Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the applause from the other side, but members have not heard what I am about to say yet, so they might want to retract it in a few moments. I appreciate it and thank them.
As we take our seats and take up the people's business in this chamber, we all share in a privilege of protecting the hopes and dreams of our neighbours, communities and fellow Canadians through the work we do.
As I return here for the sixth time, I am so grateful to once again have earned the confidence of my constituents in Regina—Qu'Appelle, because this seat does not belong to me; it belongs to them. None of the seats in this chamber belong to any of us, including the Prime Minister's seat. Instead, these seats all belong to the people who sent us here, and they sent us here to get to work. Canadians sent us here to make sure the country works for them, their jobs, their livelihoods, their cost of living, their health care, their environment, the safety of their communities and the security of our country on the world stage.
It is clear that we have a lot of work to do. No matter what party or region we are from, we all have a duty to listen, to learn, to grow and to improve. All of us, on both sides of the House, need to expect more from ourselves and from others.
This is particularly true in light of the results of the last election, in which the people sent a clear message to all of us that the status quo had failed, that the approach of the previous four years was just not good enough.
Canadians want better, and as the strongest opposition in Canadian history, we are going to make sure they get better. We will spend this Parliament proposing constructive solutions to Canada's most pressing problems. We are prepared to work with Canadians of every political stripe, focused on implementing ideas that actually work.
This does not mean we will compromise on the principles that make us Conservatives, and it certainly does not mean that we will shirk from our responsibilities as Her Majesty's loyal opposition to hold the government accountable every day in every way for its ethical lapses, errors and misdeeds. Canada's Conservatives are always prepared to look for common ground, but make no mistake, we will do our job.
It is just as important to recognize that when Canadians voted in the fall election, when they passed judgment on the previous four years, they were rendering a verdict on a four-year stretch in which the Liberal Party wielded virtually unchecked power. While the talking heads and pundits have been working overtime to spin the election results as anything else, the facts of this election are clear: The Liberal Party lost votes and seats in every region of the country. It lost the popular vote and was reduced to a minority government with the weakest mandate in Canadian history.
Canadians sent the Prime Minister a message that requires some reflection, as he himself admits.
Just because the Prime Minister avoided being fired does not mean he gets to act like he had a promotion. To be fair, he gave the appearance that he might be changing. He met with me and opposition leaders early on to discuss shared goals. He made a grand show of meeting premiers and mayors from across the country. However, yesterday in the Speech from the Throne, he revealed that he has not learned a thing, that he has not changed at all, even though the people of Canada sent a message that they demand better: better than four years of unserious, entitled government; better than four years of government that puts the interests of activists and lobbyists ahead of the jobs for Canadian families; better than four years of the Prime Minister's lecturing others about standards the he himself refused to live up to.
Canadians demand better. They demand a fundamentally new approach by a government that is prepared to rise to this moment in history. Times of fear bring times of division, and Canadians are afraid for their country. We must return to what makes us strong as a nation. We must put a stop to the divisive policies that have pitted province against province and region against region.
Canada was built on the idea that we are stronger when we work together, when we dream together, when big nation-building projects are seen not just as possible but necessary. I believe we can build that kind of Canada again. That is what we came to the House prepared to work for.
Yesterday we were sorely disappointed. This throne speech was supposed to be the first real part of the Prime Minister's new approach. That is what these speeches are all about. It is a statement of intent about how the government has changed, how it will learn and how it will improve. As I listened to the Governor General, that is what I was waiting to hear, some humility. I am still waiting.
If this Liberal government ends just like the last one, then an opportunity to learn and grow will have been missed and the message Canadians sent to the Liberal Party on October 21 will have truly been ignored.
One of the most important roles of the official opposition is to always be ready as a government in waiting to provide an alternative to the status quo. This is doubly true in a minority Parliament.
Today I want to talk about the challenges our country is facing, as well as the opportunities ahead and the leadership it will need.
I will talk about the kinds of actions all Canadians should expect from all parties in this Parliament: first, support for Canadian families that are struggling with the rising cost of living; second, keeping Canadians safe in an increasingly unstable world; third, creating and sustaining good Canadian jobs in a time of economic uncertainty; fourth, protecting the environment and fighting climate change at home and around the world; and fifth, preserving national unity and healing the divisions between provinces, between regions and between all Canadians.
Let us begin by talking about what should be the top priority for us all: supporting Canadian families who are struggling with the rising cost of living. Too many of the political games being played by the political classes are far removed from the real hardships facing real people.
Over half of Canadians have $200 or less in the bank at the end of the month. They are a breath away from financial hardship. They are vulnerable to interest rate hikes, living as they do on the brink of insolvency.
September 2019 had the highest number of personal bankruptcies since the Great Recession and the middle class is struggling. Over the past three years, the number of food bank users with jobs has gone up 27%. More and more hard-working people are not getting by. People are struggling to pay the mortgage, the rent or their bills.
