Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2019-12-13 11:05 [p.452]
Mr. Speaker, I come to Ottawa from Nova Scotia, the land of the Mi'kmaq, the People of the Dawn. I am bearing an urgent message from some of my youngest constituents, the students of l'École acadienne de Truro, who write:
Today, all around the world, millions of students have taken to the streets demanding government action to stop the exponential growth of climate change....
These young protesters, many of whom are not old enough to vote, are sacrificing their education because they know that without help from all levels of government, there will be no future. They are demanding there be an immediate reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
They go on to say that Canada has already invested in renewable energy sources, and we must continue. They say that their goal in writing is to continue to fuel the flame that they know is burning inside me in order to help preserve our way of life before it is too late, because, in the end, climate change has no borders.
View Anita Vandenbeld Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anita Vandenbeld Profile
2019-12-13 11:08 [p.453]
Mr. Speaker, the holiday season is here, a time of giving and sharing with those around us. However, every year during this season Canadians throw away 540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags that are not recyclable.
This was brought to my attention by the elementary school students at the Woodroffe Avenue Public School craft fair.
By creating homemade ornaments, reusing gift bags and creating compost bags made out of old newspaper, these students are demonstrating how to celebrate this holiday season in an ecofriendly manner. I was delighted to see the drive and dedication of these young entrepreneurs from my riding.
I want to congratulate these students for showing leadership in the fight against climate change.
I encourage Canadians to follow the lead of these students and to reduce their waste this holiday season.
Merry Christmas.
View Paul Manly Profile
View Paul Manly Profile
2019-12-13 12:25 [p.467]
Mr. Speaker, in the debate earlier today, we heard about the Canada child benefit. I heard the hon. member across the way talk about reducing debt for the next generation and reducing taxes. In addition, there was the analogy of getting married, having children and then having a foreclosure sign. In this time of a climate crisis, it is far more likely that the last image is going to be of a family who lost their house to a wildfire, who fled a flood or who had their house decimated by a hurricane or tornado.
Right now, we are at the end of the COP25 conference in Madrid and the government has not brought forward a change to its climate targets for 2030. They have set net-zero for 2050. That is a long way away. I am going to be a very old man by then. My oldest daughter and my granddaughter appreciate the child tax benefit, but my youngest daughter is anxious. She is anxious like other people who worked on my election campaign who are on a child strike right now: They do not want to have children because they are worried about the future. As parliamentarians and leaders, we need to deal with this climate crisis properly.
View Warren Steinley Profile
View Warren Steinley Profile
2019-12-13 12:27 [p.467]
Mr. Speaker, I believe we have a lot of challenges facing this country, including environmental challenges. I have three young children and I want to be committed to leaving a greener, cleaner environment for them. It is incumbent on all of us to do so. I do not want to leave the next generation with a financial or environmental deficit. We have to work hard to make sure we create environments for success in all those areas.
We had a great plan In our campaign to make a cleaner environment by cleaning up lakes, rivers and oceans and by stopping pollution being dumped into the oceans on either coast. I am very much committed to ensuring we have a greener, safer and cleaner environment for the next generation.
View Greg McLean Profile
View Greg McLean Profile
2019-12-13 13:17 [p.474]
Mr. Speaker, today marks the first time I rise in the House of Commons. My first duty is to pay my sincere respects to the constituents of Calgary Centre who gave me the privilege and responsibility of representing their concerns in the House.
Calgary Centre is a diverse part of this country that represents the greatness that Canada offers. We are reflective of Canada's storied past, our present and our hopeful future.
The past is celebrated every summer as we gather for our annual stampede, the greatest outdoor show on earth, the roots of which lie in the skills required of ranchers and the cowboys they employed to get their cattle to market.
The present is the bustling metropolis that includes Calgary's oldest neighbourhoods along with the new Canadians who have found a home here. The bustling downtown has been burdened these past four years with an exodus of talent and opportunities as a result of failed government policies, but we will not find a person who does not think our imposed difficulties cannot be overcome.
The future has brightened as our new provincial government has seen to implement policies that will reverse years of economic stagnation with the growth-oriented, balanced approach to moving us forward.
I chose to serve this riding because of all it represents: vitality and opportunity, diversity and history. I am honoured the voters of Calgary Centre heard my message loud and clear in this past election and returned a Conservative member of Parliament soundly over the incumbent member from the previous government. The message we send could not be more clear. The government's policies are moving Canada in the wrong direction.
Allow me to wind back the clock and discuss how we arrived here. Almost two years ago on vacation with my wife, I broke the news to her that getting better government in Canada was a necessity. I believe strongly that we are impoverishing the next generation of Canadians with bad fiscal policy, false choices on energy and overtaxation. I asked for her support in bringing this change to Canadians. She agreed. Let me say that without her constant love and support, I would not be here. My thanks to Ruth and I love her very much.
It is no small undertaking to run for public office, but so many friends and supporters joined us along the way. Our message about the need for change in the way Canada is being governed resonated throughout our city. I owe so much to so many for their contribution to our efforts and I will do my best to fulfill their trust.
The message delivered by Calgarians was so clear that the Prime Minister referred to it several times after the election. The Deputy Prime Minister pledged to listen really hard to combat the disunion wrought by the government's agenda.
In that context, I listened to the throne speech attentively. I did not hear any indication of reversal or accommodation. I have reviewed it and I find some relief in statements and potential, like reducing taxes for the middle class, the government pursuing a responsible fiscal plan, understanding that economic growth is the best way to ensure a good quality of life for Canadians, better health care for Canadians and the ethical use of artificial intelligence, getting Canadian resources to market and offering unwavering support to the hard-working men and women in Canada's natural resource sector. These are all ideas for our times.
I also noted reference to the bedrock of our parliamentary system which heartened me. After years of federal powers drifting to various whims and interest groups, perhaps there would be a change in approach.
Actions speak louder than words and I am concerned, given the record of the government, that the definition of its objectives differs strongly from objective, tangible outcomes for Canadians. Will all these words have some meaning this time, or will they be empty virtues that show no results? Is the country being asked once again to play Charlie Brown to the government playing Lucy with a football?
However, there are clearly words, and thus direction, missing from the speech. There is no commitment to young Canadians who are now or soon to be entering the labour force that their future taxes will not increasingly rise to meet the needs of the squandered finances of the government. There is no commitment to stem the transfer of wealth from working Canadians to international financial organizations for guarantees borne by Canadians. There is no commitment to right a regulatory system that has been broken beyond recognition by the government, giving Canadians a regime that makes national projects too risky to undertake, thereby further constraining and impoverishing a generation of Canadians and this is especially true of indigenous Canadians. There is no effort in mending the divisions created in the past four years and during this past election by a Prime Minister openly campaigning against one region of the country. This betrays a true prejudice and it is not becoming of a government leader.
