Madam Speaker, I want to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation. I will use my time in maiden speech to speak, on behalf of our government, to the Speech from the Throne.
It is an honour to stand in the House today as the member of Parliament for the great riding or Orléans.
I would like to wish a happy new year to all my colleagues, the people of Orléans and Ontario and all Canadians.
Orleans represents the best of Canada and what it means to be a Canadian. It is a community where people stand by one another, where francophones, anglophones, francophiles and allophones work toward a common goal: to make their community, their province and their country the best place to live, to work, to raise a family and to build a better tomorrow.
It has been my home for 20 years, and I am honoured to represent Orléans in the House.
It is truly a great honour to be a member of this House.
Canada has made incredible progress since 2015, and the Speech from the Throne detailed a pact to build on that progress. I look forward to working with all members in a co-operative and collaborative fashion to make it happen.
Before I speak to that, I want to take a moment to thank my family.
I would not be here if not for the unconditional support of my family.
My husband Alvaro and I met when we were both 18 years old, more than 30 years ago. He is still the love of my life. He has supported my ideas, my aspirations and the dreams we have along the way. His support and his love are only matched by his tireless work, and he deserves more recognition and thanks than I can put into words.
We are blessed with a daughter, Monica. I am thankful for her love, her patience and her understanding. My daughter is a fierce competitor. I realized this when I managed her hockey team. She was the best goalie in the league and she gave everything she had in every single game. She has approached almost everything with the same dedication and that has been an inspiration to me.
I want to thank Monica for her understanding and support. I could not be more proud of her than I am today, especially when I see the woman she has become.
I also want to mention my parents, Monique and Royal.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the love and support they have given me from the beginning of this extraordinary adventure.
I thank them for their unwavering support.
I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank my brother, Jean-François, and his family, and my many aunts, uncles and cousins, who have helped me over the past few years.
Election campaigns are a team sport and my loyal, dedicated volunteers are the best team anyone could ask for, if I say so myself. They gave me their time, their hard work and their confidence, and I want to thank them for believing in me.
I know the sacrifices the members of my core team, and they know who they are, made and I am eternally grateful.
I once again want to thank the people of Orléans from the bottom of my heart for the trust they placed in me by allowing me to become their voice here in the House of Commons.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to recognize the people of Orléans who voted for me and those who did not. I am grateful for the trust they have placed in me. I will be a voice for everyone in our community and I will do my very best to earn their trust every day.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity that has been given to me today in the House to talk a little bit about myself and my community, which I have the honour of representing here—and before this at Queen's Park, since June 2014.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell the House a bit about myself and especially my community.
As a businesswoman with a background in social work, I know the importance of investing in the public services upon which Canadians rely. I began my career as a social worker with the Children's Aid Society before moving on to work at CHEO, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, because I was looking for an opportunity to help people. I love my work with young people, but when I moved to the Ottawa Hospital, I started helping seniors transition into long-term care and retirement residences, and I discovered my true passion.
I saw that there was a huge gap in services for seniors. There was no long-term care in the area and I had to send seniors away from their families and communities to receive the services they needed. At that time it became very clear to me that government can be a force for good, actually must be a force for good, and help people when and where they need it most.
Having found my true calling in the retirement sector, I took a big leap and built and ran a retirement residence in Orléans called Portobello Manor, le Manoir Portobello. It was hard work but it was worth it. It operates to this day serving the seniors in Orléans.
Most of my career has been about those among us who are most vulnerable: the young and the aging. I know the impact government can have on their lives. I decided to get involved in politics to help ensure the impact of government is a positive one. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I am here to represent our community, most importantly to listen.
I am here today to humbly say that I am ready to listen and to act in the best interests of the people of Orléans.
Orléans has seen enormous change in recent years. It used to be mostly rural. It is now a vibrant urban area as more families join me in choosing Orléans as their place to call home.
My community has a strong, vibrant and growing francophone community, the largest in Ottawa. The riding has one of the highest populations of francophones in Ontario, with more than 36% speaking French as their first language.
I am extremely proud of my Franco-Ontarian roots. I was born at the Montfort Hospital, and I am deeply humbled to once again represent this community as a federal MP.
In addition to being bilingual, we are lucky to have a rich multicultural community in Orleans. Canadians know the value of diversity. To quote our Prime Minister, “Our country strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them.”
Orléans has so much to offer and it is such a great place to live, in many ways thanks to the record of the past Liberal government. Over the last four years alone, the government has stood up for Franco-Ontarians in supporting francophone communities with the historic investment of $2.7 billion in education, infrastructure, kindergarten and other key sectors.
Just last Wednesday I was thrilled to stand beside my friend the hon. Minister of Official Languages as she announced funding for Ontario's first French-language university that will give thousands of students the chance to pursue their education in the official language of their choice, en français.
