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38th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 004

CONTENTS

Thursday, October 7, 2004





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 140 
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NUMBER 004 
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1st SESSION 
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38th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[Translation]

Committees of the Whole

Appointment of Deputy Chair 

    I am now ready to propose to the House a candidate to the position of Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole.
    Pursuant to order made Tuesday, October 5, 2004, I move that Mr. Marcel Proulx be appointed to the position of Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole.
    The motion is deemed moved and seconded. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

[English]

Appointment of Assistant Deputy Chair  

    I am now prepared to propose, for the ratification of the House, a candidate for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.
     Pursuant to order made Tuesday, October 5, I propose the Hon. Jean Augustine for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.
    Pursuant to order made Tuesday, October 5, the motion is deemed moved and seconded.

[Translation]

    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

[English]

    The Speaker: I congratulate both hon. members on their appointments.

[Translation]

Code for Public Office Holders

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a revised copy of the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders, pursuant to section 72.062 of the Parliament of Canada Act.

[English]

    I do not know if it is parliamentary but I would also like to congratulate the new officers.

Access to Information Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be introducing a bill today entitled an act to amend the Access to Information Act or, as it has come to be known, the Bryden bill, because the bill has been championed for the past 10 years by the former member of Parliament, John Bryden.
    The bill seeks to expand the Access to Information Act so that it would include all crown corporations and virtually all the activities of government so as to expand the accountability and transparency of government so that we can shine the light of day on the activities of the government and so that scandals can no longer operate under the shadow of secrecy which I believe has plagued this Parliament since I have been a member of Parliament.
    I am very pleased and honoured to introduce this important legislation today.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1005)  

PETITIONS

Income Tax Act  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of citizens in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia who are calling upon Parliament to change the Income Tax Act, specifically section 118.2, to allow that vitamins and supplements be used as a medical expense on personal tax returns.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Speech from the Throne

[The Address]

[Translation]

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of emotion that I rise today again in this House after a twelve-year absence. I wish to thank the people of the riding of Outremont for their confidence in me, returning me to this place to make a contribution to public affairs and to try and make a difference.
    For 12 years I was on the other side of the mike and I always deplored the cynical and judgmental attitude toward politicians. Over those 12 years, I did try to improve public attitudes toward elected representatives. I have always believed that theirs is the most noble job anyone can have. I have always believed that here in Parliament is where it all happens, and that is why I am so honoured to be back.
    I am also honoured to have an opportunity to speak on this Speech from the Throne, which is totally in keeping with our campaign commitments. There are no surprises in it, because it reflects what we told Canadians during the election campaign. It is a faithful reflection of our commitments, with an approach that is responsible and pragmatic, and of course aimed at promoting a strong economy. People need only look at the current figures on the unemployment rate and the interest rate. They will see that many Canadians can now realize their ambitions, find the job satisfaction they seek, and ensure their families have access to housing.
    All of this, of course, requires sound public finances. That is the Liberal way, the responsible way. The Right Honourable Prime Minister has made it his trademark. This government's finances are sound. As a result, we are able to fulfill some of our commitments without delay. Such was the case with our major commitment on health. Within weeks of our election, we have managed to deliver the goods, and deliver them properly. We did so in a way that would gain the signature of all of the provincial premiers and territorial representatives, thereby ensuring at last a stable and fair basis for funding health care, while accomplishing some extraordinary feats.
    All the governments had the same goal of reducing wait times. It does not take a constitutional expert to know that, right across the country, waiting times are unacceptable for those who are the most vulnerable, the sick.
    This agreement is historic in its content and its form. It reflects the Prime Minister's sensitivity to regional and provincial differences. In this agreement, the Prime Minister recognized the asymmetry in this country. He recognized that the Canadian solution does not need to be the same from coast to coast. He recognized that the provinces can adapt, since delivery, especially in terms of health care, depends exclusively on the provinces. Each province applies its own approach provided that every Canadian has a common program with common goals and values.
    In the first poll since the election, the CROP poll in La Presse, 53% of Quebeckers say this is an historic event for the good of Quebec. We should all be delighted that this government's first item on the agenda, that of health, which is also the most important item, has been resolved to the satisfaction and with the enthusiasm of all parties involved.
    We will be meeting again soon, on October 26, at which time we will be discussing equalization. Again, I am sure the necessary imagination and talent will prevail in finding a solution to prevent the occurrence of such excessive fluctuations, which make planning difficult for the provincial governments. I am sure that having a lot of money one year and uncertainty the next is very difficult to manage, especially since demand does not fluctuate at the same rate as the equalization payments.

  (1010)  

    Thus I am convinced that the Prime Minister, along with his provincial colleagues, will find a solution that will permit both predictability and growth. That is important, because the needs are there. We know that.
    There is also the agreement we will be signing with the provinces, but which concerns cities, towns and municipalities. This too will require flexibility and an understanding of regional differences and the differences that exist everywhere in Canada. It is clear that we will find a way to come to an agreement with each province, which will then deliver the urban infrastructure, transportation and environmental goods.
    I am convinced, too, that with the hundreds of millions of dollars available for such infrastructures, the goods will be delivered and a unanimous agreement will be reached among the provinces, the territories and the Canadian government.
    There is also the coming agreement on day care. Obviously the program in Quebec is exemplary. The national program takes its inspiration from the Quebec day care program, which is respected and envied by all Canadians. Because Quebec has done the early work, a transfer will help to alleviate those famous fiscal pressures. And so it will provide another opportunity for federal-provincial collaboration.
    Regarding parental leave, there is talk of transferring $600 million. Negotiations on this are going very well. The Minister of Employment is in talks with the Quebec minister and I am convinced that ways and means will be found. Working in good faith and wanting things to work makes all the difference.
    When we look at this program, we cannot help but be pleased. As a Quebecker, I am proud to see this cooperation between the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada. I am proud to see Jean Charest take on his role as leader of Quebec's government, looking for the best deal but wanting a solution. He does not come here to break things up; he comes here to help the country function for the well-being of our fellow citizens.
    That is why it is impossible to support this Bloc Quebecois subamendment, which is not in good faith but instead appears to be motivated by some form of trickery, perhaps inspired by Mr. Parizeau.
    Nevertheless it is clear that this subamendment is not being submitted to the right parliament. It asks this Parliament to permit a provincial premier to dictate the next budget. It is clear that this subamendment has been moved to divide the forces that are getting along well together. It is also clear that this subamendment is unacceptable because it asks us, the members of Parliament, to abdicate our responsibilities.
    This amendment to the amendment basically says that we should manage things the way a provincial premier wants us to. Regardless of the province, no one in this Parliament was elected to relinquish his or her responsibility to a premier. I am convinced that each one of us here feels that he or she has a role to play in the administration of public funds. We have a responsibility regarding the taxes that we collect from our fellow citizens. We cannot let others dictate our actions. We must take our responsibilities and be able to count, to give and to share under a fair and equitable system.
    This is why this resolution might be quite acceptable at the National Assembly. The problem is that a number of members may have made a clerical error, because they already see themselves in that assembly. Perhaps the Bloc Quebecois leader is training for when he is done with his leadership duties here.
    One thing is certain: federalism is a game of give and take. As for the council of the federation, we know that this is a fantastic counterpart created by the Quebec Liberal government with the support of all its provincial partners.

  (1015)  

    I know that Mr. Charest does not want to come here to tell the Parliament of Canada what it must do. He has too much respect for the system. However, he will want to get as much as he can, along with his colleagues from the council. The council is the forum where the provinces should have this discussion amongst themselves.
    Mr. Charest is not asking for a blank cheque, as the Bloc Quebecois is doing. The latter says “No limits”. What relief is it talking about?
    Is it what is in the Séguin report? What are we being asked to do? We are being asked to sign a blank cheque. Are we being asked for a GST transfer? We do not know. This amendment will not make us relinquish our responsibilities.
    We intend to govern for all Canadians and to deliver the goods for Quebeckers, but this will be achieved through a decision of this Parliament and not by—
    I regret that I must interrupt the hon. minister, but his time is up. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
    Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to tell the hon. member for Outremont that we are not asking the government to abdicate its responsibilities: we are asking it to assume its responsibilities while taking into consideration the fact that it is a minority government.
    When we call on people's sense of responsibility, we must look at ourselves. The member for Outremont is saying “We do not want others to tell us how to govern”. What does this Speech from the Throne do if not dictate the Liberal Party's agenda to a Parliament in which the government is in a minority position, a Parliament in which a majority of members sit on this side. This is not a consensus. This is not the way to ensure that this Parliament will work.
    As for being responsible with the taxes paid by Quebeckers and Canadians, we do not need to be lectured by people who are in it up to their necks with the sponsorship scandal. If they want to talk about sound management, that is fine with us.
    During the last five years that the current Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, the federal government's operating expenditures increased by 39%. This means an annual increase of about 8%, while inflation was at 1.9%. Is this what they call sound management? An abyss of sponsorship spending and operating expenditures out of this world?
    Do you know how this came to be? When you make a surplus year in and year out, this means you have too much money compared to the responsibilities you have to fulfill. That is what happens. Laxness sets in. During that time, Quebec and the provinces have needs. Their people have needs in health, education and income security. We do not need any lectures from them. Anyway, we did not miss the member during his 12-year absence from the House of Commons.
    I would like to ask him the following concerning the fiscal pressures referred to in the amendment. The current Prime Minister was the first to raise this issue during the election campaign, when he acknowledged that the provinces were facing fiscal pressures and indicated he was prepared to sit down and work on this.
    Later, he made another commitment. After the conference on health, another conference was held, which dealt with not only equalization—there is this incomplete formula we were presented with two weeks ago, which does not take into account the demands of the provinces which benefit from equalization—but also transfers as a whole and the redefining of tax fields. The Prime Minister of Canada himself appeared to be open to this debate.
    I have a question for him. Why is it that in less than three months the government has changed its tune?

  (1020)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for his question.
    I must say this is quite extraordinary. I thank him for commending the Prime Minister for the fact that we have surpluses. That is quite something. Let me say this: we are the only G-7 country that currently has surpluses. It is all thanks to this government and this Prime Minister.
    We are the envy of the world because of the fine administration of this government. I am pleased that we have surpluses and that we can help with the financial burden in Quebec.
    The Government of Quebec applauds the health transfer. Everyone in Quebec applauds it. I had expected the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to applaud it as well.
    Thanks for the congratulations. There will be other opportunities in other matters, where we will be just as flexible and sensitive to the needs of Quebec and the other provinces.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome back the Minister of Transport after an absence of 12 years. Before his departure, of course, he decided that separatism was the way to go in this country, by joining the separatist party. As he said, he was on the opposite side of the microphone advocating such policies.
    Now he is here as a member of the federal Parliament, a member of the federal government and a minister of the Crown. I was wondering if he would like to stand and tell us where he stands on federalism and what his personal position is regarding federalism.
    The hon. Minister of Transport will do so, but very briefly.
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be here today as the federalist member of Parliament for Outremont. The member has never learned the history. The Bloc Quebecois then was temporary functionally and a rainbow coalition. I was the red of the rainbow coalition, but I was the only one who became temporary because they all stuck around.
    The reality is that the member does not know what has happened in Quebec for the last 12 years, because I have never advocated any political position. I was doing my job as a host and being very professional about it. I am back here because I believe we can make a difference in this country, and we are not going to play footsie with the separatists like you are going to do tonight.
    The Minister of Transport is an experienced member. I know he intended to address his remarks to the Chair.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to take part in this important debate on the Speech from the Throne.

  (1025)  

[English]

    I am tempted to go there and suggest that not only was the Minister of Transport playing footsie, he was actually under the covers. We do not know what happened under the covers in his flirtation with separatism.
    It is interesting to note his new-found enthusiasm. There is nothing like the enthusiasm of a recent convert. Yet, a few years ago, he would have been quite comfortable sitting with the Bloc, so the suggestion that somehow there is something improper about opposition parties trying to cooperate at this time runs completely contrary to the signals and the lip service that have been given by the government to the issue of cooperation.
    Speaking of that, we are here to talk about the throne speech and the reasoned, measured attempts by all opposition parties to enhance, to add substance to, to in fact prop up what is otherwise a very vacuous throne speech. This particular document is so lacking in detail and so completely devoid of any real direction that it is difficult to know where to start. What we do know is that much of it is completely recycled. We know that at least 43 of the promises outlined in this document are regurgitated from a previous throne speech of 2002.
    It is particularly easy to note the promise of a national day care program, which dates back to 1993. We have the 1993 red book, the 1993 throne speech, budget promises and election promises, so much of which is simply recycled.
    This particular reference to the Citizenship Act is a project that goes back to the previous government as well. Promised legislation with respect to child pornography also dates back to previous legislation. We have seen it all before and the real question now becomes one of credibility.
    The opposition parties are trying legitimately to improve this document. We are putting forward very measured, consistent amendments meant to add substance to what we see before us.
    I listened to the speech of the government with respect to the 38th general election. The House leader, in reference to the throne speech, said just the other day, “We are working as if we have a minority government”. Well, maybe that was just a slip of the lip, but they do have a minority government.
    The government has to explain. While it had all summer to prepare, to consult, and to do what it is now trying to do at the last minute in scrambling around, what is clear is that the government has lost its majority but it certainly has not lost its arrogance. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians voted against this government in the last election. That has not quite penetrated the skulls of some of the members opposite.
    Despite the message of the electorate, the Prime Minister and his cabinet are simply saying, carte blanche, “Just trust us. Just believe us”. They have had 11 years to implement legislation to work on many of these very important issues, yet these programs have not been delivered. In fact, the promises that have been laid out have been laid out time and time again over the last 11 years, over four elections, and the government is saying, “Just allow us to manage affairs in the Commons in the way we always have”. That is, ineffectually, with no action, with no particular plan.
    What we are seeing here where the opposition parties are now putting forward a spirit of cooperation is that it is being rejected. The posturing that is going on now in saying the government can absolutely not support an opposition amendment because somehow this would derogate from their throne speech is nonsense.
    Let us look specifically at the subamendment that we will be voting on this evening. It is permissive. It speaks directly about including in the throne speech references to respecting provincial jurisdiction. It speaks of consequences from the fiscal imbalance that are currently being carried by the provinces. Why would the government reject an opportunity to embrace the opportunity to address this specifically with its throne speech?
    It is there. It is a measured response, and not a response but a request for the government to actually follow through on this. It is coming not only from the province of Quebec. It is coming from all the premiers in the country. All the premiers are looking for this particular initiative.
    Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my friend and colleague from Medicine Hat, the critic in the area of finance. I am sure he is going to be able to lay out in some very specific detail the shortcomings that he sees in the throne speech.
    I also note that some of the more disturbing action that has been taken in the past number of days with respect to the throne speech has left many Canadians wondering how this Parliament itself is going to function if this is in fact the government's attitude. The throne speech left a lot of questions in the areas of environment, education, how the economy will be run, and particularly how we are going to continue to function vis-à-vis the United States of America and our trade relations with it and the concerns it has expressed over security.
    Canadians have become quite skeptical not only of the government but of the political process itself. Many of the initiatives that we in the official opposition want to see take place are meant to enhance and build upon the concerns of all members regarding how we renew some of the credibility of this place itself, and how we establish arm's-length bodies that are meant to work collaboratively and in a non-partisan fashion to fix the EI system.
    We want to ensure that we remove some of the politicization that takes place at committee level, the fiscal forecast, the way in which budget projections are laid out, and the way in which we currently examine supplementary and main estimates. There is a great deal of work to do. In the past, Mr. Speaker, you have expressed concerns over this particular subject.
    This attempt by all members of the opposition is about building upon the initiative that the government is putting forward in its throne speech, about ensuring that the House of Commons will have votes on important issues of international significance, including a proposed missile defence system for North America. It is about ways in which the public, citizen assemblies, could examine the issue of electoral reform, and about ways in which we can lower taxes, particularly for lower and middle income Canadians.
    The government is playing a dangerous game by suggesting that this amendment as well as the subamendment will derogate from the direction it is taking. To suggest that if the opposition were to vote in this particular area then the government would be in a position to fall and then visit the Governor General is simply not the case. That is pure poppycock.
     Many on the other side were big fans of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. We learned from him. He engineered his own minority government's defeat in 1974 by introducing a budget that he knew would fall. This has been documented by cabinet documents that have been made public. This type of strategy is not beyond the realm of possibility. The government, while accusing others of playing games, knows it is very precarious if it goes down that road.
    The throne speech promises accountability, and yet Canadians are still waiting for openness and transparency with respect to what took place with regard to the sponsorship scandal. Last February the Prime Minister talked about how he was going to ensure that no stone would go unturned and that every effort would be made to disclose information. We know in fact that is not the case. That is simply not true.
    We are seeing disclosure daily at the Gomery commission that was not available to the public accounts committee and was not available to the public before the election. It is very curious that these documents are now readily available.
    At the outset of the federal campaign last spring the Clerk of the Privy Council allowed Canada Post to delay the release of the findings of an audit which showed that André Ouellet, another famous Liberal, had directed contracts to firms that the Liberal government had chosen, hired relatives, ran up expenses of $2 million, and did not submit receipts. The average Canadian should try telling Revenue Canada that receipts are not available. I suggest there would be somebody knocking at the door pretty quickly. Where was the Prime Minister's outrage when the Clerk of the Privy Council failed to shed light in this area of the sponsorship scandal?
    The throne speech makes promise after promise. The government was going to involve parliamentarians in the key review of appointments but that did not happen.