I note in the Speech from the Throne the iteration of “climate change” eight times. That is prominent and I note the focus of the government's virtue. The climate is changing. We need to address it and we need to address its effects. We should acknowledge that we are not an island and accept that all our efforts would be for naught without efforts from significant contributors to the increase in greenhouse gases in the world.
Let us examine clearly the cost of our virtuous approach versus the negligible contribution we provide to the outcome. Our world leadership on this file should be one that binds the country and actually helps solve the problem, not rip us apart with an approach that accomplishes next to nothing. This is our role to fulfill in this global problem. Let us lead Canadians to our solutions, but first, let us free ourselves of the bias and hyperbole that simply inflame reactions and stoke divisions.
Our words and our approach matter. We have a problem to solve and today's decision-makers need to find the solutions that lead to our outcomes. However, we need to understand that our use of language in this matter has led to a hysteria among a generation that believes the future is bleak.
On the contrary, I believe the best is yet to come for Canada.
I work with energy professionals and technologists, who are all parents. Everyone strives in their field to make their lives and this country a better place for their children. All are dismayed by the half-truths and false choices the government is thrusting upon them.
Follow the outcomes proposed, and on a full-cycle basis, they represent a worse outcome for the world, for Canada, for our environment and for families. We know there are no free environmental solutions to producing energy. Coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, solar, wind and nuclear energy all have an environmental footprint and CO2 footprint.
Canada's oil production represents part of the best, most environmentally friendly 8% of the world's oil production. Let me add, that production in Canada, to these standards, is not inexpensive. Is this the resource we do not want the world to produce?
All governments need to be wary of solutions that end up causing bigger problems. Yes, Canada does need an effective approach to tackling climate change, and we can find solutions.
False solutions will lead to problems in addition to economic dislocation, with increased world poverty and decreased lifespans, increased emissions from other more primitive power sources, increased human dislocation and a threat to world peace.
Let me get granular on Canada's world-renowned energy industry. Let us talk about the 175,000 workers who are no longer employed. Let us talk about the world-leading technologies and service providers that have been forced to work in competitive jurisdictions, like the United States, a country that has more than doubled its oil production to 12 million barrels per day over the past decade, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the levels in the 1950s.
Let us talk about the reversal of fortune of our oil and gas companies, whose only drawback is their jurisdiction. Let us talk about the economic disadvantage that has been played upon Canadians by a non-constructive regulatory regime manipulated by foreign lobbyists. Let us talk about the transfer of wealth of tens of millions of dollars per day from Canada to the United States where our exported oil is uniquely bound. From a Canadian taxpayer's perspective, let us talk about the taxes not being paid as a result of this wealth and jobs transfer. We can talk about taxes that would pay for schools and hospitals, and doctors and teachers, yes, those social outcomes for Canadians.
Let us collect our thoughts and find a way to rationally address the causes and effects of our changing climate. Let us look at solutions put forth by Canadian champions. The very definition of that is the companies in our energy industry. As an analogy, when in a tight game, put the best players on the ice.
To address the effects of climate change, Canada's best players are in the energy industry. Oil sands operations have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20% to 30% since 2000. Conventional oil and gas producers have brought their environmental footprint down substantially in the same period. We should not forget that environmental solutions stretch beyond addressing climate change.
Canada's energy sector is the best in the world at minimizing its environmental footprint. We have a role to play in the world and climate change is a world issue. We will not begin to address its impact with a parochial approach.
We have homegrown solutions developed here because of the Canadian public's insistence on building a clean oil and gas sector. We owe a great deal to the Canadians of today. We owe significantly more to the future, and the course the government is leading will leave tomorrow's Canadians with fewer options and a debt legacy that will constrain their options in dealing with the problems that will emerge in their lifetimes.
We need to do better. I urge the government to focus on real solutions that do not pit regions of this country against each other and that do not divide Canadians by their status or where they live. I urge the government to bring understanding to the breadth of Canadian solutions and show leadership to bind this whole country. There is much at stake.
View Adam Vaughan Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Adam Vaughan Profile
2019-12-13 14:02 [p.481]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by expressing my thanks, first and foremost, to my wife and my partner, Nicole. This was her first campaign as the spouse of a parliamentarian. Many may not know, but I was married in the middle of the last term. She had nothing but joy to express for the fun of canvassing and meeting people, listening to their needs and also watching us talk about how to build strong communities, cities and a better Canada. The election was made that much more enjoyable having a partner like her along to provide that support. To see an election through new eyes is always a real pleasure for any politician who has been through countless elections.
I also want to thank the residents, voters and the folks who make up Spadina—Fort York, which is a riding that dances along the waterfront in the inner harbour of Lake Ontario in Toronto. It is one of the most diverse ridings, as many in Toronto are. It also has pockets of extreme creativity and vibrancy with respect to its economic clout. However, it also has pockets of some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. That combination of affluence and poverty cheek by jowl creates good, strong social networks of mutual support between the two. It also explains the challenges we have as a city, as a country, to ensure that we build an economy where prosperity is shared more generously, fairly and productively. I certainly heard from my residents that this was one of the mandates they sent me back to Ottawa to advocate on their behalf.
Of course, climate change was another issue, being a waterfront community. With the flooding we experienced last spring, 600 residents on Toronto islands were at risk of losing their homes. We lost extraordinary and very delicate ecological infrastructure. We have to turn our eyes to ensure that climate change is not only fought with good, strong policies that limit greenhouse gas emissions, but also to protect those communities that are in harms way right now as water levels change and become more chaotic. We also need to ensure the natural habitat is restored.
Those are the priorities that residents sent me back here to talk about, among others. Therefore, I look to the throne speech as a way of starting to fulfill those responsibilities and assuring the residents who sent me here, and my colleagues who I will be sharing time with in the House, that my focus on those issues will be unrelenting.
One of the things I commented on earlier during members' statements was the issue of housing and homelessness across the country. It is why I left city council and ran federally back in 2014. It is why I am so proud to be reappointed as the parliamentary secretary, with a specific focus and responsibility for housing. As I have often said, and members who were here before may recall, while housing is often defined as the crisis that needs to be solved, to me housing remains the best tool we have to address the issues raised by members from all parties, as they have explained the mandates they have received from their residents.
When it comes to things like unemployment in places like Alberta, when we build social housing, we create jobs. We know that the construction trades are a large part of the downturn in the energy economy, with the lack of work for highly-skilled labour in that province. Building a gas plant requires many of the same skill sets as building a house. We can start to solve some of the poverty issues in Alberta by putting to work the unemployed construction workers who had been working on oil projects. As we wait for world oil prices to return, as we wait for new markets to be established and as we wait for the investments we have made to strengthen the oil and gas sector, one of the things we can do in the interim is build the infrastructure that people on the lower end of the economic scale so desperately need.
