Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker, hon. members of Parliament, and all Canadians.
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. I want to acknowledge my colleague and congratulate her on her election.
I want to start by congratulating all the members of the House on their wins and on their dedication, which is so important to keeping the democratic institutions that make up our political system alive and well.
I am honoured and extremely proud to rise here for the first time to address all Canadians, and in particular Quebeckers in Beauport—Limoilou. Because of them, I have the unbelievable privilege of being a member of this very important parliamentary institution.
If I am here today, it is also thanks to some important people in my life. First, there are my parents, without whom none of this would have been possible. They are the ones who, throughout my childhood, guided me, taught me, and most importantly, loved me. Then, there is my wife Pascale, who has been by my side for 11 years now and supports me in all of my incredible adventures, including politics. Finally, my daughter, Victoria Clarke, reminds me every day of what is important in this life here on earth. I would like to thank all of those who are dear to my heart, including my brother and my sister.
Last, but not least, I would like to thank all of our ancestors who built a country based on the principles of the rule of law and political freedom.
Canada, as a whole, is part of my identity. In fact, my parents are from opposite ends of the country. My mother is a French Canadian from Beauport, Quebec, and my father is an English Canadian from Victoria, British Columbia. Canada's duality, an undeniable part of our common history and our political past and present, is alive and well in me and is always driving me.
I do not want to boast, but I have believed from a very young age that having this personal characteristic meant that I had an inescapable duty to participate in Canada's political community.
That is why, since my teen years, my sole purpose has been to serve my country and my fellow citizens. This burning desire, coupled with an iron will, compelled me to become actively involved in Canadian politics at 18 and to join the Canadian Armed Forces at 24.
In recent years, I have been an active member of the Conservative Party of Canada, I have served as a member of the 6th Field Artillery Regiment in Lévis, I have worked with charities in my community, and, to better understand the significance of these activities, Canada's history, and our political system, I earned a master's in political science.
I applied for and received my discharge from the Canadian Armed Forces on November 11, Remembrance Day. On my father's side, fathers and sons have served in the Canadian Armed Forces since the 1890s. My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father, my brother and I are all veterans.
That is why the privilege of being named the official opposition critic for veterans affairs is so deeply symbolic to me: it is linked to a long-standing, deeply rooted family tradition.
On that point, I want to thank our party leader for the trust she has placed in me. Our leader and all veterans in this country can rest assured that I take this role very seriously. I will remain politically invested every day, and I will work as hard as I have to in order to hold this government to account when it comes to veterans.
I would also like to present to the House my priorities as the member for Beauport—Limoilou. My team and I have three main objectives we want to achieve. We call them the three Ps: pursue, promote, and participate.
The first objective is about pursuing the economic revitalization of our riding. More specifically, it is about focusing on the development of these main arteries: d'Estimauville, Canardières and des Capucins, 1st Avenue, 3rd Avenue and Seigneuriale.
The second objective is to promote the flow of ongoing investments in local infrastructure.
The third objective is to participate in nurturing the personal growth of newcomers and those most in need by reaching out to them, by knocking on doors throughout my term, in order to meet their needs and, more importantly, overcome the feeling of social exclusion.
Last summer, the previous Conservative government announced its support for a very important project for my riding and the entire greater Quebec City region. I am talking about the Beauport 2020 plan to almost double the area of the port of Québec's wharves. This makes sense because “the port of Québec is a strategic transshipment point between the industrial and agricultural heart of North America and the world. The port is open to navigation year-round and is one of the largest ports in Canada in terms of tonnage and economic spinoffs.” Consequently, I would hope that the new government will stay the course on this crucially important project and ensure that it is completed in accordance with the strictest environmental criteria around.
On another note, I think nothing illustrates the ideal of serving one's country better than donning a military uniform and confronting the dangers that face any free society. We have courageous veterans who did just that for our country and our freedom during the 20th century in various places around the world, and more recently in Afghanistan. Today, in Canada, we have more than 700,000 veterans. If we include their family members, we are talking about millions of individuals. They all have served and serve Canada in their own way.
What amazed me the most when I met with veterans in recent years was the unwavering passion with which they spoke about serving their country and ensuring a better future for all of us, including the MPs in this House.
I was stunned that there was only one sentence about veterans in the Speech from the Throne that opened the 42nd Parliament on Friday. However, the Liberal government has used other communications tools to announce measures that will generate significant annual deficits in the coming years, even if the Canadian economy does well in the global economic context.
The government is proposing to post deficit after deficit, have Canada go into debt in a period of economic prosperity, increase taxes and thereby discourage consumption and economic growth. This will inevitably lead to a significant slowdown in job creation.
Furthermore, the government is proposing to create new measures and to improve others for veterans, which is a very good thing. However, that is where we part ways, because the Conservatives want to finance these measures with the money generated by a healthy economy and not by running deficits in future years.
Where is the long-term vitality of these measures? How can they be permanent if the government is incurring national debt to pay for them? How can the government be sure that these new measures will be sustainable in the long term when they are incurring a deficit to pay for them? Will it do so by raising taxes for Canadians and businesses?
My friends, this is a Liberal smokescreen designed to make Canadians believe that all of the new measures that have been proposed will be implemented. They will not be, at least not permanently. Veterans will be the first to doubt the Liberals' proposals, which I will refer to as the Liberal smokescreen from now on.
We, on the other hand, were and still are in favour of measures for veterans that are sustainable in the long term, measures that are not funded by incurring continuing deficits. In that respect, the previous Conservative government focused on the long-term sustainability of essential services for veterans. That is why we made major cuts to the department's bureaucratic red tape in order to make the department more productive. This measure also made it possible to make necessary cuts to spending and especially to bring about welcome improvements in services to veterans.
Our first priority has always been to ensure that programs and measures for veterans are sustainable in the long term, while maintaining a strong economy based on balanced budgets and, of course, continued tax cuts.
The holiday season is approaching. Soon, we will all gather with our families to celebrate, but also to remember the many sacrifices that our veterans made and are still making today. It is thanks to them that I am here today.
In closing, I would like to say that there is no doubt in my mind that everyone here only wants what is best for veterans. In that respect, when it comes to working for the well-being of veterans, the government will always find in me an ally.