Together with its partners, the government has also begun crucial work to improve the Phoenix pay system so public servants receive the proper pay for their important work. The backlog has been reduced to about 200,000 transactions since the beginning of 2018. We have also distributed $1.5 billion in retroactive pay to employees.
Orleans has a lot of public servants. The pay pod model has very successfully reduced the backlog. All 46 organizations served by the pay centre now operate under this model.
Our government has also worked to ensure that parks, pathways, buildings and bridges are maintained here in Ottawa by investing over $55 million in the National Capital Commission, all the while contributing $1.15 billion toward the second stage of the Ottawa light rail transit project, which will soon provide service all the way to Trim Road in our community. This investment stands to better connect the people in our city, taking cars off the road and keeping the air we breathe cleaner.
I am proud of that record, but I also know there is still a lot of work to do.
This is a record of which I am proud, but I know there is much more work to be done. The people in my community expect us to work together and find solutions to our common challenges.
I spoke to thousands of my constituents on their doorsteps during the election. I am sure many of my colleagues did the same. I heard from young, hard-working families who are still finding it difficult to make ends meet. I told them that our government has a plan to make it a little easier to raise their kids by boosting the Canada child benefit by 15%.
I also heard from many business owners that finding skilled workers has been a challenge. I was proud to tell them of our plan to get more young women and men into the skilled trades and apprenticeships.
As the member of Parliament for Orléans, I will fight for my community, its goals and aspirations. For example, the Mouvement d’implication francophone d’Orléans, MIFO, is seeking funding for a new facility. MIFO is more than just a community centre. It is a music school, a day camp, a preschool and an art gallery. It offers children and youth services and is an active living centre for people 50-plus, all the while employing more than 350 people. It has grown by 182% in the last 10 years and has outgrown its current building and facilities. Therefore, securing federal funding to expand this vital institution is among my top priorities.
My previous work has given me a unique understanding of the need for a strengthened pension plan. I have seen the reality of the financial hardships our seniors face. We have an aging population and those people who have built this society for us deserve to retire and live with dignity. Residents in my community told me at the door that they are worried about their retirement. I was happy to tell them that our government plans to introduce legislation to increase old age benefits by 10% and raise CPP survivor benefits by 25%.
Another big aspect of the campaign was climate change and our environment. Our community has one of the largest memberships of Ecology Ottawa.
My being here to acknowledge the impact of climate change is vitally important. Orleans has been through tornadoes and floods, which have affected our community's economy, Ottawa's economy and our country's economy.
I was happy to talk about our plan for the environment and climate change. Whether it is building 5,000 new charging stations or planting two billion new trees in the next 10 years, these are some of the things Orléans residents expect me to bring forward in this House.
In the short time that I have been here, I have been inspired by the commitment, compassion and talent of my colleagues on both sides of this House. We must hold each other to a higher standard, act with dignity and work to improve the lives of all Canadians everywhere.
Let us put evidence before ideology and partnership before partisanship. There is a common ground to be found. We can help create new jobs and a better climate for business. We can protect the environment, and we can help build a better future for all Canadians.
As I reflect on my last five years, and most recently with my election at the federal level, I know that people in my community expect me to be a vocal representative and address their local and international concerns.
I am proud to support this Speech from the Throne, and I believe the vote on it will happen some time today. I am proud to support a government and a Prime Minister with a plan to keep building Canada up.
I want to conclude my speech today by saying that I am very proud to have the good sense to support not only this throne speech, but also a government and a Prime Minister who are proposing a positive plan to keep building a strong and prosperous Canada.
I will focus on improving infrastructure in Orleans through targeted projects. I would also like to explore possible solutions and continue developing a meaningful climate action plan that focuses on the environment. We know that businesses and employers face some challenges. As a former businesswoman, I can relate to the employers in my community.
We owe it to our children, grandchildren and grandparents to work together and keep building a prosperous Canada.
I thank everyone for listening to me for 20 minutes on my first time standing in this House. It has been an honour.
It appears that I still have some time remaining. I will continue, since I do not think a politician has ever turned down an extra two minutes to speak.
I would like to talk about specific challenges. We sometimes forget what we all have in common here.
Each and every one of us has been elected to represent our community, and we are proud to come here and share our thoughts. When I reflect on the Speech from the Throne, I would like to believe that most of us in this House can say there is one thing that we feel confident our communities are looking for. In this Parliament, we collectively, although in a minority, the people of Canada have given us a strong mandate to move forward on issues that matter to them.
There will be debates, of course, but I hope that we will always remain respectful of each other.
I think it is important to focus on what brings us together.
I like to believe that with the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois, the NDP, the Green Party and the independent member, with the great family of our Liberal friends, we can show Canadians that we can advance things that matter to them.