and energy efficiency; and the clean fuel standard, which, as an aside, all of us in this place need to keep an eye on because it is in the process of being watered down, that 815 megatonnes is now 592, a 25% reduction.
For the first time in my lifetime, we had a federal government that took climate change seriously and acted. It did not just set targets and blow past them, and that was the fault of the Conservatives and the Liberals I agree, but for the first time set targets and took action to meaningfully reduce emissions. Now our task is to build on that progress.
In our platform, we promised a number of important initiatives such as expanding electric vehicle charging infrastructure and planting two billion trees. We promised to incentivize clean-tech businesses in a serious way. There will be continued investments in public transit and more, so none of those measures add up to where we need to be. Therefore, we will require more serious action to meet our international, our intergenerational and fundamentally our moral obligations in tackling climate change and doing our part. Doing our part: What does that mean?
We have a 2030 target right now that is 512 megatonnes, and that will be a challenge. However, if we take science seriously, the IPCC tells us that the world has to reduce emissions to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. How many in this place have that number in their head? What does that number mean? It is 380 megatonnes. Our current target is 512 megatonnes. The minimum we ought to be doing our best to reach is 380 megatonnes, 45% below 2010 levels by 2030, and that is not an easy task, but if we are not sufficiently ambitious in our goals, we will not be forceful enough in our actions.
On the matter of co-operation and climate change, I fundamentally believe in the platform we put forward, strong action, but I also saw a promise from the NDP on an independent climate accountability office, and that is really important.
A Conservative creation, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, holds the government to account on our behalf as parliamentarians. It helps us hold the government to account when finance tables a budget. When we turn those long-term goals into a five-year carbon budget to ensure we have short-term practical climate action, so too do we need an independent mechanism to hold the government to account on its carbon budget process. Whether that is housed in a PBO or housed in the environmental commissioner or whether we adopt a different and independent framework, that promise of independent climate accountability is an important one. There is an opportunity to work across the aisle.
When we look at the promise in our platform on a just transition act, now we can say that the Bloc Québécois came back and that party represents a good portion of Quebec. However, if I am more honest about regional differences, and I see Alberta and Saskatchewan, I know, as a member from Toronto, that the Conservative Party best represents Alberta and Saskatchewan in this place. If I think about co-operation and working across the aisle, as we develop that just transition act, we absolutely must be learning from, listening to and heeding the advice of our Conservative colleagues.
The throne speech also talked about strengthening the middle class. Obviously, those of us in this place and those across the country have heard the and this government mention the middle class once or twice over the years.
Increasing the basic personal amount is an important step. It will affect many Canadians. These are big numbers. Twenty million Canadians will have their taxes reduced. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians will be taken off the tax roll. When we increase the basic personal amount from just over $12,000 to $15,000, it will mean that people who really ought not to be paying any taxes at all will not be paying them.
It will cost $6 billion, and there is a challenge here. It is not paid for. It is deficit finance. It is obviously going to be implemented as it is our platform promise. If I am to be somewhat critical and fair, budgets continue to be sustainable and I will believe that as long as the PBO tells me that, but value for money is a different proposition altogether.
We do need to ensure that there is fairness in spending as between generations. I do worry, from a fiscal sustainability standpoint, about a broad-based tax cut or even the increase to OAS when they are deficit financed. They should be properly paid for.
There is another area of both optimism, because of the success and progress over the last four years, and also some criticism. With regard to those working hard to join the middle class or low-income Canadians, those struggling with poverty, we have made incredible strides over the last four years with the national housing strategy, and housing benefits come online this year. Hundreds of thousands of people no longer live in poverty, almost 900,000 people, according to Statistics Canada numbers. That is incredible progress.
However, as chair of the anti-poverty caucus in the last Parliament, having taken over from Senator Eggleton, who continues to do incredible advocacy on a basic income, I would be remiss if I did not note not only the incredible progress, but also a lack of similar ambition in this place going forward.
We brought hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of poverty by increasing the Canada child benefit and the GIS. Going forward, I do not see similar promises from any party that will lift that same significant number of Canadians out of poverty.
However, there is good news with respect to another area of potential collaboration. I will provide a bit of history.
When Ralph Goodale was the minister of finance, he introduced a measure of basic income support, like the OAS, the GIS and the Canada child benefit, but for the working poor. It was not implemented. It was a good Liberal idea at the time, but it became a good Conservative idea when finance minister Jim Flaherty introduced it in this place and made it a reality.
In the namesake of his riding, Whitby, it was WITB, the working income tax benefit. In the last Parliament, we increased that significantly, and while I am not sure how many people were paying attention to the member for and the leadership, he was calling for it to be increased, so we had a Liberal finance minister, a Conservative finance minister and an NDP troublemaker all calling for the same measure to be increased.
When we look at the total numbers, we see over $50 billion a year for seniors in OAS and GIS and over $20 billion a year for children through the Canada child benefit. However, even after the increases in the last Parliament, we only see $2 billion a year for basic income support for the working poor, the people who are working multiple jobs, who are struggling to get by and who need it the most. That is where the action should be in this place, on poverty reduction, when it is an idea that we have already agreed on.