It is why I was so disheartened to see the Alberta government cut funding for homelessness and front line services in Calgary and Edmonton. It is why I have been talking so closely with the mayors in those cities to ensure our housing programs reach the provinces. Even if a provincial government is walking away from those programs, it is good to know the national program will be there to provide assistance and, hopefully, good, strong jobs, as well as the social support that housing provides.
Therefore, housing is an economic tool, an economic driver and is a critically important part of what the mandate talked about. It is a critically important part of what the national housing strategy hopes to achieve. However, when it is seen as economic development and not just a social service, it seems much more dynamic than I think some members give credit for. I hope members opposite can support a stronger, growing and more vibrant housing policy. I know our government is committed to doing that. Also, reference to that in the throne speech is perhaps more appropriately identified as housing as a tool to get toward reconciliation.
When I did work on the homelessness file in the previous Parliament, an indigenous housing provider from Regina, Saskatchewan, said that we cannot have reconciliation without housing policy, cannot have reconciliation without a place to to call home.
In many indigenous nations across the country, the notion of having a home is not the issue; it is shelter that is the challenge. They are home when they are on their ground, when they are on their territory, and when we can provide a house with the territory, we have achieved full reconciliation, because both the land and the shelter and the capacity to provide housing have been returned to programs that are self-directed, self-managed and self-realized by indigenous communities.
I took those words to heart, and I have been a strong advocate for indigenous housing providers and have worked very closely with them right across the country from coast to coast to coast, particularly in the Northwest Territories. I am thrilled to see the mandate letters that were produced today and the reference in the Speech from the Throne to the need for an urban indigenous housing program in this country that is designed, delivered, managed and run by indigenous housing providers right across the country. That is in addition to the commitments we have made through the indigenous infrastructure programs to make sure that the three programs for housing through the NIOs, the ITK and the Métis foundation continue to grow to provide a place to call home that is safe, secure and affordable. These programs are also addressing some of the challenges about murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirit people, as well as providing economic liberation and dealing with some of the poverty that colonialism imposed upon indigenous people across the country for far too long.
Housing becomes one of the strong tools we can use as the federal government to realize our commitment and our promise to fully realize the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the key recommendations inside the missing and murdered and missing indigenous women and girls and two-spirited report. We can use housing as a tool to solve those problems.
The other thing we can use housing to do is address climate change. Studies have identified that urban centres are the greatest source of our greenhouse gas emissions, providing 62% or 69%, depending on the studies one looks at, and it is largely from built form. That means our houses need to be more energy-efficient. When we create more energy-efficient housing, not only do we create more affordable housing, but we create housing that actually contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases and makes the planet safer for all of us to live in.
Again, housing creates economic capacity and creates jobs, but shelter also provides social stability, and it provides environmental payoffs if we do it correctly. We had a very strong commitment in our campaign, and the throne speech as well refers to environmental policies and to providing Canadians with interest-free loans to retrofit their homes so they can make their contribution to climate change real and also do it affordably. They can actually save money by making a contribution to help us fight climate change. It is a win-win-win proposition, and it is one that I look forward to realizing in this Parliament. I look forward to members on the benches opposite who have similar programs making their contributions to make this program as strong as possible.
We have heard about pharmacare. We have heard that Canadians need access to health care on a universal and more national basis. We know that we have to work with provinces and territories, indigenous governments and municipalities to get pharmacare right, to make sure it dovetails with existing programs and that it grows and extends to different medical devices. Those issues are also critically important, but every single study on the issue of health care tells us that housing is a key determinant to better health care outcomes.
In fact, a very interesting study that was done by an AIDS foundation in the United States showed that viral suppression is only possible if housing is included with the drug program. In other words, drugs alone will not create the health we seek for our neighbours and fellow Canadians. We need places to treat people. We need stable places for many of the drug programs to work effectively, including pharmaceuticals, and Housing is a critical part of that as well.
Our commitment to increasing funding for mental health services and addiction services will not be effective and will not achieve positive results in people's lives if supportive housing is not built to create places to treat and care for people and allow them to thrive, heal and move forward. Those investments that are often talked about as health care investments will be realized through supportive housing investments. When we can get that piece of the health care budget right and use it in concert with our housing policies, we will also see much stronger, aggressive and more successful campaigns to end homelessness in this country.
Again, housing is not the crisis: Housing is the solution to so many of the problems that we face.
One issue that will also be seen as part of the program to solve a challenge that is beyond heartbreaking in our communities is the issue of gun violence.
Gun violence is an issue in my community, the communities that I represent and the neighbourhoods my family walks through on the way to school and the way home from work. I have been to more funerals for children in my riding than for family members in my lifetime. Stop and think about that. I have stood with more families in extreme trauma, as they buried young people in my riding, than I have with members of my own family. That is an unacceptable situation in this country.
There are all sorts of reasons why a long gun is an important tool, and why hunting and the protection of families in rural parts of the country are important. In urban centres, the more bullets that fly, the more people that die. We have to find a way to curtail that.
Of course it requires strong border controls, investments in security at the borders and breaking down the way guns are smuggled into this country by both legal and illegal gun owners. We have to make sure that we step up criminal charges against dangerous people who have reached for a gun too often and let them go off in our cities, and we have to make sure that they do not do harm to more people in our communities. We need to get handguns off the streets in urban centres. It is just fundamental to the health and welfare of our communities.
It is not just the atrocious number of people who are shot or killed. The families that live in neighbourhoods where gun play is all too prevalent live in an intense and sustained circumstance, an environment of stress and disorder. For young children who have to sleep at night in the basement of their housing units because the ground floor is not seen to be safe, or for families that have guns going off, making kids who are five or six years old jump, leads to all sorts of other challenges in our communities. It becomes a mental health issue, quite frankly. It is a form of PTSD for so many young people, particularly racialized youth in our cities. That has to stop.
Families that have buried their children, that have had to stay by their bedside in emergency wards at hospitals, that have scared kids day in and day out, have asked us to act on gun control. They have asked us to deal with handguns. We have to do it because they have lost confidence in the government to listen. They have lost confidence in society to listen. They have lost confidence in Canada to listen to the trauma they are being asked to endure.
They have asked us to act on this, even though they know it is only one part of the solution. They need to see that communities around this country support them as they seek to build healthy and wonderful children, and they cannot do it fearing guns in our cities. That is why it is so critically important to act on this.
Examining what causes a young person to reach for a gun as a solution also needs to be part of the program if we are going to eliminate this behaviour. We cannot police homicides out of existence. Passing laws has never worked. We have had homicides since time immemorial, long before laws existed, and no country on this planet has eliminated death by handgun simply by outlawing it. Laws are not a deterrent. If people are so scared or so intent on exercising power with a gun, it does not matter how many laws we have. The problem is that the person has already reached for a gun.
