Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take this opportunity to say a few words on the Speech from the Throne, but first I want to recognize your election as our new Speaker. I congratulate you and wish you well in a Parliament where I think there is a real opportunity to do great things for Canadians. There is a real opportunity to come together as members of Parliament.
I firmly believe that every party has some good ideas in its platforms. We have to draw those out and work together, because Canadians sent us a message that they want this Parliament to work. They do not want to see the kind of division that we saw during the election campaign, the personal attacks and the misinformation that seemed to filter out in the election, which was unbelievable. They want to see us work together in the interests of all Canadians. The leaders of all parties and all of us as parliamentarians need to try and achieve that in this 43rd Parliament. I wish you well, Mr. Speaker, in your endeavours trying to manage that.
I also give my thanks to the people in the riding of Malpeque, Prince Edward Island, for their support. This is my ninth term that I have been fortunate enough to be a member of Parliament and it is always an honour. No matter how often one gets up to speak here, this place is somewhat intimidating. Not many people get the right to stand here and state their remarks, challenge others in debate and be challenged themselves by others who may question them. This is what democracy should be all about, the give and take within a Parliament where there are views on all sides, but we come together and as a result make better policy.
I think that the debates in this place were more open quite a number of years ago. They were more forceful and not always written by speech writers and others. That is the kind of place I really believe this place should be, where we get up and spout our ideas, even though we may have to give up on some of them. When I first came here 26 years ago, I thought I had all the ideas and all the answers. I know today that I did not. In fact, I have fewer answers today than I thought I did then. However, we need to have that discussion and that debate, because everybody has some good ideas, and constructive criticism is what should take place in this parliamentary chamber and in committees.
For the new members here, it really is at committees where the work gets done. At committee, we travel together and get to know each other on a more personal level. Away from the partisanship and party lines, that is when the real work gets done, when ideas come out. We build friendships across the aisle, which is two sword lengths wide. We build friendships and move forward together. That is what this place should be all about. I hope in this 43rd Parliament that is what we can do in this chamber and at committee.
I will now turn to the throne speech and read a few sentences from the opening:
This fall, Canadians went to the polls. And they returned a minority Parliament to Ottawa. This is the will of the people, and you have been chosen to act on it.
And so we open this 43rd Parliament with a call for unity in the pursuit of common goals and aspirations.
As I said a moment ago, I know this will be a challenge. I have been through nine elections. I found that in my riding, on the ground, this was the most bitter and divisive election I have ever been in, as I have heard from many others. There was an awful lot of false information out there. When false information is produced enough times and never challenged, it becomes the truth in some people's minds. We faced a lot of that during this election campaign, and it was very bitter.
We have seen divisions across the country as a result of what I think is false information. There is the simple naming of a bill, Bill C-69, as the “no-more-pipelines” bill. It is not a no-more-pipelines bill. There may be some difficulty with it, but from the government's perspective it was a way to deal with environmental issues. It also gave us the opportunity to put pipelines and other natural resource measures in place without the constant challenge of going to court further down the road. That was the intent, but the simple naming of the bill put up a flag in front of many people and it became divisive. In this Parliament we have to try to get away from that kind of wording, stick to the facts and try to make this place operate better.
Let me turn to the first section of the Speech from the Throne, which talks about fighting climate change:
Canada’s children and grandchildren will judge this generation by its action—or inaction—on the defining challenge of the time: climate change.
From forest fires and floods to ocean pollution and coastal erosion, Canadians are living the impact of climate change every day. The science is clear, and it has been for decades.
I know there is a strong difference of opinion on this, but there is the scientific community and the so-called experts. We have to be careful with experts, as they are not always as expert as they think they are, but the science is that a carbon tax makes sense generally. The Prime Minister talked about it extensively today. With the carbon tax in place, which is thought to be one of the best solutions to fight climate change in the world, people on the ground will actually do better and we will protect our environment for future generations. We have to move there. The fight on the bill on carbon tax has been fought, and it is wrong for the Leader of the Opposition to stand in this place with the objective of saying he is basically going to take the government down.
We have been sent here to do a job, to work together. Let us do it. Let us deal with the environment and build on our natural resources in other ways as well.
In our platform we talked about a number of things regarding environment and climate protection and building our economy. I want to name them so that members in the opposition know what we said. I expect they all have our platform anyway, but they need to hold the government to account and make sure that we address the things we said we would as a government. I expect this from my own party.
We want to make Canada a net-zero emitter by 2050, cut taxes in half for businesses that produce clean-tech zero-emissions technology, interest-free loans up to $40,000 for homeowners and landlords who want to make their properties more efficient, increase the amount of ocean and land that is protected to 25% and plant two billion trees while creating 3,500 jobs a year in doing so. Those are some of the measures we proposed.
