Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be back here in the House for the 43rd Parliament and to have an opportunity to speak to the Speech from the Throne.
Between July and December, I missed being able to deliver speeches in the House, though I must say I got plenty of speech-giving opportunities during the election campaign.
It gives me enormous pleasure to return to the House for the 43rd Parliament. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the Speech from the Throne. It is a very important speech to share with Canadians because it is a road map, the vision of our government. I kind of missed being in the House between June and now because of the election. I like to share what is happening in my constituency of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook and to continue to advocate on behalf of my constituents.
I have to thank the people of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook for putting their confidence in me once again to continue to work with them and for them. That is exactly what I shall continue to do as we move forward. I also want to thank the many volunteers in my riding and outside of my riding. A large number of volunteers participated throughout the campaign, from day one right through to October 21. That is really what democracy is all about when we think about it. These individuals want to be engaged in the electoral process and they want their words to be heard. The support that I received from them is much appreciated and I thank them for that.
As well, I want to thank my family. As members know, being parliamentarians is not a task that allows us to be home as much as we might like to be. The real work is in the community for our people, but members have to be here in the House to make laws and to work together to make life better for Canadians in general but also for the people in our ridings.
I have to say that I felt throughout the campaign that there were two elections happening. I would like to share a few words concerning the election and how my constituents and I were able to see how things were happening at the national level and at the local level. To be quite honest, at the national level, it was a different campaign that Canadians had not experienced. By that I mean there were insults and misinformation and there was even some fearmongering. All kinds of things were happening throughout the campaign at the national level on television that many Canadians did not feel very comfortable with because that is not the way we do business. We work together. We trust each other to get things done for Canadians.
At the end of the day, I ended up putting my head down and concentrating on the work at hand, working closely with my constituents, listening to them. That allowed me to articulate some of the great things our government was able to do in the last four years, talking with seniors and how we were able to support them, investing in bringing many seniors above the poverty line, and moving the age of retirement from 67 to 65. The Conservatives raised it from 65 to 67, but we stopped that quickly.
The conversation around climate change is important. Climate change is a very important file. It is probably the greatest challenge of our time. Many people in my constituency have many suggestions to make. They welcome some of the great things we did, such as increasing environmental protection of water and land from 1% to 14%, and they understand that we will move it up to 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030. Those are very important discussions to be having.
I had the opportunity as well to speak with many veterans. Nova Scotia has the highest number of veterans and military personnel in Canada by ratio. Let me add that my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook has the most in Nova Scotia, so it is extremely important that I continue to have a dialogue with veterans and individuals in the military.
Colleagues are probably aware of this, but I have been honoured and privileged by the to take on the role of . That is a privilege because I have been working closely with veterans and individuals in the military. I have also been working at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for the last two years.
We have had some great conversations locally, but not such great conversations, I believe, nationally. At the end of the day, Canadians made the right decision and brought us back here to form government. However, we have been handed a new, important task of a minority government. I believe that this government is the best government to lead Canada for the future of this country.
We know that we need to do more on pharmacare. That is extremely important. We have to do more on social enterprises. We have to do more on housing.
We also know that we have to move forward aggressively on trade deals. We did so in the past. We had 14 trade deals signed in one mandate. I do not want to go too deep into that, but the three important ones are NAFTA, which we did extremely well, and of course, the Asia-Pacific one and the one with the European Union. Both of the last two brought to the table 500 million people we can trade with. That is a billion people.
We have the challenge of how we are going to work together. I was very pleased to listen to some, not all, leaders of the opposition in the House last week who clearly stated that they understood the challenge. The challenge is that Canadians want us to work together. Canadians want us to collaborate. Canadians know that we are the party to do so and we shall do that because it is extremely important. We are going to have to stop pointing fingers, I guess, and stop blaming people. A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from in this chamber. It is extremely important to remember that.
I now want to talk about minority governments. We have had some fabulous minority governments that have been very successful in making major changes for Canadians. I think right away of the Lester B. Pearson minority government. It was known as the golden age. It was given that title because it was a very important time. I will share some of the key successes during those years.
An extremely important one is the Official Languages Act. It is funny because here we are 50 years later modernizing the bilingualism act. It recognized both founding fathers or peoples. Today we are much richer not only with respect to understanding each other, but also in allowing us to trade with many countries, because of the two official languages we have in Canada.
Another is the Canada pension plan. Only last year, this government was able to work closely with the provinces and territories to bring forward a much needed updated Canada pension plan that Canadians can be proud of. Canadians will benefit more and more as we move forward.
Medicare is another success that came from a minority government. It is extremely important. I have to share this. One of the key individuals who led the Liberal government through that minority government was Allan J. MacEachen from Cape Breton Island. He became the deputy prime minister of the country and sat next to Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
We brought forward the new student loans program. We had a question today about it. Our government has made major changes to that in the last two or three years which will make life better for young students who are trying to get ahead.
We also ended capital punishment during those years.
Let us talk about the Martin minority government. I can think of two major improvements for Canadians. The first is same sex marriage. That is extremely important. Our government led the charge on that one. The second is the gas tax, which was a new program incentive to support municipal governments and invest in new infrastructure. It is so important that last year, for one year, we doubled the investments from the gas tax.
Those are some of the great changes that were made through minority governments.
Am I happy? I would rather have a majority government, but I will say this. I know that with a minority government and the people in this important chamber, we will get the job done in many areas. Canadians want us to do it and I know we can and shall do it.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about national unity. That is a very important topic. National unity did not start yesterday, last week or last year. We have a great nation because we have challenges. When we have challenges, they become opportunities, and we take advantage of those opportunities to make life better.
I have to share this with members of the House. In the very early eighties, my dad, George A. Samson, a plumber and electrician from Cape Breton Island, to be more specific Isle Madame, who had a grade 6 education, was a councillor in the municipal government. He enjoyed speaking and representing the people. In 1980, he was invited by the Davis government in Ontario to an assembly of many Canadians to talk about the Constitution and national unity. It was quite a pleasure and exciting for him to be part of that. He contributed to those discussions. I know that allowed many great things to happen as we moved forward in the eighties.
