A big thank-you and Merry Christmas to all of Santa’s helpers throughout our Riding. In what has become a holiday tradition among Conservative supporters, I helped distribute food bank donations made possible by their generosity, to area food banks.

Every year the spirit of Christmas motivates volunteers in each of our communities to reach out to our fellow residents and spread some Christmas cheer. Nothing better demonstrates the values that all Canadians share than the individual acts of generosity that marks this time of year. I am touched by the efforts of volunteers. Their hard work tells me how important it is to keep Ottawa on the right track by remaining focused on job creation and the economy. When I look at what is happening in other countries around the world, including our neighbour to the south, I can not help but observe that we are truly blessed to live in Canada.

In the most recent survey of food bank usage, in March 2011, 851,014 separate individuals were assisted by a food bank in Canada, a reduction by 2% of levels at the same time last year. During the survey period, 93,085 people, or 10.9%, of those who turned to a food bank, made the difficult decision to do so for the first time. Of the total, 114,122 people, 13% of the amount, were assisted by food banks in rural areas. Of the 349,842 households who turned to food banks for help in March 2011, almost half were families with children, and those were almost evenly split between dual-parent and single-parent families. More than a third, 38%, of the children receiving assistance were children and youth under the age of 18.

The good news is that the number of people who turned to food banks has dropped from last year to this year. Canada has done better than any other country in fighting the recession. As long as the world economy remains in an economic downtown, as a trading nation, we need to continually seek new markets. For example, the decision by our Government to find new customers for our products has resulted in a 13% increase in forestry exports to China, with employment levels in forestry expected to grow by 31,000 over the next several years. The increase in exports to Asian markets compensate for the depressed US markets that did account for the bulk of our lumber export market.

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