Madam Speaker, a few days ago I was on Twitter and uncharacteristically came across a story that warmed my heart. It was the story of a young third grade boy who came to Newfoundland as a refugee from Syria with his family. I learned that this young boy knew that some of his classmates played hockey and he wanted to play too, but there were a few barriers in his way. He did not know how to play, he did not have anyone to teach him and he did not have any equipment. However, he did know the most important lesson of hockey. Wayne Gretzky said it himself, “Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.” It sounds like another sport with which I am familiar.
After some of his classmates told their parents about this young boy who wanted to play hockey, that is exactly what the town did. Residents came together working toward the same goal, to help get him on the ice. The whole community got together to make sure that nothing got in the way of him playing hockey. Before anyone knew it, there was no shortage of hockey gear, people willing to coach him and after this viral tweet, fans from across Canada and the world.
This heartwarming story is a good reminder of two very important things.
The first is that being Canadian is about the kindness that we strive for every day, our commitment to making everyone feel welcome and respected and the things we can accomplish when we come together.
The second is the reminder that issues affecting Canadians do not exist in vacuums. Nor are they unrelated. Being able to participate in sports is not a question of desire or ambition. There are barriers in front of our youth who wish to participate.
For some, it is a question of affordability. For those living in rural areas with little or no public transportation, it can be a question of access. The barrier can also be an absence of spaces that are culturally appropriate for some Canadians.
Sport is not just play. Sport is health and mental health. Sport is peace and community building, it is personally empowering and a connection to our natural environment. Sport is educational, employs thousands of Canadians, drives our economy and helps define us as a nation. Sport has a place in every kid's life and a place in every portfolio in this government.
As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth as well as for Sport, this story emphasizes the intersection of my portfolios. For me, being raised by a single mother in co-op housing, I was very fortunate to have found the sport of kayaking. It quite literally changed my life. However, what if certain barriers had gotten in the way of that? What if the fees at the kayak club were just too high and made it impossible for my mother to pay? I took public transit to and from the canoe club every day. What if the town I grew up in did not have public transit? These barriers to participation are exactly the sorts of things I hope to be able to identify and dismantle in the coming years.
Given the opportunity that I have with this role, I am ready to listen, learn and find solutions so all Canadians can access sport, recreation and physical activity. This includes examining the barriers that women in leadership roles face inside and outside the sport industry, working on expanding Canada's anti-racism strategy and ensuring easier access to sports and community activities for newcomers to Canada.
One of the reasons I find the Speech from the Throne to be such an ambitious action plan for the government's vision for Canada is because it understands this very thing, that no issue exists in a vacuum. The government has put forward goals and targets that are well balanced, interconnected and complementary. No ministry is working alone, but rather, working as a team toward the same goal of a better future for all Canadians. It is incumbent on every member in the House to collaborate and work together to that end.
Next let us talk about the government's plan on climate change.
The implications of climate change are being reminded to us every day. The Australian wildfires have destroyed the natural habitats of almost 100 species. The polar ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. Youth are looking at us and demanding action. We must not ignore them.
Climate change is hurting the economy and when the economy suffers, it is the marginalized who suffer the most. This an urgent matter of public and global safety. Health concerns that we have never anticipated before are popping up worldwide because of bad air quality and toxins in our food.
Our government understands that climate change is a multi-faceted issue and we have set ambitious goals to meet the challenge. We are committing to protecting 25% of our land and 25% of our oceans by 2025. We are also committing to reduce plastic pollution to zero to help keep our oceans and lakes clean. Our government is launching a program to plant two billion trees, a program that will support 3,500 seasonal jobs, help conserve and restore our forests, as well as help cities expand and diversify their urban forests.
We have a responsibility to tackle climate change and we have put a plan together that gets us to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government is setting targets that are not only ambitious, but achievable as well. We need to do a better job for all Canadians, but especially for the youth and the most vulnerable. The impacts of climate change disproportionately affect the most marginalized people in our society, such as indigenous, racialized and economically disadvantaged populations.
A big part of doing better means strengthening our middle class and helping more Canadians join it. Working toward a poverty-free Canada is a priority that this government has taken on, and as a co-op kid myself, it is one I feel very strongly about.