We have to stop this division and stop focusing on our differences. We need to focus on our strengths. What we are asking for today is something that Canadians have done so well in the past.
When I hear about prominent politicians running around saying there are differences and creating regional insecurity, it hurts, I have to be honest, because I know we can do much better.
I want to share a quote from the first Prime Minister of Canada, John A. Macdonald:
If I had influence over the minds of the people of Canada, any power over their intellects, I would leave them this legacy—“whatever you do, adhere to the Union—we are a great country and shall become one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve it; we shall sink into insignificance and adversity if we suffer it to be broken.”
I could not say it any better.
That is what this is all about. It is about working together. How great is this country? It is one of the greatest countries in the world. We have been rated number one on quality of life four years in a row. That is not bad. We are number three in education, number four in freedom, number six among the best countries to do business with and number nine in happiness. What a great country. Let us continue working together to make life better for all Canadians.
To do what we are doing, we need to continue to get support from members of all parties. We have to help and work closely with the business community to make sure it has the tools to connect and take advantage of the international trade deals we sign. We have to work together on climate change, because it is the greatest challenge of our time. We have to work together to make sure we have what we promised on pharmacare for all Canadians. It is extremely important. We must continue to work together for housing, creating more housing for seniors. That is the next challenge.
We are focused on these challenges, and that is important. We have to focus on families, youth, veterans and seniors. These are important issues and we need to work together to make this happen. I believe we will. We need to make this work.
Let me focus on Wexit. Westerners are anxious. We will work with them, because when times are hard in one part of this nation we come together and find ways to connect and support. That is what we will do.
I have already seen movement in Alberta on climate change. The premier said he is now open to that. That is what I call making a great effort to work together to continue building on this great country.
What about the pipeline? We already have 2,200 people working on the pipeline and by summer we will have 4,200 working on it. We are now moving forward on the pipeline, as we committed and promised.
I am also hearing about Bill in Wexit. I believe the said the other day that we are open to listening if we need to tweak it somewhat. He even asked the premiers to get together and work at it to see if they had some suggestions. That is the third thing.
The fourth issue I am hearing a lot about is equalization payments or the fiscal stability program. That is what it is for. We have been trying to support westerners and will continue to support them. One way to do it is by making adjustments. When we make adjustments because there are hard times, we are supporting those provinces, and when times are good, we expect them to support the rest of Canada.
It is a pleasure to be back in the House of Commons to speak on behalf of the residents of my riding of Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook.
Mr. Speaker, I want to inform you that I am splitting my time with the member for .
It is my honour to rise in the House today for my maiden speech. I first want to thank the voters of Saskatoon West for putting their faith and trust in me as their representative in this House of Commons for this, the 43rd Parliament. I am humbled and honoured and grateful that they would trust me with this privilege. My pledge to them is that I will do my very best to represent them here in Ottawa and bring their views to Ottawa.
I want to thank my election team of Sunny, Braden, Alex, Kaitlyn, Donna-Lyn, Josh and Jared. I offer a special shout-out to the University of Saskatchewan Campus Conservatives club, which helped with a lot of door knocking. I offer big thank you to my friend the hon. member for and her husband, Milton Block, for all of their encouragement, and to so many volunteers and donors who made this all possible.
As everybody in here knows, family support is critical to our success, and so I want to thank my parents, Alvin and Irene Redekopp; my sister, Gaylene Molnar, and her family; my two wonderful sons, Kyle and Eric Redekopp; and of course my beautiful wife, Cheryl Redekopp. I could not have done this without them.
It is for these people and for the 75,000 other people who live in Saskatoon West that I am replying to the Speech from the Throne today.
Unfortunately, I cannot and I will not support it.
This throne speech calls for “unity in the pursuit of common goals and aspirations.” The talks about listening and about parliamentarians working together, but the throne speech says almost nothing about the aspirations of people from Saskatoon. Not only that, the Prime Minister brings in policy after policy that targets the people of Saskatoon and our economy.
Let me explain the economy in Saskatchewan. If we think of a three-legged stool, the first leg is agriculture: wheat, canola, barley, oats and things like that. The second leg is mining: potash, uranium, gold and diamonds. The third leg is oil and gas. Last year, in 2018, these three sectors accounted for 36% of our GDP in Saskatchewan. The seat of the stool is manufacturing and construction. We manufacture machinery, industrial equipment and food products, while construction is the infrastructure that supports all of that work and all of the people. In 2018, those two sectors were 14% of our Saskatchewan GDP. Taken together, the legs and the seat of the stool account for 50% of Saskatchewan's GDP.
The other half of our GDP is the services that support our residents: things like stores, restaurants, education, health care and everything else. These things all sit on the stool, but the legs of our stool, the foundation of our GDP, are mining, oil and gas, and agriculture.
We all know that these three sectors are suffering in Saskatchewan.
In terms of the oil and gas leg, the no-more-pipelines bill, Bill , has restricted capacity to ship our oil to markets. The selling price of oil is down, investment is down, and therefore there are fewer jobs.
The mining leg is also affected by Bill . It politicizes the impact assessment process and adds significant time and uncertainty to the approval process. Companies no longer see Saskatchewan as the safe, stable place it once was to invest. Therefore, investments are going elsewhere and jobs are disappearing.
On the agricultural leg, the Liberals' continuing relationship failures with China have hurt our canola producers.
What does all this mean to the people of Saskatoon? When the legs of the stool are crippled, everyone suffers. Unemployment is up and people are struggling to pay their bills. During the election, I talked to many households and many families who were struggling to make their monthly payments, and on the campaign I spoke to many of the people we talk about who are short $200 every month.
I want to provide some vignettes of some real people and how this affects them.
