Mr. Speaker, Parliament has returned after an election held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an election that was called after the opposition parties asked the Prime Minister to wait until after the crisis. It was an election called as Afghanistan was falling. It was an election called as British Columbia was burning and feeling cut off from Ottawa.
The Prime Minister said he was calling a pandemic election because it was a pivotal time for our country. It was so pivotal that the Prime Minister took his sweet time to bring the House of Commons back to be accountable to Canadians at this pivotal time. It was so pivotal that three months after, he has still not put in place the full structure of government, committees and Parliament. The time was so pivotal for Canada that even the Prime Minister relented and brought back Parliament months late, and then immediately began to avoid scrutiny and accountability in the same way we ended the previous Parliament. One of the first actions of the Liberal government was to partner with the NDP to avoid accountability by returning Parliament to a virtual format.
The Prime Minister is shirking the great responsibility that comes with our Parliament. He is also ignoring the real consequences of his many failures, of his economic failures, on families, seniors and small businesses across the country.
The House of Commons has returned, but the Prime Minister still forgets that being Prime Minister of Canada is more than photo ops and more than announcements. The House is supposed to be a reflection of this great country: its hopes, its fears and its aspirations for the future. The House is supposed to reflect the will of the people in this great country.
However, the Liberal government seems intent on only governing for the connected few. That was clear in the Speech from the Throne, which completely ignored most of the critical issues facing Canada now, such as the inflation crisis, the cost-of-living crisis, economic uncertainty, severe labour shortages, alienation in the west, an erosion of trust in the government and the complete collapse of Canada's reputation on the world stage.
The Prime Minister remains completely disconnected from the real needs of Canadians and is causing our country to be less prosperous and more divided. Too many voices in Canada do not feel heard. As leader of the Conservative opposition, I am going to share the voices of several Canadians who want to see real action from the government. Canada's Conservatives will be the voice for all Canadians who are being forgotten or left behind by the Liberal government.
While the Liberal and NDP MPs in this chamber will go back to hiding in their basements on Zoom, the Conservatives will be here to be a voice for the voiceless, to fight for a country that has never been more divided. We will be the voice for the millions of Canadians who believe in this country and want their elected officials to address the real issues being talked about at kitchen tables across this country, kitchen tables like those in Nova Scotia.
I spoke with Peter Richardson, a business owner from Nova Scotia. Peter has been operating a boat charter company and a lobster roll eatery near the famous Peggy's Cove for many years. In a good year, Peter would hire 10 other people to help throughout the season who would tour guests from across the country and around the globe to enjoy Canada's ocean playground.
However, when I spoke to Peter, he said he wonders why the Liberal government has repeatedly failed to listen to small business owners in the tourism sector as part of their COVID response measures. He knows that billions of dollars were spent. He knows of businesses that had record profits and still received support from support programs, while his business and the businesses of other small operators were completely left behind.
Peter, being a hard-working Canadian, found work and even helped transit the iconic Theodore Tugboat from Nova Scotia and the Halifax Harbour to Ontario down the St. Lawrence. He feels that Ottawa has not been listening to the voices of small operators in the tourism and travel sector. I want Peter and people in those highly affected sectors of travel, tourism and hospitality to know that the Conservative Party of Canada will be their voice in this Parliament.
I also spoke with Germain Blais, the CEO of Beauce Atlas, a company in Beauce, Quebec.
Germain, his family and his staff built a steel structure manufacturing business that is world renowned but depends on access to the U.S. market to succeed. His business built major projects such as the incredible Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park and the Logan airport in Boston.
Unfortunately, Beauce Atlas is another business that this government forgot. This is also the same government that failed to address the problems related to the buy American policy, the unfair tariffs on steel, and the labour shortage.
Germain told me that many of his foreign workers are from the Philippines. They worked hard to learn French. These workers are essential for his business, but they may have to leave the country because of wait times for their work permits.
The Liberal government did not say anything in the throne speech about the labour shortage. That is not a priority for the Liberal government.
I want businesses in Quebec, like Beauce Atlas and many others, to know that the Conservatives will be their voice and will address the labour shortage.
Another voice I want to ensure is heard in this Parliament is Clifford Martin's voice. He is from Trochu, Alberta. I had a great conversation with Clifford. He is an example of one of the millions of seniors across this country who has worked hard to contribute to the growing of Canada and deserves a retirement and senior years in dignity. Clifford and so many like him in all parts of this country have felt completely abandoned by the government.
Clifford drove a truck and had a number of jobs over a 40-year career before an injury at the age of 63 forced him to stop working. During the pandemic, he applied for support from the government. Clifford specifically asked the agent whether qualifying for the pandemic support would impact his pension or eligibility for the guaranteed income supplement. He was told directly by his government that it would not, yet without any notice he was cut off in July and is now struggling. He also sees thousands of other families in his province of Alberta struggling and losing faith not only in the government, but in Canada.
