Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Liberal government touched on a number of important areas in the throne speech, but they just touched on them. They touched on the climate crisis, but they did not include any new targets. They did not include any new commitments to boldly tackle the crisis that we are in.
They said it is a crisis, but they did not come up with any bold measures to tackle it.
The Liberals did not mention in the throne speech something that in the past they promised to do, which is to fully end all fossil fuel subsidies. There is no path to achieving something that they committed to. The Liberals touched on the climate crisis, but they did not deliver on any sort of vision to achieving meaningful action to tackle it.
We want to fight the climate crisis like we want to win it. For the kids we met who were fighting in the streets in the climate actions that took place across Canada, where thousands and thousands of people said they need and they demand more action, the government has not delivered.
The Liberals touched on health. They touched on pharmacare, a very important issue, but they just touched on it. In fact, the way the throne speech rolled out, the government mentioned national pharmacare, a step back from what it proposed during the campaign, which was universal pharmacare. To be clear, I do not expect a 15-point plan in the throne speech, but I do expect that the government would, at a minimum, accept its own report commissioned by the government and written by Dr. Hoskins, which states that the way to move forward that will help out all Canadians is a universal, single-payer pharmacare for all. This means that no matter where they live in this country, there should be no barrier for those who need medication.
People in this country need medication. We need a system that enables everyone to access medication.
What we are proposing is this. If people need medicine, no matter where they live in this country, they should use their health card, not their credit card. This is something we can achieve. We are the only country in the world that has a universal health care system that does not include access to medications.
We know that by doing this we can address some of the concerns raised by premiers. By having access to a universal medication program, everyone could get the medication they need and we would save money for the federal government and for the provinces. It would also save money for businesses. It would make Canada more competitive and it would help out millions of Canadians, some of whom have coverage but, because the deductibles are so high, they effectively do not have coverage. For the millions of Canadians who do not have coverage at all, this would mean such a difference in their lives.
While campaigning, I met many people who talked about those stories. They told me they spend thousands of dollars on medication each month, which means tens of thousands of dollars a year. I met people who said they cannot afford medication. Therefore, they gamble with their lives every day because they cannot afford the heart medication that they need. We know what happens when people cannot treat an illness. They get more and more sick and end up in the hospital, putting further strain on our health care system. We could avoid all this with a universal health care system that includes medication coverage.
The Liberal government touched on student debt. This is a very important issue, but the Liberals just touched on it. The government is profiting from student debt. There is a question of choices. The Liberal government chose, last year, to waive billions of dollars, as much as $7 billion, in corporate debt. It waived that entirely. However, on the backs of students, over four years, the Liberals made $3 billion in interest. While the Liberals talked about student debt, a simple step they could have taken is to say that they would do what is right and waive the interest on student debt.
The time for talk is past. Now it is time to take concrete action.
I agree that the government is addressing important issues, but it is not doing enough. We need concrete action now to help people tackle the climate crisis and to help students pay back their loans.
The Liberal government touched on cellphone and Internet services and said that it would take steps to make them more affordable, something I support and is encouraging. Its attempt to do that is basically to have a conversation with the cellphone companies. However, having a conversation is not going to lower the cost of cellphone services.
Just to put a point on this, in Canada we pay some of the highest cellphone and Internet fees in the world, and it is not a coincidence. Governments have allowed the telecommunication companies to do so. The New Democrats proposed a solution that did not make its way into the throne speech, a very clear solution, fully within the federal government's mandate. We have the power to do this. In fact, other jurisdictions around the world have done the very same thing, with great success, by putting a price gap in place. If our price is so high, let us put a price gap in place like the United States and Australia have done. The result is that it drives down the cost of cellphone services.
To highlight how important this is, we know in this modern age, access to Internet and cellphone services is not a luxury; it is a necessity. People need it for work. People need it for their education. People need the Internet to access services for their families. The cost of cellphone and Internet services is impeding people in their day-to-day lives. It is hurting families that need it for work, for education and for accessing services and the government has the opportunity and the power to do something about it.
However, in the throne speech, I was not expecting a 20-point plan, but I was expecting the government to say that it understood something needed to be done. Canada is paying the highest rates in the world and there is no excuse that makes sense. We are a large country; so is Australia. We have remote communities; so does Finland. Both places have far cheaper prices for cellphone and Internet services because the government did what we expect government to do. When an industry takes advantage of people, then government has to stand up and defend them.
Canadians are seeing the Liberals defend the profits of the powerful industries instead of helping people and families that actually need their assistance. That is why their priorities are wrong.
There are some things that the government went beyond just touching on. It did include some more details on justice for indigenous people. I acknowledge the government touched on truth and reconciliation, which is incredibly important, and we have to implement the recommendations. The New Democrats are committed to doing that and we are going to ensure the government actually does it.
We have seen for far too long that the Liberal government is great at announcing things and making promises, but not so good at following through on those. We know we need to go beyond that.