We have to get to where young people are making better choices and have the opportunity to make better choices. Again, this is where housing comes into play. When young people are housed properly, cared for properly, nurtured properly, when they are invested in and when they are seen as true citizens worthy of our care and our compassion, our investments and our support, they make better choices.
In every community where better choices are put in front of young people who are at risk, young people will make those better choices. It is a rational, humane thing to do. When those choices are not there for young people, unfortunately far too many of them reach for a gun, whether it is smuggled across the border, stolen from a home down the road, broken out of a gun shop, stolen from a range or simply rented from a legal gun owner.
A person in my riding had 11 legal guns. That individual never did anything with them except rent them out to hoodlums. Two people died as a result of that. When the police went to get the 11 legal guns, they could not find them. He was a legal gun owner until he was not. The reality of this is that he was renting the guns out to pay to go through university. It is a true story, and it killed two people.
That person was smart enough to make better choices, but he did not have those choices in front of him and as a result, made the mistakes that cost people their lives. It also meant that there were 11 handguns floating around the neighbourhood for years and everybody knew, but nobody said anything because they were afraid.
We have to change the social circumstances and constructs in order to make these outcomes stronger. One of the best ways to do that is to make housing more affordable and support families in terms of good, strong social infrastructure, good programs that support their educational opportunities. We need to make sure that the programs that provide jobs start to hire people in communities where high unemployment rates have been tolerated, despite some of the success we have had over the last two to four years.
Again, housing becomes part of the solution to gun violence. If those on the other side are really serious about making sure that the rules and regulations do not hurt law-abiding owners who need to hunt for food, protect their farms, or what have you, then they will stand up and support our government's initiatives to put into play those social investments in our cities and those investments in housing, to make sure educational opportunities are sustained and to make sure that we give young people the tools they need to survive; not guns but education, jobs, hopes and opportunities.
The final issue is culture and heritage and the need for strong investments in the arts and digital media sectors. One of the fastest growing parts of my riding is the digital media sector. In fact, it has outpaced, in terms of job growth, Silicon Valley for the last two years. One of the reasons it has done that is because our immigration policies get people with talent into our country quickly, who cannot get into the United States. Tech firms from the United States are moving to Toronto so they can get access to the global pool of talent. More importantly, they are understanding that Canada's pool of talent is extraordinarily high, rich and diverse. When those tech firms come to Toronto, they realize that what they were looking for was in Toronto all along.
Supporting open policies around immigration, progressive policies driven by economic need, and also making sure that we are good, strong humanitarians on the global stage has created the context for a good, strong economy in our communities. We need to make sure that we keep those doors open, so that we keep people coming to this country with talents and contributions that they want to make. We also have to make sure that new arrivals are allowed to make those contributions.
One of the worrying statistics in Toronto is that immigrants and refugees are doing less well after five years in Canada now than they have at any other time in the country's history. What are the supports that are missing, which are preventing that successful integration?
Once again, it is housing. When housing costs are so high that they cannot afford the courses to requalify their credentials, when housing costs are so high or the houses are so far away from jobs that transportation costs become a barrier to participation in the workforce, when housing costs are so high that people spend all their time looking for affordable places to rent instead of better jobs, they fall further and further behind. Their health and mental health start to suffer and their capacity to make the contributions they are ready to make to this country is hurt.
Making sure that we pay attention to those issues is one of the ways we can support the arts and culture sector, which, as I said, is the fourth-largest employer in Toronto and the largest employer in my riding. Moving our funding and support to the cultural sector is one way to develop the economy in our country. Artists need places to create and quite often an artist will live, work and produce in the same space. We need to make sure our housing programs support that and the arts industries that gather around that.
I will conclude by re-emphasizing the point I want to make most clearly about the throne speech and the mandate letters supported today. We will not succeed as a country without an urban indigenous housing strategy. We will not reconcile the past without a strong urban indigenous housing strategy. That strategy must be indigenous led, designed and delivered. Our government, this Parliament, our country has to find ways to support that to get it off the ground and into a position where it is self-driving, self-determining and self-realizing. I give my absolute commitment to residents, to colleagues in the House on this side and to Parliament that I will not rest until that policy is put in place.
The throne speech has set the stage for that; the mandate letters have given us the authority to get it done. What we need now is Parliament to stand together and realize this, so that we have four forms of housing for indigenous communities, with the NIOs, and with the indigenous urban housing piece finally and totally delivered during this Parliament. If we do that, we will not be talking about how much we cut homelessness; we will be celebrating how we have ended homelessness. That end to homelessness is within reach if we focus on it. The reason to do it is for all of the reasons I have listed, but the way to do it is to start by solving the indigenous urban housing crisis we have in this country and addressing that issue with our partners from those communities, leading us to a solutions-based mandate in this Parliament.
That is why I am going to be supporting the throne speech, it is why I am proud to be the parliamentary secretary in charge of housing and it is why I am absolutely thrilled to get to work in this Parliament.
View Randeep Sarai Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Randeep Sarai Profile
2019-12-12 10:15 [p.369]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the residents of Surrey Centre for once again putting their trust in me. It is truly an honour to be their voice in Ottawa. This moment was possible due to the hard work of my volunteers, who knocked on doors rain or shine, made countless phone calls, put up signs and spread the message of positive politics, all to ensure that I would continue to represent them in this chamber.
I would also not be standing here today if it were not for the unwavering support of my family.
I will always be accessible to the residents of Surrey Centre, and I look forward to working with each one of them for our community. I am certain that by working together we can ensure that Surrey Centre will continue to move forward.
This past election proved that Canadians from coast to coast to coast want their representatives to work harder to tackle the issues that matter most. For Surrey Centre, I will continue to advocate for the middle class and those working hard to join it. I will continue to ensure that appropriate resources are available to those who keep our community safe and will support our climate target to continue leading this country in the right direction.
Gun and gang violence, though on the decline, has been prevalent in Surrey for far too long. In January 2019 Surrey was given $7.5 million for the Surrey anti-gang family empowerment project, SAFE, the single largest investment in any city in Canada. SAFE was developed from the findings of the mayor's task force on gang violence, which I had the opportunity to sit on as a member. Over 4,500 at-risk youth will benefit from the project, which will work to help prevent youth from joining gangs and participating in other harmful activities by providing them with alternatives.
An amazing initiative that came out of this program was the family and youth resource support team, FYRST. This early intervention and prevention initiative has resulted in 260 outreach visits and 58 client referrals in its first three months.
We have seen results and that is why we will continue to invest in cities to fight gang-related violence.
However, this throne speech tackles harder policies. The government will crack down on gun crime, banning military-style assault rifles and taking steps to introduce a buy-back program. These are guns designed for only one task: to kill the most people in the least amount of time. They are not for hunting and are not for sport shooting.
I would support and encourage the City of Surrey if it chose to proceed with banning handguns or at least creating a bylaw to have handguns stored at gun ranges only. It is time that we prioritize the safety of our youth and make sure our citizens feel safe.
