Madam Speaker, I am pleased to reply to the Speech from the Throne. I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
Today I speak in support of the throne speech, but not without reservations. Speaking frankly, my initial instinct and intention was to vote against the throne speech, given the ethical challenges of the government.
However, I cannot vote against it. This is because I have not heard from one constituent in my riding who says they want an election during a pandemic. I have heard this from not one constituent, regardless of political affiliation.
Despite a growing dissatisfaction with the government's approach to governance and its respect for our institutions, there is a level of support at this time for continuity and non-partisanship in governments as we work together to take all necessary steps to confront the pandemic and its impact on our way of life. Fighting COVID-19 must be non-partisan.
There has been some higher degrees of co-operation and general agreement on programs that have been created to support the fight, and importantly, to support Canadians. We all know that at the appropriate and responsible time there will be an election. For now, let us lead as an effective and impactful minority Parliament.
An election will happen, I presume, sometime after the second wave of COVID, and hopefully only after a vaccine has been widely administered. For now, Canadians want us all, and I mean us all, to remain focused on the job at hand, on public health and immediate economic needs, and to do so without mindless partisanship and unnecessary conflict.
We all need to remain vigilant. Governments can only do so much. Individually, we need to be responsible and we must continue to follow all public health advice. There is little room for error. As are all members, I am guided by the people in my riding. Our constituency office has sought and received feedback on the issues that are most important to people during the pandemic.
The top issue people shared is, not surprisingly, dealing with the immediate impact of COVID. Second are issues around finance and the economy, followed by the environment and housing. One message from my constituents, and in reply to the first part of the Speech from the Throne, is about addressing the immediate needs ahead of us. We must all ensure the programs we have put in place with such haste are in fact working, that the law and policy were right and, where these programs continue, they are sustainable.
This is not a question about austerity. It is a matter of good governance. As well, we need new metrics. If we are not just using debt-to-GDP, we need other fiscal anchors. Some specific issues raised by my constituents include a meaningful discussion and move toward a universal basic income, as well as investing in seniors, child care and pharmacare.
As to the balance of the Speech from the Throne, it was a shopping list of progressive policies and many long repeated and long outstanding promises. In the past, I was part of a government that had many of these same items on its shopping list. Often, as Canadians unfortunately have become used to, actions did not match the words when, ultimately, political expediency got in the way of progress.
Importantly, there are many people in groups talking about what our post-pandemic recovery should or should not look like. There is talk of a green recovery and a just recovery. These are important conversations we all must listen to. For any meaningful recovery to work, especially if it is to be transformative in addressing the broader challenges of our time, we need Parliament and all our institutions of government to be more effective and to work better. This is something the Speech from the Throne does not address.
As we have worked together in the face of the common threat of COVID-19, we have adapted. Parliament has adapted. As we move forward, and if we truly want to build back better, as the throne speech opines, then we need to think about the tools we have to build the nation we want and how our government works. If we can work together and change the way this place operates on the fly because of COVID-19, then surely we can make the deeper changes needed to make this place more effective, more accountable and a place where the voices of members of Parliament matter.
We also know from dealing with the pandemic that there are still deep-seated issues with the provinces concerning division of power, including, as has long been the case, health supports.
In our young country, we have an evolving system of co-operative federalism. There is a role for the government and a role for the provinces and territories. If we truly want to build back better when the immediate threat is over, we must ensure that we have the right foundation to build on, one that includes indigenous nations and governments that are recognized and constituted as indigenous peoples determine. We should, at the very least, be open to a conversation about governance reform, including constitutional reform, the Senate, Quebec, indigenous peoples, the environment and making the federation better.
In addition to parliamentary reform, there is a need for electoral reform. There is also much work to do to address true reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Simply adopting UNDRIP and making some program enhancements, although they are important steps, are not enough. With strong governance, we will be better equipped to tackle the big issues of our day, the issues that will still be with us after COVID-19, such as climate change, the breakdown of the international rules-based order, or wealth and equality.
As we come out of this pandemic, we should start with our institutions and make building them better a priority. This will be tough, but Canadians have always been strong and resilient, and able to show governments the way forward. Collectively, we are only as strong and resilient as the institutions that support us, beyond party and politics. I was raised to always seek balance and where everyone in the community had a role to play. Rooted in these teachings is the importance of our interconnectedness, our responsibility to one another and to our environment.
Our collective way of being, indeed, our humanity, is being tested as we respond to COVID-19. We are in a learning moment. There is a reason some groups are being hit harder than others during the pandemic. It is because they are the vulnerable and the marginalized. The disproportionate impacts upon them are, in part, a reflection of endured injustices, and of a legacy of colonialism and systemic racism, which manifest themselves throughout society and our institutions.
More and more, I have been thinking about what it would be like if we had a society in which we truly recognized and supported one another, our fundamental unity and our diversity. This is not a new idea. If we are able to recognize it and do something about it during a pandemic, then why not permanently? If we can see it, but do not act on it now, then when will we?
Moving forward, we need more than a shopping list of policy ideas. We need a vision and we need to establish clear priorities. We need political will and we need resolute action.
We also need a better way to measure our social well-being and our collective health. Today, we typically use GDP to make assumptions about social well-being and our standards of living. The assumption is that the higher per capita amount, the better the standards are. However, as an economic tool, GDP can only make assumptions about the basic standards of living, which can be different across the socio-economic spectrum of a nation.
COVID has highlighted how standards of living are different across communities. Moreover, our welfare is affected by other factors, such as mental well-being, cultural resilience and very importantly, environmental health, which are all things GDP does not consider.
What we need are better and more inclusive socio-economic factors. We need indicators that would help us to develop budgets that aim to increase the social well-being of Canadians, not just the economic bottom line. We need to plan based on what we truly value. When all human potential is maximized, our society will be truly transformed.
This is the core of my teachings, the teachings of my people, the Kwakwala, who have survived for millennia. This is the road to recovery. This is building back better. Gilakas'la.