How did all of this happen, with some of the proudest Canadians losing faith? How could vulnerable people like Clifford, who reached out to their government, gave their social insurance number and asked specific questions, be told the wrong information? How could they be failed so badly by their government? How could it design these programs to leave people like Clifford behind?
This is another example of why Parliament needed to come back and why we need committees to come back. It is to make sure that people are not left behind again. Time after time the government has dropped the ball and Parliament needs to be here to pick it up again for the Cliffords of this country.
He told me that, as a result of the cuts in July, his cupboards are bare at the end of the month. He relies on food banks. Like a compassionate Canadian, Clifford also told me, “I try not to make using the food bank a habit, as there are people out there worse off than me.”
I find inspiration in that. That is the inspiration of our citizens, of our country, struggling and facing challenges themselves but still thinking of others. The generosity of Clifford and the hearts of the people in Alberta are an example to us here in Parliament.
Clifford is not alone. I spoke to the organizer at Food Banks Canada, which ties together a network of members: food banks in small towns, large cities, remote communities and indigenous communities across this country. Food Banks Canada told me that Clifford's situation is not unique. Food banks across this country have seen an acute rise in use from families renting in this economy, with rents going up. They are raising children and needing to access food banks to keep people fed. Single seniors living on their own, fighting against the cost of living increases that are leaving them drowning at the end of the month, are also a group of Canadians using food banks more. Clifford in Trochu, Alberta is just an example of that.
Food banks across this country are trying their best to meet the rising need. We know that inflation, the cost of living crisis the government is trying to ignore, is going to put additional strain on all of these important agencies in our communities. That is why inflation matters. That is why, Prime Minister, monetary policy matters. That is why the budget, debt, deficits, job creation, competitiveness and our economic future matter, something lost completely on a Prime Minister who is making us less prosperous and driving up the cost of everyday living.
Canadians are falling behind, and I want to thank those generous citizens and organizations like food banks that are helping lift people up. I want to champion and salute food banks across this country and thank their volunteers, donors and employees, including Feed the Need in Durham, in my area, and the Daily Bread Food Bank in the GTA. I want to use this opportunity to invite Canadians and all their communities to support their food banks in the Christmas season. We should be like Clifford and make sure we are thinking about people in our community and stepping up to help our food banks this Christmas season.
These are just a few of the voices that Conservative members have been telling me about and connecting me with across this country, families and businesses that are struggling as our country faces a cost of living crisis, a housing crisis, economic challenges and strains on mental health and wellness. There is hardly a family in this country that has not been directly touched by the mental health strains of this pandemic.
Canadians are feeling the pressure, and they are getting priced out of their own lives. They worry about the debt being heaped on the shoulders of their children. They love this country, and they wonder how a Prime Minister who decides to vacation for a day dedicated to reconciliation can be the same Prime Minister who uses our national flag as a political prop.
Our country is in the midst of a serious crisis. Canadians are more divided than ever. Families are dealing with more and more challenges and stress. Our economy is weak and our prosperity is in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, Canadians see a Liberal government that is completely out of touch with these realities, a government that is so out of touch that it is making these challenges worse.
The Prime Minister's high-tax, high-deficit agenda will cripple our economy at a time when it is already teetering on the edge. The Prime Minister's ideological and activist agenda will further erode our national unity at a time when it is already under massive pressure.
Rhetoric and empty promises are what we have heard from the government at a time when Canadians desperately need progress. Ambition has trumped achievement; symbolism has replaced action and division has eclipsed unity after six years of the Liberal government.
It is also clear that my friends in the NDP will not hold the Liberals to account. Instead, days after campaigning against the Liberals in the election, the NDP were campaigning to join them in some sort of coalition that will make our challenges even greater and will give the Liberal government a pass on accountability. Well, Canada's Conservatives will not stay silent while our collective prosperity is put at risk.
My friends in the NDP have forgotten who they used to represent. Canada's Conservatives are the real voice for working Canadians in this country. We are the real voice of small business owners, of steel- and autoworkers, of farming families, and of parents and seniors. As the official opposition, we will continue to fight for an economic recovery, not just for the friends of the Prime Minister, but for every Canadian in every region and every sector of this country.
That is why we are here. This is Canada's House of Commons and after COVID-19, after the last almost two years, every Canadian family deserves a recovery and a return to as much of a normal life as possible. That is not just for the select few that the Liberal government thinks are worthy.
However, our post-pandemic economic recovery is in jeopardy. Many businesses, investors, employers and entrepreneurs are already starting to give up on Canada. Over the last two years the Liberals have spent a staggering $400 billion above what the government should have been spending, and in the four years before that, let us not lose sight of the fact that in good economic times, with strong employment numbers, they ran another $100 billion of debt. Half a trillion dollars of debt by the government with an economy that is enjoying only tepid growth. Our country is drowning in the rising water of debt, and that is fuelling inflation and uncertainty.