Canadians are counting on us to be bold and ambitious, and to put the needs of the country before our own. With a willingness to collaborate we can do just that. We can deliver results and continue making life better for the people we serve.
In 2015 we promised Canadians real change, and the throne speech will continue to build on the real progress we have made. We created one million new jobs, lifted 900,000 people out of poverty, including 300,000 children, reducing poverty by almost 20%. This is one of Canada's biggest social income changes in a four-year period ever.
It is a privilege to be a part of the democratic process and I take my responsibility with great importance. Representing British Columbia may differ from representing other parts of Canada, but our priorities are the same: to move the country forward together.
The throne speech outlined a number of themes our government will focus on. We all want equal opportunities and have common goals, whether on keeping our communities safe, on affordability or on climate change. My responsibility to my constituents in Surrey Centre is to deliver real impactful results.
The throne speech has put emphasis on keeping Canadians safe, which is a high priority for the residents of Surrey Centre.
I have some of the most hard-working residents in the country. When I knocked on doors, I kept hearing concerns about affordability, whether on housing, schooling or being able to afford day-to-day activities. It was time a government put hard-working Canadians at its forefront.
In 2015, as soon as we were elected, we raised taxes on the wealthy and lowered taxes for the middle class. We created a tax-free Canada child benefit to help families with the cost of raising their children.
In Surrey Centre, the Canada child benefit has helped over 28,000 families since 2016, with the amount of payments to our riding totalling over $208 million. Since the introduction of this historic benefit, nine out of 10 families have been receiving more money every month for groceries, school supplies, sports and other extracurricular activities.
The Canada child benefit was then increased for a second time to keep up with the cost of living. Canada's poverty rate is at its lowest level in Canadian history, and thanks to the CCB, nearly 300,000 children have been lifted out of poverty. We know when Canadians have more money in their pockets, we build stronger communities, create more jobs and continue to grow a stronger economy.
I am glad that Canadians re-elected a government that would put their needs first. That is why we are repeating this in 2019.
Our government has taken steps to once again amend the Income Tax Act to lower taxes for the middle class and people working to join it. This could save a single person almost $300 a year and provide a couple or a family close to $600 a year in savings. Nearly 1.1 million more Canadians would no longer pay federal income tax at all. This would help nearly 20 million Canadians save hundreds of dollars a year in taxes once it is fully rolled out in 2023.
We are moving forward with more help for the middle class and people working hard to join it, because that is exactly what Canadians elected us to do. In the past four years, over one million new jobs were created and unemployment dropped to its lowest rate since records have been kept.
We know how important it is to ensure that we create a better nation for our youth, and that is why we are prioritizing climate change. The fight against climate change and further environmental protection starts now. The government will preserve Canada's natural legacy, protecting 25% of our land and 25% of our oceans by 2025. We are helping to make energy-efficient homes more affordable and are introducing measures to build clean, efficient and affordable communities. We want to make it easier for people to choose zero-emission vehicles, work to make clean and affordable power available in every Canadian community, work with businesses to make Canada the best place to start and grow a clean-technology company and provide help for people displaced by climate-related disasters. Simple tasks such as reducing plastic pollution and using nature-based solutions, including planting two billion trees, can help clean the air and make our communities greener.
We know that the environment and the economy can go hand in hand. While the government creates strong action to fight climate change, it will prioritize Canadian resources to new markets and offer unwavering support to the hard-working women and men in Canada's natural resource sector.
The throne speech touched on very important, time-sensitive issues: keeping our streets safe, making life more affordable for Canadians and preserving the future of our planet for the next generation. I am truly honoured to be standing here today with a progressive government that prioritizes these issues and many more that help Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
View Richard Cannings Profile
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague and seatmate for his speech on the Speech from the Throne.
Like the member for Guelph, I am glad to hear this discussion of agriculture. My riding has a lot of agriculture. I live in a very dry, hot part of the country, at least in summer, and we are very concerned about climate change. When I look at the Speech from the Throne in terms of climate action, there are some nice words but there is no mention of real accountability.
For years, we have been hearing promises from various governments and no accountability. I am wondering if the member could comment on that and why we need a separate accountability office to keep the government honest when it comes to climate action.
View Yves Perron Profile
View Yves Perron Profile
2019-12-12 10:42 [p.373]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very relevant question.
We quite agree with the idea that we need to take swift and meaningful action to fight climate change. Climate change is having an impact on our farmers year after year, and things are only getting worse. Think of the flooding in 2017 and 2019. The media talked a lot about residents living along the river who had to abandon or renovate their homes, but we also need to consider the farm land that was flooded, making it impossible for farmers to plant crops there. When nothing is planted, nothing can be harvested. That is simple logic. We therefore need to take swift and meaningful action.
The Bloc Québécois thinks that, at minimum, the greenhouse gas reduction targets should be set based on the Paris agreement targets. We also think that those targets should be made legally enforceable so that the government is required to meet them.
In the past, we have seen governments make commitments, announce good news and give nice speeches on television. However, after a few months, they all announced that the targets would not be met. We have even seen some governments withdraw from a signed agreement. We think that embarrasses Canada on the world stage and should not be happening. It is high time we took action.
I am very pleased to hear that my NDP colleagues agree with us that we need to take swift action on climate change.
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Emmanuella Lambropoulos Profile
2019-12-12 10:58 [p.375]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to speak to the Speech from the Throne. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough Centre.
I spent the past five months in the beautiful riding of Saint-Laurent, the riding I have the honour of representing in the House of Commons and that I have considered home since the day I was born.
Over these five months, I had the opportunity to talk to my constituents about the federal issues that concern them the most.
Overwhelmingly, the message that my constituents wanted to relay to me about what they most wanted was for us to do more for our planet. It was that we need to act fast to counter the devastating effects of climate change. This is one of the main messages that I heard at the doors at least a few times every single day during the electoral period. That is why I was thrilled that the Speech from the Throne emphasized and prioritized fighting climate change.
The previous Liberal government, which I was proud to be a part of, did more than any prior government for the environment. The current government has committed to making the fight against climate change a priority. We have set the target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, which may seem like an ambitious goal, but it is one that is absolutely necessary.
We absolutely must try to achieve the net zero emission target by 2050 to protect the environment in order to give our children and grandchildren the chance to grow up in a world where there is still fresh air and clean drinking water.
It is time to listen to scientists who are telling us that we cannot exceed the 1.5°C temperature increase and Canada must contribute to that effort. That is why our government will continue to put a price on pollution across the country and work with its provincial partners on further reducing emissions.
We know that our target is ambitious. We have to make the transition to renewable energy sources not only because we currently do not have the capacity to rely on renewable energy sources alone, but also because we have to provide support to the people who work in Canada's natural resources sector.