More and more Canadian families are struggling to put food on the table or gas up the car.
The tax burden is going up. Studies have shown that for an average Canadian family earning $117,000 of combined income, 44.7% of that income, or $52,000, goes to paying taxes, and 53% of that goes to paying federal taxes. Nevertheless, over the past several weeks there has been a chorus of voices from elite corners of Canadian high society demanding that our party endorse the carbon tax. Let me be clear: We will always oppose a carbon tax because we know the real cost it imposes on the Canadian people.
The entire point of the carbon tax is to make essentials more expensive, making it harder to put fuel in the tank. It is about punishing a mom for driving her kids to school, punishing a dad for driving his daughter to soccer practice, punishing a senior for turning up the heat on a cold winter's day. We are not going to support that, especially when the Liberal carbon tax has granted a massive exemption to the country's largest emitters. There are better ways to fight climate change.
It is time to take action to lower the cost of living and put more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians.
Another issue Canadians are looking to the government for leadership on is how we are going to keep them safe in an increasingly unstable world.
Let us not sugar-coat it. The world has become a much more dangerous place. The Government of China continues with an expansionist agenda that is threatening Hong Kong's vibrant democracy and the safety and security of the people of Hong Kong themselves.
Just as important to Canadians, the same Chinese dictatorship continues to hold two innocent Canadians hostage in retaliation to Canada's fulfilling its legal obligation to arrest and extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. I understand that this is a matter of very serious diplomatic sensitivity for the government, and I have no doubt that behind the scenes there is a lot of work being done to secure the safe return of the two Canadians the Chinese government is holding. However, what is incomprehensible to Canadians is that in the face of this blatant attack, the Minister of Small Business still travelled to China and posed in photo ops to promote China as a place for Canadian investment.
Canadians are asking why the government is still giving $256 million to the Asian Infrastructure Bank so that China can develop infrastructure in other parts of the world. In fact, we found out just recently that this Asian Infrastructure Bank, funded by Canadian tax dollars at a time when western Canadian energy companies are struggling to get their product to market, funded not one but two pipeline projects in other countries. Canadians want to know why the Prime Minister is so silent in the face of such a blatant outrage. He should at least respond to what his own Minister of Foreign Affairs said: “China stand[s] out as [a] beacon of stability, predictability, a rule-based system, a very inclusive society.”
While he is at it, the Prime Minister could also share how his government intends to check the Russian expansionism that threatens countries like Ukraine and the Baltic states while funding cyber-sabotage around the world that threatens our alliances and democratic institutions.
While he is at it, he could explain the calculation his government made in abandoning the State of Israel and Jews around the world when his government curried favour with anti-Semitic factions at the United Nations to earn itself a Security Council seat.
However, most of all we would really appreciate hearing the Prime Minister talk about Canada's deteriorating relationship with the United States, one that was only exacerbated by his own conduct at this week's NATO summit. We understand that President Trump is a challenging negotiator, but Americans are our partners all the same, and no international file is more important to Canadian jobs and livelihoods than the ratification of the new NAFTA.
The fact is that 80% of our GDP depends on trade. We need an effective foreign policy to ensure that our allies and trade partners continue to trust us and trade with us.
Whether we are talking about steel industries in Ontario, aluminum industries in Quebec, our forestry industry in B.C., our agriculture and agri-food industries, including our supply-managed sectors, the auto sector, the aerospace sector or the hundreds of thousands of workers who depend on our energy sector, Canada's economy, Canadian workers and Canadian jobs depend on having a government that will stand up for our country no matter what.
This brings me to what should be another very important government priority: creating and sustaining Canadian jobs in a time of economic uncertainty.
Let us have some true moral clarity in the House right now. As I speak, a network of foreign-funded activist groups is trying to permanently shut down Canada's energy sector and drive hundreds of thousands of Canadians out of work. They have already done lasting damage to the economies in western Canada and to the livelihoods of thousands of families who depend on the development of our oil and gas to pay the bills. Every single member of the House should be expected to stand up and be counted. Do they stand with the activists or do they stand with the workers of Canada?
These groups take foreign funding and interfere in our discussion around energy and pipelines in this country. It has never made any sense to me why there are loud voices in this country, including many from the government benches, that want to ban and block the exportation of Canadian energy to foreign markets. Meanwhile, they do nothing when tanker after tanker of foreign oil comes into Canadian markets.
When Canadians make these decisions for themselves, they should be doing it by themselves. That is why a core Conservative commitment is to ban foreign-funded activist groups from participating in the approval process for large energy projects.
I can stand here confidently on behalf of every single member of the Conservative caucus and say with certainty that every single one of us will stand with Canadian workers every single time. Therefore, we are going to fight for pipelines, for lower taxes and for reduced regulations to make Canada the best place in the world to invest, start a business and create jobs. This will include repealing Bill C-69 and the tanker ban that has signalled that Canada is closed for business.
