On September 19, 2018, Ian Arthur delivered his inaugural speech (also referred to as a maiden speech) in the Legislative Assembly. Watch below and share your comments at the bottom of the page.
WHAT IS AN INAUGURAL SPEECH?
A Member’s maiden speech is his or her first speech in the Legislature after being elected for the first time. A maiden speech must be distinguished from other interventions by Members in the House, such as posing a question during Oral Questions, commenting briefly on another Member’s speech, responding to a Ministerial Statement, initiating an Adjournment Motion debate, or making a statement during the period set aside for Members’ Statements.
The maiden speech is an important occasion in the career of every parliamentarian. It is new Members’ first formal opportunity to showcase their oratorical skills to their colleagues, who can usually be counted on to listen respectfully to the speech (especially in the case of maiden speeches delivered during the Throne Speech debate), without the partisan interjections otherwise typical of debate in the House.
-Retrieved from the Legislative Library Service
IAN'S INAUGURAL SPEECH (TRANSCRIPT FROM HANSARD)
Mr. Ian Arthur: I’ve struggled to find the words to describe standing to give my inaugural speech today: honour, but privilege, too, in its many forms. It is humbling, certainly. That I must speak while the Constitution I believe in so much is being attacked weighs heavy on my mind. It is in this period of uncertainty, this era of the concentration of power, that I rise. While I would rail against the abuse of this power, I must also express my gratitude to those who brought me here, for without them I would not be here to fight this injustice in person.
Thank you to my mother and father for the privileged life I have led, for a childhood on a farm, for their values, lessons, guidance and inspiration. To Brendan and Melanie, one could not have wished for siblings more amazing than you. Like many here, my family goes so much further: cousins, aunts, uncles, as well as adopted families who have done so much for me along the way. Today is a tribute to all of you. I truly thank you.
Thank you to Kingston and the Islands for placing your faith in me to represent you, to fight for you, to work for you and with you, to learn from you and to share in our collective experience. My promises to do this and more have not left my mind. I am here for you and because of you.
Kingston and the Islands is so much more than its boundaries or population. There is so much that deserves recognition: the very real and the intangible, our past and our future. It is Canada’s first capital and the home of Sir John A. Macdonald, who is celebrated throughout my city; a name etched on so many plaques on our limestone walls, inscriptions celebrating Confederation and the railway that brought together the lands we now call Canada.
But while we leap to display and discuss these accomplishments, we must face the other legacy: Kingston, my home, is on the lands of the Wyandot, the Haudenosaunee and the Anishnawbe. Its name is Cataraqui, and its history began so long before it was the capital of our country. It is a land that belongs to a people who I believe have the right to be part of every speech from the throne.
As representatives of all the people of Ontario, it is our responsibility to consider the whole of history, both of this province and of this nation, and we must understand that ours is a colonial legacy. The legacy of Macdonald is one of uniting a country, but it is also one of treaties signed and broken, of the intentional starvation of entire peoples and of an institutionalized racism that has shaded our country to this day. His government approved the first residential schools, those places that today are our national shame, their sole purpose the stripping of culture and identity.
As we endeavour to build a better Ontario, we can only do so by understanding this complexity of our past. Of these lessons, one remains so prominent: Those in positions of influence must be ever vigilant of how they use their power.
Today, Kingston is a city finding its balance between this colonial past and the promise of our future. When one visits Kingston, one cannot help but notice how, among this framework of an old capital, is a new city with a thriving and vibrant culture. We certainly punch above our weight.
There are so many noteworthy organizations and community contributors that make it a richer place to live. At the Kingston WritersFest you can meet and listen to world-class authors; or there is the Loving Spoonful, a charity that works tirelessly to promote access to healthy food; or Switch Kingston, a green energy networking group that, against all odds, is still pursuing an energy transformation in Ontario.
My little town is full of passionate people dedicating time to causes they care about. It is this spirit of caring that helps make Kingston the special place that it is. The riding is home to incredible farmers and makers who sell their goods at the oldest continuous farmers’ market in Canada. On that same market square each winter is hosted the Carr-Harris Cup, Canada’s longest-running annual hockey game, between Queen’s University and the Royal Military College. We have produced hockey players too numerous to count.
It is a riding filled with music. Each summer we have the Wolfe Island Music Festival, where there is a good chance of hearing Canada’s next big musicians. We are the town of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip and, more recently, the Glorious Sons.
It is a town where you might once have found Leonard Cohen visiting his friend Zal Yanovsky of the Lovin’ Spoonful. The two of them could be found sharing a drink on the patio of a little restaurant that Zal started called Chez Piggy.
If music be the food of love, play on, and oh, how I have played. Stepping into the kitchen at Chez Piggy, where I had the honour to be the chef, always felt like coming home. That little restaurant tucked in a picturesque courtyard has been part of my life since I was a toddler. My mum served there when I could barely walk. When my parents had their organic market garden, the Pig became a steady customer. I’d help with deliveries up the back stairs and go to New Year’s Day parties at Zal’s place, which now belongs to his daughter, Zoe Yanovsky, who as my boss and friend has played such a significant role in my life.
Though it is a restaurant that I have known for so long, Chez Piggy always excites and inspires. Working with the demonstrable talent of chefs such as Matt Allen, Reyna Belsham, Richard Nicholas, Mitch Wheeler and Paige Guilan was a daily pleasure.
I look forward to hosting all of you in Kingston and taking you to that little restaurant that I love so much.
I’ve been asked many times now how a chef ended up running for office. To me, the answer is so simple: Food is the universal unifier. It brings us together and is an indicator of so much more in our society: of culture, love and connection, but also of poverty and its disastrous outcomes. Food is intertwined with health, with financial resilience and with childhood development.
What and how we eat touches on nearly every aspect of our lives, including the myriad of faiths that we practise. So many mornings in this chamber is echoed Matthew 6:11: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We fast, we feast, we break bread. It is over food that we can find the commonality of the human spirit.
Significantly though, food is also an indicator of climate change. Recent summers have seen Ontario’s worst drought followed by one of the wettest springs in recorded history. These extremes damaged the soil used to grow our food.
It is always the farmers who first feel the effects of these extremes—farmers such as Dianne Dowling from Howe Island, who had to go all the way to Cornwall to buy hay to keep her dairy heard alive during the drought. The scarcity of supply and the distance that she had to travel significantly increased her operating costs. She said to me, “Every day, I wake up and I wonder if the weather will change for the better or continue for the worse.”
These difficulties in farming and supplying food will be felt in our pocketbooks. Extreme weather will continue to inhibit our ability to raise crops, to supply food and to have affordable sustenance for the people of Ontario. While we debate how to move forward, farmers struggle, forests burn and homes flood.
I cannot help but think of how this generation is inheriting a world that is burning. I urge you to use your power to fight climate change, for the consequences of failing to take immediate action are catastrophic. I am fearful that enough will not be done, that it will fall to my generation to move from your course of history. I fear that it will fall on us to acknowledge that it is no longer enough to ask what one may do for their country, but instead what one must do for their planet. The reality is that we will have to do this with less, that we will have to accomplish this global feat with an unprecedented level of fiscal ingenuity.
I am part of the oft-maligned millennial generation, but it feels as though the money we earn takes us a little less through life than it once did. As someone whom Iliza Shlesinger termed an “elder millennial,” I have been fortunate to be a homeowner and to have repaid my student loans, but I have spoken to too many people who are unable to save any money, who are struggling to get by, young couples who know that they have been priced out of ever owning a home.
We are a generation that will simply earn less and one where a decade of debt is the reality of higher education. But that education is so critical. It is the ladder to success and the key to achieving social and economic mobility. It is essential for competition within the labour market and it is where the prosperity of future generations is found.
In Kingston and the Islands, only 37% of the population has completed programs for a certificate, diploma or degree. Our educational institutions in the city include Queen’s University, the Royal Military College and St. Lawrence College. Each of these places is at the forefront of so many areas, growing our next leaders, thinkers and innovators—so many of whom are handcuffed by debt at graduation.
For both universities and colleges, the funding formula requires an extensive overhaul. In 2017, St. Lawrence College did not receive enough government funds to cover its expenses. They, like many other colleges, have introduced international programs and partnerships to assist in filling these gaps. We must be careful about funding in this manner, as it will soon leave education inaccessible to too many.
Instead, we must foster an environment that is supportive of education, of innovation, one where dedication and ingenuity are paramount, one that will allow recent graduates to flourish instead of being further encumbered by debt. It is this debt, paired with low wages and the ever-increasing precarity of employment that is leading to the ever-increasing income inequality in Ontario.
Ultimately, as those governing this province, it is our duty to create policy that negates both the outcomes of inequality and inequality itself. Be cautious to not be the government of the few, for the few, for we are here to help the many and we must do so with intelligence, dignity and compassion. I urge this government to pursue the big ideas, such as basic income, such as meaningful action on climate change, such as reconciliation.
It is too easy to say no, to remove what is already there, but for this province to excel, those who lead must also be those who build. You have spent your time so far cutting this province down: gutting curriculums, erasing progress against climate change, undermining our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Tell me, what is this government building? I fear that I already know the answer and I repeat: a government not just of the few, but for the few.
What, dare I ask, will be left? You spend your time blaming the woes of this province on the previous Liberal government, but these are now your problems, regardless of where they came from. What are you building in health care? What inclusive curriculum are you writing? How will you build up the institution of government in a manner that wins the faith of Ontarians?
I believe that my future economic prosperity and that of my generation will be based on what we do to foster the green economy. If we begin to lead the world, if I help begin to lead the world in an environmental transformation, we will begin to attract and construct those businesses of tomorrow.
I worry that this government has instead ground the green economy in Ontario to a halt. It is something that I am incredibly passionate about and that I want to see flourish. I want to see growth in those jobs continue to exist. Instead, I have seen the breaking of contracts, a government that is willing to throw democratic governance into jeopardy for the benefit of a few.
I have spent most of my working life helping run a small business, a business in an industry where margins are 1% to 3%, where a wet summer and a closed patio can ruin any chance of profitability. But we always made things work, including the increase in minimum wage. I spent a significant part of my working career earning a wage that I could barely live on, and it is this lived experience that makes me support a $15 minimum wage now. We cannot abandon this movement towards a living wage. Too many continue to live in poverty despite working full time and often more than one job. But we must transition to this wage in a manner that does support business; that works with the businesses to ensure that those shops, cafés, services and stores can continue to be the backbone of our economy.
It is for us in this chamber to lead. We must lead. We must be proactive, and not reactive. But in my heart, I know that it is up to us here in the opposition to do this. It will be us who unite Ontarians in community and caring. I know that we in the opposition believe that what happens to our neighbours, to farmers or First Nations, to retirees, to new immigrants, to our communities—to my community—matters. It matters to me, and it matters to everyone here.
If people must take second jobs because wages are too low, and if seniors must make coffee or flip burgers because they cannot afford retirement, as I have heard stories of so many times, we care, even while we have good jobs of our own.
And if we continue to pass climate threshold after threshold, if the farmers that I bought from cannot grow their food because of drought, if our neighbours lose their homes because of fires and floods, and if my generation’s children cannot play outside because of pollution, we must care.
If the people that I used to work with cannot have equal wages, if they cannot have equal pay for equal work, and if we cannot even go to that work without the fear of the abuse of power, then I know we do not live in a just society. And we will be there to believe, to support and to change.
But I worry: How can we expect to diverge from this paradigm if children must go to school and not be taught that consent is the most important lesson, not be taught that who they are is okay from the moment they are born, and not be taught how to deal with bullying in any form? We must care, even while we ourselves are through that part of our journey.
And if people must have their individual rights violated, we care. If the government of the day must circumvent the judiciary to accomplish an agenda, then we must stand strong and defend those very rights and freedoms that make me so proud to be Canadian.
And where we see, on either side of the aisle, anyone going against principles, we must pursue ideals that are not detrimental to the lives of Ontarians.
Which brings me back to family: It has been so incredible to meet this New Democratic caucus. We are part of a newly formed family, united in a set of values and dreams for an Ontario that is better for everyone. Your talents are remarkable and inspirational, and when I speak of the honour that it is to stand here today, it is compounded by you. We act as a diverse mirror for this vast province. And when I have time for quiet thoughts, usually in bed after a busy day, I cannot help but think of how lucky I am to share this time and space.
My friends, we must undertake inspiring a new—rather, our—generation. We are tasked with gathering those on the periphery of the political system and bringing them to its centre, for we must begin to really define the relationship of government to people.
We must take this legacy of racism, of deficits and debt, of the 1% and of environmental folly, and we must lead.
Perhaps because of, or perhaps despite, these circumstances, we will lead. We will be the generation of hope and optimism and a pragmatic realism that I believe will serve us well as we face these challenges that do not allow us to think small.
We will lead a movement that spans income level, gender, generations and race, a movement that inspires. For it is only when we treat each other and the planet with compassion, respect and patience that we all thrive.
Together, in the face of this status quo, in the face of a government built upon cynicism and the pursuit of power for the few, we must remember that the future of our province is of our choosing and our measure must be how we care for those who are less fortunate.
I am here today because of those words of love and hope and optimism—