  (1030)  

    We know that the Minister of National Revenue appointed Gordon Feeney against those guidelines and the new chairman of Canada Post was put in his position without any consultation. Similarly, the process that was set up for parliamentary input into the appointment of Supreme Court judges was again a farcical, after the fact, consultation.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Peter MacKay: We have chipmunks opposite chirping away, but they know that the facts are there.
    We do not know what the government will do about court policing or enhancing security in the country. That was devoid. A plan for the fishery was devoid from any mention in the throne speech.
    A big city agenda, what about a rural agenda? We hear very little about the rural agenda. Again, there is much that we need to discuss in this place and we will.
    This amendment is reasonable, measured, and Canadians will judge it appropriately.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Leader of the Opposition made a statement that made me reflect somewhat. It was a statement to the effect that the majority of Canadians did not vote for the government, but that the majority of Canadians voted for exactly what is happening now, for the opposition parties to get together and make amendments to the throne speech. It was that theme that this is what Canadians voted for.
    In terms of assuming that it is the majority, it is assuming that all of the opposition parties are of a like mind on policy issues. We have the Conservatives, the Bloc, and the NDP or in other words, the extreme right, the extreme left and simply the extreme.
    I want to know the answer to a simple question and I might demonstrate it. Could the hon. member advise the House whether his party is in favour of proportional representation which is one of the matters in the amendment?
    Mr. Speaker, it was an extremely inane and ridiculous allegation to cast this party as extreme right. The hon. member knows better and I would expect more from him.
    Where is the position of this party on proportional representation? If the hon. member were to take the time, actually get out of his seat and read what is in our amendment, he would see that we are asking for the House of Commons to establish a non-partisan citizen assembly to re-examine changes to the electoral system including proportional representation.
    So get a grip. We are absolutely prepared to look at this issue and to put it into a citizens assembly that would allow for this party to participate and put it into the area of proportional representation.
    Talking about positions, the Liberals are turning themselves into pretzels over there to avoid any kind of accountability for the fact that they are governing. They want to govern and yet they want to know what the opposition thinks about it. It is not that they are going to listen to it, but that they can delay taking a decision on it, and putting it off as they did with the helicopter procurement and as they have done with so many other important issues.
    The government has no lessons to give about accountability or positioning. The best position that it has taken is one that moves from time to time, depending on the electoral fortunes of the position of the party of the day, just like it did on GST.
    The Liberals are for free trade now. They have wrapped their arms around it and called it their own. They did the same thing on the price of gasoline and wage and price controls.
    The Liberal government has a reputation of not being left or right, but being like the proverbial political windsock. Wherever the winds are blowing that is where we will find the Liberals and they are doing a lot of blowing over there today.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I read the Speech from the Throne carefully. I listened to my knowledgeable colleagues opposite and I especially listened to the hon. member for Outremont who spoke to us this morning.
    Not so long ago I was the president of the international mountain bike committee. I was also very active in international sports, the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Thanks to the member for Bourassa, we brought the World Anti-Doping Agency to Canada in 2000.
    Nonetheless, I would like to point out that I read the Speech from the Throne carefully. After the performance of our athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, I had expected to hear more than one lousy sentence. There was almost no mention of how we were going to develop our elite athletes, those who represent Canada and Quebec at international competitions, or prepare the next generation.
    Does the government intend to invest—and since I am talking to the Conservatives as well, will they support a major investment in sports to make our athletes representative on the world stage—

  (1040)  

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the five minutes allotted to him are really up. The hon. member for Central Nova, with a brief reply.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and congratulate him on his election.
    The answer is a simple one. Investment in sport in Canada is absolutely necessary.

[English]

    The results of the last Olympic games were evidence enough that our athletes are certainly in need of greater support. We spoke of that during the election campaign and we included that in our platform. I would suggest as well that another area, not to equate the two, is the Canadian military. I want to take a brief moment just to express concern over--
    Order, please. We have run out of time on the hon. member's speech and the five minute question and comment period. Is the hon. parliamentary secretary rising on a point of order?

Business of the House

    Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe that you will find unanimous consent to order that the debate on bovine spongiform encephalopathy to be held Thursday evening be interrupted, rather than terminated at midnight, and that it be resumed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 12 and concluded when no member rises to speak or at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, October 13, whichever is earlier.
    Is it agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to address the throne speech. Off the top, I want to thank the electors of the Medicine Hat constituency for sending me back here again. It is truly an honour to represent them. When I go home it is always so refreshing. These people are always so supportive of me, even at times when I probably do not deserve it. I really do appreciate that.
    On a serious note, somebody once said that one thing which distinguishes people from my part of the world, and I will say this about Albertans in general, is that it does not matter what colour skin people have or what religion they are. If they want to work and contribute, they will be welcomed with open arms. On the other hand, if people complain and whine, no matter what colour their skin is, what religion they are or whatever, they will not be welcome. People want to move forward. They want a positive message and input. That is one of the great things about my riding and it is why it is always a pleasure to go home.
    I want to say a few words about the throne speech from the perspective of the government's economic agenda. I want to argue that this document could have been so much stronger if the government had not acted as though it had a majority and if it had listened to Canadians. It did not receive the support of 63% of Canadians who voted for somebody else. It has been noted already that some of the other parties have been able to agree on things that should be in a document like this.
    The three opposition party leaders talked about these things earlier in the fall and suggested the government should listen to opposition parties in a minority government because the opposition parties had something to offer that would strengthen a throne speech. It is disappointing that the government is behaving like it has always behaved: taking Parliament for granted and assuming that it will get the rubber stamp one more time for whatever it wants to do. That is so disappointing. It is as though it has learned nothing from the sponsorship mess and all the scandals that have plagued it. It has lost none of its arrogance and I find that very distressing. I think Canadians are at a point where they want to see some cooperation in this place and some give and take. Right now we are not seeing that. We are seeing my way or the highway from the government.
    In the spirit of cooperation, we want to offer some things that we think will improve the throne speech. In particular, I want to talk about this from an economic perspective. When the government sets public policy it has a lot to do with the standard of living of Canadians, ensuring they are better off and more prosperous. That is what I and I know my colleagues on this side are concerned about.
    I want to talk about two of the amendments that my leader made to the throne speech the other day. He moved an amendment that we have an independent parliamentary budgeting office so that we could give independent fiscal forecasting advice to the government. I want to underline why that is important. Over the last number of years the government has engaged in a practice where it makes forecasts that are wildly inaccurate. That means billions of dollars are hidden until the end of the year, which the public is really not aware exist. That means there is never a true debate about how to spend that money.
    Since 1999-2000 there have been about $30 billion in surpluses where there was never a debate as to how that money should be spent. That is not to say that in some cases it did not get spent on things that are laudable, but in some cases it was spent on Challenger jets. Canadians deserve to have a debate about how that money should be spent. I think that is reasonable. That is what my party believes should be done. We think Canadians should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent.
    We want to argue very strongly that this independent parliamentary budgeting office be established much in the same way that the Auditor General's office is established. It would be an independent body that would answer to Parliament and would not be part of the government. It would not be a situation where the government could manipulate the figures to its own ends. Independent officers of Parliament would make these determinations so that in the end the public, the markets and all concerned could have confidence in these numbers and know that this was not some great manipulation that was going on for the political benefit of the government.

  (1045)  

    Surely, in a modern democracy I do not think that is an unreasonable request. In fact it makes eminent sense. This is nothing new. It happens in other countries. It happens certainly to the south of us, our closest trading partner. We have the congressional budgeting office where political parties really cannot play political games with the numbers because they come from an independent body. That is what we want to see, and it is reasonable.
    I know the government is sensitive to this criticism because, in response to our criticism to its accounting practises, it just appointed Tim O'Neill of the Bank of Montreal to study this issue. He is certainly a distinguished economist and someone who understands these things, but we do not need a study. We know there is a problem. We need some action right now because this is simply unacceptable.
    This leads me to my second point. It has to do with the amendment we moved regarding providing tax relief to middle and low income Canadians. I mentioned a minute ago that we have not had a debate over how that $30 billion should have been spent over the last number of years. I want to argue that many Canadians would say that they should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent, especially when they see some of the messes that have occurred in this place. I think it is reasonable for them to ask who does a better job of minding the thousands of dollars they send every year in taxes. Would it be the Government of Canada or could they make better use of that money themselves, given what they have seen with the firearms registry, for instance? This was something that was supposed to cost $2 million. Now it is going to $1 billion and possibly to $2 billion. Who knows where it will end. There is also the sponsorship. We could go on and on. There are many of these abuses to which we could point.
    If we are to agree on the principle that Canadians should have a say in how their money is spent, one of the issues on the table should be tax relief.
    Consider the taxes that people in the low end of the income scale pay. They pay income tax, starting at a very low level compared to other countries. They pay provincial and federal income taxes. They pay a goods and services tax. They pay employment insurance taxes. They pay Canada pension plan tax. They pay capital gains taxes. They pay excise taxes. They pay property taxes. Of course, ultimately they pay corporate income taxes. They pay sales taxes. There are many taxes that people are burdened with today. On average in Canada 41% of all income we generate goes toward taxes. I think it is wrong when the government is running big surpluses to not include tax relief for people on the low end of the income scale as one of the options. It simply has to happen.
    Often members on the government side like to talk about compassion and they often do. They think compassion is synonymous with how much one spends. I want to argue that sometimes compassion really means leaving some of that money in people's pockets in the first place. They know better than government how to raise their children. They know better than government what is important to them and what their priorities are. They can save that money a lot better than government can.
    Let the record show that the Conservative Party of Canada, and probably some of the other parties in this place, understands that message and wants the government to be open to adopting this amendment or at least consider it.
    I know my time is running out so I will be brief in wrapping up. When I read this throne speech what occurred to me was that this was a government that was content to rest on its laurels. I think Canadians want to see progress made when it comes to increasing their prosperity, helping people on the low end of the income scale and helping people who are unemployed today. The way to do that is to provide some incentive through lowering taxes. That is something that has been completely neglected and overlooked by the government in its 11 years in power. It is time to change that. It is time to start to be a little more progressive in its outlook.

  (1050)  

    To finish where I began, I want to say to all of them that this party wants to work with the government. We are offering some positive amendments that enhance the throne speech. We certainly are not undermining anything in the throne speech. I hope Liberals will be mindful of that as they consider how they vote in the next days and weeks to come.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has indicated in his remarks a number of contradictions. First, he has indicated that his party is in favour of lowering taxes for those who are less well off in society. For 10 years it advocated only tax cuts for the rich. Those of us on our side of the House remember the history of the Alliance party very well. We will leave that aside for a minute.
    I want to ask him something on a substantial area. Why is the MP telling the House that he has moved an amendment to the throne speech, when he knows perfectly well that there is no such thing? The throne speech was read into the record. That is like saying that one is amending the Hansard of two days ago. It is a ridiculous proposition. He is not amending the throne speech. He has moved an amendment to the motion to congratulate Her Excellency for having read the throne speech.
    Does he not know the difference? Does he not know there is no such thing as moving an amendment to the throne speech? No spinning in the House or outside of it will hide the truth that this is not the way Parliament works. The foremost procedural expert in the country is in the chair right now. While the Speaker obviously cannot make a speech about all this, I will invite my colleague across to just remind Canadians that the reality is somewhat different than what he has just pretended it is.

  (1055)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was kind of hoping for a substantive question from the hon. member, but instead we get this procedural rant. It is really unfortunate I suppose that the Speakers have already been chosen or maybe there are no more clerks' positions opened because otherwise the member could apply for one. He could work his way back down the feeding chain and go back to where he began as a busboy in the House.
    However, the member is factually incorrect when he states that we have been proposing tax relief for people in the high end. During the election campaign that just passed, we actually proposed the biggest tax cuts in Canadian history for middle and low income Canadians. Unfortunately, the member across the way has gotten his facts wrong again.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak.
    I do not share all of the opinions expressed by my colleague from Medicine Hat, nor do I subscribe to all the comments made by my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I know my colleague from Medicine Hat well, from eight years together on the Standing Committee on Finance. Right from the start, we were on the same side in certain battles, particularly those for indexed tax tables and reduced tax rates for those with lower incomes. It is, therefore, inaccurate to say that my colleague has done nothing for the past ten years but defend tax cuts for the rich.
    That is, however, what the Liberals have done for the past ten years: reduced taxes of all kinds for the richest members of society. One former finance minister even managed to obtain tax advantages for his shipping companies in Barbados. This also represents not a tax reduction for the less well off, but a tax reduction for the well off, his peers. So let them not try to preach to us on this.
    I have a question for my colleague from Medicine Hat. I am very pleased that tax reductions for low- and middle-income people are still being promoted. But what is the explanation for the fact that, the whole time the present Prime Minister was finance minister, the government operating budget increased a mere 39% over the past five years, or close to 8% annually, whereas inflation increased an average of 1.9%? Can this government be described as a good manager?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when we see those kinds of increases, it ensures that there is less and less money available for things that are very high priorities of Canadians, whether it is in the area of health care or education or ultimately even tax relief for people who truly do need it.
    I invite my friends across the way to really examine Canada's record in terms of the exemption levels, for instance, for people on the low end of the income scale versus other countries. We truly are not doing a good job. Students or seniors who are still working end up paying EI premiums when they really cannot claim it. This is an atrocious problem. It does not reflect well on the country and it certainly does not indicate any kind of compassionate government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with another Liberal colleague.
    As I take the floor for the first time in this 38th Parliament, I feel a real sense of gratitude towards the residents of Pierrefonds—Dollard. For the fourth time, they have given me the mandate to represent them in the House of Commons. It is with pride, but also humility, that I will fulfill this responsibility, and I will do so by listening attentively to their concerns and by striving to promote their best interests, here in the House and within the government.
    Our country is currently going through a period of critical challenges and issues. This is why I am pleased to see that our government's determination to promote the betterment of Canadians was clearly stated in the recent throne speech.
    As parliamentarians, we have a duty to make a concrete contribution to the implementation of the government's agenda, which seeks primarily to ensure that the Government of Canada is, more effectively than before, at the service of all Canadians. This is the number one responsibility for all of us and we should never forget it.
    Because of the position I was honoured to occupy in recent years as chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the current state of the world is of special concern to me, as are our country's responsibilities and commitments on the international scene. From experience, I know that my worries are shared by a large and steadily growing number of Canadians.
    We no longer live in separate compartments; everything that happens in the world affects us and concerns us. The diversity of our people, who come from and retain solid and longstanding ties with the four corners of the earth reminds us of that fact directly. The people of our country have a tangible interest in world affairs; it is obvious and we see it everywhere.
    I often hear them talking about the kind of world they want to live in: a world founded on justice and tolerance; a world that promotes human dignity and respects human rights; a world of solidarity, that builds democracy and fosters economic, social and cultural progress.
    In his recent address to the United Nations, the Prime Minister made it clear he understands what Canadians want, particularly when he insisted on the fact that the primary obligation of the international institutions is to our common humanity. He also said that governments have the duty to speak to the dignity and freedom of every human being on earth.
    What the Prime Minister was expressing lies at the very heart of the most fundamental Canadian values, the values that individual Canadians fervently wish to see spread across the world. Our partisan affiliations in this House cannot prevent us from recognizing the predominance of such values among Canadians, and it is our duty to contribute to making them reality.
    We can also recognize the urgent need to act, to give our best as a country and as individuals, to bring relief from the many cruel plagues and misfortunes that so many of our brothers and sisters in humanity have to suffer.
    There are certainly some serious problems caused by phenomena related to the contingencies of our human condition, such as natural disasters and outbreaks of infectious diseases. In such situations, the actions of our country and its people of all backgrounds and all ages, are always characterized above all by an open heart, a quick and generous response. This trend must continue, with the same determination and compassion that brings honour to this country.
    Then there are other scourges that arise out of the darker side of our own human nature. It is of the utmost urgency that we address these head on, with all the strength of conviction we are able to muster. For example, hate, whether based on ethnic, social or religious grounds, is what lies behind most of these terrible scourges which destroy lives and leave despair and fear in their wake in too many parts of this world.
    It is true that eradicating hate is a mammoth undertaking in itself, but our country and its people are among those best suited to driving back the forces that propagate it.

