Justin Trudeau's rise to the office held by his father was neither inexorable nor inevitable. He could have fallen off the tightrope several times along the way, but benefited from a convergence of talent and luck, wise counsel and an ability to learn. It is often forgotten that he was not handed a seat and did not pick an easy one.
The situation for animals in Canada remains dire, with hundreds of millions of animals suffering and dying every year on farms, in laboratories, in entertainment and for their fur. Parliament has a tremendous opportunity to improve life for many of these animals, and Canadians are crying out for change. The election results offer many reasons for optimism. It's now time for advocates to roll up our sleeves, start working with the new Parliament, and help MPs pass meaningful legislation for animals.
When Justin Trudeau was elected in 2008 it was clear to everyone that he could never be destined for the backbenches. They sat Justin Trudeau directly behind me in the House and for almost three years I got a ringside view of his development. His rhetoric, at times bawdy, nevertheless carried intensity in the Parliamentary chamber. I was asked more frequently than I could count whether he was the real deal or just his father's son. My answer was always the same: both.
We've figured out a simple truth: we're in this together. Our neighbour's strength is our strength; the success of any one of us is the success of every one of us. But this is incredibly fragile. It must be protected always from the voices of intolerance, divisiveness, small-mindedness, and hatred. It's the right thing to do.
In this election we are raising issues that matter to young Canadians. Mental health is a big one. A report by Alberta's Institute of Health Economics states that just seven cents of every dollar spent on health care in Canada goes to mental health. That's despite the fact mental disorders account for 40 per cent of all illnesses Canadians face. Canadian governments must dramatically increase funding, investing in accessible community-based mental health care -- if Canada could reduce the annual rate of mental illnesses by 10 per cent, it would save our health care system four billion dollars a year.
Alberta is changing. What was once a stronghold now feels like the way we hold someone's hand when we're about to break up with them. In the ten years I've lived in Calgary, this city and this province has undoubtedly changed. So much so that sometimes it feels like I've moved to a whole other world. This is likely the first Federal election where Albertans, especially in the urban ridings, have a chance for their vote to actually matter. And I mean that literally.
They say all politics are local. Nothing could be truer about this election. This campaign did not begin 10 weeks ago, it began nearly one-year ago when 2000 municipal leaders came together and made a united call for a new approach. A new era of cooperation between all orders of government focused on our most pressing challenges: jobs, the economy, our quality of life
Young people vote at much lower rates than older Canadians. In the 2011 federal election, only 41 per cent of Canadians under 30 voted. However, when it comes to rates of participation in political and civic life beyond voting, younger Canadians' participation rate is 11 percentage points higher, on average, than their older counterparts across 18 forms of participation.
As the federal election comes to its final stage, many eyes are on Ontario. Stephen Harper has been a regular visitor in ridings that the Conservatives currently hold, giving the impression that he is focusing on keeping versus increasing seats. Justin Trudeau on the other hand, is venturing into Conservative and NDP held ridings looking for new support. Winning seats in Ontario requires some fine balancing. While there is a desire to figure out what will appeal to voters across the province, it is also a bit of a mug's game and far more challenging than it looks.
Could we as a people, despite our many distinctions, be giving birth to a new kind of revolutionary optimism, to the belief we recognize that the political estate can only be as collaborative, visionary, or as engaged as we are? If so, and if the advanced polls are any indication, we could be building our own "Field of Dreams," but with one great distinction.
Be aware that, in our midst, a group of Canadian citizens are being dehumanized. History has shown us over and over again that this leads to oppression, hatred, and violence. Move past your knee-jerk reaction of protectionism. Don't be fooled by rhetoric. Understand that to that Muslim woman wearing the niqab, not being able to choose what she wears is oppression, even if it makes you personally uncomfortable.
The federal government must invest in solid labour market research and incentives for employers to hire Canadian youth, like grants and tax breaks. Industry has to step up, too, offering co-op education placements and paid internships, as well as career mentorship for young employees. We should closely watch and learn from the European Union. Facing massive underemployment, over the past four years the EU has launched a sweeping youth employment strategy, including better labour market research, apprenticeship and skills training programs, as well as government-business partnerships that are expected to create more jobs.
It's been nearly 25 years since Canada signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, agreeing to protect and ensure the rights of our youngest citizens. Yet there is still no formal mechanism to hold the government accountable for the way it treats its youngest citizens. Every day, Canadian children experience poverty, abuse, neglect, preventable diseases, and unequal access to quality health services and education. At the root of many of these problems is public policy that does not put the needs of children first.
In response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, our current Canadian government has reluctantly offered some support. We shall, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accept 10,000 refugees over the next three years. As medical students committed to global health, we call into question this lukewarm commitment to such a pressing crisis and call for stronger commitments in line with Canada's values.