I think of a young man who used to work on an oil drilling rig. He drove seven hours from Saskatoon to work in Drayton Valley, Alberta. He worked a two-week shift of 12-hour days, made really good money and spent that money in Saskatoon on vehicles, restaurants, stereo equipment, etc. I know this because this young man is my son. In 2015, the Liberals came to power. They introduced the no-more-pipelines bill and the no-more-tankers bill, and this drove down the price of our Canadian oil and reduced our investment. As a result, my son lost his job, and there was no more spending in Saskatoon.
Another example is a manufacturer who supplied components to the mining and the oil and gas industries. The manufacturer employed 140 people in Saskatoon. Those were well-paying jobs supporting 140 families in Saskatoon. I know this because my brother-in-law works at that company. Because of Bill , investment in resource projects decreased, and the result was that people were laid off as the company adjusted to decreased business.
Fortunately, Saskatonians are resilient and creative problem-solvers, so they looked elsewhere and found business to keep the company going, but the business is smaller than it would have been had the oil and gas market kept going strong.
Let us think of an entrepreneur who build new homes for families, directly employed four people, indirectly hired 40 different contractors to complete all the work required and created several million dollars of economic spinoffs in Saskatoon. I know this because this was my business. Because of the Liberals' mortgage stress test, new homebuyers are forced out of the market. Because of changes in building codes, the cost to build a home significantly increased, and as a result, construction activity in Saskatoon has significantly slowed down. In fact, housing starts are at the lowest level in 14 years. Many good people in the construction industry are suffering or have lost their jobs.
What did I expect from the Liberal government throne speech in the spirit of working together? I certainly expected support for western Canadian jobs. After all, two days after the Liberals were reduced to a minority in October, the said he clearly has more to do to earn the trust of people in Saskatchewan. I expected support for oil and gas, mining and farmers.
What did I actually hear?
I heard a vague reference to natural resources and farmers, no mention of the Trans Mountain pipeline, no mention of a national energy corridor, nothing about repealing or even making changes to Bill and Bill , and certainly no concern for our rapidly growing and dangerous debt. I think Rex Murphy said it best when he said the Speech from the Throne “is a semantic graveyard, where dullness and pretentiousness conspire, successfully, against the life and lift of our two wonderful official languages.”
Housing was mentioned in the throne speech, and I hope the government will follow through on that issue. There are many people in my riding for whom good, stable housing is out of reach. As a former home builder, I call upon the government to relax the mortgage stress test, as this has had a significant negative impact on construction in Saskatoon.
One thing barely mentioned in the throne speech was the word “job”. The Liberals are quick to offer money to Canadians for this or that and to offer handouts to make up for their lack of action on the economy, but let me tell members something about people from Saskatoon: We are proud, hard-working folks, and we do not want handouts; we want good-paying jobs.
Saskatoon is also filled with entrepreneurs, people willing to take great risks in order to employ others and build our economy. Entrepreneurs do not want handouts; they want a stable playing field with reasonable regulations and the freedom to work hard, succeed and then enjoy the benefits when success does happen.
There were two other words conspicuously absent from the throne speech: “balanced budget”. I am gravely concerned that the Liberal government has chosen to spend seemingly unlimited amounts of money on every kind of program, with no concern for the underlying economy that pays for all of this. We are burdening our future generations with debt that will have to be paid back at some point. I call upon the government to at least plan to return to balanced budgets.
Finally, Saskatchewan people care deeply about our environment. All three of the stool legs I spoke of earlier are rooted in our land. No one is a better steward of our land than people from Saskatchewan. We all understand that healthy land, water and air are critical to our long-term success, but we cannot adopt a zealot-like approach, assuming that the only way to have a healthy planet is to stop human development and to stifle innovation and economic growth. We cannot sacrifice the agriculture, mining, and oil and gas industries of Saskatchewan and Alberta in exchange for a photo op with Greta. We cannot stifle economic growth and continue to increase taxes on our people.
This throne speech made it clear that the government intends to continue to raise the carbon tax. Taxes will rise, with no meaningful impact on carbon. This will hurt ordinary Canadians and business owners.
In conclusion, Canada's Conservatives are focused on the aspirations of everyday Canadians, like the good people of Saskatoon West. We are the party of the middle class, and we will continue to present real and tangible ideas that will allow people to get ahead and get the government off their backs.
As I close, I want to congratulate and thank the leader of my party for his tireless dedication and work over the past 15 years. I also want to wish everyone in this chamber a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Mr. Speaker, today marks the first time I rise in the House of Commons. My first duty is to pay my sincere respects to the constituents of Calgary Centre who gave me the privilege and responsibility of representing their concerns in the House.
Calgary Centre is a diverse part of this country that represents the greatness that Canada offers. We are reflective of Canada's storied past, our present and our hopeful future.
The past is celebrated every summer as we gather for our annual Stampede, the greatest outdoor show on earth, the roots of which lie in the skills required of ranchers and the cowboys they employed to get their cattle to market.
The present is the bustling metropolis that includes Calgary's oldest neighbourhoods along with the new Canadians who have found a home here. The bustling downtown has been burdened these past four years with an exodus of talent and opportunities as a result of failed government policies, but we will not find a person who does not think our imposed difficulties cannot be overcome.
The future has brightened as our new provincial government has seen to implement policies that will reverse years of economic stagnation with the growth-oriented, balanced approach to moving us forward.
I chose to serve this riding because of all it represents: vitality and opportunity, diversity and history. I am honoured the voters of Calgary Centre heard my message loud and clear in this past election and returned a Conservative member of Parliament soundly over the incumbent member from the previous government. The message we send could not be more clear. The government's policies are moving Canada in the wrong direction.
Allow me to wind back the clock and discuss how we arrived here. Almost two years ago on vacation with my wife, I broke the news to her that getting better government in Canada was a necessity. I believe strongly that we are impoverishing the next generation of Canadians with bad fiscal policy, false choices on energy and overtaxation. I asked for her support in bringing this change to Canadians. She agreed. Let me say that without her constant love and support, I would not be here. My thanks to Ruth and I love her very much.
