MPP's Maiden Speech at Queen's Park

Published on July 23, 2018

First Speech in the Legislature for your Kanata-Carleton MPP

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As this is my first time rising to speak in the House, I would like to congratulate you on your election. I would also like to congratulate everyone who is here today. You’ve worked very hard to get here. I’m very grateful to the constituents who have elected me here as well. I’m honoured.

It is a privilege and an honour to stand before this chamber today, and it is with gratitude that I make this inaugural address. It is gratitude that allows us to learn from the past, to live fully for today and to plan, with hope, for tomorrow. Gratitude is social glue. It respects and restores relationships, it encourages people to behave in ways that benefit others and it inspires duty.

I am grateful to be here today to represent the constituents of Kanata–Carleton and to serve the people of Ontario. I give thanks to everyone who is engaged in our very important democratic processes and to all the people who supported me along the way.

Je suis reconnaissante d’être ici aujourd’hui pour représenter les électeurs de Kanata–Carleton. Je remercie très sincèrement tous ceux qui se sont engagés dans notre processus démocratique et tous ceux qui m’ont soutenue.

Contributing and giving back are important to me. What we leave behind for our children and how we prepare for the future matters. We all have something to contribute and must find our own unique and meaningful ways to share what we can.

While we may not acknowledge it day to day, our lives and our characters are moulded by our families, where we have come from and where we live, the experiences we have—both positive and negative—and by the people we meet along the way who touch our lives. Sometimes the interactions are limited in time but very powerful. In other cases, there are events and lifelong relationships that influence our lives in ways we cannot fully appreciate at the time but only later understand when we reflect.

As I reflect on my journey to this point, I wish to express how grateful I am for the people who have come before me, for my parents and for my husband’s parents, who have demonstrated throughout their lives the importance of persistence, resiliency and giving of themselves. I am fortunate to have had such wonderful people in my life to learn from. Life is a learning journey.

My father came to Canada at the age of three, in the late 1920s. His family was looking to start a new life here after experiencing hardship in Ireland. After a long ocean journey—there were no passenger planes in those days—they travelled from the east coast by train to Regina, Saskatchewan. Then the Great Depression hit. My father was the second-youngest of five children and, as soon as he was able, he sold sewing needles door-to-door with his older brother to help put food on the table. Times were tough. He was teased and ridiculed for his heavy, thick Irish accent, but he persevered, survived a ruptured appendix before the days of antibiotics and grew up to become a professional engineer with a successful 35-year career in the public service. He served us well. Dedication to learning and education was always important to him and he expected my two siblings and me to always do our best. He passed away in 2015, in his 90th year, after a lengthy illness. I think of his humility, loyalty and kindness often.

My mother was born prematurely in the winter of 1933, in Berwyn, Alberta, weighing less than two pounds. In those days there was little to be done except hope and pray. As the family story goes, her parents were told to do what they could, so they took her home in an apple basket and kept her near the wood stove to keep her warm. She survived and thrived and to this day, at the age of 85, she has a can-do mentality. She taught me, my brother and my sister that life is about choices and that no problem is so big that it cannot be solved. The three of us became family doctors and have spent our careers helping others. Living through the events of World War II and the Great Depression, my mother’s love of life and of people was never dampened. Everywhere I go in my hometown I regularly hear from others how wonderful my mother is—and yes, she is.

My parents instilled in me a “waste not, want not” mindset and a strong sense of fiscal conservatism. They wanted their children to have opportunities they did not have and they wanted to make sure we knew to be good stewards of the resources that we did have, and to be grateful.

When I see the massive debt left behind for Ontarians by the previous government, I worry about the associated costs which, in turn, make it harder to fund the many services on which Ontarians depend. Waste of tax dollars must not be normalized. It is one thing to take on debt when economic times are bad but quite another to rack up monstrous mountains of debt through waste and mismanagement. Fiscal responsibility allows government to have dollars to spend on important social programs and shared needs. Conservativism can be fiscally responsible and compassionate. It is good fiscal stewardship that allows government to provide for people in their time of need, and it is good fiscal policy that helps create opportunity and prosperity for us all.

