Madam Speaker, while I had the occasion to stand up in the House yesterday, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my neighbours in Milton for the opportunity to serve here, congratulate you on your nomination as Deputy Speaker, and congratulate every member in this House for their election to the 43rd Canadian Parliament. I would like to reiterate the sense of honour and privilege that I feel in having the opportunity to serve my neighbours in Milton.
My neighbours and I ran a really long campaign, over a year. We knocked on doors for about 400 days. We spoke to a lot of our neighbours, and those are the first people I want to thank, the people who sent me here to represent them.
I would also like to thank my campaign manager, Geoff Carpenter, a team of volunteers, my mother Beata, my dad Joe, my brother Luke and my dog Cairo. He is an Egyptian street dog and he is a bit temperamental. A lot of the volunteers will recognize that. Sometimes when they came into the office, he was a bit “barky”. I also thank the neighbours who put up with some of the barking, because it was a bit trying at times.
I would also like to thank the former member who represented Milton, Lisa Raitt. She did a great job of representing Milton for nine years, and I know that I have big shoes to fill.
I made a promise to my neighbours to bring their voice to Ottawa and not just amplify my own or Ottawa's voice in Milton. I am going to go through a couple of the things that I heard at my neighbours' doors or during appointments with people at my office since I have been elected. I would like to talk about a couple of those issues, because I think they are really important.
Whether it was at the door, at a town hall with Fridays for Future in Milton or with GASP, a lot of people in Milton want to talk about the environment, because it is a global crisis, as many of the questions earlier today raised.
I would like to read a quote from a climate scientist named Professor Katharine Hayhoe:
Does a thermometer give us different answers depending on if we're Liberal or Conservative?
Of course, the answer is no. If a thermometer is telling us that the planet is warming up, then we need to do our job in order to make a switch to clean energy and find cleaner sources of energy with more efficient ways of using it. We need to lower our emissions.
We have a responsibility to youth, particularly youth like Greta Thunberg and the thousands of young people she has inspired to be young activists, to do a better job as legislators and users of that energy.
As somebody who studied science in university, I want to take an evidence-based, scientific approach to some of these solutions. Carbon pricing has won a Nobel Prize in economics because it is a very, very effective solution. I am glad that our government has stepped in to make sure that everybody follows a carbon pricing scheme. Investments in green energy and green infrastructure across the country will continue to bring our goal of being at zero by 2050 all the closer.
There are some local resource extraction projects, aggregate mines, and a proposed intermodal infrastructure project, which my neighbours are vociferously opposed to. I will ensure that their perspectives are heard in this House.
Second, the topic of immigration came up a lot. When I was 26 years old, I had the honour of carrying our flag into the opening ceremonies of the Bird’s Nest stadium at the Olympic Games. When I was the flag-bearer for Team Canada at the Olympics and one of my teammates started singing “O Canada”, quickly about 300 of my teammates and sporting heroes joined in. As I turned around and raised the flag, my eyes swept across the parade of athletes from different countries around the world, and I noticed something: Team Italy looked like Italians and Team Norway looked like Norwegians. When I faced Team Canada, much like this House, we looked like the world. That diversity is something that I do not think we can take for granted. It is something for which we have got to be consistent champions.
My profile as an athlete and my platform as an athlete allowed me to do a lot of great work with organizations like Right to Play and WaterAid as an athlete ambassador and somebody who could bring light to really important projects around the world.
I was a little bit disheartened to hear in other platforms a commitment to lower the amount of foreign aid that we give to other countries and the work that we do there. I think foreign aid is a really important investment in global security. It is an investment in our own security here in Canada and it is an acknowledgement that we have it really good in Canada. We live in one of the greatest countries in the world and we are very fortunate. Part of recognizing that is recognizing the obligation that we have globally to do a little bit of work around the world.
The best part of campaigning was learning so much about other cultures. I travelled a lot as an athlete, but my year at people's doors was a totally new look into what diversity and multiculturalism looks like in Milton. I want to thank all the different communities that welcomed me in whether they were Pakistani, Cameroonian or Nigerian. Whether I was welcomed into their kitchens, churches, temples, gurdwaras, mosques or hockey rinks, it was a really cool experience. I got to know a lot of people from different cultures whom I probably would not have known otherwise. I am more prepared than I ever have been to express their needs, concerns and issues here in the House of Commons.
Individuals and families are coming from all over Canada, and they would like to start a life in Milton. Not only is that great for the diversity of our country, but it is also great for our economy. It is one of the reasons we have grown so quickly in the last four years.