  (1100)  

    Our civil society has never ceased to amaze me with its diversity, its wealth of experiences and solid accomplishments on the international scene.
    When our people talk about helping others, it is not just empty words. Through our NGOs and the variety of associations working in favour of peace and tolerance in the world, our fellow citizens are providing tangible proof of the reality and depth of their convictions.
    Many of these associations and NGOs, often with private sector backing, are focusing their attention on a theme very dear to my heart: tolerance and peace through education. Education, particularly in early childhood, is the primary means of tearing out the vile roots of hatred and consigning them to the garbage heap of history.
    This requires a real battle around curriculum content and academic goals. We must promote a school system that fosters the development of human and civic values, for these are the seeds from which peace can best grow.
    During the various consultations over which I have presided in recent years in the standing committee, I have been delighted to learn of a multitude of projects within our civil society with the specific goal of reaching out to school children in those areas of the world where hate and intolerance are most rampant.
    In the Middle East for example, an extremely troubled region if ever there was one, some of those projects are either at the planning stages or under way. Young Israeli and Palestinian children learn at school about the virtues and benefits of peace and tolerance, of listening to one another and of understanding. These children are also given opportunities to meet and have dialogue with their counterparts in the other camp. This simple and unpretentious, yet concrete and creative approach is the best way to contribute to eliminating prejudice and eradicating hatred. The seeds of hope are being planted in order to reap the benefits of peace and tolerance in the future. This is something our country and many Canadians are in a position to make happen.
    Now more than ever, as a government and also as parliamentarians, we must provide solid support to this type of initiative. At first glance these may seem like modest initiatives, but they will truly contribute to lasting peace in our world.
    These initiatives also reflect the emergence of one-on-one diplomacy, whether it be Canadians and foreigners, or people from various camps who are too often the object of hate and division.
    In conclusion, this is what leads me to believe that although Canada may not be a major world power, we certainly have a powerful potential for inspiring hope where there is despair, tolerance where there is hate and justice where human rights are being abused.
    It is up to us to get on with the job, realize the extent of our potential and our international responsibilities, and give more tangible expression to the values that make our country what it is: a model for the nations of the world.

  (1105)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, before I being I congratulate you on becoming Deputy Speaker. It is a reflection of your contribution to the House of Commons that you are sitting there today.
     I would first like to thank the constituents of Calgary East for sending me here for the third time, especially with a bigger majority than before, despite a campaign of lies by the Liberals. Nevertheless, the people of Calgary did not listen and they sent me back with a greater majority.
    I want to ask the member, and I know in the last committee he was chairman of the--
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Will the member refrain from using that language in the House and the words he used in terms of the policies of the Liberals and what they have said? I would ask him to withdraw his remarks.
    The Chair was otherwise occupied at the time. The hon. member is very experienced and he knows that language must be judicious. I am sure he will watch his language and I urge him to do so.
    Mr. Speaker, when I was on the foreign affairs committee, the member was the chair. Why does his party not respect Parliament? Let me explain my question. The government sent the same sex marriage question to the Supreme Court without bringing it here to the Parliament of Canada.
    Not only that, but the defence minister recently said that he would not bring the issue of missile defence into the House of Commons, that the decision would be made by an executive decision.
     Why does his government constantly ignore the will of Canadians as expressed to the Parliament of Canada?

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I also wish to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. I am thrilled to work with you.
    To answer my colleague for Calgary East, I am disappointed. I made a speech but he asked me nothing about my speech. What is he doing? Did he not listen to the speech? I think it is much more important for him to listen to what we have to say.
    Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Answer my question.
    Mr. Bernard Patry: I will answer the member's question by giving him some information because he does not seem to have the information.
    The government wants to spend more than $70 million to help fight AIDS in the world. I think this is something very concrete. This is something that Parliament wants to do. This is something that Canadians want to hear about. This is one thing that the government is doing. It is very important to say that. There is malaria also.
    Something else that is very important is the international scene and Africa. There are many conflicts in the world. What we want to do is have money so that the African union will work together to try to get some “les Casques bleus” there to try to help the native people of the world. This is what we want to do. This is my answer.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment.
    I have been listening attentively to the remarks by the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, who has demonstrated his knowledge of politics and international affairs. I had a great deal of trouble understanding the meaning of his support or opinion regarding the Speech from the Throne. Perhaps I misunderstood or did not fully grasp what he was trying to say.
    I would like, very humbly, if I may, to bring him back to the throne speech and ask him a question. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to reduce the financial pressures on the provinces and at the same time, I believe, to continue to completely respect provincial jurisdictions. Does he agree with the words of his leader, the Prime Minister? If I could just return to the throne speech and the amendment to the amendment we are discussing today, I would ask the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard if he personally agrees that provincial jurisdictions should be respected and does he recognize that they are suffering financial pressures that should be alleviated? In other words, does he support the Bloc Quebecois's amendment to the amendment?
    Mr. Speaker, of necessity, as I am a member from Quebec, I believe that we must respect matters of government responsibilities and provincial jurisdictions. I have no problem with that.
    As for the second part of the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, it is very important that the government not abdicate its financial responsibilities. That is the crux of the matter. In my view, the federal government that has been elected, even though it is a minority government, must earn the public's respect, must go in the right direction, and have a balanced budget.

[English]

[Translation]

    First, I would like to thank the residents of Ahuntsic for once more giving me the honour of representing them in the House of Commons. It has always been an honour.
    I am pleased to rise today to tell the House about one element of the Speech from the Throne that is part of my responsibilities within this new government. I am referring to the importance of the social economy in Canada.
    

[English]

    I will quote the Speech from the Throne:
    The Government is determined to foster the social economy—the myriad not-for-profit activities and enterprises that harness civic and entrepreneurial energies for community benefit right across Canada. The Government will help to create the conditions for their success, including the business environment within which they work.
    Social Development Canada was created to become the point of convergence for all social policies and programs for children, families, persons with disabilities, seniors and the volunteer sector.

  (1115)  

[Translation]

    I have always been one of those who believe that that the government has a role to play as an economic and social catalyst. I am also very much aware that the quality of life in Canada is greatly enhanced by the work of organizations in the volunteer and community sectors which, day after day, accomplish incredible things.
    In our communities, they have contributed greatly to the quality of life of millions of Canadians. Their work reflects the values that we, on this side of the House, believe are truly Canadian.

[English]

    We as politicians see this in our everyday lives while we tour our ridings. I wish, and on behalf of all members, I believe, to pay homage to all the volunteers and those compassionate and caring individuals who contribute so much to our society and to their fellow Canadians.
    Canada's non-profit and charitable organizations, community groups and volunteers are important allies of our government in that they build strong and resilient communities. The volunteer sector organizations fill a need that is both real and growing.

[Translation]

    In this country there are over 160,000 non-profit organizations and some 6.5 million Canadians who give their time to voluntary organizations. That adds up to more than a billion hours of work per year. Not only does this bear witness to the vitality of our communities, but it is also an important economic force that generates revenues of $14 billion a year.
    These volunteer hours make it possible for the organizations to contribute to their community by serving meals to seniors, offering respite care to families in need and enabling our children to develop to their full potential through sports and cultural activities.

[English]

    The social economy is an area in which the non-profit and charitable sectors excel. I want to thank the Prime Minister again for giving me that responsibility because I think it is going to be a great trial and, as we evolve in the next few months, we will see it having direct implications in terms of communities in this country.
    Many people are unfamiliar with this concept of social economy enterprises. The social economy is everywhere. People only have to look around their neighbourhoods: it may be the day care centre, the housing co-op, seniors' support services or a local community economic development organization.
    The term “social economy” may be new but it is simply a variation and a continuation of what social, non-profit enterprises already do, such as, for instance, the trade union movement or the cooperative movement in this country. Simply put, it is people working together to solve challenges that confront us in our communities. It is people empowerment, in a way, and community based community action.
    Moreover, social economy enterprises operate like businesses. They produce goods and services to generate revenues but manage their operations on a not for profit basis by reinvesting all revenues to achieve a social purpose rather than generate a profit for their shareholders.
     For example, AMRAC, an organization from my own riding of Ahuntsic, refurbishes and builds new furniture and employs and trains people who are having difficulty finding work. The organization has two storefronts, one for the furniture it sells to the general public and one that provides household items at prices that are affordable to individuals and families with low incomes. The revenues generated are then reinvested in training programs for the unemployed and in equipment.
    This example demonstrates what can be accomplished when community networks get built, when people who care come together to do something about the challenges they see in their communities. There are numerous examples of this all across the country. They come up with new ways to solve long-standing problems. Social enterprises have great potential to provide a flexible and relatively sustainable means for achieving a range of community goals.

[Translation]

    Social economy enterprises are not always small. For example, the Cirque du Soleil began as a small business and is now internationally known. It is still active in the social economy, however, through activities such as the Tohu in my colleague's riding.
    In Canada there are nearly 10,000 social enterprises and agencies that employ some 100,000 people and whose yearly sales amount to approximately $20 billion, which is an average of $2 million.

  (1120)  

[English]

    The government is determined to foster the social economy. In our budget commitments of 2004 we identified three priority areas for the social economy: capacity building, financing and research.
    The funding is allocated as follows. There is $100 million over five years in support of financial initiatives that will increase lending to social economy enterprises. With that money, they can also then leverage funds from the private sector. This whole endeavour requires that there be a partnership between the three levels of government and the private sector. The funding also includes $17 million over two years for a pilot project for strategic planning and capacity building of community economic development organizations and $15 million over five years to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in support of community based research on the social economy. These programs are just down payments, as I have always said since we started back in January toward building a foundation for Canada's social economy.
    As stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will also introduce a new not for profit corporations act that will aim to reduce the regulatory burden on the not for profit sector, improve financial accountability, clarify the roles and responsibilities of directors and officers, and enhance and protect the rights of members.
    We must also identify and share the strategies that work best and work with others to develop a longer term framework for the social economy, which will guide our future efforts in building strong, vibrant and sustainable communities. For that reason, I established a national round table to which I have invited the main stakeholders from the volunteer sector, such as, for example, the United Way, and also from the private sector, VanCity from B.C., the cooperative movement, the trade union movement, and le Chantier de l'économie sociale, to name just a few, to advise me and federal government ministers on moving forward on these commitments.

[Translation]

    In conclusion, since today's debate is on the Bloc Quebecois's amendment to the amendment, I would like to emphasize that in my opinion, which is shared by most of the Liberal members from Quebec, it is a way of asking for a blank cheque from the government.
    The Prime Minister will hold a meeting with the provincial premiers. I believe that will be the forum for a serious discussion on the subject of the country's finances. This government has never abdicated its responsibilities.
    Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Ahuntsic for her comment.
    I would like to start by thanking the voters of Laval who have given me the opportunity to represent them here and to defend their interests. I have to say that I came here full of good faith, planning to do my job in good faith and to make room for the interests we may have in common despite that fact that we are sovereignists. We do not deny that we are, and never have. We are sovereignists and that is our agenda. I do, however, have a great deal of difficulty reconciling this desire to cooperate with this government's very arrogant and scornful attitude.
    Laval is the city in Quebec where life expectancy is the longest. Women live to be 82.2 years old, and men, 78.3 years old. Laval is home to more than 40,000 citizens over 65, 38% of whom are 75 years old and over. Social economy, cooperation, that is all fine and well, and I am familiar with both. However, additional measures are needed to protect and help our seniors.
    I would ask my colleague whether her government also plans, when it talks about improving the guaranteed income supplement program, to provide retroactivity for those eligible.

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is great to rise in the House and start off by accusing the government of arrogance. There are more acceptable ways of beginning one's maiden speech.
    As regards the specific question the new member asked, we have introduced the New Horizons program referred to in the Speech from the Throne. The guaranteed income supplement for seniors will be adjusted. During the last session of the House of Commons, when I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible, we took the trouble, as a government, to advise all seniors across the country of their rights.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I also want to join my colleagues in congratulating you on your appointment to your new position. I look forward to working with you.
    The Prime Minister and the Liberal government members said when they were sworn in after they won the election that they were going to “hit the ground running”. Instead, they did a belly flop. It is most evident in their treatment of farmers as to how big a belly flop this was, with really no action on that front. In the speeches I am listening today from that side, they talk about fundamental Canadian values and all kinds of high sounding phrases. That is just like the throne speech. It sounded so good but it was complete fluff.
    What are real people in this country experiencing? Let us take rural Canada, the west, Saskatchewan, rural Ontario, Quebec, or rural eastern Canadians. They are being devastated by the BSE crisis. We heard virtually nothing about that. In fact, we had cabinet ministers yesterday defending their backbenchers' bad-mouthing of our American neighbours. We need that trade. When that border was slapped shut--and it is still closed to live cattle exports--we were devastated.
    Now for the west, we had a devastating frost in August, which has hurt the part of the sector that was maybe going to be the bright light this year. The government does not even seem to recognize that. We do not hear anything from those MPs opposite about what real Canadians are experiencing. I think the lack of action is just devastating. As I said when I began my remarks, they are making a belly flop. The people who need to have farm programs that work and who need to have government programs that work are not getting them. I think it is about time that all MPs over there recognize this.
    Mr. Speaker, was there a question in that? I would just like to remind the House that tonight, in fact, we are having a debate on BSE. It is a special debate. I think there have been other measures, mentioned in the last budget and in the Speech from the Throne, to help the agricultural sector in this country.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Lowering of Flags to Half-Mast

    Mr. Speaker, when I was walking to the office this morning I was actually saddened and disappointed to notice that the federal government has not recognized appropriately the tragic loss of Lieutenant Chris Saunders yesterday in the HMCS Chicoutimi.
    Therefore, I am rising today to ask unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:
    That this House demand the Prime Minister instruct all federal government buildings to immediately lower all Canadian flags to half-mast to recognize the tragic death of Lieutenant Chris Saunders yesterday on the HMCS Chicoutimi.
    Mr. Speaker, on a point of clarification, perhaps, did we not yesterday in the House in fact have a moment of silence? On the premise of the hon. member's statement, I am sorry, there was in fact recognition of and respect for the family, and the opening of the member's statement is erroneous.
    This is not debate. There is a point of order. There has been a motion proposed to the House. The House has heard the motion. Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion at this time?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Deputy Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Deputy Speaker: I see no dissent. The motion is adopted.

    (Motion agreed to)


Speech from the Throne

[The Address]

  (1130)  

[Translation]

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her Speech from the Throne at the opening of the session; and of the amendment; and the amendment to the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my distinguished and very competent colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.
    I would like to thank my constituents from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for giving me their trust for the fourth time with the largest majority I have received since 1993. I can assure them once again that they will not be disappointed in their choice. I will work hard to defend their interests.
    Some things in the Speech from the Throne are surprising. My colleagues will have the opportunity to talk about other matters that are missing from or poorly presented in this speech. I will focus on two aspects. The first concerns the whole issue of financial pressures, commonly referred to as the fiscal imbalance on this side of the House. The second concerns the agricultural sector, which is also one of the major areas that was forgotten in the Speech from the Throne and one of the major sectors that has been neglected by the government for many years.
    A first ministers' conference will be held shortly to address equalization and all federal transfers. It is quite surprising that just a few weeks before this conference there is no mention in the Speech from the Throne of this important issue, except for one line. It says that the federal government will present the most significant, most magnificent reform of the equalization program in 45 years.
    My first point is this: equalization is one thing, but there is also the conference of October 26. I trust the Prime Minister is far better prepared than for the last first ministers' conference on health care. That time he was absolutely at a loss. He gave the impression of being totally disconcerted, with no idea of what he was talking about. I hope this time he will be well prepared.
    During the election campaign he made a commitment—one he repeated two weeks ago—to open the first ministers' conference with two major subjects: equalization payments and the other fiscal transfers which are causing tax pressure on the provincial and Quebec governments. This is in large part due to the skyrocketing costs of health care and the growing needs in the area of education and social assistance.
    Equalization is important, but if it is done according to the formula presented to us two weeks ago, nothing will be accomplished and it will be a mere travesty of the objectives and mission of an equalization program.
    Two weeks ago, on the very first day of the premiers conference, the federal government presented an equalization payment amending formula: take the 2000-01 payments and index them. When the formula is not corrected from beginning to end, we end up with a situation where, for example, the Government of Quebec would end up over the next 10 years not get half of what it would normally would have obtained in equalization payments had the formula had been reshaped using correct and stringent parameters. There has been talk of reshaping the equalization payment system for 10 years now.
    Two constants with two parameters keep coming up and there is provincial consensus on these. The first: provincial representation must be changed. Calculations to determine the per capita payment must be based on the ten provinces, not five. The other parameter is property tax. This has been volatile in recent years and as a result, for example, Quebec suddenly lost $2 billion in equalization payments.
    Real property tax values must be used as the basis for the calculation. There is nothing complicated about that. Change two parameters and we have a lasting solution to the problem.
    Second, the Prime Minister must fulfill his two commitments—the one he made during the election campaign and the one at the last conference—and deal with the fiscal pressures. I find it hard to understand why the Prime Minister and the members of his government are upset when we propose an amendment dealing with fiscal pressures and fiscal imbalance. The Prime Minister himself admitted, during the election campaign and two weeks ago, that the Quebec government and the provincial governments were under undue fiscal pressure and he said that he was prepared to work on this issue.
    But the throne speech makes no mention of these fiscal pressures. The first ministers' conference is in three weeks. Are we justified in questioning the government's agenda? After all, this is what the throne speech is about: it presents the government's agenda.
    If the Prime Minister is not able to anticipate that, under his agenda, he will have to meet the provincial premiers in three weeks to discuss fiscal pressures, then there is a problem. Something was overlooked. I do not know whether this is deliberate or if the Prime Minister is in the process of changing his mind.
    There is only one way to deal with the fiscal imbalance in a thorough fashion. The tax fields of the federal, Quebec and provincial governments must be redefined.