During the election campaign, I stopped at a constituent's place who had just built what is called a “passive house”. This is one of the things that we can do. This passive house has walls that are probably 18 inches thick, or maybe a little thicker, with heavy insulation and an inner wall and an outer wall. In Prince Edward Island, which does not exactly have kind winters like the ones in Vancouver and Victoria, my constituent and his wife will be able to heat that house for $300 a year because of the way it is built. That shows what is possible when the right things are done.
I was in another passive house that has been in place for about six years, and the owners have been heating the 2,000-square-foot house for $340 a year. The rest of us, who are using oil on the same-sized house, are probably paying about $6,000 a year and producing a lot more greenhouse gases. This shows what is possible if the government is willing to assist with infrastructure and housing, which is what Liberals proposed to do in our platform.
It also states in the throne speech that the government will help to make energy-efficient homes more affordable, introduce measures to build clean, efficient and affordable communities and make it easier for people to choose zero-emission vehicles. That is the way we have to go to make strides on the climate change issue.
Let me turn to another section of the throne speech. The reason I quote the throne speech is that we often fail to go back to these documents after they are read and really look at what the words say. We have our own agendas that we want to push, and we have our own lines that we may want to get on the cameras with and hope our constituents hear. However, let us delve into what the government is really proposing. With regard to strengthening the middle class, the throne speech states, “As its first act, the government will cut taxes for all but the wealthiest Canadians, giving more money to middle class families and those who need it most.”
What was proposed in the Liberals' platform was to raise the basic personal exemption amount to $15,000, which puts more money in everyone's pockets. Raising that basic exemption level helps a tremendous percentage of the population. I think the amount was $12,200 and it will go up to $15,000, so that takes taxes away from $2,800, which is good for all Canadians.
Liberals are proposing to cut cellphone bills by 25%, and that is outlined in the throne speech. We are going to try to save small businesses up to $7,500 by lowering small business taxes from 11% to 9%, which we started on in the last Parliament. We will make it easier for Canadians to purchase their first home, by giving them up to 10% of the purchase price with the first-time home buyer incentive. Those are some of the things we are proposing to do by taking actions to strengthen the middle class.
I could also talk about the trade agreements we have signed. I could talk about some of the things done. When I was on the campaign trail, I was amazed and shocked at how many people really did not know about the Canada child benefit, even though it was coming into their homes. In my riding alone, that amounts to over $2 million a month that goes directly to families tax-free. Those are the kinds of initiatives we were able to do in the last Parliament as a government and we need to continue to build on in the 43rd Parliament.
I will not get into this in great detail, but the throne speech goes on at length about walking the road of reconciliation. There is always controversy among people over the reconciliation file with the indigenous communities. However, and the Prime Minister mentioned this as well, we have made some strides in this regard. The indigenous community is the fastest-growing sector of our population. They are the greatest human resource we have in this country to prosper for themselves and to prosper for Canadians, to build our economy, and to build safe communities and homes. There has been serious trouble in the past caused by governments and others. We need to work with those communities and build them to be safe and prosperous communities with their own culture protected in a way that they can be proud of their history and their country, and want to work together to move Canada forward for all Canadians and others around the world.
The other aspect we talk about in the throne speech relates to pharmacare and some of the health care issues. I want to quote from the throne speech, because I think it outlines the point. It states:
Too often, Canadians who fall sick suffer twice: once from becoming ill, and again from financial hardship caused by the cost of their medications.
The NDP leader mentioned this earlier today.
The throne speech continues:
Given this reality, pharmacare is the key missing piece of universal health care in this country. The Government will take steps to introduce and implement national pharmacare so that Canadians have the drug coverage they need.
It is extremely important for us to get this done. I am sure all of us who campaigned and knocked on doors met people who could not afford the pills they needed to get well, or who had other members of their family who were suffering because they were not able to have the necessary drug care, dental care or other measures to live healthy lives for their remaining time. Therefore, we need to get that done. I know that will be a strenuous debate because, as a government, we have to look at it from the cost side. Governments also have to look at what the federal and provincial responsibilities are and how to bring those two together, and how far they can go with that pharmacare program, whether it will fill in the gaps or go all the way to a full-out system. That will be a very important debate.
I see I am nearly out of time so l will close by saying this. In a former time, I was president of the National Farmers Union. In that capacity, I was given the opportunity to travel to every region of this country and live in farmhouses for quite a number of years, whether in Peace River, B.C., or Ontario. I spent a lot of time in Saskatchewan and Alberta, some time in Quebec and a lot of time in the Maritimes. There was one thing we always said within that movement, which was that when we see the country and understand the different resources and characters of each region, we have to be careful not to allow regionalism to set in, as that would divide us against ourselves. There is always the ability to make this country stronger than the sum of its parts and that is where we need to go.
Given the makeup of this Parliament, that nobody has a majority, if we all work together we can make this country stronger than the sum of its parts. All of us will benefit as a result and, more importantly, so will Canadians.