I am happy that our government is renewing our commitments to NATO, foreign aid and the United Nations peacekeeping efforts. We are focused on decreasing gender inequality around the world.
A lot of the work that I did with WaterAid and with Right To Play seized upon ensuring that girls and young women have access to education, to sport and, most notably, to hygiene and sanitation. WaterAid is doing incredible work, and I am happy to be able to highlight that today.
Diversity is the strength of this nation, and whether it is through my role as MP for a diverse community like Milton, or as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and to the Minister of Canadian Heritage for Sport, I will continue to be a champion for all of these values.
I grew up in community housing in north Oakville. Co-ops are not a place where poverty exists at all. Co-ops are a solution to poverty, and the Chautauqua Co-op where I grew up is evidence of that. Just in June of this year, my co-op, my home, Chautauqua Co-op, paid off a 35-year mortgage. That means that, for the last 35 years, the Chautauqua Co-op has been providing a safe and secure place for over 80 families to live, every single year.
We need to create more affordable housing in this country. As I said, I am a co-op kid. My mom has been building co-ops and managing co-ops for over 30 years. I sat on the board of directors at a co-op when I was 13 or 14 years old, and I realized that one of the ways that we can relieve poverty is to ensure that there is less profit and that when people pay the rent, they do not need to ensure that somebody else is making a buck. It is a really great solution, and I am always going to be a vocal advocate for co-op housing.
Parents should not have to pick between paying the rent, putting food on the table and sending their kids to sports. I can honestly say that I would not have competed at the Olympic Games if it were not for co-op housing, and I hope kids in the future will continue to have those opportunities and parents will not have to make tough decisions about putting food on the table or sending their kids to sports. There should not be any financial barriers between a healthy and active lifestyle and the goals and aspirations of Canada's youth. I believe that developing physical literacy is just as important as reading, writing and math.
I am glad that we have a $40-billion housing strategy in the Liberal Party platform, and I am really excited to be working on it.
I would like to touch on some issues around national universal pharmacare.
Just last week would have been my friend Simon Ibell's 43rd birthday. Simon Ibell was a man who committed his life to fighting for opportunities, but he also talked a lot about rare disease advocacy and the orphan drug program. Canada needs a rare disease platform, and it should live within our national universal pharmacare.
In addition to Simon's story, I touch upon my dad's story. My dad, Joe, has Parkinson's disease. As a retired guy, he has difficulty in accessing some of the affordable medication that he needs to carry on with his life.
I would like to talk about some of the parents in my riding, who have talked about some of these issues as well.
Brandon and Chrissy's son has spinal muscular atrophy, and there is a heavy price tag on the treatment for this rare disease. We need pharmacare for Wyatt and other children too, like Chloe, Lennon and Eva, as well as retired adults like my dad. A young girl I met at the door named Chloe has type 1 diabetes. There has to be a solution for young girls like Chloe. A young boy named Liam in my riding has cystic fibrosis, and the medicine costs upwards of $100,000 to treat his disease.
While it is not directly related to pharma, I heard from parents of autistic kids like Max, Dante and many others, who desperately want to see the federal government take on a national autism strategy. I was heartened to hear the Prime Minister mention that recently in a speech.
The highlight of my campaign this summer was actually on the water. I went up to Camp Oochigeas and I sat down for breakfast. Oochigeas provides a camping experience to young kids whose lives have been affected by cancer. I was really excited to see that I was sitting next to a young boy named Matteo, whose mom I met at the doors. Mateo is recovering from cancer. I was thrilled to take him on the water in a canoe. We had a really good day.
As an athlete, I worked with my colleagues and teams from other countries for our mutual benefit. Whether people live in Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Prince George, British Columbia; Fredericton, New Brunswick; Trois-Rivières, Quebec; or Milton, Ontario, they deserve a government that is fighting for them and Canada harder than it works for election or re-election. Members will notice that I fit in a riding from each of the parties.
The election is over. It is time that we stop fighting about team red, team orange, team green and team blue, and start fighting for team Canada. We as parliamentarians have an obligation to perform our duties with respect and integrity, and I believe it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. We ought to conduct ourselves in this distinguished House with conduct becoming of the office that we are all privileged to hold. Sportsmanship is just as important to me in the House as it was on the water.
With that, I wish every member of the House and everybody watching a merry Christmas, a happy holiday and a prosperous new year.