I want to be clear. The pandemic was a crisis that needed a response, and whenever there is a time to put our country first, from the first wave to today, Canada's Conservatives will always put the country first. The impact of COVID-19, particularly early on, required a swift and large series of supports to help families and to help businesses stay afloat. We needed to spend, but we did not need to spend more than almost every other country on the planet. We did not need to double the national debt. We did not need to pay students living at home with their parents not to work. We did not need to ignore, as the government did, small businesses like Peter's in Nova Scotia, in tourism and hospitality, our restaurants. They needed the support, but they have told us repeatedly that they felt abandoned. Worse than just being slow and unfocused, the Liberal government threw away money on spending that did not foster economic growth and preserving the future. Rather than focus on investment and stimulus to kick-start our recovery and strengthen the economy, the government was focused on furthering its own partisan agenda.
The Deputy Prime Minister herself said the pandemic created “a window of political opportunity”. Well, it certainly was an opportunity for the WE Charity. It certainly was an opportunity for former Liberal MPs, like Frank Baylis. It certainly was an opportunity for Liberal lobbyists and the thousands of documents covered up so we could not see how well they accessed supports.
Even when the government was in crisis, the Prime Minister and his inner circle gave special access to their friends and insiders, while people like Peter in the tourism sector and restaurant owners could not get their calls returned. This type of special access to friends and family of the Prime Minister has been there from his first days in office, and people wonder why there is growing cynicism about public life, about Parliament and about politicians. The Prime Minister has set a tone of corruption from day one, and it has sunk into all the benches of his government.
Canada's Conservatives have repeatedly warned the government about reckless spending and insider deals and what they would cost our country in terms of prosperity and unity. For more than a year, we warned the government about the flood of money into our system and the constant extension of programs and CERB and other benefits when there were labour shortages. We warned that it would fuel inflation, especially if spending was not targeted and time-limited. Now we are watching the consequences of the government's actions in real time.
Heating homes is more expensive and natural gas is up 20%. Filling up a car is more expensive under the Prime Minister, up 42%. Buying food for one's family, putting food on the table, is more expensive, up 10% to 20% for nutritious foods. All of this is piled on top of housing inflation put in motion by the Prime Minister's inaction for the last five years, which is pricing Canadians out of their own neighbourhoods. Rent is up 20% this year alone in some Canadian cities, while wages are flat or declining. Everything is going up, except the optimism of Canadian families for our prospects in the future. Canada is the only country in the G7 where inflation is dramatically accelerating quarter after quarter, while our GDP is flat or even shrinking in some quarters.
We will hear the Prime Minister and the finance minister ignore people who are warning about the cost-of-living crisis, and suggest that it is transitory, that it is temporary. Canadians know the prices are not going to go down. They see no plan to tackle the labour shortage. They know this is not true. They know the Prime Minister does not understand the pressures families are facing, because he has never had to face pressures in his life.
Other countries are experiencing a degree of inflation, but only Canada is seeing its economy in actual long-term decline. The United States is facing inflation, but quarter after quarter it has had roaring GDP growth.
Under the Liberal government, Canada spent the most per capita among our allies on COVID benefits, and got the worst result. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent and we have an unemployment rate that is almost 2% above the G7 average. Inflation has skyrocketed to 4.7% and is still rising, while hourly wages are up barely 2% over a year ago. That means the average Canadian worker is experiencing a 3% pay cut at the worst possible time.
Canadian families are being forced to make hard choices. Families raising kids and seniors, especially single seniors on fixed income, are having to do more with less, and they are worried. They do not see this as being transitory or temporary. They see this hurting their lives today. While the Liberal government and some of its pundits will continue to downplay the long-term risks to our economy and the challenges facing families with inflation, the results speak for themselves.
Job creation is a good thing. It has always been one of my goals, but we also need to tackle the labour shortage. This is not just a problem; it is a crisis affecting every sector in Canada, from restaurants and construction sites to farms and factories.
Shops and businesses everywhere have “Help wanted” signs in the window. Millions of dollars are being lost every day. Thousands of businesses have closed their doors or left the country because they cannot find workers.
Businesses are suffering. The Prime Minister needs to understand that. He needs to protect them. The solution is to make it easier to bring in foreign workers, invest in skills training programs and recruit students and retirees to work in the trades and reduce skyrocketing costs.
When will the Prime Minister finally listen to them?
