Madam Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Wild Rose, my seatmate.
It is a privilege of the highest order to be in this chamber today and to participate in the debate on our government's Speech from the Throne. It is with great humility I express how thankful and honoured I am to serve the constituents of the great Kenora riding as their member of Parliament.
I thank the hundreds of volunteers from across the riding, many friends, old classmates, hockey teammates and other volunteers who came from other parts of the country to help elect a Conservative member of Parliament from the Kenora district for the first time in more than 90 years.
I also make honourable mention of Leo Bernier, the last great Conservative to serve the Kenora riding as a member of the legislative assembly in Ontario. He has become a friend and mentor and provides counsel for me to be an effective representative in Kenora.
As the oldest of eight children, I want to thank my loving family for their unconditional support, especially my parents, David and Dorothy Rickford, who taught me about the importance of serving one's community. In addition to raising a big family, participating in various church and civic activities, my parents opened our home to hundreds of foster children over the span of 30 years. I thank mom and dad for inspiring me. They are extraordinary example of dedication and sacrifice. I am proud to be here on their behalf today, as well.
I thank my great-grandfather, William Rickford, a World War I veteran, now deceased, my grandfather, Reverand Stanley Hugh Kenyon, and my uncle, Ron Rickford, both of whom are veterans of World War II and are alive and well today. In fact, I wish to thank all the brave men and women who have served, or who are serving, our country in the Canadian armed forces.
My grandfather was a Saskatchewan farm boy who turned 20 in 1939. He volunteered to serve in the army and spent the next four and a half years fighting overseas. After the war, he pastored churches throughout Canada and in other parts of the world.
Recently I had the distinct pleasure to be in this honourable chamber with my family to present him a letter from the Prime Minister recognizing his lifetime of dedication to his family, outstanding service to his community and the sacrifice he made for his country in time of war. Listening to him as he read this letter aloud to us, adorned in medals he had earned, was one of the proudest moments I have ever experienced as a Canadian.
Like so many others before and after him, our brave soldiers serve unselfishly in the interests of peace, security and freedom from our great country and represent, in my respectful view, the single biggest reason why I and my esteemed colleagues stand in this chamber today.
With respect to the Speech from the Throne, there has been a lot of thoughtful discussion to this point. In short order, I would prefer to emphasize a number of its key components, which I believe will dramatically improve the lives of my constituents.
It bears mentioning that until the past two and a half years, the constituents of my riding, in fact, most of northwestern Ontario, have felt that they have been taken for granted. The results of the last federal election fairly reflect this. The Liberals were pushed out of just about every electoral district in northwestern Ontario.
For starters, putting money into the pockets of lawyers rather than forestry workers by engaging in a protracted softwood lumber dispute with the United States, played a significant role in setting the forestry sector back more than a decade and translated into the closure of mills, big mills like Abitibi-Consolidated in Kenora and other mills in Ignis and Hudson. The protracted softwood lumber dispute and anti-American rhetoric used by the Liberals and the NDP in the past for political gains added nothing to fostering positive relationships, which we must have with the United States, our friends, our largest trading partner and one of the greatest sources of tourism, of particular importance for Kenora.
Moving forward, I cannot understate the importance of developing infrastructure in my riding to help forestry, mining, tourism, small business and the overall sustainability of our communities. Programs like FedNor and specific support for traditional industries like forestry, mining, workers in transition, support for new housing, education and maintaining important transfer payments for health and social spending by the provinces are but a few of the myriad examples that the Speech from the Throne addresses for the benefit of my riding.
It is refreshing and progressive to see forestry mentioned within the rubric of the environment, industry and manufacturing, something I am not sure the other parties completely understand, since their comments to this point about forestry reflect a backward and incomplete understanding of the exciting future for the sector. For example, the use of forestry residuals such as sawdust, bark, trim and shavings and secondary biomass could be one way of producing alternative fuel sources that are renewable. Our government is committed to further research of cleaner energy sources.
The Speech from the Throne deals extensively with the need to invest in research, innovation and marketing for things like Canadian pulp and wood products to markets beyond North America to ensure the long-term viability of a dynamic, value-added forestry sector. Fortunately the government has taken a comprehensive view of how to deal effectively with regions in Canada, like my riding, that are in transition and depend upon key sectors such as forestry and mining as their economic drivers.
The Speech from the Throne demonstrates that this government gets it. It understands the pressures on the communities in my riding, especially during this time of global economic uncertainty.
The community development trust supports a wide variety of initiatives such as job training and skills development, community transition plans that foster real community-based economic development, encouraging skilled trades and apprenticeships to ensure throughout my riding that people are competitive in a modern economy, supporting first nations in these regards as well as ensuring that they too have access to skills, training and apprenticeships in order to assist them to participate in economic development initiatives such as the new value-added forestry initiatives on the horizon in which first nations communities in my riding will have an equity stake.
The building Canada plan marks the beginning of unprecedented commitments to much needed infrastructure in the communities in my riding, the kind of infrastructure that focuses on development, that creates jobs and stimulates our riding's capacity to economically diversify. Within the traditional industries, it is relied upon and gives hope that we will be open for business in other areas of manufacturing.
I can assure the constituents of my riding that I will be fighting for key priorities in the building Canada plan, such as the twinning of the highway from Kenora to the Manitoba border, the completion of the waste water treatment plan in Dryden and substantial improvements to the Red Lake Airport, one of the busiest airports in our country.
The Speech from the Throne serves to further reduce the cost pressures on Canadian business and encourages companies to invest in new machinery and equipment. This is particularly important to us in northwestern Ontario. We appreciate the tax relief provided by the government through broad-based tax reductions for business, a temporary accelerated writeoff for investments in machinery and equipment, such as the heavy machinery that is relied upon by the mining and forestry sectors in my riding, and improving the flexibility of and strengthening access to capital through Export Development Canada and Business Development Bank of Canada to help manufacturers in my riding meet the challenge of being globally competitive.
This government will set an objective that aims for 90% of Canada's electricity to be provided by non-emitting sources like Hydro by the year 2020. Folks in Ear Falls, Lac Seul First Nation, Pickle Lake and Mishkeegogamang will no doubt benefit from this sort of commitment in the future. As I previously mentioned, the government's commitment to supporting the development of cleaner energy sources may also include raw biomass for forestry residuals.
The Speech from the Throne ensures that provinces receive generous transfer payments for health care and social programs upon which folks in ridings such as mine depend.
There are a number of other examples, but I want to close by saying, while fortunately the Kenora riding is not as affected by higher levels of major crime, we appreciate that the government recognizes the need to be assured that we are safe in our homes and communities. The government will take action against crime, including stiffer penalties for gun crimes. At the same time, not criminalizing law-abiding firearm owners is a key issue for the constituents of my riding and we want to see the long gun registry dismantled. Many constituents in my riding, in fact, throughout northwestern Ontario, safely and lawfully, for sport, hunting and sustenance, want to protect their long-standing traditional ways of—