It was also very encouraging to hear the government mention not only the calls to action, but also the recommendations put forward by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which is incredibility important and would save lives. It is vital that we do not just mention it but follow through by implementing those important recommendations.
Where I fail to follow the logic is when the government talks about the importance of following through on these vital recommendations and calls to action, but at the same time continues to take indigenous kids to court. It continues to delay the funding the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has pointed out is not just discriminatory, but wilful and reckless.
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal stated that the current government willfully and recklessly discriminated against indigenous children. Therefore, it must immediately stop taking indigenous children to court.
I cannot wrap my head around how a government can, on one side, talk about the importance of reconciliation, of justice and of fairness, while on the other side, ignore a Human Rights Tribunal ruling, delay funding to end discrimination and continue to take indigenous kids to court. Those two things do not coincide. They do not make sense. That is why I will continue to call on the Liberal government to stop taking these kids to court, to pay the fee that is required to ensure that justice is served and to make sure that this injustice ends, that the kids who have been discriminated against have fairness in their lives, and that no other kids face this unfairness in the future.
The impact of this discrimination is not an academic discussion. It is not just the fact that there was discriminatory funding. Indigenous children have died because of the lack of funding and they will continue to die unless the government does something about it.
The government did put one encouraging addition in the throne speech. It accepted what we have been pushing for, which is national dental care, and that is vitally important.
When we were in communities across this country, we spoke with people who were deeply concerned about health care and the cost of medication. Many people could not imagine a future where they could get dental services. There are so many people right now who do not consider it an option to take care of their teeth. Dental care is one of the major gaps in our health care system. People can go into the hospital if emergency surgery is required for their hearts. They could have complex surgery that would put them back together involving their entire body, their lungs, issues with the joints, but if they have a problem with their teeth they have nowhere to go. Millions of Canadians do not get the dental care they need, yet we know that unhealthy teeth can impact the rest of their health.
During the campaign we called on the Liberal government and all Canadians to imagine a future that included a national dental care program. It can be achieved. We can do it and it would not cost us too much money. The plan the NDP has laid out and that we are asking the government to consider would be less than $1 billion a year and could cover 4.3 million Canadians immediately. It would be a federal program that would cover Canadians across this country and give them access to dental care. It would mean a massive change in people's lives.
I remember a woman on the streets of Vancouver who ran up to me and said she had heard my announcement on dental care, and her hand was covering her mouth. She said that she was so embarrassed of her teeth and she had not been able to afford dental care. She was stuck in a job and was too afraid to apply for a new job because she did not think anyone would hire her with the way she looked. She was afraid to go out in public. She said she was even afraid to talk to me because of her teeth. She should not have to feel that way. She should not have to worry about the way her teeth look. However, this is the reality for far too many Canadians who cannot afford dental care and whose teeth are not in a healthy state. We know this impacts overall well-being. We know this impacts overall health. We have to do something about it.
While it is encouraging that the government mentioned it, if you read between the fine lines it says that national dental care is something that Parliament should explore. I call on the government to take a step toward ensuring we have national dental care. That is what we need.
There is a path forward. While we New Democrats are not satisfied with what we heard in the speech, we do not lack confidence in the government simply because we do not think it is good enough. We have met with people and spoken to people across this country, and they have told us that this is not good enough. This is not going to make sure people's lives get better.
One of the most pressing crises people are faced with in their lives is housing. The government said in the throne speech that it is going to continue to do what it is doing on housing. What does that mean? That means the Liberals will continue to spend 19%, as a portion of GDP, less than the Conservatives before them.
How can they claim that they are doing something to tackle the crisis when they are spending less than the previous Conservative government? They continually said in their campaign that Canadians should be afraid of the Conservatives because they would make things worse, but the Liberals are doing worse than they did.
The crisis people are faced with in this country is such that people cannot find places to live. In large cities across the country, young professionals and families and people who earn good salaries cannot find places to rent, let alone buy. In rural communities, people cannot find anything, rental or housing.
It is not even a question of affordability in some communities. It is a question of availability. There is just nothing there. People are living on the streets. There is homelessness and people who need supported living, and the government thinks that it is okay to continue to do what it is doing. It is not okay. It is not going to make people's lives better and it is because it is not going to make people's lives better that New Democrats are saying it is not good enough.
However, here is the thing. I am calling on the Prime Minister and the government to sit down and have a chat with us. If Liberals want to make life better for Canadians, we are ready to work with them. If the Liberals want to stay in power, it is clear they have some options.
If they want to make things better for Canadians, if they want to lift up people who cannot find housing, if they want to lift up people who cannot afford their medications, if they want to make a real difference in people's lives and implement national dental care then, yes, they can count on New Democrats.
However, if they think this throne speech is good enough, it simply is not. I know you can do better, but you are not going to do it on you own. That is why New Democrats are here. We are going to push you. We are going to make sure you do it right.