Ryan Turnbull speaks in the House of Commons

Reflections on the Throne Speech 2020

The Speech from the Throne delivered this past week by the Governor General outlines many significant wins for Canadians. Many of the commitments and directions conveyed in the Speech were the result of consultation and advocacy work by myself and my fellow Liberal caucus members. I really do see it reflecting and responding to the needs of Canadians, while signalling major progressive changes on the near horizon as we eventually emerge from this worldwide pandemic. 

There is a sense in which I and others were hoping for even more bold measures for the future to be outlined in that Speech but the context shifted dramatically leading up to the Throne Speech. Whereas two weeks earlier COVID-19 had been relatively successfully held at bay and case numbers were dwindling, numbers began to shoot up sharply as the season changed and students began to return to school. It was clear that getting Canadians safely through this pandemic needed to be a continued priority.

Below, I outline some of substantive features of the recent Speech from the Throne that demonstrate again our Government is listening and responding to the needs of Canadians. These are all directions that I personally fought for and strongly advocated for as a member of the governing Liberal Party caucus. I always say it’s good to be ambitious and many of my constituents’ ambitions are reflected in this inspiring Speech from the Throne. I know that my constituents here in Whitby are ready for our government to lead us through an era of crisis, to overcome this pandemic and to take on transformative changes that will help Canada become stronger and more resilient. This challenging time will be defined in how we define it, it’s up to all of us! We can emerge from this stronger and more capable of taking on the biggest challenges of our time.

A National Standard for Long-term Care 

Probably one of the biggest “wins” in the Speech from the Throne is the strong commitment our Government has made to developing a National Standard of Care for Long-term Care. One of my first official acts as the Member of Parliament for Whitby on the Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) Standing Committee was to make a motion to study how we could improve Long-term Care. This includes building more facilities and having more highly qualified health care workers to ensure a higher standard of care. This motion seems like eons ago and was well before the current COVID-19 pandemic, which adds additional urgency. The Motion I put forward got Unanimous Consent, something I’ve learned is extremely challenging to achieve in Parliament. 

Just prior to the pandemic, I hosted a consultation in my riding with Seniors whose perspectives I listened to and whose input my team and I summarized and wrote up into a briefing, which I subsequently presented to the Minister of Seniors, the Honourable Deb Schulte. One of the highest-level priorities was improving care for seniors, developing more affordable housing options and developing a strategy for developing the human resources necessary for ensuring that Senior Care of all types would have enough skilled workers to meet the demand.

In addition, I put forward a policy resolution on a National Standard for Long-term Care for the Liberal Caucus’ policy development process and worked with my fellow MPs to combine our similar resolutions into one stronger policy resolution, which could garner more support, and it was successful in being one of the highest priorities in that process. 

I also wrote a letter to Minister Schulte and put out a public statement calling for our Government to prioritize a National Standard for Long-term Care as we move forward, given the many inadequacies in our current system that have been laid bare during this pandemic. 

Lastly, in the lead up to the Throne Speech, I participated in consultations with the Honourable Mona Fortier, Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity to voice the need for the National Standard for Long-term Care to be a prominent feature in the Throne Speech. 

Hearing the words spoken by the Governor General on this topic, echoing what I and others had advocated strongly for, was truly fulfilling, and now of course there is much work to be done to fulfill this commitment.

Taking action on extreme risks from climate change

Your federal Liberal government committed in the 2020 Throne Speech to more transit and active transit options as part of our plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2020.

Please let me know your thoughts on this measure from the Throne Speech. I take your feedback very seriously.

Ryan Turnbull speaks in the House of Commons

Sustainable Public Procurement – Using Government Purchasing Power to Transform Markets

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many issues to the surface and changed all facets of our lives. Early in the pandemic the vulnerabilities present within our supply chain became quite clear. Access to essential goods such as personal protective equipment, food, lumber, and many other items became difficult to come by. Government and the private sector were forced in a short timeframe to produce many essential goods domestically.

In my opinion one of the most promising and timely policy directions that we as a Federal Government can take is to ensure that we are buying goods and services according to our values.  This is referred to as Sustainable Public Procurement.  The Federal Government spends between $10-20 Billion annually on goods and services and wields considerable buying power.  As a customer, we are one of the largest in the country, which means we have influence to help send a clear market signal with our purchasing decisions.

In speaking with many constituents, I have heard over and over the need for Canada to refocus on rebuilding its domestic supply chains and ensuring that they are resilient and sustainable. Given the shocks that we have endured and likely will endure again, this is even more pressing.  This is not out of a protectionism that sometimes plagues these dialogues, but genuinely out of concern for being able to secure essential supplies in times when borders may be shut down or international trade relationships become strained due to scarce supply.

We all have seen the calls for an equitable society and racial justice. The inherent differences experienced by racialized people, and people of colour have been brought to the forefront of all our consciousness. Many other equity seeking groups, such as the LGBTQ2S+ community, and persons with disabilities find themselves excluded from the labour market or experiencing barriers to employment, challenges in upward mobility through no fault of their own.

Another looming crisis that has been approaching for generations that scientists and researchers have been clear is not a figment of the imagination, but instead is based on a body of evidence that is undeniably solid is Climate Change.  The potential for disruption to our daily lives of global climate change far surpasses that of the current global pandemic, and in many ways environmentalists, scientists and world leaders rightly perceive COVID-19 as a wake-up call or even a final alarm bell.  Seeing governments respond with such urgency during COVID-19 has been encouraging and many would welcome a similar response to the bigger impending crisis of climate change.  One of the main impediments to addressing global climate change is the private industries that continue to spew GHG emissions into the atmosphere contributing to our national emissions total.  As a government, we are committed to reaching Net Zero as a country by 2050 but this requires unprecedented and transformational shifts in all aspects of our economy, our purchasing decisions and behaviour as consumers and creating of new norms within the lives of Canadians.

All these concerns are at the forefront of people’s minds today and provide context for why I believe now is the time to introduce a Federal Government commitment to Sustainable Public Procurement.  We can achieve outcomes in all three of these key areas through adopting a sustainability framework into how the Federal Government evaluates bids and makes decisions on who we do business with.  By thinking about our purchasing decisions as a massive market force, we can introduce a new sense of social and environmental responsibility into the marketplace.  This means that through a competitive process we would favour businesses that are of different sizes and that operate domestically, that provide the most employment opportunities to equity seeking groups, and that reduce GHG emissions and their overall carbon footprint.  Changing the nature in which we do government purchasing will provide a shift in the market to enable Canadians to have more domestically sourced options while also lowering barriers to employment for equity-seeking groups and demonstrate a firm commitment to action on climate change.

 

Ryan Turnbull

Member of Parliament for Whitby