  (1135)  

    In other words, we must transfer the additional taxing powers to the provincial governments and to the Quebec government so that they can fulfill their primary responsibility regarding health, front line services to citizens, education and income support for society's poorest.
    It is easy to transfer tax points or, for example, to transfer GST revenues, as was pointed out by the Séguin commission. Here again, the government is not even open to discussing the issue. Imagine what it will be like when it comes to finding solutions.
    But we are expecting the Prime Minister on October 26. So are the premiers of Quebec and the provinces. The federal government cannot accumulate surpluses unduly while the provinces have glaring needs in health, education and income support, which are all fundamental responsibilities enshrined in the Canadian Constitution.
    There is something indecent about the fact that they hid these surpluses from us, year after year. Once again, the Conference Board is talking about a federal government surplus of $164 billion over the next 10 years, while the deficit for Quebec and the other provinces will be over $60 billion. Something is not working properly; the federal government has too much money for its responsibilities and there is not enough money for the basic responsibilities for services to the people, such as health and education.
    This conference must be guided by four principles that are not found in the Speech from the Throne. These principles are: provincial autonomy with regard to constitutional responsibility; stability; predictable management of the funds they have on hand; and long-lasting arrangements. It must not happen that every two years someone has to come back and grovel on behalf of those who require services. The money does not belong to the federal government; it belongs to the citizens whose highest priority—and this was seen everywhere in the election polls—is to have that money invested in health, education and income support.
    Unless it accomplishes this, we will consider the conference a failure.
    Second, there is agriculture, the most important sector in my riding. It is an important economic motor for all rural regions in Quebec. The same is true in the rest of Canada. My honourable friend from the west was saying so just now.
    For a number of years, the federal government has neglected farmers, so much so that if we compare the incomes of farm families now to those of the past 30 years, these are the lowest incomes for 30 years. The men and women who farm have been victims of an incredible depression, particularly in the last three years. Between mad cow disease and American subsidies, it has been incredible. Those subsidies represent at least 20 times what the federal government can provide to the producers of large-scale crops such as corn and wheat.
    We cannot go on like this. Competition is not based on the quality of the products; it is based on the ability of governments to intervene with outrageous subsidies that contravene all the trading rules of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.
    Five years ago the federal government cut the dairy subsidy by $6.03 a hectolitre. It provided $120 million to dairy farmers in Quebec. If the farmers still had this $120 million today, they could survive the mad cow crisis. But that is not what the federal government did.
    As for the Quebec Artificial Breeding Centre, a vital part of the agricultural economy, it has been cornered a financially disastrous situation because of mad cow disease. Indeed, 75% of QABC products that used to go the United States no longer go there.
    The federal government is abandoning the agricultural sector and cast doubt on the survival of the École de médecine vétérinaire de Saint-Hyacinthe, the only francophone school of veterinary medicine in North America. It is the only one that currently does not have full accreditation. The four others located elsewhere in Canada are fully accredited, but Saint-Hyacinthe is not. Why? Because the federal government did not do its job.
    If that is what they call a government program then it is only normal that we reject it. However, it is abnormal for the government not to agree to work with us to improve its work program, to make this Parliament work.
    The government has to understand that we are in a majority position, which is not easy to do. We are the majority, we have a majority predisposition and that can have a major impact. The Liberals still do not understand that they have a minority in this Parliament. It might be a good idea for them to cooperate rather than impose the Liberal party agenda, which was rejected by 62% of Canadians, a significant figure.

  (1140)  

     Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. But first, let me say that I thought he described the situation very well when he talked about a meaningless throne speech following the results of the election on June 28.
    Since my colleague was previously the Bloc Quebecois critic for aboriginal affairs, I would like him to comment on the fact that not one word is to be found in the Throne speech on the appalling conditions in which Canada's native people live.
    As we know, some initiatives launched in Quebec were successful, including the peace of the braves, an agreement reached with the Cree, and the common approach with the Innu. Unfortunately, as I have witnessed myself, despite the efforts made by the government and the people of Quebec, native people in Quebec are still encountering difficulties because the federal government is doing absolutely nothing to help these communities solve their problems. I would like to ask the hon. member to speak on this.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my illustrious colleague from Joliette for his most important question.
    The two and one-half years during which I was responsible for aboriginal issues were a great revelation to me. I learned something new every day. The situation of Canada's aboriginal people is disastrous, and not far off third-world levels. Every throne speech makes reference to aboriginal problems. It looks good. In all throne speeches there is a paragraph about recognizing the first nations.
    How then does it come about that the necessary actions are not taken? The first thing we should have seen in the throne speech, particularly after the battle we led against the governance bill, C-7, unwanted by every aboriginal nation across Canada, is that the government was planning on allocating additional resources to speed up negotiations on first nations self-government. This is the only way to enable the first nations to take charge of their own affairs, to have their own tax base, to make decisions on their own future, and to have full jurisdiction over that future.
    There is a frequent tendency to paint a bleak picture of our first nations, whereas 90% of these communities are administering their lands appropriately. They ought to be allowed to do so because it is their jurisdiction. They ought to be given the resources as well as compensation for the harm done by an Indian Act that is as bad as any apartheid regime the world has ever known.
    But no, back they came again with the usual paternalistic approach, telling the aboriginal people what was good for them and how to do things. There we were with Bill C-7. My NDP colleague and I fought for 55 days and 55 evenings, some of them into the night, to get that bill rejected. Despite what we were told, this was just a second version of the Indian Act on top of the original one, which was terrible enough on its own.
    The problems are so obvious: chronic under-employment, otherwise known as unemployment, a youth suicide rate double that of the rest of society, multiple addictions, housing problems. Some of the housing is not fit even for an animal to live in. I have had the opportunity to visit reserves in Quebec and in Canada, and the situation is shocking.
    It is disgrace for a government not to have made the aboriginal issue a priority. Aboriginal people are promised the moon every five years or so. Such was the case with the report of the Erasmus-Dussault royal commission, which opened up incredible possibilities for them. In opposition to the Erasmus-Dussault report, they are presented with a bill no one wants. Enough time has been wasted on this issue. It is time to speed up negotiations. First, there has to be a recognition of first nations as nations, according to the UN definition, like any other nations of the world. In that sense, they have the right to self-determination and ought to be able to decide their future, as should Quebec's people.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first let me congratulate you on your appointment. We look forward to great things from the Chair.
    The member represents the party which is extremely concerned with the eroding of provincial controls. In the Speech from the Throne there is a statement which says that the government intends to give a portion of the gas tax to the municipalities. I always thought that municipalities came under provincial jurisdiction.
     I would like the hon. member's observations. Is he aware of a deal with the provinces which would allow the federal government to deal with municipalities? What is meant by “a portion of the gas tax”? How thinly is it being spread or is it just another sham perpetrated by the government opposite?

  (1145)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    You can see dirty tricks the government plays to try to alleviate the disaster it has created over the past decade. It has starved the provinces, forcing them to tighten their belts to avoid running huge deficits. Some were successful, while other are on the verge on going into a deficit. Recently, we saw the situation of the Government of Ontario.
    These are dirty tricks. All that has guided the federal government for the past 10 years is visibility. When you are swimming in surpluses—$10 billion annually on average these past three years—you end up spending left and right. Visibility is what is guiding this government's decisions.
    There is a solution to this problem: redefine tax fields. If there is too much money in Ottawa given the mandates the federal government has to fulfill, there is too little in the provinces and in Quebec to meet the needs of the people. That is what has to be redefined. The last time this was done was in 1964, under Messrs. Pearson and Lesage, when tax points were transferred. Let us do it again.
    Mr. Speaker, I too want to congratulate you on your appointment. As my colleagues before me have done, let me thank the voters in the riding of La Pointe-de-l'Île, the new name for the riding of Mercier. This new name reflects the geography and the history of this corner of East Montreal, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. It is a reminder that Montreal is an island the east point of which is inhabited by proud people whom I want to represent to the best of my ability.
    It is with pride that I take my turn to speak to and in favour of the Bloc Québécois' amendment to the amendment. I would like to remind the House of what it is all about since this morning I heard comments that made me wonder if those who were taking about it had really heard or even read it. Here is the amendment, which is worded with respect:
“and we ask Your Excellency’s advisors to ensure that all measures brought forward to implement the Speech from the Throne, including those referred to above, fully respect the provinces’ areas of jurisdiction and that the financialpressures the provinces are suffering as a consequence of the fiscal imbalance be alleviated, as demanded by the Premier of Quebec.”
    When we talk about respecting the provinces' areas of jurisdiction in the amendment to the amendment, we are referring to the Constitution. We talk about the financial pressures the provinces are suffering, the very same words the Prime Minister himself used. If pressed, he will eventually cough up the same answer. We are not asking for the total elimination of financial pressures. We are not that demanding; we ask only that they be alleviated.
    I will add right away that I heard the member for Outremont say that they were not going to relinquish their responsibilities to the Premier of Quebec. After “as demanded by the Premier of Quebec”, we could add “and by all the other provincial and territorial premiers as well as a vast majority of Canadians”.
    We wrote this amendment to the amendment so that it would be acceptable to the government. That is what we want. Our leader said yesterday that we do not want to practice the politics of the worst-case scenario. We could easily vent the anger we feel, especially after a series of speeches such as those we heard this morning. I am as fired up as I was during the election. We wanted the wording of the amendment to the amendment to be acceptable so that the areas of provincial jurisdiction would be recognized and the financial pressures alleviated. Is there anything more sensible than that?
    If the hon. member for Outremont were sitting behind a microphone, I am sure he would come to a very obvious conclusion. Not one of the commentators from Quebec, including those from the English-language papers and media, thought the throne speech would be acceptable to Quebec and the Bloc Quebecois. No one thought the Bloc Quebecois could support the throne speech. That was made very clear and in no time at all.
    To make this totally unacceptable document more palatable, the least we could do is find the amendment to the amendment to be in order and see it as a manifestation of our goodwill.
    It should not come as a surprise really. Last February, in the throne speech, the Prime Minister said:
    Jurisdiction must be respected. But Canadians do not go about their daily lives worried about which jurisdiction does this or that. They expect, rightly, that their governments will co-operate in common purpose for the common good, each working from its strength.

  (1150)  

    Unfortunately, from what we can see, the Prime Minister seems to be saying that jurisdictions are not all that important, as long as the provinces have some money to spend.
    Interestingly, Mr. Pelletier, the Quebec Minister responsible for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairsand Native Affairs, who is a Liberal and a federalist, said:
    To say that the distribution of powers is obsolete is to say that federalism is obsolete.
    I know that Benoît Pelletier is a true hard-line federalist. He believes in the sovereignty of jurisdictions, including areas of provincial jurisdiction.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    The hon. member for Repentigny on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, while my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île is trying to express the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois about the throne speech, our colleague opposite is calling us traitors, is telling us to take our paycheque and go back to France. I cannot name the riding of this member because I think he is not sitting in his seat. If he is in his seat, he only has to name his riding.
    In this House, the Prime Minister talked about cooperation and goodwill. I would like to have the member retract, apologize, stop calling us traitors and stop telling us, during the speech of the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, to return to another country.
    Mr. Speaker, I can understand why my colleague from Repentigny is so sensitive. Perhaps such words as “get out of the country”, were used, which is unacceptable.
    As for calling people traitors, it would mean that this applies to all separatists in Quebec, including the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, which had called the members of the Liberal Party in the House traitors. I would like him to comment on these unparliamentary words and tell us exactly the same thing, which is that he is sorry and that the word “traitor” is unacceptable, no matter which side of the House he is referring to.

[English]

    I think we are getting into debate now. I did not hear the initial comments down at that end of the House. I would urge all members, obviously, to make whatever comments they need to in the questions and comments period that follows the debate and to keep the language and the decorum to that which we expect from experienced members.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, you have to agree that this kind of participation is stimulating. I have to tie this in with what I was saying. I was talking about the sovereign provincial jurisdictions. Let me repeat the statement of a Quebec minister: “To say that the distribution of powers is obsolete is to say that federalism is obsolete”.
    I find unacceptable many things in this throne speech. One of them was not mentioned by other members, but I would like to deal with it. At the beginning of the throne speech, one can read, and I quote:
    The Government’s actions on behalf of Canadians will be guided by these seven commitments:
--to promote the national interest by setting the nation’s objectives and building a consensus toward achieving them--
    I have two points to make about this. First, Quebec is not only a province, but also a nation. It is not an ethnic group, but a nation in the real sense of the word.
    I might add that I am proud we have in this Parliament, thanks to the Bloc Quebecois, but mainly thanks to him, the first African-born MP, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert. He has been elected by wise and intelligent voters.
    Quebec is not only a province, but also a nation. A large part of what I have to say about Quebec could also be said about other provinces. If Quebec had waited for a national federal initiative to further its development, if it had waited for some federal consensus to develop, it would still be marching to the drum of the fifties.
    Saying that is really ignoring history. As to the Quebec social model, I know many provinces would like to implement it. There is a growing recognition of that in day care. This model was developed by the grassroots, the same way the healthcare model was developed in Saskatchewan many years ago. Our model was developed because we used our skills, intelligence, expertise and leadership to achieve our goal of protecting our national interest.
    It is utterly unacceptable that the only type of leadership being suggested is a leadership that does not take into consideration the fact that Quebec has its own goals and means. It is not true that, outside a national consensus, particularly in matters of provincial jurisdiction, but also in other matters, there is no redemption.

  (1155)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time. Congratulations on your new role. I am sure you will do an excellent job based on your past performance.
    I, too, would like to thank my constituents for re-electing me. All members know that with every decision we make and every position we take some of our constituents would disagree. It is a very difficult role in that respect. Those constituents of mine who have been on the other side of various debates have been exceedingly generous with me and I certainly appreciate their support every time I return to the riding.
    I want to talk about the north but before I do, I would like to make a quick point on the national data. It is great to be able to go on the record now to show that we are the only party that is committed to reducing the national debt which is a very significant debt.
    In the debate so far the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition has explained how rich the federal government is and how we have so much more money than we should have. The Bloc has commented constantly in this debate and previous debates on these large surpluses. The leader of the NDP is on record as being opposed to debt reduction.
    This party in the throne speech has made it quite clear that we are continuing on the path of slow but steady reduction of the debt. Canadians appreciate that we are reducing the taxes and what people in Quebec will have to pay to pay off the interest on the national debt; we should get rid of it as soon as possible.
    The Bloc subamendment calls upon the government to fully respect provincial jurisdiction and alleviate the financial pressures on the provinces caused by fiscal imbalance as demanded by the premier of Quebec. I can say, as my colleagues have said, that we are not going to abdicate our responsibilities in the fair sharing of our resources across the country.
    We recognize that all governments face financial pressures, some more than others, in this great nation. That is why the Prime Minister will be meeting with his provincial counterparts to conclude the most fundamental reform of the equalization program in history later this month.
    The Bloc subamendment would commit the government to an open-ended call on government finances. That is a fundamental issue which the government cannot support.
    I want to spend most of my time talking about the north and how tremendous the throne speech has been for the people north of 60 in this country.
    During the throne speech I was sitting in the gallery in front of a professor of Canadian studies from the University of Alaska. She said to me after the speech, “Did you write that speech? Your constituents are going to be elated”. I certainly agree with her on the great effort that was made in the throne speech to recognize the north. Although it has a very small population, it is very unique and beautiful and is an important part of the country.
    Most throne speeches do not talk about particular regions or areas because most of the provisions, many of which will benefit my constituents, are national in scope. The throne speech made two very significant references to the north which is very exciting for the people in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
    The first reference in the throne speech states:
    A region of particular challenge and opportunity is Canada's North--a vast area of unique cultural and ecological significance. The Government will develop, in cooperation with territorial partners, Aboriginal people and other northern residents, the first-ever comprehensive strategy for the North. This northern strategy will foster sustainable economic and human development; protect the northern environment and Canada's sovereignty and security; and promote cooperation with the international circumpolar community.
    That is a huge agenda for the north, when we talk about the economy, the environment and international cooperation. One I am particularly proud of and which I have been working on for a number of years is the commitment to protecting northern sovereignty.
    The other reference in the throne speech relates to health care:
    The Plan addresses the unique challenges facing the delivery of health care services in Canada's North, including the costs of medical transportation, and encourages innovative delivery of services to rural Canada.