During the pandemic, Canada spent the most per capita of any G7 country, only to achieve the worst economic outcomes. Our employment rate shows that, and these are not just numbers: they are real people, such as the mother who lost her job in the tourism sector in Victoria, the student in Hamilton who relies on waiting tables to help pay for school and the energy worker in St. John's or in Fort McMurray. Now the Biden administration, with enhanced measures on buy-American, more protectionist policies and higher tariffs, threatens to cost thousands more Canadian jobs.
The current Prime Minister has led our country through the steepest decline in Canada-U.S. relations in the modern age over the course of three different administrations, so we cannot blame the second one. Over three presidents we have watched our partnership with the United States on trade, diplomacy and security wither away to nothing. What was a special relationship for centuries is a token relationship under the current Prime Minister.
President Biden admitted as much last week, when he described relations with Canada as the “easiest” relations the U.S. has. A one-way street is quite easy. It is easy for the U.S. to dominate, easy for the U.S. to win with the current Prime Minister and easy to ignore Canada under the current Liberal government.
When it comes to Canada-U.S. relations, the Prime Minister's track record over six years could be the subject of an hour speech alone. His approach is one of symbolism, posturing and failure to express a shared vision for our continent and for our democratic values. Over time, Canada's influence in Washington has waned to a point that Canada does not even warrant a phone call anymore.
It was easy for the U.S. President to cancel Keystone XL, because he knows the Prime Minister does not care about our energy sector. It was easy for the President to ignore the actions of the governor of Michigan when it came to the shutdown of Line 5, because she was following the Prime Minister's lead. It is easy for the U.S. to double softwood lumber tariffs, because the Prime Minister failed to make the case for our lumber sector six years ago when the President was the vice-president. It is easy for the U.S. to box out Canada when it fixes its supply chain crisis and when it rebalances global trade with China, because the Prime Minister has ignored U.S. warnings about Huawei and other foreign takeovers, and has showed repeatedly that Canada is no longer, under the current Liberal government, a trustworthy ally.
Now, it is easy for the U.S. to ignore the integrated Canada-U.S. automotive industry that goes back to the 1960s and the auto pact.
It is easy for President Biden to pledge massive incentives for U.S.-only-made electric vehicles, because the Prime Minister has never adequately made the case for the auto, energy, forestry or any sector in Washington.
What does the Prime Minister say in the face of these risks to auto workers in Windsor, St. Catharines, Oshawa and other communities across Ontario and, indeed, across Canada? The Prime Minister said that he is “a little bit concerned”.
There has been failure upon failure with our most important economic relationship, and after six years of failure the best we can get out of this Prime Minister is that he is a little bit concerned. Canada's Conservatives are very concerned about our economic prosperity and our future relations with the United States. Our relationship with the United States is in tatters and is about to get worse, and finally our Prime Minister is only a little bit concerned.
We will continue to fight to restore the influence lost under the Prime Minister's watch, with our shadow minister and our entire team understanding the needs of working Canadians, understanding the needs of the energy, steel and auto sectors, understanding the needs of farming families and fighting for our security interests and our values on the world stage. Canada's Conservatives will work hard to restore that important relationship with the United States as we cannot count on this government.
At a time when the country is more divided than ever, the Prime Minister needs to respect the provinces, change how he relates to them, drop the paternalistic attitude and work with them as a partner. As Prime Minister, his focus should be on uniting the country, not dividing it.
My approach is different. It is the opposite of the Prime Minister's “Ottawa knows best” approach. It is the Conservative approach, one of respect, listening, dialogue and finding common ground.
The Liberal government also needs to resolve the French language issue once and for all. We need a modern Official Languages Act now, one with actual teeth that is based on what minority francophone communities say they need. The Liberals talk a good game, but they have not done anything since 2015. They need to stop playing political games. The French language is in danger not only in Montreal, but elsewhere in Quebec and Canada. It is a priority right now, and it is my priority.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Under my leadership, the Conservative Party will defend the interests of Quebec, its identity and its culture. The Prime Minister does not believe that Canada has an identity. He wants Canadians to live in shame, ashamed of their past, their identity and their culture. He favours accusations, division and conflict over listening, sharing, dialogue and reconciliation. He sees patriotism as problematic, as though loving one's country were a problem. I have dedicated my life to defending my country. I have served my country and am very proud to continue serving it. That is why I continue to fight for Canada.
We have seen the Prime Minister continually fail to match his ambition with achievement. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. The Prime Minister, who once said that this relationship was the most important for him as Prime Minister, is the same person who famously turned indigenous protesters into punchlines. The Prime Minister went surfing rather than stand in solidarity.
Reconciliation is another issue for which the Liberal government prefers symbolism as a substitute for serious action. I have spoken to many indigenous leaders, and they are tired of the talk. They are tired of the symbolism and they are tired of the inaction of the Liberal government. They are tired of ambition with no plan, tired of having to wait for another study, another review or another retired Liberal politician studying something. They are tired of more ministers who promise action and fail to deliver.
