When I first entered the House of Commons to take my seat in the 43rd Parliament, I was enthusiastic and optimistic. I felt a strong desire to make a positive difference for the constituents of Newmarket-Aurora, and for the people across this great country.

As a new session of parliament begins, I am even more optimistic and mindful of the trust Canadians have given us. I am confident that the challenges we have faced this year have given us an opportunity to build a better, fairer and more inclusive Canada.

More than ever before, we need to be a country of equality and equity, built on respect and compassion – for every Canadian and for our environment. We cannot betray ourselves and achieve anything less than a better, fairer, more inclusive future for Canada, and a quality of life for all that is the envy of the world.

Protecting Canadians from COVID19

COVID-19 has been the greatest challenge many of us have ever faced. No community, no province or territory, and no nation has been immune to the virus.  And it’s no different in Newmarket-Aurora.

We have shared in the suffering: the loss of life, the business closures, the uncertain future for our restaurants, and the fears of sending our kids back to school. And while our numbers may be lower than in many communities, our pain and suffering is just as significant.

I want to acknowledge the remarkable courage, innovation and compassion the people of Newmarket-Aurora have shown, and the willingness to unite for the common good.

It has been a long seven months and we all want an end to COVID-19, but the journey is not over yet. Our first priority moving forward needs to be beating this virus and protecting the health of Canadians.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have relied on our outstanding scientific community for science and evidence-based advice on how to best protect Canadians from COVID-19.

We have invested in innovative solutions, as businesses across the country retooled and stepped up to join our fight against COVID-19. This includes PPE to ensure the safety of our health care and frontline workers, and millions of vaccine doses so Canadians can receive them once available.

We have also provided the provinces and territories with $19 billion through the Safe Restart Agreement to increase testing capacity, to secure PPE, and to minimize the impact of this second wave. And $2 billion through the Safe Return to Class fund to keep teachers, staff, kids and their families safe.

Canadians expect us to work together and to do whatever is needed to keep Canadians safe. And we’ve committed to doing exactly that.

Helping Canadians Through the Pandemic

The health of our communities is often directly related to the strength and diversity of our local businesses, our not-for-profits and our charities.

The pandemic has challenged these life-changing organizations, and to successfully weather this storm on all fronts, we need to continue supporting them in the short term with programs that aid their recovery and ours.

From meetings with the local chambers of commerce to picking up dinner on a Friday night, since the beginning of the pandemic, I have made sure to check in and support the local businesses in Newmarket-Aurora.

I am pleased to see that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be extended through to next summer. This program has been vital in helping many businesses stay afloat and keep their staff on payroll. And I have already heard from a number of them how significant this extension is as we face this second wave.

We must also recognize that an important aspect of restarting our economy and keeping businesses afloat is to get women back in the workforce. The pandemic revealed that women have lost jobs at a higher rate than men, and have experienced a slower return to the workforce.

We need to end this she-cession and guarantee women’s social and economic equality. But in order for that to happen we need to assure them we are also taking care of their children.

Accessible, affordable, inclusive and high-quality childcare is the cornerstone of our economic recovery and an investment for the future. And we will work with all provinces and territories to ensure an inclusive and equitable recovery.

Building Back Better

Today and for the foreseeable future, business is anything but usual.

A recent Environics poll found  “rather than trying to get back to the way things were [by a wide margin Canadians] are looking for an economic recovery that will bring us closer to a society that reduces inequality, takes care of the sick and vulnerable and protects the environment.”

I am heartened by Canadians’ desire to protect our environment and our government’s recognition that to build back on a green recovery is the right course of action. A course of action that will require collaboration between our federal government and all provinces and territories, and undoubtedly benefit them all.

In fact, we have already seen examples of our government working with the provinces and territories, municipalities and regions on green technologies and innovative projects.

Earlier in the Summer, I joined local representatives as the first electric bus in the Town of Newmarket completed its charge and its trip across Davis Drive.

I was also pleased to visit a local manufacturing company that focuses on sustainable packaging made from 100 per cent post-industrial paper waste and water. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they’ve developed a prototype for low-cost, disposable masks made from 100 per cent Canadian pulp to help keep Canadians and our environment safe from COVID-19.

These are only a few of the examples of the great projects and innovations from across the country that are ready to charge us into a greener future, and we are committed to working side-by-side with them to protect our environment.

The Canada we are fighting for

But we must also be mindful that we can never achieve greatness as a country unless there is fairness and equality built on freedom and inclusiveness for all, in our economy and our society.

There is no denying that the vulnerable, the elderly, people of colour and Indigenous Peoples have experienced even greater hardship throughout this pandemic.

There is no place for racism in Canada and we must collectively work to end systemic racism in our communities, with no tolerance for failure.

Our government continues to listen, learn, and most importantly, act. I was pleased to see all sections of the Parliamentary Black Caucus statement outlined in the Speech from the Throne.

I am proud of the Members of Parliament – from all stripes – that came together to support this statement. This is a great example of how working together, we can better do what Canadians expect. This is how we build a nation that is the envy of the world.

When a local journalist asked me to describe the Speech from the Throne in three words, I told her: compassion, environment, and recovery.

Compassion, because we must ensure that Indigenous Peoples, people of colour, the elderly, and the vulnerable can feel safe and cared for in their country. Compassion is key to our recovery.

Environment, because to provide the generations to come with the future they deserve, we must take action now to flight climate change.

Recovery, because it is what we need right now, and what we are looking forward to. But to help Canada and Canadians recover, we must work together.

There is no doubt that the decisions we make now will decide the future of our country.

As the Speech from the Throne made clear, we must first ensure the health and well-being of all Canadians, while continuing to provide the support they need to get through this pandemic. We must take advantage of what Canada and Canadians have to offer to create a stronger, more resilient nation.

Together and now is how we build the foundation for a better, fairer and more inclusive Canada.

The Canada we all deserve.

The 2020 Speech from the Throne is available here.