  (1200)  

    This recognizes one of the major problems in the north for health care, which is the distance. In a place like Quebec City a person can get in an ambulance and be at a hospital in a few minutes. In the north one might have to get into a plane and spend $10,000 or $20,000 to get to the nearest hospital that can perform major surgery. It is tremendous for our constituents in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to have recognized those tremendous obstacles we face in providing health care similar to that which the people in the south have.
    There are a number of references in the throne speech to other initiatives that are national in basis and on which my constituents have approached me a number of times. I am very excited to see those in the throne speech, too.
    There are the internal trade barriers and in particular, there are some related to transport with the province of British Columbia which my constituents have raised with me. I am delighted that we are going to renew our efforts to make sure that we have as much free trade as possible within this great federation.
    I think people across Canada are excited about the item on reduction of wait times. Certainly it was raised before by my constituents.
    Seniors are very excited about bringing back the new horizons program. The aboriginal health transition fund and the reference to FAS also are very welcome in my riding. Issues related to aboriginal health have been raised with me and I am delighted to see that in the throne speech.
    The three different programs to be extended for homeless people will once again be very well received by the people working in the social area in my riding. All those three programs were well used in the past and were very popular. People will be happy that the SCPI program, the affordable housing initiative and the RRAP have been extended.
    There are hundreds of voluntary organizations in the Yukon. People will be very happy that there is continued support and recognition of how important the volunteer sector is to Canada.
    The young people are very interested in the Canada Corps. One of the issues in the throne speech related to the environment has also been raised by my constituents. It is the legislation to ensure the ecological integrity of national parks. I know that the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society will be quite happy that that is in the throne speech.
    Yet another initiative to help post-secondary students, the learning bond, will be well received. I was approached by post-secondary students before. I could not imagine that anyone would argue with the tax cuts for those people caring for the aged and disabled.
    Some in the opposition accuse us that the throne speech is the same as previous initiatives, in essence that we are helping the same problem or the same people again. On that count, I plead guilty.
    If the extension of three successful programs related to affordable housing to help the poor is the same, then I plead guilty.
     If it means that adding to the many student programs we have had for post-secondary students, including the largest scholarship program in history with the learning bond for poor families is repetition, then I plead guilty.
    If it means including yet another initiative, the new act for voluntary non-profit corporations is a repeat of assistance to the voluntary sector, then I plead guilty.
    If it means making further commitments to Kyoto over and above the $3 billion and many programs that we have already put in place to reduce emissions and have cleaner air is repetition, then I plead guilty.
    If it means more attention to the precious and unique area of northern Canada, 40% of Canada's geographical land mass, over and above the tremendous financial contributions made in the last budget, then I plead guilty.
    If it means over and above the great strides the Prime Minister made in his short time in the first Parliament restructuring government, increasing Indian affairs funding to help aboriginal people and adding more programs to help aboriginal people, then I plead guilty.
    If it means adding more tax breaks to the biggest tax break in Canadian history, a $100 billion this time for tax breaks for the disabled and the poor, then I plead guilty.

  (1205)  

    That is the type of Canada that I believe in. Future Liberal governments will continue to provide initiatives to help the poor, secondary students, and heath care. For that type of repetition, I plead guilty. I would be proud to go into another election based on that.
    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new position.
    It is good to hear that we have one more guilty Liberal on the other side. I want to ask him a specific question. I have a situation in my riding regarding health care. He talked a little bit about northern health care and the fact that many of his people have to rely on planes and those kinds of things to receive health care. He should probably be thankful for that because in one section of my riding people are not even going to be able to have that level of health care themselves.
    This summer the provincial government, taking federal money and putting into health care, decided it would shut down a number of the health care centres in my riding and remove ambulance services in other areas. One of the areas involved affects communities along the border. This is an area that involves Val Marie, which has Grasslands National Park near it, the communities of Bracken, Climax, Frontier and Claydon. All told it is an area of about 2,500 square miles.
    The government has basically decided that it is going to shut down the only health care facility in the area. The local people have desperately tried to do something to maintain their health care. They went to the provincial government. The provincial government refused to negotiate with them. My constituents have actually appealed to the new Minister of Health. They have not had a response from him.
    Instead, my constituents decided they would do something themselves to preserve their health care. In this small rural area these folks have now raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the public health care facility open.
    We have talked in this place a number of times about two tier health care. We see it showing its face in Saskatchewan. We have an area where health care is being denied to people. These are rural folks, farmers, some manufacturers, and business people. Some of the rural municipal governments are involved in raising money for their own health care facility.
    I would ask the member, why is there no accountability in rural areas for health care? Why is it that in health region number one, the birthplace of medicare, people are now having to raise private money to keep their public health care facilities open?

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, my congratulations to the member on his re-election.
    First, in relation to the word accountability that he used, one thing that we are all very proud of in this new health care accord that the provinces and the federal government have signed is that over and above the additional funding are the provisions for accountability and transparency. People across Canada will be able to see how the programs are being delivered and for situations such as his to be resolved.
    I do not know the details of this particular situation. In the member's opening comments he said that we should be happy about the travel provisions that we receive. I can tell him that the three northern members of Parliament lobbied strong and hard to get those points across. I congratulate the member for bringing forth this point.
    His last point referred to the local people raising funds. I also want to congratulate my constituents. They have a Festival of Trees every year in the City of Whitehorse. They raise tens of thousands of dollars from individuals and generous private sector donations. I congratulate all those people in Whitehorse who have donated so much for more modern equipment for the Whitehorse Hospital.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. I am glad that the member for the Yukon is satisfied with the benefits of the federal government in his riding.
    We also live in the north and we have constituents that do not even have any roads. In terms of transportation costs, they pay $12,000 for a van, for example. That is about the price of a snowmobile or an all terrain vehicle, the only vehicles they can use there. They pay the same for a loaf of bread that we would pay for several loaves of bread. I wonder if there is any way to take some of the federal money for roads in Canada and use it to subsidize transportation. Why should a nation get preferential treatment just because it is in Canada's north and not Quebec's north?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, one of my colleagues would like me to say that it is a pity that after all the years of the PQ government there are no roads in there, but I would not say that myself because I like to be very positive.
    I sympathize with the people in other parts of northern Canada as it relates to their remoteness, which I think was the point the member was making. He is probably correct that in some instances the northern parts of provinces like Quebec and other provinces may have some difficulties related to rural services. I would certainly encourage the three northern MPs to constantly make that point loud, hard and clear about the necessity of providing equal services as much as possible under reasonable circumstances.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment to the Chair. It is a great pleasure to be here with you.
    I would also like to thank the electors of Victoria for returning me to the House of Commons or to the legislature of the Province of British Columbia for the sixth time in eight elections. The confidence of my fellow citizens of Victoria is extremely gratifying and I am very humbled by the support they have given me.
    The Speech from the Throne is a general document that lists various objectives of the incoming administration. I had the advantage of listening to the speeches of the four party leaders yesterday. As one would expect their speeches were somewhat more substantive than the Speech from the Throne. With the House's indulgence, my comments today will be somewhat broader than strictly the Speech from the Throne itself.
    First there was the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. It was with surprise that I heard the Leader of the Opposition propose the novel theory that the throne speech should somehow be a document including all political opinions represented by the four parties of the House and of course the opinion of the party that did not get people elected, the Green Party as well.
    His position would be more understandable if he had attempted to obtain a role for himself or for some of his supporters in the executive of the government, but he did not, preferring quite correctly to remain Leader of the Opposition rather than become part of the administration.
    In that role, he presented an amendment which is essentially a non-confidence motion. The amendment made by the Leader of the Opposition is thus quite proper and quite traditional. What is quite contrary to tradition and to common sense is the specious argument advanced that the Speech from the Throne is a document for all parties in the House to write. It is not. It is a speech for the administration to write giving a proposal regarding what the administration would like to accomplish before the next election. It is quite appropriate that the Speech from the Throne be written and delivered by the executive. I trust that the government will reject the opposition amendment.
    The second notable feature of the speech from the Leader of the Opposition is that while he spoke of the need for the opposition to be considered a government in waiting, his speech lacked the intellectual consistency which would allow anyone listening to it to take that assertion seriously. However, I commend him for that because this is the first time in 11 years in the House that the official opposition has apparently understood the importance of that role.
    More specifically, the bulk of the speech consisted of pleas for greater expenditure or transfers to provinces, municipalities, industries and of course to individuals, but concluded with proposals for tax cuts which combined with those spending proposals would inevitably mean expenditures in excess of revenue or as we know it, deficits. This of course is the policy of the neo-conservative republicans in the United States whose disregard for massive deficits is, in my opinion, one of the greatest threats to global economic stability and prosperity.
    I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition continue in this line. There is a long way to go before the Leader of the Opposition can be considered a prime minister in waiting. He still appears to be infatuated with the US neo-conservative ideology and lacks an appreciation of Canadian mainstream political realism.
    The first item in the Speech from the Throne is the economy and I applaud that. It was similar to the first item in the Prime Minister's speech and I applaud that too. The House will forgive me for reminding the campaign handlers, the advisors and speech writers of the Prime Minister, that when I and some other experienced Liberal MPs and Senators urged the leader's campaign team to stress the economic success of the Chrétien government, and of course the Prime Minister when he was finance minister, we were given very short shrift indeed.
    It was only when the possibility of defeat became strong did they realize that Canada's successful economic performance did interest the Canadian people. Only then was the economy discussed and only then did the campaign regain some possibility of success, but better late than never. If I may judge by the speech given by the Governor General and by the Prime Minister yesterday and the day before, at least the lesson appears to have been well learned.

  (1220)  

    With respect to that speech, however, I would like to mention on the economic side that there was a reference to the deficit being reduced to 25% of GDP in 10 years' time. I certainly accept that as a long term goal, but I have heard the finance minister say time after time that there had to be two year rolling targets to keep the government's feet to the fire.
    I certainly hope that this target over 10 years will be fleshed out in the budget to be a target every year: a minimum $6 billion of debt reduction every year. If we do not do that, our children will face remarkable increases to expenditures for a wide variety of subjects, the so-called implicit deficit, as well as the explicit dollar deficit, and they will have great trouble handling future financial requirements. I hope we will see the return to the approach of the Minister of Finance, which was of course keeping the feet of the government to the fire and not having simply long term targets.
    A second issue on the economy is the reference to in-house science and technology activity, which is in the seventh paragraph on page 4 of the Speech from the Throne. This is described as substantial and that word troubles me. At least in part, the part with which I am familiar, it is simply incorrect. The Canadian government's in-house science capacity in the areas with which I am familiar has substantially declined over the past 20 years. That is particularly true of ocean science and of Arctic science.
    It is true that more is being done at Canadian universities through the foundation for innovation, one of Prime Minister Chrétien's most successful initiatives. However in-house government science, which was referred to, has declined and, in my mind, it has declined to disastrous levels. There are many things that university scientists will not do and which, therefore, must be done by the government. We simply will not be able to recruit and keep good scientific people if we continue to pare away at their budgets and, thus, at the work they are able to do.
    Mr. Speaker, I follow the member for Yukon and would remind you that 2007-08 is the International Polar Year. Other nations will be expecting Canada, a leading member of the Arctic council and a leading polar nation, to be there and to be ready to do a large number of scientific tasks. If we do not now restore funding and dynamism to the excellent people we have working for us in this area, this country will simply be greatly embarrassed.
    The western Pacific countries, the Koreans, the Chinese and the Japanese, are all expanding their activity dramatically. The European northern countries are doing the same and the European Union is following suit. They are all doing excellent work. I certainly discovered that when I visited Svalbard in the European Arctic last summer. The US also has a very extensive scientific activity, both in Antarctica and in the Arctic. The laggard on the scientific activity is Canada.
    This is not just a science issue. While I applaud the Prime Minister for visiting the Arctic this past summer, I was concerned that his strong statements on sovereignty in that part of Canada was not followed up by a commitment for Canadian scientific research in the Arctic. Strong statements from the Prime Minister are of course important and welcome but they are no substitute for coherent policy approaches.
    I am sure that Mr. Putin, the leader of another important Arctic power, will be listening with interest to what the Prime Minister will say in the next few days in Moscow. I believe he would pay even more attention if we were doing more and talking less.
    On this last point I will add another concern, namely, the lack of coherence in our Coast Guard icebreaker fleet maintenance and procurement policy. As part of successive cost cutting programs, maintenance on our northern icebreakers is not optimal. They do not have the level of dry docking and refitting that is required to give them maximum reliability.
    Surely, speaking as I do on the day after the tragic loss of life of a Canadian naval officer in a fire aboard a Canadian naval vessel, I do not have to stress the importance of keeping ships in first class condition. Even with the best of ships, in the best of conditions, accidents happen.

  (1225)  

     However they happen more frequently and the possibility of serious accident is greater when maintenance, which means dry docking on appropriate schedules and refitting, is not the best possible. Further, when ships are older other problems multiply. Over the last 35 years I have studied tanker traffic quite extensively and know the tanker area better than submarines or icebreakers. That said, the principle is the same. Ships are ships.
    As icebreakers are used in the north in summer, and as they and not the military are the appropriate uniformed service of the Canadian government to show our determination to maintain sovereignty against whatever threats--
    Questions and comments? Seeing none, resuming debate.
    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election.
    I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the citizens of Durham to reply to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, for sharing his time with me.
    First I would like to extend my condolences to the family of Lieutenant Christopher Saunders and say that my thoughts and prayers, along with those of all Canadians, are with those sailors who are currently trapped at sea in the HMCS Chicoutimi. The men and women who serve this country deserve our support and sincere gratitude.
    It is an honour and privilege to stand here today in our national Parliament on behalf of the people of Durham. As this is my first address in the chamber, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the people of Clarington, Scugog, Uxbridge and Durham region. They have bestowed upon me a great honour, but also a great responsibility. This is a responsibility that I take seriously and I would like to assure them that I will represent their interests to the best of my ability.
    One hundred and twenty-seven years after the first Japanese immigrant came to Canada and 56 years after Japanese Canadians received the right to vote in 1948, I am proud that I am the first person of Japanese decent elected to the House.
    In a parliamentary system, the throne speech is meant to serve as a document that defines the plans of the government and the directions and policies it will be using to guide it over the next session. I regret that today I stand to express my disappointment in the lack of a clear statement of vision and direction by the government.
    I strongly believe that Canadians are tired of being ignored, their tax dollars wasted and promises never fulfilled. As part of this new opposition, we will demand action and accountability in programs and policies that recognize the goals and aspirations of all Canadians.
    The amendments presented by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday will be of benefit to all Canadians and add much needed substance to vague government promises for democratic reform and accountability. These amendments, which I will support on behalf of my constituents, respond to their demands for better government, a demand they made last June 28.
    The throne speech recycles the same promises that we have heard for the last decade but, again, no plans or commitment to move forward on the issues important to those in my riding.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, there does not appear to be a quorum.
    And the count having been taken:

[English]

    I do see 20 members in the House. Resuming debate.
    Mr. Speaker, the Canadians I speak to in my riding and across the country expect government to deliver on its promises. The citizens of Durham expect action on the gun registry, democratic reform, lower taxes and infrastructure dollars.
    In my riding of Durham there are over 1,700 farms and many will not survive the void in the throne speech, a speech that offers little for the agricultural community at this time of crisis. Canadians, like Joe Schwarz, a dairy farmer from Bowmanville who is concerned about losing his livelihood and his business, the family farm that has been in operation for over 60 years.
    The agricultural community in Durham and across Canada has been begging the government for some action, for a commitment to the farmers in this country. Farmers want ag dollars to go to those for whom it was intended and they need it now without extensive red tape and delay. They want an open border and markets for their cattle. This is a priority for farmers, producers and all those dependent on agriculture for their living. Let me assure hon. members that the farmers in my riding do not believe this is a priority for the government.
    Agriculture is not the only concern of the people in Durham. They are also concerned about the future of health care in rural areas. The throne speech makes a great deal of reference to the recent health care accord, which I am sure will be covered by my colleague, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, but I would like to touch on concerns about rural health care.
    Rural and community providers of health care are an important segment of the health care system. Providers, like Lakeridge Health in Durham, have made a valuable commitment to the continued provision of front line services available closer to home. These priorities continue to be important to the people in my riding and in Canada.
    The maintenance of local hospitals, the shortage of family doctors willing to practise in rural centres, the recruitment of specialists and the long distances elderly people have to travel to access health care are of great concern to the people in my riding.
    The health care accord is a positive step forward and it is my hope that part of the accountability measures will be to ensure that the health care needs of rural Canada are not forgotten.
    The riding of Durham is a centre of rapid growth and potential. It has the people and ability needed to expand its industrial base and economic prosperity. This potential is greatly untapped due to its current, inadequate and deteriorating infrastructure. We need new roads, bridges, a regional transit system and commuter services. The government's commitment to a new deal for Canada's cities and communities must ensure that the potential of Durham can be realized.
    As the heritage critic, I was of course disappointed to hear little mention of culture, heritage or broadcasting in the throne speech. The heritage ministry is responsible for a budget close to $1 billion a year and yet there is no clear direction in this document to indicate any priorities.
    Our priorities would certainly be to ensure that the $9,000 grants given each year by this ministry are accountable, have measurable goals which are balanced and reflect the diverse makeup of our population in the arts and in our peoples.
    Over the summer we saw that recent decisions of the CRTC are not meeting the demand for choice in broadcast programming that Canadians want. The CRTC and the Broadcasting Act of 1991 desperately need to be reviewed for this century.

