Mr. Speaker, today is the first time outside of question period that I rise to speak in this session. I would like to congratulate you on your elevation to the Speaker's chair as our deputy. The mantle carries a heavy burden to be fair-minded and I am sure you will again guide our House to the best of your ability. For that, we all congratulate you.
I have had the privilege of serving in this great House in a previous Parliament. Given that I represent a constituency in Atlantic Canada as a Conservative, members know that there is a gap in my political employment history. It is a rare honour to be elected to Parliament. It is an honour to serve and be sent here by constituents to represent them. For this, I thank the voters of New Brunswick Southwest for sending me back. The one promise I made during the election was to work hard every day to represent the voice of my constituents. It is a task I intend to take seriously and one I will work on every single day.
|I must also thank my amazing wife, Kelly Williamson. Many of us know all too well that our spouses make the biggest sacrifice for us to be here. Kelly has been with me through good times and bad. She continues to be my closest confidante and my best friend. My thanks to Kelly. “Je t'aime.”
I would also be negligent today if I did not include in my address my mentor, the Hon. Greg Thompson. Greg was elected to Parliament six times. He served with distinction as minister of veterans affairs under the previous Conservative government. Greg passed away on the day before the election was called. It was a difficult moment for many of us at the start of that election campaign.
For those of us who have had the privilege of sitting on either side of the House with him, and for those who might know Greg only through Hansard, I can say this. Everything that was said about Greg is true. Greg did not do anything in half measures. Greg was never afraid to stand up, never afraid to speak out for his constituents. He truly represented the very best of us. My commitment is to follow Greg Thompson's high standard. Perhaps I will not always hit it, but I know at least I will always be on the right path.
In considering today's news, I wish to also acknowledge our Conservative leader. He is a friend, he is a good man and, importantly, he understands Canada.
In the last Parliament, when the federal government failed to appoint a minister for our region's economic development portfolio, when we nearly lost our seat on the Supreme Court, and when 32 Liberal MPs sat quietly, it was the federal Conservative leader and it was all Conservatives who defended those important priorities for Atlantic Canada. As well, it was Conservatives from outside the region who fought for the energy east pipeline, more so than New Brunswick Liberal MPs did in the last Parliament.
Failing to stand up for home is why the Liberals lost 40% of their seats in New Brunswick and they nearly lost the majority of them. We will win them next time.
I turn now to the matter at hand, the Speech from the Throne.
In several places, the Speech from the Throne talks about a mandate, yet this is very much a hung Parliament. Canadians gave no party a mandate, except a mandate to try to work together. The Liberals won the most seats, but won fewer votes than the Conservatives. The debate will continue, and a wise government will look to work collaboratively with other parties. Let me begin in a spirit of harmony or agreement.
I support the idea of cutting income taxes for Canadians. It is important to make home ownership more affordable for Canadians. It is important that governments' help families get ahead. The idea of providing clean water to indigenous communities is also important. We need to do more to tackle opioid abuse and as well, do more to help people battling mental health issues.
The government also needs to reduce red tape. We also need to work together on the NAFTA file, the free trade file, although on this one the government is getting off on the wrong foot already.
Those are the areas of the throne speech where I think we can find common cause.
Notably, the throne speech was silent on aquaculture and the traditional fisheries. This was a good thing, given the reckless promises made by the Prime Minister during the heat of the recent election.
Unfortunately, there are also a whole host of areas where we are on the wrong path. The ACOA minister continues to be a member from outside of our region. When it comes to scientific research dollars, innovation and R and D funding, the lion's share of that money ends up in areas outside of Atlantic Canada, which has a harmful economic impact on Atlantic Canada and areas outside of central Canada.
On rural Internet, the government is simply moving too slowly and is too focused on the big telecoms for solutions.
The government continues to target law-abiding, responsible firearm owners, not illegal guns and gangs.
Additionally, it has been equally silent on the forestry industry and on its inability to get an agreement with the United States in this regard. This is important for Canada as well as New Brunswick.
On deficits and rising taxes, all too often the Liberals' focus is elsewhere, and they have not made deficit elimination a priority, which they have promised to do time and time again.
I will discuss the two most pressing areas where we are going to have a challenge.
The first is the carbon tax. Workers at Flakeboard in my riding lost their jobs because of policies brought in by the government which raised energy prices. Marwood, another company, is a builder of wood products, with sales at home in Canada and in New England. It, too, is deeply concerned about the impact of ever-rising energy prices.
As well, the economy is sluggish. We have heard that 71,000 jobs were lost in November, and we are falling behind our international competitors. Last year, real gross domestic product expanded by 1.4% and population grew by 1.5%, which means on a per capita basis, things are shrinking. They are getting worse for Canadians and the economy. As a result, wages for working Canadians are not keeping up with the prices on just about everything. I will have more to say on this in the coming weeks and months in my role as the opposition labour critic.
Over these four years, we have seen one constant thing from the government. It has no discipline, and this has led to a decline for the entire country. This is true on the economy, it is true with our international standing, it is true with our institutions and now it is true on national unity. The Liberals are not a serious government. Canadians gave the government a humbling return in this Parliament. Unfortunately, I do not think it is enough to change its direction, so Conservatives will continue to offer a better course for Canada and a way forward.