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View Mel Arnold Profile
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in this 43rd Parliament, so I would like to take a short moment to thank the voters of North Okanagan—Shuswap for placing me in their seat in the House to serve as their representative. I am scheduled to have an opportunity to speak later today and will wait until then to expand on how grateful I am for the opportunity to be here.
At this time, I am rising to speak to the Speech from the Throne, so I will use this valuable time to do so. We are expected to use this time to respond to the Speech from the Throne and express our position with respect to the mandate given to us by the voters in our ridings and in relation to the portfolios to which we have been assigned.
I honour that opportunity and intend to capture what I heard on the doorsteps of constituents of North Okanagan—Shuswap, at 15 all-candidates forums and at countless meetings across the riding over the past four years.
I also plan to address issues relating to the ministry of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, for which I am honoured to be shadow minister.
One of the key issues I heard regarding North Okanagan—Shuswap was about affordability, that life had become less affordable under the previous Liberal government. I heard continuously that people were concerned about the debt load that was being passed on to future generations, children and grandchildren, who would be forced to pay for the short-sightedness of a tax-and-spend government.
Unfortunately, little has changed. The suggestion to cut taxes for the middle class, a class that has never been defined, with no plan to equivalently reduce government spending is once again a reckless one. It is even more reckless when there is no real mention in the speech of how the Prime Minister plans to rebuild the confidence in Canada's business sector for Canadian and foreign investors, whose confidence is needed to build our economy, an area that should be foremost if we are truly concerned about keeping life affordable for Canadians.
Business owners in the North Okanagan—Shuswap have told me they are not willing to invest in expansion or capital projects under the current government's direction, sectors like the forest industry. In March of 2016, we were told that within 100 days there would be a framework for a softwood lumber agreement. Three and a half years later, there is still no deal and no mention of forestry in the throne speech. Sectors like agriculture have suffered from strained international relationships and lacklustre trade negotiations. Agriculture is another economic driver that is not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
If the government is truly responsive to the message the electors gave at the polls, it should recognize these sectors. They are an important and large component of life in the regions of the country where the Liberals lost seats. They should recognize that actions are needed, more than words of platitude, to bring a sense of Canadian unity back to those regions, regions that have been a source of relative wealth for all of Canada.
I also want to take part of my time today to address issues related to fisheries, which is my portfolio in the official opposition shadow cabinet. Fishermen and indigenous and non-indigenous groups across the country have grave concerns about Canada's fish stocks, their livelihood and the future of their communities. The fishers, processors and communities that rely on stability of access and markets to make investments in their boats, plants and infrastructure are all looking for certainty. Unfortunately, what we are seeing are more signs of uncertainty, signals of closures of access to the fishing grounds, conflict over who has access and when access may be granted and whether they will be consulted before decisions are made that will affect their work, their business, their communities and their future.
Canada already has some of the strongest protection measures for its waterways and marine areas through fishing and operational regulation and legislation. These factors must be taken into account when negotiating with global forces set upon locking up Canada as the world's park.
The commitment to protect 25% of our oceans by 2025 cannot be done without abandoning meaningful consultation processes with affected communities and current operators.
I often refer to the difference I see between conservation and preservation, with conservation being the wise and conservative use of resources so there is a benefit or revenue attained from that use, allowing for a portion of those benefits to be turned back into the health and growth of that resource, whether it be forestry, land use, fish and wildlife or other natural resources. On the other hand, to me preservation means locking up those resources so there is no benefit or revenue coming back in to use or divide up and put back into maintaining that resource, requiring funding from other resources to be tapped into so it can be used to support that resource that is now locked up.
I will always defend the value of conservation over preservation.
There must also be action on the ground and in the streams if Canada is to rebuild its salmon stocks to the abundance that is possible. We have seen little in the past four years that made a difference in any place other than meeting rooms. Limited resources have actually hit the ground, and now we have seen nothing in the throne speech to even recognize Canada's fisheries and the people who rely on them.
It is a pleasant dream to live in a world where nothing is taken and nothing is used, but it is not sustainable in a world where everyone wants more than we had yesterday.
In speaking today, I respect the viewpoint that criticism should not be given directly without offering an alternative or solution, so I offer that instead of implementing legislation and policies that will only make life more difficult and expensive for Canadians and make them more dependent on government, let us look for ways to promote our Canadian ingenuity and technology in Canada and abroad to tackle things like climate change and ocean pollution in areas of the world where it is the worst. Let us consult with resource users and developers on how we can do things better and continue to grow and prosper. Let us work with our remote and coastal communities, listen to them and their willingness to protect our lands and oceans, while still deriving a living from the resources available to us.
In the spirit of working together and co-operation, I offer these alternatives to the way things have been laid out. While holding the government to account during the coming term, I also offer to work together toward solutions that are best for all Canadians.
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