Reconciliation at its core means re-establishing trust between indigenous peoples and the federal government, it means rebuilding respect and it means action. It means forging partnerships with indigenous leaders, nations and businesses to move the relationship forward together. Above all, it requires honesty and striving to over-deliver and stop over-promising. A promise to eliminate long-term drinking water advisories is just empty words without a plan and a firm deadline to do so. A promise made by the Prime Minister in 2015 to move on all calls to action in the truth and reconciliation report is equally hollow without a transparent process to prioritize actions and be held accountable for them.
The painful discovery of graves at the former residential school site in Kamloops made the news across the country months ago. My 10-year-old son, Jack, and I talked about it. He said to me, “Kids aren't supposed to die at school, dad.” These are the conversations of reconciliation. These are the difficult but important conversations all Canadian families must have. I am sure that many families and many communities have had these difficult conversations. What I told Jack was that Canada has a plan to help those families heal. Our country has a plan to return those missing children home. Our country has a plan and a road map to address the sins of our past and of our present.
I know the Prime Minister cares about this as deeply as I do. I have said this on numerous occasions. I know all members of the House want to act on the path of reconciliation. I know that all members and their families have shared the pain of Kamloops, Cowessess, Kootenay and so many other communities. That is why, in June, the Conservative opposition pledged our cross-party support to move swiftly on calls to action 71 to 76. We pledged that before Canada Day to show survivors, indigenous communities and all Canadians that we can make progress on the path to reconciliation. We can harness our tears of sorrow into the perspiration of action.
Half a year later, and after half a year with our flag at half-mast, nobody knows the status of those calls to action in relation to missing children at former residential school sites. Once again, there is no urgency, no transparency and no action from the government. There is no leadership from the Prime Minister on this issue, despite the fact that he cares and makes those promises.
Canada's Conservatives want to see steady and measurable progress on reconciliation with first nations. We want families in urban and rural settings, on and off reserves, to be lifted out of poverty. We want the next intergenerational transfer for indigenous peoples to be wealth and opportunity, not more decades of trauma.
With the cost of living crisis our country is facing, this is more important than ever for first nation communities and indigenous families. We need to dismantle the barriers that hold back too many young indigenous people back from jobs, skills development and post-secondary education. For first nation communities and businesses across the country, we need to build partnerships; indigenous supply chains, including in the energy sector; and revenue-sharing models. First nation leaders and businesses are there, but the government is not. We must also take action on housing and focus on mental health and addiction support.
I want to congratulate the Liberal government on its decision to create the position of minister responsible for mental health. I like to think that our policies and initiatives may have contributed to that decision, but again, I hope this will be more than just symbolic, as per usual. Like me, Canadians want concrete measures.
We will continue pushing for significant funding for culturally appropriate services to end addiction, and the mental health epidemic, on and off reserves for indigenous Canadians.
I want inequality and discrimination to become things of the past and for indigenous peoples to be full partners in the prosperity of Canada. When the Liberal government takes ideological action that hurts the prosperity of Canada and goes against the resource sector, whether through capping or trying to stop resource development, Canadians need to know it is also hurting our progress on the road to reconciliation. The government, countless times, has violated its constitutional duty to consult first nations, and it is holding back partnerships and opportunities for indigenous peoples to have prosperity.
Ideological policies are leaving behind millions of Canadians and causing strains to our national unity. The world is currently facing an energy crisis. We see it ourselves in our everyday lives when we go to the pumps and gas is almost 50% higher. We see it in President Biden calling for OPEC and other energy producers to increase production of oil and gas to lower soaring energy prices, which could complicate global pandemic recovery.
Nothing shows how out of touch and how ideologically unsound the government's natural resources policy is better than what is happening right now in Washington. Our closest ally, the United States, is asking for more oil and gas from countries in OPEC while holding back the Canadian energy sector with the cancellation of Keystone XL and threats to Line 5.
What is the Prime Minister going to do about this? Is he also a little concerned about this? Under the Prime Minister, it is easy for the United States to ask for less from Canada while asking for more from countries like Angola, Libya and Venezuela. Canada has some of the most ethical, most environmentally conscious, most regulated and highly transparent energy production in the world. We are a leader in terms of environmental, social and governance, or ESG, and we are the top leader in the world when it comes to ESG and indigenous participation. Canada is the energy ESGI power in the world, and we should be leveraging that to help Canadian families and our country, and to help with reconciliation.
Canada, as the leader of democratic resource countries, could step up and increase production to address the energy crisis. We can fill the void, and help Canadian families and our trade partners. The world can trust our industry's commitments to net zero and GHG emissions, while it cannot trust a word that comes out of any of the OPEC countries.