Creating opportunity requires responsible spending, respect for people’s hard work and hard-earned dollars, and it requires courage. People now and in the future are counting on us to do what is necessary to put Ontario back on track. The needs of future generations must matter. We must not squander their future.

Although the fiscal situation in Ontario may seem daunting, this government is ready to meet the challenge, and I am proud to be part of it. My parents always believed, as I do, that every problem has a solution. My sister and brother and I were encouraged to believe that if we put our minds to it, we could solve problems. Giving up was not an option.

Looking back on the lives of my parents, I recognize the hardships that they experienced not only shaped them, but they shaped me, and their ability to be resilient and bounce back after adversity was key to their success. There were many recollections of happy times too, but it is the foil of the hardship experienced that enhances the good and allows for the social emotion of gratitude to shine through.

My father-in-law and mother-in-law grew up during the Second World War in Poland—and I’d like to acknowledge my husband, who is sitting here today. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

As I said, my father-in-law and mother-in-law grew up during the Second World War in Poland, and they experienced unbelievable adversity. Their amazing recollections and stunning accounts of their experiences have been shared over the years with their three children—including my husband—with me and with our children.

Life’s experiences shape us, and my family is evidence that people can survive and thrive. Displaced multiple times during the war, my father-in-law’s family become DPs, deported persons. First deported from Poland in a boxcar to Siberia, they lived at one point in a dirt cave and survived on grass soup. Eventually, they travelled to Africa, to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, searching for safety and peace, but only after losing their eldest son and brother to dysentery.

My husband’s grandmother had left her remaining son—whom my husband is named after—in an orphanage, hoping that he would not starve during the deportation migration. But upon hearing of her eldest son’s death, she was determined to be with her surviving son. So she returned to try to find him only to realize that the orphanage was gone. It wasn’t just mass migration of people; it was mass migration of the orphanages as well. But she did not give up hope. She kept searching until one day she found him.

Meanwhile, the eldest sister, whom they had been separated from, had managed to find her mother and brother, and the surviving family was reunited. They came as immigrants to Canada at the end of the war, arriving in Halifax at Pier 21 as many others did, and they settled in Ottawa.

My father-in-law likes to say that he was removed from Poland as a DP, deported person, but came to Canada as a different kind of DP: a delayed pioneer. From the date he was put on a boxcar to Siberia at the age of five, on February 9, 1940, to the date that he arrived in Canada, on February 10, 1950, it was exactly 10 years—a decade of his life.

In Ottawa, they went to school and learned to speak English. My mother-in-law could already speak several other languages after being moved from country to country through war-torn Europe. They found jobs and they were successful in putting down roots.

My father-in-law trained as a plumber, worked hard to establish himself and founded what eventually became one of the largest HVAC companies in Canada. He went on to create other successful companies in the true spirit of entrepreneurship, which was passed on to his three children.

He and his beloved wife, Sophie, and family have become part of the fabric of the Ottawa business community, making good lives for themselves and for others, and giving back to the community. My mother-in-law still belongs to the Polish church, and even though her three children and eight grandchildren are all grown, she keeps in touch with everyone.

My husband’s grandmother never did learn to speak English or to read or to write, but she was intelligent and an astute observer. One day, she mentioned to my father-in-law in Polish that business must not be good. She had not seen many concrete trucks lately going up and down the road—and she was right. The recession hit shortly after. She lived until the astounding age of 111 and was the oldest person to receive anaesthesia at the Ottawa Hospital several years ago.

With determination, hard work and a sound fiscal approach, we can all have a promising future in Ontario. People are sometimes surprised that a family doctor would end up in politics, and yet serving Ontarians seems to be a natural progression. I have spent many years in medical politics at the local, municipal, provincial and national levels, as well as having been an advocate for people and patient care for almost 30 years. Yes, I am new to provincial politics as an MPP, but having witnessed political dynamics of both the federal and provincial levels as an observer, I have wondered why it cannot be more civil. People have commented to me over the years, expressing their concern over the disrespect that MPs and MPPs appear to show one another at times.

