Mr. Speaker, as this is my first speech in the House, I would like to take a moment to thank the people of Essex for putting their trust in me and giving me the opportunity to serve them in the next four years. Essex is a beautiful and diverse riding, made up of many small towns, including LaSalle, Amherstburg, Kingsville, Lakeshore, Essex, Harrow, and many other small communities. As their voice in Parliament, I will listen to their concerns and take their priorities to Ottawa, and fight for them every step of the way. As their MP, I will embrace a positive, progressive perspective. I will consult with everyday people, and I will strive to ensure that all levels of government work together for the best interests of Essex.
Coming out of such a long election campaign, I would like to thank all of the amazing volunteers who helped me get elected. Their dedication is truly inspiring and made all the difference.
I would like to thank my family members for their unwavering support, my husband Germaine, our sons Maxwell and Maliq, my parents Tom and Linda, my brother and sister, extended family and friends.
Today I am honoured to rise in the House to debate the government's Speech from the Throne. During the election campaign, the Liberals made many promises to Canadians, and there are high expectations on them to deliver as government. While the throne speech was thin on details, I am hopeful that this is not an indication of a lack of commitment to follow through on their promises.
As the representative for Essex, and as a member of the NDP caucus, the progressive opposition, I will work to hold the government to account and push the Liberals to keep their word on increasing investments in infrastructure, boosting public pensions, and implementing democratic reforms.
One of the government's top priorities is what it calls a tax cut for the middle class. However, in reality nearly 70% of Canadians, including middle-income earners, will not receive any benefit. The NDP propose to modify the tax cut so that 90% of Canadians will benefit, helping to reduce income inequality and making our tax system a little fairer. Unfortunately, the Liberals have not accepted our proposal.
I hope to see the government make job creation a real priority. Too often, workers are forced to turn to part-time precarious work, as good full-time jobs disappear at an alarming rate. My riding of Essex has one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, and the working class there really suffered under the Conservative government.
Communities depend on jobs and sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, IT, and logistics. There are many small businesses in my region that contribute so much to our communities. I have met with many people in the riding who have terrific ideas on how we can move our region forward and support quality local job creation. I am excited about what we can accomplish together.
I was pleased to see the throne speech reiterate a commitment to investing in infrastructure. Although few details were provided, I am hopeful that we will soon see a plan for getting this money out the door. My riding of Essex will benefit in many ways from great investments in infrastructure. More rail and better roads will help people and goods move with more ease. It will generate good jobs and more economic activity, which is what our region desperately needs.
As many will know, plans are under way to construct a second bridge and border crossing for the Windsor-Detroit corridor. Building this bridge will lead to increased trade, which is vital to our long-term economic prosperity. I applaud my colleague, the hon. member for Windsor West, who has advocated for this new crossing for years and worked hard to advance the file. I look forward to working with him and the current government on this and many other issues.
In the throne speech, the government committed to providing a more secure retirement for Canadians by working with the provinces and territories to enhance the Canada pension plan. After years of Conservative stalling, I welcome this important commitment.
On the doorsteps in Essex, I heard from many people who were concerned about their ability to save for their future and to retire with dignity. People work hard all their lives, and they deserve greater retirement security.
As a New Democrat MP, I will stand up for strengthening CPP, returning eligibility for old age security to age 65, protecting workplace pensions, and lifting seniors out of poverty by boosting the guaranteed income supplement.
I must also point out some of the topics that the Speech from the Throne failed to address.
As the NDP critic for international trade, I would like to see the government provide much greater details on its plan to consult Canadians on the trans-Pacific partnership. The Conservatives negotiated this deal behind closed doors in the dying days of their government. We all know that this deal could result in the loss of tens of thousands of Canadian jobs. Nowhere would the effect of this be more deeply felt than in my riding of Essex, where so many people are employed by the auto and agricultural sectors.
As an auto worker, I saw first-hand how job losses have impacted families and entire communities. When I started working on the assembly line at Ford, we had 6,700 people. Twenty years later, we are down to 1,500. These losses have been devastating.
In 2008, I found myself laid off. I know what that feels like. I know how it impacts our families and the decisions we make about our lives and our future. Many of my friends and co-workers made difficult choices, such as moving away from their families for work, and returning to school, as I did.
Facing economic uncertainty and starting over is unfortunately something that many Canadians experience today. I understand their frustrations and challenges on a deeply personal level, and I commit to working-class people in my riding of Essex and in Canada that I will be our voice in Parliament.
With so much on the line, Canadians deserve to be listened to. On the campaign trail, the Liberals promised public consultations, but their Speech from the Throne was silent on this and on compensation for farmers and auto workers who will be hurt by this deal.
I look forward to working with the hon. member for University—Rosedale on the TPP and many other trade-related issues. Although we will not always agree, I am optimistic that we can have a positive collaborative relationship.
I also look forward to working with the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard—Verdun in his capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, as well as the honourable member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, the Conservative critic for international trade. On the TPP, I'm confident that we can get a better deal for Canadians.
Turning my attention to another issue now, the Speech from the Throne talked about working with the provinces and territories to develop a new health accord. However, I did not see a commitment to cancelling the Conservatives' planned cuts to health care. Reversing these cuts will allow us to invest in improving seniors care, making prescription drug coverage more affordable, and helping more Canadians to find a family doctor.
The speech also failed to outline plans to fight poverty and reduce inequality in Canada. I spoke earlier, applauding the government's commitment to enhancing the CPP. However, we in the NDP believe so much more must be done for low-income seniors, including boosting the GIS and reversing the Conservatives' cuts to OAS.
The rate of child poverty in Canada is shockingly high and deserves more attention from the federal government. I am proud to belong to a party that has worked to advance that issue for decades. In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously adopted former NDP leader Ed Broadbent's motion to end child poverty in Canada, but for 25 years, Conservative and Liberal governments have failed to act.
Today, more children live in poverty than in 1989. The NDP has proposed a new way forward: close the tax loophole currently enjoyed by CEOs on stock options. Those funds would be redirected to low-income families through an enhanced working income tax benefit and an enhanced national child benefit supplement.
As I near the end of my allotted time, I'd like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to rise in the House today. As the Member of Parliament for Essex, I'm committed to fighting for the people of my riding. I will stand up for good jobs, better health care, help for those who work hard to get ahead, and a better deal on the trans-Pacific partnership.