Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased, as the recently elected member for the great riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, to be among all members. I am honoured and grateful to be here. However, for a brief moment, I will speak as the proud mother of my baby, celebrating her 23rd birthday today, Chevonne Hardcastle. I want to give her a shout out and wish her a great day today.
Windsor—Tecumseh is a fascinating place. It is comprised of a number of communities that have come together over time. They were, at one time, distinct communities. They provide a real, vibrant fabric in Windsor and Essex county. I am honoured to accept the trust that they have placed in me.
With the vibrant neighbourhoods of Windsor and Tecumseh, including Riverside, Walkerville, St. Clair Beach, Oldcastle, and Maidstone, we understand how crucial it is to address social, economic, and health equity. We eagerly await the new era we have been promised, a new era of co-operation among all levels of government, as well as a return to national leadership on health care, and the negotiation of a new health accord.
During the election campaign, I promised my constituents that when in Ottawa I would fight on behalf of them for the issues that matter the most to them, and I intend to honour this commitment.
In many ways, the riding of Windsor—Tecumseh is much like the rest of the country. Our people are deeply concerned about the condition of the health care system, opportunities for young people, jobs, security and dignity for people who are retiring, affordable housing, and the list goes on. However, my constituents are also rightly concerned about the environment, especially when it concerns stewardship of the Great Lakes, in which they are ensconced.
In Windsor—Tecumseh we champion the causes of social justice. Fortunately, my being a New Democrat means that the priorities of my constituents are the same as those of the party to which I belong, and this is no coincidence. The NDP exists to fight for these issues and values. The people of Windsor—Tecumseh champion the causes of social justice. We need look no further than the subamendment offered by the NDP to the government's Speech from the Throne to see that this is true. Here is what that says:
...working in collaboration with opposition parties to present realistic, structured and concrete changes that benefit some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens, including: seniors through an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement, middle class families through reducing taxes on the first income tax bracket, low income workers with leadership by introducing a $15 per hour federal minimum wage, and supports to those struggling to enter the workforce with a robust and reliable Employment Insurance program.
Members are no doubt aware of the rich history of the city of Windsor and the county of Essex and the role it has historically played in North America's automotive industry. With innovation and research, much can be done to encourage further development of this sector within our region. In their election platform, the Liberals committed to investing in and growing our economy, strengthening the middle class, and helping those working hard to join it. The new government has also declared, and this is important, that it expects Canadians to hold it responsible for delivering on its commitments. The New Democrats are committed to supporting the government as it delivers on its promises and hold it accountable where it does not.
While the Liberal Party did not mention the auto sector in its election platform or in the throne speech, I nevertheless hope that the government will pursue policies that will rebuild this vital sector in our economy. The Americans are already ahead of us in this regard, having launched last year the investing in manufacturing communities partnership. This program encourages communities to develop comprehensive economic development strategies that will strengthen their competitive edge for attracting global manufacturing and supply chain investments. This is mandated with “coordinating federal aid to support communities' strong development plans and [with] synchronizing grant programs across multiple departments and agencies”.
This is something the New Democrats envision. We have a number of ideas about how Canada might achieve similar goals within our own automotive industry. We have been vocal about the need for national strategies in our manufacturing sectors, and especially a national auto strategy that is long awaited in Windsor—Tecumseh.
Like our American friends, we believe the Government of Canada should make it easier for automakers and investors to set up operations in Canada. We envision a program that we call “ICanada”. ICanada would be a one-stop shop to facilitate the federal government, automakers, and investors with various government programs and incentives that are in place, and we hope, soon, that these will be in place.
We believe the government should improve financial incentives for automakers and parts suppliers in exchange for firm commitments on jobs and investment in Canada. The government must support research and innovation in the auto sector, including immediate funding renewal for the University of Windsor's AUTO21 Network of Centres of Excellence in engineering.
While the Speech from the Throne makes no mention specifically of the Great Lakes, I did look at the Liberal Party platform to find a commitment to protect the Great Lakes and declared intent to work with provinces, as well as our American partners, to prevent the spread of invasive species, to undertake science-based initiatives, to better understand and manage water levels, and to clean up coastal contamination. These are all very important issues of sustainability for the people of Windsor—Tecumseh, and we have a heightened awareness of it because of where we live.
There is even a promise to restore the $1.5 million in federal funding for fresh water research. That had been cut by the previous federal Conservative government.
I will pause right here and salute our Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research at the University of Windsor. The work it does is so important, not only regionally and nationally but globally.
As many members will recall from the many news reports, the shorelines around the Windsor—Essex area have been subject to massive toxic blue-green algae blooms. From the shore, these blooms seem to stretch out and cover the entirety of Lake Erie. They make our water supplies toxic. No boil water advisory can fix that. Boiling water does not work.
These toxic emissions in the water are starving the fish and aquatic wildlife of oxygen. We are all concerned with the safety of fresh water that has been taken for granted. This is a real clarion call for us that we need to do the research and take this seriously.
I applaud the work of the Citizens Environment Alliance and the Detroit River remedial action plan. Along with them, I will be following quite closely the new government's work in these areas, and will do whatever I can to assist it and hold it accountable for the promises made that I mentioned earlier.
On the subject of health care, the Liberals have likewise promised to negotiate a new health accord. The provinces and territories, including a new agreement on funding, are supposed to be included in the plan. So far, few details have been released.
As one might expect, the New Democrats have a few ideas on the subject of health care that our friends across the way will find helpful. On the doorstep in my riding, one issue I heard a great deal about was the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs. The New Democrats strongly believe that increased funding should go to a national prescription drug plan.
One in four Canadian households has someone who cannot afford the medications prescribed to he or she by the doctor. We therefore strongly urge the new government to move quickly to address the important matter. No one should have to choose between paying for food and getting the medications they need in order to stay alive.
We also urge the new government to cancel the former Conservative government's planned cuts to health care so we can work with provinces to improve health care services for Canadians. It is imperative that we support the hiring of new doctors and nurses to help the five million Canadians who do not have a family doctor. This shortage is of particular concern in my area.
As well, we should formulate a clear and detailed plan to help the one million Canadian children and youth who have a mental illness, but who do not have access to appropriate care and the early intervention they need for successful outcomes.
We require a strategy to provide care for seniors in need, at home, in hospitals, in long-term care facilities, and palliative care. So far, we have not heard anything from the new government on whether it intends to cancel the Conservatives' planned cuts to health care, and yet—