Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to split my time with the member for Kenora today.
It would have been difficult to predict, over 150 years ago, that the shared vision of Canada's founding fathers who gathered to create a dominion from sea to sea would have led to a 29-year-old woman delivering the first speech of the new year and the new decade in our House of Commons.
As a first-time elected representative, it was a special moment for me to hear Canada's Governor General deliver the Speech from the Throne. Amid all the pomp and circumstance, I could not help but think back to my humble roots and how far I have come. I was born to four generations of Canadian farmers in a small town in eastern Manitoba. My family were prairie pioneers, and their lives were built on sacrifice, on struggle and on principles of personal responsibility and resilience.
At the time, Canada was a young country without the robust social safety net we see today. Faith, family and community were all they could rely on to get them through the tough times of financial hardship. They had no choice but to persevere and do the best they could to provide for the next generation.
My call to public service came when I was about nine years old. It was a hot summer day at my grandparents' farm. The adults in my family were sitting around the kitchen table passionately expressing their views of yet another damaging policy the Liberals in Ottawa had put on farmers. Even at that young age, I could feel the injustice of the harmful government intrusion in our lives. There was a disconnect between my humble hard-working family and the decision-makers here in Ottawa.
I decided in that moment that when I grew up, I would go to Ottawa to fight for my family. It has been a long journey from small-town country roots to being the first in my family to attend university and the first to enter federal politics. As a woman in her 20s, I stand before you today, Mr. Speaker, as part of a demographic that has rarely been represented in this House.
I attribute much of my success to the resilience I inherited from my pioneer ancestors and that burning motivation to fight for everyday Canadians against government agendas that are so often out of touch with the struggles facing everyday people. That is why I am truly honoured to represent my constituents of Kildonan—St. Paul.
My riding has a rich heritage and holds a place of significance in our national history. That history is tied to the mighty Red River, which cuts straight through the middle of Kildonan—St. Paul. The river has been the lifeblood of the community for thousands of years, beginning with Treaty 1 first nations and later the Red River Métis and the Selkirk Settlers, and later the Polish, Ukrainian, German and Mennonite homesteaders of the early 20th century.
More recently our community has welcomed many newcomers from India and the Philippines. Today Kildonan—St. Paul is a diverse constituency made strong by the contributions of young families, new Canadians, seniors, small business owners, tradesmen and women, and dozens of cultural and faith groups.
However, what troubles me is how the throne speech and the priorities of the Liberal government therein are not reflective of the priorities of the Winnipeggers and the Manitobans I represent. What I heard at the doorstep over the better part of the last two years was a desire for a representative who would fight for everyday hard-working Canadians in my community, an MP who would make clear to the Liberal government that higher taxes, mountains of debt and endless deficits do not create economic prosperity but in fact put our country's social programs and the future financial security of Canadians at risk.
Residents also expressed concerns for their environment, and top of mind is the North End Water Pollution Control Centre, which is at the very centre of my riding and processes 70% of Winnipeg sewage. It needs over $1 billion in infrastructure upgrades and is currently incapable of removing phosphorus to an acceptable degree from the treated sewage before it flows back into the Red River. As a result, there are impacts on the health of Lake Winnipeg, which, as all Manitobans know, has been choked with large algae blooms in the most recent years. Lake Winnipeg, the Red River and the Assiniboine River have shaped the history of Manitoba for thousands of years, and all three levels of government must come together to support this critical project.
Also top of mind was the extension of Chief Peguis Trail from Main Street to Route 90, which would substantially increase the livability of northwest Winnipeg by reducing traffic on residential streets to accommodate walking, cycling and public transit, and increase traffic mobility by supporting the completion of the strategic inner ring road of Winnipeg. Unfortunately, despite running billions in deficits and collecting millions more in additional tax revenue, the Prime Minister and the government have largely ignored critical infrastructure projects in Manitoba.
Winnipeggers are also looking at the federal government to take meaningful action to combat the meth crisis, which has wreaked havoc on Winnipeg in recent years, contributed to the dramatic increase in violent crime and contributed to its 44 murders in 2019, more than doubling from the year prior.
Our first responders and front-line community organizations are under tremendous stress as they deal with the heartbreaking and traumatic consequences of this crisis. I saw the dire need for action in our community first-hand when I went to an evening patrol with the Bear Clan, an indigenous-led grassroots community group that supports vulnerable people across our inner-city neighbourhoods in Winnipeg. That evening, a large bag of needles was found buried in a snowbank. Volunteers carefully collected them for safe disposal in bone-chilling -30°C weather, but the most shocking of all was when I looked up from our collection activities to see three young children peering down from a nearby second-storey window. I could not help but think how inviting this fluffy snowbank may have looked to these children as they walked to school or played outside.
Last year, the Bear Clan picked up more than 145,000 used needles in Winnipeg's North End. The Liberal government committed to long-term, predictable funding to support the Bear Clan's efforts, and I very much hope the Minister of Indigenous Services will deliver on this commitment made by his predecessor.
In addition to serving my constituents, I have also been given by my leader the responsibility of serving Canadians as the shadow minister for the new Department of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. I am honoured to have earned this opportunity and I am committed to using this platform to advocate the inclusion of ethnically and racially diverse Canadians, freedom and equality of LGBTQ Canadians and a free, prosperous and healthy future for Canada's youth.
The youth in Canada are facing challenges. Affordability was the number one concern I heard on the doorstep, and it is impacting young people in many alarming ways. My generation has the largest student loan debt in the history of Canada. We are well into our thirties when buying our first homes, if we do so at all, and we are working without reliable retirement plans in the gig economy. Our wages are largely frozen while the cost of living has increased dramatically, so it is no surprise that we are drowning in household debt and having fewer children, if any.
Meanwhile, the baby boomers are aging into their retirement pensions and beginning to rely heavily on our health care and social services, which are already under tremendous strain. However, we have heard very little acknowledgement of these critical financial issues in the Liberal government's throne speech. Its multi-year, multi-billion-dollar deficit investments completely lack a strategic plan to secure my generation's financial future in the event of soaring interest rates or an economic downturn. The government is leaving us ill-equipped to deal with an uncertain and changing world, and every person in my generation will live with the consequences if we do not get it right.
I will embrace my critic role by holding the government to account on behalf of my generation and young Conservatives across this country, and as my party and our country navigate the issues of the 2020s, I will fight for everyday Canadians. I will fight for freedom; for safety; for security; for health, peace and prosperity; and for a government that respects the rich fabric of beliefs of our country. I will as well fight for the priorities of my constituents in Kildonan—St. Paul. I will ensure their voices and priorities are heard loud and clear in this chamber.
To conclude, I would like to acknowledge the people who helped get me here: my team. I thank all of the first-time and long-time volunteers who put in hundreds of hours on the campaign trail; my family, my parents and my two sisters, who have supported me in my dreams for decades; and most sincerely, I thank my fiancé Scott, who is in the gallery today. He was by my side back when being a member of Parliament was only a pipe dream.
Family really is the most important thing, and in that regard I have been very blessed. I am working tirelessly to make them proud as I come to Ottawa to do what I came here to do, which is to fight for everyday Canadians.