The Jeremy Cockrill era has officially begun as MLA for the Battlefords.
Cockrill made his first speech in the legislature Monday night in reply to the Speech from the Throne. The speech included many thank-yous to his family, his campaign team and volunteers, and others including the people of the constituency.
What follows are some of Cockrill’s remarks during that speech in the legislature as recorded in Hansard.
Mr. Cockrill: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It’s an honour to be standing here this evening to address this Assembly for the first time. I will add to the many congratulations already expressed in regards to your election. I just want to say I personally know you to be a fair and honourable gentleman, and I’m grateful that you’re residing over these proceedings.
See, my own interest in political affairs began at a young age. An early memory I have is that for a local municipal election, I had carefully cut out all the newspaper advertisements from candidates and glued them into a special notebook. I was keeping track of all the candidates, the number of ads they had run, and what they were committing to do for our community.
In following elections I was recruited to put up signs or scrutineer, but shortly thereafter I found my true campaign calling — door knocking. Mr. Speaker, as most members in this Assembly can attest to, there is nothing quite like meeting folks on their doorsteps. But I’ll come back to that later on in my comments.
You see, Mr. Speaker, I don’t originally hail from this province. Although my maternal grandmother’s family first settled in Mayfair when they arrived in Canada from the Ukraine, I grew up further west from here, out in British Columbia.
And I chose to come to this province because I believe that it provides incredible economic opportunity, an affordable cost of living, and a high quality of life. And, Mr. Speaker, 55 consecutive quarters of population growth in this province goes to show that I’m not the only one.
And when the opportunity emerged to put my name forward for the Saskatchewan Party nomination in my constituency, I knew this was a great opportunity to serve the people of The Battlefords and this province. And I’d like to thank the people of the Battlefords for giving me that opportunity.
And as we have already heard from other members, a supportive family is a cornerstone as one wades into these political waters.
The many lessons I have learned from my grandparents and aunts and uncles are the ones that have informed my journey here. I’m grateful for my parents, Randy and Alyson, and my brothers Micah and Josiah. I was reflecting the other day and I remember my parents placing a lot of value on not what we were to become but rather on who we were to become. And whatever we did growing up, there was always an emphasis not only on the content of what we did but more importantly how we did it — with hard work and enthusiasm, with a team-first attitude, and with kindness and grace towards others.
I’m also incredibly grateful to my wife’s parents, Kevin and Liz, and her three siblings, Jillian and Braden and Cailyn, who reintroduced me to Saskatchewan and played a key role in bringing me to this province.
Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Meagan Cockrill. As a chartered accountant, she was invaluable as our business manager. But not only that, she also knocked on around 3,600 doors. She is often praised for her many capabilities, capacities, and accomplishments, but it is her heart for people and building stronger communities that drives everything she does. It’s why I love her. It’s why we make a great team. And I’m so grateful for her support, especially this year. And I hope that I can make her proud through my work in this position.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few remarks regarding the challenges our province has faced around COVID-19. To this point, I am grateful that neither myself nor anyone in my immediate family has tested positive or been required to self-isolate related to an exposure. It was valuable to hear the experience that the member from Athabasca shared the other evening about his family testing positive and self-isolating. And I’m glad that the member recovered and is joining us once again here in this Assembly.
I know that many other families in our province have not been this fortunate and have lost family members during this pandemic. I would like to extend my condolences to those families, especially as they approach the first Christmas season without their loved ones.
During this pandemic, I have thought regularly about the young men that I have had the privilege of coaching for the last couple of years as part of the North Battleford Comprehensive senior boys’ basketball team. Last year’s season was ended abruptly, and now school sports are not happening during this school year.
Mr. Speaker, for many young people in this province, sports are a major part of their formation and their community as they grow up. I’m very sad for these young athletes that we cannot participate as normal during this school year. This last weekend we would have been competing in an annual tournament at Centennial Collegiate in Saskatoon, one of the best tournaments in the province, Mr. Speaker. And I look forward to the day when the NBCHS [North Battleford Comprehensive High School] Vikings and other young athletes in this province can return to their respective fields, courts, and rinks of play.
As we continue to deal with COVID-19 and how it has affected our lives and our livelihoods, I would encourage the good people of Saskatchewan to keep kindness at the forefront of their minds. Be kind to the retail, restaurant, and front-line workers who are working hard — and often in different ways than they’re used to — to provide you with the goods and services that we need. Be kind to those working in health care and their family members because they’re continuing to care for our communities through challenging circumstances. And be kind to your neighbours who may be alone and fighting mental health battles that you don’t even know about.
Now I believe this posture of kindness is so natural, and second nature really, for the people of Saskatchewan but we will need even more of it to get through these challenging times. My colleague from Melfort said in this Assembly recently that hope is contagious, and I believe that kindness is as well.
Let me say now that I will be supporting the original motion made by the member from Kindersley, and I will not be supporting the opposition’s amendment. But to illustrate why, Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to the topic of door knocking. Because as I sat here a week ago and listened to the Lieutenant Governor deliver the Throne Speech, I couldn’t help but think of many of the people that I met on the doorsteps in The Battlefords.
Mr. Speaker, I thought of the elderly gentleman whose wife had been taken to the hospital multiple times in the previous three months. He specifically mentioned the ambulance fees and the financial toll that was taking on their fixed-income situation. It was a pleasure to return to that door a few weeks later and tell him about the commitment that our government had made. By eliminating charges for inter-facility transfers and reducing the maximum costs of other calls from $275 to $135, Mr. Speaker, that will make a real difference for that couple and many other families in my constituency.
I think of the single mother whose house was in disrepair, how our home renovation tax credit is going to give her that little boost to make the necessary renovations so her and her children can be comfortable and safe in their home. On that note, Mr. Speaker, I also think of the tens of thousands of workers in this province in construction and in the trades. Many of these people are self-employed or have just a handful of employees. And they’re going to see an uptick in business because of the home renovation tax credit. That’s part of this government’s plan for a strong economic recovery.
Mr. Speaker, I think of those same young athletes that I just referenced. And the reality is that competitive sports can be costly, given the extra training and travel required to compete at higher levels. And that can put participation out of financial reach for some families. But by reinstating the active families benefit, it will make it more affordable for families in our province to have their children involved in sports or arts or cultural activities. That’s the kind of policy that makes for stronger families and stronger communities, Mr. Speaker.
And I think of the woman I met whose child had recently tried to commit suicide and was looking for more mental health support for her children. And I am proud to stand behind our Pillars for Life suicide prevention strategy and the initiatives that our government has already undertaken to address the challenges around mental health and suicide in our province.
Mr. Speaker, we know that this isn’t just a Cumberland issue or a Cypress Hills issue or a Regina issue. This is an issue that faces each one of our constituencies in this Assembly. And for some, like my colleague from Walsh Acres, that has hit a little too close to home. Our government’s promise to put a trained mental health first responder into every school in this province — 744 in total — will help to address these issues that face young people in our province.
Mr. Speaker, I think of the family that I met that had recently immigrated to the Battlefords from India. They had recently bought a business and they were excited to discuss with me the ups and downs of running a business. And our government has been a leader in attracting new immigrants to this province through the Saskatchewan immigrant nominee program. Since 2007 we have seen over 130,000 new immigrants move to this province. And even better, Mr. Speaker, 70 per cent of those immigrants are employed, compared to the national average of 64 per cent.
I can speak for my constituency, and I imagine all other members would agree, that our communities have benefited immensely from immigration to this province. Our province and our strong economic position offers great opportunity for new Canadians, and those new Canadians bring their talents and their skills and their desire to contribute to our communities and our province.
Mr. Speaker, the constituency I now represent contains two distinct communities: the city of North Battleford and the town of Battleford. And I will remind all members that if history had taken a different turn, we could be sitting tonight in the great town of Battleford, my hometown. We have a rich agricultural heritage in our area, and have in recent years benefited from increased development in the oil and gas sectors. We also benefit from being surrounded by a number of First Nations communities. And, Mr. Speaker, I believe that as we work on these relationships, they will be a key part of the economic potential in our area.
I would encourage all members of this House to visit the Battlefords when they have an opportunity. I would be glad to show you some of the things happening in our community, and share a pint with you at the Armoury afterwards. Likewise, Mr. Speaker, there are still eight or nine constituencies in this province that I have not had the pleasure of visiting, and I’m going to make it a priority to do so in the next year. We have an incredibly diverse province in geographic, economic, and human terms, a province that I’m proud to call home.
Mr. Speaker, I had an interesting phone call a couple of weeks ago. I felt in my gut that it was the right thing to do to call the NDP candidate in our constituency. We hadn’t spoken since the debate during the writ period.
And I called her to thank her for a cordial campaign, and I wanted to reiterate that I’m focused on representing all people in The Battlefords, not just those who supported me. We talked for a little while about the challenges that our community faces, and we had pleasant conversation. And you know, Mr. Speaker, the amazing thing about that phone call is that the words Sask Party or NDP weren’t uttered at all. We just talked about The Battlefords.
As I enter this Assembly every day, I want to stay focused on making our province and my community a better place to work, live, and to play. That’s why I put my name forward and that’s why I worked so hard to get here. And as I enter this Assembly every day, I hope I can remember that the motivations of the members opposite are rooted in the same sentiment. We will have passionate debate here, no doubt. And I can assure you that I’m going to fight hard for what I believe is right. But as I do that, Mr. Speaker, it is my goal to maintain a high level of decorum and respect for this Assembly and the other members here.
Mr. Speaker, in closing let me repeat that I will be supporting the original motion brought forward by the member from Kindersley and seconded by the member from Saskatoon Riversdale. I will not be supporting the opposition’s amendment.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here tonight. God bless Saskatchewan.