Mr. Speaker, before I leave this chamber for what may be the last time as the MP for Sudbury, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my time here in the House and the dynamic community of Sudbury that I represent.
As everyone here knows, when you go into politics, you do not do it alone. It is above all a family decision. I have been honoured to serve the people of Sudbury with the support of my wife Lyne and my children Mylène, Henri and Théo. I am proud of them and I love them.
Yesterday was my 24th wedding anniversary. I want to thank Lyne for her continuous support and for sharing this unforgettable experience with me, as we journey through life together.
I also want to thank my team, hard-working supporters and all the voters who live in Sudbury for their ongoing confidence in me. The help I have received along the way, along with the friends I have made and the lessons I have learned, will stay with me forever. I thank all of them. The list is quite long, but I would like to thank Mike and Marie-Eve, who have been there with me since day one, and my team, with Funmibi, Lynn, Sophie and Bernard. I want to thank the Prime Minister for his confidence in appointing me Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources. It was a post I held for nearly three years.
As a member of Parliament, I have seen the amazing work that can be accomplished on various committees when partisanship is put aside. Yes, that does happen in the House. When we are all sitting here in the House on Wednesdays before the doors open, we all get together and sing O Canada. It is unfortunate that Canadians do not witness that most members of Parliament are proud Canadians first and members of political parties second.
I have also seen in this chamber the stark divisions of partisanship and the lasting damage caused by the denial of obvious facts, such as climate change and institutional racism faced by Canadians every day.
We have a duty as members to show all Canadians that we have learned from our own 153-year history and that we must all respect our differences. We must show that fear of our different languages, cultures, religions, races or sexual orientations has no place in our society.
This year has been very difficult for all Canadians, and I know the work of this government has made a very positive difference in Canadians' lives. I know my riding of Sudbury has been very well served by the programs we have put in place, and I am both honoured and humbled to have played a role in that.
To me, the role of the House and members is to listen to Canadians, to work and find the best way to help them. Having listened to Canadians and because of the changes that have been made since 2015, I have a lot of hope for Canada. Let me explain why.
First, I am hopeful because of the ingenuity of Canadians. Our governments must continue to foster the opportunities that this amazing Canadian talent offers us. Let me start with my riding of Sudbury. Our lakes were all polluted 40 years ago. The landscape was black rock and the trees were decimated because of pollution from mining. Ingenuity was building the tallest superstack in the world so that the pollution would go farther. We then planted 14 million trees on that black rock. Now, because of research, ingenuity, regulations and community, we have reduced the sulphur dioxide by 98% and all of our lakes have fish. We can drink the water, and the superstack is coming down in the next years.
We are ground zero for the environment and the economy going hand in hand.
Sudbury has become an international research centre.
In early 2016, Sudbury's SNOLAB, a world-class public-private research consortium located two kilometres underground in Vale’s Creighton mine, and its world-class team of researchers, led by Art McDonald, were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics.
In addition, many of Sudbury's mining supply companies are leading the way in electric underground vehicle technology, and new battery and energy storage tech is being pioneered in Sudbury at an industrial scale.
The mining industry is also leading the way in first nations economic partnerships. The Côté Gold Project, for example, in my neighbouring riding of Nickel Belt, which is well served in this House by my friend, the MP for Nickel Belt, includes two neighbouring first nations communities, the Mattagami First Nation and the Flying Post First Nation, as partners. In Sudbury, Wahnapitae and Atikameksheng first nations are also partners in the mining projects.
We must continue to support this ingenuity, and this gives me reasons for hope for scientific advancements, economic opportunities and jobs in Canada.
I have hope because Canadians want more to be done in the fight against climate change.
In September 2018, a young student named Sophia Mathur reached out to my office in Sudbury and asked me to participate in the first-ever Fridays for Future student strike in Sudbury. From then until now, Sophia and a dynamic group of young friends have organized more than 70 events, including sign waving, singing, Bollywood dancing and lots and lots of advocacy. These inspiring young people are leading by example, and there are so many of them in communities across our beautiful country. Sophia's message to me and to all of us in this chamber is simple: We can lead now on these important issues, or we can get out of the way.
