By NATHANIEL ERSKINE-SMITH
Get back to work. If there is any message to take from a tough national campaign that returned a minority Liberal government, that’s the one.
We’ve shown competence in procuring vaccines and delivering emergency benefits, and we need that same leadership towards sensible vaccine mandates, booster shots, extended benefits for hard-hit sectors, and expanded rapid testing, especially in schools.
Finishing the fight against COVID-19 will remain our first priority, but this Parliament must also deliver on an ambitious recovery agenda.
That agenda includes a green recovery. There’s a reason that climate experts overwhelmingly endorsed the Liberal climate plan. Since 2015, we’ve reduced projected 2030 emissions by over 40 per cent, set new ambitious targets, and passed a net zero accountability law.
We will now build on that progress, including by tackling emissions in the oil and gas sector and passing just transition legislation. It’s not only about climate action for our kids; it’s also about jobs and a resilient economy.
Any serious recovery from this pandemic must also prioritize better healthcare.
This work will require a close partnership with provincial governments to improve long-term care, clear waitlists and expand primary care, address the opioid crisis, and expand our public healthcare system to include pharmacare and accessible mental health care.
The recovery must also be inclusive, with a greater emphasis on fairness and equality of opportunity. In more concrete terms, there’s immediate work to deliver on a $10 / day child care agreement with Ontario; there’s ongoing consultation work to realize a stronger EI system and a new basic income benefit for people with disabilities; and there’s much work ahead to create affordable housing, address systemic racism, and ensure a fairer tax system.
An inclusive recovery must also advance reconciliation.
While 70 per cent of all long-term water advisories have been lifted, this work needs to be finished quickly. We need to deliver on the remainder of the TRC’s calls to action that involve the federal government, and make that progress more transparent.
We also need to settle the Human Rights Tribunal case once and for all. Kids should be compensated, and Jordan’s Principle realized in full. This is, of course, an incomplete list. But it goes to show how much work lies ahead.
If we are to meet these important commitments, we cannot afford more of the parliamentary dysfunction we saw in the last session.
We will accomplish much more through a cooperative and collaborative approach. After all, while it will remain a minority Liberal government, a majority of incoming MPs are committed to these key priorities.
In my first speech after the 2019 election, I said that minority governments hold potential for greatness, and I still believe that to be true. But so much depends upon the approach we take.
On a personal note, I will keep working across party lines, maintaining a sense of independence, holding our government accountable, and pushing for greater ambition.
I’m thankful for your continued support. Now, it’s back to work.
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