Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my speech by thanking the voters of the Churchill riding for their support.
As many know, the riding comprises some four-fifths of Manitoba's land mass. It is home to the Sayisi and the Northlands Dene nation, a nation that is still disputing land claims north of the 60th parallel.
The people of Tadoule still seek compensation for forced relocation that almost saw the total destruction of an entire people.
Our riding is home to Churchill, the polar bear capital and a community of citizens such as Penny Rawlings and Robert Penwarden who believed in their town and the viability of the port of Churchill.
It was a shame that the government of Canada did not have the same commitment to the port. As many of us maintained, the port was not utilized to its fullest for years. The port is being used now after it was sold to an American company.
The Churchill riding is home to a number of communities where seasonal work is the only way of life. The government's changes to employment insurance saw many of the families in these communities forced to go on welfare as they did not meet the required hours to qualify for EI benefits. Some were only short by a few hours. The government should not be proud of this. Many people have simply given up looking for work and have been forced to go on welfare.
The government's cuts in social assistance dollars saw people in northern communities who have to pay $11 for four litres of milk paid social assistance benefits at the same rate as those down south paying $4.04 for milk. Cuts to health and education have seen hospitals short staffed with line-ups for emergency services, not enough dialysis machines or not enough trained nurses to operate them.
At a time when the royal commission on aboriginal people's report recommends 10,000 aboriginal health care workers are needed, we see fewer and fewer dollars going that way.
Increased tuition costs have made it even more difficult for students of the north who must already pay relocation costs to continue their education in university.
The government's failure to act on our charter of rights, its failure to pay the public service workers money due as equal pay for equal work, its failure to treat women fairly is despicable.
I have often felt that I am from a generation that has not done without. I have had medicare and maternity benefits, labour legislation, health and safety legislation, the security of CPP, employment insurance and employment equity.
People like Syd and Mory Allen of The Pas, and Nestor and Vicki Dolinski from Flin Flon, Manitoba in my riding supported the efforts of Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles from the early years.
These benefits I have had are not things that I want my generation to not give to the people following us. I want my children and their children to have those same benefits.
We talk about what to do with the “surplus”, the government's prize at the end of three and a half years of starving Canadians and at the end of 13 years of women fighting for equal pay. Let us put the dollars toward the people who have earned it and to those who really need it. The Government of Canada owes some 200,000 workers $2 billion. Let's pay the dues.