Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the voters of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for giving me the privilege of serving as their voice in this House. I pledge to keep their concerns front and centre in all the work I do here.
I represent a very diverse riding, stretching from Willis Point and Prospect Lake in the north, down through Royal Oak, Glanford and West Saanich to Esquimalt, which is my hometown, then west along the Strait of Juan de Fuca through View Royal, Highlands, Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, East Sooke and Sooke, and it does not end there. It stretches to Otter Point and Shirley, through Jordan River and all the way to Point Renfrew. I think I may have the most municipalities of any riding in the country.
When we get to Port Renfrew, we are a long way from downtown Victoria. This geographic reach means that my riding is economically very diverse. We start with industrial workers and government workers downtown and go through the suburbs to farming communities, and end up with logging and fishing as the main supports in Port Renfrew.
It is not as diverse a community in the multicultural sense as many other constituencies. While the percentage of new Canadians may not be large, there are significant communities of Chinese and Indo-Canadians in my riding. I am also proud to say that Esquimalt is home of an Ismaili mosque. In particular, we have a bunch of new Canadians performing very important roles in my community, the very large number of Filipinos working as caregivers and in our health care system. I want to make them welcome here today.
Where Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is most diverse is perhaps surprising to the members of this House. As a gay man, I am proud to stand in this House as a member of the largest minority in my riding, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and transsexual people.
The second-largest group in my riding is first nations. My riding is home to five first nations: the Esquimalt Nation, Songhees, Beecher Bay, T'souke and Pacheedaht.
Perhaps even more surprising to those in eastern Canada would be that the third largest group in my riding is francophones, largely due to the presence of CFB Esquimalt.
In my riding, there are five main economic drivers, and this budget does very little to help any of those sectors and, in fact, threatens all five of them. It threatens employment at the base and at the shipyards in my riding. It threatens employment at Victoria General Hospital. It threatens employment in post-secondary education at Royal Roads University and Camosun College. Most importantly, it threatens the new jobs that have appeared in recreation and tourism, and it does nothing to help small business in my riding.
This is a very mixed economy, driven by both public and private sectors.
I want to talk about some of the common concerns in my riding, which are shared with the rest of Canada, concerns like a shortage of family doctors, the affordability of everyday life and the prospect of a secure retirement for all.
In addition, I want to talk about some concerns that are very specific to my riding, in particular the severe lack of infrastructure and services in my riding in the face of very rapid growth in suburban areas. This has led to sprawl that threatens farm lands and wilderness areas. It has led to congestion, as families are forced farther and farther from the core in the search of affordable housing. It has led to an acute shortage of child care spaces, and here I want to tell the House a few of stories I heard during the election campaign.
I met a woman at the door who had been waiting more than a year to go back to work, because she could not find a quality child care space for her child. We not only lose the economic value of her not returning to work but that family also loses economically every day when she cannot go back to work because there is not a safe, quality child care place for her child.
I met a family in Sooke forced to drop one child in Langford, a 20-minute drive away, then to drive another 20 minutes to Esquimalt to drop the other child off before they can both then head to their jobs. So that family is spending an increasingly long period of time together in the car instead of at home where they belong.
I met a Saanich family whose child care arrangements for their three children were such a complicated patchwork that they actually had to use a spreadsheet to make sure they picked up all of their kids at the right place at the right time, because both parents have to work to afford housing in my community.
Residents in my community are also concerned about the potential cutbacks that will cause job losses at the base. They are concerned because of the enormous uncertainty for the families of those who serve in the Canadian reserves and those who work in civilian positions at the base.
However, they are also concerned that the impact of those cuts may affect the ability of the Canadian Forces to do the difficult and dangerous jobs we ask them to do every day on our behalf. So far, the government has not made it clear what kinds of cuts those will be and who will pay the price of the corporate tax cuts being handed out in this budget.
People in my riding are also concerned about endangered species like wild salmon and orcas because the environment is not only essential to our future species, but also to the hundreds of jobs that exist in my riding in fishing, recreation and tourism.
How does the budget address the common concerns about which I have talked? The answer is, not at all. In my riding no family doctor is currently taking new patients. If people's family doctor retires or gets ill, where do they go? They go to the emergency room, which drives health care costs up, and there is nothing in the budget to ensure there will be more family doctors for families in my riding.
On affordable housing, there is nothing at all in the budget. Lack of affordable housing leads to homelessness and couch surfing for hundreds of people in my riding. It also leads to far too many families spending far too high a percentage of their incomes on housing. This means many families whose parents work end up at food banks. When we talk about how the recession ended, that is simply not true for most families in my riding. What do we find on their behalf in the budget? Nothing. There is nothing for child care and nothing for affordable housing.
How about infrastructure? Congestion in my riding causes lost dollars in the economy, harm to the environment and lost time for families. We need the federal government to step up to the plate with adequate funding for rapid transit and restoring E&N Rail, which both the Liberals and Conservatives have neglected so passenger service can no longer be run on this railway, which was a condition of British Columbia joining Confederation.
People in my riding are also worried about a secure retirement. Once they have paid the high costs of housing and child care, helped their kids pay the high cost of post-secondary education and helped their parents with the high cost of prescription drugs, there is very little left to put away for their own retirement. What are the Conservatives doing? They are pushing for something that very few outside Bay Street want. They are pushing for a private and voluntary retirement savings plan, where most of the increase in retirement income will be sucked up by the brokers on Bay Street rather than go into the hands of hard-working retirees. What Canadians want and need is an expanded and strengthened CPP.
On the question of jobs, what do we find in the budget? We find the wrong approach. The government is promising to cut more than 2,000 defence jobs, creating great uncertainty in my riding.
When it comes to shipbuilding, the government is playing favourites, trying to pick winners which may kill off shipyards in some parts of our country by denying a fair distribution of this important work around the country and by threatening the ability to build and maintain our own ships on all coasts in the country.
It seems to me that the Conservatives are curiously proud to have introduced the same budget they introduced in March. They are curiously proud not to have listened to Canadians during the election campaign.
I want to close by referring to a letter I received from Mrs. Pommelet's grade 4-5 class at Marigold School in my riding. In their letter, the students call on all of us in the House to do something about congestion that makes them late for their sports practices, to do something about the threatened cuts that might weaken our defences at CFB Esquimalt and to do something to protect our coastal environment against existing tanker traffic.
Even these grade 4-5 students in my riding recognize what the government does not recognize in the budget. They recognize that we are a community that needs to be addressing pressing common problems much more than huge corporate tax cuts, that tackling these common problems together will do far more for our future prosperity than the government's approach and that working together is essential for our common survival on this planet.