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View Garnett Genuis Profile
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Kenora.
Rising now as a member of the 43rd Parliament, I appreciate the opportunity to address the government's agenda and at the same time present my vision and priorities for this Parliament.
I represent Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, located in Alberta on Treaty 6 territory, the traditional meeting grounds and a travelling route to the Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Métis, Dene and Nakota Sioux.
Fort Saskatchewan's history as a community goes back to the 19th century, when it started as a fort for mounted police. It was put on the transcontinental rail line in 1905. Fort Saskatchewan is proud of its past and its present.
Sherwood Park and Strathcona County, where I live, have grown out of Edmonton as a politically and culturally distinct suburban community. The greater municipality of Strathcona County includes the large urban community of Sherwood Park and various small hamlets, acreages and farms. Whether one likes urban or rural, Strathcona County is a great place to live, work and raise a family.
The whole of my riding depends heavily on the energy sector and, in particular, on the downstream refining and upgrading activities that turn extracted products into everyday household items.
Opponents of our energy sector should remember that it is not just airplane fuel and diesel that come from oil, but also toothbrushes, election signs and many things in between.
I recall seeing Coroplast signs in the background when the candidacy of the Minister of Canadian Heritage was announced. He is a well-known opponent of the energy sector, but I still presume, although I cannot say for sure, that he uses a plastic toothbrush from time to time. Therefore, as the MP for Canada's industrial heartland, I would like to thank him and others for keeping at least some energy workers on the job as we fuel the fight against halitosis.
Although I come here from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, I am conscious as I take my seat of the immortal words of Edmund Burke, who told the electors of Bristol:
Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests...parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol...he is a member of parliament.
Therefore, as the deliberative assembly of one nation, we confront what I suspect will be the greatest challenge of the 43rd Parliament: the question of national unity. I see the question of national unity as broad in scope. Yes, it is a question of how we reconcile divisions between different regions of this country, but it is also about reconciliation of, and solidarity across, other divides.
We must be a country where people of all faiths, of all cultures and of all linguistic backgrounds see themselves as belonging to one nation. We are a community of communities, where the particular attachments that unite particular communities are good and right, but must also be transcended in the creation of a greater national community of shared commitments, of intertwining histories and of unifying solidarity.
I recently finished reading the beautiful novel Sybil, written by former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. I have never read a book before that so combines sublime romantic narrative with weighty, provocative political theory and would recommend it to all members. Since I know the member for Spadina—Fort York will ask, the book is also available with pictures.
In the 1840s, while writing this book, Disraeli observed a society divided along lines of class. Class divisions did not primarily arise from differences in economic productivity but rather from moments of conquest, such as the Norman invasion and the quasi-conquest of the English reformation, in which the vast church land previously available for common uses was reallocated to the well-connected and wealthy friends of the new religious regime.
This process of redistribution, effectively from the people to the wealthy and well-connected, invested the newly enriched in the success of the new system and created a new oligarchy that could both oppose the monarch and oppress the people.
This appears to have been Disraeli's view of his country's past, but it is also deeply relevant to our own country's present. Taking from the people and giving to well-connected elites in the name of progress is central to the big-government agenda of our current cabinet.
The disproportionate privileges of the wealthy and well connected and the sufferings of ordinary people are often falsely blamed on free markets, when the real culprit is government expropriation from the middle class and government subsidy to the well connected. The unequal application of the carbon tax and so-called supercluster subsidies are particular examples of this phenomenon in our day.
Disraeli's novel Sybil is the story of a romance between Charles Egremont, whose family was enriched through the disbursement of church property after the English reformation, and Sybil Gerard, a working-class Catholic woman who intends to become a nun.
In the midst of overarching social injustice, there are well-intentioned and ill-intentioned people on both sides of the sharp class divide. Disraeli shows how understanding and solidarity between the classes, as opposed to class warfare, is the harder path, but is the only desirable way forward.