The throne speech also talks about keeping Canadians safe. There are so many different ways we can talk about keeping Canadians safe. For those members who were not in this place in the last Parliament, a member of my local chapter of Young Liberals, Reese Fallon, was killed in the Danforth shooting. The hardest speech I have ever had to give was at her funeral. It was a great honour for our community and the family that the was so engaged that he was able to come to the funeral, but we need action, and in his platform, we saw action. The question then becomes this: How do we make that action as effective as possible? As a reminder to all of us in this place, defaults matter, so if we are to give cities the power to set their own rules, there ought to be a baseline set of rules that cities can opt out of if we truly want that policy to be effective.
With respect to keeping Canadians safe, I am happy to say that working across the aisle in the last Parliament on privacy issues, we saw a great deal of that work and those recommendations from our committee become promises in our platform. We are going to keep Canadians safe online. As my three-year-old grows up, he will live his entire life online, and we need rules to reflect his reality.
Thousands of Canadians continue to die because of a contaminated drug supply and our opioid crisis. To reference Statistics Canada numbers, for the first time in the last 40 years, life expectancy has stalled, attributed to the opioid crisis. Thousands of people have died. If it were not from substance use, I guarantee there would be more committed governmental responses from the provinces. As a federal government, we took significant action over the last four years, but we do not see that collective action across parties and provinces to address this real public health crisis.
The throne speech rightly says that we have done much, but there is more to do. I hope we all agree in this place with this simple premise: that we should treat drug use as a health issue. Yes, we must tackle traffickers and producers, but the very people who need our help, the patients, should be treated as patients and not criminals. If we do that for alcohol and gambling, we ought to do it for all substances. That is how we save lives. If we start with the premise that we treat drug use as a public health issue, and we all agree on that, then let us work together on what that means in legislation.
My constituents have also called for a faster strategy to tackle rare diseases, and they continue to call for a universal and national approach to pharmacare. I know that was referenced in the throne speech and in our platform, and there was a lot of good work done in the last Parliament.
I have a 13-year-old constituent, Helena Kirk, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three and went through 841 days of chemotherapy. She met with the , the and the former . In our platform was a $30-million commitment to pediatric cancer research, largely because of Helena's advocacy. I want to thank Helena for her hard work and let her know that we will do as much as we can to save the lives of her friends.
It is not only about keeping Canadians safe; it is also about all living beings in Canadian society who think, feel and love. That includes animals in our society, and our pets and more. We made progress in the last Parliament on animal protections and we have to continue to build on that progress.
Importantly, the throne speech talked about moving forward on reconciliation.
I will first talk about the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case. I have heard the that say money is no object. At the end of January, we have to deliver submissions to the tribunal that properly set out a path for just compensation, saying money is no object, what it will cost and that we have a fair path forward. Having already spoken to the minister, I will be looking very closely at our submissions. We need to ensure that those in our society who have suffered discrimination by the government receive due compensation.
We have seen incredible progress on clean water, an issue I hear a lot about from the constituents in my community. Over the last four years, over 60% of long-term boil water advisories on reserve were lifted. We injected $2 billion into the system. When the PBO said more money was needed, more money was provided. We remain on track to lift all advisories within the five-year commitment.
There is another specific project, in Grassy Narrows, that needs to be made a priority. I was very pleased to hear the say that money was no object and that the facility would be built with federal support. Again, I will be looking at that very closely.
Then there is the implementation of UNDRIP. I ran into Romeo Saganash very briefly when he was here the other day. We spoke briefly about our promise in our platform that his bill would be a floor. I hope to see the amendments, which were not adopted in the last Parliament, made to his bill. I hope his bill will be a floor. We have a historic opportunity to implement UNDRIP and provide the rights to indigenous peoples that they fundamentally deserve.
On a final note on reconciliation, on our urban indigenous communities, I did not see enough in our platform or in the throne speech. We need a much stronger commitment to urban indigenous communities. In Ontario alone, some of the estimates I have seen are that over 80% of indigenous people do not live on reserve. We need to ensure that indigenous services understands that and is able to deliver services properly to urban indigenous communities.
On Canada's place in the world, there have been great successes over the last four years. We saw greater fairness in our immigration and refugee system. Just to be clear, we brought in more refugees last year than any other country in the world. We are doing our part, which is the right thing to do. My riding has a very strong Bangladeshi community. Those in that community called on me to be vocal on the Rohingya refugee crisis. I and this government were, on the recommendations of Bob Rae. I am very proud of the government's efforts on that issue in the last Parliament.
We need to continue to take that leadership on the global stage on human rights. We need to continue to defend and support our multilateral institutions. We are best at fundamentally supporting institutions. Whether it is training judges, election commissioners, parliamentary processes, we need to double down on what we are best at. We are doing it in some countries, but clearly, when we see what is going on around the world, other countries could use some of that stable support and democratic decision-making from the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian people.
On global climate action, we saw great leadership in the last Parliament on phasing out coal, not only domestically but also abroad. We were global leaders in helping the rest of the world chart this path. We need to continue to do that work, but we cannot do that if we do not do the strong work at home to meet our emission reduction targets. We have to help lead our country and the world on this defining issue of our time.
I will close by reiterating that we have in this minority Parliament a real opportunity to work together on these big ideas and issues that can make such a difference in the lives of Canadians and citizens of the world. Let us seize that opportunity and not waste it.