Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me time to comment on the latest Speech from the Throne. I will be sharing my time with my new colleague, the member for Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.
I would be remiss if I did not take the first few moments to thank the citizens of our riding of West Nova for putting their faith in me to represent them in this 43rd legislature. I also want to thank my election team and the volunteers for working so hard all summer and into the fall. They are all rock stars to me.
The election in West Nova was pretty civil, regardless of the intensity of the national campaigns. I would like to recognize my opponents for putting their names forward to represent our riding: Liberal Jason Deveau, Green Party Judy Green, NDP Matthew Dubois and Veterans Coalition Party Gloria Cook. They believed passionately in their positions and ideas, and I hope to echo some of them in my work here as a very proud MP for West Nova.
I need to thank my family, especially my wife Anne and my boys André and Alec, for allowing me to let my name stand for a sixth time. They were my bedrock during the past 16 years as a provincial politician, and I hope to make them proud during this federal adventure.
Nova Scotia rules allow an MLA to actually speak for an hour to respond to their throne speech, so it is a lot of work here to smush this into 10 minutes.
My riding of West Nova is quite rural. It is 300 kilometres long by 50 kilometres wide and it is located in southwestern Nova Scotia, bordering the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy.
My beautiful riding has a rich heritage, since our communities and historic sites date back to the early days of our country. For example, Port-Royal, located near Annapolis Royal, is the first permanent French settlement in the New World and was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1605. West Nova is home to a few large Acadian communities, such as Clare and Argyle, where the language of our ancestors is still spoken, 264 years after the expulsion of 1755.
On a related note, I was very disappointed that the protection of linguistic minorities was barely touched upon in last Thursday's throne speech. I look forward to hearing the government make some real commitments to protect the French language, since the ongoing battle against anglophone assimilation is very real in all francophone minority communities back home and across the country.
I am proud to support the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse and all associations that are doing excellent work, since our language and culture face significant challenges. Every year, our language and our culture are more at risk.
As opposition critic for official languages, I will work hard to ensure that the voices of minority francophone communities in my region and across the country are heard.
Another point of the throne speech that needs more detail and was the number one issue at the doorsteps in West Nova is health care. People in Nova Scotia are having a tough time accessing primary care, specifically a family doctor. Currently in Nova Scotia there are 50,000 people who do not have a family doctor. This is unacceptable and causes tremendous difficulty and uncertainty, especially in our rural areas. Imagine being a senior, a diabetic or having cancer without access to a family doctor. As incredible as it sounds, it happens all the time in our area, forcing these patients to present themselves at emergency rooms, causing useless long wait times, if they show up there at all.
Health care is a basic human right and we should all ensure the dignity of our loved ones. The government has the responsibility to listen attentively to the provincial premiers, and it should, especially with their request for an augmentation in their health transfers.
West Nova's economy is based on natural resources, such as agriculture in the Annapolis Valley, fishing in the southwest, and forestry in all of its regions.
Agriculture in the valley is very diverse and innovative, but its core depends on supply-managed commodities like dairy and poultry. They need to see the concessions of the new NAFTA, the USMCA, so they can have a better feeling of how their industry will be going forward. Then they can have faith in their industry again and continue to invest and grow. From that base, the industry in our valley can continue to grow other commodities, like wine, apples, beef and many horticultural products.
Immigration is very important to our regions. Over the past 20 years, we have seen a mass exodus of talent and expertise that were once well established in our regions. Right now, small business owners are having a lot of trouble finding and keeping people who are interested in taking on and running their thriving businesses. Now more than ever, we need to focus on ideas that will contribute viable solutions and help with transfers so that we can make sure these vital businesses and services stay open and available to local residents.
Another important point to emphasize is that West Nova has the largest air force base in eastern Canada, CFB Greenwood, home of 14 Wing. We must continue to support our troops, making sure they have the adequate equipment needed to do their jobs. We also need to make sure that our veterans have the services they require during their service and after they have served our country with dedication and honour, which I was happy to see included in the throne speech. However, I am sure it is short some of the things we really need.
I need to talk about our fisheries. By far, the largest employer and economic driver in West Nova is our fishing industry. Hundreds of millions of dollars of fish products are landed on our shores. Scallops, groundfish, herring and tuna are landed at many of our ports, but lobster is king. Between the last Monday in November and the end of May, the worst time of year to go fishing, when the big boats are all tied up at the wharf, the little boats go out there for a billion dollars' worth of lobster, or somewhere close to it, to be caught and sold around the world.
It may seem like the fishing industry is going strong and is happy with the government. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fishermen are up in arms over about numerous issues involving this government.
For one thing, they are furious about the tax changes rolled out by the Liberal government, which lopped millions of dollars off our hard-working fishermen's family trusts. Thousands of fishing boats had been registered as small businesses to facilitate tax planning. That option was suddenly eliminated by the Liberal government, which also called our fishermen tax cheats. That was an outrage and an insult to them.
I am proud to be my party's critic for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and I want to make sure the government stops going after the honest workers in our industries.
Fishermen feel that with the economic activity they create and the taxes they pay they should have safe and modern ports to work from, but they are wrong. They have woefully inadequate facilities that cannot accommodate the larger vessels they are using, or they are actually falling into the ocean. The Liberals boasted during the election of the investment they have committed but I can assure the House that it pales in comparison to what is really needed.
I look forward to working with the fisheries minister and the transport minister to assess the real need to make our ports safe and to be able to seize the opportunity that our oceans truly are.
I could talk about a lot of other things but I am running out of time. I could talk about climate change and gun control. I could talk about MPAs. I could talk about Internet and cellphone service and the loss of our local call centre. Unfortunately, however, I do not have an hour to actually do it.
In closing, I am certain that all my colleagues in the House will agree with me that we have much work to do to ensure that Canada remains strong and united. The throne speech was not reassuring in that regard.
Our country is unique in the world; it is a good place to live and a remarkably welcoming country. We have a duty to ensure that all Canadians have access to adequate health care, can look forward to a prosperous future and can obtain services in both official languages.
I have been a committed citizen and politician for many years, and I will spare no effort to ensure that the government fulfills its responsibilities towards taxpayers and respects them.
Madam Speaker, I wish everybody a merry Christmas.