Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Long Range Mountains.
I would like to thank the Speaker for the opportunity to address this assembly for the first time to give a speech in debate in the House. I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, and all members for their for successful elections.
As someone who has had a successful career in brain research and is a passionate advocate for brain and mental health, I would like to thank the member for Ottawa—Vanier for the courage he displayed as he announced his diagnosis of ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. His fearless announcement put a spotlight on neurodegenerative diseases, and for that I am personally thankful to him. I wish him all the best that research, hope, and my family's prayers can offer.
I would be remiss if I did not thank my predecessors who were present during the 41st Parliament, Pat Perkins and the late Hon. Jim Flaherty, who represented the town of Whitby and the villages of Brooklin, Ashburn, and Myrtle with extraordinary passion, conviction, and pride.
Ten years ago my husband, Vidal, and I decided to make Whitby our home. Over the course of the past 10 years, we have benefited from the friendships of our neighbours, access to top-quality schools for our three children, Desiray, Candice, and Johnny, and a retreat to a tranquil and embracing community.
The people of Whitby have placed their trust in me through a piece of paper, a pencil, and a vote. I am forever grateful and humbled by their confidence in my ability to be their voice here in Ottawa.
Whitby is a growing town with changing demographics, a strong chamber of commerce, a business community, wonderful academic institutions, both local and within the Durham region, and world-renowned health and recreation facilities, like Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Science and the Abilities Centre.
Therefore, in this, my first address to the chamber, I would like to highlight a few of Whitby's assets to the national and international community.
Over 50% of Whitby's population has completed post-secondary education. We have access to highways 401 and 407, literally wrapping around our town. Its great institutions, like Durham College, for example, have a direct impact on the economic and social well-being of Whitby, the Durham region, and the province of Ontario. The economic impact of Durham College is greater than $800 million annually, and it has countless partnerships with businesses and other organizations in order to provide meaningful skills and experience to its students.
With our government's commitment to invest in public transit and social and green infrastructure, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class, the opportunities are endless for growth in Whitby's economy, because strong local economies lead to a strong national economy.
Whitby has recently been named one of Canada's best places for business, earning the fifth out of ten spots on Profit magazine's 2015 list. By leveraging our existing assets, national and international businesses can rest assured that an investment in Whitby is one that will yield mutually beneficial positive returns for years to come.
That being said, over 70% of the people in Whitby work outside our town. That is why I am proud that this government has committed to an infrastructure investment and public transit investment that could help create local jobs and keep the people of Whitby living, working, and playing in their own communities.
I will also highlight the men and women in uniform of the Whitby Fire Fighters IAFF Local 2036, the Durham Regional Police Services, Durham Region Emergency Medical Services, and the men and women in uniform across the country who need continuous and ongoing health support, especially related to PTSD. Daily, they run toward the kinds of situations and circumstances that make us run away. They deserve our unwavering support.
I am so happy that our government has pledged to give our men and women in uniform the support they need, and is committed to be a leader in this regard.
Further, mental health and addictions in Canada have devastating social and economic impacts. They are complex health issues that affect education, social services, employment, housing, and justice. In order to move forward with treatment and ultimately healing effectively, we must include all of those social systems.
I am encouraged by the desire of centres of excellence, like Ontario Shores in Whitby, to eagerly seek out collaboration in my riding to find new and innovative ways to improve treatment and care for those dealing with complex mental health issues.
I want to mention how proud I am of Ms. Beth Mah's grade 11 class at Donald A. Wilson Secondary School in Whitby who wrote a letter to our Prime Minister asking, among other things, that we think about including courses in school that address the whole student, including their mental health and stress management. These young leaders recognize the importance of mental health and I wanted to mention them today.
Lastly, I want to speak about Whitby's senior population. We have heard for many years that we will be faced with a number of issues related to the ever-increasing senior population. It is time we did something about it.
I applaud the Speech from the Throne's commitment to giving seniors a more secure retirement and supporting the health and well-being of Canadians with the development of a new health accord.
I believe that an integrated multidisciplinary approach to care is vital for our population. Complex and chronic care facilities are needed in order to ease the burden of our acute care hospitals. However, there is also a need to leverage the value of a home care strategy, which effectively utilizes the services of nurse practitioners in order to not only decrease health care costs, but allow our seniors in Whitby and across Canada to stay at home longer.
It is my honour and commitment to let this chamber know that the town of Whitby is not just a great place to be from, but it is a great place to be.
Again, I wish to thank the residents of Whitby and you, Mr. Speaker.
Happy holidays to all the members, staff, and families of the Government of Canada.