Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise for my speech in the House of Commons.
I would like to thank all my constituents, the great people of Souris—Moose Mountain, for putting their faith and trust in me as their representative in this honoured institution. I have always believed and said that this seat belongs to the constituents of Souris—Moose Mountain, and I will be their voice here in the House.
It takes hard work by many people to get each member elected to these seats, and I wish to thank all of those volunteers who gave tirelessly of their time and efforts. An unfettered appreciation and humble thanks goes to my campaign team and my EDA.
In addition, I would not be here today if it were not for the guidance, education, and love of my family, friends, and educators. My parents taught me to believe in four things: my country, my family, my God, and my queen. For this, I am extremely grateful. My father, the late Major-General Gordon Kitchen, served Canada with distinction and afforded me the opportunity to see many parts of the world, to learn about societies and governments. I know that my father, along with my mother, the late Joan Kitchen, look down on me today with great pride.
When asked who inspires me the most, my first response is my wife, Donna. We all know that spouses are our strength. For 32 years, she has stood beside me and supported me in all of my career decisions. She has raised three fantastic children who have become productive members of society. She is caring and compassionate as a mother and a registered nurse. Whether it has been caring for infants at Sick Kids Hospital, teaching nursing skills to aspiring nursing students, or assessing seniors in long-term care, she has been dedicated to each and every job, and still works diligently with her clients today.
I cannot forget to mention the positive encouragement and support I receive from my children: Andrew, Kathryn and Stephen. I would be remiss if I did not thank my daughter Kathryn for all the work and extra effort she put in during the campaign. I am grateful for the support of my brother-in-law, my in-laws, my brothers, and my sister who is with us here today in the gallery.
For those who do not know it, let me introduce the wonderful riding of Souris—Moose Mountain. Our riding is a rural riding of an area of 43,000 kilometres. We are bordered by Manitoba to the east and the United States to the south. Its two major centres are Weyburn and Estevan. From the northeast to southwest corners, Rocanville to Coronach, is a five-hour drive. From the southeast to the northwest corners, Carnduff to Kronau, it is a four-hour drive.
I mention the geography because over the past 26 years I have travelled these roads and seen steady growth in the economy, traffic, activity, and residents. Now with the collapse of the oil industry, this has made for dire times. When I drove to Regina on Saturday, the silence brought by the inactivity was deafening. Where I used to see drilling rigs, service rigs, water haulers, tankers, and workers out and about, there are none. There have been thousands of layoffs, store closures, restaurant closures, empty hotels, and houses for sale. Where there used to be a beehive of activity, there is now just a trickle. There is a 33% increase in employment insurance. It is not just the rig hands; it is office staff downsizing and consultants looking for work.
Our economy is struggling. Canadians are struggling. Canada's oil producers are struggling. Our vast prosperous energy sector is being hit hard by the fall in global oil prices. This has drastically affected our national economy and brought hardship to many Canadian families.
We cannot ignore the many Canadians who are losing their jobs and shutting their company doors as a result of the global oil price. While the Canadian government is not responsible for the global oil price, we will be responsible for the ongoing hardships if we do not intervene with meaningful steps to assist Canadians while they go through this struggle.
I have heard from many constituents that the west, in particular the oil industry, is fearful of the way it has been treated by previous Liberal governments. The throne speech did nothing to allay those fears. Endorsement of the energy east pipeline, which runs through the northern portion of my constituency, would assist to dispel this statement.
Furthermore, it would bring great benefit to all Canadians. It is the safest way to move oil product. It would enhance the movement of oil from Saskatchewan and Alberta, and get it to tide. Processing it and getting the product to tidewater and markets around the world would be a value-added boost to the industry. The economic benefit to Canada with the jobs created in building the pipeline would help to strengthen the middle class with good-paying jobs, a mandate the Liberal government claims to be a priority.
The Speech from the Throne provided little comfort for my constituents. There was no mention of the agriculture industry, the energy sector was left to swing in the wind, and promised infrastructure spending appears to be a lifetime away. As a professional, I am a chiropractor. An analogy I use is that the backbone of my riding is the agriculture industry and the appendages are the energy sector.
In my research of prior throne speeches, I came across a response to the Liberal government's 2004 throne speech by my predecessor, Mr. Ed Komarnicki, former MP for Souris—Moose Mountain. At that time, he stated the government showed no support of agriculture, as well—and, now, we see its reincarnation.
To continue to survive, our farmers and ranchers need markets to sell their products to. Saskatchewan is a major exporter of its resources and opening new markets is a tremendous benefit to our producers. The trans-Pacific partnership is just such an opportunity. Not only would it open new markets for our producers, it would reduce excessive tariffs on both our canola and cattle producers. The government needs to step forward, bring the trade deal to the House and not just sign and endorse it, but ratify it.
Within the past couple of weeks, I have been receiving many inquiries and requests for information on infrastructure spending. In fact, last week, the city manager of Estevan contacted my office about a billion-dollar infrastructure funding he had heard rumours about. There has been a significant need for infrastructure funding in my region. With the age of structures and the prior rapid growth, communities are lagging behind in their basic infrastructure and, in particular, water treatment facilities.
The Speech from the Throne talked about infrastructure investment. If the talk about this $1 billion is true, we need to know the rules and procedures for communities to access this; more specifically, what the parameters are, who can apply, when it will be available, and how oil-depressed areas will be defined.
The Speech from the Throne talked about investing in clean technology and support for companies seeking to export these technologies. It appears that the main economic focus is to grow a clean environment and a strong economy in tandem. While we all agree with the sentiment that environmental protection and economic strength are not incompatible, the government must realize that we cannot wait for the passage and implementation of environmental policy to begin stabilizing and growing Canada's economy. We need to utilize the technologies we have today, such as carbon capture, to better our economy today.
Souris—Moose Mountain is home to Canada's state-of-the-art post-combustion coal-fired carbon capture and storage project at Boundary Dam, utilizing low-emission power generation, which was financed with $249 million from the previous Conservative government, Estevan's Boundary Dam can take one million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year out of the environment, which is the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road.
Coal is used to provide power around the world. It is cheaper to use. However, we do need to reduce greenhouse gases. This technology reduces our impact on the environment. This is a ready-made project. It needs to be implemented.
My constituents' concerns are exacerbated by comments made with respect to Canada's resourcefulness. The extraction of our vast natural resources is a job that requires what lies between the ears. For the people of Souris—Moose Mountain, the extraction of coal and oil is a complex process that has required the brainpower of engineers, geologists, economists, and accountants. It requires schooling, safety training, and above all, common sense.
The same goes for our farmers. It would be grossly inaccurate to assume that farmers rely solely on what lies under their feet. Ranchers and farmers in Souris—Moose Mountain are business owners who plan, seed, harvest, sell their crop, maintain equipment, and manage their staff. As I am sure all farmers and resource workers would agree, they can be the smartest in these respective fields, as resourceful as they can be, in cutting costs, finding buyers, but if the resources do not exist and the markets to sell them are not open, then what lies between their ears becomes moot.
Finally, I would like to end my remarks with sincere thanks to my party leader for making me an official opposition critic for sport. I look forward to working with the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities to enhance the health of Canadians through sport and recreation.
I encourage all members to regularly stretch and be active whenever possible, whether by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or by walking to their destination.
In closing, the government talks about Canadians wanting their government to do different things and to do things differently. I truly hope there is more to come because, as I have indicated, it appears to be more of a reincarnation of the same old.