Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stephen Harper's Canada is not the country we aspire to be

I gave the following speech on Monday, Nov. 17, during the New Democratic Party nomination meeting for St. John’s South Mount Pearl at St. Teresa’s Parish Hall in east-end St. John’s.

Thank you.

Thank you for coming.

Thank you for the honour of representing you, of representing St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, and all of Newfoundland and Labrador, as a New Democrat Member of Parliament, in the House of Commons.

Thank you.

And thank you — for the third time — for the privilege of carrying the New Democratic Party banner in the next federal general election.

I let it be known far and wide that the riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl is by far the most beautiful, has the most character, of all 308 ridings in  Canada.

Other MPs may say that their riding is the most special, the most precious, but we all know that isn’t true.

They don’t have the history of The Narrows or the colour of the downtown.

They don’t have the little boats of Petty Harbour or the lighthouse at Cape Spear.

Other ridings don’t have the community of Shea Heights or the landlocked outport that is Mount Pearl.

From the Goulds to Cowan Heights, from Kilbride to Quidi Vidi Gut, how could anywhere else in Canada compare to this?

Seeing no dissenting opinions (not even Tom Mulcair has spoken up), the answer is no place, no other riding can compare to St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

The riding boundaries will change in the 2015 election in that we’ll lose Quidi Vidi, Forest Road and part of the downtown in the east end.  

Those areas will be picked up Jack Harris, New Democratic MP for the second most beautiful riding in all of Canada, St. John’s East.

On the west end of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl we’ll pick up Bay Bulls and Witless Bay, which is a fair enough trade off from my perspective.

One other thank you: to Tom Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, for making it a point to be here tonight.

Our first national caucus meeting after Tom’s election as leader was held here, in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

Tom never misses a Royal St. John’s Regatta or the George Street Festival.

Tom feels welcome here — and so he should.

Because people like this man and what he has to say; they like his principles; they like his fire; they like the way Tom handles himself on his feet.

Tom could almost be mistaken for a Newfoundlander — only the beard isn’t quite thick enough.

A number of people couldn’t make it to this evening’s nomination meeting and sent their regrets — including Amelia Curran.

In fact, Amelia, one of our finest singer-songwriters (which is a massive compliment considering this is Newfoundland and Labrador afterall) sent me a note to pass on to Tom.

Dear Mr. Mulcair,

Thank you, for continuing Jack Layton's work. I enjoy your implicit frustration in the House. I applaud your efforts to question and to challenge.

I'm writing to tell you that I no longer recognize the country I live in. That I have been forced to tell people their government is not there for them and they cannot count on their leaders.

The Canadian government is a faceless corporation.  It listens to dollars. It does not listen to people.

But people are getting tired of this.

I hold dearly a dream of activists who are active rather than angry.

Community groups that provide solutions rather than respite.

It is due to this dream that I am reaching out to you. It's time we work together.

Sadly, I cannot be home while you are visiting St. John's. I hope we find a time in the future. I am sending this to you via Ryan Cleary, MP, and my friend.

With all the sincerity,
Amelia Curran

There are untold tens of thousands of persons like Amelia Curran in this province, and across this country.

People who no longer recognize the country we live in.

But the corporation that is today’s Government of Canada does have a face — and it is the face of Stephen Harper.

I’m a Newfoundlander and Labradorian first, that’s always been clear, always will be clear, but Harper and the Conservative corporation are attacking all of us.

His Canada is not the Canada we aspire to be.

Stephen Harper’s Canada is a country where scientists are muzzled for fear of losing their jobs — the decline in freedoms and funding has led to a backlash from scientists around the world.

How embarrassing is that?

That is not the Canada we aspire to be.

The only thing scientific about Stephen Harper is his calculated attempt to SILENCE critics, to TRAMPLE the environment, to SHAME activists as radicals, to DISCREDIT our courts, to UNDERMINE offices of Parliament like the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

To bob and weave around a Senate scandal that has tarnished this government’s reputation.

Scandals abound, just like the Liberals before them.

That is not the Canada we aspire to be.

The only thing scientific about Stephen Harper is his surgical skill in dissecting treasured Canadian services like Canada Post and home delivey.

Like Search and Rescue.

That is not the Canada we aspire to be.

The people that Stephen Harper caters to are the wealthiest in our society, the top 15 per cent of wage earners who will qualify for his income splitting tax break.