As is highlighted in the Speech from the Throne, our government is committing to protecting 25% of Canada's lands and 25% of Canada's oceans by 2025. To go further, one of the commitments that we made public during our election is the plan to plant two billion trees over the next 10 years to purify our air and water, as we know this is the best way to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.
Those who know me well, know why I entered politics. They know I have always felt a deep passion to make the world a fairer place for everyone, that the inequalities that exist in this world make my blood boil. They know how I feel about the unfairness that exists based on socio-economic and racial or ethnic background. Back home in my constituency, one of my main priorities is to do my best to help those in need by helping organizations that help those who need it most, or by giving a voice to those who are marginalized and providing space for them to come and communicate and express themselves to make life a bit fairer for them.
In Saint-Laurent, community organizations such as the Bon Courage centre, COCLA, l'Unité, the Centre ABC, CARI, the Maison des familles de Saint-Laurent, and the Au cœur de l'enfance pediatric services centre, as well as many others, are indispensable and make all the difference for families in the region.
Another reason I support the Speech from the Throne is for its focus on strengthening the middle class. Our government has a goal of making life more affordable for Canadians. The personal income tax exemption is being raised to $15,000 so that Canadians can do more with their money, whether that is putting more money into their savings accounts or being able to afford better-quality food on their table for their families.
When I was growing up, my parents did not have a lot of money. My father was my family's only breadwinner, and sometimes it was tough, but he and my mom made up for it by giving us an amazing family experience and ensuring that we took part in extracurricular activities. They wanted to give us a good life and tried hard to do so. However, I began working at the age of 15 in order to pay for my personal expenses, because I did not want to be a burden on my parents. They made sure that there was a roof over my head and healthy food on the table every single day, but I felt that if I wanted more, it was up to me to earn some money. My mom told me to save half of every paycheque so that I could pay for my university tuition one day. If I wanted a cellphone, I had to pay my own bill.
Let me say that kids who know that their parents are going through financial struggles feel it. It is a heavy weight to carry. I know this because I taught in public schools on the Island of Montreal, and kids whose families did not have an easy time knew not to ask their parents for things that they could not afford.
Our government is going to make a real difference in situations such as these by cutting cellphone and wireless bills by 25%, which will help middle-class families in particular.
We also plan to help students so that they all have the opportunity to have a quality post-secondary education, no matter their family's socio-economic status. Students will not have to pay back their student loan until they find full-time employment.
The government will also implement measures to reduce the number of homeless people by investing in affordable housing. During our last term, we reduced poverty by improving the situation of 900,000 Canadians through the Canada child benefit. We will continue to make these crucial investments for the people that need them most.
Last week, we commemorated the 14 lives that were taken at École Polytechnique in Montreal 30 years ago just because they were women. I want to point out that, as a feminist, I am proud of the fact that our government took seriously the challenges faced by women in our last term of office. I am also proud that the throne speech referred to the gender-based violence strategy. We will do more to fight violence against women and the LGBTQ2 community.
Speaking of the École Polytechnique shooting, gun violence has been on the rise in Canada, and our government has a plan to tackle this issue. We will ban military-style assault rifles like the one used at École Polytechnique, and we will introduce a buyback program. While we know that this is only the beginning and a that lot more needs to be done in order to completely eliminate gun violence, this is an important step in the right direction.
At a time when certain powers around the world are turning their focus inward, taking steps back on the international stage and taking less of a leadership role to help countries around the world, Canada will continue its efforts to make this world a fairer, safer and more sustainable place.
We will continue to support international development and we will invest to make education more accessible in third world countries. We will continue to work hard to make the world a more equal place so as to empower women who do not have the same liberties and freedoms as we do here in Canada.
My thanks once again for giving me the chance to express my thoughts in support of the Speech from the Throne.
View Salma Zahid Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Salma Zahid Profile
2019-12-12 11:11 [p.377]
Madam Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.
It is a pleasure to rise for the first time in this 43rd Parliament. Before I turn to the Speech from the Throne, I would like to take a moment to thank the people of Scarborough Centre for returning me to this place. They have put their trust in me to continue to be their strong voice in Ottawa. I am so grateful for their confidence and support. None of us would be here without our dedicated supporters and volunteers. I have an amazing team and I would like to thank team Salma for its countless hours of hard work over these past months and years. I also want to thank my family, my husband Salman, and my boys Umaid and Usman, for their love and support.
I am proud to have received a strong mandate from the people of Scarborough Centre to fight for their values, hopes and dreams in this place. They have shared with me their struggles, their hopes for the future and the challenges their families are facing. It is their priorities I bring to this Parliament.
I also recognize that in a minority parliament it is ever more important that we all work together. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. I am ready to work with those who share the values, hopes and dreams of the people of Scarborough Centre. We are a riding of Canadians by birth and Canadians by choice. Many of us come from somewhere else and have chosen to make Scarborough our home. We are a community of senior citizens and young families. We are a community of Canadians working hard to join the middle class. They are concerned about being able to stretch each paycheque to the end of the month. They worry about the ever rising cost of housing. They lay awake worrying if they can provide a better future for their children. They work hard and are looking for a little help to get ahead.
That is what I was looking for as I listened to the Speech from the Throne. I was pleased to hear some of the priorities of my constituents addressed in the speech. That a tax cut that will deliver a real benefit to those families working hard to join the middle class will be the first order of business for this government was welcome news for the families of Scarborough Centre. Rather than handouts to millionaires, we know that putting more money into the pockets of families working hard to join the middle class is money that will be invested back into the economy. It means new clothes for going back to school. It means healthier groceries going into kids' lunch bags. It is an investment that will support not only families but also local jobs and economies.
The throne speech mentioned the historic reductions in poverty achieved by the government in its last mandate. Nearly 900,000 Canadians were lifted out of poverty, many of them children, thanks to programs like the Canada child benefit. That is a program we are committed to strengthening even more.
One of the many families in Scarborough benefiting from the Canada child benefit is the Tareen family. Thanks to the CCB, Lenna and Najib are able to provide healthy food for their children, Abdullah, Ahmed Yasin and Habibullah. They can take them on educational outings and allow them to participate in more activities in school. We are proud of that record, but I know this government will be the first to admit there is still more work to be done.
Probably the biggest expense that families in Scarborough face is housing. There is a serious lack of supply. What housing is available is often old, overpriced and inadequate to meet the needs of the average Scarborough family. Therefore, I am pleased to hear that the government reaffirmed its commitment to the national housing strategy and to making continued investments in affordable housing.
Programs like the first-time home buyer incentive are already making a difference. The money already being invested in Toronto community housing is funding long-overdue renovations in community housing facilities in Scarborough and across Toronto. Moving forward with the Canada housing benefit in the coming year will help many families who are struggling with the rising rents they have to pay.
