November is a month of Remembrance and the wearing of a poppy its symbol. Each November, we pause, not only to remember those who were willing to give their lives for our nation, but to reflect on our solemn responsibility to continue to defend the sovereignty, democracy and shared values that our soldiers fought so hard to protect.
As Canadian citizens we are defined by our shared values of respect, humility, empathy, compromise and co-operation. The respect to hear and value all perspectives even when we don’t agree. Humility to admit when we don’t know and to work to understand. Empathy to put ourselves in the place of others and consider their needs as well as our own. Compromise to negotiate to find an approach or solution that leaves all parties further ahead. Co-operation to recognize that in a country with as vast as a geography as ours and a relatively small population that our strength lies in being united at home and a valued ally with critical partners abroad.
Yet recently, we have witnessed a significant erosion of these shared values in the national conversation, resulting in strained relations between the provinces themselves and between the provinces and the federal government. Canada is becoming increasingly divided and we must be honest about the challenges we face.
Our transportation and manufacturing sector is in decline with CN Rail laying off 3,200, GM closing it’s plant in Oshawa with a loss of 3,000 jobs, and Bombardier Aerospace laying off over 5,000 employees – to name a few.
Our resource sector is suffering with a 50% decline in foreign capital investment in mining, over 100,000 jobs lost in oil and gas, and talent and head offices abandoning Canada for the US in drastic numbers.
Our Agriculture industry is under pressure from China, the new NAFTA and the Carbon Tax. Our large trading partners are buying elsewhere, while costs increase but commodity prices remain stagnant, and Canada lags in productivity without the tools to be more competitive.
I spoke with many of you at the doors during the election. You clearly stated that all is not as it should be, and that you are deeply worried. You fear that tomorrow won’t be better than today.
Now is not the time to pit ourselves against one another – east vs. west, urban vs. rural, English vs. French. For Canada to thrive we must be united at home and have strong alliances with like-minded nations abroad. The reasons for confederation are just as strong today, as they were over 150 years ago. In Canada, everyone suffers if any region is weakened. A rising tide lifts all boats and the hope for Canada rests in our ability to leverage all our assets and value every citizen.
To do that, we must change the national conversation and consciously employ the values that unite us as Canadians.
The power of John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ is not only because it calls on us to honour the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives on the battlefield – but also in the command that it issues to us; the living:
“Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw – the torch: Be yours to hold it high…”
…and also in the consequence of our failure to abide by that command – “If ye break faith with us who die – we shall not sleep though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”
Each November, we wear the poppy as the physical symbol of our commitment to hold the torch high. Now is the time for all of us to remember, embrace this symbol, and change the tone of the national conversation. I am humbled and honoured to continue to serve as your Member of Parliament. My commitment to you is that I will uphold our shared values in order to unite Canada and position us for prosperity – both for today and for the future.
But my contribution will not be enough. It will take all of us, though we may be angry, frustrated and fearful, to strive for respect, empathy, humility, compromise, and cooperation – the values that make us who we are as Canadians. We must be vigilant, hold the torch high, and keep faith with our veterans.
United we stand- one country, one Canada.