Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with my colleague, the member of Parliament representing Berthier—Maskinongé.
Because this is my first full speech in the House, I want to thank the voters and volunteers of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, and my family and friends for the honour of their support and the great privilege of being in this House. I also salute my local government colleagues and constituents who taught me a great deal over four terms serving in office.
I also want to state the privilege of living on the unceded territory of three first nations in my riding, Snuneymuxw, Stz'uminus, and Snaw-naw-as or Nanoose First Nation, along with many Métis and indigenous leaders in the community and many residents. They are teaching me every day about the importance of reconciliation around working on right relationship, work that Canada needs to do vitally. They are teaching me about the importance of holding an inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women, implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, implementing recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and moving forward in a true nation-to-nation relationship.
Those were all common cause commitments between the Liberals and New Democrats through the election campaign, but in the throne speech there were no details and no commitments. That makes it hard to pin good intentions down. For concrete actions that might build goodwill, I would love to have seen the Liberal government commit to dedicated investments and a clear plan around its commitment to eliminate boil water advisories on reserve. This is too important for our country to build hopes high and then not to have them implemented.
I am going to flag a few other hits and misses in the throne speech. I am very relieved to see the government reiterate its commitments to infrastructure investments, but we want detail on how much and how they will be distributed. Inter-regional public transit is an example of a win-win-win investment. It is good for our economy, community, and environment.
Nanaimo—Ladysmith has a transit gap between its two communities. We cannot take public transit between Nanaimo and Ladysmith and they are only 20 minutes apart. That makes it hard to get a job outside one's immediate community, it is bad for business, it is bad for the environment. Better yet, supporting inter-regional transit into the the riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford would connect the burgeoning campuses of Vancouver Island University. Inter-regional transit connecting those two communities would be very good for student affordability, let alone the economy and environment.
In my home community, Gabriola Island, residents got tired of waiting on long lists for public transit funding, so they established their own regional service. For a community of just 4,000 people, they have funded three biofuel buses, with some support from the regional district of Nanaimo. They run the whole system on volunteers and on Saturday they celebrated their 33,333rd passenger. It is fantastic work by a very small community organization. I am very proud of what they have done, but running public transit should not fall only to community volunteers. We badly need strong federal and provincial government partners to make public transit work.
Last year, New Democrat members of Parliament representing very reliant communities asked the federal government to make it permissible for BC Ferries to apply for infrastructure funding. Ferry users in our communities have been hit very hard by skyrocketing fares originating from the semi-privatization philosophy of the provincial Liberal government in British Columbia. It is very hard on communities and on affordability. BC Ferries represents our marine highway. As the progressive opposition, New Democrats will keep pushing the Liberal government for strong, reliable, long-term investments in public transit infrastructure.
The throne speech promised legislation that will provide greater support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. I cannot overstate how badly Nanaimo—Ladysmith needs such support. We need to prevent violence against women. So much has fallen to front-line organizations that pick up the pieces every day.
One such organization is Nanaimo's Haven Society. It fields eight distress calls every day. Every year, it serves close to 4,000 people in the region, all victims of sexual abuse, physical, emotional abuse, and violence. However, because of inadequate finances, Haven Society has to turn away 75 women every year who are ready to leave abusive relationships, but there is no shelter for them. Imagine the heartbreak of that. They simply do not have enough shelter.
Across the country, there is a powerful network of domestic violence shelters picking up the pieces. One night alone 8,000 women and children were in such shelters in our country. Another night that same year, shelters turned away more than 500 women and children for lack of space.
I acknowledge the personal commitment of the Minister of Status of Women across the aisle. I deeply hope that her Minister of Finance and her cabinet agree that finding solutions is vital. I salute the work of shelters and anti-violence workers across the country. I hope that we have a government that supports them and keeps the vulnerable safe.
Climate change is the challenge and threat of our time. I see it right at home with salmon struggling to spawn in drying and warming streams, like the Cowichan and Nanaimo rivers. Just at the time when we need to have more resiliency and food security, I see farmers in Cedar and Lantzville struggling with drought, in a rainforest. Like many Canadians, I am very glad that the government believes in the science of climate change, but good grief that we would even be celebrating that is a testament to this dark decade that we have just experienced.
Despite that commitment from the government, the throne speech only said that the government would provide leadership. There is no concrete action plan. There is no commitment to reducing emissions. There is no commitment to making the government accountable in law for setting targets and for meeting them. Three times, New Democrats have brought to this House just such legislation. I believe the Liberals have supported us, almost every Liberal, every time, when they were the second or the third party, so why not now.
Also, climate change should be included in environmental assessment and National Energy Board reviews, but that was not in the throne speech either. The Liberals, on campaign, promised to strengthen pipeline reviews, but so far are letting Kinder Morgan carry through with its pipeline and its tanker traffic expansion, carrying through under Harper government rules. The Liberals must live up to their commitments. It is long past time for a review process that includes climate change, that allows full cross-examination, and full public participation, that takes into account local communities, indigenous people, and climate change.
Nanaimo—Ladysmith is a centre for health care. We have many patients, families, and front-line workers that we hear from all the time. All through the campaign we heard how much they are under pressure and how much the public health care system is under pressure. I am very glad the Liberal throne speech acknowledged a commitment to reinvest in a new health accord, which the Conservative government had abandoned. However, again, there is nothing concrete.
My favourite piece that I would love to see is a commitment from the Liberal government to do everything it can to provide a family doctor for the five million Canadians who do not have one. I would love to see a quick fix to the foreign credentials program. I heard from a family in Nanaimo whose son was born and raised in Nanaimo. He went to the States to get his medical degree and wants to come home to Nanaimo to be a family doctor here, but Canada does not recognize his foreign credentials. How frustrating that is.
There is much work to do, much hope and much opportunity. When the economy is in trouble, it is the most vulnerable and those with the least who suffer the most. The government can and must play a direct role in reducing that inequality and New Democrats will push the Liberal government to take concrete actions to do so. Tom Mulcair and our NDP team will be standing up for such action everyday in the House.