We have labour organizations, union leaders and union members right across this country who have helped by getting their hands dirty making our energy and natural resource sector world leaders, while being a source for hundreds of thousands of stable, well-paying jobs for their members. Unlike the NDP and the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party will stand along side those working families for their future.
However, the Prime Minister and his new environment minister, who I think is cycling to Ottawa as we speak, want to deny the energy sector the opportunity to supply the world, to fill this gap, with ethical, lower-emission, Canadian energy at a time that it is desperately needed. The government would rather ship crude up the St. Lawrence from Saudi Arabia or Venezuela than ensure a worker in Edmonton or a worker in an indigenous community can provide for their family, and that is a failure.
The Prime Minister likes to pretend that we cannot support our energy sector while maintaining our commitment to climate action and lowering emissions. His recent cabinet choices seem to reward activists and demote pragmatists. The astronaut gets grounded and the activist gets launched. Time in handcuffs for stunts is valued over time in space for our country, and there is something wrong with that. We could say, “Houston, we have a problem.”
On the world stage, this is another example of the Prime Minister's ambition and symbolism, rather than one of achievement and concrete action. Despite the tweets and tag lines, the Prime Minister has never hit one of his emission reduction targets. Talk is a great game. Like everything, he thinks budgets will balance themselves and emissions will lower themselves. He has failed on every single piece of his legislative agenda in 2015, except marijuana. I guess that is a personal favourite of his.
The Prime Minister has failed in every measure. He has raised our taxes. He did not lower our emissions. We are the only country in the G7 where emissions have gone up during the Prime Minister's time in government over the last five years. The Prime Minister is now tripling down on his failed policy by tripling the price of his carbon tax.
Conservatives know, and we have showed this in conversations, discussions and actual tangible plans, that we can protect our environment, lower our emissions, and meet our international amendments and agreements, without sacrificing our economy, without giving up on Clifford in Trochu, Alberta, and without giving up on families in Newfoundland and Labrador, as the Liberal MPs have for six years.
We know it is possible to work with our energy sector to lower emissions while providing jobs and opportunities at home, and while supplying sustainable and ethically resourced products to developing countries and our democratic allies, who should want to source their energy from a country like Canada to transition to a lower-carbon future. Liberals want their coffee to be fair trade. They should want their energy to be fair trade as well.
We can lower emissions. We can promote green technologies, and we can generate emission-free electricity through nuclear, hydro, carbon capture and sequestration, all while protecting jobs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and in fact, in all parts of this country.
Investments in clean energy, such as hydrogen and small modular reactors, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and around the world. However, Canadians are seeing the opposite. They see the Liberal government cozying up to militant groups rather than doing any real work to promote innovation and create jobs in this country.
It is time for the government to get serious about Canada's economic and environmental future because its record has been dismal on both. It is failing on both measures and dividing the country as it goes.
Speaking of dividing the country, we saw that the pandemic election was focused on that. There was no hiding it. There was no reason for the election. In fact, everyone asked the Prime Minister not to have it. He planned on dividing east versus west and vaccinated against non-vaccinated, adding to the pressure when we should have been reducing it to tackle hesitancy.
We know the COVID‑19 pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for our country. It required us to not play to those difficulties and divisions. It has been shameful to see the Prime Minister fall short of that, and lately, his whip as well . These hard times have often brought out the best in people outside of Parliament, especially our frontline health care workers, to whom we all owe a great debt.
We should also give a big thanks to the thousands of essential workers, truckers and people who stepped up to work, particularly when times were uncertain. They stepped up to help their friends and neighbours in need. However, when our country needed to be unified, the Prime Minister used vaccines as a wedge issue, both before and during the election.
Research shows that the best way to increase vaccination rates is to incentivize, educate and persuade. Instead of doing the tough work to combat hesitancy and misinformation to encourage vaccination, the Prime Minister added to the confusion and the division in the country at a time when he should have been taking the pressure down. He needed to partner with the provinces delivering the health care, not use them as punching bags.
Questions of health are deeply personal. They are critical to the well-being of each Canadian, their family and their community. Such questions of personal health and well-being should never be used to divide or scare Canadians. When people, including anyone watching this speech right now, have questions about vaccines, they should go to their physician, or someone they trust, to have those questions answered because they need to get vaccinated.
The division has also added to the isolation and mental health costs this country is facing. It is sad to hear the Liberals laughing as I move on to mental health. They should be listening. This is an area that should be beyond politics because all families have seen the impacts on mental health and wellness during this pandemic. From our children to our grandparents, the loneliness and change in the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental well-being of everyone.
We have seen this in higher depression rates in young people. Eating disorders are out of control. We need to have important conversations and take the temperature down to make sure people get the help they need. There is help out there for them, and the Conservatives will continue to make sure we try to bring people together on this subject.