The people that Stephen Harper caters to are big corporations like many of those that hold offshore shrimp licences.

Our shrimp resource is in steep decline and the last-in, first out policy that the Harper Cons support will batter, will pound our long suffering outports.

The fishery means nothing to the Harper cons — no more than a chip in a trade deal.

That is not the Canada we aspire to be.

The only thing scientific about Stephen Harper is his cold undermining of unions and workers.

37,000 jobs have been lost in the federal public service in recent years — 8 per cent of civil service positions.

Now the focus is on cutting back benefits, specifically sick leave — with the fear that employees will go to work sick, risk getting sicker themselves, and potentially spread illness to others.

The Harper Cons are no friends to unions: If it were up to them there would be protection for workers.

And greed would rule the day.

That is not the Canada we aspire to be.

The country we aspire to be …  

Supports families through programs like affordable child-care.

A national report last week found that infant day care in St. John’s is the second highest in Canada.

The country we aspire to be supports affordable and accessible housing, supports workers and their benefits.

The country we aspire to be is one where no full-time worker lives in poverty, where people retire with dignity and don’t have to make choices between food and heat and medicine.

The Canada we aspire to be supports veterans and their families and our active servicemen and women.

They stand on guard for us; we must stand on guard for them.

The country we aspire to be should be an example to the world of how to balance economic growth with environmental impact.

How to balance profit and prosperity without sacrificing our most vulnerable.

How to balance profit and prosperity while ensuring our young people have a future, ensuring the next generation is better off than this generation.

Because that’s not the way it’s looking now.

Canada is supposed to be a country where you’re proud to sew a Canadian flag on your backpack and travel the world in peace.

It used to be.

Our nation has had a hard time as of late.

The sounds of gunfire in Parliament are still resonating, will be resonating for some time.

I can still hear the shots.

I can smell the gunsmoke.

I am proud of how the House conducted itself in the wake of such terror, such atrocity, such shocking tragedy.

It was good for Canada that we resumed sitting the very next morning.

Good for Canada to stand strong.

Good for Canada for our leaders to address Canadians, and to embrace — for the nation to embrace.

Harper made a statement that I’ve since repeated, a number of times, because it struck a chord, because I agreed with the statement.

Harper said, "that in our system, in our country, we are opponents but we are never enemies."

We are opponents, but we are never enemies.

How true is that?

But then just days later the Harper government introduced — yet again — a massive, anti-democratic omnibus bill.

A bill that is also an attack on Parliament, on the ability of parlimentarians to do our job.

There was no greater opponent to omnibus legislation than the Prime Minister when he was in opposition.

And the Liberals were in power.

Harper took power and he did exactly what the Liberals did.

Liberal Tory same old sad, tired broken-record story.

We are opponents, but we are never enemies.

I say, we are Canadians, but we are never fools.

We are Members of Parliament, we are not puppets.

We are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians — our province should matter as much as any other province.

We have to make our 7 seats count.

I represent St. John’s South-Mount Pearl in Ottawa …

I do not represent Ottawa in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

I have spent my entire life living here — working here, raising my two boys right here.

I know this place, I’m passionate about this place, I defend this place with a fierce loyalty and determination that comes from pride of place.

There is no better place than Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the words of Allan Doyle, it’s where I belong.

We have a fight on our hands.

A fight to transform Canada into a country we’re once again proud of.  

A fight for Newfoundland and Labrador to take its seat at the Confederation table, a fight that we’ve waged since 1949.

That’s the Canada we aspire to be — a country where provinces and territories are equal.

Where people and families are the priority.

Where the government is more than a corporation fixated on the corporate welfare.

In my Canada, our Canada, it’s the people who are listened to — not the almighty dollar.

The orange wave started here in 2011 and swept across the nation.

Make no mistake, Jack Layton is missed.

But there is no leader more capable, more resolute, more principled than Tom Mulcair.

He’s a friend to St. John’s South-Mount Pearl and a friend to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The fight that we’re facing cannot be won without each and every single one of you — every single one.

It cannot be won without a clear vision of a better Canada, a better Newfoundland and Labrador, and a commitment to see that vision through.

As a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, as MP for St. John’s South Mount Pearl, I stand beside Tom Mulcair and his vision for Canada.

For OUR Canada.

Thank you.

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