We will seek to diversify our trade relationships to reduce our dependence on the United States. When we, the Conservatives, were in office, we negotiated free trade and investment agreements with 53 countries, while protecting our business interests. We will put the same amount of energy into breaking down trade barriers in Canada as we will into standing up for free trade beyond our borders.
I hear it from our provincial counterparts and I hear it from businesses: It is time to build a true single market inside of Canada that can compete with trading blocs around the world and other single markets. We can do all of this while living up to our responsibility to future generations when it comes to environmental challenges like climate change.
Fighting climate change will require honesty and it will require co-operation, but first is honesty: Canada produces less than 2% of global emissions. China alone produces over 27% and saw a 4% increase in CO2 emissions just in the first half of 2019.
That is why our Conservative plan focuses on exporting Canadian green technologies and on substituting coal in China with clean Canadian natural gas and carbon capture technology. It is because we know that Canada can make a real difference by taking the climate change fight globally. Imposing a carbon tax on seniors will not do that. Even if it were possible to drop Canada's emissions to zero, it would not make a dent in our shared global obligation.
As well, if the Liberals do take climate change seriously, why would they rely so much on imposing taxes on essential things that are known to be unresponsive to price increases? It is time to stop targeting Canadian commuters and seniors and instead focus on innovative market-based policies that prepare Canada for the future and can ensure we make a real impact on global emissions. A real plan must offer a global vision for fighting climate change.
We can fight climate change without imposing taxes on parents who are taking their children to school. We need to invest in new technologies and establish a higher standard for big polluters so that they reduce their emissions at the source.
Finally, I want to talk about the gravest danger facing our nation's prosperity and the steps we can and must take to preserve national unity during this time of peril.
We are facing a time when our country is being divided between east and west, between English and French and between urban and rural. Even the divisions between generations continue to grow. No Canadian can afford to be oblivious to this threat, least of all members of this House. As a proud MP from Saskatchewan, I would caution all of our colleagues from across Canada to not underestimate the deep alienation and anger that people of my province, along with our neighbours in Alberta, currently feel about their deal in the confederation.
The damage done over the past four years is significant. Today, 175,000 Alberta energy workers are unemployed. Proud Canadian companies like TransCanada and Encana are moving their businesses to the U.S.
After only four years of Liberal rule, the Bloc Québécois, 32 sovereignist members strong, has returned with a vengeance. Premier Legault had specific requests. The Liberal government did not consider any of them, yet the Bloc members have decided to support the throne speech anyway. During the election campaign, the Bloc claimed to be the voice of Premier Legault, and this is the result. Only the Conservative members will stand up for Quebec's interests, not the Bloc.
The rifts dividing our country are deep, but they can heal. The first rule of medicine is to do no harm. That is why we must relegate the rigid ideological approach of the first Liberal term from the front pages to the history pages. We must focus on the things that unite Canadians.
I still believe that Canada can be a place of big dreams and that the same spirit that built the Canadian Pacific Railway, the TransCanada Highway and the St. Lawrence Seaway still exist today. We can still achieve big things together. This country can work for both the west and the east and for all provinces in between, but only a Conservative government has the vision to do just that.
I do believe that national unity is not something that we do; it is something that happens when we get the big things and the little things right. Our role as an official opposition is to fight for Canadians who, inadvertently or not, are hurt or left behind by the government's agenda, so we will show up every day. We will be ready to do our job.
We will use every tool at our disposal to oppose the items on the government's agenda that could harm Canadians.
We will constantly be at the ready, with better policies and a better plan to replace the government when it falls.
Canadians can no longer afford a government that gets the big questions wrong. We know we have a better program that will help unite Canada, create jobs, help Canadians make ends meet, and allow more Canadians from all races, regions, genders, religions, sexual orientations and languages to pursue their dreams and build a better life right here in Canada, right here at home.
On behalf of Canada's official opposition, I therefore move:
That the motion be amended by adding the following:
“and wishes to inform Your Excellency that Canada is threatened by:
Declining productivity and competitiveness, a rising cost of living and challenges to our society which requires:
Offering a plan for tax relief for Canadians with a path to a balanced budget,
Restoring Canada as an attractive place to invest,
Addressing social challenges that limit the ability of Canadians to achieve their full potential, and
Developing a real environment plan that strengthens the competitiveness of our economic sectors and tackles global climate change;
A weakening position within an increasingly uncertain world, which requires:
Confronting threats such as the regimes in Moscow and Beijing and protecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic,
Developing a principled foreign policy that stands with traditional allies such as NATO, Ukraine, and Israel, and
Facing the rise of protectionism and strengthening the relationship with our largest trading partners;
A national unity crisis, which requires:
Respecting provincial jurisdiction and scrapping the carbon tax,
Stopping the attack on the Western Canadian economy, and
Restoring confidence in our national institutions, starting by returning ethics and accountability to the federal government.