Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to share my time with the member for Brampton South.
Remarkably, it has been more than a year since I have spoken in this chamber. Circumstances and life have intervened. It was an exciting night for me on October 19, 2019, when the people of Winnipeg South Centre sent me back to the House of Commons. I want to thank them for that.
The next day was less happy. I was diagnosed with a blood cancer, multiple myeloma, and my kidneys were pretty well shot. Here we are, less than a year later, and I am feeling strong. I am grateful and ready to work, along with so many others with their own experiences. I want to thank the nurses, doctors and support staff of CancerCare Manitoba and the dialysis unit at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. They are now a part of my community, for their nurturing and wonderful care.
How the world has changed since then. No one has been immune to the impacts of COVID-19. It affects who we see, how we see them and how we live our lives.
The throne speech documents our response to this unprecedented health and economic challenge, with investments of billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the pandemic for people, businesses, institutions and communities. We understood that speed could mean imperfection, and adjustments have been made, and continue to be, as we learn and adapt to the evolving landscape of this pandemic.
The pandemic has shown that when all levels of government work together, we get the best results. Canadians do not want their leaders to bicker, name-call and disparage others. Democracies by nature encourage disagreement. That is what makes our system strong. However, we become vulnerable when our debates become acrimonious.
The pandemic has shown that when governments at all levels work together, better results happen. It is worth remembering that there have been 18 meetings between first ministers since the start of the pandemic.
Canadians do not want their leaders to bicker. They do not want them to name-call and they do not want them to denigrate, today more than ever. Democracies, by their nature, encourage dissent and that is what makes our system strong, but it weakens when the debate turns nasty, as we have seen recently in other places.
Among government's big jobs is to determine the pace of change. Whatever we do, it is not enough for some and it is too much for others. Trying to satisfy everyone will satisfy no one. What we do know is that social policy and economic prosperity are partners in nation building. Without child care, creating jobs and generating economic growth, we are slowed. If our citizens are unwell, unable to work or denied education or training, our communities cannot reach their full potential.
The pandemic is the most important health and economic crisis in Canada's modern history, but we will come out of these turbulent times well positioned to write the next chapter of the Canadian economy and the country's history.
The Prime Minister, who has led the Canadian effort with empathy, with sensitivity, with intelligence and grace, has asked me to be his special representative to the Prairies. I am a prairie guy, born and raised, through and through. This is the part of our country that shaped my values and an appreciation for staying close to the ground.
Winston Churchill was in Winnipeg on January 22, 1901, nearly 120 years ago. It was the day Queen Victoria died. Churchill happened to be in Winnipeg giving a lecture to earn a few dollars as a newly elected member of the British Parliament, recently returned from covering the Boer War as a journalist. Churchill looked out the window of his hotel room, gazed toward the west, and said that someday this land would feed the world.
How could Churchill have known that not only are we feeding the world with the crops he had in mind, but we are producing what the world needs and what the world wants today: energy, agriculture, plant and animal protein, artificial intelligence, community building and repairing relationships with indigenous peoples?
In many ways, the Prairies are leading not only in Canada but globally. This leadership will only be more important as nations look for stable partners producing what they need; what all of us need. This is the platform already built by those who came before and enhanced richly by today's talented scientists and academics, by the work ethic of producers all across the regions of the Prairies and indeed right across the country. We are poised to come out of the pandemic to accelerate trade to create more wealth, enabling us to distribute that wealth fairly, inclusively and justly.
As minister of natural resources and as minister of international trade diversification, I had the honour of representing Canada worldwide. In my experience, unfailingly, we are seen by the rest of the world as a leading nation, and a stable democracy financed by an abundance of resources, natural and human. We are humbled by size, challenged by geography and motivated by values that bind. We will get through this pandemic, and when we do, the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will help lead the way.
Alberta's entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity and the wealth generated by its natural resources will take us to the next generation of energy development in Canada. Already we see this happening, making the adjustments necessary to navigate a changing energy landscape worldwide. They will be on the leading edge of transformation, using the resources we have now to help ease the transition to the new energy reality.
Saskatchewan is blessed with fertile soil, passionate producers, traders, entrepreneurs and community builders on the leading edge of research and discovery. Saskatchewan is a trading province, more diversified in its trade than any other.
In my own province of Manitoba, celebrating its 150th year, swift-flowing rivers produce our electricity. Great cultural achievements have made Winnipeg a city attracting the finest creative talent. We have welcomed immigrants from every corner of the globe who have enriched our communities and our economy. We continue the essential work of reconciliation enthusiastically, supported by Manitobans. As our Prime Minister said to the United Nations General Assembly, “For First Nations, Metis Nation and Inuit peoples in Canada, those early colonial relationships were not about strength through diversity, or a celebration of our differences”.
Today, children are observing Orange Shirt Day, witnessing and honouring the healing journey of survivors of the residential school system, our national shame. We should never forget what indigenous peoples have taught us. Without their teaching and protection, many of our earliest immigrants to the Red River Valley would not have survived. Indigenous peoples' respect for land, water and air is a sacred trust. What riches this region enjoys and what an opportunity for all Canadians to move forward with all the potential that is the Prairie west. It is a rich diversity, and we can say we know it, but it is a formidable challenge to weave it together to be a national fabric out of all of this material. This has been the national project from before Canada became a nation.
I am proud to be a part of this team, and when I say “this team”, I do not mean just my colleagues on this side of the House, I mean all parliamentarians who share our aspirations for a strong and prosperous Canada. There will be a brighter day ahead, and we will face the challenges together.