  (1235)  

    Today, over 14 million Canadians use the cell phone, 14 million from only 2 million in 1994. Today, over 70 million households use the Internet. There were fewer than half a million back then. Satellite TV subscribers have grown from zero to over two million. The speed and scope of advancement in these areas will not decrease but will in fact accelerate over the next decade. The government needs to ensure that legislation and regulation are updated so we can move forward at a speed relevant to the changes in the communications environment.
    In this throne speech the government stated, “Smart government includes a transparent and predictable regulatory system”. I believe the review of the CRTC and the Broadcasting Act is called for if the government means what it says.
    In 2003 the government refused to support Canada's participation in the ITER program to be sited in my riding in Clarington, a project designed to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes and a project that would have significantly contributed to the global development of new technology and innovation as well as over 1,300 jobs in my riding.
    In this new age technology and innovation is an important part of our economic prosperity. I know that in my riding many businesses and companies are poised to grow and become leaders in the new industrial basis based on exciting technology and innovation. I hope the government actually means to fulfill its latest promise to make communications, technology and innovation a priority.
    In conclusion, the Canadians in my riding and the people across Canada want a government that delivers on its promises, that is accountable to its people, that is not afraid to be transparent and that clearly states what it intends to do. In other words, a government we can believe in. I believe it is time for the government to demonstrate that it is listening to all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.
    I am very honoured to have this opportunity to reply to the Speech from the Throne. To begin, I wish to acknowledge the kindness and patience that the House of Commons staff has shown in preparing this facility for my arrival. Your staff, Mr. Speaker, has been professional, courteous and accessible, and for that I commend them.
    As members are aware, many physical modifications were required to accommodate me in this spot. I feel I need to inform the Speaker that the physical renovations are only temporary, as in the not too distant future I will be sitting on the other side of the House working with a new prime minister, the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps then I will run for the Speaker's position myself.
    I wish to call the attention of the House to my personal health care assistant, Melissa. Melissa will be sitting on the floor of the House to help me perform my duties as a member of Parliament. Melissa is special in many ways and I wish to highlight two of them. First, she is the first unelected person in the history of Canada to sit full time on the floor of the House of Commons. Second, Melissa is a great example of today's health care professionals. To be a successful health care professional, one needs to be dedicated, hard-working, caring and, most important, able to empathize with one's clients. Melissa has these qualities. I know all Canadians appreciate the work that people like Melissa do. They are the unsung heroes in our society.
    Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank the hon. leader of the official opposition for my appointment as senior health critic. It is my hope that I will fulfill this role as successfully as my predecessors have. That being said, I will begin.
     As senior health care critic, I will focus my attention on the parts of the throne speech that deal with health care.
    The state of our health care system is the top issue for Canadians. There was a health care summit last month to try to deal with our deteriorating health care system. The Prime Minister called last month's health conference “a fix for a generation”. I would like to take this opportunity to bring the Prime Minister and his caucus up to speed on the definition of a generation. The dictionary defines a generation as the average time from the birth of one generation to the birth of the next generation, about 30 years. Perhaps the Prime Minister could inform the House later as to which generation will get the fix that he has promised.
    Obviously, the Prime Minister has fallen far short of the commitments he made during the campaign. When the Prime Minister cut $25 billion from the health care system in 1995, he gouged the health care system for at least a generation. Canadians cannot trust the government when it comes to health care. Essentially, after this deal the government still has not replaced the funding it took from the health care system in the first place. The government should stop the self-congratulations and reflect on the harm that it has caused the users of the health care system.
    The Conservative Party supported the health care deal, in part because any deal is better than no deal. The people on the front lines, the patients and the health care professionals, need help and they need it now, but the health care deal is still fundamentally lacking on a plan of action for reform.
    In typical government fashion there is no direction and no vision for the system. The health care deal has no specific concrete measures for accelerating reform and improved access. All this deal includes is funding to help the health care system begin a long and painful process of trying to fix the problem the government has caused.
    During the election campaign, Canadians heard a lot about the increase in waiting times since the government took office. While I agree that waiting times are an important issue for Canadians and that the government has failed miserably in this area, it is not the sole issue on which one should form a basis for fixing the whole system. There are other important issues in health care that must be dealt with on the same priority level as waiting times, items such as a national catastrophic pharmacare program, training more family doctors and specialists, improvements in mental health and community care, and of course the throne speech makes no mention of the health care challenges our seniors face.

  (1240)  

    I am also disappointed to find out that there are literally no accountability mechanisms. Other than the reporting dates from the 2003 accord, which were pushed off well into the future, there are no assurances that the government will get a bang for its buck.
    If the government were serious about reforming health care, it would not have walked away from the table without accountability measures. The Prime Minister did not need to invent these measures to hold the provinces accountable. These measures were in the previous accord of 2003. Instead we have a deal which throws out billions of dollars and no sign of where the money will go.
    I wish to acknowledge my counterpart the Minister of Health. Soon after his appointment, the minister said that it was his priority to stem the tide of privatization. If there was ever an opportunity to do that the health summit was the place. However, the new health deal includes no measure to stem privatization. As the House will recall, a private for profit clinic opened its doors in Montreal during the first ministers' meeting. That is so much for stemming the tide of privatization.
    The minister had another chance to tell Canadians how he would deal with the tide of privatization. It was in yesterday's throne speech. Lo and behold, privatized health care was not addressed in the speech.
    This is an issue in which Canadians have a great deal of interest. The government cannot have it both ways: either it will allow innovative and efficient health care delivery or it plans to nationalize the entire health care system, family doctors included. On this issue like so many others, the government is hypocritical.
    The throne speech also mentioned, “The needs of patients will drive change”. The needs of patients have not driven change in the past for the government. Why should Canadians expect it to do it now?
    The government makes promises and breaks promises. All that is left is people who are worse off than when the government took power.
    There is also a passing mention to affordable drugs. There is nothing in the new deal on health that will lessen the burden of prescription medications for Canadians. The government did agree to set up a committee to study the issue and report back. More committees will not help Canadians.
     The Leader of the Opposition clearly outlined his plan for pharmacare during the campaign. It did not include round table discussion groups to study a problem. Our party is a party of action. Where the Liberals form committees and break their promises, our party fulfils commitments and we fill them in a timely manner.
    A Conservative government would have protected Canadians from the financial hardships involving catastrophic drug costs because no person in Canada should lose their home to buy a prescription. This is part of the vision that the Leader of the Opposition has for Canada.
    However, I offer my colleague best wishes in his new portfolio, and I would like to offer the minister some advice as he begins his tenure. I urge the minister to always keep the focus on the patient. Every person is unique. Empower Canadians so they can make the best health care decisions for themselves. If he does that, Canada will be a better place.
    In closing, it is my privilege to recognize the great constituents of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia. My constituency is both rural and urban, includes portions of the city of Winnipeg and the rural municipality of Headingley. It includes the Winnipeg international airport, 17 Wing armed forces base and Air Command headquarters, the Canadian Mennonite University and a significant aerospace industry.
    I note that the throne speech neglects to appropriately deal with the issues of transportation, justice, post-secondary education, agriculture, infrastructure renewal and many other important topics that are of keen interest to me and my constituents.
    Time does not permit me to outline all the concerns my constituents have in regard to the throne speech. Rest assured I will be representing Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and Headingley to Ottawa, not vice versa.
    The success of the government will be to determine what each Canadian asks oneself come election time: Is Canada better off now or before the government took office? The overwhelming answer of Canadians and my constituents is, no. The throne speech provides little hope that things will be better in the future under this government.

  (1245)  

    

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate our new colleague, the hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia. I want to congratulate him and, more importantly, to point out that he is sending a message of courage and hope to the whole community.
    Recently, in August, during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, people witnessed true examples of courage, hope and tenacity. Through his presence among us, our colleague is setting the same example. In sports, athletes in all categories and from the whole community are welcome. By being present on the political scene, the hon. member is sending the same message.
     This is why I wanted to make this comment, to congratulate the hon. member and to tell him that we are pleased to have him here.
    Like us, he has listened carefully to the speeches made by members from the various parties. He also listened to the Prime Minister, who said that, under a minority government, we should display greater cooperation. This attitude can be seen in the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne by both Conservative and Bloc Quebecois members. Heaven knows that we rarely agree. However, there are times, when higher interests are at stake, where we can do so.
    I wonder if the hon. member could share with us his impressions on the thrust of the speeches that he has heard from the government in reply to the throne speech and to our motion.

  (1250)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind comments. I feel very fortunate to be here to share this time with my colleagues, particularly at a critical time in our nation's history.
     I have to say that I do not come from a family of money or power. I came here with grassroots support. I cannot think of any other country where someone in my situation could be elected to the federal House. For that, I would like to thank all Canadians.
    To respond specifically to the hon. member's comments, yes, I think that in this minority government situation we need to cooperate. As we know, the Liberals did not get the majority of votes throughout the country. It is up to the opposition parties to hold the government to account. I think we will find common ground among the Bloc, the Conservatives and even the NDP, and hopefully the Liberals, to ensure that the interests of Canadians are fulfilled. That is our main obligation, putting aside party affiliation.
    Having said that, I think the amendments that were presented would enhance the throne speech. The government obviously did not listen to or misheard what Canadians were telling it. The amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, along with that of the leader of the Bloc, would help improve the lot of Canadians, if the Liberals would go along with them.
    Mr. Speaker, I think those who have heard this member speak detected not a disability, but an ability, and I congratulate him on his speech.
    Let me say to the hon. member that in my view the measure of success of a country is not a measure of economic performance but rather a measure of the health and well-being of its people.
    For example, the member talked about caregivers. It is an area that I know that the House has been seized with many times because of the difficulties with regard to provincial jurisdiction and the ability of the federal government to reach down to help.
    I wonder if the member care to comment on how he feels we may use the jurisdictional tools we have to work collaboratively with our provincial counterparts to ensure that Canadians in need receive the caregiver services they require.
    Mr. Speaker, I think on this we agree. A country should be judged on the way it treats its most vulnerable people.
    We do have a contradiction in Canada. On the one hand, we save people from accidents like mine or from birth defects or illness or prolong their lives, but in many cases we do not provide the resources to allow these same individuals to lead meaningful and productive lives.
     What I think we need to do first is educate the Canadian public about these challenges. As long as people feel that their tax dollars are being utilized for the benefit of their fellow Canadians, there will be a lot of support for these vulnerable people.
     However, one of the challenges, with all due respect to the hon. member, is the strong feeling among the Canadian populace that this government is not utilizing taxpayers' dollars in the way that Canadians expect the moneys to be used.
    First, Mr. Speaker, as a colleague I would like to congratulate you on your appointment. It speaks well for your ability to deal with everyone over the years you have been here. It is a very high calling, Sir.
    I would also like to congratulate the previous speaker from Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia. I like to think of myself as a champion for persons with disabilities. This is a wonderful opportunity for all Canadians to see that anyone from anywhere in Canada can serve in this House and contribute as a member. This is a very wonderful and unique opportunity. I welcome and congratulate the member.
    I am honoured to address the House today in response to the Speech from the Throne. I am sharing my time with my hon. colleague.
     I would like to say also that I welcome the Prime Minister's commitment to northerners. As members can well imagine, when we heard his comments and felt his presence first-hand this summer during his visits to Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, we knew that the commitment from the Government of Canada was strong for our part of Canada.
    Incidentally, I would like to take a moment to pay particular attention to the community of Tuktoyaktuk, which is currently struggling with the issue of four beloved members of their community who have been missing since September 23. We have been working fully with Mayor Jacobson and other leaders, including the MLA, in search and rescue efforts. We offer our heartfelt prayers to their families as we continue to assist them in whatever way we can.
    As a Canadian northerner born in the Northwest Territories, having served as a member of Parliament for the last 16 years and as a member of cabinet for 11 years, I regard the Speech from the Throne's promise of a dedicated strategy for the north with great conviction. This commitment will undoubtedly provide the north with the ability to further exercise greater control over its destiny.
    On Tuesday, northerners received a further commitment through the development of a dedicated strategy to meet their unique needs, one that I have been made responsible for in part in my new role at Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The strategy emphasizes sustainable development, protection of the north's environment, enhancing our sovereignty, and promoting the international cooperation of the circumpolar community.
    Like all Canadians, we in the north want a strong, vibrant and growing economy. We want a fiscally prudent federal government that balances its books, pays down its debts and has a plan to build an even stronger globally competitive and sustainable economy.
    We in the north, after all, are Canadians. We feel we can contribute given all the right conditions and opportunities. Reference made to a northern strategy speaks to my new role, as I indicated. I am pleased about the announcement and the opportunities. This coincides very directly with responsibilities given to me by the Prime Minister. I have been asked to focus my attention on some very real and hard-hitting issues and files that have been and are critical to the north. They are files I have been working on over the years since I came to Ottawa in 1988, along with many successive and current northern leaders, working and fighting hard for the right thing to do for the north.
    I am often criticized for not taking enough credit for the things that happen in the north. It is simply not my style. I believe that what a person needs to do is work hard, work smart and try to do the right things, and everything else will fall into place. Sometimes that works, but sometimes it does not.
    I am not much into going to every microphone and every press conference to get credit for everything. I believe credit has to be shared, because many hands have had a play in what has come about in the throne speech.

