Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to be here today, representing the constituents of Yorkton—Melville in the 42nd Parliament of Canada. I am humbled and grateful for the confidence that they have placed in me.
I want to thank all of those who gave sacrificially of their time, talents, and treasures to support me through an open nomination in my election campaign.
I also want to thank Elections Canada for the stellar job it did in dealing with the challenges of new boundaries, new polls, new rules, and the magnificent turnout of Canadians at the advance polls on Thanksgiving weekend and on October 19.
I am thankful for my Christian faith that is the plumb line for how I seek to live and serve others, while also leaning very heavily on God's grace, love, and continual patience with me.
My husband, our parents, children, and grandchildren are committed to ensuring that I do not live in an Ottawa bubble.
The previous member of Parliament for Yorkton—Melville, Mr. Gary Breitkreutz, served both his riding and his country selflessly for 22 years. His tireless work to end the long-gun registry that failed to protect Canadians while penalizing law-abiding citizens was a resounding answer to the call of Canadians across the country for real change. His integrity, commitment to God, family, and his country is the example I hope to emulate. As I have said often to those who ask, I cannot fill his shoes, but I will definitely walk the same path.
As I travelled through the 43,272 square kilometres of my riding, hosting meet-and-greets, door knocking, and mainstreeting in 24 unique communities, I fell in love with our wide, creative skies, rolling fields, valleys, lakes, rivers, timberland, the wildlife, fresh air, and the warm, hospitable people.
Along with the rest of Saskatchewan, the riding of Yorkton—Melville is the bedrock of strong economic growth in Canada. We have world-class agriculture and agrifood producers, yet the growers in my riding were not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. Already, it appears that the government does not value our farmers. The government has placed the TPP on the back burner when it is vital to opening up significant markets for our producers to be able to compete on an ever-expanding world stage.
Yorkton—Melville's potash, timber and energy resources, our small and medium businesses, our innovators and manufactures all know that the Liberal carbon taxes and payroll taxes would hurt the productivity of the very people and industries from which true growth and prosperity come.
Greatly increased federal debt is the only promise we are sure of and even that the Liberal government has failed to define or cap.
The government said it would lift Canada out of debt and balance the books in 2019. The only thing its looming federal debt can guarantee is higher taxes for today's families and a higher debt burden left for our young people and their future children.
My riding of Yorkton—Melville is home to one of the highest percentages of seniors in Canada, wonderful people who have invested their lives in their communities and families and played a significant part in making Canada the strong and vibrant country it is recognized to be all over the world. Yet, they, too, are taken for granted by the throne speech. As history repeats itself, the unnecessary Liberal debt will once again mean an increase in costs in providing essential safety nets that only a healthy, stable economy can provide.
The hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland, the leader of the official opposition, entrusted me with the position of deputy critic for Veterans Affairs, and I am pleased to already be working alongside the shadow cabinet Veterans Affairs critic, the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.
How fitting that my first responsibility and privilege was to lay a wreath on Remembrance Day in my hometown of Esterhazy, Saskatchewan. That evening, I also attended the Yorkton Legion banquet to honour our veterans by bringing greetings on behalf of the Government of Canada. At that time, before being given this mandate, I assured them that they had my deepest gratitude, my prayers, my heart, and my ear.
I was pleased to hear that the government will do more to support veterans and their families. However, this single sentence in the throne speech gives no indication as to which of the 15 Liberal campaign promises made to Canada's veterans will be brought before the House or, in fact, made a government priority.
I acknowledge that there is still much to do to improve the new veterans charter.
The minister is likely aware that under the last minority Liberal government, in 2005, the then minister of veterans affairs was in the process of bringing about the new veterans charter to better meet the needs of the next generation of young veterans when it appeared that government would fall. Realizing that all the work done would be lost, that minister and the leadership on both sides of the House met and agreed that it was too important for the future service to our veterans to not bring the new veterans charter into being.
All sides worked together, and as a result the first, second and third readings took place in a matter of seven minutes and were unanimously passed by the House. The Senate then met with the stakeholders and after a 12-hour meeting, the bill passed that same evening. The next day, it received royal assent. This was a historic event of which we can all be very proud. Shortly afterwards, the government fell and the new Conservative government began the task of implementing a challenging new direction for Veterans Affairs.
Many initiatives and significant funds have been allocated to the new veterans charter and the transformation agenda, which is the strategic plan of the department intended to help anticipate the changes related to the decline in the number of traditional veterans and a greater focus on younger veterans of modern day conflicts. One was the implementation of improved mental health services for our veterans by creating a network of 25-plus front-line mental health clinics across Canada, and 31 integrated personnel support centres. The challenge has been to find enough qualified health services individuals to meet the need.
I applaud the current Liberal government's desire to continue to fully implement these recommendations on mental health services for veterans.
As well, under the previous Conservative government, the minister brought Veterans Affairs into relationship and consultation with injured soldiers while they were still under the Department of National Defence, encouraging an overlapping of services to better meet the needs of our wounded soldiers while waiting in limbo to know if they would continue their services or be discharged. I look forward to the current government improving even more upon this co-operative environment, strengthening partnership between National Defence and VAC.
However, as I met with veterans in communities throughout my riding over the past year, I heard the same concerns voiced over and over again. Now it seems that these concerns are about to come to pass, concerns for the needs of our armed forces under the new Liberal government.
My veterans recall the destruction of support for our special forces, ill-equipped combat troops sent to Afghanistan in green rather than desert fatigues as a result of the previous Liberal government's massive cuts to the Department of National Defence.
The veterans of Yorkton—Melville will be watching closely to see if the Liberal promises made will be promises kept. My question on their behalf is this. What will those promises cost Canadians and will the Liberals ensure that they will not be implemented on the backs of our current armed forces?
If there is one thing I am confident in, it is that veterans of Canada care very deeply about our future veterans, the men and women serving our country now. Our Canadian rights and freedoms, our Canadian privileges and responsibilities, all come from a price paid by those willing to face death and life-altering trauma and tragedy.
The veterans serve our country, and they deserve appreciation, respect and to be understood. They and their families deserve to be cared for.