Mr. Speaker, I am humbled beyond words to stand for the first time in this hallowed chamber as a representative for the people of Central Nova. It means the world to me to stand here in this moment and to stand with the support of those at home fills me not only with pride but with a sense of duty to the voters who have given me the opportunity to serve their interests.
I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the enormous contribution that my wife Sarah has made to my life and to my betterment as a person. Her unending support is more valuable to me than any material thing in this world. My family's influence on me cannot be overstated. From an early age it has taught me to be someone who can contribute to my community and to use my own judgment when faced with a difficult decision rather than to merely follow the crowd. I would not be here without my friends and supporters. Their tireless efforts in knocking on thousands of doors and working through the night time after time were an inspiration for months on end. They helped me learn a great deal about my community and myself. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Central Nova is home to some of the most beautiful places on earth. The Northumberland Strait and the eastern shore include some of Canada's most pristine coasts and picturesque communities. More important, my riding is home to the greatest people I have ever met and I will ever meet. Our east coast charm and hospitality is unrivalled, and our willingness to help one another cannot be matched. In my part of the world we help each other. I am better for it; we are all better for it. If I can repay even a fraction of the debt that I owe to this incredible place by contributing in a positive way to the quality of life of the people who live at home, I will have done something meaningful.
Although Central Nova is my favourite part of the world, as a region we face common challenges, such as a flagging economy and an out migration of youth. We also face environmental obstacles, and the cost of education continues to rise at a greater pace than local wages. The local health care system carries too heavy a burden to adequately serve the needs of our aging population and vulnerable sectors of our region find it increasingly difficult to access much needed social programs.
I am proud to lend my support to the Speech from the Throne because it will put into place a framework that will allow my region to overcome these challenges so we can bring about the kind of change that will help the people of Central Nova.
In an era of globalization, world economies in places like Merigomish and Middle Musquodoboit have suffered, and many of our industrial employers have skipped town over time. Many young people and their families have left, and some of our once thriving communities are a shell of what they once were. Everyone back home knows someone who has had to leave to make ends meet.
With the skilled workforce that lives in the riding now or that desperately wants to come back, there is no reason we cannot build things in Central Nova for customers all over the world. With the incredible educational opportunities and some improved connectivity in our region, there is no reason we cannot have a modern economy in the small towns and rural communities of Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada. There are opportunities at home and the government's proposed economic policies will ensure that more of our family members will be welcomed back.
The investment in infrastructure has the potential to spur economic growth by providing our communities with the things that they need, and hiring local people and businesses to build them. The middle-class tax cut and revision to programs that will help less fortunate Canadians, such as the EI program and Canada child care benefit, will put more money into the pockets of people who need help with the increasing costs of essentials and will lift over 300,000 Canadian children out of poverty.
In Central Nova, the struggle between the environment and the economy is very real. I believe the air we breathe is more important than the size of our wallets. The forests and shores of my homeland have long been essential contributors to the prosperity of our people. Therefore, we must manage them to ensure the prosperity of future generations. I am pleased by the government's environmental priorities because they highlight the possibilities that arise when we view the environment not as a problem that we must deal with, but as an opportunity that we get to take advantage of.
By investing in green infrastructure, we can harness energy from renewable resources. By making environmental innovation a priority, we can build a knowledge economy in every region of Canada to complement our well-known natural resources sector. We can protect the environment and grow the economy at the same time, and that is what the government intends to do.
In Nova Scotia, we have some of the finest post-secondary institutions that our country has to offer. We have to ensure that the cost of an education does not prohibit smart young women and men from studying what they wish to study. The world's greatest business solutions and scientific developments could be locked in the mind of a person who cannot afford an education, and that is unacceptable. By reducing the costs of education for low-income families, we can help eliminate the financial barrier to education and potentially to success.
Growing up in a family of six kids, all of whom are proud graduates of StFX University, I am all too familiar with the burdensome cost of an education. We have created a system that encourages young people to get educated at home but to take their talents elsewhere upon graduation. By providing support to students on the back-end of their academic career, we can reduce the out-migration that results from economic duress.
I am very proud of the government's recent efforts to return Canada to a place of respect on the world stage by improving our human rights record internationally and at home. However, I am even more impressed by the community initiatives on the ground in my own riding. The groundswell of support for Syrian refugees from groups like SAFE and Tri-Heart in Antigonish town and county, or Safe Harbour, or CAiRN in Pictou County is remarkable. The Canadian people are eager to live up to the reputation that Canada has earned over a century and a half.
The government will also work with our indigenous communities, such as the Pictou Landing First Nation, on a nation-to-nation basis to build trust between governments. We will help provide our indigenous peoples with the tools they need so they can succeed through self-governance, rather than trying to dictate to them from the outside what is best. I am also very proud to be part of a government that will conduct a long overdue inquiry into Canada's national tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Health and wellness impacts the lives of all Canadians and comes as a major expense to taxpayers. By investing in initiatives such as home care and bulk purchases of pharmaceuticals, we will be allowing people to stay in their homes longer and get the treatment they need at a reduced cost. In addition, investments in social infrastructure, such as affordable housing, women's transition shelters, and recreational facilities, could help improve the social and economic determinants of health. This would further reduce the need for expensive care. Our government has also made mental health a priority. We need to work with the provinces to ensure that every region in our country has the infrastructure and the expertise to properly care for community members living with mental illness.
We have to take better care of our seniors as well. A greater proportion of Nova Scotia's population is made up of seniors than any other province. I have met countless seniors of modest means who are living in unacceptable living conditions. The problem is compounded by the fact that their rent goes up every time their government benefits increase. By investing in affordable housing we could create jobs and improve this living situation for our seniors. By improving the old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, and the Canada pension plan benefits, we could serve the interests of our senior population and provide a boost to local economies.
As a nation we have forgotten how to properly take care of our veterans. While we have been busy planning monuments, our veterans have been going without proper care. We have a sacred duty to those who have served our country. If we can afford to send our citizens to war, we can afford to take care of them when they come home.
I am proud to represent the people from Antigonish to Dutch Settlement. I am excited to advocate for the interests of every rural community, from Sherbrooke to River John. I have hope for the futures of the towns of Pictou County, as well as Musquodoboit Harbour and the rest of the eastern shore. These communities may have diverse backgrounds, but they share an interest in wanting to make their home a better place to live.
The plan outlined in the Speech from the Throne will help make this vision a reality. For this reason, I am pleased to support our government and will proudly stand in support of the Speech from the Throne.