  (1255)  

    The north faces unique challenges in the delivery of health care services, including the cost of medical transportation. Non-insured health benefits, the cost of transportation in the north and remote regions, as well as the whole issue of dentists and dental care for aboriginal people and northerners have long been some of my issues.
    The north has unique challenges as I indicated. One of things that is encouraging is the innovative delivery of health services to the rural communities and the acquisition and retention of medical professionals. There is much that goes into this.
    I have been asked to take a lead on aboriginal health issues in my new role within this department. This would also include important issues such as FASD, an issue I previously worked on in my role as secretary of state for children and youth. One of my colleagues in the House wrote a book on it and was very dedicated to this issue.
     I have also been tasked with dealing with the issue of territorial formula financing. The 2004 10-year plan will mean an additional $120 million over the next decade for the north in health care transfers through the reform of territorial formula financing, plus its share of the wait time reductions. I look forward to the first ministers meeting scheduled here in Ottawa on October 26 addressing that.
    The speech unequivocally sets out the government's support of the north on this fundamental issue, one on which I have worked very intently with my cabinet colleagues. I will also be working along with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on resource revenue sharing. This is particularly critical in that much resource development is taking place in the north, exploration, diamonds and the development of the whole mining industry, as well as oil and gas.
    The other part is devolution, northern economic development, northern science. This will encompass work on international polar year 2007-08, climate change, contaminated sites, circumpolar issues and international initiatives. This is all for the sake of those people who have questions about what my job entails. It is quite comprehensive.
    Devolution and the sharing of resource revenues from non-renewable resource development is among the highest priorities for members of the aboriginal summit in the region and the government of the Northwest Territories. We have a tripartite process on devolution. It includes the federal government, the territorial government and the aboriginal governments. It is very complicated. It has a number of issues that have to be resolved. There is much negotiating going on. It is a huge priority for all northerners.
    While negotiations toward an agreement in principle are underway, there are major challenges to overcome prior to the completion of an agreement in principle on devolution. It is imperative that the final agreement on devolution be a tripartite agreement among those said groups.
    Land claims and self-government negotiations in the Northwest Territories are progressing well, with significant agreements finalized and negotiations continuing with a number of regions and communities. We have three settled comprehensive claims with the Inuvialuit, the Gwich'in and Sahtu, and one settled treaty land entitlement claim with Salt River first nations.
    The Tlicho agreement is due to be reintroduced in the House this session. The Beaufort Delta self-government agreement in principle for Gwich'in and Inuvialuit aboriginal self-government and public self-government for the Beaufort Delta region was signed in April 2003.
    The Deline self-government agreement in principle was signed August 23. The community of Tulita recently signed a framework agreement on its community self-government negotiations.
    In the Deh Cho region an interim resource development agreement was signed on April 17, 2003 and interim land withdrawals were approved through cabinet in August 2003. Discussions are now focused on an agreement in principle, while negotiations are ongoing with the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Denesuline on boundary issues. The NWT Metis nation and Akaitcho Treaty 8 are also in negotiation.
    Burgeoning with development, the world continues to watch the north intently and witness the promise of prosperity through a Mackenzie Valley pipeline and resource development.
     I eagerly look forward to continuing my work this session, working extremely hard shoulder to shoulder with my federal and northern colleagues so that northerners from the many themes and areas mentioned will be able to achieve the goals that they intend to achieve.

  (1300)  

    Our government intends to review the employment insurance system so that it is responsive to the needs of Canada's workforce, including seasonal workers such as those in the north. We also have the issue of the freshwater fishing industry in the north, which offers stable employment for many aboriginal and non-aboriginal northerners.
    These are all the efforts that we have in the north.
    Canada entered into an economic union agreement on trapping. This agreement has expired and northerners and all of the various proponents and stakeholders are trying to find a way to resolve this.
    We have completed two training programs in the north. One is on mine training for $14 million and the other one is for $10 million.
    We have made much progress in the north. We are happy to be able to play a major part in Canada's economy.

  (1305)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat puzzled by the comments of the Minister of State for Northern Development. I looked at the Projected Order of Business and it says “Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne (resuming debate on the subamendment of the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and on the amendment of the hon. member for Calgary Southwest)”.
    If I may, I will put my question to the minister, based on today's debate. She will rise this evening, at 6:30 p.m., to vote, probably against the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to the amendment, after hearing the other speeches—not hers—made by members of her party.
    I wonder if the minister could tell us the reasons why she disagrees with the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in this instance, as a Canadian from the north, I agree with the things that promote and expand on the ideals and values of the country as a whole. I do not just promote northern interests as a member of Parliament. I do not believe that only various corners and regions of the country are important; the whole of the country is important. It is important that we are all Canadians and we all participate. That is what my speech was about.
    I promote the idea that we all have something to contribute but that we all belong. We are all different but we still believe in equality. We are all Canadians. That is my belief and that is the way in which I conduct myself in the House.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if I may, I will put the same question again to the hon. member.
    This evening, at 6:30 p.m., she will probably vote against the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois. I would like to know why.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as you can see, ideologically we differ and therein lies the dilemma. The member will never understand that I am a fervent believer in the country as a whole and that everything I do as a member of Parliament speaks to that, and everything I do as a member of the Privy Council speaks to that.
    We have come a long way. I have been in the House for 16 years. I was on the committee for Meech Lake. I was on the committee for Charlottetown. I was on the Beaudoin-Dobbie committee. I was also on the committee for New Brunswick resolutions. I sat through all of that. I know all of the debates on devolution, on devolved responsibility. I know all of the issues regarding that.
    We have come a long way. We devolved labour market responsibility. We devolved many responsibilities. It is not as if we are ignoring any part of the country. However, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to be fiscally responsible for the whole country. We have to govern the country as a government. We do not govern as separate territories and separate provinces or regions.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to tell us on what we will be voting this evening, at 6:30 p.m., and what is the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to the amendment.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we will have to do better than that. I can read it because I have it here, but I choose not to. It would be a waste of words. Instead, I can say to the member opposite that we have very different views.
    I am a first Canadian. I am an aboriginal person. Aboriginals were here first. We welcome people at contact. I want everyone to know that I am proud to be a Canadian. When I go places around the world, people know I am aboriginal, but they also know I am a Canadian and a contributing member. I have sat in the House to serve this country and to serve its people, not to serve just the north, even though that is my priority. As a privy councillor I have to be fair. I have to reach out to all parts of this country, to all people in this country. That has been my role, that has been my opportunity and I believe that is what I have done.

  (1310)  

[Translation]

    I want to thank my colleague for her contribution. Of course, she did not fall for the tricks of the Bloc Quebecois. Her approach is very sensible.
    I would like her to speak as an aboriginal Canadian. Since she has also worked extensively with children, I would like her to remind this House, for the benefit of those who are watching us, how the throne speech is important for children and for aboriginal health.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in my new responsibility as Minister of State for Northern Development, one of the issues I am dealing with is the health of aboriginal Canadians.
    There is a $700 million contribution for a transition fund which will help with issues such as suicide. It will help with FASD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which affects many children. There are a lot of issues that affect children and their health. There is the whole issue of diabetes, which is almost in a crisis in some regions of Canada. The issue of suicides by young people is in clusters across this country. It is endemic in some communities and has to be dealt with. That is what it is all about.
    We are also looking at a child care program. Quebec is very socially progressive. It has some very good social policies. Those are to be emulated, worked with, admired and respected and we do that as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to rise and make my first speech in the House of Commons. I would like to say from the outset how honoured I am to represent the people of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. I would like to thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me as their member of Parliament.
    Let me first add a voice of sympathy to those of our party leaders yesterday in offering condolences to the family of Lieutenant Saunders on his tragic passing.
    As a member who represents a constituency with a large military population, I know the sacrifices and dedication of our military personnel and their families. This is truly a sad day for us all.
    My riding has been represented over the years by individuals from many political parties including Michael Forrestall who served from 1963 to 1988 as a Progressive Conservative member, followed by my good friend Ron MacDonald, who many members here would remember fondly.
    I would also like to recognize and pay tribute to Wendy Lill, my predecessor as member of Parliament for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. I can speak honestly in saying that Wendy was a tireless advocate for the people of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and Canada, and her efforts to help those in need is a standard that we can all be proud of.
    I would like to take a few moments to speak about my riding and my community. Dartmouth is referred to as the city of lakes. It was founded in 1750 and is one of the most historic communities in Canada. I am glad that the member from Kingston is not with us today, and I know I will get some grief from my hon. colleague from Kings Hants, and without intending any offence to other members from perhaps Montreal or Kingston, Dartmouth can legitimately claim to be the birthplace of hockey as so ably chronicled by my friend Martin Jones in his book Hockey's Home: Halifax-Dartmouth--The Origin of Canada's Game.
    Likewise, the famous Starr manufacturing plant was world renowned as the largest manufacturer of ice skates, selling 11 million skates between 1863 and 1939.
    The Shubenacadie Canal played a key role in creating trade links with the world by helping to sell hockey sticks produced by the Mi'kmag first nation. The Shubenacadie Canal was a marvel in innovation for its time and truly worthy of historic site designation.
    Our hockey tradition continues today as Cole Harbour happens to be the home of Sidney Crosby, Canada's greatest young hockey player. My community respects and honours its great history and I intend to do so as its member of Parliament.
    Dartmouth's recent history has been marked by leaders of all political stripes like Joseph Zatman, Rollie Thornhill, Danny Brownlow, Jim Smith and my father, John Savage. These leaders put people above politics and worked to make our corner of the world a better place. Their example will be my inspiration.
    I am here today to speak to the throne speech and to congratulate the government and in particular our Prime Minister for outlining a vision for us, a vision that speaks to sound fiscal management and the need for government to play a significant role in social policy and to social economy.
    Our quality of life, the ability to create good jobs, and to support and enhance social programs relies on our ability as a country to compete in the global economy. The people of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour will be pleased to hear our government's commitment to cities. Whether it be our commitment to affordable housing or to urban infrastructure, we can build on the over $12 billion invested by the Government of Canada to communities since 1994. I am happy to hear that the government will continue to work with the provinces to share a portion of the gas tax revenue.
    I was pleased to hear that the government will continue to promote trade and investment to secure more opportunities and markets for Canadian goods and particularly in my case, Atlantic Canadian goods. Companies like Acadian Sea Plants is an example of the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Atlantic Canada. With an office in Dartmouth and plants throughout western Nova Scotia, it has marketed sea plants to the world. ACOA is an example of regional development that works with companies and organizations to improve the lives of our citizens.
    Let us not forget that our economy has also resulted in seven consecutive budget surpluses and has made Canada the envy of the G-8 nations. This allows us to invest in the critical need for a national child care strategy.
    Health care continues to be an area of concern to Canadians. I believe that the recent health agreement signed by the provinces and the federal government speaks to the vitality of our country and our ability to work together on an issue that need not and should not be a political issue but rather a value that we cherish.

  (1315)  

    We must ensure that all Canadians have access to universal health care. I believe the leadership of the Prime Minister at the recent first ministers' conference proved that he would go the extra mile to put people ahead of politics.
    The new health agreement will have a positive impact on the people in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour and for all Nova Scotians. Our Conservative Premier, Dr. John Hamm, applauded the efforts of the Prime Minister when he said:
    From a Nova Scotia perspective this was the most successful First Ministers meeting I have attended in more than five years as Premier.
    I want to now focus briefly on two issues that are of personal interest to me and I believe national interest as well. As health care takes an increasingly large share of our government spending, we as a nation would do well to remember that a great deal of care, in fact a great deal of health, takes place far from the hospital rooms. The sustainability of our cherished health care system will increasingly rely on our ability to safeguard the health of Canadians before they get sick and our ability to allow people to recover from illness in their own homes.
    Let me tell the House about health promotion Nova Scotia style. A recent study conducted by Dr. Sally Walker and Dr. Ronald Colman, on behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia, indicated that increased physical activity would save the province of Nova Scotia millions of dollars. In my municipality alone, the inactive lifestyles of individuals costs the taxpayer more than $23 million. Some 200 residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality die prematurely each year because of physical inactivity.
    I come from Atlantic Canada where we have the highest incidences of chronic disease. Poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, high levels of smoking and stress lead to intolerably high levels of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes which some people consider epidemic.
    We need to understand the importance of a national wellness strategy that must include governments, medical professionals and non-profit organizations. It should include teachers. It should include us all.
    This Speech from the Throne lays that groundwork. We need to empower Canadians to improve their own health, but we must recognize that poverty and a lack of education are the root cause of much ill health and not all Canadians have equal access to better health. A coordinated national approach that eliminates the barriers to systemic poor health and encourages individuals to improve their own health and promotes the benefits of healthier lifestyles would be the single best investment we could make in our health care system.
    A national wellness strategy must incorporate all partners to encourage the use of public transit and to encourage governments to improve the physical design of workplaces so that people can choose to walk or take a bike.
    I was delighted to campaign in June of this year as a Liberal under the leadership of our Prime Minister. One of the great issues that we addressed in our campaign was the key and growing issue of caregivers. Millions of Canadians provide care to loved ones. This has two advantages: for the loved ones it provides more comfort and dignity, and it reduces the burden on our health delivery system.
    People who provide care to loved ones in their hour of need carry a heavy burden. There is a large emotional and physical toll that should not be compounded by financial stress. Families that struggle to make ends meet because of their full time dedication to a sick child, an injured adult or the elderly deserve our attention and our support.
    In April this year I had the honour of speaking to the Family Caregivers' Association of Nova Scotia, following in the path of the member for Halifax who spoke last year. I spoke of my own experience as a caregiver to my parents while they were dying last year. Being from a large, close family made this difficult experience perhaps much less trying than for many others. The heroes in my case, aside from my parents who showed the same dignity in dying that they did in living, were my sisters, Brigit and Shelagh, who both left their jobs in Toronto, moved into the family home in Dartmouth and provided full time care to my parents from Christmas until their passing six weeks apart in April and May.
    While it was a difficult time for our family, it was also a very special time as we came together and shared the amazingly graceful experience of helping our parents to prepare for death. Most important for all of us, they died at home surrounded by family and in familiar surroundings. I speak of my own experience, not because it is particularly significant, but because thousands of Canadians every year would prefer to die at home but simply cannot afford to do so and nor can their caregivers.
    Our government has taken steps in concert with the provinces to address the role of caregivers. We have committed $1 billion over five years and I am proud that we will double the caregiver tax credit to $10,000. This tax credit will go a long way in helping families. There is more to do and we will do it.

  (1320)  

    Our health care system is perhaps the most important Canadian value we share as citizens. Let us invest in keeping Canadians healthy and increasing their dignity when they are sick.
    In conclusion, I suspect that all members have fond memories of their first day on parliament hill as an MP. To me that day was July 8 of this year. It was a beautiful clear day in Ottawa. The buildings seemed even more grand than usual. The halls seemed to echo with the voices of leaders past. These grounds have a way of ensuring that one understands the great honour of representing one's community here in Parliament. It comes with a corresponding duty and commitment to serve the best interests of one's constituents.
    This Speech from the Throne honours that commitment to the people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I am proud to stand here today to indicate to the House my support for the work of the government.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure all members of the House join me in congratulating the member on his first address, as well as continuing the wonderful tradition of his father who had served in public life over many years.
    The member addressed issues related to health and, most appropriately, his own experience with respect to caregiving. In fact, we heard a previous member from the opposite side talk on the same theme. I would like to invite the member to address themes throughout the throne speech that have been extremely important to Atlantic Canada, such as regional development.
    Would the member like to take a few moments to elaborate on how the throne speech focuses on regional development and any further initiatives that he would like to see that would benefit Atlantic Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, in difficult economic times, while inheriting a government that had an annual deficit in excess of $40 billion and taking it over 10 years to perhaps the leading economy in the world, we have not forgotten the regions of Canada that need assistance.
    Atlantic Canada has a unique nature. We have a great entrepreneurial spirit. We have great people. We have good companies. We know how to get things done. Through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in particular we have been able to take companies, like Acadian Sea Plants and many others, and developing that spirit of entrepreneurial activity, employing Nova Scotians, employing Atlantic Canadians, and selling our products to the world.
    I am delighted to see the continued commitment to Atlantic Canada through ACOA in the Speech from the Throne. I applaud it and am delighted to see it. I am glad that the leadership came from Atlantic Canadians.

