Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that I am sharing my time with the member for Mississauga--Brampton South.
I rise today for my maiden speech in this House. I am very honoured to be here.
What is the Canada that is reflected in this Speech from the Throne? We are a challenging place. Our northern climate and our sheer size, east to west and south to north, are difficult for railroad, for telecommunications and even for government policy to bridge. We are not so powerful or so strong as to control our world around us or to even pretend to. We need always to adapt and learn, to be humble and respectful, resourceful and alert.
In our thousands of communities we know that most things cannot be done alone.
We have to work with others together: be flexible, find accommodation, discuss, work out and compromise. Rigid ideologies do not work for us. In many ways, we have had to make it up as we go along.
In Canada, we live a “find a way” existence. We are a “find a way” people. It is reflected in our habits, attitudes and personality. In the way we look at the world and interact with it. In our culture and sport. In our expressions as a people.
In my other life, I played hockey. Hockey is a game beyond control. We practise it, we make our plans, a coach puts those plans on a board for all to see, the puck drops, and everything goes haywire.
Those who play hockey best, the teams that win, do not agonize at the loss of perfection when the chaos begins.
They accept what they have, gather up the pieces and put them together as fast and as well as they can. They find a way. Different from football's calculations and baseball's order, hockey is a find a way game.
I have the extreme privilege of representing York Centre. In the western part of the riding there are many Italian Canadians. They came to Toronto in the early 1950s with little formal education, unable to speak English, with no money and no family or friends ahead of them established to ease their way.
The women came to stitch the clothes that Canadians would wear, the men to build the thousands of new suburban homes that would make the city. They also built homes for themselves. They put in front gardens with lots of flowers and green lawns. They put in back gardens lush with vegetables, fruit trees and vines. They raised their families. They did it with hard work and pride and are still there today. As new immigrants, as parents of young families, they had to find a way and they did. Now, as older people, they are doing the same.
In the eastern part of York Centre is a large Jewish population. Some are older. Many were raised in the riding and have returned to buy their own homes and to raise their own families. Their ancestors came mostly from Poland and from other parts of eastern Europe. Most arrived first in Montreal, some came directly to Toronto. Again, they spoke no English and had no money. Again, they had to find a way and they did.
Now in the northeast of the riding is a large and growing Russian speaking population. They began arriving in Toronto after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Many are young adults with young families. Many have their aging parents with them. They are well educated with energy and expectation. In their new northern climate in the southern Ontario landscape, they feel at home. They are beginning to find their way. For Peruvians, Bolivians, Guatemalans and Filipinos, York Centre is a find a way riding.
I also have the extreme privilege of representing the Department of Social Development as its minister. As Canadians, we have certain understandings about what it is to be Canadian, what we expect of ourselves and for ourselves, what we expect of and for others.
As Canadians we expect a chance and a second chance. We expect the opportunity of a full, rich, rewarding life.
For some that does not happen easily because of illness or accident, disability, poverty, age; because of personal or family circumstance; because of something that puts us behind when the race begins or somewhere along its way. At the Department of Social Development it is our job to see the gaps between those understandings we have as Canadians, and what is, and, with others, to do something about it.
We have a responsibility for seniors, to ensure their pensions are enough to underpin the basics of a life and to ensure that those pensions will be there next year, 10 years and 50 years from now when they and when we need them.
What else? We are living longer, healthier lives. We are living longer as seniors. We will live almost one-quarter of our lives after retirement, after our families are grown. What will our lives be like? Where will we find our new purpose? Through this age of great vulnerability, physical, financial and psychological, how can we help seniors find a way?
We have a responsibility for people with disabilities. Once they were kept out of sight. Their disability was allowed to define them, never in their minds of course. They are people who have a disability. They want to live as persons, fully, completely, at school, at work, at play, in their moment to moment lives. How can we help them find a way?
We are responsible for voluntary organizations. In our communities, big and small, everywhere, they do remarkable things. They engage as volunteers more than 6.5 million people. They employ more than 2 million people. They put the equivalent of $71 billion annually into our economy. They meet community needs of a range and depth that governments, companies and individuals cannot do. However, as a society, there is still more we want to do. How can we help them find a way?
We also are responsible for the government's new child care program. Seven out of ten women with children under the age of six are in the workforce. Child care has become the way we live. It is a national understanding, a national expectation. It is time that we understand it that way, think about it that way and approach it that way.
It is time for a national early learning and child care system.
It is time because, in the way in which we live, in what we want and need for our children for the future, the Canadian people have said that it is time.
We have a long way to go. It is a big task. As we have learned through our history, we cannot do it alone.
We have to work together with others, with the provinces and territories and with our other partners.
We have to be flexible, find accommodation, discuss, work out, compromise. Rigid ideologies do not work for us. In some ways we will need to make it up as we go along, but we know where we are going.
We are like where we were a little more than a century ago in education, where we were 40 years ago in health. We live in many different circumstances across the country. In big cities, in small towns and villages, we are at different stages. We can offer different things but each of us can see the future.
We know our final destination. It is time to get on with it, to get at it. We do not know all the ways of how we are going to get there but we do know we will find a way. The Department of Social Development is a find a way portfolio.
In last June's election, we laid out a platform and we were given a mandate by the Canadian people to govern. Now we have reaffirmed that platform in the Speech from the Throne. No matter the complications and difficulties of a minority government, the Canadian people expect us to fulfill that mandate, to govern. They expect us to find a way and we will.