Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour for me to rise to speak in response to the Speech from the Throne, which was delivered over two weeks ago.
As one might expect, I would like to take a moment to thank a number of people and to recognize the work, commitment and dedication of the huge team I had behind me during the last election. First of all, I must highlight the invaluable contribution made by volunteers who gave their time and kept showing up, day after day, during the election campaign. I would like to name a few. I feel a bit ungrateful doing this, because there are so many people who take care of us and our schedules and who see to our every little need. In short, we have a lot of people supporting us. I will have a chance to talk more about it later, but in my case, this was my seventh election campaign. Every time a campaign starts, I have what feels like an army of about 300 people who suddenly show up and lend a hand. It seems ungracious to name only a few, so I would like to extend my thanks to all the others as well. I want to say a big thank-you to Denise, Jean-Pierre, Marie-Ève, Sarah, Claude, Rock, Bruno, from our association, and Yvon. I also want to sincerely thank all the others, and they know who they are, of course.
I would like to thank my father, Claude, who is 86 and still very sharp. He loves politics maybe even more than I do. He is a man who is always there for me, always ready to listen. When I need to vent, I still turn to him today at age 54. I thank him, and I want him to know that I love him very much. I thank him for being there for me.
My mother is no longer on this earth, but I know she is with me.
There is also my son, François‑Xavier, my big six-foot-four boy, who is becoming an accomplished young man and who has been by my side for a long time. I got into politics in 2003. He was seven at the time and missing his two front teeth. I have wonderful photos with him. He is probably the one who has paid the highest price for my political involvement.
Everyone here knows what it means to have a life in politics, especially as a parent. It is very demanding. One day, when I was reflecting on my political involvement, I asked my son, who was then 11 or 12, what he thought about it. He said I should do what I love in life. He gave me his stamp of approval and that may be why I have lasted in politics so long. I owe him everything. I thank him, I love him and I am proud of him. I am very proud to be his mother.
I want to thank my partner, Dany, who is patient, open-minded, positive and cheerful. I am not sure if he likes politics, but he certainly likes his girlfriend. I thank him from the bottom of my heart. I love him and thank him for being there for me. Nothing would be the same without him.
I would like to thank my party, who welcomed me with such kindness and openness. There are some francophones in the caucus. Everyone makes an effort to stop by and see me. We speak in French. I would like to say that I noticed and that I appreciate it. Thank you. I especially want to thank them for their warm welcome. They are incredible. Finally, I would like to thank our leader for the heartfelt discussions we have had. He loves Quebec. I will say it once more today: He is a remarkable man. I am pleased to be supporting him.
I would like to talk about political commitment. We are all moved by a desire for dedication and change. It is a rather crazy thing to be getting into politics these days, because it is not always very popular. However, at the end of the day, just as we lay down to sleep, we tell ourselves that perhaps we helped someone that day or changed someone's life. That is how we give meaning to our commitment.
I have been involved in politics for over 15 years. I started out at the provincial level, spending 15 years as an MNA and 10 years as a minister. I know what political commitment means and what it represents. I know what it means to assume the responsibility we are given when we come to Parliament and represent our constituents. We have a responsibility. There are 338 members who represent 38 million people, and that is really quite something.
We essentially have three roles as members of Parliament. First, of course, we have our role as legislators. We want to pass the best laws possible and improve people's lives. We want to be visionaries.
Our second role is to help people, our constituents and the businesses in our riding. Politicians are the ones who do this, because otherwise the work would have to be done by deputy ministers, and that is not what we want. What we want are politicians who care and who are able to get things done for people, to help them through the sometimes opaque and complicated bureaucracy, to help them with situations that might not otherwise get addressed.
Our third role is to be auditors, to review expenditures and assess how and why they are being made and whether they are appropriate. That is part of our job.
I may have digressed a little to talk about who I am and to thank people, but my speech today is in response to the throne speech, and I want to talk about the economy.
The throne speech is particularly disappointing. The government's vision is lackluster and narrow and there was no effective plan forward. That may be because the throne speech contains nothing, or nearly nothing, on the economy.
Quebec and Canada are in a full-blown labour shortage crisis. We have tried to get that point across every way we can think of. We keep asking questions about this issue, but the government refuses to answer, and the throne speech is silent on the subject.
What about balancing the budget? Not a word. How is that possible in a throne speech? When the government that has been in power since 2015 runs higher deficits every year, that inevitably runs up the debt. My colleagues are right: that is shameful. Plus, there is only one sentence about inflation.
A throne speech is supposed to present a unifying vision of the government's priorities, so how is it possible to deliver a throne speech without mentioning the three issues I just raised, if only very superficially?
In 2014, the Prime Minister said the budget would balance itself. That is a fantasy, a fallacy. That is not how it works. I do not understand how the Prime Minister could have said such a thing or how the throne speech could reflect what he thinks or what he did and failed to do.
The government was far more concerned about its image and holding an absolutely pointless $600-million election, rather than dealing with the economic issues facing Canadians and Quebeckers.
I want to talk about the deficit and debt. I mentioned it earlier, but it is frightening to watch the government navigate with such huge sails, but no rudder.
I looked at the debt numbers, but I am going to refer to an article written by columnist Michel Girard that is both fascinating and frightening. His article details some numbers that are troubling, to us and to Canadians.
The deficit has grown from $2.9 billion in 2016 to $354 billion in 2021. That is a lot of money. The debt, meanwhile, went from $634 billion to $1.234 trillion. That number is so huge, I cannot even count it or figure out how many zeros it has.
I see that the Chair is telling me that my time is up. That is too bad, because I still had a lot to say. I will certainly have the opportunity to do so during questions and comments.