Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Hamilton Centre.
I wanted to once again thank the constituents of London—Fanshawe for electing me to the House. I have worked here for more than a decade, actually in a different capacity, as a parliamentary staffer for many amazing NDP members of Parliament: Chris Charlton from Hamilton—Mountain, Wayne Marston from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Jean Crowder from Nanaimo—Cowichan and most recently, the former MP for Essex, Tracey Ramsey. I was also raised by another incredible and powerful woman, who represented London—Fanshawe for the past 13 years: my mother, Irene Mathyssen.
I come to this House with many mentors and supporters, and I stand here because of them. It is when I consider important votes, like on this throne speech, that I will always think of the people who elected me here.
I hear every day from people in my riding who need help now. If this is all that the Liberals are willing to offer to help Canadians, it is not good enough. I represent a riding where many people are struggling. The average household income in my constituency is well below the national and Ontario averages.
I see it every day. People are working harder than ever to keep a roof over their head and to put food on the table. I also see a community that is consistently coming together to support one another, to answer calls for help and to push for more. They deserve better than this throne speech.
For more than a decade when someone needed help in London—Fanshawe they knew that they could turn to their member of Parliament. Irene's office was a place that would consistently go above and beyond to advocate and push for anyone who walked through the doors. I will proudly continue that tradition.
While my constituency office will work hard to help, I know that more and more people are seeking that help. The policies of past Liberal and Conservative governments are failing them. In the House, in this 43rd Parliament, we have an opportunity to change the direction of the country, one that should put less focus and attention on how well the rich and powerful of this country are doing and more on how everyday Canadians are doing.
One disturbing trend we have seen is that people are continuing to come to the office in search of affordable housing. Housing prices continue to skyrocket in London as many people are being pushed out by other markets around the GTA. What once was a starter home found throughout London—Fanshawe has become out of reach for too many families. Instead of more empty words, the Liberals could have worked with us to invest in affordable housing so that everybody in Canada could have a place to call home.
Canada is in the midst of a national housing crisis impacting every area of the country. Average rents rose in every single province last year, and today 1.7 million Canadian households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. A major part of the long-term solution to the problem is to ensure that more affordable rental units are built across the country.
One in three Canadians is a renter. In many cities, the few affordable apartments available get snapped up quickly, and people end up either living in inadequate housing or forced to spend a huge chunk of their income on rent. If the Liberals are willing to work with us to address the housing crisis in our country, we are ready to deliver for Canadians.
Another trend I have heard too many stories about is how people cannot afford their medications. One gentleman came into my office during the campaign who had suffered from a workplace accident. He told my team and me how he had been injured at work. He was going to physiotherapy and attempting to heal and get better.
Although he is not well enough to return to work, he knows his benefits are running out. He needs his medication. He cannot live without it, but he also knows he cannot afford it on his own. He told us that he is being forced back to work, even though he is not ready, knowing he is putting his own life in danger.
Imagine if we had a system that rather than worrying about how this person is going to survive, to pay for the medicine that he needs to live, he could focus on getting better and returning to work when he is able.
In the days before medicare, New Democrats saw their neighbours suffer because they could not afford the health care they needed. We saw people lose their homes, their farms and their businesses as they struggled to pay their medical bills. We saw illness destroy entire families.
In response to that reality, New Democrats led the fight to establish universal public health care for all Canadians. Medicare changed the lives of millions of people and it is one of our party's proudest achievements.
Millions of families cannot afford to take the medications they need because they have no employer-provided drug coverage. The number of uninsured people forced to skip their medications is growing as more people work on contract, are self-employed or have jobs that just do not come with health benefits. Too many seniors are putting their health at risk because they do not have drug coverage and cannot afford out-of-pocket payments.
The stress and worry that people feel is not an accident. It is the direct result of deliberate choices that have been made by Liberal and Conservative governments. They choose to let drug companies gouge patients and they choose to leave millions of people uninsured or under-insured, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket for the medicine that they need.
Today, Canada is the only wealthy country in the world with a universal health care system that lacks universal prescription-insurance coverage. We pay the third-highest prices for prescription drugs in the world and must deal with a patchwork of programs and coverage, if we are lucky enough to have coverage at all.
When I look at this throne speech, I see there is no language about any pharmacare being universal, comprehensive or public. There is no funding amount and no timeline. Since the Liberals have been promising pharmacare since 1997, we can see why New Democrats are a bit skeptical. We need to see a real commitment to deliver universal, public, single-payer pharmacare.
We are ready to work with the Liberals and deliver for Canadians, but it takes concrete measures to help improve lives.
There is a growing urgency to also address the climate crisis. I was proud to join hundreds of people from across London at the climate strike in September. I joined them because we need action now and we need bold targets.
The real plan to address climate change is needed now. That is why this throne speech is so disappointing. There is nothing on stronger emissions targets for 2030 and nothing to confront the urgency of the problem. In the last four years, the Liberals gave billions of dollars in subsidies to fossil-fuel companies instead of investing in renewable energy and job creation. After being lobbied more than 1,500 times by the fossil-fuel industry, the Liberals are putting big oil first.
We also need action to protect our fresh water. With growing algae blooms and invasive species decreasing lake levels, as well as flood damage, we are in need of a national freshwater strategy. A strategy that would set national drinking-water standards would solve the problems presented by piecemeal provincial strategies and years-long boil-water advisories on first nations reserves.
I have been meeting with members from Oneida Nation of the Thames, just outside of London. There, the drinking water has failed to meet provincial standards dating back to 2006. Upstream, London dumps millions of litres of raw sewage into the Thames River that serves as the community's water source. This is unacceptable. Our municipal government recognizes the problem. It wants to help, but there is no action from the government to help address the water situation at Oneida.
After claiming its most important relationship is with indigenous people, the Liberal government continues to break its promise. It refuses to commit to dropping the appeal against fairness for indigenous kids, while also refusing to fix the problem with the child welfare system. It is simply unacceptable.
The throne speech offers nothing for our seniors, either. Everyone deserves to be able to age with dignity as a valued member of the community. The Liberal government refused to protect workers' pensions, while dragging its feet on the creation of a real plan to deal with the health challenges faced by seniors.
As more Canadians enter their senior years, we need to make better choices and we need to be ready to meet their needs to ensure everyone can age with dignity. With the right leadership, we can make sure our institutions and public services are strong and prepared, and that all seniors have access to the health and social supports they need to make life easier.
One group my mother, in her capacity as a member of Parliament, was so proud of and honoured to work with was our veterans. It is time for the government to do right by our veterans. They should not have to wait weeks or even months to receive the services they need.
Unfortunately, for too long veterans have had to fight for the benefits they have earned. Veterans need investments into their services and increased access to caseworkers. There is also much more that we can do to ease the transition from their life in active service to becoming a veteran.
While I have so much more that I could talk about, I want to finish with this. As it stands, there is not enough in the throne speech for Canadians. People need help now. We urge the Liberals to offer more than just pretty words and to put forward concrete solutions that start to deal with the systemic poverty and inequality that too many face.
The Liberals have been putting the demands of the wealthiest and the rich corporations ahead of the needs of Canadians for too long. We are ready to work with them and deliver for Canadians, but it takes courage to make the necessary choices that will truly help improve their lives.