Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to respond to the first Speech from the Throne presented by this government. I also want to congratulate you on your election. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate all members of the House of Commons.
I look forward to working with all members, a group as diverse as Canada itself, in this 42nd Parliament.
In his address last week, His Excellency presented the government's agenda for the upcoming session. It is an agenda endorsed by Canadians, who on October 19 gave our government a strong and clear mandate to make real change happen. Canadians elected this government to do different things and to do things differently. Many of those changes are already under way.
Our first substantive bill, the tax cut for the middle class, will be introduced in this House on Wednesday.
Also this week, the first flights carrying Syrian refugees from camps in Jordan and Turkey will land on Canadian soil.
The mandatory long form census has been restored and will be implemented next year. In addition, federal government scientists can once again speak freely about their work. Furthermore, for the first time in Canadian history, we have gender equality in cabinet.
Other changes mentioned in the throne speech will begin to take shape in the weeks and months to come, as the House resumes and as the committees resume the important work they do.
Today I would like to expand on the government's broader mandate to develop the five things that Canadians expect us to do, and the steps we will take to ensure that we meet those expectations.
First, we will invest to grow our economy, create a strong middle class, and provide help for people working hard to join it. That is what Canadians voted for, and that is what we will deliver.
We will grow our economy by making significant new investments in public transit, green infrastructure and social infrastructure, creating jobs and economic growth now, and making our economy more productive over the long term.
We will strengthen our middle class by putting more money in Canadians' pockets. As I have said, that starts with Wednesday's legislation, which will deliver a tax cut for the middle class.
We believe that everyone deserves a fair and real chance at success. Canadians believe this too. We will do more to help those in need by giving less to those who are not. That is the basic principle behind our tax cut for the middle class and the new Canada child benefit, which will be introduced in our first budget.
This new benefit will give nine out of 10 families more money than they are receiving right now. That is the type of real change that can be made when a government puts the interests of Canadians at the top of its priorities and in its plans.
Second, we are committed to delivering real change in the way that government works. It means setting a higher bar for openness and transparency, something that is needed if this House is to regain the confidence and trust of Canadians.
One thing is very clear. We will not be able to meet the challenges that we are facing, from growing our economy to responding to the threat of climate change to keeping our citizens and our communities safe, unless we have Canadians in our corner.
People want a government that is honest and open, transparent and accountable, and relentlessly focused on those it exists to serve. We will be that government.
Canadians want a government that acts honourably and treats all others with respect, both inside and outside this House. We will be that government.
Canadians are tired of the cynicism and distrust that have defined federal politics for far too long. They are ready to trust the government again, but that trust does not come for free. If we want Canadians to trust their government, the government must trust Canadians.
We are going to work hard every day to earn and keep Canadians' trust. This Parliament belongs to Canadians and must continually prove that the voices of all Canadians matter.
Third, we will keep proving to Canadians and the rest of the world that we can have both a healthy environment and a strong economy. That is true when it comes to investing in and supporting clean technology, something our government is determined to do. It is also true when it comes to climate change. The changing global climate is a major and immediate challenge, but it is also an historic opportunity. We have an opportunity to build a truly sustainable economy based on clean technology, green infrastructure, and green jobs.
There are billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of good jobs on the table for the countries that get this right. As I told our international and domestic partners in Paris last week, building a clean economy will create growth, not sacrifice it. Our ambition cannot end with making sure that Canada makes the most of a challenging situation. As we know, the atmosphere does not care where carbon was emitted. That is why we will invest $2.65 billion over the next five years to help the developing world grow in a cleaner, more sustainable way.
Here at home, we will protect the environment with new environmental assessment processes, respect for science and scientists, and more public input, including greater engagement and respect for indigenous peoples.
Canadians are smart, practical people. They do not expect us to solve all the world's problems. All they ask is that Canada do its part and lead by example when it comes to protecting the environment and growing the economy. Our government will do just that.
Fourth, we will continue to work with Canadians to build a more peaceful and prosperous country, one that is strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Canada's success culturally, politically, economically, proves that diversity and inclusion work, but we still have much more work to do.
For indigenous peoples, life in Canada has not been and is not today easy, equitable, or fair. Our history also shows that too often those who chose to come to Canada and build their lives here have been treated with indifference, or worse. Some Canadians who were born here have, at times, been the targets of hateful words and deeds simply because they look different, speak a different language, choose to wear different clothes, or practise a different faith. Painful as that may be, we need to acknowledge these truths. We are not well served by ignorance.
At the same time, it is important to remember that Canadians are good and decent people. Against the warm hearts and welcoming spirit of Canadians, intolerance stands little chance, because no amount of fear can extinguish the understanding that we are all in this together. No act of aggression can separate us from the deeply felt knowledge that wherever we come from, we are united in our struggles and in our dreams.
All efforts to close us off from others will be in vain because when Canadians have a choice, as they did in the recent election, they always reject attempts to divide them.
As I have said before, Canada’s success as a diverse and inclusive nation did not happen by accident and will not continue without effort. There should be no doubt that Canada and Canadians are worth the effort, and on this point, the government will not waiver.
Fifth, we will do everything in our power to ensure that Canadians are safe and secure at home by promoting Canadian values abroad. People need to realize that Canada is a safe and peaceful country, a country where it is possible and necessary to strike the right balance between our collective security and our rights and freedoms.
In part to ensure the security of Canadians, we must also export the ideas and the institutions that serve us so well here in Canada. We can show other countries and their citizens how to govern with respect for diversity, with openness and transparency, in peace and prosperity. We can and we will continue to co-operate with our allies in the fight against terrorism. We know what it takes to be an effective partner in international peacekeeping operations and, therefore, we can make a greater contribution to efforts to enhance peace and security around the world. We can and we will do so.
It has been just over a month since our government took office. In that time we have held bilateral talks with the leaders of all UN Security Council permanent members: the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China. We have also represented Canada at four major international summits. In Turkey we met with the G20 leaders. In the Philippines, with leaders of APEC nations. In Malta, with Commonwealth heads of government.
Last week, the premiers of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec, along with the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the leaders of the NDP and the Green Party, and the Conservative environment critic joined our government in participating in the international talks on climate change in Paris. In other words, we have been busy. We have all been busy working together.
Personally, I love working long hours, spending sleepless nights, and dealing with demanding schedules, and I know that all my colleagues here in the House do as well because that is just the kind of hard work we have been sent here to do.
I am reminded of a quote by Nelson Mandela who said that he discovered that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
I have no doubt that we will encounter many such hills in the years ahead, but I also know that our success or failure as a government will be measured in more than recorded yeas and nays. We will succeed when we deliver an economy that works for the middle class, when we make government open and transparent by default, when we combine, for all Canadians, a clean environment and a strong economy. We will succeed when we affirm that Canada is a country strengthened by diversity, when we realize greater security and opportunity for Canada and for the world.
Those are the things that matter most to Canadians. That is the real change they desire and deserve.
When we asked them, Canadians told us that good enough is not good enough, and that they do not believe that it is impossible to do better. In fact, based on the confidence and ambition that have always defined our country, they know that in Canada better is always possible.