In this Parliament, I will be a voice for continued investment in affordable housing. As well, we must ramp up our investment as fast as our provincial and municipal partners can build the capacity to make new projects shovel-ready.
Another key priority for my constituents is community safety. Too often the sound of gunshots echo through our neighbourhoods. Too many of my constituents have lost loved ones or know a family who has lost loved ones to senseless violence.
I recently attended a community safety meeting in an apartment complex where a family had lost a son in a shooting. Nothing can compare to the grief of a mother who has lost her child. The community came together to grieve and to discuss meaningful action to end these acts of violence. In Scarborough, in Canada, no one should feel unsafe walking the streets of their community. The time has come for serious action to combat gun violence and the gang activity that fuels it.
While I supported the common sense gun crime legislation passed in the last Parliament, it is long past time to go further. This is why I fully support the commitment in this throne speech to ban military-style assault rifles and introduce a buyback program. Too many of these weapons have been involved in mass shootings in Canada and around the world. Outside the military, they serve no legitimate purpose. These weapons are not designed to hunt deer. They are designed to kill people, as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
I understand the need for a rifle on a farm for protection, and I respect the hunting culture practised in many communities, but military-style assault rifles do not belong in our communities. The safety of our children must come first. It is time to get these guns off the streets.
I also welcome the commitment to work with municipalities and communities that want to ban handguns. This is something that I have heard loud and clear from my constituents, and something that the mayor of Toronto and Toronto council have asked for. While these measures alone will not eliminate gun crime, the evidence from jurisdictions around the world shows that it will make a big difference. We owe it to our children to do everything we can.
We must also continue to invest in measures to stop the flow of illegal guns at our borders. As important as getting guns off the streets is, the most important thing we can do to ensure safer communities is to show our youth that better is possible for them. We need to show them that they have opportunities to grow and prosper and succeed.
During its last mandate, our government made significant investments in programs to tackle youth gang violence. I hear from my constituents, especially the mothers, how important this is. As the mother of two sons myself, in this Parliament I will be a voice for further investments in our next generations.
Those are some of the highlights for my constituents, but other priorities of Scarborough Centre are also reflected in this Speech from the Throne. My constituents know that climate change is a real and serious threat, and they want us to do more to achieve our emissions reduction targets, ban plastics and get to net-zero emissions by 2050.
My constituents know we have a moral obligation to Canada's indigenous people to walk the road of reconciliation together. That means eliminating all remaining boil water advisories, enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in legislation and so much more. They believe that every Canadian should be able to get a family doctor much more easily, and that universal pharmacare is the next natural evolution of the public health care system of which all Canadians are justifiably proud. As well, they want Canada to continue to be a voice for human rights and the freedom of all people, both at home and around the world.
Historically, minority parliaments have been some of the most productive in Canadian history, but that is only possible if we park our egos at the door and work to find common ground. I look forward—
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2019-12-12 12:26 [p.386]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne.
It is a great honour and privilege for me to stand here and acknowledge that we are standing on unceded Algonquin territory.
I would also like to acknowledge the leader of the Progressive Conservatives. I would like to thank him for his service and wish him well in the next chapter of his life.
It is not easy to be a politician in this day and age when there is a hard split of opinions on the left and on the right. It would seem to the public that people here with differing opinions are constantly at each other's throats. However, today we are seeing what we can do when we come together to acknowledge the humanity in each other and see that we are not just spokespersons spouting out political ideology but in fact living, breathing human beings.
It is this spirit of reconciliation that I believe the throne speech embodies, and since the word “reconciliation” is used many times in it, as a new member of Parliament, I have to say that this is the spirit that I embrace and that I intend to continue to put forward in the days, months and hopefully years to come.
I am a proud Nova Scotian. My riding of Cumberland—Colchester is a beautiful region in northern Nova Scotia. It is bound by the sea on both sides, by the Bay of Fundy and the Northumberland Strait. One of the issues we have is climate change, which is very real for us. Many of us are on flood plains, including my home of Truro, Nova Scotia. We have already had one big flood, which occurred 10 or 11 years ago when I had just become a member of the legislative assembly of Nova Scotia. One of the first tests of my leadership was a huge flood. At the time, it showed me what could be to come if we are not careful.
The Chignecto Isthmus is a piece of land at the top of my riding, and it joins Nova Scotia to the mainland of Canada. Right now, the seas have risen so far that the only thing that is keeping the sea from crossing over that isthmus and turning us into an island is a railway. There are 400-year-old Acadian dikes there, an incredible engineering feat that has managed to keep out the seas for this long in Nova Scotia, but the dikes are aging, and we are going to have to raise them. We will also have to take other measures to protect Nova Scotia from the rising seas. This is why I am very pleased to see so many mentions of the environment in the throne speech, as well as the idea that climate change is a crisis and that we need to act now.
Therefore, when I hear opposition members say that climate change is not necessarily a priority, it gives me great concern, because in my riding it is a huge concern. The first nations people, the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, have been very active in combatting all kinds of environmental degradation in our province. I am very proud to have stood with them on the front lines, fighting for government recognition and fighting to get these issues noticed, especially when big corporations are polluting the lands right beside the first nations communities.
In fact, one of the bills I introduced in the legislature in Nova Scotia was called “An Act to Address Environmental Racism”. It acknowledged the disproportionate amount of toxic waste sites, landfills, dumps and huge corporate pollution on the lands of first nations and black communities. I would like environmental racism to be talked about more often, especially in the House, as we move forward.
It is with great honour that I was elected to the House. It is my first time in Ottawa. I would like to acknowledge the people back home in Cumberland—Colchester who helped me get here. I will not let them down. I will fight for everything I believe in: human rights and justice for women and girls and dealing with human trafficking and domestic violence.
On domestic violence and gun control, I noted that at least 118 women and girls have been murdered across our country so far this year, according to the annual report from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability. More often than not, that is a result of domestic violence, and shooting was the most common method of killing. This report comes on the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre at the university in Montreal. That shooting, which left 14 innocent young women dead, thrust the term “misogyny” into the public discourse in Canada. It still continues today, and it is a problem. Missing and murdered indigenous women are still a huge issue that we need to address on all sides of this House and in all provinces across this nation.
I would like to reiterate, in the spirit of reconciliation, that no matter which province we come from in Canada, we are still all Canadians and we still bleed red blood. We want our children and grandchildren to be looked after, have food on the table, have good education and schools, go to school in peace and not be afraid of violence. We want them to have affordable housing, which is also an issue in my area. We need to deal with poverty, including in the middle class, to help people struggling to become part of the middle class. We need to not forget them. As somebody who cares deeply about social, environmental and economic justice, as well as justice for arts and culture and for realizing how important they are to the fabric of our society, I intend to stand in the House as much as I can to remind us all of the importance of these values and doing everything we can to help every single person in Canada, not just a few.