It is no small undertaking to run for public office, but so many friends and supporters joined us along the way. Our message about the need for change in the way Canada is being governed resonated throughout our city. I owe so much to so many for their contribution to our efforts and I will do my best to fulfill their trust.
The message delivered by Calgarians was so clear that the referred to it several times after the election. The pledged to listen really hard to combat the disunion wrought by the government's agenda.
In that context, I listened to the throne speech attentively. I did not hear any indication of reversal or accommodation. I have reviewed it and I find some relief in statements and potential, like reducing taxes for the middle class, the government pursuing a responsible fiscal plan, understanding that economic growth is the best way to ensure a good quality of life for Canadians, better health care for Canadians and the ethical use of artificial intelligence, getting Canadian resources to market and offering unwavering support to the hard-working men and women in Canada's natural resource sector. These are all ideas for our times.
I also noted reference to the bedrock of our parliamentary system, which heartened me. After years of federal powers drifting to various whims and interest groups, perhaps there would be a change in approach.
Actions speak louder than words, and I am concerned, given the record of the government, that the definition of its objectives differs strongly from objective, tangible outcomes for Canadians. Will all these words have some meaning this time, or will they be empty virtues that show no results? Is the country being asked once again to play Charlie Brown to the government playing Lucy with a football?
However, there are clearly words, and thus direction, missing from the speech. There is no commitment to young Canadians who are now or soon to be entering the labour force that their future taxes will not increasingly rise to meet the needs of the squandered finances of the government. There is no commitment to stem the transfer of wealth from working Canadians to international financial organizations for guarantees borne by Canadians. There is no commitment to right a regulatory system that has been broken beyond recognition by the government, giving Canadians a regime that makes national projects too risky to undertake, thereby further constraining and impoverishing a generation of Canadians, and this is especially true of indigenous Canadians. There is no effort in mending the divisions created in the past four years and during this past election by a openly campaigning against one region of the country. This betrays a true prejudice, and it is not becoming of a government leader.
I note in the Speech from the Throne the iteration of “climate change” eight times. That is prominent, and I note the focus of the government's virtue. The climate is changing. We need to address it and we need to address its effects. We should acknowledge that we are not an island and accept that all our efforts would be for naught without efforts from significant contributors to the increase in greenhouse gases in the world.
Let us examine clearly the cost of our virtuous approach versus the negligible contribution we provide to the outcome. Our world leadership on this file should be one that binds the country and actually helps solve the problem, not rip us apart with an approach that accomplishes next to nothing. This is our role to fulfill in this global problem. Let us lead Canadians to our solutions, but first let us free ourselves of the bias and hyperbole that simply inflame reactions and stoke divisions.
Our words and our approach matter. We have a problem to solve, and today's decision-makers need to find the solutions that lead to our outcomes. However, we need to understand that our use of language in this matter has led to a hysteria among a generation that believes the future is bleak.
On the contrary, I believe the best is yet to come for Canada.
I work with energy professionals and technologists, who are all parents. Everyone strives in their field to make their lives and this country a better place for their children. All are dismayed by the half-truths and false choices the government is thrusting upon them.
Follow the outcomes proposed, and on a full-cycle basis, they represent a worse outcome for the world, for Canada, for our environment and for families. We know there are no free environmental solutions to producing energy. Coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, solar, wind and nuclear energy all have an environmental footprint and CO2 footprint.
Canada's oil production represents part of the best, most environmentally friendly 8% of the world's oil production. Let me add that production in Canada, to these standards, is not inexpensive. Is this the resource we do not want the world to produce?
All governments need to be wary of solutions that end up causing bigger problems. Yes, Canada does need an effective approach to tackling climate change, and we can find solutions.
False solutions will lead to problems in addition to economic dislocation, with increased world poverty and decreased lifespans, increased emissions from other more primitive power sources, increased human dislocation and a threat to world peace.
Let me get granular on Canada's world-renowned energy industry. Let us talk about the 175,000 workers who are no longer employed. Let us talk about the world-leading technologies and service providers that have been forced to work in competitive jurisdictions, like the United States, a country that has more than doubled its oil production to 12 million barrels per day over the past decade, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the levels in the 1950s.
Let us talk about the reversal of fortune of our oil and gas companies, whose only drawback is their jurisdiction. Let us talk about the economic disadvantage that has been played upon Canadians by a non-constructive regulatory regime manipulated by foreign lobbyists. Let us talk about the transfer of wealth of tens of millions of dollars per day from Canada to the United States where our exported oil is uniquely bound. From a Canadian taxpayer's perspective, let us talk about the taxes not being paid as a result of this wealth and jobs transfer. We can talk about taxes that would pay for schools and hospitals, and doctors and teachers, yes, those social outcomes for Canadians.
Let us collect our thoughts and find a way to rationally address the causes and effects of our changing climate. Let us look at solutions put forth by Canadian champions. The very definition of that is the companies in our energy industry. As an analogy, when in a tight game, put the best players on the ice.
To address the effects of climate change, Canada's best players are in the energy industry. Oil sands operations have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20% to 30% since 2000. Conventional oil and gas producers have brought their environmental footprint down substantially in the same period. We should not forget that environmental solutions stretch beyond addressing climate change.
Canada's energy sector is the best in the world at minimizing its environmental footprint. We have a role to play in the world and climate change is a world issue. We will not begin to address its impact with a parochial approach.
We have homegrown solutions developed here because of the Canadian public's insistence on building a clean oil and gas sector. We owe a great deal to the Canadians of today. We owe significantly more to the future, and the course the government is leading will leave tomorrow's Canadians with fewer options and a debt legacy that will constrain their options in dealing with the problems that will emerge in their lifetimes.
We need to do better. I urge the government to focus on real solutions that do not pit regions of this country against each other and that do not divide Canadians by their status or where they live. I urge the government to bring understanding to the breadth of Canadian solutions and show leadership to bind this whole country. There is much at stake.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
Now that I have more time than I did on the first few occasions I rose in the House, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to voters in my magnificent riding, Shefford, for putting their trust in me on October 21. I am deeply humbled to accept my new role as a member of Parliament.
