Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to throne speech presented to Canadians last Wednesday.
I would also like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Barrie—Innisfil.
First of all, I want to give a nod to the member for Kings—Hants, and I hope is still online, who talked about the highest tides in the Bay of Fundy. Let him not forget that he shares the Bay of Fundy with me, as the member for West Nova, the member for Cumberland—Colchester, the member for Fundy Royal and also the ones down around Saint John. When he says that he has the highest tides in the world, of course he has to share that with us.
It has been a week since the throne speech was presented to all Canadians. Under the current circumstances, I had wished that I would be welcoming it with relief, but unfortunately, this speech is a collection of previous speeches. It is a leftover potluck of previous Liberal promises that they never delivered on, which leaves me very skeptical regarding Canada's post-Covid recovery.
It is absolutely shameful and unacceptable to have prorogued Parliament for six weeks, only to come back with a speech so ill-suited to the health crisis affecting our country from coast to coast to coast. We are all affected by the challenges that we all know about, as well as those specific challenges that are different from one province and one region to another.
We know Canadians have been in dire need of support. Folks need to be supported for many months to come, and we, in the opposition, have been recognizing this necessity. However, to ensure the government's future spending is done correctly, it is incumbent upon parliamentarians to ask the government some tough and important questions before it injects substantial sums of money into programs.
A responsible and respectful minority government consults opposition parties sooner than 48 hours before a throne speech is printed, especially in the current period, and at a time when national debt has reached an unenviable and worrisome level.
With a minority government, the country's economic recovery during a crisis must be done in collaboration with opposition parties for the good of the Canadian population. The Prime Minister should have, for once, worked with the other parties to reinforce the team Canada approach, not only when it suits him, such as when he is trying to defend his throne speech.
We know that the throne speech shows a lack of backbone and a lack of will. It contains no economic recovery measures.
As well, we need the additional health transfers to the provinces and territories to be without condition, rather than with conditions that are a direct intrusion upon provincial jurisdiction. This is certainly not the time to accentuate the deep disagreements the Prime Minister has with his provincial counterparts. Instead, it is the time to help Canadians, small businesses, industries, the elderly and the most vulnerable of our country.
I held the minister of health portfolio in Nova Scotia 12 years ago and know very well that the health of my province was not that of Quebec or Alberta. This is even more the case today, as the cases in the Atlantic bubble are still close to zero, unlike here in Ontario and Quebec. It is essential that the Prime Minister let the provinces manage their needs themselves.
How is it that Canada, which the Prime Minister has been saying for years is doing better than any other country in the G7, still does not have faster access to COVID testing for individuals, has an unemployment rate that is higher than all others, and has a deficit reaching a catastrophic and unprecedented level?
Where is the Prime Minister's real leadership? When it comes to testing, the government made the announcement yesterday that it will be two to six weeks, or even longer, before Canadians have access to the new testing.
Back home in West Nova, the heart of our local economy is generated by tourism and the fishing industry. These two local economies were hit hard in the early weeks of the pandemic crisis. They are still being greatly impacted and will certainly remain deeply affected over the next couple of years.
I quickly addressed to the ministers my concerns and the challenges West Nova businesses were experiencing early in the pandemic. Then, when the government emergency measures finally arrived, it was too late for many of those businesses, as they did not meet the eligibility criteria.
My interventions, I felt, were on time, but the government's slow emergency response for the tourism industry and other small businesses came too late. The tourism season in Atlantic Canada and the survival rate of these businesses has been catastrophic, just like elsewhere in the country.
In the throne speech, it was mentioned that additional support for small businesses will eventually be available, but unfortunately, it is too late for many of these businesses. They were expecting, and I was expecting, real change in the throne speech.
I still believe that, had the Prime Minister not prorogued Parliament for so long and had he acted like a real government leader who makes the survival of his country a priority, we could have worked together, as respectful parliamentarians, on financial measures and emergency programs that could have been adapted to the country's different realities.
I spent the summer travelling in my riding, talking to business owners, especially those in tourism-related businesses. I did my part in supporting them and making the hidden gems of West Nova known to a wider audience. We have a beautiful riding, from the Acadian shores of Clare and Argyle to the mountains and farms of the Annapolis Valley. It was very apparent that they feel completely forgotten by the government, because, for one reason or another, they could not qualify for any of the business programs.
Several elements in the throne speech are, as was mentioned earlier, recycled broken promises, such as high-speed internet access in rural areas like West Nova, the modernization of the Official Languages Act and reconciliation with our first nations.
The promises related to reconciliation with first nations have been talked about by the government since 2015, and they are now seen as a bit of a joke. I find it distressing that the Liberals continue to use the promise of reconciliation with indigenous peoples so lightly. It is a real and serious issue, but the Prime Minister opportunistically uses it only when he is in trouble and needs to shine up his image. It is sad to see the failures of his promises to the first nations, such as the response to the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and last spring's blockade crisis with the Wet'suwet'en.
The best example of this failure is the lobster fishery crisis that has been going for almost a month in my riding. That crisis has been foreseeable for months, almost a year now. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, with her hands-off approach to the crisis, preferred to ignore all the warning signs, believing that the dispute between commercial fishermen and the Mi'kmaq was going to settle itself, just like the Prime Minister thought that a budget would balance itself. However, neither will happen as long as the Liberal government is in office. All of the catastrophic situations that the government causes and ignores will only get worse, and this is causing suffering that can be avoided for many Canadians.
For weeks now, tensions between these two groups have been at their peak. Public safety is at stake, both on the sea and on the wharves. Protests are still being planned, with no clear and equitable deal for either party. Weeks ago, the Minister and I engaged in a dialogue in which we agreed that we needed to work together to solve the issue in a reasonable time, and by considering both parties' interests.
This situation is a perfect example of how I, as a Conservative, wanted to work with the government, and we could have worked together, but I am still waiting for the regular follow-up and fair closure that the Minister was to provide to me. It is completely unacceptable that the Minister says that she is having discussions with the two groups of fishermen, while the commercial fishermen are still trying to make themselves heard. The Minister has been telling us for weeks that progress is being made, but it is clearly not happening in St. Mary's Bay. She should be ashamed of her lack of leadership and her failure to deal with this urgent situation diligently, as a minister should be doing. It is a time-sensitive situation, and she must act immediately.
How can we have lasting reconciliation with our indigenous peoples when the government's mismanagement has set these two peaceful groups against each other, jeopardizing the possibility of reconciliation for another generation? For this, these Liberals should be truly embarrassed.
I look forward to working as the shadow minister for intergovernmental affairs and ACOA. I promise the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs that I will not abuse his phone number. How much trouble can two Acadians actually get into?
This leads me continue my work in keeping the government to account in this chamber, in committee and, of course, back home.
Nova Scotia and Canada deserve better.