Friedrich Engels' famous book The Condition of the Working Class in England was published in the same year that Sybil was published. Marx and Engels recognized the same class divisions that Disraeli did, but instead of intercommunal harmony, they argued for the inevitability of heightened division and therefore the justness of class warfare. They said that the privilege hierarchy would be inverted through a dictatorship of working people.
Disraeli's ideas were in many ways more radical than those of Marx and Engels. Marx and Engels proposed to change who was at the top of the social hierarchy, but Disraeli sought to challenge the moral condition and the lack of understanding, solidarity and community that led to injustice in the first place.
Similarly, the problem with today's social justice warriors is that they are not radical enough. They seek to invert structures of privilege while still singling people out for bad or good treatment based on characteristics that they cannot control.
The prevailing SJW norms of call-out culture, wokeness and privilege inversion do not emphasize the truly radical and much more elevated messages of unity, universal solidarity and shared progress.
Disraeli's philosophy was called one-nation conservatism. He sought to re-establish the bonds of community and solidarity among different social classes and to engage all classes in the enactment of meaningful reforms to the conditions of working people.
He was part of a long and proud tradition of reform-minded conservative leaders. In particular, many of the great reforms of 19th-century Britain, most notably the abolition of slavery, were a conservative legacy.
Disraeli played a crucial role in the passage of the Second Reform Act, which gave some working people in Britain the franchise for the first time. He showed how intercommunal solidarity, as opposed to intercommunal division, is ultimately the basis for the advancement of justice.
One-nation conservatism is not a term we use often, but it is a concept that I believe we particularly need in this country, in this time, in this 43rd Parliament.
Canada faces divides not just of economic position, but also of region, of ethnicity, of religion, of religiosity, of social values and more. As in Britain, the most powerful moments of national reconciliation in our history have always been achieved under the leadership of Conservative prime ministers.
These were people like Sir John A. Macdonald, who reconciled English and French Canadians and connected our country from coast to coast; like Brian Mulroney, who came the closest of any leader since Macdonald to achieving national constitutional reconciliation; and like Stephen Harper, who recognized the aspirations of Quebec and therefore presided over the political decimation of the Bloc Québécois while building pipelines expanding opportunity in every region of the country.
Conservatives have always believed in Canada as a community of communities, emphasizing both the legitimacy of particular local attachments and the necessity of shared common values.
Canada needs a one-nation vision today, but this throne speech fails to advance that one-nation vision. It fails to even discuss the critical issues facing many regions and communities within Canada. It completely ignores the challenges of our natural resource sector, not only in Alberta but across the country. It fails to discuss the vital issue of economic development for indigenous communities, for whom hope and opportunity are key elements of reconciliation.
It has nothing to say about the badly needed reforms to our immigration system, such as the urgent need for reform to our system of refugee sponsorship so that private organizations can sponsor vulnerable refugees without facing massive wait times, arbitrary caps and unjustifiable red tape.
New Canadians are waiting for an immigration system that is fair to those who follow the rules. With this throne speech, they will have to wait a little longer.
The throne speech notes the ambition of the government to join the UN Security Council, but makes no mention of the ambitions of people around the world to be out from under the thumb of oppression, to live as we live, with freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The throne speech marks the continuation of a foreign policy that puts the Security Council ambitions of the government ahead of our nation's fundamental values.
Unsurprisingly, the throne speech makes no mention of the threats to the fundamental freedoms of many Canadians such as freedom of speech, association, religion and conscience.
Our sense of national solidarity should include goodwill towards the indigenous energy worker in Alberta and the francophone petroleum product manufacturer in Ontario, the Sikh public servant in Montreal and the Catholic palliative care nurse in Delta.
It should include concern for the well-being, the traditions and the rights of all Canadians. It should not seek, in the first instance, to decide whose rights or whose sufferings are more important but rather seek a national reconciliation of interests and concerns.
This is what a country does when it truly sees itself as one nation to which all belong. This is the work of the 43rd Parliament, the deliberative assembly of one nation.
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