I will work very hard and look for opportunities to collaborate so that I can properly represent the people of my riding, whose entrepreneurial spirit is strong. My riding has lakes, rivers and mountains that we want to protect and a unique agrifood industry.
I would also like to thank some people, because nobody runs an election campaign alone. I am a proper Quebecker and a hockey fan, so I see the similarities between a campaign and a game, and everyone knows I am by no means a puck hog.
I would like to thank the people on my offensive line: my campaign director, Carole Ducharme; my communications director, Marthe Lapierre; my official agent, François Paré; my adviser, Maxime Leclerc; and my scheduling officer, Estelle Côté. I would also like to thank all my other volunteers and supporters.
I also want to thank the members of my defence team. I thank my family, who has always been there for me: my father, André, my mother, Rachel, my sister, Catherine, my brothers, Samuel and Vincent, my father's spouse, Carole, and my mother's spouse, François. They were sometimes called upon to assist my offensive team. They even put up some of my election signs.
I also want to thank the people who helped me keep my cool and stay grounded. When my niece Leia would jump into my arms, when my nephew Tyler would give me a smile or when my godchild Thomas would greet me, I was reminded that they are the reason I am in politics. I want to give them a better future. I did not get into politics to have a career. I got into politics out of conviction.
I also want to thank my goalie, my spouse, Richard Leclerc, who was prepared to stop everything. He supported me non-stop. Behind every great woman is a great man. He made a number of key saves to help me win the game. He was the difference-maker.
Now that I have been elected, I am fortunate to be part of the incredible Bloc Québécois team, composed of 32 members and all of our staff, and to have been appointed the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women, gender equality and seniors. Those issues are particularly important to me, as I had the opportunity to work in those fields in recent years in various community organizations. I paid very close attention to the throne speech, looking to find commitments in those areas, but there was nothing to be found.
As for status of women, I support the government's willingness to work on tightening the rules around firearms, but words are not enough. The House has the ability to take real action. We can introduce stronger gun controls, especially for assault weapons and handguns. We can tighten border controls for firearms, to try and get them off the black market. We can ensure that buyers of firearms do not pose a threat to anyone's life.
We need to take action against daily violence against women, the slaps across the face and the horrible violence committed against women simply because they are women. We need to take action to remove the stigma and combat misogyny.
Therefore, I will be carefully monitoring the government's commitment to the gender-based violence strategy and to the development of a national action plan in concert with its partners. This should include help for mental health. I imagine that we will have the opportunity to talk about this again in committee.
With respect to seniors, we will have to ensure that there are not two classes of seniors and that pensions be increased starting at age 65. The spiral of poverty does not wait for an individual to turn 75, it all too often starts upon retirement. When I asked a question about this, the even said that it was an excellent idea.
Seniors, families and those living alone are also asking for more social housing. Monies should be transferred to Quebec with no strings attached. As protesters stated this week, having a decent roof over one's head should not have a price tag.
We also need to consider health transfers, which need to be increased to 5.2%. We know that health is the number one issue and it is no doubt our most precious asset. We will wish many people good health during the holiday season.
Seniors also want to be seen as a grey-haired source of strength, not as a burden. We therefore need to let them remain on the labour market, if they so desire, which would help alleviate the labour shortage. We therefore need to create tax incentives for people over the age of 65 and ensure that they are no longer penalized if they want to remain active and continue to contribute to our economy.
I come from a riding where there are many agricultural entrepreneurs and so I want to support them. That is why I believe that there should be no more breaches in supply management and that the system should be protected by legislation. I spent my childhood on a farm so I am all the more concerned about this sector, which just had such a hard year.
In closing, I can only hope for better representation in Parliament, which is currently only 29% women. We have still not achieved gender parity. We will need to look into that.
When it comes to defending Quebec's interests, I am not worried. My colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and I will keep standing up for Quebeckers. That is why I am disappointed that our party's subamendment was not adopted by all the opposition parties.
By way of a reminder, items found in the subamendment include: respecting provincial jurisdiction, in particular by not authorizing any project that does not comply with provincial and Quebec laws relating to environmental protection and land use planning; underfunding of the health care system, which requires an increase in transfers; an unprecedented crisis facing media and creators, who must be supported through the imposition of royalties on web giants; and loopholes in the supply management system that must be protected by legislation. We will be back at it in 2020. We will not give up fighting for Quebeckers.
In a few minutes we will be leaving the House for the holidays. I wish everyone some quiet time with their loved ones. As we see it, the challenges of this minority government are great, and we must all get to work as quickly as possible. I will remember those who voted for me, my cherished constituents.
Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak for the first time in the House, I would like to begin by thanking my constituents in Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques who placed their trust in me and gave me the privilege of representing them in the recent election. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of my team, who made this whole adventure possible. I also want to thank my family, my mother, my father, my brother and all my loved ones.
The decision to get into politics is never made in just a few seconds, a few minutes or a few hours. It takes days, months or even years to make that call. In my case, it was the result of many days, if not months or even years of reflection. After trying to stay in school as long as I could after high school, I finally decided to enter the workforce to learn more about everyday realities and contribute to society.
After more than 10 years in the workforce, I decided to go back to school. Embarking on that adventure was a sacrifice, but I have no regrets. I learned more about myself and also learned to tackle life's challenges. All this has made me the man I am today.
I also want to mention that I am very happy to see a lot of young representatives carving out their place in politics. As a Bloc Québécois critic, I took on some major files and I am very proud of that. I am the critic for public accounts, the St. Lawrence Seaway and tourism.
Speaking of the St. Lawrence Seaway, some colleagues and I had the privilege of visiting the pride of all Quebeckers, Davie shipyard, two weeks ago. This shipyard did not receive its fair share of contracts under the national shipbuilding strategy. The government gave Davie a small share of the contracts. More specifically, the government allocated $2 billion in contracts to Davie, but it allocated $75 billion in contracts to Irving Shipbuilding and nearly $25 billion in contracts to Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver. The Bloc Québécois certainly plans on promoting the Davie shipyard to ensure that it gets its fair share.