There is not a family I have spoken to in the last year, including my own, that has not been impacted by this crisis. Our country has been gripped not only by those who we have lost to COVID, but also those who we fear we might lose to it. Last year alone in British Columbia there were 60% more deaths attributable to the opioid crisis than to COVID. Opioid addictions became worse over the course of the pandemic .
Earlier this year, The Globe and Mail had a weekend cover page with the faces of some of the Canadians lost to the opioid crisis in the last two years. It moved our family so much that Rebecca and I laid the faces out on a table and had a chat with Mollie and Jack about the dangers of the opioid crisis.
They were heartbreaking photos of young lives cut short, sometimes with a drug that killed them on the first attempt, Canadians like 16-year-old Elliot Eurchuk from Victoria, who died two years ago, or 12-year-old Ally Londono from the same community, who died in April.
We owe it to these families to work together on all sides of this chamber to help communities, to help first nations, to help this country fight the opioid crisis, and we will stand in the House to do that.
We must provide options for treatment. We must work with communities that are seeing mental health and addiction change the face of their downtowns. I was talking to folks in Victoria about that weeks ago.
Vulnerable Canadians, people suffering, most with mental health conditions, are hiding in plain sight in our cities, because we are becoming accustomed to tent cities. We are becoming numb to the misery in our path. We are getting used to just crossing the street to avoid confronting it. Let us ensure Canada does not become a country that crosses the street.
We must create solutions so that those battling depression and addiction know where to turn for help. We need to ensure that wait times are not barriers to accessing real treatment, and treatment needs to be an option on top of harm reduction. We also need to ensure that all voices know that we want to hear from them. That is why the Conservatives put forward a national 988 suicide hotline in the last Parliament. It is why we have pushed for major investment in treatment beds, and why we will push the government to finally deliver on the 988 hotline to help Canadians.
I hope this is an area where I can finally say that ambition is matched by achievement. Let us work together to help the vulnerable in our society. I will praise when praise is due. I know my colleagues on the other side are as heartbroken as any parent when they see the images of those young people from Victoria or from any community. They feel that sorrow and they want to act. Therefore, I say this is for the back bench members of the Liberal government. After six years of not being heard, they should tell their Prime Minister to act on mental health and addiction.
Across the country, there are challenges but there are also incredible opportunities. Canada is blessed with our resources and our people. Let us never lose sight of that. We have to fight to see wages go higher. We have to combat inflation and know that people are suffering. However, there is hope on the horizon. Parliament is about instilling hope by action, not by words.
I meet young people all the time in the Greater Toronto Area or the Lower Mainland of B.C. A generation of Canadians in college or starting in the workforce are giving up on the idea of home ownership. They do not think it is even an option. We need to see action.
Commuters can hardly afford to fill up their tanks. Seniors are trying to stretch every dollar as inflation ravages their fixed income. Small businesses are being squeezed by inflation, high taxes and the supply chain shortages, making their margins disappear.
As we approach the holidays, far too many families will be accessing those food banks, as I spoke about earlier, and are worried about leaving gifts under the tree for their kids.
Each month presents new challenges, and that is why each month we should be in Parliament fighting for Canadians as we face those challenges together. The Liberal government spending is fuelling inflation. The government's ideology is fuelling division. The government's platitudes are too often a barrier to real action.
The Conservative opposition is here to fight for Canadians, and I have spoken about a few of them in my speech today. We are proud of our country and we are here to stand up for it. We are here to fight for a plan toward prosperity and toward unity. We will be relentlessly focused on an economic recovery after this pandemic. I said it once and I will say it again; a recovery in every sector of our economy and in every region of our great country.
On inflation, on the budget, on taxes, on support for workers, on reconciliation, on climate change, on mental health and on the future, I want Canadians to know they have a voice in Ottawa with the Conservative opposition. We will actually be here and we will be a strong voice.
I want Canadians to know that they will have a choice to make in the future: achievement over empty words; more of the same from the Liberal and NDP coalition in its official or unofficial form; more of the same lofty rhetoric; more of the ideological division gripping our country; more of the ethical scandals and cover-ups that are becoming the hallmark of the Prime Minister's government; or Canada's Conservative opposition members who will stand up for all Canadians, who want to stand up for those who work hard to provide for their families.
In all parts of our great country, we will be their voice, the voice of Canadians who want to see a clean environment and a lower carbon future, but who want to leverage Canadian energy and innovation as part of that future; the voice for Canadians who are proud of what we build and what we invent in Canada, from the critical minerals in electric vehicles to the steel, aluminum and the people who go into making them; the voice of Canadians who are proud of their country and want to see real progress on the path of reconciliation and not just symbolic gestures.
Quebeckers are sick of waiting and getting crumbs from the Liberal government. They want Ottawa to show them some respect. They want an effective federal government that will address the labour shortage problem and the inflation crisis, while protecting Quebec's identity and autonomy. Only the Conservatives are up to the task. Only the Conservative team will do what it takes and stand up for Quebec.
