Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.
While this is not the first time I have spoken in reply to a Speech from the Throne, it is certainly the first time I have done so from Halifax, my hometown, the place that I love and fight for and the community that I am so humbled to represent in Canada’s House of Commons. Today I am more proud of my hometown than ever.
Over the last six months, the strong sense of community that has propelled our city’s success over the last decade, with neighbours brought together by a shared purpose and pride of place, has been our strength and reassurance in a time of great uncertainty.
At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life, where we work, when we see our families and friends, how we enjoy our city’s shops, restaurants, recreational sites and attractions, I have found great comfort and inspiration in Haligonians’ commitment to one another. Heeding the calls from our trusted public health officials, though not without sacrifice, Halifax has weathered the storm of the pandemic together.
I come to the House from a province that has seen, at different points during the spring, consecutive weeks at a time of no new cases, including today. Together with our Atlantic Canadian neighbours, we have come out of the first wave of the pandemic as one of the safest places in the Americas and as an example for the world. The key factor in our successful response has surely been our people: health care professionals who care for the sick, essential workers who put themselves at risk to keep the rest of us going, and neighbours helping neighbours.
During the lockdown, I received many letters, calls and emails from constituents who wanted to recognize the kindness of their neighbours. With their permission, I would like to read a couple:
Lauren Hutton wrote of her friend Ann Marie Danch:
Ann Marie has made many, probably a hundred by now, cloth masks and surgical caps for friends and family, some who work at Northwood [Seniors Centre], run small businesses or work in essential services, and she’s still going!
Susan Smith wrote of her brother-in-law, Ron Griffiths:
I am the caregiver of my 92 year old mom and was very nervous about going out as I was scared I’d bring COVID-19 home to her. Ron ran all my errands, shopping, did work in my yard and was here for us 100%.
Katie Ells wrote of Graciella Clarone:
Miss Graciella brings me fresh vegetables every week. She checks in on me every couple of days, knowing I am alone and high risk. I know she does this for many people. Without Miss G, I don’t know how I would get through this “stay home” order.
Of course we have not been entirely spared this terrible virus. Sadly, we mourn the loss of 65 Nova Scotians who succumbed to COVID-19. This number is too high. One person lost is too many. I want those families to know that our city holds them in our thoughts and in our hearts.
We also know that we need to do better in our long-term care system in Nova Scotia. The province is actively working, with support from the federal government, to ensure that we have the equipment we need to protect the seniors who live in these facilities. After all, as governments rely on the hard work of everyday citizens to get through this crisis, citizens are relying on us, as government and parliamentarians, to lead.
That brings me to the government’s agenda, as laid out in the Speech from the Throne. It is difficult to believe it was only 10 months ago that we gathered in the red chamber to hear the speech that kicked off the first session of this 43rd Parliament. The world feels like a much different place than it did on that day last December and, in fact, very different from this time a year ago when I, and all of us, were on the campaign trail, asking Canadians for their trust. At the end of that campaign, Canadians re-elected our Liberal government for its strong record and our bold, hopeful plan for the future of this country.
In that election, Canadians looked at our achievements as a government, from creating a million new jobs, to enacting the strongest climate plan of any government in Canadian history; to our historic investments in community infrastructure, transit, and housing; to our important work on reconciliation, restoring Canada’s place on the world stage; and to the advancement of gender equality in all sectors of our society.
Canadians looked at our record and they re-elected a Liberal government. They looked at our vision for the future: a net-zero-emissions future, ambitious conservation goals, national pharmacare, more affordable child care, more support for our seniors, lower taxes for clean tech, and continued investments in the communities that we call home. Canadians looked at our plan and they re-elected a Liberal government.
Yes, times have changed. Priorities have shifted, and new challenges have risen to the top, but I want all Canadians to know that we are that same government. We are the government with a strong record of results and a bold plan for the future. Now we are the government that has led Canada through the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also the government that will see us through to the other side, to a strong recovery and to brighter, sunnier days. In March, at the outset of the pandemic, we promised we would be there for Canadians. We have kept that promise.
We put workers first with the Canada emergency response benefit, ensuring people had money to put food on the table and cover their bills. We provided small businesses with quick access to capital through the Canada emergency business account. We made sure people could keep their jobs and keep their businesses running with the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
We topped up the GST credit, OAS and the Canada child benefit to help Canadians get by. We are helping people with disabilities with a special one-time payment. We have stepped up for charities and non-profits, and for cultural and heritage organizations. We have provided much needed relief for the provinces and municipalities.
Now, we find ourselves at a critical juncture, not only in the timeline of this pandemic, but in the history of Canada. Our next steps will determine the kind of Canada in which our parents will live out the rest of their lives, and the kind of Canada in which our kids will grow up.
We are at a crossroads, and the Speech from the Throne illuminates the path that leads toward progress and prosperity for Canada. It seeks to build a fairer Canada, where no one gets left behind or falls through the cracks; a more resilient and sustainable Canada, one that is clear-eyed about the challenge of climate change and what it will take to fight it; and a healthy Canada that protects and cares for its citizens, as we persevere through a deadly global pandemic.
The Speech from the Throne lays the foundation for a once-in-a-generation, transformational shift in Canada to build toward a Canada-wide early learning and child care system; to set new, national standards for long-term care; to introduce a new Canadian disability benefit, invest more in housing and commit to entirely eliminating chronic homelessness in Canada.
We are making the largest investment in Canadian history in training for workers, and making a commitment to create one million jobs. We are moving forward with the clean power fund, including projects like the Atlantic loop, which will connect surplus clean power to regions transitioning away from coal. We will modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We will continue the fight to dismantle systemic racism in our country through measures like law enforcement reform, including enhanced civilian oversight, modernized training and a shift to community policing. We promise all of this and more, on top of critical investments in public health to support our provincial partners through the COVID-19 pandemic.
I mentioned earlier that Canadians put their trust in our record and in our plan when they re-elected the Liberal government last October. Of course, it is also true that we were returned to Parliament as a minority. The message to all parties was clear: Canadians want us to work together.
I hope Canadians see that, on this side of the House, we have heard their message loud and clear. As a government, we have worked respectfully and meaningfully with opposition parties on areas of shared interest. We have shown that we are a collaborative, flexible government that works with any party in the House that puts Canadians first, ahead of posturing and politics.
Sadly, the Conservative opposition has chosen a different approach. They have chosen a self-serving agenda that seeks to tear down rather than build up. They would rather play games, and try to score political points, than work in the interests of Canadians. We have seen the Leader of the Opposition push a divisive narrative that does nothing to bring our vast nation together in this time of crisis, choosing instead to disrespect the Canadians who sent us here to find common ground. He is choosing instead to begin his tenure as leader by planting seeds of division all across our country. He is choosing instead to leave the millions of hard-working, middle-class Canadians who voted for his party in the lurch as they have called out for help. He does this all because it served his party better to play politics.
However, we have seen this cynical trick before, and Canadians will see through it. Instead, they will find pride in a Liberal government that is working hard for them, in partnership with other willing parties, to put their health first. We are working hard to keep families afloat, to fight climate change, to bring joy back to our streets and to build back better.
That is the plan we have outlined in the Speech from the Throne, and it will be a privilege to cast my vote on behalf of the good people of Halifax in favour of the hopeful vision it lays out for our country.