Tourism is vital to the regions of Quebec and to Quebec as a whole. More than 400,000 workers benefit from the tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 10% of Quebec's economy.
Now it is time for a deep dive into some takeaways from the last election campaign. The campaign taught me a lot about myself and gave me a chance to meet some amazing people: moms and dads, seniors and students. They all had something in common: they wanted me to know how proud they are of the place they call home, and they were eager to introduce me to it.
During the last election campaign, we discussed a number of issues. One of the hot-button issues in my riding is the labour shortage. Many businesses in my region and Quebec in general have a very hard time recruiting and attracting workers. Specifically, one-quarter of the population in the Lower St. Lawrence region is 65 or older. Fifteen years from now, one-third of our population will be 65 or older. I met people over 65 who would have liked to keep working but would have been penalized for doing so. The government needs to intervene and make it attractive for people who want to contribute to our society to stay in the labour force.
We also talked about issues related to keeping young people in the region because our population is dwindling and our regions are in decline. Urgent intervention is needed to ensure that these people can live and even age comfortably and with dignity. During the last election campaign, I was surprised to learn that one of the RCMs in my riding, Témiscouata, does not have access to a cell network.
Cell coverage is limited or non-existent in 11 out of 19 municipalities, even though it is vital to the development of our regions, to bringing in families and to the establishment of businesses that can be competitive in the region. The government needs to act and allocate the necessary funding for the infrastructure required to provide cell coverage, which the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, now deems essential.
I also noticed that high-speed Internet access is problematic. Again in the Témiscouata RCM, nearly 41% of residents do not have access to high-speed Internet. The federal Connect to Innovate program introduced in the previous Parliament aimed to provide five megabits per second by 2021, while the CRTC is calling for a minimum speed of 50 megabits per second. I sincerely hope that the federal government will follow the example of the Government of Quebec and ensure that all homes in Quebec have access to high-speed Internet much sooner.
The guaranteed income supplement is another urgent need in my riding and in the regions of Quebec. Where I am from, in the Lower St. Lawrence, half of all seniors need the guaranteed income supplement and a quarter of them live on a low income nearing the poverty line. The government must take action and intervene by providing tangible measures to fight poverty. These are urgent needs.
In my riding, the economy is very diversified and has businesses in the manufacturing, agricultural, forestry and services sectors, among others. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business ranked Rimouski fourth in its entrepreneurial communities report. The city is growing, attracting flourishing businesses and contributing to the development of our region of Quebec.
Our region also needs port infrastructure improvements. In eastern Quebec, the ports of Gros-Cacouna, Rimouski, Matane and Gaspé did not receive from the federal government the support needed for the full development and growth of our region.
I would also like to talk about the forest, a term that is only mentioned once in the throne speech, yet the forest represents almost 10% of the total area of Canada. In Quebec it is almost 50%. In recent years, British Columbia has received a lot of investments and subsidies from the federal government to combat the pine shoot moth. The Maritimes received almost $70 million to combat spruce budworm. Quebec received nothing.
I sincerely hope that the government will take the necessary steps to protect our forests, air, water and our lakes and rivers.
In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to seeing the concrete measures that the government will introduce to provide the help and support our regions in Quebec need to continue their development.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by expressing my thanks, first and foremost, to my wife and my partner, Nicole. This was her first campaign as the spouse of a parliamentarian. Many may not know, but I was married in the middle of the last term. She had nothing but joy to express for the fun of canvassing and meeting people, listening to their needs and also watching us talk about how to build strong communities, cities and a better Canada. The election was made that much more enjoyable having a partner like her along to provide that support. To see an election through new eyes is always a real pleasure for any politician who has been through countless elections.
I also want to thank the residents, voters and the folks who make up Spadina—Fort York, which is a riding that dances along the waterfront in the inner harbour of Lake Ontario in Toronto. It is one of the most diverse ridings, as many in Toronto are. It also has pockets of extreme creativity and vibrancy with respect to its economic clout. However, it also has pockets of some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. That combination of affluence and poverty cheek by jowl creates good, strong social networks of mutual support between the two. It also explains the challenges we have as a city, as a country, to ensure that we build an economy where prosperity is shared more generously, fairly and productively. I certainly heard from my residents that this was one of the mandates they sent me back to Ottawa to advocate on their behalf.
Of course, climate change was another issue for us as a waterfront community. With the flooding we experienced last spring, 600 residents on Toronto islands were at risk of losing their homes. We lost extraordinary and very delicate ecological infrastructure. We have to turn our eyes to ensure that not only do we fight climate change with good, strong policies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, but also that we protect those communities that are in harm's way right now as water levels change and become more chaotic. We also need to ensure the natural habitat is restored.
Those are the priorities that residents sent me back here to talk about, among others. Therefore, I look to the throne speech as a way of starting to fulfill those responsibilities and assuring the residents who sent me here, and my colleagues who I will be sharing time with in the House, that my focus on those issues will be unrelenting.
One of the things I commented on earlier during members' statements was the issue of housing and homelessness across the country. It is why I left city council and ran federally back in 2014. It is why I am so proud to be reappointed as the parliamentary secretary, with a specific focus and responsibility for housing. As I have often said, and members who were here before may recall, while housing is often defined as the crisis that needs to be solved, to me housing remains the best tool we have to address the issues raised by members from all parties, as they have explained the mandates they have received from their residents.
When it comes to things like unemployment in places like Alberta, when we build social housing, we create jobs. We know that the construction trades are a large part of the downturn in the energy economy, with the lack of work for highly skilled labour in that province. Building a gas plant requires many of the same skill sets as building a house. We can start to solve some of the poverty issues in Alberta by putting to work the unemployed construction workers who had been working on oil projects. As we wait for world oil prices to return, as we wait for new markets to be established and as we wait for the investments we have made to strengthen the oil and gas sector, one of the things we can do in the interim is build the infrastructure that people on the lower end of the economic scale so desperately need.
It is why I was so disheartened to see the Alberta government cut funding for homelessness and front-line services in Calgary and Edmonton. It is why I have been talking so closely with the mayors in those cities to ensure our housing programs reach the provinces. Even if a provincial government is walking away from those programs, it is good to know the national program will be there to provide assistance and, hopefully, good, strong jobs, as well as the social support that housing provides.
Therefore, housing is an economic tool, an economic driver and is a critically important part of what the mandate talked about. It is a critically important part of what the national housing strategy hopes to achieve. However, when it is seen as economic development and not just a social service, it seems much more dynamic than I think some members give credit for. I hope members opposite can support a stronger, growing and more vibrant housing policy. I know our government is committed to doing that. Also, reference to that in the throne speech is perhaps more appropriately identified as housing as a tool to get toward reconciliation.
When I did work on the homelessness file in the previous Parliament, an indigenous housing provider from Regina, Saskatchewan, said that we cannot have reconciliation without housing policy, cannot have reconciliation without a place to call home.
In many indigenous nations across the country, the notion of having a home is not the issue; it is shelter that is the challenge. They are home when they are on their ground, when they are on their territory, and when we can provide a house with the territory, we have achieved full reconciliation, because both the land and the shelter and the capacity to provide housing have been returned to programs that are self-directed, self-managed and self-realized by indigenous communities.
I took those words to heart, and I have been a strong advocate for indigenous housing providers and have worked very closely with them right across the country from coast to coast to coast, particularly in the Northwest Territories. I am thrilled to see the mandate letters that were produced today and the reference in the Speech from the Throne to the need for an urban indigenous housing program in this country that is designed, delivered, managed and run by indigenous housing providers right across the country. That is in addition to the commitments we have made through the indigenous infrastructure programs to make sure that the three programs for housing through the NIOs, the ITK and the Métis foundation continue to grow to provide a place to call home that is safe, secure and affordable. These programs are also addressing some of the challenges about murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirit people, as well as providing economic liberation and dealing with some of the poverty that colonialism imposed upon indigenous people across the country for far too long.
Housing becomes one of the strong tools we can use as the federal government to realize our commitment and our promise to fully realize the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the key recommendations inside the missing and murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirited report. We can use housing as a tool to solve those problems.
The other thing we can use housing to do is address climate change. Studies have identified that urban centres are the greatest source of our greenhouse gas emissions, providing 62% or 69%, depending on the studies one looks at, and it is largely from built form. That means our houses need to be more energy-efficient. When we create more energy-efficient housing, not only do we create more affordable housing, but we create housing that actually contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases and makes the planet safer for all of us to live in.
Again, housing creates economic capacity and creates jobs, but shelter also provides social stability, and it provides environmental payoffs if we do it correctly. We had a very strong commitment in our campaign, and the throne speech as well refers to environmental policies and to providing Canadians with interest-free loans to retrofit their homes so they can make their contribution to climate change real and also do it affordably. They can actually save money by making a contribution to help us fight climate change. It is a win-win-win proposition, and it is one that I look forward to realizing in this Parliament. I look forward to members on the benches opposite who have similar programs making their contributions to make this program as strong as possible.
We have heard about pharmacare. We have heard that Canadians need access to health care on a universal and more national basis. We know that we have to work with provinces and territories, indigenous governments and municipalities to get pharmacare right, to make sure it dovetails with existing programs and that it grows and extends to different medical devices. Those issues are also critically important, but every single study on the issue of health care tells us that housing is a key determinant to better health care outcomes.
In fact, a very interesting study that was done by an AIDS foundation in the United States showed that viral suppression is only possible if housing is included with the drug program. In other words, drugs alone will not create the health we seek for our neighbours and fellow Canadians. We need places to treat people. We need stable places for many of the drug programs to work effectively, including pharmaceuticals, and Housing is a critical part of that as well.
Our commitment to increasing funding for mental health services and addiction services will not be effective and will not achieve positive results in people's lives if supportive housing is not built to create places to treat and care for people and allow them to thrive, heal and move forward. Those investments that are often talked about as health care investments will be realized through supportive housing investments. When we can get that piece of the health care budget right and use it in concert with our housing policies, we will also see much stronger, aggressive and more successful campaigns to end homelessness in this country.
Again, housing is not the crisis: Housing is the solution to so many of the problems that we face.
One issue that will also be seen as part of the program to solve a challenge that is beyond heartbreaking in our communities is the issue of gun violence.
Gun violence is an issue in my community, the communities that I represent and the neighbourhoods my family walks through on the way to school and the way home from work. I have been to more funerals for children in my riding than for family members in my lifetime. Stop and think about that. I have stood with more families in extreme trauma, as they buried young people in my riding, than I have with members of my own family. That is an unacceptable situation in this country.
There are all sorts of reasons why a long gun is an important tool, and why hunting and the protection of families in rural parts of the country are important. In urban centres, the more bullets that fly, the more people that die. We have to find a way to curtail that.
Of course it requires strong border controls, investments in security at the borders and breaking down the way guns are smuggled into this country by both legal and illegal gun owners. We have to make sure that we step up criminal charges against dangerous people who have reached for a gun too often and let them go off in our cities, and we have to make sure that they do not do harm to more people in our communities. We need to get handguns off the streets in urban centres. It is just fundamental to the health and welfare of our communities.
It is not just the atrocious number of people who are shot or killed. The families that live in neighbourhoods where gun play is all too prevalent live in an intense and sustained circumstance, an environment of stress and disorder. For young children who have to sleep at night in the basement of their housing units because the ground floor is not seen to be safe, or for families that have guns going off, making kids who are five or six years old jump, leads to all sorts of other challenges in our communities. It becomes a mental health issue, quite frankly. It is a form of PTSD for so many young people, particularly racialized youth in our cities. That has to stop.
