Mr. Speaker, it has been quite a while since I have been physically present in the House. This is my first day back, partly because of the COVID pandemic, and partly because the Prime Minister decided to shut down Parliament and prorogue to get away from the WE scandal that was damaging his reputation, due to the Liberal corruption and involvement there.
As I am here today, I want to say that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. My heart goes out to those Canadians who have suffered in many ways, including from the loss of a loved one, from separation and from isolation. We all need to work together to do the right thing and move forward.
As is my habit when it comes to the throne speech, I am going to talk about what I liked in the throne speech, what I did not like in the throne speech and what I thought was missing in the throne speech.
In terms of what I liked, there were a lot of noble ideas, including things that the citizens of Sarnia—Lambton could agree with and get behind, but without any evidence that action was going to be taken.
This is the third throne speech I have had the pleasure of hearing. This one was really reminiscent of 2015, with a lot of the same buzz phrases, such as “the middle class and those hoping to join them”, and “a whole-of-government approach”. Nobody really knows what that means anyway. Resiliency and agility were mentioned as other buzz words, but again, it was mostly a regurgitation of promises previously made.
I think addressing the opioid crisis is a priority, but that was a promise made by the government years ago and we are having more deaths from the opioid crisis than from the COVID crisis. Some of the other things in the speech, like pharmacare, the Liberals have been talking about since 1992. We continue not to see anything.
The speech mentioned pay equity for women. I was on the pay equity committee when I was first elected in 2015, and there has been no action taken in five years. Where is that action?
Concerning the truth and reconciliation recommendations, the government has said that the relationship with indigenous people is its number one priority, but since 2015 we have seen no action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations.
Achieving the Paris targets by 2030 is certainly a noble theme, because those targets came from the previous Conservative government. The reality is that the Liberal government is not going to achieve the 2030 targets, and it is now talking about exceeding those targets.
These things may be noble, but where is the action?
One of my constituents pointed out that the promise to plant two billion trees in 10 years is way behind, and if the Liberals want to get going, they are going to have to plant 547,945 trees each day for the next ten years. That is another promise I do not believe is going to happen.
Affordable housing is something we desperately need in my riding, and I have been waiting for it. The Liberal government has been talking about a national housing strategy and affordable housing since I got elected. I do not know if the money is just going to the Liberal ridings and not to the Conservative ridings, but I am still waiting. It is a crisis and something we need to get behind.
I was very happy to see something about seniors in the throne speech because, in 2015, they eliminated the minister of seniors, which seemed wrong. Half of the people in Sarnia—Lambton are over 60, so seniors are important to my riding.
The Liberals said they were going to take action on long-term care. Certainly, this pandemic has shown us that we need to do something there, but there needs to be recognition that if we come up with national standards for long-term care, more resources are going to be needed. More helpers will be needed: there are not enough workers. That will increase the cost of long-term care.
How will the many seniors living on a fixed income be able to pay for that, especially single seniors, who are among the poorest in the country? Although there are a lot of noble themes, a lot was just a regurgitation of old promises.
What I did not like in the throne speech was the way the response to COVID-19 has rolled out. It has been a gong show from the beginning. The health minister said there was very little risk to Canadians. She said border controls do not work, and then flip-flopped on the mask issue. I have been sending rapid tests for approval to the Minister of Health since April of this year. To see that the Liberals are still nowhere in terms of implementing rapid tests is a big deal.
It is especially a big deal in my riding, because it is a border riding. Lots of folks are inter-married. There are people who have not been able to travel to see their dying parents, attend weddings or funerals, and a lot of people own property on both sides. Rapid tests would be a great way to make sure people could be tested for COVID, found negative, come across to do what they need to do to be part of their families without risking Canadians, and return. It is incredibly important to get this out and not just say the words but get it implemented, and implemented using a protocol at the border that I suggested to the health minister.
There were some other things that I did not like. Sarnia—Lambton has 30% of the petrochemical oil and gas production in the country, and there was no addressing western alienation or the oil and gas industry. I see nothing but further erosion with respect to this very important industry.
I have three refineries in my riding: Suncor Energy, Shell Canada and Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil. We heard today about the job cuts at Suncor. The day that it looked like the clean fuel standards were being put in place, Shell went up for sale. The Imperial Oil refinery officials are saying it is existential to them: If they do not get an exemption from the clean fuel standard, it will cost three or four billion dollars a year, and the company can be more competitive in other parts of the world. Those were things that I did not like in the throne speech.
I also did not like the single-use plastics ban that was announced. This is hypocrisy from a government that gave $35 million to Nova Chemicals, in my riding, to incentivize the stakeholders to build a $2 billion expansion in Sarnia—Lambton instead of in Texas. Of course, the Liberals had to make concessions on the carbon tax because that was not going to be competitive with Texas. We are talking about 1,500 jobs each year for the next five years, and then a bunch of permanent jobs. Now the Liberals say they are going to ban single-use plastics, which puts this project at risk. These are Canadian jobs.
Single-use plastics are not the problem in Canada. I would point out that in the middle of a pandemic, in order to keep every Canadian safe, every bit of food we got from any place was packaged in individual single-use plastics, and everybody who went to the hospital was treated with little implements that were single-use plastics that were wrapped to be sterilized. When Gatineau floods every other year, the sand is put into single-use plastic bags to keep the damage from happening. The issue in Canada is not single-use plastics. We collect a whole bunch of plastics, but we only recycle 9% of them. The issue we should be looking at is microplastic pellets in the Great Lakes. Those issues are fact- and evidence-based. The Liberals talk about being fact- and evidence-based but, honestly, they are way off base on this one and they are going to cost Canadian jobs again for no reason. I did not like that.
The response to crime is always rich coming from a government with Bill C-75, which reduced incidents like forcible confinement of a child down to a summary conviction of less than two years or a fine. It is always fun to hear what the Liberals have to say about crime. Once again, they are going to tackle crime by putting in a handgun ban. I can assure them that the criminals of this country are not going to obey a handgun ban. The lawful gun owners will, but they are not the problem. Ninety-five per cent of gun crime in this country is committed with illegal guns and guns used illegally. Once again, the Liberals are attacking the wrong problem.
What was missing in the throne speech?
An economic recovery plan was mentioned that is going to create a million jobs. I am not exactly sure where those are coming from, because the Liberals are eliminating oil and gas jobs, they are going to kill the plastics industry and they have not done anything for forestry. It goes on and on. That was missing.
Broadband Internet is a noble theme. Where is the money? My riding was promised $12 million in 2015 or 2016, and we are still waiting for that.
What about the duty-free business? I know the tourism industry is under duress. Duty free is 100% export and right now, the government is doing nothing except closing the borders and depriving tourism businesses of their revenue. Every dollar not spent there is a dollar spent in the U.S., so there is an opportunity.
Finally, I would say the understanding that it is a great time to invest misses the point that, if interest rates increase just 1%, that adds $12 billion to the debt. Provinces are crying out for more health transfers. We give about $40 billion total in health transfers, and a 1% interest rate increase could be $12 billion. Four per cent could be the entire health transfer.
We are really restricting our ability to help the country by not understanding basic math and basic economics.
With that, I will summarize by saying that it was a disappointment, but there is more to come.