Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to rise today for my maiden speech in the House. Let me first thank the citizens of Edmonton Centre for placing their trust in me in electing me to represent them here in the House of Commons. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the volunteers who worked tirelessly through our campaign and in the days since.
Edmonton is truly an amazing place to live, work, and play. In our city, it does not matter where one comes from, what colour of skin one happens to have, or whom one chooses to love. People are welcome, and they should have the opportunity to succeed.
A dynamic technology sector, profitable businesses in a wide range of fields, some of Canada's leading post-secondary institutions, jewels in our nation's cultural crown, and successful sports teams call Edmonton home.
For first nations, Métis, and Inuit people, an increasing number of whom call Edmonton home, there is much work that our government must do, and we are committed to renewing our nation-to-nation relationship and improving the quality of life for all indigenous peoples.
In 2016, Edmonton is a vibrant city where residents can fulfill their dreams and where their family, community, business, or non-profit can be successful.
Our collaborative city owes a debt of gratitude to Edmontonians who have served in the House, very notably, my predecessors in this seat, the hon. Laurie Hawn, a devoted and tireless example of public service, and the hon. Anne McLellan, my mentor and dear friend and the former deputy prime minister of Canada.
In the early days of my nomination, people told me that electing a Liberal in Edmonton simply would not happen, yet, as an openly gay man, I have become used to people telling me what is not possible, what simply cannot happen, and then working really hard to prove otherwise. I am thrilled to be part of the largest Liberal caucus from Alberta since 1993. I am honoured to represent Alberta in the government alongside the hon. member for Calgary Skyview, the hon. Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the hon. Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. It is a privilege to chair this Alberta caucus. We may not be many, but we are mighty.
Right now Albertans need strong advocates such as our caucus because things are tough back home. Edmonton, like the rest of Alberta, has been hit hard by the slowdown in the economy and the energy sector. The effects are being felt across our nation: 100,000 lost jobs in Alberta; tens of thousands of jobs lost across the country; tragically, suicide rates are up 30%; food banks are barely able to meet demand; unemployment is on the rise; and hard-working men and women are at risk of running out of their EI benefits with no plan B in sight.
My caucus colleagues and I know the pain and suffering that this economy is causing. I heard clearly in 10 budget round tables how the previous government's policies ignored the advice from the energy sector and environmental experts for the need for a balanced approach. The sad irony is that after 10 years of misguided handling of Canada's environment, the previous government eroded the confidence of Canadians in our number one exporting sector and systematically failed to create access to new markets. Perhaps if there had been less cheer and more leadership, our economy would be in a better state of affairs today.
Edmontonians and Albertans are looking for leadership to grow our economy. I am proud to say that our government has a plan to deliver that leadership. Our government is committed to ensuring that the environmental assessment and regulatory review processes for pipelines and other natural resource projects have the confidence of Canadians. We understand that the natural resource sector is a critical component of the Canadian economy. That is why our Speech from the Throne outlines our balanced approach to creating a 21st century economy built on the fusion of energy and the environment. This new triple-E, energy, the environment, and the economy, is the way forward.
Edmontonians and Albertans have always been strong contributors to Confederation. We are once again more than ready to roll up our sleeves with Canadians from coast to coast to coast and get back to work.
Our government has already cut taxes for more than nine million Canadians.
Edmontonians also know that now is the time to invest in repairing and expanding our infrastructure and now is the time to build up our communities. We want to see our government pay our fair share for the new Valley Line LRT, the west leg of which will run right through my riding. We want to see federal leadership on building new social housing, seniors' housing, and affordable housing. We want to keep our city growing and our citizens working.
I am also proud to sit in the House as a franco-Albertan. Alberta's francophone community has been experiencing a boom as of late, fuelled by the arrival of francophones from across Canada, as well as the arrival of many immigrants from French-speaking countries. As a result, bilingualism is on the rise in my province, and we are seeing more and more interest in French and French culture in Alberta.
During the campaign and since, we have heard loudly from Edmontonians and from people around the world that we must fix a broken immigration system. That is exactly what our throne speech sets out and our government is already delivering on real change. Our commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to our country has renewed our sense of community spirit and reminded us and our international partners of the special role that Canada can and must play in the world.
In conclusion, I want to share some words from His Excellency the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier, former governor general of Canada, who had the following to say about public life and serving others:
We must approach our time here in that spirit of service. Our constituents elected us to serve them, but it is the entire country that demands our attention. It is our task to serve this great modern mosaic north of the 49th parallel that we all call home. Each of us, however long we may be called to serve, must bear this purpose in mind and act accordingly so that on our last day in this place, we might say that we leave a better, more prosperous, and more united nation than when we first rose to speak.