Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for sharing his time with me this afternoon in the chamber.
I want to thank the House of Commons staff for their warm and helpful welcome over the course of the last three months. I have had many constituents and colleagues ask me how my experience has been as a newly elected member, and the line I keep using is that it is like a baptism by blowtorch. However, it has been a wonderful experience and I have enjoyed it all very much. The House leadership team, colleagues and staff have made a big change into a new role very manageable, and I appreciate that very much.
Being my maiden speech today, I would like to divert a little and put a few thanks into the record. First, I want to thank the wonderful constituents of the riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for the wonderful honour they have given me to serve in the House. This was literally a childhood dream of mine. The first time I sat here in the chamber was with my aunt. She worked for the House of Commons and I was able to sit in the Prime Minister's chair about 20-some years ago. I think I got the political bug, if not before then, certainly that night being in the chamber for the first time.
I want to thank my family, who has been so supportive, not only in this new journey but my entire 32 years here: my mom Bea, my father Ed, my sister Jill, and for those who wonder how I get a thick skin in politics, my five stepsisters. They have been a wonderful family of support and a family network for me, and I am grateful for them and all that they do and continue to do for me.
I also want to acknowledge my predecessor, who served in this House as a Conservative member of Parliament for 15 years, Guy Lauzon. Many would know Guy over the years. He served as national Conservative caucus chair and in government served as parliamentary secretary in a couple of roles. He was known in our riding for setting the bar quite high, for being approachable, for being out in the community and for the customer service he offered in the office. He certainly set the bar for me, as well as for other people in our community, for being in public life, being accessible and offering that customer service.
It is very fitting that I have the opportunity to speak today to our opposition day motion about infrastructure, because one of my predecessor's great legacies was the amount of money he was able to secure and bring home to Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry under a Conservative government.
Many ask how he and Frances are doing today. Frances is in good health, and I appreciate all the members who are asking how she is doing. Both of them are loving their time down in Florida this winter. When people ask what Guy is doing these days, I say that he is enjoying his role as the hon. member of Parliament for Fort Myers, Florida, this winter and doing well there.
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the people of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.
Today, I will say a few words in French for my francophone friends living in my riding. French is my second language and I am working on improving it. I understand the importance of Canada's two languages. Many people in my riding speak French. Next week I will be starting a French course.
There is no shortage of files in our riding that are going to need attention over the course of this upcoming Parliament. We have seen news reports, have heard questions asked in the House and there have been meetings within the Conservative caucus and outreach from some members of government, which I appreciate, about the water levels in Lake St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River. That goes all the way across Ontario and Quebec. I know it is a challenge not only during the spring but throughout the year.
In my riding, between Iroquois and Cornwall, we generally have the opposite problem that many communities have. When there are high water levels present in the Great Lakes or in Montreal, we often have low water levels, which creates environmental, economic and property damage concerns. I want to thank the many people who have reached out to me so far and have been briefing me and giving me their perspectives locally, across the province and across the region on that file.
Being from a rural riding, I understand that agriculture is very important. I do not think a day went by during my campaign, and even now as a newly elected member, when I was not talking about the importance of supply management in our agricultural sector. I support that day in and day out, whether in the House as we work with other countries on trade deals or whatever it may be. Agriculture is the backbone of my riding. If it is not supply management, it is our grains and oilseeds farmers, and the global markets are a challenge I look forward to working on.
I want to acknowledge, and look forward to working with, the Minister of Transport and Transport Canada, as the city of Cornwall, Akwesasne and neighbouring communities are going to be dealing with some surplus land on the waterfront of Cornwall.
That presents such an opportunity for the city of Cornwall, to have those lands for public use and for myriad different uses. It can unlock a lot of potential in terms of public spaces and in terms of economic development for the city, and for the people of Akwesasne across the river in our region to benefit. I look forward to it. Regardless of what side of the House members are on, it is really an issue on which we could find co-operation and deliver a positive outcome for my riding.
We talk about the opposition day motion here today. Getting action on any of those files I just talked about, and on infrastructure projects, takes co-operation. I am not naive. I understand that I am on this side of the House and not the government side of the House, and that is going to take co-operation. However, I also think, as an early observer here in the House, there have been some great working relationships.
I want to acknowledge a neighbouring colleague of mine, the Liberal member of Parliament for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. Shortly after the election, a mutual friend of ours connected us by text message. I went into his riding and we had a wonderful lunch in Alexandria at the Quirky Carrot. I was very pleased at the end of the lunch when the member offered to buy lunch that day. I said he did not have to, and he said, “You're in my riding, I'll buy you lunch today. When you come to my riding, I will buy you lunch.” I told the member I have been saving up my McDonald's coupons since then for a visit to Cornwall.
However, it has been the start of a good, productive bipartisan working relationship. I appreciate his advice as we talk about infrastructure, agricultural issues and a big issue in eastern Ontario, which I know several colleagues in our party are very interested in, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network. We have been improving broadband and have made some investments as a Conservative government supported by the current government, but there is a lot more to do. I have been very proud of the advocacy that we have been doing, and many members of the House on both sides have been doing, to improve cell capacity all across rural eastern Ontario.
In my time left, speaking specifically about the opposition day motion, I strongly support the motion being brought forward. My background before I became a member of Parliament was serving as a mayor in the Township of North Dundas and serving on county council and as warden of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
Frankly, over the course of the last couple of years when I have spoken to my successors on county council, local councils in my riding and all parts of the province of Ontario and beyond, people were not seeing those dollars get to the front lines of where they need to go. It is a challenge that, when money is announced, municipalities try to get their projects ready and they just do not happen. It is a bigger and bigger challenge the more I see the government not react to this.
A perfect example is the Ontario-Canada infrastructure fund. I will use a project in my riding as an example. I had the honour of standing in the House in December and asking the minister a question about this. A project in my riding that has applied for funding is the Morrisburg streetscape project. That is a project with the Municipality of South Dundas and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
They applied for that program nearly a year ago. We were very pleased to see the Ontario government go through and approve that project back in July and have been waiting ever since for an answer and an okay from the federal government on that project. It creates a big challenge because, if the federal funding could have come through in July, the communities might have been able to get shovels in the ground and get the RFPs going out for that project to happen this year. The challenge is now that it is going to be February next week, municipal budgets are being done and completed, and they are not sure if that one-third is there.
Municipalities are a mature level of government. They do asset management plans. They know what their priorities are. My colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador across the aisle, who spoke a few minutes ago, had experience at the municipal level and was talking about those one-third, one-third, one-third partnerships, which I agree are great. They have been supported by all parties over the past several parliaments. However, if the dollars are not flowing and there is not a good process when the announcements are made, those billions of dollars are not getting to the municipalities. It is not being effective.
I support the motion for the Auditor General to take a look. I would encourage my colleagues on the government side. It is either going to confirm that there is a problem, or it will debunk a myth. There is a problem there, from what I see and hear in my riding, and I respect the work of the Auditor General, as all members of the House do. I look forward to supporting this motion, seeing that report and seeing what we can do better to support municipalities, and get the dollars to municipalities and shovels in the ground.