In Cumberland—Colchester, there are a lot of farms and small businesses, and a lot of women have taken on small businesses. I have to say that it gives me great pride to walk down the streets of Truro, pop into a store and see a female entrepreneur who has been there for 35 years, as in the case of one of my friends. She has a dress store called “Moments”. She dressed me today and other days, and she was very excited about that. There are also many little restaurants.
I am thrilled and excited to help put Cumberland—Colchester on the map and bring more tourists to my beautiful region. There is great wine in Jost, which has many types of incredible wines, including a new red wine called “Great Big Friggin' Red”. For anybody who likes barbecues, spaghetti or steak, it goes with them.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
Madam Speaker, I was captivated by a lot of things the member said in her speech. I want to make it clear, though, that not all opposition members feel the same way about caring about the environment. New Democrats care desperately about the environment and have a sense of urgency around this issue. I also appreciate that the member brought up environmental racism. This is an issue we all need to address more fully in our country.
If we are going to see action, I believe we need accountability measures. One thing missing from the throne speech was a way to measure success when we address the climate crisis we are in right now. It would have been reassuring to all Canadians.
Could the member share with the House what steps she could take to help the government take that next step?
View Lenore Zann Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Lenore Zann Profile
2019-12-12 12:40 [p.388]
Madam Speaker, I meant the official opposition. I acknowledge that members of the Green Party and the NDP have been very vocal and passionate about the environment as well. I thank them for that.
This government has set milestones. Every five years it has a milestone to get to zero emissions by 2050. That is a clear sign that we have certain limits to reach as we go along.
I also think the price on pollution is important. I have heard people say we need to get rid of the carbon tax. We do not have it yet in Nova Scotia, but when I was with the NDP government in Nova Scotia, we set very strong targets and goals, which we reached. We were able to do a transaction with the Government of Canada and—
View Sherry Romanado Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, the people of the south shore of Montreal are probably watching today and getting a kick out of the fact that my neighbour is sitting in the Speaker's seat. I am so proud to be your neighbour.
First, I would like to thank the people of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, who on October 21 sent me back here with a larger level of support. I also want to thank my beloved family, who have put up with this crazy job for the last four and a half years. Of course, I would also like to thank my friends in Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne and Brossard—St-Lambert who have stood by me.
Over the last four years, we have heard a lot from folks about doing things differently. Yesterday my friend and colleague from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston gave a beautiful speech on our friend Deepak, whom we lost this year. He reminded me of something. He reminded me that we are supposed to be here talking from the heart and representing the people who sent us here, so this is the first time in the House that I will be speaking without a speech. I am going to try to emulate my colleague across the way, so please bear with me if I muff this up.
I am happy to speak on the Speech from the Throne. In it, we said we are going to do things differently. Canadians asked us very clearly on October 21 to work together in a collaborative way. I hope that my colleagues across the way will agree with me that this has always been the way I have worked.
A lot has changed for me in the past year. As many members know, my mother passed away right before Christmas last year, unexpectedly. This happened at the same time that our older son was deployed overseas for his first deployment. Since then, I have been taking care of my dad and my family while being a parliamentarian. What I have learned over the past year is we have had a lot of ups and downs. As I said, my mom passed, but we have also had some great news in the family. Our older son came back from his first deployment and got married, and our military family grew. We also went into an election and I am happy to say I am back.
I want to do things differently. I want to continue to work across the aisle with my colleagues. I have had great conversations, especially with the member for Durham, regarding how we can support the brave men and women in uniform and the families who serve them.
I had the pleasure of working with the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, and I am sorry I am pointing him out. We worked on a committee for electoral reform, a special committee that was set up in June 2016. The great thing about that committee was that the Liberals did not have a majority. I had the great pleasure of experiencing what it is like to work in a minority government. I want to thank my colleagues who were on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform with me, because we got to become friends and got to work together. It was a very good example of how we can work together.
In the Speech from the Throne we talk about the importance of affordable housing.
In my riding, Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, nearly 3,000 people are on the wait list for affordable housing. I have been working with my provincial and municipal counterparts to address this issue.
My father is on that list, as are many people in my riding.
Nearly 4,000 seniors in my riding receive the guaranteed income supplement.
I know that increasing the personal exemption to $15,000 will help a lot of our seniors as well.
Now let us talk about public transit. As people know, Taschereau Boulevard is hell during rush hour. We need a streetcar on Taschereau Boulevard. The mayor of Longueuil has clearly stated that she needs our support. That is why I am very proud to lend my support to that project, and I hope we can all work together to see it come to fruition.
We have talked a lot about the environment, and our government has made incredible strides in the last four years with respect to the environment and climate change. There is still so much to do. Quebec has had the largest pickup in electric vehicles purchases since our incentive came into place on May 1. The provincial incentive and federal incentive combined, there is up to $13,000 in rebates on the purchase of electric vehicles. I know people in my riding are very excited about that.
With all of the actions we have taken on climate change, there is one thing I have learned from listening to my friends across the way, especially those from Alberta. Over the past week and a half I have listened to the debate on the challenges they are facing and I want them to know that I am listening and that I hear them and want to hear more. I think we can absolutely find a balance between protecting the environment and helping those who work in the resource sector.
Most people in this place know the reason I decided to run in 2015: I have two children serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. In 2015 I was quite worried, not about their being in the Canadian Armed Forces but what would happen if, God forbid, they became ill or were injured in the line of duty. I was quite concerned about how we treat our veterans. As most people know, parents can either complain about something or do something about it. As a parent I decided to do something about it, and I ran for office and won.
What I have heard over the past four years, in my capacity as a member of Parliament and as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, are the challenges of transitioning faced by many veterans and their families.
In our Speech from the Throne we also talked about how important it is that every Canadian has a family doctor.
I know that health care delivery is a provincial jurisdiction, and I fully support that. However, there is room for a federal contribution.
Often when members of the Canadian Armed Forces leave, they are left on their own to find a family doctor. If they are ill and injured, the difficulty is that to get the services and care they need, they must have a diagnosis. They therefore need a family doctor.
I am excited to be working with our new health minister because I know she feels as strongly as I do about working in collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners to make sure that veterans and their families have access to a medical doctor.
We also addressed the homelessness of veterans. I had the great pleasure of meeting two phenomenal people from Nova Scotia, Jim and Debbie Lowther, who run VETS Canada. They work tirelessly on the ground to help veterans in need. We need to continue to support organizations like VETS Canada and others to make sure that we end veteran homelessness.
As folks who were with me in the last Parliament can attest, I have said many times in the House that we really need to work together. Our common cause is the people we represent, and I am always willing to work with anyone who wants to sit down and have a constructive conversation about how we can move things forward.
I am so pleased to be part of the 43rd Parliament. I think that, together, we can do what Canadians have asked us to do.
They asked us very clearly on October 21 to work together, and it is with that in mind that I offer my help on any file we can move forward together.
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