We must expect government to be responsible and to serve its citizens compassionately. Elected representatives should strive to be diligent, respectful and trustworthy. We should consider how our behaviour inside and outside this chamber reflects on our credibility as politicians. As leaders not only in government but in society, I believe we must walk the talk. If we believe that bullying others and using stigmatizing labelling is wrong, then let our actions show that. If we believe that mental health matters, then let us consider how our actions demonstrate respect for each other. I implore members here to respect the dignity of the individual. In the political arena, attack an issue and oppose an idea strenuously, but consider how personal attacks on others affect your own self-respect. We can strive for a higher level of decorum and we would all be better for it.

When discussing issues and ideas and policies, let us value the importance of different perspectives and the importance of diverse opinions. Expressing opposing views can be done respectfully, and it is through the sharing of ideas that we have the best potential to find collaborative solutions. Civil society requires open and transparent dialogue for informed decision-making, and I believe that people can make good decisions for themselves if they are fully informed with accurate information.

The success of the riding in which I have lived for over 50 years has depended on the collaboration and sharing of ideas and the tenacity of the people who contributed and made it what it is today. Kanata–Carleton is a wonderful riding in which to grow up, live, work and play. It’s a mixture of rural and urban communities.

I still recall driving into Kanata for the first time, when I was five, with my mother and sister. We all gasped with the taxi driver—he gasped too—when we caught our first glimpse of Kanata. It was like a park—there were houses, but it was like a park—and over the first hill, as we drove in, we all gasped. It was beautiful. Bill Teron, often referred to as the “Father of Kanata,” conceptualized a new urban-suburban community concept, one that included green space and schools within walking distance, as well as community facilities that would encourage activity and recreation as part of the community.

Such visionaries with entrepreneurial drive and know-how are responsible for the creation of Kanata back in the 1960s and for the evolution of its vibrant high-tech sector in Kanata North. People like Terry Matthews—Sir Terence Matthews—contributed to creating what was called Silicon Valley North, and Kanata is now home to Canada’s largest technology park and technology hub. It’s an innovation centre with a business park that combines retail and business and supports hundreds of creative technology companies, including well-established companies and start-ups.

Kanata–Carleton is home to many important agricultural communities that have grown along with the families that have lived there, in some cases for generations, and who came as pioneers, creating their own life from the land. Agriculture, too, has been touched by innovation, evolving to use more technology than ever before.

It is a welcoming riding to newcomers. Kanata–Carleton continues to grow in population and is becoming more diverse. A few years ago, Kanata–Carleton’s own town of Carp was named one of the friendliest communities in Canada, and it is easy to understand why. This year, from September 20 to 23 is the 155th Carp Fair, called “the best little fair in Canada,” and you’re all invited.

I’ve been fortunate to have lived, worked and raised a family in Kanata–Carleton, and being part of this developing region taught me how important it is to contribute to the well-being of where we live. I was a newcomer to Kanata in 1967, arriving in Ontario after moving from Whitehorse, Yukon. I grew up in the riding and spent 26 years there as a family doc, helping people in the community; and the question I always ask myself is how we make things better.

I’m grateful to my amazing husband of 33 years, who has been such a wonderful husband and father and steadfast supporter. I’m so proud of our three children, adults now. They have taught me to be a better person. Where did the time go? And when I look at my children and others, I understand that they are the future. They are Ontario’s greatest resource.

We need all Ontarians to reach their potential, and post-secondary education is critical to the future of Ontario and its prosperity. As Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, I will champion our education and employment programs that benefit students and job seekers. I will work with all our colleges and universities to create the conditions that make it easier for people to access high-quality education.

We need to build an economy that allows more Ontario workers to find a job in their home communities, start a business, grow a business or invest in Ontario. Our government is committed to bringing quality jobs back to this province, and my focus will be on making sure that we have prepared the people for those jobs.

I look forward to talking to the people of Ontario about how we can make our programs more efficient and cost-effective. Political leadership requires us to learn from those who have come before us, to have the courage to face the realities of today and the vision to combine compassion and pragmatism. We should lead with the head and the heart.

I’m grateful for this honour and privilege to serve Ontarians.