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View Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Profile
Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak for the first time in the House, I would like to begin by thanking my constituents in Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques who placed their trust in me and gave me the privilege of representing them in the recent election. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of my team, who made this whole adventure possible. I also want to thank my family, my mother, my father, my brother and all my loved ones.
The decision to get into politics is never made in just a few seconds, a few minutes or a few hours. It takes days, months or even years to make that call. In my case, it was the result of many days, if not months or even years of reflection. After trying to stay in school as long as I could after high school, I finally decided to enter the workforce to learn more about everyday realities and contribute to society.
After more than 10 years in the workforce, I decided to go back to school. Embarking on that adventure was a sacrifice, but I have no regrets. I learned more about myself and also learned to tackle life's challenges. All this has made me the man I am today.
I also want to mention that I am very happy to see a lot of young representatives carving out their place in politics. As a Bloc Québécois critic, I took on some major files and I am very proud of that. I am the critic for public accounts, the St. Lawrence Seaway and tourism.
Speaking of the St. Lawrence Seaway, some colleagues and I had the privilege of visiting the pride of all Quebeckers, Davie shipyard, two weeks ago. This shipyard did not receive its fair share of contracts under the national shipbuilding strategy. The government gave Davie a small share of the contracts. More specifically, the government allocated $2 billion in contracts to Davie, but it allocated $75 billion in contracts to Irving Shipbuilding and nearly $25 billion in contracts to Seaspan Shipyards in Vancouver. The Bloc Québécois certainly plans on promoting the Davie shipyard to ensure that it gets its fair share.
Tourism is vital to the regions of Quebec and to Quebec as a whole. More than 400,000 workers benefit from the tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 10% of Quebec's economy.
Now it is time for a deep dive into some takeaways from the last election campaign. The campaign taught me a lot about myself and gave me a chance to meet some amazing people: moms and dads, seniors and students. They all had something in common: they wanted me to know how proud they are of the place they call home, and they were eager to introduce me to it.
During the last election campaign, we discussed a number of issues. One of the hot-button issues in my riding is the labour shortage. Many businesses in my region and Quebec in general have a very hard time recruiting and attracting workers. Specifically, one-quarter of the population in the Lower St. Lawrence region is 65 or older. Fifteen years from now, one-third of our population will be 65 or older. I met people over 65 who would have liked to keep working but would have been penalized for doing so. The government needs to intervene and make it attractive for people who want to contribute to our society to stay in the labour force.
We also talked about issues related to keeping young people in the region because our population is dwindling and our regions are in decline. Urgent intervention is needed to ensure that these people can live and even age comfortably and with dignity. During the last election campaign, I was surprised to learn that one of the RCMs in my riding, Témiscouata, does not have access to a cell network.
Cell coverage is limited or non-existent in 11 out of 19 municipalities, even though it is vital to the development of our regions, to bringing in families and to the establishment of businesses that can be competitive in the region. The government needs to act and allocate the necessary funding for the infrastructure required to provide cell coverage, which the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, now deems essential.
I also noticed that high-speed Internet access is problematic. Again in the Témiscouata RCM, nearly 41% of residents do not have access to high-speed Internet. The federal Connect to Innovate program introduced in the previous Parliament aimed to provide five megabits per second by 2021, while the CRTC is calling for a minimum speed of 50 megabits per second. I sincerely hope that the federal government will follow the example of the Government of Quebec and ensure that all homes in Quebec have access to high-speed Internet much sooner.
The guaranteed income supplement is another urgent need in my riding and in the regions of Quebec. Where I am from, in the Lower St. Lawrence, half of all seniors need the guaranteed income supplement and a quarter of them live on a low income nearing the poverty line. The government must take action and intervene by providing tangible measures to fight poverty. These are urgent needs.
In my riding, the economy is very diversified and has businesses in the manufacturing, agricultural, forestry and services sectors, among others. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business ranked Rimouski fourth in its entrepreneurial communities report. The city is growing, attracting flourishing businesses and contributing to the development of our region of Quebec.
Our region also needs port infrastructure improvements. In eastern Quebec, the ports of Gros-Cacouna, Rimouski, Matane and Gaspé did not receive from the federal government the support needed for the full development and growth of our region.
I would also like to talk about the forest, a term that is only mentioned once in the throne speech, yet the forest represents almost 10% of the total area of Canada. In Quebec it is almost 50%. In recent years, British Columbia has received a lot of investments and subsidies from the federal government to combat the pine shoot moth. The Maritimes received almost $70 million to combat spruce budworm. Quebec received nothing.
I sincerely hope that the government will take the necessary steps to protect our forests, air, water and our lakes and rivers.
In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to seeing the concrete measures that the government will introduce to provide the help and support our regions in Quebec need to continue their development.
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