I want Canadians to know that we heard them in the election. They did not want the pandemic election and they sent back another minority Parliament to get to work. They may have kicked the tires on the Conservative Party or even on me, but they did not buy the car. I want them to know that we will never stop fighting to earn their trust, and we want them to buy the blue car next time.
I am proud to lead a passionate, experienced and capable team of women and men from all parts of the country, who are here in Parliament because they love their country and they are committed to its unity and its prosperity. All of us will dedicate ourselves to peace, order and good government, and to healing the divisions in our country. When we can work with the other parties in House to make Canada more prosperous and more united, we will.
We will also be tenacious in our efforts to hold the government to account, to demand accountability and to demand transparency. We will propose solutions to get Canada moving again, and that is what our country needs. As opposition, we will oppose, and that is our job, but we will also propose plans for the future, and that is our passion. We will fight tirelessly for Canadians at home to build strong relations and to restore our reputation abroad.
We will work with indigenous leaders, union leaders, businesses and volunteers to create opportunities for our children and grandchildren. The Conservatives will be the real voice for working Canadians, for families and for seniors in Ottawa, because the Liberals and the NDP are leaving millions of voices behind.
We will stand against discrimination, because in a country as great as Canada, we must fight to make it better. There is no room for racism, intolerance, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or extremism of any kind. No Canadian should face barriers because of their faith, gender, sexual orientation or the colour of their skin. I want them to know that Canada's Conservatives will fight for all Canadians.
My true patriot love is as strong today as it was in 1991 when I first put on the uniform of service when Brian Mulroney was prime minister of the country. Standing in this chamber and having been part of the government of Stephen Harper, giving us balanced budgets and a place in the world, serving in uniform and in Parliament, at risk on Sea King helicopters and at risk on Twitter, it is the honour of my life. I have the honour to lead the party that founded our great country and I am proud to have a team that is here to save it.
Standing in this chamber, it is an honour for me to represent the people in Durham as well and it is an honour for me to be here as the husband of Rebecca and the father to Mollie and Jack. I often talk to them about our country's challenges and its opportunities.
As we emerge from the pandemic and as families across the country talk about those challenges and opportunities, they need to see the 44th Parliament seized with those challenges and passionate about the future of the country. They do not want more words and ambition; they want concrete action and achievement. My belief in Canada is unlimited, my confidence in its people unbounded and my dedication to its service is beyond measure.
I believe in Canada. I believe in my country. My confidence in Canadians knows no bounds, and my devotion to this country is without limit.
The Conservative opposition is here to serve Canada. It is our job and that is what we will do.
We will strive to place the interests of the country, its unity and its prosperity at the forefront of everything we do in this Parliament. We will serve as a reflection of the country, its people, its hopes, its fears and its aspirations. Over the course of this Parliament, we will work hard to prove ourselves worthy of what Prime Minister Borden once described as the “great responsibility [that] comes to us as heirs of the past and trustees of the future.”
In that spirit, for those reasons, I move:
That the motion be amended by adding the following:
(a) a cost of living crisis that is cutting the average Canadian worker's paycheque by 2.7%, which requires urgent action by the government to (i) table a plan to control spending and apply a laser focus on policies that will create growth, (ii) maintain the Bank of Canada's 2% inflation target, (iii) increase production of Canadian energy to boost supply and lower gas prices, (iv) take action to improve the resilience of Canadian supply chains;
(b) a stagnant economy, with Canada's real GDP growth now the weakest in the G7, actually shrinking by 1.1% in the second quarter, which requires urgent action by the government to (i) reduce the burden of taxes and regulation to restore Canada as an attractive place to invest and build a business, (ii) table a plan to create growth in all sectors of the economy and boost real wages, (iii) drive innovation and technology by overhauling Canada's R&D programs;
(c) a housing crisis that has driven home prices up 30% over the past year and priced thousands of young families out of the market, which requires policies that will build an additional one million homes over the next three years by (i) reallocating 15% of the government's real estate portfolio for housing, (ii) tackling regulatory barriers that raise costs of construction, (iii) linking infrastructure dollars to higher density zoning, (iv) committing to not tax principal residences;
(d) an acute labour shortage that is affecting 60% of businesses in Canada and 82% of Canadian manufacturers, which requires the government to (i) improve alignment of immigration criteria with the needs of employers, (ii) streamline the rules of the temporary foreign workers program, (iii) improve skills training and give more powers to provinces; and
(e) a national unity crisis, which requires (i), respecting provincial jurisdiction, (ii), supporting and growing all parts of the economy, including the energy sector, (iii), restoring confidence in our national institutions, starting by returning ethics and accountability to the government.