  (1325)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, earlier, my colleague asked to bring to your attention the fact that we were debating an amendment to an amendment to the Speech from the Throne. If I correctly understood what the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour was saying, it was not about the amendment to the amendment.
    The question was also put to the Minister of State for Northern Development. He did not ask her if she was aboriginal, Chinese or whatever. He asked her, as a Canadian citizen, as a citizen from a province and a region, if she would support the amendment to the amendment.
    I put the same question to the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we will be voting on that amendment tonight and I will keep the member in suspense because I know it must be causing him a lot of anxiety throughout the day as to how I will vote.
    The Speech from the Throne addresses the needs of Canadians in a very important way. It addresses the financial stewardship of the government, the investment in the social economy, understanding the needs of Canadians through things like caregivers, and the promotion of the national child care strategy. It answers all the questions that I have, so I am very pleased with it. I suspect we will have a vote tonight and I will let the member know what I will do at that point in time.
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to share my time during this debate with the hon. member for Ottawa Centre.
    I also wish to extend my condolences to the family of the sailor who lost his life this week while serving his country.
    It is my great pleasure to rise for my first speech as the member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Cowichan. I want to thank the people of my community for voting for me. It is a great honour to represent them in Ottawa.
    I am fortunate to live in a riding that has an urban and rural mix, access to many natural resources and an economy that is changing to include an expanding wine industry, a thriving tourism sector and some fine outdoor recreation. I would welcome every member here to visit my riding and take advantage of the opportunity to kayak, hike, sail, golf, indulge in some fine wines and enjoy our seafood.
    However, this is also a region that has struggled with the effects of the softwood lumber trade dispute with the US, the impact of changes in the fishing industry, the challenges of dealing with aging infrastructure, expensive post-secondary education and a health care system that is not meeting the needs of our residents.
    People are looking to all levels of government to work with them on the issues that affect their everyday lives. Issues such as access to affordable post-secondary education and clean drinking water, protection of our environment, a child care system that meets the needs of working families are all factors that keep our communities liveable.
    What do we have? We have a string of broken Liberal promises. For the past 11 years Canadians had hoped that the grand ideas promoted in throne speeches would actually be implemented. Mr. Prime Minister, the residents of Nanaimo—Cowichan are still waiting. Canadians are still waiting. There are broken promises on education, Kyoto, first nations, women, far too many for me to list here.
    The Liberals promised to cut student debt. Ask a recent graduate if the Prime Minister kept that promise. In the 2001 throne speech the Prime Minister promised to meet the basic needs of first nations' employment, housing and social needs. The government is still promising that.
    In 1997 the Liberals promised access to prescription drugs. They promised it again at the first ministers meeting just a few weeks ago. The throne speech had no details, no time lines and no scope for a pharmacare program.
    After 11 years of broken promises Canada is falling behind on the environment. Enough of the rhetoric. Talk is cheap. Nero fiddled while Rome burned and surely we Canadians do not want to be in the same spot. It is time for a detailed Kyoto plan to create jobs and cut pollution.
    As my leader said yesterday, quoting another greater NDP leader, Tommy Douglas, “I would point out that the Speech from the Throne is notable not so much for what it says, but for what it fails to say.”
    There are issues today on which I want to shine a light. Over the past few months I have talked with university students in my riding about their lives and the debt they face when they graduate. Many are facing debt that would amount to a down payment on a home. How can we expect our young people to start their working lives with this kind of baggage?
    To build the country we want, we must invest in education. That means we must put the resources into supporting an affordable, quality post-secondary education. The education plan in the throne speech does not adequately address the issues of access and affordability for students. It will not help address student debt. It is the same old, same old from the Prime Minister.
    The plan the Liberals announced does nothing to help relieve debt today. The best way to reduce debt is still to reduce tuition and to provide long term stable funding for post-secondary institutions.
    Then we have the learning bond. Let us think about this for a minute. We have families that may be struggling to pay the rent and to juggle the rest of the demands on their pocketbook. Then what we offer them is a token chance to save for their children's education. The learning bond demands that families, who already live too close to the line, give over their hard earned paycheques to invest at a low rate of return. Instead, we need a system of grants and loans that reflects the true cost of attending school and does not load down students with huge debts.

  (1330)  

    In British Columbia over 15,000 jobs have been lost to the ongoing softwood lumber dispute with the US. It has been an important issue in the Nanaimo--Cowichan riding as well. The throne speech has one brief mention of softwood, which does not recognize the serious impact that this dispute has had on many parts of our country.
    The government has no plans for finding a long term strategy to deal with US protectionism. There is nothing here about industrial policy for key industries, and where is the support for workers who have been laid off and are struggling to put their lives back in order after years of working in the forestry sector?
    My riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan is known for more than its trees and its rolling farmland. We have farming families in my community that have also been affected by the BSE crisis. Recently, I had a long conversation with a Cowichan valley farmer who told me how important it was that we supported our family farms and recognized the hardships that many of them were facing. The throne speech has made no mention of plans to have the border re-opened to Canadian cattle. We need support for our farmers and it is coming far too slowly for many small farmers to keep going. The effects of BSE are felt well beyond the cattle industry.
    I have to talk about women of course, as the women's critic. Many women have commented that it feels like we are losing ground. We make up over half the population, yet as I look around the House, especially right now, women are sadly under-represented here. One hundred years ago women were paid two-thirds of men's wages to do the same job. Today, on average, women's wages are still 30¢ less an hour than the average man's wages.
    An hon. member: That's progress there.
    Ms. Jean Crowder: Lots of progress, thanks.
    The lack of attention to women's equality in the throne speech reflects the priority that the government places on issues that impact on women. Where is the action from the government on enforcing pay equity in the public sector? Where is the examination of the EI legislation and its impact on women? What is the timeline for implementing a national child care strategy? We need action now.
    My riding of Nanaimo--Cowichan is home to one of the largest aboriginal populations in British Columbia. I want to acknowledge the fact that my home is within the traditional territories of the Cowichan people. This week, Amnesty International, in partnership with the Native Women's Association of Canada, released a report called “Stolen Sisters”, which highlights some of the issues aboriginal communities continue to face. The report outlines concrete steps that the government could take to improve the situation of aboriginal women, both on reserve and off, in urban and rural communities.
    I have already said that the Liberal government must live up to another promise it made in 1994 to ratify the inter-American convention on the prevention, punishment and eradication of violence against women. The women of Canada have been waiting too long. Words do not fix problems, action does.
    Canadians want to see a government that is working on their behalf to improve the quality of each and every life. It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on implementing an agenda that improves the quality of life for today's families.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, first, I congratulate the member for her election in the riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, a neighbouring riding to mine. I heartily endorse her invitation to members to visit Nanaimo and Vancouver Island. I am sure it will be found as one of the most wonderful parts of Canada. I heartily endorse her remarks related to our beautiful island home.
    The member mentioned a number of items that I am sure are important to many Canadians, but I want to ask her about a couple of others that might benefit our own community. First, with huge infrastructure needs in Nanaimo, and I am sure in Duncan and Ladysmith as well as in my own riding and cities like Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni, the government promised a portion of the gas tax to help our cities. However, it did not tell us how much, when or how. There is no mechanism to get the money back.
    Would the member care to comment on the deficiency of the government's plan in that regard and how it might benefit our ridings, if it actually implemented something? On the gas tax it did say that it would increase over five years, but we do not know how much or when.
    Second, is the issue of EI. There is the extortion of about $6 billion annually from employers and employees in the name of employment insurance that hurts both our employers and our employees. That hurts people on Vancouver Island, our neighbourhoods, people who might be employed and small businesses that are beginning to flourish on our island. However, they need some help from the government. It would really help if EI was not being used to extort funds into general revenues.
    Would the member care to comment on these items?
    Mr. Speaker, I was a municipal councillor with North Cowichan. How the gas tax will be allocated is of great concern to the smaller municipalities and communities. Certainly, we would welcome a more progressive look at how rural and other smaller urban communities get an allocation. We would also appreciate seeing a concrete, detailed plan that outlines how much and for how long.
    On the employment insurance, I would welcome a look at taking the surplus EI funds and using them to invest in an innovative training strategy that has us preparing Canadian workers for new and emerging jobs in the 21st century. We would welcome some initiatives and innovative debate around that matter.

  (1340)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree with what the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan said. I know her region quite well. It is an incredible area to go mountain biking. I know for a fact that she comes from a very beautiful part of the country.
    Since we are considering the amendment to the amendment put by the Bloc Quebecois, which will be voted on later tonight, my question to the hon. member is as follows: what position will she be taking? Will she vote in favour of our amendment to the amendment, since it includes almost everything she has mentioned?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments about my lovely riding. I believe our duty and responsibility to the Canadian public, given the opportunity, is to look at the kind of work that we can achieve over the next several months.
     At this point, I will reserve my options.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment to the position of Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.
    I also congratulate our new member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. We are so happy that she is in her place. She is well known as a local advocate and a very strong person in her community, and we are delighted that she is our new spokesperson for women's issues.
    Would the hon. member talk about the new women's committee that is being set up and what she hopes to see happen there to ensure that women's equality finally is back on the political agenda? The NDP insisted that it be there.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a very important moment in Canadian history. As the hon. member pointed out, the NDP put this proposal forward and all parties agreed to it.
    We have been working closely with women's organizations across the country to ensure that when policy and legislation is proposed we see how it impacts on women and children in our communities. I look forward to working closely with other members of the House on this very exciting new initiative.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by complimenting my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for making such an exceptional maiden speech reflecting the long traditions of her own area, going back and including, but not restricted to, Tommy Douglas who was a distinguished member and leader of our party coming from the same region. It was a great speech, reflecting not only the great variety of her own riding but also concerns which she made clearcut right across the country. I congratulate her.

[Translation]

    I am pleased to have this opportunity to briefly address the issue of electoral reform, something we have implemented in five provinces in Canada. Once again, the provinces have led the way. I must say that I am very glad to see that a federal government has, for the first time, referred to this important topic in the Speech from the Throne.

[English]

    I want to note in my brief comments that my party and I have been advocating an electoral system for Canada that would combine single member constituencies with members elected on the basis of proportionality since the 1970s. I want to emphasize that such a system or a variety of systems like this is in place in the large majority of stable democracies around the world.
    The evidence clearly indicates that a mixed system, combining single member with proportionality, does the following. It elects more women than we do in Canada. It elects more minorities than we do in Canada. It produces a generally higher level of voter participation than exists in Canada. It also allows new parties to gain a place in the electoral system and then grow if they have support. It is, I would add, profoundly democratic because the vote of every citizen, wherever that vote takes place, counts in some sense in shaping the government, which our voting system does not do.
     Because I am going on to other matters, I want to conclude with this brief list of advantages of such an electoral system by saying that such a system is long overdue in a country called Canada. In my limited comments I want to concentrate exclusively on another of its advantages, namely its contribution to national unity.

  (1345)  

[Translation]

    The first time I noticed that the Canadian electoral system was obsolete, pre-democratic, regionalist, fractionary and non-inclusive was after the 1980 federal elections.

[English]

    In doing so I want to illustrate why our present system is profoundly divisive, deeply harmful for national unity and alienating in its effect on border participation throughout the land.
    After the 1980 election, the then prime minister, Mr. Trudeau, asked to meet with me as the leader of a minority party to discuss our participation in the government. I found this strange because he had just obtained a substantial majority and we were a minority party. In spite of the 25% of the vote his party won in western Canada, if we were to look at the results of the seats, we would see a completely different percentage. No Liberal was elected in British Columbia, none in Alberta, none in Saskatchewan and only two in Manitoba. The Liberals won two seats out of 25% of the vote and became the governing party.
     The New Democratic Party had 26 seats in western Canada. Mr. Trudeau told me of his intention to bring in what was to amount to the national energy program and the repatriation of the constitution and he definitely felt his party was a so-called eastern party and, with the NDP being strong in the west, he wanted our participation because, in broad outline, he knew we were sympathetic philosophically to the directions on those issues in which he was going, although we differed in some details.
    The point I want to make is that here is a party that has governed in Canada for most of my lifetime and yet systematically our system produces a set of MPs in the governing caucus that nowhere represents the strength that they got in western Canada.
    The same pattern prevailed in the three elections that took place since I left the House in 1989. We have a governing party that does not reflect at all the very nature of the country. I would submit that if it did then the national energy program would almost certainly have been different if the governing party had elected members actually from the west proportional to its strength as well as other legislation at the time.
    The other point I want to make is that our electoral system and its impact on governing is counterproductive in terms of the opposition parties. I want to mention the Reform Party, not exactly one ideologically to which I am sympathetic but the Reform, the Alliance and the Conservatives had negative impacts comparable to the Liberals in terms of vote.
    Preston Manning was said to have been blanked out in Ontario. Mr. Manning received 20% of the vote in Ontario. In the large majority of democracies he would have had seats proportionate to his vote as a democracy should do. In spite of that 20% of the vote, no seats and his party was then regarded as simply “in the east a western party”.
    Also, the 20% of people in Ontario who actually voted, not by political friends but they were equal citizens who actually voted for his party, became more alienated from the system because they did not see their desires reflected in the outcome.
    I am deliberately choosing parties different from my own. I will just say in passing that if we had seats today proportionate to our vote we would be in excess of 40 seats in the House of Commons. However I am talking about other parties.
    The point I want to make is that our system, as the Pepin-Robarts documented very clearly, is counterproductive to national unity. Our national caucuses, whether on the government side or on the opposition side, do not reflect accurately where their votes come from and therefore they see Canada through highly distorted, highly conflictual lenses that almost always come into the debates.
    I want to stress this as a key point to leave with governing members and opposition members in the House as we approach the subject, and we will, of electoral reform in this session. I want to use my concluding moments to give particular praise, not to a government of my party but to a government in British Columbia that did introduce a citizens assembly process that has worked remarkably. It is one that my party would like to see duplicated at the national level. It is one that has involved in that province two citizens from each constituency, plus two aboriginal peoples. They have met for over a year, met in their communities, have professional experts so-called and real who give them advice, and have had systematic deliberation. Not one of the 160 citizens of British Columbia participating in this process has dropped out.

  (1350)  

    It has been inspiring and empowering for them and it has generated support wherever they have held meetings in the province of British Columbia. They are making electoral reform an issue that is engaging people throughout the length of that province.
    I and my party believe that we should have this process at the national level. It could become exciting and it could engage Canadians.

[Translation]

    In Canada's provinces, not all Canadians can directly take part in a process that is supposed to provide a fair system for everyone.

[English]

    I deeply believe that if we were to engage our citizens, have them deliberate, think seriously about it and make a recommendation for a new equitable electoral system, we would finally get the electoral system the people of Canada deserve. Let us get on with it.
    Mr. Speaker, once again I am sure all members of the House join with me in congratulating the member, not only for his return to Parliament but also for an eloquent second maiden speech.
    The member has spoken at great length on the issue of democratic reform, parliamentary reform, in particular in the area of proportionate representation. I am sure the House would like to know what the member's position will be with respect to the subamendment that has been placed by the Bloc inasmuch as that is the motion that we will be voting on later.
    If I read between the lines of some of the things the member has said, my inference is that his position in fact goes contrary to, in federal terms and in terms of the role of the federal government, the subamendment. I and I am sure the House would like the member to just elaborate a little bit in terms of what his position and understanding is of the subamendment that will be voted on later this day.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to use the occasion to at least address part of what the question is intended as I see it. The subamendment did in fact refer to a citizens' assembly of the kind my party has advocated and I hope the government will take it seriously under consideration.
    My reason for coming back to politics, by the way, was to get away from playing games. Canadians are fed up with the politicians who come here, whatever side of the House they are on, playing nice little rule games that they know the outcomes are going to be different from the words they use. If we were to accept the subamendment that is before us, the government would be defeated, and the people on the other side of the House, both the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois, know that very well.
     I did not return to federal politics to indulge in this hypocritical, silly kind of politics and I will have nothing to do with it.
    Mr. Speaker, if the measure of success of a country is related to the measure of the health and well-being of its people, certainly our children and issues like child poverty have to be addressed. I know that member had a lot to do with the subject of child poverty. When he left this place there was a motion passed in his name, that the House seek to achieve the elimination of child poverty by the year 2000, but the member will also know that 54% of all children living in poverty come from 15% of the families in Canada who are lone parent families.
    I wonder if the member would care to comment on how we can seek to achieve the elimination of child poverty without addressing a serious problem in Canada and that is the breakdown of the Canadian family.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, it is a long and complicated question to answer in 30 seconds. I would be glad to take that up with him on another occasion.
     I would, having received a question from a Liberal member, like to use the occasion to remind him that we will be coming up to the 15th anniversary of that motion. A similar motion is going to be presented to the House. This time I hope that when his party supports the motion, it will act on it, because in 10 of the 15 years that I have been out of the House of Commons, poverty among Canada's children has increased in spite of six surplus budgets by the Liberals, who did almost nothing to get rid of it when they had the power. I hope we will see some changes now.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member for Ottawa-Centre.
    Why is it that he refers to the amendment to the amendment brought forward by the Bloc as “games”? Without our amendment to the amendment and all these amendments, he would not be able to vote for what is being proposed in the Throne speech before the House?
    Instead of wholeheartedly supporting our amendment to the amendment to get the government to respect Quebec, why is this tough old fighter joining forces with the government unconditionally?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as one old war horse to a middle-aged war horse, I want to say to her what I said a minute ago. These are parliamentary games.
     She knows that the words they have used indeed reflect our values, but she also knows that these votes in this context in our system constitute or set in motion confidence in the government. We have no intention at this point of bringing down a government that the people of Canada want to see produce something.
     We are not going to play games. We are going to work for concrete reform on child poverty, on the electoral system and on many other things.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[S. O. 31]

[English]

Chris Saunders

    Mr. Speaker, like all Canadians, I was shocked to hear of the death of Lieutenant Saunders of the Canadian Navy, who was serving on board the HMCS Chicoutimi.
    He was a 32 year old combat systems engineer who grew up in the Kennebecasis Valley near Saint John. As a teenager, