The House resumed from December 1 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with my hon. colleague from .
It is an absolute honour and privilege to rise and reply to the Speech from the Throne. I listened very carefully to the speech and identified two concerning issues that I heard repeatedly while knocking on thousands of doors during the past election campaign, namely the escalation of crime, particularly gun offences, and the failure of the Liberal government to prioritize a meaningful relationship with our indigenous neighbours.
The safety and security of Canadians must be the top priority for the government. As a former Crown attorney, I am deeply concerned about the escalation of crime in Canada and particularly in my riding of Brantford—Brant. Unfortunately this topic was completely neglected in the throne speech, despite many details published by the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety statistics.
The report shows that in 2020, Canadian police services reported over 2.2 million Criminal Code and other federal statute violations of which 743 were homicides, which is 56 more than the previous year. Let me repeat that number: 743 people killed in Canada last year and yet there is no plan to reduce the escalation of crime in the throne speech. Canadians deserve better. My riding deserves better. People want to feel safe and protected in their home and communities. The Liberal government must stop playing politics and pushing its ideological agenda. It must fight crime and finally end these horrible trends in Canada.
The fact that crime was not addressed in the Speech from the Throne did not surprise me. If we reflect on the Liberal government's track record on this issue, we would see that there is nothing new here. In 2019, the Liberal government, while having a majority in the House of Commons, put into effect Bill , the criminal justice bill. Liberals were claiming that the bill was designed to reduce sentences for milder offences, but the reality was that it implemented softer sentences for serious violent crimes including participation in an activity of a terrorist group, abducting a child and participation in activities of criminal organizations, just to name a few.
In 2020, the same Liberal government tabled a bill colloquially known as the “no more jail time for criminals” bill, which proposed to reduce jail time for dangerous offenders. If implemented, it would have allowed individuals found guilty of horrific crimes like sexual assault, arson and kidnapping to serve their sentence under house arrest instead of real jail.
It would also remove mandatory jail time for anyone who commits robbery with a firearm, trafficking in crystal meth and criminals who smuggle firearms across the Canada-U.S. border. When talking about the smuggling of firearms across the border, it is very concerning during the last session when the Liberal MPs, with the support of their loyal and faithful NDP friends, voted down the Conservative bill that had been designed to address the prevalence of smuggled weapons and the rise in gun crime.
The “soft on crime” agenda is simply irresponsible and dangerous. The Liberal government must do better to ensure the safety and security for everyone wherever they live in Canada.
For six years, in throne speech after throne speech, we heard the same rhetoric: the government is going to get handguns and assault weapons off the streets; we have to focus on reducing gun violence, we have seen the devastating effects of gun violence; too many lives lost; too many families shattered; time to show courage and strengthen gun control; the government will invest to help cities fight gang-related violence. Now, in 2021, our throne speech makes one opening statement: The Liberal government will ensure that it will take steps to allow our communities to be safe.
During the election campaign, the promised to give $1 billion to provinces and territories that want to ban handguns, but the reality is this would not lower gun violence, as almost 80% of the guns used to commit crimes in Toronto, for example, are illegal handguns originating in the United States. As quoted in the press recently, “Since criminals aren't deterred by the Criminal Code, it's a given they won't be deterred by any provincial legislation or municipal bylaws.”
The and his government know this. The 2018 paper by Public Safety Canada “Reducing Violent Crime: A Dialogue on Handguns and Assault Weapons” reports that the vast majority of owners of handguns and other firearms in Canada lawfully abide by requirements; that most gun crimes are not committed with legally owned firearms; that any ban of handguns or assault weapons would primarily affect legal firearms owners; that jurisdictions differ in their approaches to controlling handguns and assault weapons; and the data do not conclusively demonstrate that these handgun or assault weapon bans have led to any reductions in gun violence.
The former minister of public safety and former Toronto police chief told The Globe and Mail in 2019 that banning handguns would not work because most illegal guns are smuggled into Canada from the United States. The former minister was quoted as saying:
I believe that would be potentially a very expensive proposition but just as importantly, it would not...be perhaps the most effective measure in restricting the access that criminals would have to such weapons, because we'd still have a problem with them being smuggled across the border.
The is now poised to reintroduce legislation that died on the Order Paper when the election was called last August to remove minimum sentences for many gun-related offences, including robbery with a firearm, discharging a firearm with intent, reckless discharge of a firearm and possession of a prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition. This is another example of the government's soft-on-crime agenda that will not reduce gun crime.
The and his government are completely tone deaf on what it takes to keep our community safe. It is time to target the real source of the problem. It is time to take bold and decisive action to strengthen our borders, provide the maximum support to our Canadian border agents and work in partnership with the U.S. authorities to stem the tide of illegally smuggled firearms.
On September 30, I proudly attended the ceremony on Parliament Hill and stood shoulder to shoulder with indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, reflecting and honouring the victims and survivors of the residential school system. The good people of Brantford—Brant sent me to Ottawa for this purpose. I am honoured to represent my riding, which includes the largest first nations reserve in Canada. On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I did not take a personal day and spend it on a beach.
This year's throne speech was delivered by the Her Excellency the Right Hon. Mary Simon, the first indigenous person ever to hold the position of the Governor General of Canada. As Canadians, we are very proud of this historic moment. This past summer, the collective consciousness of all Canadians was shocked and saddened with the discovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools. It is our collective responsibility to accept the truth and reflect on the failed and tragic policies of our previous leaders.
Six years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented its final report. It presented 94 calls to action to help redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. Under the watchful eye of the , the Liberal government has failed to implement the vast majority of them. According to a 2020 status update on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action conducted by the Yellowhead Institute, only eight actions had been implemented. At this rate, it would take until at least 2062 to complete all 94 calls.
I am honoured to represent my riding, which includes the largest first nations reserve. Throughout my entire life, and especially during the campaign, I have had many opportunities to discuss the myriad of issues that people on reserves are facing every day. As their representative in Ottawa, I will fight tooth and nail for their interests. My—
Madam Speaker, it is a true honour to stand here once again.
My thanks to the hon. member for who may have just had his first speech in the House of Commons. I think that all of us Parliamentarians do better when we have more Crown prosecutors in the House of Commons to teach us about our justice system.
It has been a really good, busy few weeks getting Parliament back and getting back to business. While I was encouraged to see an acknowledgement of the ongoing emergencies, to have the debate on British Columbia and to have it acknowledged in the Speech from the Throne, I will continue to push the government for concrete action on flood recovery and building infrastructure. My constituents and British Columbians are demanding that of all British Columbia MPs right now.
Government ministers have been responsive, and emergency personnel from the military have been essential, to disaster response efforts on the ground, including today. I commend their work and thank them for their attention, but when the rains let up and the flooding is managed, will the federal government still be there? Will the media still be paying attention in a few months' time? That is my greatest concern right now. I repeat that I am going to be resolute in my efforts to make sure that the upcoming federal budget responds to the Speech from the Throne, and that it addresses the critical challenges my province is facing right now.
I will ensure that the village of Lytton, which I represent and which was devastated by one of the most disastrous forest fires in our country's history, gets the type of federal support it needs moving forward.
The upcoming federal budget must contain a comprehensive suite of supports, and must revise policies for those who have lost their homes and do not have insurance, for impacted businesses that might not be able to secure loans, and for agricultural producers, especially the blueberry producers, dairy farmers and chicken farmers whose crops and livestock were devastated. We need updated flood mapping to account for future disasters and to adapt to climate change. Municipalities need money for dike upgrades and critical infrastructure, and there has to be provincially led construction of resilient infrastructure across the board to address the highways.
I have been walking around showing photos of Jackass Mountain summit and Highway 1 to many people in the House. The road is completely washed out. We have to build those roads back better.
Finally, we need to do more on emergency response policies and capacity for our indigenous brothers and sisters. Frankly, the way we handle disasters right now in British Columbia is not sufficient. We have to empower first nations leaders and emergency responders, and make sure they have the tools they need, especially in rural parts of my province, to do their jobs effectively and to help keep their people and their nations safe.
I just have a few more comments. The Speech from the Throne often gives members of Parliament a time to reflect on the election, on what people told them during the election and how they can respond to that in Parliament.
Before I go into some of the things I heard on doorsteps during the election campaign, I want to give a shout-out to a very close friend of mine. Ten years ago, he was my roommate, and we were sitting around the kitchen table in our apartment. We were staffers under the Stephen Harper government, and we were looking at the redistribution boundaries. They were creating a new riding in my home town. It was at that moment I decided that I was going to pursue a career in politics. Blair was there with me from day one. I do not think I could be here today without a friend like Blair, who has supported my family for so many years. When someone works in politics, having a staffer to confide in who knows your strengths and weaknesses is a blessing. I did not get a lot of sleep last night. Whenever that happens, I start to cry.
Blair is moving on. He has a wonderful woman in his life and is moving to the Prairies. He is going to be leaving my office at the end of the year. Blair will be sorely missed. He exemplifies public service and is an amazing dude. I thank him so much.
The Speech from the Throne talked about listening to diverse voices. Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon is one of the most diverse places in all of Canada. I also think it is the number one riding in all of Canada, and I challenge anyone to have a debate with me on that anytime in the House of Commons. Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon is 22,000 square kilometres of ruggedness. It spans from Matsqui and Abbotsford, British Columbia, up into the Bridge River Valley in the South Chilcotin Mountains. The only connecting feature of my riding is the Fraser River, which runs right through it from the north to the south. I am proud to live in a place where there is a rich indigenous culture and a rich immigrant culture. All of these people bring so much to the work that I do and so much to the communities that I represent. I am so proud and honoured to stand up for them every single day. It is a true honour.
During the election campaign everyone talked to me about one thing, and that was housing. In Abbotsford and Mission, not too many years ago a family perhaps working in the Gloucester Industrial Park in Langley, or working for a local small business, could afford a home. It was not too long ago that homes were selling in the $300,000 to $400,000 range in many of the communities I represent, but over the last seven or eight years, those prices have skyrocketed to levels that none of us could have ever imagined. The values of homes have doubled and tripled. Now we find ourselves in the situation where a good job is not good enough to have a secure place to live anymore. Many families appreciate the Canada child benefit, mine included, and the positive things it does such as helping to pay for day care and good food to put on the table. However, the Canada child benefit, or a small increase for seniors to old age security or the GIS, does not account for the significant and drastic increase we have seen related to the cost of housing.
The government talked about a housing accelerator in its budget. I do not know what a housing accelerator is. Frankly, it kind of reminds me of something the Liberals do not talk about anymore, and that is a supercluster related to an industrial area. They never mention superclusters, but a few years ago, every single day Minister Bains would talk about superclusters. We do not hear that anymore. What Canadians want from the government is a concrete plan to address housing supply. The reality is that we are not building enough. Where I live is a key place for immigrants to come to live. Immigrants do not have safe places to live anymore. The government needs to set targets, to be accountable to those targets and to help municipalities build the types of homes that people need to live their best lives. We are failing on that front.
During the election campaign, there were some good points in the Liberal platform and there were definitely some good points in the Conservative platform. However, people are acknowledging the issue now. There needs to be no more rhetoric, and we need to see action. We need to see the federal government working with municipalities to incentivize the construction of new homes. We need to see housing tied to infrastructure development so that when the new SkyTrain stations are built expanding out to Langley, or if hopefully one day we expand the West Coast Express in Mission, housing is a key component of how we look at infrastructure. If we do not start looking more comprehensively at some of these key challenges we are facing as a nation, we are not going to address the housing supply crisis.
I will say one more thing on housing, and that is regarding indigenous housing. My indigenous constituents want “for indigenous, by indigenous” housing. If there was one thing in the Speech from the Throne that I was very concerned about not seeing, it was that. Let us work toward reconciliation. It has been a tough year for British Columbia. It has been a tough year for Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc nation, which I represent. Let us work toward reconciliation and let us give indigenous children safe places to call home. There is so much more we can do on that front collectively in the House to address this scar on our nation.
Madam Speaker, we have seen some very challenging times in Alberta over the last number of years, and in my riding in particular. The economic downturn, a massive hailstorm in 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have had profound impacts on those who call Calgary's northeast home. No matter the challenge, we have come together time and time again to fight for what matters: safe neighbourhoods, healthy families, well-paying jobs and a bright future for our children.
I am proud to be part of a government that has put forward bold solutions to the difficult problems facing our city while always focusing on a fair recovery for all. I especially want to acknowledge that the Province of Alberta has received the largest dollar amount in per-capita transfers from the federal government to assist us with pandemic relief and economic recovery. This federal government had our backs when we needed it most. More than ever, Canadians appreciate the value of a strong national government that shows leadership in the face of adversity.
The riding I represent is one of the most ethnoculturally diverse in Canada, with people from all around the world who have come to Canada to build better lives for their families. Sadly, all levels of government have not always fulfilled all of their commitments to invest in new Canadians and to adequately respond to racism and discrimination.
When I was elected city councillor, I committed to being a strong voice for my constituents by immediately addressing long-standing inequities. In my new role as a member of Parliament, I will continue to embrace my duty to carry on much of this work by investing in people and infrastructure. Our government must help transform Calgary's economy while supporting workers, always making sure that nobody is left behind. I am grateful that our government has committed to continuing its important work in combatting inequities, systemic racism and discrimination.
Working Calgarians were instrumental in getting us through the pandemic. Calgary Skyview is home to thousands of essential workers: health care workers, public transit workers, truck drivers and taxi drivers, people working in grocery stores and food preparation, utility workers and tradespeople. These workers did not have the luxury of working from home and were directly exposed to the virus throughout the pandemic.
It is easy to thank them, but we must do much more to show our gratitude. Leaders need to show leadership, and those of us with the privilege of sitting in the House need to work even harder, whether we are here in person or working in our constituencies. This federal government has walked the talk by providing key benefits to those who lost their jobs and by procuring vaccines for all Canadians.
I have encouraged all Calgarians to get vaccinated and to follow public health guidelines. I will continue to advocate for public health as vaccines become available for our children. Working Calgarians, particularly visible minorities, were often criticized for the high infection rates, even when they were sacrificing their personal health by ensuring the safety of others, volunteering and sharing, and keeping the economy moving by ensuring the flow of goods. Today, upper northeast Calgary has one of the highest rates of vaccination in Canada, at 99.3%. All of those over the age of 12 have had at least one shot. It very likely has a higher percentage vaccinated than my colleagues in the Conservative caucus across the aisle.
Ultimately, I know that my constituents will answer the bell when times get tough. As a government, we must remain by their side in support, and embrace their trust by working as hard as they do.
The cost of living has become one of the most critical concerns facing Canadian families, and the situation is no different in Calgary Skyview. This government has done great work in tackling the affordability crisis. One example of this is the rapid housing initiative. In Calgary Skyview, across the street from the Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre, the rapid housing initiative is supporting a seniors housing facility with the conversion of a former hotel into a much-needed seniors facility. Local non-profits, such as the Dashmesh Culture Centre, have also shown tremendous leadership through collaboration with government to build the first women's transitional housing project in northeast Calgary. Projects like these save lives and give those in need a chance to get back on their feet and live safe and dignified lives.
There is much more work to be done, and our government is ready to get to work on several meaningful initiatives, such as the multi-generational home renovation tax credit. This would impact thousands of families living in northeast Calgary by helping them add a second unit to their home.
I recently had the privilege of joining the and the for an important announcement in Edmonton. Our federal government came to an agreement with the Province of Alberta on affordable child care, which follows through on our election commitment to make life better not only for families but for all Canadians. Thousands of working families in Calgary Skyview will benefit from our government's commitment to making life more affordable through $10-a-day child care.
We cannot talk about how to build resilient and inclusive communities without talking about how we move around them. I have been a long-time advocate for robust and affordable public transit. People living in my riding are the highest users of public transit in Calgary, and this federal government has consistently supported increased investments and access. Whether it is the Blue Line or Green Line, we will stand and support public transit in Calgary—
Madam Speaker, the problem is that I am very much limited on the time I can speak on all these wonderful initiatives, so I would appreciate it if the members on the other side would be more quiet.
Another area in which this government has done exceptionally well is supporting our seniors. Again, from day one, we increased substantially the guaranteed income supplement. The GIS is there to support the poorest seniors in Canada. We gave substantial increases, approximately $900 annually, to the poorest seniors, again, lifting literally thousands of seniors out of poverty in all regions of our country. That happened even prepandemic.
During the pandemic, we gave direct payments to seniors, with an additional payment for those on the lowest income. We made an election platform commitment to increase payments to those seniors age 75 and over because of the limitations in terms of abilities and additional costs that they had to incur. It was 10%, which was unheard of. These are the types of commitments this government has made to our seniors from day one and we still continue to make them today.
Listening to our constituents and advocating for programs really make a difference. That is what Liberal members of Parliament are doing. I would encourage my Conservative friends to get on board with some of these programs as opposed to suggesting, as they did in the last election, that our proposed child care program was not a good thing, that they would take it away.
Now we have the new horizons program. The government has enhanced the funding for this program and continues to promote it, because it is to the benefit of seniors throughout the country. I would suggest that all members of Parliament look at that program and promote it in their communities. The program has tangible results for seniors in all our constituencies.
Much like our support programs for seniors, such as new horizons, we also have programs for young people. Let us look at the youth summer program. Over the last five or six years, we have more than doubled of the program. Thousands and thousands of youth are getting employment, often their first opportunity for employment, because of this program. It is making a real difference in all our communities. Much like the new horizons program, which as members of Parliament we all get to contribute to the success of that program in our constituencies, members need to look at this program and promote it among their constituents.
When I was first elected as a parliamentarian in 1988, one of the primary issues was health care. Health care is not just provincial jurisdiction. I know this will upset the separatists from the Bloc, but Canadians love and cherish our health care system. During the pandemic, we learned a little more about areas that needed more attention.
I am thinking about national long-term health care. We need to have better long-term care for our seniors. This government is committed to delivering that. Every Liberal member of Parliament understands it and advocates for that in his or her constituency, and nationwide. We understand the importance of medication. Since day one, we have invested literally hundreds of millions to keep prescribed medicine prices as low as possible for Canadians.
In our throne speech in September 2019, we indicated that willing provinces should come and talk to us about the national pharmacare, because the only way we can have a national pharmacare program is if we have support from the provinces, and that is something we want to see.
For the first time, we have a who understands the issue of mental health, and we have now incorporated that into national policy. That is something I believe all members of the House should get behind, because it is definitely something all Canadians want. They want government to play a stronger role on the issue of mental health, and we are seeing a commitment to that.
I have to provide comment on reconciliation. This is something opposition members like to criticize. I can tell members that 80% of the 94 calls to action are being acted on in one way or another, with many of them having been passed. Whether it is regarding language, child care or a statutory holiday, this government takes the calls to action very seriously, and we are acting on them.
I look forward to any questions that might come.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour and privilege to stand in this historic House today amongst colleagues from across this vast nation as the representative of Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame and shadow minister for ACOA.
I thank the great people of my riding for selecting me and putting their trust in me to represent them in the 44th Parliament. At this time, I would also like to thank those who volunteered their time and supported me on my campaign. Without them, I would not be here today.
As well, I send my condolences to the Starkes family on the passing of their mom and grandmother, Ruby Starkes, who is being laid to rest today at 2 p.m. in Baie Verte, Newfoundland and Labrador. The Starkes were a great support to me throughout my life and have been great mentors.
Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame is a large riding that makes up 40% of the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador. I come from a tiny fishing village called Wild Cove, in the very northwest corner of the riding, in White Bay. I was involved in the fishing industry from a young age and eventually ran our family fishing enterprise for nine years. For the last 17 years, I have owned and operated several restaurants. At times, I have had up to 60 employees.
Coming from an entrepreneurial background, I know what it is like to hold my head in my hands, and what it is like to make a payroll. The feeling of walking into my restaurants in late March 2020 and not knowing if they would ever reopen due to the unknowns of the pandemic will never be lost on me, nor will being at sea, caught in a hurricane and having the responsibility of my crew and the vessel on my shoulders. Now, a different responsibility rests on my shoulders, and it is a very heavy weight.
Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, in fact, the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador, faces an uncertain future. Our main economic drivers are related to natural resources, but the Speech from the Throne neglects the support needed for our natural resource industries.
The current Liberal government has relentlessly worked to dismantle our offshore oil and gas industry with ballooning red tape, which has destroyed investor appetite. We have lost 5,500 jobs as our oil industry has been scaled back. However, Norway is rapidly expanding its offshore oil industry after incentivizing companies early in the pandemic, which lured investment from our offshore to theirs.
The rhetoric that the government sells the people of my province is that there is no future in oil and gas and that these jobs are being phased out, yet countries like Brazil, Trinidad and Guyana ramped up their drilling and exploration programs. Why is this government spreading false information, and why is it forcing the men and women in the oil and gas industry to leave their families to go to the shores of far-off countries in order to find employment? These are people like Luke Jarvis of Harbour Breton, who was one of the 5,500 who lost their jobs in our offshore oil industry. He now has to leave his family and commute to Brazil to work in its oil industry.
The attack on Newfoundland and Labrador does not stop with the oil and gas industry. The fishery also has been thrown into peril as a result of six years of Liberal government mismanagement. Fishers in my riding are fearful of plans to increase marine-protected areas from 14% of Canada's oceans to 30% by 2030. These marine-protected areas are arbitrarily chosen, with very little industry consultation, as if done with a paintbrush. In most cases, fishers are barred from accessing prime historical fishing grounds and not even allowed to use low-impact fishing gear, like hook and line. Fishers need to fish where the fish are and not where they are told to fish.
DFO science is another bone of contention within the fishing industry. This year, fishers like Brad Rideout in Robert's Arm were dealt a blow when the mackerel quota was cut in half. American science suggested we could sustainably harvest 10,000 tonnes, but our scientists set it at 4,000 tonnes. As waters warm, species like mackerel migrate further north. Therefore, science needs to adapt and relocate where they survey species. Fishers in my riding have observed mackerel in quantities never seen in their lifetime, and their frustration mounts with the way quotas are being set.
Not all species are as lucky as mackerel to migrate south before seals invade from the north. Since the eighties, the seal population has grown from two million to at least ten million. Scientists estimate that harp seals alone, with a population of 7.6 million, consume anywhere from four to eight kilos of fish per day. That means harp seals consume our entire provincial landed tonnage of fish in three to six days.
In 3PS, a region that has communities like Harbour Breton and Hermitage, grey seals have had a population explosion. Historically, there were approximately 100,000 in that herd. Now the number sits at five times that amount. Fishers there now watch seals even consume lobster. It was no coincidence that this year, sport salmon fishing was stopped in this region and the cod quota was cut in half within the two-week period. Fishers in 3PS are fearful that the will place cod on her moratorium once again in 2022.
The fishing industry is crying out for a solution to the overpredation caused by seals. By bringing the seal populations back to historical levels, our $2-billion fishing industry could grow to a$6-billion or $8-billion industry. If we do not act now, our fishery is doomed by this ecological disaster. The possibilities for expansion in our oil and gas and fishing industries are endless. We just need the political appetite to make it happen.
Speaking of appetite, the Speech from the Throne did nothing to address food security in our province. Make no mistake, food security cannot be overlooked. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we only produce 15% of what we consume. The ongoing pandemic and the recent devastation caused by the flooding on the west coast of the island, which cut off supplies coming in from the mainland, shone a spotlight on this very issue. Typically, we have enough food on the island to last for just three days.
No matter how much food we have, one group in our province is really feeling the pinch. Seniors make up more of our population than anywhere else in Canada. I receive emails on a daily basis from seniors who have to choose between heating their homes, buying medication, or putting food on the table. The short-sightedness of the government resulted in giving to seniors in one hand and taking it away from the other. Seniors are especially affected by increasing inflation. Our country's national inflation rate of 4.7% is the highest it has been since 2003. Many feel that this figure is closer to 15% in my province.
The ever-increasing carbon tax applied throughout the logistics chain has compounded the effects of inflation in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, where a rebate cheque is never seen. This is a disgraceful attack on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador by a government that is constantly virtue signalling with no regard for the human cost. We have to consider the human cost and the impact of the decisions made in this sacred place. That seems to be lost on the party opposite. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians find themselves struggling to make ends meet. Action needs to be taken.
Let us review: the government has attacked my province's key industries of offshore oil and gas and fishing, has made life increasingly more expensive for seniors and has no regard for inflation. Is it any wonder that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians feel abandoned by the government?
The government claims that no one is left behind. I can tell members of this House that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador feel left behind. They have elected me to be a voice that is free to speak on issues that have only been spoken of from a radical Liberal environmentalist narrative for the last six years. I am free to say what my six colleagues opposite want to say; what they cannot say. I will be a voice for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame and all of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today to represent the people of the Bay of Quinte. I am extremely proud to have been elected the first Conservative member for my riding. I want to thank all the volunteers who worked hard putting their time into the election, especially my campaign manager Susan Smith. We know how much work it is, especially to manage me.
As many members of the House know, it is also a family affair. My mother Heather was one of the greatest volunteers. She is an Atlantic Canadian. She was born in Fredericton and grew up in Prince Edward Island. It is no surprise that door knocking is just easy for Maritimers. My kids were all involved as well. Jack is eight, Patrick is seven and Zooey is four. My biggest thanks go to my wife Allyson. Most of us know that the biggest sacrifice in this job is our families and especially our partners. I am not sure if this was meant to scare us, but our first training in this work was a work-life balance seminar, where I was told that 75% of MPs end up getting divorced. That is a big number. I moved right next to my father-in-law in Ottawa, which he has said is a blessing and a curse, so time will tell. It is a big sacrifice to have us away from our families. My biggest thanks and love go to my wife Allyson, who is home with my children right now sacrificing her time for us so that we can make this region and country a better place.
My wife and her family are from Thunder Bay, or T-Bay as they affectionately call it. Thunder Bay residents are extremely strong people. I went there once in the winter and can say that they are so tough because it is so cold in January. My wife lives by the motto “always choose love”. In 2015, we lost our son Teddy at birth to a congenital heart defect. Every year there are thousands of Canadians who experience the terror of infant loss or miscarriage. Allyson was instrumental in our region for being a voice to women who experience loss. She wrote a blog called alwayschooselove.net and she continues to be a tireless advocate for women. She is a light for so many, and I love her dearly.
I would also be amiss to not talk about my grandfather and father, who were both political candidates provincially, in 1975 and 2003 respectively, for the provincial Conservative Party and who did not get to represent their constituents. This proves that the third time is the charm. My grandmother Audrey said that she was happy to be alive to see a Williams elected to the House. Both have immensely contributed to our region. My grandfather Don Williams was an entrepreneur. He operated Stirling Motors from 1956 for 20 years and then successfully started Williams Hotels, which he still runs today. He raised awareness for organ donation in Canada, having received one of the first heart transplants in the first decade, in 1991. As well, he supported Camp Quin-Mo-Lac and many local charities. He would always tell people to sign their donor cards. My grandfather taught me tenacity.
My father John Williams became the mayor of Quinte West for eight years and then was the honorary colonel of CFB 8 Wing in Trenton. My father passed away in 2020, but would have loved to have been here. He lived by the motto “get 'er done”. My father, alongside long-time Liberal MPP Hugh O'Neil, created the Afghanistan memorial in Bain Park in Quinte West, having attended every repatriation ceremony during the Afghanistan war, and was instrumental in the creation of the Highway of Heroes on Highway 401 to commemorate those men and women of our military.
As an MP, I look forward to the challenge of representing my constituents in this House and feel very privileged to be here in this place.
Never before have we had the challenges we face in this country. We all know that we live in the best country on the planet. Our standard of living, history, culture and freedoms are among the most revered in the world. However, we have some persistent problems facing Canadians right now. Inflation is the highest in 20 years. I have had calls from seniors this week who cannot decide whether to pay for groceries or rent. We consistently hear that employment is back to pre-COVID levels, yet we have heard of well over a million job vacancies in this country. I can say we have 2,500 skilled jobs we cannot fill in the Bay of Quinte today. We have had restaurants shut down for up to two weeks.
Housing is a disaster right now, with prices doubling in the past year. Prince Edward County, in my region, had one of the highest jumps in housing costs in the last year, at 170%, with the average price last month at $1.2 million. How could anyone who is 25 or 30 years old afford a house at $1.2 million?
What are the solutions? I am a Conservative because I believe that Conservatives believe in the dignity of us as Canadians to be individuals, and that as Canadian individuals we have the right to be free, live free and pursue that which motivates us the most, not because man or government says it is the right thing to do, but because it is our God-given natural right. I also believe that to fix our inflation on housing and other things caused by the overprinting of our money, we need to be producing more of the things money buys. That means homes. It means freeing up home builders to build the things that Canadians need. It means unleashing Canadian innovation and making things in Canada.
I come from rural Canada. If we are to fix the persistent problems facing Canadians and build the next decade into a time when Canada can lead the world, then we need to focus on urban and rural Canada producing more of the things that money buys. To fix our inflation nation, we need to become an innovation nation to produce more wealth. That means allowing individuals to pursue what motivates them and ensuring that the government assists individuals to make, grow, dream and do things in Canada so that individuals making things in a free and enterprise-motivated economy will create wealth and jobs, reversing inflation and ensuring Canada does not see any more decline.
This is not just in urban Canada, where there are 94 cities with over 100,000 people, but in rural Canada, where there are over 3,700 municipalities. The key to Canada's growth is not just in urban Canada, but in rural Canada. An innovation nation includes all 3,700 municipalities, its regions and its more than 600 first nations, Métis and Inuit reserves.
In 2018, I was part of Canada's first Canadian Rural Innovation Summit in Belleville, at which we hosted the thinkers, dreamers and doers to talk about empowering Canada's rural regions, accelerating businesses and growing our Canadian innovation share. We have an alarming rural out-migration number. Eighty per cent of our youth in rural areas end up leaving the rural areas to go to urban centres because that is where the jobs are. I lost many of my friends growing up, as they left for bigger city centres. We need youth in our regions and in our rural regions. Some say youth are the voice of tomorrow. I believe that youth in this country are the voice of today. How can we truly listen to our children if they continue to leave the place we call home? How can they stay in the place we want them to call home when they cannot afford the home?
We need a great rebuild of what will make Canada thrive: its rural regions. These are regions like the Bay of Quinte that have so much potential. It is potential I know how to unlock and potential we saw in 2018 when we hosted Canada's first Canadian Rural Innovation Summit. We need to start demanding the best from Canada and that specifically means the best from rural Canada.
Right now we are not seeing entrepreneurs create the greatest wealth they can in Canada across all regions, rural and urban. We need to strengthen the innovation in this country and protect Canadian ideas and enterprise. Our intellectual property, the measure of intellectual ideas that translate into wealth in this country, is massively underperforming that of other nations. In 2019, prior to COVID-19, Canada produced $39 billion in IP. That is not bad, but compare that with the Americans, who produced $6.6 trillion of IP, or 169 times that of Canada, when they only have 10 times the population.
We are not protecting the stuff that creates the stuff that creates wealth and kills inflation: homes; technology; our natural resources, including our softwood lumber industry; and new world-leading clean energy, including our clean, ethical oil and natural gas and advanced manufacturing. Ontario made a great announcement this morning that a new modular nuclear power unit is being developed in the province. It is going to create a large amount of GDP for the province and Canada. Innovation means improving what we are doing in the world and here in Canada, and we can do so much more.
Members cannot see it but I am wearing red socks. I wear red socks because red represents the colour of our flag and the sacrifice that has been made by our soldiers to ensure that this is a free, democratic country, and because I believe that just like yesterday when the House came together on Bill , the House can and will come together more often in Canada. Our people depend on it.
God bless Canada. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with my hon. colleague from .
It is an absolute privilege to be back here in the House to bring the voice, perspective and views of the good people of Kings—Hants. Of course, this is the second time I have had the privilege of being elected as the member of Parliament for Kings—Hants, and although it is not my first time speaking in the 44th Parliament, I want to take the opportunity to thank the residents of Kings—Hants for placing their confidence in me to be their voice and their member of Parliament.
All members of the House will certainly appreciate that when we get into public life, there has to be people in our corner. First and foremost is our family, so I would like to take the opportunity to thank my fiancée Kimberly. She is my rock. There are challenges when we need to be in Ottawa and are having busy nights on the road meeting constituents, so I thank her. To my mom, my grandmothers and my entire family, I have the best support system one could ask for. I could not be here without them.
I also thank my campaign manager, Kristina Shannon. She and I went to high school together. She has had work experience with Premier McNeil in Nova Scotia. Dale Palmeter, before her, worked on my campaign in 2019. Without them, I would not be the member of Parliament standing here in the House.
I also want to thank all the volunteers, and not only those on my team, whom of course I am very thankful for. Democracy relies upon volunteers getting behind candidates of all stripes to contribute to something bigger than themselves. To the volunteers for the candidates in Kings—Hants and indeed across the country, I give my thanks for their work and commitment to democracy.
I want to quickly describe Kings—Hants to my colleagues and to Canadians who might be watching. It is largely a rural riding. The area of Kings—Hants, and East Hants particularly, includes communities that I would describe as suburban. They are about 40 minutes outside of Halifax. There are some large rural townships, but also areas that are extremely rural, where there could be a kilometre between houses.
I call it a mini Canada. There are three indigenous communities: Sipekne'katik, Annapolis Valley First Nation and Glooscap First Nation. We are home to the highest tides in the world. We have a burgeoning wine sector too, so to members of Parliament and Canadians who enjoy a nice glass of wine, please consider supporting the Nova Scotia wine industry. It is very robust.
We are also what I would call the agriculture heartland of Atlantic Canada. We have the most supply-managed farms east of Quebec, a number of horticulture-based businesses and are known for the Annapolis Valley apple. Of course, we have Acadia University, which has drawn significant alumni and people from across the world and indeed across the country. There is also the Michelin plant in the Annapolis Valley and of course Halifax Stanfield, which is just outside the perimeter of Kings—Hants but is indeed a major employer in the area. Finally, we are the birthplace of hockey, in Windsor, Nova Scotia.
The Speech from the Throne is a document that, as my colleagues would know, is very broad in nature. It puts out the principles the government hopes to achieve in the days ahead. I want to take some time to highlight things I heard on doorsteps and that I hope parliamentarians in the House will work collaboratively to help advance in the days ahead.
First and foremost is labour and immigration. Our government was there throughout the pandemic to make sure there were supports in place for small businesses and individuals. The fact that 101% of the jobs we lost during the pandemic have been returned is a marquee element that shows we have been successful in that domain, and especially successful given the pandemic and the challenges of immigration over the past two years.
As we have heard in the House, across the country labour is a major issue, and I know the government will be focused on this in the days ahead. One area of particular interest to me is the seasonal agricultural worker program. Over 1,500 people from countries such as Jamaica and Mexico come to the Annapolis Valley, and particularly to Kings—Hants, to support the agriculture sector every day.
In our platform, there was a commitment to an express entry program and the ability to reduce administrative red tape. This will not only help the employees coming from their countries of origin, but also help the employers in the farming community. As a member of Parliament, I will be working closely with the government to help implement this in the days ahead.
Let us talk about housing. We know that housing is a major challenge in urban communities, but indeed it is in rural as well. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that, during the height of it, many individuals, who are working-class professionals, who have families, chose to move from urban locations to rural parts of our country. That is extremely beneficial for the long-term demographic outlook of rural communities across Canada, but it has put a pressure on our housing supply.
I will give one example. I remember in the 2019 election, I was on the Hants shore. It is an area that largely has an older demographic. There were a number of houses that were for sale, and they had been for sale for quite some time. There is no real estate available on the Hants shore right now, and housing prices are up 40%.
I know our government will be working hard on this issue, but I do want to highlight that this is not just a Government of Canada issue. This is going to require all three levels of government between the federal, provincial and municipal leaders. We know that indigenous communities have to be part of that conversation, the private sector and indeed non-profits in terms of the work that we have to do.
Let us talk about climate change. I just mentioned that Kings—Hants is home to the highest tides in the world. What a constant, everyday reminder of the important work that needs to be done. Over the past two elections this has been a predominant theme. I have heard from my constituents the need for the government to do more and to move hard in that direction.
On the heels of COP26, we know that there has to be more work to be done to be able to protect 1.5°C of global warming. The forest fires in western Canada combined with the flooding that we have seen in British Columbia, but not just British Columbia, as they are also in my province of Nova Scotia and indeed in Newfoundland and Labrador, I think is a reminder for all Canadians, indeed all parliamentarians, that we need to be collectively working in this regard.
Our government has promised and has mentioned in the Speech from the Throne caps on the oil and gas production and the emissions associated with such, the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and the development of EV vehicles. These are going to be crucial in the days ahead for us to be able to meet our target.
As a member of Parliament, what I intend to focus on is the way we can work with the agriculture community to help reduce their emissions. Farmers are doing incredible work, but at the same time, we need to be able to do more. That is where I will put my focus. I also think we need to be mindful of how we can draw private sector investment in and how the government can make that happen because government investment in subsidy can only go so far.
I mentioned I have three indigenous communities. We just had the Speech from the Throne delivered from the first indigenous Governor General in Canada's history. I want to particularly focus on indigenous housing, infrastructure and investment in social programming. I look forward to building relationships with chiefs and council that are there and to be able to move that forward.
In my view as a parliamentarian, the two biggest challenges we will all face in the 44th Parliament, those that will be on the heels as we work our way out of this pandemic, will be twofold: One, growing our economy to make sure that the expenses we took on during the pandemic are sustainable when coupled with the investments the government is planning in the days ahead; and two, addressing climate change and reducing emissions. Both of those require real attention to investments on how to grow the economy.
I want to mention agriculture. As I said, it is the backbone of the economy in Kings—Hants, and I would argue it is the backbone of the economy in Canada. One in eight jobs in Canada are tied to the agriculture sector. It is a $130-billion industry. We have tremendous opportunity to be able to expand that to not only feed Canada but the world. I look at things like the Barton Report and the ways that government can move ahead.
That is where I will be putting my attention. I am pleased to see that there was a commitment around business risk management. To help drive the wine industry in Canada, we have put $101 million in that. That will matter in Kings—Hants and supply managed farms. We were there for farmers at the height of the negotiations of the new CUSMA. We will be there to make sure that they are protected in the days ahead.
Two quick points I would say before I finish are, first, the importance of child care, and what that is going to mean to the people in Kings—Hants, and indeed to people across the country, to get parents back to work and help make sure that it is affordable. Finally, we need to work on ways that we can increase interprovincial trade and reduce barriers in light of global protectionism.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise in the House today to speak in response to the Speech from the Throne.
Last week our government outlined a comprehensive plan to move our country forward and finish the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last 20 months, our federal government has remained focused on doing whatever it takes to support Canadians. In an unprecedented crisis, we took unprecedented action, and through our federal programs, we have kept food on the table for nearly nine million Canadians through CERB and the CRB, helped more than 700,000 small businesses stay afloat and protected over 3.9 million Canadian jobs.
There are local businesses in my riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills that had a very successful Black Friday weekend, only because they had our support to survive. Now, as we move forward, we must focus on economic recovery. That means focusing on jobs, affordability, taking stronger action against climate change, moving forward toward a path of reconciliation and ensuring everyone has access to health care. Last week's Speech from the Throne highlighted just that.
It is no secret that housing prices have risen drastically across the country over the years, and we are feeling the impact in my riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills. Since I was first elected in 2015, hundred of constituents in Erin Mills have written to me to share their concerns about the rising cost of living, and our efforts for Canada's economic recovery must continue to focus on affordability.
From day one, our government has made housing a clear priority. We launched Canada's first national housing strategy and invested more than $72 billion over 10 years, starting in 2017, to ensure Canadians have a safe and affordable place to call home. To date, our housing strategy has supported the creation of over 100,000 new units and repaired over 300,000 more.
As we continue to address supply issues, our government has helped put home ownership back in reach for Canadians with a more flexible first-time home buyer incentive, a new rent-to-own program and a reduction in closing costs for first-time buyers. In the term ahead, I look forward to working with our new to push ahead on the home buyers' bill of rights, which would help ensure that the process of purchasing and selling one's home is fair and transparent. We are taking action because each and every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home.
As I was knocking on doors over this summer, I met Janet. She is a nurse and a working mother in my riding with two young children. While she has worked on the front lines of this pandemic, she has relied on child care programs to ensure that her children are taken care of. Between the long hours at work and the costs of these services, she has been struggling to get by. For parents like Janet, our government's plan to build a Canada-wide early learning and child care system is a game changer. We have backed this plan with $30 billion and earned acclaim from stakeholders across Canada.
Our government has always prioritized investing in early learning and child care because it is the right and smart thing to do, not only for parents, but also for our economy. We have signed agreements with Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and, most recently, Alberta. For parents in these jurisdictions, it means that their child care fees will be cut in half by the end of the coming year and reduced to just $10 a day by 2026.
Suffice to say, we in Erin Mills are all waiting for Ontario and other remaining provinces to come to the table. Our government will remain focused on making life better and more affordable for all Canadians.
This summer we were shocked, horrified and heartbroken by the discovery of unmarked graves and burial sites located near former residential schools. These graves, and countless more waiting to be found, confirm the stories that survivors have been telling for generations. As Canadians, we still have a lot to learn about this undertold part of our country and a lot of work ahead of us. To move forward on the path of reconciliation, we need to ensure that the truths and history of these tragedies are never forgotten.
Our government is committed to continuing to support indigenous peoples in these communities by investing in a distinction-based mental health and wellness strategy, accelerating work on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQ people, and appointing a special interlocutor to advance justice for those impacted by residential schools. We must push forward to complete the remaining Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action under federal responsibility, and continue pushing the other named parties and levels of government to do their part.
I would like to turn my attention to the climate crisis. On that, our government's position has never wavered. Climate change is real, and it is among the greatest challenges of our generation and future generations. That is why we are taking action by increasing the price on pollution and putting more money into the pockets of Canadians. We are investing in public transit, developing alternative energies such as hydrogen, and making zero-emission vehicles more affordable and accessible for everyone. Building something new takes time, and it takes investment. Canadians want us to make the investments today to build a cleaner economy, and that is what we are doing to reach that goal of a clean energy grid from coast to coast to coast, and net zero by 2050.
Residents in Erin Mills are done debating the legitimacy of the climate crisis and so am I. Canadians want all parties, at all levels of government including provinces and municipalities, to get on board and take this seriously. If we work together and continue to push our ambitions higher, we can make Canada the proof that a clean future is possible. Our children are watching.
Earlier this month, I heard from Ms. Chen's grade 10 class at Meadowvale Secondary School, asking our government to take action on mental health. I could not agree more. At the onset of the pandemic, we created the Wellness Together portal to provide free, confidential support to Canadians of all ages. Within the first two weeks that portal had received over 1.2 million calls. That tells us we need to continue to make mental health more accessible for all.
We have invested $100 million to support mental health projects across Canada, and over the next five years we intend to invest $4.5 billion to expand access to mental health services. To oversee these investments, our has appointed the first-ever federal . This is the same person who not long ago helped build the Public Health Agency of Canada. For our youth, seniors, frontline workers, BIPOC communities and Canadians of all walks of life, we must ensure that mental health supports are ready and available when they need them.
I have only scratched the surface of what our plan will deliver for Canadians. When I look to the future, we are building a cleaner, more affordable and more resilient Canada for everyone. I am optimistic. I am optimistic because, yesterday, we saw what the House is capable of when we put partisanship aside for the sake of Canadians. If we can move forward in that spirit of unity and co-operation, we can get this done.
It is an honour to be back in this chamber representing my wonderful riding of Mississauga—Erin Mills, and I look forward to working on this progressive agenda with members across the chamber to ensure we move forward together toward a better and more prosperous Canada for everyone. It all starts with this throne speech.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by expressing my deep gratitude to my community of Edmonton Mill Woods for their continued trust in me to represent them here in the House of Commons. It is a privilege and a great honour to stand here on behalf of such an amazing and diverse community. They have shown incredible resilience during times of uncertainty and many challenges.
I also want to thank my family for their unconditional support, and to personally thank my amazing campaign team and the dedicated group of volunteers who worked tirelessly during the last election campaign. I thank them for all of their outstanding efforts.
I do not know if you, Mr. Speaker, have ever been to Edmonton Mill Woods, but if you went you would find a diverse community in every sense. It is an economically diverse group of mostly middle-class, hard-working Canadians. There are young families and seniors, and Mill Woods is really known for its cultural and faith diversity. That makes it the great place that it is.
I am proud that I grew up in Mill Woods, and proud that the son of an immigrant cab driver can have a seat here in the House of Commons. My father is the hardest-working person I know. He is out there driving a cab right now because he just does not want to sit at home. I believe that says a lot about the people of Edmonton Mill Woods, and it says a great deal about this amazing country we live in and the opportunities that it provides.
Nav Bhatia, the superfan and now Canadian icon, says that Canada is heaven on earth. I agree with him. In Mill Woods, we have tremendously generous organizations that have stepped up to help each other in the past couple of years.
These include organizations such as the Edmonton Care Closet, which provides food and clothing based out of Calvary Community Church, and our Rotary Club of Edmonton Southeast. Fulton Meadows Community League provides food for the food bank and a clothing drive, Millhurst Community League created a coats for kids campaign, Leefield Community League provided Thanksgiving turkey dinner for hundreds of people, and Youth Rise provides great support for youth in our community.
United Aid and Sikh Youth Edmonton recently teamed up with the All India Super Market and New Way Trucking to donate and send food free of cost to B.C., to help people during these devastating floods.
Sangat Youth YEG has been doing a great job. Hope City Church has been providing support in our community. Our local mosque, Markaz-Ul-Islam mosque, has also been helping. Ahmadiyya Jama'at Edmonton, the Hindu temple Bhartiya Cultural Society, Philippine Business Society of Alberta-Edmonton and Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen are all organizations in our community that have been helping their neighbours. There are many more that I could list. My heartfelt thanks and gratitude go to them and to their supporters for all of their great work.
The reason they have had to step up and help their neighbours now more than before is because from coast to coast to coast life is getting more expensive for Canadians. We see it everywhere we go: at the gas pumps, in the grocery stores and even when we try to buy Christmas gifts. Conservatives have repeatedly warned the government that its reckless spending would cost Canadian families. For more than a year, we warned that this flood of money would fuel inflation. Now, we are watching the consequences of the 's reimagined economy in real time.
Unfortunately, the 's political priorities announced in the Speech from the Throne do nothing for middle-class working Canadians. The cost-of-living crisis that we are in right now is pricing families out of homes and driving up the costs of essential goods. It is clear that families in Alberta are not a priority for the current government. Instead of presenting an economic plan for families, seniors and small businesses that have been left behind by the government, the government's approach means more of the same: More deficits leading to higher taxes. One thing is clear. Middle-class Canadians cannot afford more of the current Liberal government's reckless spending.
Being a middle-class Canadian no longer means living comfortably. Being a middle-class Canadian in Alberta, especially an energy worker, comes with an even greater set of challenges.
The has waged a war on our energy sector. At a time when the world is facing an energy crisis and the President of the United States is calling on OPEC and other energy producers to increase the production of oil and gas to lower soaring energy prices, the Prime Minister and his new want to deny our energy sector the opportunity to supply the world with ethical, lower-emission Canadian energy at a time when it is desperately needed.
Through the Speech from the Throne, the continues to attack our energy workers. The only time he mentions Alberta energy is when he talks about putting a cap on the work they do. He makes no mention of the world-class, ethically sourced energy that is using world-leading technology to reduce its environmental footprint.
The demand for energy is not going away soon. What the Prime Minister does not understand is that our made-in-Canada energy will be replaced by unethically produced energy. His attack on our energy sector is not out of concern for the environment, but, instead, it is about furthering his own Liberal agenda.
The Liberal government's short-sighted plan to limit made-in-Canada energy will only embolden foreign oil-producing dictatorships. Its plan will drive up the prices of oil and gas and make it more expensive for Canadian families to drive to work and heat their homes.
The Conservatives know that it is possible to work with our energy sector, lower emissions and provide jobs and opportunity in Canada. We should be proud to supply the world with sustainable and ethical energy to developing countries, which want to source their energy from a country like Canada where our environmental and labour standards are world class.
On top of inflation and the rising costs of food and gas, we are also in the midst of one of the worst housing crises the country has ever seen. The dream of home ownership is being pushed impossibly out of reach for first-time homebuyers. Home prices in Canada have shot up over 20% since 2020. We need to reduce inflation and increase supply, increasing housing availability. One of the ways we would do that through the Conservative plan would be to release at least 15% of federal surplus land holdings to allow for more housing. The rise in cost of affordable housing is a serious issue that requires a serious plan, which has not been provided by the government.
Earlier I spoke about a number of the great organizations that were helping their fellow Canadians in Edmonton Mill Woods, and I know there are organizations like that right across the country. Many of these organizations are faith-based and cultural-based organizations and many of them may not have the same values as the Liberals do. However, that is just part of our diversity in Canada.
In 2017, the Liberal government required organizations to sign a values test to receive funding to hire summer students. Because of this values test, many worthy organizations were excluded from the program just because their values did not line up with the Liberal Party. Thankfully, the federal government changed course after considerable outcry from across the country.
Now I am hearing considerable concern from many people in my community about a Liberal campaign promise to take tax-exemption status away from organizations that do not align with Liberal values. Once again, the Liberals love diversity as long as we all agree with them. I hope the Liberals will listen to all voices across Canada and represent them all.
Another issue is the rise in gun crime. This has been an issue in many major cities, including Edmonton, and we have to have serious solutions to this. Instead, the government relentlessly continues to go after law-abiding gun owners, hunters, farmers and sport shooters. It is simple. Every time the government spends $1 taking firearms away from a law-abiding Canadian, it is $1 not going to fight the core issue of firearm crime in Canada, which is illegally smuggled guns.
Canadians across the country elected the Conservatives to hold the Liberal government to account, and we are doing just that.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise for my first speech in the 44th Parliament. I want to thank the constituents of Foothills for once again placing their confidence and trust in me to be their voice in Ottawa as their member of Parliament.
I also want to take a moment to thank my campaign team, Bryan Walton and the team he put together. We had an amazing crew door knocking and putting up signs in a large rural riding, which is always a challenge.
Most important, I want to thank my wife Louise, and my kids Graeden, Kinley and McKenna. This has been a trying time to be an elected official. I think all of us in the House understand what this past two years has been like. Often we take that home to our loved ones. My wife Louise has been a counsellor, a confidant and my best friend. I want to take a moment to thank her for her love and support through all that it is to be a politician. I certainly could not do it without her.
It is very good to be back in Ottawa. I am sure I was getting on her nerves being home as much as I was over the last two years.
Canadian who listened to the throne speech, who were looking for inspiration and a clear strategy for economic recovery were probably very disappointed. What they heard were more platitudes, more word salad and empty promises. Whether it is balanced budgets, clean drinking water for first nations, affordable housing, rural Internet or even transparency and openness, these promises by the Liberal government have been broken again and again over the past six years.
What the Liberals have left us with are deficits, debt, crippling inflation, the housing bubble, higher cost of living, a labour crisis and an eroding relationship with some of our most trusted trading partners, including the United States. I do not think our relationship with our southern partners has been any worse in our history. There are real consequences to these mistakes.
The Liberal policies have put our finances on a very rocky footing. Clearly the Liberals have no concrete plans to solidify Canada's financial footing. Our foundation is rocking and there is no plan to fix it.
If there were a plan, the Liberals certainly would have talked about two of Canada's most critical industries, agriculture and energy. My colleague, the member for , spoke eloquently of Canada's energy industry, so I want to focus on agriculture.
Agriculture employs 2.1 million Canadians. One in nine jobs in Canada are linked with agriculture and agribusiness. It has generated $140 billion in GDP in Canada, about 7% of Canada's total GDP. One would think that would be a pretty important part of the Liberals' throne speech. How many times was agriculture mentioned in that speech? Not once.
When we have primary industry that Canada relies on, and it could be an integral part of our economic recovery post-pandemic, being completely ignored, that tells me clearly that the Liberals have no plan to get Canada's finances back on strong footing.
It actually goes the opposite way. Rather than embracing and ensuring that Canadian agriculture and agribusinesses have the resources they need to reach their full potential, the Liberals are going the other way. They are attacking one of our most important industries. Let me take a few moments to outline the ways.
The Liberal recently said, “it’s not like we can adopt a law for reducing the price of food.” I have a message for the Liberal government. In fact, it can. It just has to get out of the way. Liberal policies are increasing the cost of everything, including food at the grocery store, the escalating carbon tax, the cap on fertilizer, trade failures, labour crisis. This is having an impact on farm families across the country, and it is increasing the cost of food that we put on our table.
Adding the carbon tax to the farm fuels and escalating that carbon tax to $170 per tonne would devastate Canadian agriculture.
As an example, I had Michel and Jeannette from Ontario contact my office earlier this week. They provided my staff with a spreadsheet of the impact the escalating carbon tax would have on their operation. When it gets $170 per tonne, they will be paying more for the carbon tax than what they actually pay for the natural gas they use to heat barns and dry grain, essential practices for modern agriculture. At $170 per tonne, they will pay $19,477 in carbon taxes and $8,800 for natural gas. They will be losing money as a result of the Liberals' escalating carbon tax. There is no way they can operate.
Hessel Kielstra, in my riding, has Mountain View Poultry. His carbon tax right now is $25,000 a month to heat his poultry barns. That is before it starts escalating to $170 a tonne. If we cannot grow food, we cannot feed Canadians. If we cannot grow food, we cannot play our integral role in feeding the world. It is that simple. The Liberal policies are pricing Canadian agriculture out of business.
The Liberals have also announced recently, at COP in Scotland, that they are going to put a cap on emissions and fertilizer use. There are real consequences to this decision. They want to reduce it by 30%, a number that they just grabbed out of the sky. They did that with no consultation with agriculture, no consultation with stakeholders and no consultation with agribusiness. They just picked it out of the sky, and now it is up to Canadian agriculture to try to meet that standard. There are real consequences to that.
According to a study by MNP, the 30% reduction in fertilizer will cost our economy about $48 billion by 2030. What does that have to do with each province? Let us go with canola and wheat. In Alberta, that is $2.95 billion gone. In Saskatchewan, that is $4.61 billion gone. In Manitoba, with corn, that is $1.5 billion gone. That is funding, money and revenue that is gone out of local communities and rural businesses, affecting rural economic opportunities.
Those numbers do not include an escalating carbon tax. They do not include the Liberals' clean fuel standard, and they do not include lost global markets. Basically, what is happening is Canadian agriculture will be bankrupt under the Liberal policies. Can the Liberals make changes to reduce the price of food? They absolutely can, by backing off from their ideological policies, which are devastating one of our most important industries.
However, it continues to get worse, so they are going to be putting on these regulations, red tape and imaginary numbers that Canadian farmers are going to have to try to meet, which really have no basis in reality. It does not even take into consideration the incredible job that Canadian farmers have done to improve their carbon footprint. Our Canadian farmers and ranchers are at the front line of conservation. Let us talk about 4R, zero-till farming and precision agriculture. None of those things were taken into consideration when these numbers and policies were put forward. Our yields are much higher on much less, but this is going to put us back decades, and we are going to have to be growing more on more land.
We also have issues with trade and transport. We asked the this week about the crisis with shipping containers, and he said it is an issue about global supply chains. It is not about global supply chains. The Americans have figured it out. President Biden has put on penalties and a shipping czar, and they have resolved their problem. As a result of that, shipping lanes are being rerouted from Canada to the United States. Meanwhile, Canadian agricultural commodities and manufactured goods are stuck at the ports in Vancouver and Montreal. This is having a significant impact on our relationship with our most trusted trading partners. We are losing our reputation as a reliable partner, and as a result, those contracts are going to other countries.
We have seen what is happening with the United States, but I also want to go back to February 2018. The made this big announcement. He said we were having a huge breakthrough in resolving the fumigation issue with India. It is 2021; we still have that issue in place and we have lost our pea and pulse market to India. We have lost canola trade with China. All these things continue to add up and can lead to food insecurity and a labour crisis. Members can understand why Canadian farmers and ranchers feel they do not have a friend in the Liberal government.
The disappointing thing with this throne speech is that if the Liberals truly had a plan to rebuild Canada's economy coming out of the pandemic, they would have ensured that Canadian agriculture and energy were key players in that plan. However, they are missing. Obviously, they are not a priority for the Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to speak on the throne speech.
I will start by thanking the residents of Ottawa Centre for giving me this incredible honour and opportunity to serve them in this House.
I welcome all the members to my riding of Ottawa Centre as well. We feel quite privileged, as we are often referred to as “riding number one” in Canada. This is where all our national institutions are located and where decisions are made for the well-being of our country. I am excited to see so many members make Ottawa Centre their second home while they are here serving their constituents.
Ottawa Centre has been my home for decades. It is where both of my children were born and where they go to school. My son, Rafi Naqvi, who is nine years old, and my daughter, Elliana Naqvi, who is five, will be excited to know that they were mentioned today in the House, as we talked about this a little yesterday.
My children, Rafi and Elliana, attend a local French public school.
They often now tell me that I have to work on my French and my French accent, and I continue to commit to that.
I pledge to continue learning French.
This is important to me as well.
I have had the great honour of serving the riding of Ottawa Centre as a member of the provincial Parliament for almost 11 years. As a result, I have built deep connections within the community. I know our neighbourhoods and I have community connections where we have worked together on issues that are important to our community, from protecting our waterways like the Ottawa River, the Rideau River or the Rideau Canal to making sure that our post-secondary institutions, like Carleton University, which is located in my riding, continue to thrive. We have helped countless individuals, whether they are new to Canada and new to the city of Ottawa or residents who have lived here for a very long period of time. Again, I want to say a big “thank you” to them, from Carleton Heights to downtown and from Old Ottawa East to Westboro, for putting their faith and trust in me to be their strong voice in this great House.
I would be remiss if I did not take some time to thank my parents, Anwar and Qaisar Naqvi. My family and I came to Canada almost 33 years ago. We moved to Niagara Falls, where we made our home and, like any newcomer family, we worked hard so my parents could ensure that all of us could have a better life. The circumstances under which my parents left were not ideal. Both my parents were involved in a pro-democracy movement in the country of my birth. In fact, my father led a pro-democracy march. For that he was arrested and tried in a military court and served nine months as a political prisoner. I was 10 years old. Members can imagine the profound impact of that experience on me to this day. I saw my father pursuing and standing up for democratic rights, and I saw my mother fight for his rights while he was imprisoned, while at the same time raising a family and running a law practice so that we were all taken care of. Members can imagine where my drive for public service comes from, and how indebted I feel to this great country of Canada, which has given us the opportunity to live in a free country and enabled me to devote my professional life to serving my community and my country.
I was often asked in the last federal election why I had decided to come back to public service and put my name forward to be the member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre. I thought quite deeply about this, and the answer was simple. We find ourselves living in a very pivotal moment. This pandemic has impacted all of us. It has really shone a light on the inequities that exist in our society, and this is our opportunity to rebuild Canada in the most inclusive way and make sure no one is left behind.
We often talk about building back better. Well, here is my take: We cannot build back better by building back the same.
There are issues I have identified that are important to me, such as making sure that we end chronic homelessness in our communities. I want to do that in my city of Ottawa. We must fight climate change so that our children have a better future. We must put an end to systemic racism and systemic barriers against indigenous people, Black people and people of colour. These are the kinds of things that I want to work with all members on and champion in this House. I was so excited and heartened to hear very precise language used in the Speech from the Throne on these three issues. I look forward to working with the government and each member of this House on these important issues, because that is how we are going to build a Canada for everyone.
As my time is winding down, I have a commitment that I want to make today in my inaugural speech. Please hold me to account if I do not live up to my commitment. I am 100% committed to serving my community and my country. I want to do that by working with every member of this House. We all have come here because we want to challenge the status quo. That is why we knocked on doors and asked for this mandate. We may have different ways of getting to that, but at the end of the day we all want to build a better country. I want to work with everyone, regardless of their political affiliation.
There is a Latin phrase that I am often reminded of, that is audi alteram partem, or “listen to the other side”. My commitment is that I will listen and I will pay attention. We may disagree, we may debate, as the case should be in a democratic society, but we shall work together.
I look forward to working hard on behalf of my community of Ottawa Centre. I thank them and my family for getting me here today.
It is an honour to serve the people of my riding.
Mr. Speaker, as this is my first time to rise in this House in the 44th Parliament, it is my honour to congratulate you on your re-election to that Chair and to congratulate all of my colleagues from every party for their election and re-election. I am excited to work with everybody here in this House to build a better country.
I would also like to take a moment to thank the great people of Milton for entrusting me once again to be their voice here in Ottawa. I would not be here without their continued support, and I will spend every day on this job standing up for them and their priorities, making sure their insights and perspectives are heard in this House and that their needs are met.
I also would not be standing here without the incredible work of my campaign team, our amazing volunteers, my friends and my family. I want to give a shout-out to my mom Beata, my dad Joe, my brother Luke, my amazing girlfriend and best friend Emilie, as well as my dog Cairo, because he does a lot of hard work on the campaign as well.
It is the privilege of my life to be able to work here on behalf of my neighbours. They can count on me.
They have sent me here to focus on the issues that matter most to them. In my community, particularly for the youth of Milton, that means standing up for the environment. We need to fight climate change to ensure that the health and safety of our planet for ourselves and for future generations is upheld. The terrible flooding in B.C. and other extreme weather events have given us a sharp reminder about the urgent need to prioritize a green, clean and sustainable future for all of us. We may not get another chance to get this right.
We must also continue walking the path of truth and reconciliation with indigenous peoples. As my work on the indigenous and northern affairs committee in the previous Parliament emphasized for me, we must ensure that while we work to address the wrongs of the past, we also must focus on building stronger, more collaborative bonds in the future.
Milton is one of the most diverse communities in Canada, but diversity is the fact and inclusion is the act that will ensure that no Canadian anywhere will be targeted by violence or hatred because of their race, religion, who they love or how they live. These are not small tasks. Achieving them will require a renewed focus, a strength of purpose and a spirit of collaboration. As yesterday’s unanimous passing of Bill showed, we do have the capacity to come together and improve the lives of our neighbours and Canadians.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there is nothing in this world more valuable than our collective health and well-being. The good news is we have all the tools necessary to defeat this pandemic and build a healthier Canada for this and future generations. The best tool to fight this pandemic has been vaccines. I want to take a moment to thank Halton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hamidah Meghani and her team for helping to make Halton region one of the most vaccinated communities in Canada. Now that seniors over 70 and kids five to 11 are eligible, I encourage everyone to continue making appointments. I also want to thank everybody who worked at a clinic, volunteered at a clinic, shared a vaccine selfie or chatted with or encouraged a hesitant neighbour or family member to get the shot. It has been a team effort.
The reverberating impacts of COVID-19 have gone well beyond the disease itself. We have work to do on finding solutions for delayed procedures, ensuring there are more ways and more services available for the mental health impacts of these last two years. They have had a devastating impact on families, kids in particular, and, of course, we must continue to build a more resilient long-term care system in this country.
It will not surprise too many of my colleagues to know that I would like to talk a bit about the role that physical activity and recreation must play in our “build back better” strategy. Canada was experiencing a crisis of inactivity before this pandemic and COVID-19 has made it much worse. I want to highlight the call to action led by Participaction to tackle the inactivity crisis and add my name to the long list of supporters who champion solutions to this issue.
The solutions are not as simple as just telling everybody to go outside, ride their bike and go for a walk. While those things are helpful, important and the right thing to do, not everyone has the ability to make those decisions. Vulnerable and under-resourced Canadians lack the infrastructure, the time and the freedom to simply take an hour to get a workout in. Improved access to programs that teach physical literacy to kids and families is an essential aspect of the solution to this complex challenge. Physical literacy is defined as “the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding that establishes purposeful physical pursuits as an integral part of our daily lifestyle.” Moving our bodies is essential for our physical health, our mental health and the health of our communities and relationships.
I am on my soapbox and I could talk for hours about how sport, physical activity and recreation can build more resilient communities. It is time to move on to talk about the current challenges that this country is facing with respect to the economy. The challenges that our neighbours are facing with respect to unaffordability are both real and complex. The labour shortages and challenges with regard to supply chains and inflation are easily worth a 10-minute speech of their own, so I would like to narrow my focus to two campaign commitments that also represent tangible solutions: child care and affordable housing.
In the previous Parliament, I met with dozens of child care stakeholders to discuss building a $10-a-day child care program to save Canadian families money and rebuild our economy in the most equitable way possible. That list included MCRC, the Milton Community Resource Centre. I want to acknowledge the hard work of Tina and Rebecca and their team at the MCRC for providing Milton families with care, resources, solutions and products that have contributed directly to the healthy development of kids and the ability for parents to go to work, earn a good income and pay their bills.
As an Ontario MP, I am also thrilled that the provincial government is in talks with our federal government to make $10-a-day child care a reality for families in my riding and across the province.
Moving on to housing, it is a complex ecosystem, so I am going to narrow my focus once again on non-market solutions for the housing crisis.
I am a proud co-op kid. I lived at Chautauqua Co-op with my mom and brother throughout my childhood and even after university. My mom still resides at Chautauqua. She is a co-op builder who works at Briarview Co-op in Mississauga. I know I am biased, but nobody in Canada knows more about co-op housing, its past and its place in our potential future in Canada than my mom. The last time we built meaningful co-ops in this country was 1994, and that needs to change today. When Canadians are paying their rent, they should not be paying off somebody else’s mortgage or contributing to huge profit margins and shareholder value.
Access to secure housing is a human right, and it should not be out of reach for anyone.
Co-ops create a pathway to home ownership for some by allowing young people, students, newcomers and families to live within their means, invest in their futures and, if they want, save up to buy a home one day. However, home ownership should not necessarily be the only ambition of the housing continuum. Secure housing should be, and those who want to live in non-profit housing for their entire lives should be able to. It allows for fuller participation in the economy. For my mom, it made sure that my brother and I had access to canoe clubs, guitar lessons, summer camp and everything we ever needed.
Social housing is not the only solution to this crisis, but it has to be part of our plan for the future.
Both of my parents are immigrants to this country. By increasing immigration levels and reducing wait times for new immigrants and citizens, while supporting family reunification and delivering a world-leading refugee resettlement program, we will continue supporting the growth and diversity of our nation. I met with members of Milton's Afghan community before the election and have done so since, and I am very confident that 40,000 Afghan refugees will feature prominently in the growth of our economy and future.
Milton is an environmentally forward-thinking community. We are a proud home to groups like Sustainable Milton, Halton Environmental Network and Fridays for Future Milton. Our local CA, Conservation Halton, provides our region with solutions for recreation, education and flood mitigation; support for species at risk; and so much more. It is also my best tree-planting partner, with over 50,000 trees planted locally last year.
I am confident in our ambitions to cap and cut oil and gas sector emissions while accelerating our path to a 100% net-zero electricity future. These are world-leading ambitions. I know that investments in public transit, electric vehicle infrastructure and subsidies will lead to greener communities and cleaner air.
I am also certain that our plan will create more good, green jobs, and that together we will build a more resilient, sustainable and competitive economy. By protecting more land, waterways and coastlines, and creating the Canada water agency, we will safeguard our most vital natural resource, clean fresh water, which will also protect our farmers. Milton has one of the best farmers' markets in the country, and we love to eat and shop local. We appreciate and rely heavily on our neighbours in agriculture, and they deserve to be acknowledged and supported in our transition to a greener future.
We know that climate change disproportionately impacts society's most vulnerable, and while we focus on the environment, our collective health and the resilience of our economy, we must also remain focused on ending violence and hate in our communities. I applaud this government for taking action on assault-style weapons and lifetime background checks, but we must go further. Handguns are so often used in gang and intimate partner violence. I join victims groups and the Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns in advocating for more comprehensive gun control measures.
At the core of violence is fear and hatred. We must continue to fight racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate by taking swift action on anti-hate legislation.
I represent one the most diverse communities in the country. When the Afzal family was brutally murdered in London, Ontario, this past year, people in my riding were scared to go out for a walk at night. That is unacceptable. We have work to do, and I commit, on behalf of my friends and neighbours in Milton, to ensuring that Canada is safe, inclusive and compassionate. I would like to thank and acknowledge the hard work of Tabassum Wyne and the Muslim Advisory Council of Canada for their hard work on this.
We have to understand that teamwork is the only way to build a better future for Canada. Let us work together.
In closing, I will simply say that it is time for us to meet the moment, to make good on our promises to Canadians that we made at the doors and to take the incredible responsibility they have given us and turn it into positive, meaningful action that will lead to a brighter future for everyone.
I welcome questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new role in the House. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
As this is the very first opportunity I have had to rise in the House, I would like to start off with some quick words of thanks. It is an incredibly humbling and exciting honour to stand here, to sit here and to be a representative for my constituents here. From the bottom of my heart, I wish to express just how grateful I am that my constituents have renewed their support in me.
My favourite thing about running a campaign is the amazing volunteers who come alongside to support me. I am talking about those who give their time, talent and money to invest in my success. To them I also wish to extend a very sincere thanks.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Those are the words permanently etched into the stone over the west window of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. The words are strong and they are true. Humans have this incredible ability to dream, cast vision and inspire. They should have the ability to pursue those things. The throne speech is usually the vehicle used by the prime minister to communicate and provide hope and optimism for the Canadian people. Sadly, this was not the case this time.
I was anticipating a detailed plan in four specific key areas that I believe every single federal prime minister, regardless of political stripe, should be prioritizing if they wish to lead well. Here they are: one, keep the country united; two, ensure Canadians are kept safe and secure; three, facilitate an environment of economic prosperity; and four, advance Canada's place on the world stage. To the detriment of Canadians, however, all four of these points were largely ignored in the document that was read in what I would call a monotone manner by the Governor General. Perhaps she simply read it in that tone in order to match the lacklustre content that was within.
Before the budget was tabled, my constituents shared with me that they were hoping to see a real plan to reopen the economy and restore hope and confidence in our future as a great country. Those who are unemployed were hoping to see a plan that created new jobs and opportunities for wealth creation. Those in the oil and gas sector were hoping to see support for this world-class industry. Those in the agriculture sector were hoping to see a little something for them. A nod of appreciation would have gone a long way, but there was nothing. Local businesses that are on the verge of permanently closing their doors were hoping for a carefully thought-out plan, not for more handouts, to get back to normal. Sadly, they had no luck.
The government cannot replace a healthy economy. No matter how hard it tries, government spending will never outperform or do greater good—
In short, the government's policies are an attack on the most vulnerable. Food banks are finding it difficult to keep up with the level of need they are seeing, and one of the biggest changes over the last year has been the rise in the number of people who are employed full-time having to use food banks because they simply cannot pay their bills.
The says he does not think that much about monetary policy. That is obvious. He handed himself a blank cheque in the spring of 2020, and he has been printing and spending money ever since. The government has handed out exorbitant amounts of money in the name of emergency income, but the books show that the personal disposable income of Canadians has actually increased during the pandemic. Earned income has dropped significantly, but the enormous government handouts have more than covered the loss. As a result, tons of extra money are flooding the economy, but there is the same number of goods, if not less.
The outcome is higher prices, because an endless supply of printed money combined with limited goods actually drives up prices. The sad thing is that it is the wealthy who benefit when those prices rise, because it adds to their profits. Meanwhile, low wage earners must make their dollars stretch further to cover their necessities. All the while, the government is bloating in size not only by spending all this extra money, but by raking it back through taxation.
One dollar used to be worth one dollar. Today, one dollar is only worth 95 cents. If the government were to increase taxes by 5%, there would probably be massive outrage, but that is just it. That is exactly what the government did. It is called inflation tax. It simply comes with this name.
As the member for has pointed out, “countries that are not printing money to pay their bills have maintained a low cost of living and an affordable life for their citizens.” Meanwhile, “Those countries that are flooding their economies with cheap cash are driving up the cost of living,” and making it less affordable.
There is an inconvenient truth that seems to have been willfully ignored. Reining in fiscal spending would necessitate limited government. This, of course, is a horrible restraint for any political party that only attains or maintains power when people are reliant on the government for its programs and handouts.
The Liberals are actually choosing to be fiscally irresponsible for the sake of political advantage, and it is putting our economic future in great jeopardy. What is the solution? It is simply to stop printing money, rein things in and be fiscally responsible. That is what this country deserves.
“We, the people” is a powerful phrase. Is it not? When the people feel the freedom to live up to their potential all of society benefits, but in order for this to happen the government has to get out of the way.
Serving as a member of Parliament has afforded me the extraordinary opportunity to speak with many Canadians about the type of Canada they desire. I have heard countless stories from visionaries who want to build businesses, invent new technologies, help those who are suffering and improve our society in areas where we have fallen short. All of these conversations and general observations have given me a tremendous amount of hope for this nation's future. Unleashing the potential of the Canadian people is the key to our success.
Members can imagine what it would look like if the bridles of red tape and regulation were thrown off and entrepreneurs were given the freedom to take risks, to make investments, to prosper and to help others prosper. This is the type of Canada that we can create, not through government handouts and increased control, but by creating opportunity for each and every Canadian to invest their gifts, talents and abilities to prosper.
It is Canadians who are the problem solvers, the solution makers and the wealth creators, not the government. No matter the handouts it gives, we will not get ahead. A good leader puts people first. Sadly, that is not what the did in the throne speech. It is not what he has endeavoured to do on behalf of this great country, and for this reason, I cannot support the Speech from the Throne.
Mr. Speaker, as I rise in this place to deliver my maiden speech, like all members, I feel a great sense of responsibility, honour and commitment to the people of my community who have entrusted me with their voice.
Like all members, my ability to stand here is a result of a team effort of family, friends and volunteers who believe in all of us.
For me, it has been a long journey, starting with my service for eight years as a ministerial assistant in the Mulroney and Campbell governments. I learned so much from those whom I worked for, from MP Bill Attewell, to ministers of the Crown, the Hon. Barbara McDougall and the Hon. Peter McCreath. I must thank them for their mentorship and guidance.
I must also acknowledge my wife Wendy Waite whom I met when she was working for the Hon. Pat Carney and the Right Hon. Kim Campbell. Free trade brought us together, but I can tell members about that another time. She has supported my lifelong journey to this place like no other.
I acknowledge my parents Rosemarie Borgald Perkins and William Perkins, who instilled in me the belief of possibilities and the need for hard work to achieve those possibilities. My mother's family landed in Lunenburg 277 years ago, in 1753. I am the eighth generation in a row to live in my community.
Two other people I need to thank out of the hundreds of volunteers are my campaign anchors for seven years in South Shore—St. Margarets. Evelyn Snyder and Rick Muzyk have been with me on this journey since 2014. It started with my nomination campaign against Richard Clark. I could not stand in this place without their support and belief.
When I had the great privilege of joining members of all sides last Tuesday to march to the other place to listen to the Speech from the Throne, I had high expectations that issues that were of concern to my community would be addressed. While I stood behind our Speaker in the other place, I was sorely disappointed.
As I listened to the rehashed broken promises of the 2015 Liberal platform, it reminded me of one of the most famous quotes by the Right Hon. Kim Campbell when speaking of a political opponent. She said that style “without substance is a dangerous thing.” Style without substance appears to be the theme the PMO speech writers were thinking of when they wrote this document. I say this because the most important industry in my province and my riding is the fishery. There was no mention of the importance of the fishery in the throne speech. There was no mention of our forest products industry. There was no word said about tourism.
From Peggy's Cove to Chester, from Lunenburg to Liverpool, from New Ross to Mahone Bay, from Cape Sable Island to Shag Harbour, my community was looking for their concerns to be in the throne speech. My constituents were looking for a commitment from the government that we would all work toward more access to the commercial fishery for first nations, a commitment that this access be granted on the same rules and enforcement measures to which all commercial fishermen were subject. We have seasons for a reason.
My community was looking for a commitment that any public policy on the moderate livelihood fishery be developed in compliance with the legal framework of the Supreme Court's Marshall decisions, not outside of them as has been done so far.
When I was speaking with lobster fishermen Vincent Boutilier, Sandie Stoddard and Bobby Hynes, they expressed little surprise that the fishery was not mentioned. They said that over the last six years they had come to expect nothing but more bureaucracy from the Liberal government and more initiatives aimed at making it more difficult to earn a living from the sea. They recognized that the attacks by the government on the fishery, whether through reduced quotas backed by questionable research, increased regulation and the threat of targeted marine protected areas aimed at shutting down the industry, were insidious ways the Liberals were using the smokescreen of conservation to reduce commercial fishing.
People who earn a living from the sea were looking for some recognition from the Liberals on the need for predation policy, an invasive species policy. There is an explosive growth of seals and sea lions, which is devastating our Atlantic and Pacific fish species. The government claims to care about the biodiversity of our oceans, but it has no policy and makes no effort to try to get our oceans back in balance.
The fishing communities were looking for some indication from the government that it acknowledged that it had made a huge mistake in the clawback from the fishermen who received the COVID-19 fish harvester benefit.
When launching this benefit during the COVID crisis, the government said, “Our fisheries operate under a unique structure and have faced distinct challenges throughout this pandemic.” The Liberals bragged about how hard they had worked to get it right, and now they have it wrong and are attacking the men and women at the back of the boat.
Let me explain. Almost all fishermen are paid a share of the profits from the catch, not a regular wage. Since the days of commercial whaling, this is how it has been. I know all members have likely read the book Moby Dick. In this classic, the narrator of the tale, Ishmael, explains the following. “I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid no wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain shares—
Mr. Speaker, this tradition made it into the application process for the government's fish harvester benefit as a recognition that the traditional wage earner COVID benefits did not work for fishermen. The application the government put forward stated five situations which qualified for benefits. It recognized the centuries of pay structure for fishermen. DFO's application stated one of the types of fishermen's pay that was eligible, “sharepersons...who are crew members who earn a share of the revenue”, which is bang on. Therefore, why is the government taking it back from them? It is bait and switch, the Liberal approach to everything.
The federal government is demanding that 4,193 Canadian fishermen repay $25.8 million in COVID-relief assistance. More than half the fishermen issued overpayment letters are in Nova Scotia.
Travis Nickerson of Clark's Harbour in my riding received an overpayment letter. Travis said that the situation was a mess. He said, “They gave me something when I really needed it, and now they want it back.” Nickerson is paid a share of the catch. He saw his income drop in the first half of 2020 when COVID-19 crushed the demand for lobster worldwide.
The share-based earnings are evident, and there is record of employment, like all other fishermen. It is easy to see, yet the government seems to have its own departments fighting each other. It is time for the to step up and do her job for all fishermen.
I will be relentless in speaking out for our fishermen, our forestry workers, our agriculture workers and our tourism businesses. All are being ignored and harmed by the government. When the chapter of the government is written in the history books, it will be a slim chapter of achievement. It will likely be titled with that great quote from Kim Campbell “Style without substance.”
As my friend Peter MacKay once said, it will take more than fancy socks and curly locks to run a government that cares about the hard-working Canadians in our resource industry.
This war on the resource industries has to stop. It is time for the government to recognize that the social programs we love, the jobs in Toronto office towers and the competitive advantage we have as a country are all as a result of our resources. Destroying them puts all of what we cherish at risk.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for . I want to acknowledge that I am standing on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
Since this is the first real opportunity I have had to speak, I feel it is important to begin with some acknowledgements.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank the voters of Halifax West for putting their trust in me. They know I will work every day to make their lives better and leave a better Canada for our next generation.
I want to give a special thanks to my family, especially my mother Houda; my children, my son Antonios, who managed my election campaign; my daughters Stephanie, Monica and Marena; all my volunteers and friends who did so much to bring me here today; as well as my father Stephen, who is watching from above with a great smile and a tear in his eye. I am going to make him proud.
It is hard to find the words to describe how very proud I am to rise today for the first time as the member for Halifax West.
Today I am profoundly humbled to stand and address my colleagues in this chamber as the first female member of Parliament to represent my community in the House of Commons. Most members are familiar with my predecessor, the Hon. Geoff Regan, a former speaker of this House, and I hope to continue his strong record of collaboration and advocacy.
All my colleagues know the feeling I am experiencing. It is one of pride, enthusiasm and passion for one’s community and country. We do not really know how to describe it, but we know this feeling is going to push us to do everything and anything we can to make a difference in the lives of the people who sent us here.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to my new colleagues and talk about my riding.
My constituency of Halifax West is the most diverse and multicultural riding east of Montreal.
I would also like to share a few thoughts on the Speech from the Throne.
My name is Lena Metlege Diab. I am a proud Lebanese Nova Scotian, a mother of four children, a grandmother to four, a small business owner, a lawyer and a community volunteer. Though I am new to this chamber, I am not new to political life.
Prior to the election, I served two terms as a member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia, with you, Mr. Speaker, when you were in that chamber. I also served as the provincial cabinet minister responsible for justice, public safety, immigration and population growth, labour and advanced education, and Acadian affairs and francophonie. In 2013, I was appointed as the first female attorney general in Nova Scotia.
In my previous roles, I worked hard to push forward the cause of equity, address Nova Scotia’s economic and demographic challenges, and support businesses and workers. That is why I was so encouraged by the themes and priorities laid out in this year’s Speech from the Throne. What was clear to me was that the government gets the type of action this moment calls for. If ever there were a time when Canadians needed an active government, a government that takes the reins and charts the course, that time is now.
That is the vision I see in this year’s Speech from the Throne, one that is bold, forward-looking and intentional. It is an acknowledgement that our biggest problems will not simply right themselves, including the climate emergency, the housing shortage, the inequities experienced by many of our community members, and the challenges of building back our workforce and our industries from a once-in-a-lifetime economic shock. We have to act intentionally, collaboratively and urgently on them all, and we have to back that up with real investment and meaningful policy change.
I will now come back to the incredible diversity in my riding. As I knocked on doors in Halifax West, I met people from around the globe. Many are not yet Canadian citizens, but their stories are touching and inspiring to me. I myself experienced life as an immigrant when I came to Canada at the age of 11. What struck me the most about these people was their great hope and immense pride in being here and soon joining our Canadian family and community.
I remember my days as a young girl at St. Agnes Junior High in Halifax, feeling brand new to my city. At the time, I was still working to learn English, and I did not truly understand what the other children were saying about me. I knew they looked at the way I looked, the way I wore my hair, and I could sense they saw me as different from them.
However, after eight years serving as Nova Scotia's immigration minister, I know that today the hearts of Nova Scotians are more open than ever before. This is why I am so encouraged by the Speech from the Throne’s mentions of increasing immigration, reducing wait times for reunification and a continuing the commitment to resettle those displaced from their homes. My community is a daily reminder and living proof that our diversity is our strength.
I do not mean to imply that we have no challenges ahead, because that is far from the case.
There are many forms of hatred and discrimination in our communities, and truly addressing them requires continuous, vigilant action from all levels of government and collaboration from all members in the House. This is something I am committed to working on in my time here, and I see that too in the Speech from the Throne. We need active, renewed initiative when it comes to eliminating racism and bigotry from our communities. An essential part of my mission here is to do what I can to ensure my community and my country feel like home for every individual and family, no matter where they come from.
In Nova Scotia, we are now just counting the days before the mark of one million residents is passed. Having been on the front lines of that work, I could not be more proud. It is clear from the Speech from the Throne that this government understands how essential immigration is in strengthening our economy, our workforce, our communities and our public services in Nova Scotia and across the country.
At the same time, we must act purposefully to ensure that the economy we rebuild after this pandemic includes everyone. It is inconceivable to me that we would let the pandemic roll back the gains made by women and under-represented communities in the workforce.
I see the government's commitment in that in its establishing of an affordable national early child care system and its investing in the empowerment of Black, racialized and indigenous people.
I am encouraged by the priorities and the focus. I am encouraged because I came here to make a difference in the lives of Canadians, and I welcome the attention given to these pressing issues, which I heard about on the door steps.
I am ready for the work ahead, and I will do that work in my three languages. I feel it is important to bring my enduring love of the French language to the House every day I have the privilege of sitting here.
I also proudly address this House in the beautiful Arabic language, and I will do my very best to represent the many residents of Halifax West who speak it themselves.
[Member spoke in Arabic]
To conclude, let us all now get to work with renewed commitment to address the needs of Canadians and to make good on the promise of building back better.