Families that have buried their children, that have had to stay by their bedside in emergency wards at hospitals, that have scared kids day in and day out, have asked us to act on gun control. They have asked us to deal with handguns. We have to do it because they have lost confidence in the government to listen. They have lost confidence in society to listen. They have lost confidence in Canada to listen to the trauma they are being asked to endure.
They have asked us to act on this, even though they know it is only one part of the solution. They need to see that communities around this country support them as they seek to build healthy and wonderful children, and they cannot do it fearing guns in our cities. That is why it is so critically important to act on this.
Examining what causes a young person to reach for a gun as a solution also needs to be part of the program if we are going to eliminate this behaviour. We cannot police homicides out of existence. Passing laws has never worked. We have had homicides since time immemorial, long before laws existed, and no country on this planet has eliminated death by handgun simply by outlawing it. Laws are not a deterrent. If people are so scared or so intent on exercising power with a gun, it does not matter how many laws we have. The problem is that the person has already reached for a gun.
We have to get to where young people are making better choices and have the opportunity to make better choices. Again, this is where housing comes into play. When young people are housed properly, cared for properly, nurtured properly, when they are invested in and when they are seen as true citizens worthy of our care and our compassion, our investments and our support, they make better choices.
In every community where better choices are put in front of young people who are at risk, young people will make those better choices. It is a rational, humane thing to do. When those choices are not there for young people, unfortunately far too many of them reach for a gun, whether it is smuggled across the border, stolen from a home down the road, broken out of a gun shop, stolen from a range or simply rented from a legal gun owner.
A person in my riding had 11 legal guns. That individual never did anything with them except rent them out to hoodlums. Two people died as a result of that. When the police went to get the 11 legal guns, they could not find them. He was a legal gun owner until he was not. The reality of this is that he was renting the guns out to pay to go through university. It is a true story, and it killed two people.
That person was smart enough to make better choices, but he did not have those choices in front of him and as a result, made the mistakes that cost people their lives. It also meant that there were 11 handguns floating around the neighbourhood for years and everybody knew, but nobody said anything because they were afraid.
We have to change the social circumstances and constructs in order to make these outcomes stronger. One of the best ways to do that is to make housing more affordable and support families in terms of good, strong social infrastructure, good programs that support their educational opportunities. We need to make sure that the programs that provide jobs start to hire people in communities where high unemployment rates have been tolerated, despite some of the success we have had over the last two to four years.
Again, housing becomes part of the solution to gun violence. If those on the other side are really serious about making sure that the rules and regulations do not hurt law-abiding owners who need to hunt for food, protect their farms, or what have you, then they will stand up and support our government's initiatives to put into play those social investments in our cities and those investments in housing, to make sure educational opportunities are sustained and to make sure that we give young people the tools they need to survive; not guns but education, jobs, hopes and opportunities.
The final issue is culture and heritage and the need for strong investments in the arts and digital media sectors. One of the fastest growing parts of my riding is the digital media sector. In fact, it has outpaced, in terms of job growth, Silicon Valley for the last two years. One of the reasons it has done that is because our immigration policies get people with talent into our country quickly, who cannot get into the United States. Tech firms from the United States are moving to Toronto so they can get access to the global pool of talent. More importantly, they are understanding that Canada's pool of talent is extraordinarily high, rich and diverse. When those tech firms come to Toronto, they realize that what they were looking for was in Toronto all along.
Supporting open policies around immigration, progressive policies driven by economic need, and also making sure that we are good, strong humanitarians on the global stage has created the context for a good, strong economy in our communities. We need to make sure that we keep those doors open, so that we keep people coming to this country with talents and contributions that they want to make. We also have to make sure that new arrivals are allowed to make those contributions.
One of the worrying statistics in Toronto is that immigrants and refugees are doing less well after five years in Canada now than they have at any other time in the country's history. What are the supports that are missing, preventing that successful integration?
Once again, it is housing. When housing costs are so high that they cannot afford the courses to requalify their credentials, when housing costs are so high or the houses are so far away from jobs that transportation costs become a barrier to participation in the workforce, when housing costs are so high that people spend all their time looking for affordable places to rent instead of better jobs, they fall further and further behind. Their health and mental health start to suffer and their capacity to make the contributions they are ready to make to this country is hurt.
Making sure that we pay attention to those issues is one of the ways we can support the arts and culture sector, which, as I said, is the fourth-largest employer in Toronto and the largest employer in my riding. Moving our funding and support to the cultural sector is one way to develop the economy in our country. Artists need places to create and quite often an artist will live, work and produce in the same space. We need to make sure our housing programs support that and the arts industries that gather around that.
I will conclude by re-emphasizing the point I want to make most clearly about the throne speech and the mandate letters supported today. We will not succeed as a country without an urban indigenous housing strategy. We will not reconcile the past without a strong urban indigenous housing strategy. That strategy must be indigenous led, designed and delivered. Our government, this Parliament, our country has to find ways to support that to get it off the ground and into a position where it is self-driving, self-determining and self-realizing. I give my absolute commitment to residents, to colleagues in the House on this side and to Parliament that I will not rest until that policy is put in place.
The throne speech has set the stage for that; the mandate letters have given us the authority to get it done. What we need now is Parliament to stand together and realize this, so that we have four forms of housing for indigenous communities, with the NIOs, and with the indigenous urban housing piece finally and totally delivered during this Parliament. If we do that, we will not be talking about how much we cut homelessness; we will be celebrating how we have ended homelessness. That end to homelessness is within reach if we focus on it. The reason to do it is for all of the reasons I have listed, but the way to do it is to start by solving the indigenous urban housing crisis we have in this country and addressing that issue with our partners from those communities, leading us to a solutions-based mandate in this Parliament.
That is why I am going to be supporting the throne speech, it is why I am proud to be the parliamentary secretary in charge of housing and it is why I am absolutely thrilled to get to work in this Parliament.