Kenora MP makes first speech in House of Commons
Tim Brody - Editor
Kenora MP Eric Melillo touched upon the topics of natural resources, broadband internet services and firearms in his maiden speech in the House of Commons on Jan. 27.
The following is his speech as presented on the House of Commons of Canada website, https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-1/house/sitting-8/hansard:
Madam Speaker, as this is my maiden speech, I would like to congratulate all of my colleagues on their new or returning roles. I take the opportunity to thank the people of the Kenora riding for placing their trust in me to serve. I thank all of my volunteers and campaign team who worked so hard to make this possible, with a special mention of my good friends and family for supporting me along the way. To my parents, Joe and Charlene, who have always been there to help, and to my partner, Danaka, who has shown tremendous strength in adjusting to the challenges that public life presents, I express my thanks for their support.
Many people in my riding have shared concerns about the throne speech and how it will impact northwestern Ontario. My riding is rather unique. It is the largest in Ontario by land mass and it is the smallest by population. It is home to many first nations and municipalities, each with very different localized concerns. There are many challenges that we face in this region, from access to health and social services to broadband Internet, and a way of life that has been under attack by the Liberal government.
However, there are also many opportunities in this region. For example, people from all around the globe choose the Kenora riding as a tourist destination each year. I happen to know that my good friend, the member for York—Simcoe, is often one of them. Across all sectors there is untapped economic potential and resilient citizens who are working hard to see our region grow.
When we talk about growth and economic potential, residents in my riding want to see a responsible government spending plan that is focused on attracting investment and lowering the deficit. However, the government is unfortunately continuing with its high tax and reckless spending plan, which has Canada lagging behind others in the G7. We in the Kenora riding feel those effects, with many businesses struggling to get off the ground or closing up shop and a dwindling industry that has resulted in jobs and opportunities leaving the riding.
With that in mind, I was particularly concerned to see that there is very little support for the natural resource sector in the Speech from the Throne. There is no hope provided to miners in Red Lake and across my region, and there is absolutely no mention of softwood lumber or our forestry industry. In fact, there is actually a plan that will restrict forest access even further. Conservatives understand that sustainable forest management and, more broadly, resource management play a pivotal role in growing our economy, protecting our environment and providing a more prosperous future for the next generation.
I spoke very briefly earlier about our way of life. I must mention that firearms are important tools for people's way of life in my riding. Whether for law-abiding sport shooters belonging to a gun club, or hunters that rely on their firearms to feed their families, this is an issue that unites people from all walks of life in my riding. I have even heard from many people who do not own firearms, but who are concerned that this overreach, the government's proposed blanket ban and confiscation of firearms from everyday Canadians, will not be beneficial. The experts all agree that this ban will not do anything to combat the very important issue of gun crime and gang violence in our cities. In fact, in my riding, it may make rural and remote Canadians feel less safe.
I was recently in Fort Severn First Nation. This is the most northern community in Ontario and sits right along the edge of Hudson Bay. This community is only accessible by plane, by barge or by an ice road when the proper weather conditions permit. The people of this community rely on their firearms to provide for their families, especially given the disproportionately higher cost of living that they face. They also rely on these firearms to protect themselves from the threats of bears and other dangerous wild animals that live near, but more often within, the community.
I have spoken with these residents directly and they are worried that the ambiguous term “military-style firearm” may lead to them losing their guns and actually jeopardize their way of life and their safety. The Liberals have yet to provide us with their definition of what “military-style” means. I believe that Canadians deserve to know exactly what that is so we can know what the government's intentions are and have a thoughtful, fact-based debate about how we can best combat gun violence. To put it simply, we must focus on criminals and not law-abiding hunters and sport shooters.
Rural and remote communities also face unique challenges when it comes to Internet access. A lack of reliable high-speed Internet hinders the ability of rural Canadians to access information, receive services and compete in the Canadian economy. Rural broadband access must be prioritized so that our students, workers and business owners can participate equally in society.
I was disappointed, as were many in the Kenora riding, that the throne speech made no mention of rural connectivity. Many of my constituents felt ignored by the throne speech. I believe I have made that very clear in my remarks so far.
However, I was very glad to hear that reconciliation will be a priority for the government. First nations and northern communities in my riding are underfunded and under-resourced. The people in these communities need access to health and social services. They need infrastructure investments to fix water systems and mould-infested homes. They need access to medical and mental health care and addiction treatments.
I hope to be able to work productively with the government to secure real results for these communities in my riding. This is, unfortunately, one of the files on which the government has been all talk with very little action. I do believe that in this minority Parliament we have a tremendous opportunity to work collaboratively and deliver meaningful supports.
I would like to take this opportunity to tell the Minister of Indigenous Services that I look forward to working together to achieve practical results. I appreciate his advocacy and collaboration on issues important to my riding. I hope we will continue this positive working relationship into the future.
This speech also makes mention of one important thing to me, and that is ambitious infrastructure investments. I will be urging the government to ensure that the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway from the Manitoba border through my riding of Kenora will be a top priority. This is not only a local issue for us, but it is also a national issue. When there is a crash on the Trans-Canada Highway in my riding, our entire economy shuts down. Our country is literally split into two. These highway conditions are notoriously dangerous. This project is tremendously important for the safety of all travellers.
The construction would also reduce barriers to economic activity in the region, and allow for further future development. We must ensure that we have funding from all levels of government in order to get this project done.
I will conclude my remarks there, but before I yield my time, I would like to thank the Speaker for the opportunity to share with this House some of my thoughts and some of my constituents' concerns with the Speech from the Throne. I believe that the priorities of northwestern Ontario can and should be much better represented in the throne speech and in the government's agenda. My riding and my region have great potential, but this Parliament must be able to work constructively to deliver the necessary support and investment to get the region moving again.