With the price on pollution, an electric vehicle battery plan, a hydrogen plan, a Canadian minerals plan, planting two billion trees, clean fuel standards, clean-tech innovation supports, environmental accountability legislation and many more policies, we are on our way to reach our carbon targets of 2030 and 2050.
Thanks to Canadians like Sophia, I have hope for the future.
I am also hopeful because Canadians realize that now, more than ever, learning the truth and reconciliating with indigenous nations is a priority.
Another memory I have is from early 2016. I was invited to Whitefish River First Nation in northern Ontario to visit with the children of that nation. There I met Chief Shining Turtle, who filled me in on his nation's needs. He told me about his nation's water system, in desperate need of an upgrade to meet growing demand. He told me about health care in his nation, the school in his nation and how some families were being left behind. He told me his nation had waited years, sometimes decades, to have those addressed.
Working together, over time we tackled these issues. I returned to his nation in 2018 to announce an investment in the Waubetek centre of excellence for indigenous minerals development, led by Dawn Madahbee Leach. I took the opportunity to visit with the chief and saw how quickly improvements to the water system, which had been mired in red tape for years, had been made.
I saw first-hand how vital and effective Jordan's principle is to first nations communities, through the experience of children able to overcome health issues and attend school in Whitefish Lake First Nation for the first time. To them, I say chi-meegwetch.
With over 100 boil water advisories lifted, many nations recently connected to the grid, unprecedented training opportunities for first nations and unprecedented partnerships with natural resource projects, we are on our way to learning the truth and have started the path toward reconciliation. I am hopeful that, given the immensity of this path, this House, regardless of political stripe, will not waver and will continue to follow the path along with indigenous peoples.
I am very hopeful that we can have a strong, bilingual Canada. Francophone minority communities have asked for investments in their cultural, educational and community infrastructure. I have seen the results of these investments in Sudbury, with the construction of Place des Arts du Grand Sudbury, a project spearheaded by Paulette Gagnon and Regroupement des organismes culturels de Sudbury.
We will have our community arts centre and several community organizations will ensure the viability and the vitality of our community. I have seen this happen over and over across Canada in the past five years. I am therefore hopeful.
I especially want to thank the voters of Sudbury for placing their trust in me, twice. It has truly been one of the greatest honours in my life being Sudbury's voice in Ottawa. I will be forever grateful.
Sudbury is a microcosm of Canada. For the majority anglophone population and over 45,000 French-speaking residents, Sudbury has the third-largest francophone community outside of Quebec and a strong indigenous population. Sudbury was built on the backs of waves of immigrants from Italy, Finland, Poland, Ukraine, Greece, Croatia, Serbia and many more, and more recently, a strong South Asian, Syrian and African contingent. Members can see I am proud to be a Sudburian.
I grew up in a working-class home in Kapuskasing.
My father Jean was a welder at the Spruce Falls mill for 40 years. We were a foster family and after welcoming 18 children over five years into our home, my mother Paulette got her high school diploma and her bachelor's degree in social work at Laurentian and Université de Hearst while managing the household, together with my father, for me, my sister Roxanne and my brother Denis. They instilled in me the values of loyalty and hard work, and these values will always be part of me. I am proud to be their son.
I will miss my amazing colleagues in the House. I really will. It has been an honour to serve my constituents and Canadians with them.
In conclusion, because of the inspiration of Chief Shining Turtle; because of Sophia Mathur and the Fridays for Future gang, Paulette Gagnon and René Larocque; because of the world-class people attracted to Sudbury and Canada, and projects like SNOLAB and industrial battery technology, I am eternally optimistic about our future. It is because of all of them that I leave this chamber more hopeful than I entered it, hopeful that Canada and Canadians will continue to meet the challenges of the future, and hopeful that this chamber and the wonderful Canadians who sit in it will continue to lead the way.