Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Mount Royal.
This is the first opportunity I have had to thank the wonderful people of St. John's South--Mount Pearl for giving me the opportunity to work on their behalf in the Parliament of Canada. I consider it a great honour to represent them and their interests, and to serve my country. I will work hard every day to ensure they are well represented.
I would also like to recognize the many volunteers who worked so diligently to ensure a healthy democracy. Their efforts were appreciated by all who sit in this chamber and all those who offered themselves for public service.
We are joined together in the House in common purpose: to improve the lives of Canadians. Let us focus on ensuring that the decisions we make reflect the needs of our citizens a hundred times a day; no, a thousand. We should remind ourselves that we are here on behalf of the people. Let us always be reminded of and always do what is right for the citizens of our great country.
By way of introduction, I am a first generation Canadian, an eighth generation Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and I am proud to have the opportunity to contribute to building our great country.
Nearly 60 years ago, my father, as a young man, voted in favour of Confederation. He, along with my mother, have instilled a sense of responsibility to ensure that Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador in it, develops along a successful path.
I mentioned that I am a Newfoundlander. I also hold the seat held by the Hon. Loyola Hearn and the Hon. John Crosbie. Their contributions have been numerous and they are known not only for their work, but for being great orators. I can only hope that one day I will be too.
Among the first honours I had as a new member of Parliament was to participate in a Remembrance Day ceremony to pay tribute to those who served our country. Many hon. members may not be aware of the tremendous contribution that Newfoundland, as a country at the time, made during the first and second world wars. Many hon. members may not be aware of the contribution that many young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians make today as members of the Canadian Forces. In fact, the number of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians serving in the Canadian Forces today is way above the national average. My sister is one of them.
The riding of St. John's South--Mount Pearl is the location of Bowring Park, the home of the statue of The Fighting Newfoundlander. This statue has come to symbolize not only our respect for those who have served in the armed forces, but it has also come to symbolize our determination and persistence as a people. I will reflect upon this contribution and the statue of The Fighting Newfoundlander as I make decisions in the House. They who has given so much deserve our respect, our admiration and, most of all, they deserve dignity.
In the Speech from the Throne mention was made of our heroic Canadian Forces, however there was little mention of our veterans. Today, many of our veterans face uncertain and difficult times. I have spoken with numerous who have struggled financially, as pensions are clawed back despite their sacrifices.
I am sure I am joined in the House in giving recognition to our veterans and ask that the government recognize their contributions to global security by working to improve their well-being.
The Speech from the Throne weighs heavily on the economic situation we are now facing in Canada. It states “structural deficits must never return”, yet a series of deliberate policy decisions by the government has led to the challenges we currently face, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a situation of the Conservatives' own doing by not providing sound fiscal management, a steady hand at the wheel.
As we navigate these fiscal waters, we find ourselves in a gale of uncertainty. The rough winds of the mortgage, credit, fiscal and now global financial crises are blowing us to the shoals of uncertainty.
Let this be our goal then: to instill in our institutions, in our companies, in our investors, in our communities and, as important, in our people, a knowledge that we are working on their behalf to ensure stability, to ensure a strong and productive Canada.
The Speech from the Throne indicates that the building Canada plan will be expedited. These important infrastructure investments would not only stimulate the economy, they would indeed improve our country.
It reminds me of an extremely important project under way in St. John's right now, the cleanup of St. John's harbour and the building of the sewage treatment plant.
The city of St. John's, the city of Mount Pearl and the town of Paradise have a combined population of 130,000 people. Municipal waste water from these municipalities is currently discharged, untreated, into St. John's harbour. Thankfully, since 1999, the Government of Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the municipal governments of the cities of St. John's, Mount Pearl and the town of Paradise have partnered in ensuring this environmentally challenging, not to mention aesthetically concerning, project is under way. This has required incredible engineering, carving from rocks, unearthing streets and sewers.
I am sure the members of the House are very pleased to be a partner in this project, in ensuring that raw sewage is no longer spewed into this historic harbour, a partner with the citizens of Mount Pearl, St. John's and Paradise, a partner.
As members can imagine, the costs have escalated over the last decade. The cost of materials and labour has soared. The project is close to $50 million over budget.
As a partner, one believes the federal government would help, would participate in its responsibility. I ask that it does. I ask for this in the spirit of the Speech from the Throne in protecting Canada's future by preserving Canada's environment.
I also noted in the Speech from the Throne that fisheries was mentioned with respect to giving assistance for international marketing and helping businesses to innovate. I look forward to further details on these initiatives.
As members of the House will remember, the largest layoff in Canadian history occurred in 1992 when the cod fisheries was placed under moratorium, where it remains today. The modernization of the fishery continues and there is much to be done to ensure its sustainability and its viability.
We have to help those who wish to retire to do so with dignity and assistance.
We need to continue to ensure funding for small craft harbours so we have adequate infrastructure.
We need to ensure to that foreign overfishing on the Nose and the Tail of the Grand Banks is stopped.
These are a few of the further initiatives not found in the Speech from the Throne but which are important in the fisheries today.
The Speech from the Throne also refers to securing our energy future by developing our rich energy resources and pursuing new greener strategies. This is particularly relevant to Newfoundland and Labrador as one of the best opportunities for hydroelectricity is in the province. The Churchill River in Labrador is a significant source of renewable clean electroenergy. The Lower Churchill project consists of two of the best underdeveloped hydroelectric sites in North America. Securing our energy future will be made much easier by working with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to help develop this project.
There is much to be done. As I stand in this historic House, surrounded by its members, I recognize we have been entrusted by the people of Canada to work to improve their lives.
I started today by reminding Mr. Speaker and all hon. members that our responsibility is to the individuals who make up the mosaic of Canada. Let us never forget our duty to them. Let us never forget that our fiscal responsibility is to them. Let us never forget we are here because of them.