Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise for my first speech as the member for Surrey North. I want to thank the people in my community for entrusting me to represent them in Ottawa. I am pleased to share my time with the member for London—Fanshawe.
Let me begin by acknowledging the work and the contribution of Chuck Cadman, the former member for Surrey North. When Chuck died last July, Surrey North constituents lost a much loved and respected MP and I lost a friend of 25 years. It seems to me that the friendship between the two us was an example of the cooperation and civility that has been talked about by all parties in the House over the last two days. Chuck and I were from very different political parties, but it did not matter. We could be friends. We could play Trivial Pursuit together, although he always won the musical questions. We could also find common ground, common goals and common solutions for the people of Surrey North. That is what Canadians expect from people elected to this chamber.
The constituency of Surrey North is extremely diverse. When walking down the streets one will hear people speaking Punjabi, English, Hindi, Arabic, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Korean to name some of the more prominent languages. One would also hear many aboriginal dialects spoken because the constituency has a very high number of urban aboriginal people. Many of those people were educated in their country of birth in trades and professions that this country desperately needs, but they cannot get similar employment here. We need to move ahead with assessing credentials. We are missing the skills of those people and their talents are being wasted.
Surrey is the fastest growing city in Canada. We have the largest number of building starts in the country. There is a rejuvenation in our city centre. We are very concerned about the implementation of the agreement with cities on infrastructure. The south Fraser perimeter road which is desperately needed for our economy in order to move goods quickly around the city of Surrey needs to be finished. We want the government to follow through on the commitment that was made to cities.
In Surrey North people live primarily in modest homes and apartments. Some people have no homes at all. Many people in Surrey North need skills to get into the workforce. I encourage action on apprenticeship. There is a building boom in Surrey. There is a building boom in British Columbia with the Olympics coming. There are jobs out there for people, if they can get into skills and training programs. That was missing from the throne speech. I do not want encouragement; I want action. I want jobs available for those people.
A satellite campus of Simon Fraser University is located in North Surrey. For many students the costs are prohibitive, whether they be for a skills or apprenticeship program, a diploma or university degree. This is particularly true in Surrey North which has a very low family income. As parents we all want the best for our children. It is heartbreaking to watch parents who cannot provide for their children what they see being provided for other children.
We have a growing number of working poor, people who work but must use a food bank because they do not make enough money to feed their children. At the food bank a few months ago there was a little girl, seven years old, who was tugging on her mom's sleeve saying, “It's okay, Mommy, don't worry. I'll try not to eat so much”. That is shameful in a country such as ours. People need skills to get back into the workforce. They want to work.
Many people with disabilities live in North Surrey because it is the only place where there is affordable housing, and even the use of the word “affordable” is questionable. They do not have the supports they need. Not only do they not have the support, as my colleague mentioned, but the community misses out on the special skills and talents they have to offer. The disabilities act must come forward.
Our leader and our party have spoken of the need for a seniors charter. There are not enough long term care beds. I did not hear that issue mentioned in the throne speech at all. The beds that we do have are private and far too expensive for most people who live in Surrey North.
Another concern for many seniors in Surrey North is that of pensions. Seniors from India, a Commonwealth country, who have become Canadian citizens and have lived here and worked here do not have access to a pension and will not have access to a pension until they have been here for 10 years, even though they contributed for many years in India. They do not have access to pensions, as do people from 37 other Commonwealth countries, because Canada does not have a treaty with India. This creates severe hardship for many seniors from India and it needs to be remedied.
The citizens who sent me to this chamber are concerned about crime. They want immediate solutions and long term solutions. They are concerned about drugs and the explosion in the use of crystal meth. They are concerned about drunk drivers and the number of people who have been killed in our community as a result of drunk drivers who leave the scene.
I intend to work with MADD and with the member for New Westminster whose bill did not come before the House. His bill would have reduced the level of alcohol in the blood that is considered legal or illegal. It needs to be reduced at least by .2% so that we can be sure people are safer on the roads. Legislation needs to comes forward. I made that commitment to my community and I made that commitment to Dona Cadman.
As I said earlier, my riding of Surrey North has a low family income. In order to support their families and earn more than $8 an hour, people need skills upgrading. That means going back to school. Those people need child care. I do not see real action on child care in the throne speech to help these families.
What happens to children over the age of five? Do families suddenly not need child care anymore because their children are over the age of five? Is the government encouraging more latchkey children? I would think it would not want to do that, but the government is only talking about children up to the age of five. That is totally unacceptable. Families will not find the money for before and after school care. Children will be at risk.
One dollar spent on good quality child care saves $7 later on in schooling, in justice, in the prison system, in job retraining. How can that not be an important investment?
I want to close by talking about health. Surrey Memorial Hospital in my riding is probably the busiest hospital in the lower mainland. Everybody would be encouraged by the phrase “wait time guarantee”, including my local hospital. I perceived encouragement in the throne speech, but I hope the action takes into consideration a report released today which indicated that we will have a shortage of 78,000 registered nurses by 2011. I am a bit puzzled about the action that will actually implement wait time guarantees.
I do hope when I see the term “wait time guarantee” that this guarantee also includes the horrendous wait time for mental health beds and for drug and alcohol rehabilitation beds. The wait time for these beds is costing our system millions of dollars and is creating tragedies for families. It is destroying people, their families and people in their communities. I hope the wait time guarantee includes those types of beds.
We do not want or need more encouragement, although encouragement is always a good thing and we all try to give it to each other. What we want to see is action on the part of the government that will reflect the needs of families in my constituency of Surrey North and other constituencies across this country.