Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to highlight some of my thoughts on the government’s agenda outlined in the Speech from the Throne entitled, “Protecting Canada’s Future”.
It is indeed a distinct honour and privilege to have a seat in Canada’s Parliament. I am profoundly grateful for the confidence that has been placed in me by the citizens of Guelph, a city in which one could not be more proud to live. It is a tremendous opportunity and privilege to serve one’s own community in public office.
I want to take a moment to extend my appreciation to those individuals who devoted their time, resources and energy during my extensive 82 day election campaign. I am humbled by their contribution and inspired by their conviction.
My family has always been a source of love, guidance and support for me, and I am grateful for, and often feel undeserving of, their continued support. In particular, I want to thank my wife, Catherine, and our children, Olivia and Dominic, for their steadfast love and support as my young family continues along this journey into public life and public service.
In meeting my new colleagues from all parties, I am mindful that while we are divided geographically and politically, we are bound by a desire to serve the citizens of our constituencies and contribute to a better quality of life for those we are entrusted to represent. It is an ambitious goal, one that is essential for all of us to achieve in co-operation together.
I respect that Canadians want a Parliament that will work together to overcome the challenges that are on our doorstep. I have been successfully serving Guelph for 27 years as a lawyer, assisting people through the best and worst times of their lives. I have also had an opportunity to serve my community through many community boards and foundations. The people I have met and the organizations I have worked with along the way in Guelph have always had the foresight and commitment to face challenges, accept responsibility and plan a strategy to move towards a brighter future.
The people of Guelph and I are concerned about, even disapproving of, the Conservatives’ lack of vision. In response to calls for economic prudence, we saw the Prime Minister irresponsibly eliminate the $3 billion contingency fund. In less than three years the Conservative government has become the highest spending government in Canadian history, after squandering the $13 billion surplus left to them by the previous Liberal government.
The Conservative minority government increased federal spending by more than $40 billion a year and, despite all respected economists’ opinions to the contrary, cut its own vital source of revenue. In doing so, the Conservatives failed to stimulate meaningful economic growth and failed to be prepared for the slowdown they saw coming.
This economic crisis is an opportunity to embrace and invest in bold ideas and strategies that are going to translate into the jobs of tomorrow. I invite the Conservative government to take a look at Guelph for inspiration.
Maclean's magazine consistently rates the University of Guelph as Canada’s foremost research university. The university is dedicated to maintaining this reputation through its intensive research-based programs, such as making plastic from non-food agricultural products, plastic that becomes car parts or packaging. Imagine farmers around Guelph feeding cities and feeding raw materials to industry in Guelph and elsewhere. Imagine the benefit for the economy and for the environment.
Innovation is exciting and full of economic opportunity. We need to make more meaningful investments and create strategic partners with those engaged in innovation and research in order to contribute to the kind of growth that will have our economy thriving. Governments need to play a more meaningful role in sponsoring university research and helping turn that research into jobs in Guelph and throughout Canada. There is little doubt that investments in university research yield significant social and economic returns. For example, Canadian economist Fernand Martin estimates that the cumulative dynamic impact of universities’ contributions to the economy through research and development was at least $60 billion in 2007. We need to invest in talent, knowledge and innovation to continue to fully participate in today's competitive global and greening economy.
When I think about the next generation, a clean sustainable environment stands side by side with a prosperous economy. We have a responsibility to be mindful of our environment.
Again, I turn to Guelph for a stunning example of environmental sustainability. Last year, Guelph became a North American leader on energy management with its commitment to a 25-year community energy plan. Through the plan's challenging but realistic targets, Guelph could use less energy in 25 years than it does today, even with expected population growth of 53,000 people, and cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by nine tonnes per person. This will put Guelph among the top energy performers in the world, reduce our environmental footprint and make my riding one of the most competitive and attractive communities in which to invest.
Liberals have been saying it for years, and I repeat the message at the risk it falls on deaf ears: Sound environmental policy delivers economic prosperity.
We cannot talk about the economy of tomorrow without paying heed to Canada's struggling auto sector. Communities right across this great country were built on the back of a thriving automotive industry. Today, with the industry in crisis, we see communities rightfully distressed about the loss of the good jobs provided through automotive assembly and parts manufacturing plants and the hundreds of thousands of spinoff jobs, from office cleaners to accountants and restaurateurs, to mention a few. It will negatively affect even the charitable contributions made in our communities.
Government has a role to partner with the industry to enable this sector to survive its credit limitations and emerge an industry that is committed to transition to greener and more efficient technologies.
Guelph is an auto town. Canada is an auto country. I call on the government to send a clear message to the industry and Canadians that the Government of Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with our auto industry to protect Canadian jobs.
The people of Guelph are disappointed that the funding promised to Canada's cities and communities has been delayed. Sound infrastructure is the link between healthy cities, productivity and competitiveness. I implore the government to move forward with vital and more meaningful infrastructure investments to create jobs and address the infrastructure deficit.
It is simply unacceptable for Canada to have an infrastructure deficit that exceeds $123 billion at a time when we are depending on our cities and communities for business growth and development and jobs. Guelph needs more meaningful help to repair its infrastructure, invest in public transit and for affordable housing.
My friends across the floor have asked us for ideas. I invite my Conservative colleagues to meet with me in Guelph and talk to those in the child care and early learning profession. The experience of 35 other industrialized countries, more committed than the Conservative government to early learning and child care, tells us that early learning is designed to take an entire generation out of poverty and into prosperity, better prepare them for the knowledge based economy, help children be better adjusted and less likely to be involved in crime and allows their parents to return to work or pursue their education. The Conservatives' $100 a month has left Guelph's early childhood education and child care in crisis.
Our children deserve more. I would have thought that my Conservative peers would care more about our children.
I respect the choice that Canadians made on October 14. I look forward to working in opposition to hold the government to account for the commitments it has made.
We need a bold vision that will lead us to a larger, greener economy that will restore Canada's place in the global economy.
We live in a complex, demanding, diverse nation. We govern not only for today, but for tomorrow and beyond.