Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the Speech from the Throne on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Mississauga--Streetsville who I have the honour and privilege of representing in this House.
The throne speech seems to be a product of a government that has no strategy, no plan and no idea of what to do in these difficult economic times. Instead of creating a made in Canada strategy, we have a Conservative-made deficit, a direct result of its ideological cuts.
It is regrettable that the government is offering little leadership or comfort to the millions of Canadians who have seen their savings and their retirement funds evaporate, their jobs disappear and their futures turn bleak. Consumers and businesses alike have lost confidence and trust in the government, and for good reason. They have heard from the Conservatives during the election that running a deficit was something that goes against their core values. Today they are singing from a different tune. It is one of the greatest flip-flops in Canadian history. How can Canadians be expected to trust anything they say?
I was elected to this House by the voters to restore trust to Mississauga--Streetsville. I campaigned as someone who will represent their voices in Parliament, regardless of their race, religion, gender or even political affiliation, to the very best of my ability. I promised voters that I would not turn my back on them as their member of Parliament. The residents of Mississauga--Streetsville elected me to be their voice on matters that are of issue to them, unlike the government that offers a throne speech that is long on rhetoric and short on specifics.
Mississauga--Streetsville welcomes new Canadians from all around the world and helps them successfully integrate with those who have lived here for generations. It is a community that is tolerant, diverse and generous. It has a community spirit that brings out the best qualities in those who live there. With just over 130,000 residents, it is Canada's 12th most populous riding and it is located in the heart of Mississauga, which is Canada's 6th largest city. Mississauga serves as a beacon to the world, shedding light on how people of different races, religions and cultures can live, work and pray together in peace, prosperity and harmony.
Mississauga is also home to 59 of Canada's Fortune 500 companies and sees more people commuting daily into work than commuting out. It is recognized as one of the safest cities in Canada and enjoys a high quality of life, with excellent schools, parks and recreational facilities, and remains debt-free. That is through the sound fiscal management of Canada's most respected, competent and venerable politician who is celebrating her 30th year in office, Mayor Hazel McCallion.
This is a quick profile of my riding and the people who live there, the people I have come here to represent and whose quality of life and generosity of spirit are under threat by the inaction of the government.
Mayor McCallion and her Cities Now campaign has warned that the neglect of our cities will cost our country dearly. It is clear that the throne speech fails to address this issue and leaves our municipalities vulnerable during these challenging times.
We have heard from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that Canada's cities are weighed down by a collective infrastructure deficit of $123 billion annually. The city of Mississauga alone has an annual infrastructure deficit of $75 million simply to meet its needs. It has another $150 million worth of projects on the books that have been moved to its wish list. The municipal tax base is insufficient to fund these capital projects.
Even in my riding of Mississauga--Streetsville, services cannot meet the demand because the city has other priorities to address with limited dollars: subsidized housing, policing, social services, services for the elderly, the disabled, those with mental health issues, single parent families headed by the working poor, and I could go on. Suffice it to say that the government's minimal support of municipalities, which are in fact in the business of fixing potholes, feeding the homeless, giving our youth positive activities to grow and providing services to those in need, is an abandonment of all Canadians looking to their government for leadership. Given the current global economic challenges, such leadership has taken on the greatest urgency imaginable.
As is the case in much of the 905 region, the residents in my riding are forced to cope with the results of the government's failure to lead.
In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, Canada is the only country without a long-term national transit strategy. Our streets and highways are clogged through much of the workday. Gridlock is costing families precious time. The annual cost to greater Toronto area businesses and to our nation's economy is $2 billion in lost productivity, while vehicles spew carbon and other greenhouse gases into the air by the ton.
The need for a national transit strategy no doubt seems trifling to the government, but one does not need to be an economist to know that finding efficiencies in our economy is a key element to recovery at a time when the world's economies are failing.
The Canadian Urban Transit Association has estimated that $40 billion is required for public transit infrastructure in Canada between now and 2012. The funding would serve as a short-term investment in tens of thousands of jobs. These jobs would be created to build and maintain needed infrastructure that would provide capacity in Mississauga—Streetsville, in the 905 area, and in other urban centres to move people and goods that our economy's health depends upon.
This is an economic stimulus that makes sense. Not implementing it would serve to keep our nation's economy lagging.
However, the government has shown its true worth in addressing these issues. The $52.5 million the government committed in March 2006 toward providing Mississauga's bus rapid transit system has yet to arrive. The provincial government has come forward with its $65 million contribution, and the City of Mississauga has come forward with its funding for the project. The empty promises and self-congratulatory news releases issued by the government at the time will not keep Mississauga moving. Canada cannot hope to succeed as long as the government continues to believe that photo opportunities are the equivalent of action. Unfortunately for all Canadians, the government shows no sign that it will ever think otherwise.
I am proud of the diversity of my riding, which adds richness and vibrancy to the community. More than 50% of the residents of Mississauga—Streetsville were born abroad, emigrating from 60 different countries and speaking over 90 languages. New immigrants arrive highly skilled, highly educated and ready to work, yet many of these new Canadians face challenges on a daily basis that established Canadians do not. They require assistance to better integrate into the community through language training, affordable housing, reliable public transit and accessible health care.
We need to put a system in place whereby proper credentials from abroad are recognized. Such a system would ensure that we get people working. Rather than invest in newcomers, newcomers who are the skilled, professional workers this country needs to compete and to survive, this government has cut the funding that would help immigrants more quickly and more successfully become productive members of Canada's fabric.
My mother, Veronica Sawarna, emigrated from Poland, along with my father, Michael, who emigrated from the Ukraine. They came to Canada to establish a new life for themselves and their family. I understand what it is like to have parents who are new to this country, as many people in my riding are. The throne speech offers nothing to new Canadians who are key to the future success of this country.
I am a proud Canadian of Polish and Ukrainian heritage. My grandfather served in a Polish division of the French army. He was captured, survived a World War II work camp and was liberated by a Polish-speaking soldier from Philadelphia.
I am proud that my political mentor, Jesse Flis, from the riding of Parkdale--High Park, was also a Polish Canadian and worked hard to fight for awareness of issues affecting the Polish community.
I came to Ottawa to represent the people of Mississauga—Streetsville with honour and integrity. I will work for what I dearly believe in. I want to fix what is wrong to make Canada a better country and to maintain and improve the quality of life for my constituents and for those dearest to my heart: Brian, my husband of almost 25 years; my sons Alexander and Jonathan; my daughter Natasha; my mother Veronica; and my mother-in-law Flora. I must vigorously hold the government accountable for its actions. I will offer solutions to the issues we face and work toward creating a better country.
The government's throne speech fails in many different ways and in some respects is a direct reflection on its authors. At a time when the world and Canadians are looking for leadership, they are seeing very little from the government.
It is no surprise that having spent the last years emulating George Bush in the U.S. and John Howard in Australia, the Conservatives are bereft of ideas. Their laissez-faire policies of trusting the markets have evaporated. Now it takes leadership, courage and boldness, and we have found them wanting.
At a time when Canadians seek the best in government, they are disappointed. This is exactly how both I and the constituents of Mississauga—Streetsville feel about the throne speech.