During its last mandate, this government made historic gains in lifting families and children over the poverty line, and the Speech from the Throne only reaffirms this commitment to do more.
The government will continue its vital investments in affordable housing, exactly the sort of housing I grew up in with my family. Without access to safe and affordable housing, my mother would have had to choose between paying rent and buying healthy groceries or enrolling my brother and I in sports and after-school activities. Building affordable housing gives Canadians across the country the opportunity to succeed, and co-ops should be included in that plan. Our goal as a government is not just to help our citizens get by; our goal is to help them thrive.
With initiatives like the Canada child benefit, the government has made life easier for parents and families trying to get ahead. In my own riding of Milton, in a typical month the government gave an average of $550 to 15,000 families from 2016 to 2018. I have heard that Milton is the youngest riding in Canada with the most kids, so it is possible it will receive the most, but in the last four years that is an average of $180 million. It is historic.
This opens countless doors for so many families and their children. To a family just getting by, $500 makes a huge difference. It means that one parent might not have to give up his or her career or perhaps can stay in college because the family can now afford child care. The Canada child benefit makes this possible.
Studies show that growing up in poverty hurts children very early on and the effects of poverty will follow them into adulthood. No child should have to face food insecurity. No child should think that access to adequate and culturally appropriate health care is a privilege. In the Speech from the Throne, the government makes it clear that it is taking the steps to ensure these facts become realities in Canada.
The government is aware of the challenges that many Canadians are currently facing in accessing quality health care. All Canadians, regardless of where they live, should be able to access a primary care family doctor.
When we talk about the intersection of issues, mental health is one that is so deeply intertwined with every aspect of our lives. With Bell Let's Talk Day coming up this Wednesday, we need to celebrate all the work that has been done to decrease the stigma around mental health. However, a lot of work still remains and cannot slow down now.
We need to ensure that workplaces across Canada have mental health standards in place. People who want to access mental health services should not have to wait months on end before they get the help they need. These are exactly the sorts of problems our government will tackle, by working to introduce relevant workplace mental health standards and ensuring Canadians can access services when they need them.
We are living in an uncertain time. Many Canadians across the nation are worried about their future. We acknowledge those valid anxieties Canadians might have and we promise to work tirelessly toward a safer Canada.
This government has already taken historic action against gun crime and organized gang activity. We must not wait until the next tragedy to ban military-style assault rifles, a top priority for this government. It will also work with municipalities to empower those that want to ban handguns. We need to take actions that keep Canadians safe. We must also do what is possible to help the rest of the world become a safer place as well.
I now want to take a few moments to talk about the events of the past few weeks. Our country is still mourning the death of the people we lost on Flight PS752. This devastating national tragedy is heavy on the hearts of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Over the past few weeks, I have seen communities come together to support the families and friends of the victims through this most difficult time. I attended a vigil in Oakville with my colleagues and neighbours to light a candle and remember, and it was a sad but important moment.
Tragedies like this one should never happen again. Our responsibility extends beyond our borders to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. The government's commitments to providing international development aid and assistance, such as investing in education and gender equality, will create pathways to opportunities, better futures for people worldwide and a more peaceful world. Together, with the help of our allies, we will work together to champion human rights and achieve peace in areas affected by war, poverty and disease.
As we look toward the future, we must ask ourselves what our vision is for Canada. I want to go back to the story of the young boy in Newfoundland who I talked about at the beginning of this response. As a rookie MP, I often find myself asking two questions.
The first one is, “Who am I here to represent?” The answer to that question is easy; it is the people of Milton. As long as the people in the riding of Milton elect me to be their representative, I will be a fierce advocate for them in Ottawa.
The second question is, “Why am I here?” This one is a little trickier, but the story of this young boy made me realize that at the heart of it what we are here to do is work toward a Canada where every young boy and girl, and every Canadian for that matter, can succeed no matter where they come from. When I look at the vision of our government and the goals we have been set, I see us working toward this Canada together.
As I have said throughout my campaign and throughout my time here, I believe there are good ideas on the right and there are good ideas on the left, and we are much stronger when we work together as team Canada.