Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time today with my colleague from Hamilton Mountain.
This, my inaugural speech in the House of Commons, begins on a very sad note. Four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this past weekend, one of whom, Bombardier Myles Mansell, was born, raised and stationed in my riding, in Victoria. I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to his family and to assure them that their fellow Victorians share in their mourning.
I am very proud to speak today as the new member representing the people of Victoria. I would like to thank them for placing their confidence in me to bring their voice to Parliament. Their needs will inform my work and their priorities will be at the forefront of my efforts in Ottawa.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my predecessor, David Anderson, for his hard work on issues like Kyoto, west coast fisheries and offshore drilling, and the understanding he brought to those issues.
Victoria is an eclectic, diverse region. There are parks and natural forests that surround the city with a greenbelt, providing recreational opportunities and important habitats. There are heritage buildings that we have protected through tax incentive programs for which we have won international awards.
I am honoured to represent a population that is itself representative of Canada's cultural mosaic, with vibrant Chinese, Sikh, aboriginal and other cultural communities that enrich our common experience.
As a francophone living outside Quebec, I am proud that Victoria, the westernmost city in Canada, continues to honour my French and English heritage. My daily recognition of the presence of these two cultures in our country is one of the reasons I ran in the federal election. I wanted to remind everyone that francophones and anglophones can work together from coast to coast in a united Canada, within a renewed and more flexible federalism, and that both cultures will be the better for it.
As a former city councillor, I was proud to contribute to the progress and preservation of what makes Victoria unique. I worked to bring about a large mixed-use project called Dockside Green, which has the highest green standards in North America and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
This project showcases all that can be accomplished when political will is used to expand rather than limit the range of possibilities, so I will not be deterred by the seemingly flippant use of the word “impossible” by the government when it comes to our environment, because I realize how crucially important it is to have the support and the leadership of the federal government for these progressive programs and projects.
During the recent federal campaign, the concerns of Victorians were brought home to me at every doorstep, as were the expectations they have for the government.
They expect their national government to once again work to ensure that all Canadians have a home. The recent throne speech fails to mention any support for affordable housing. In my community, many residents spend upwards of 40% of their income on housing and others are homeless. The housing crisis we face grew under the federal Liberals and it is incumbent on the new government to restore a viable national housing strategy.
My constituents expect a child care program that addresses two key concerns for parents: cost and availability. The Prime Minister's answer does little to address the former and nothing for the latter. Typically, day care in Victoria costs between $30 and $35 a day. The PM offers a maximum of $4 to $5 a day. Where does a single parent family working on minimum income find the rest?
My constituents also expect ongoing adequate investment in post-secondary education and skills training. It is well trained, well educated people who will create new opportunities and fuel our prosperity. The University of Victoria and Camosun College, like hundreds of others across Canada, were overlooked by the government in the throne speech.
As the post-secondary education critic and as a teacher and parent, I am very disappointed by this omission. This government would allow high tuition fees to hinder access to training.
Education is critical to a just and prosperous future. The C.D. Howe Institute admits that Canada continues to under-invest in education, when research shows that functional literacy has three times the impact on productivity and GDP than capital investment. Forty-two per cent of Canadian adults have a functional literacy level that is inadequate by international standards.
Finally, Victorians expect their national leaders to implement a real plan to tackle climate change. Eight out of ten Canadians want action now, but yet the Prime Minister concedes defeat on achieving the most basic Kyoto reductions before he even tries.
On Earth Day in Victoria last Saturday, hundreds of young people and their families gathered. They were angry at the Conservatives' lack of urgency in responding to climate change. They want a future with clean water, clean air and a healthy environment in a country that has moved from a polluting economy to a sustainable one. As their elected representatives, it is our opportunity and our obligation to make that future real.
Listening to my first throne speech from this Conservative government, I waited to hear something of substance for the citizens of Victoria: concrete proposals for affordable housing, effective programs to tackle climate change, and post-secondary education programs. I heard no such commitments. I hope the government will consider that these issues, if not addressed, will fundamentally impact the Canadian way of life much more than a 1% reduction of GST.
As MPs, we are leaders from whom Canadians expect political courage and decisive action on substantive and long term issues. The people of Victoria expect and deserve no less.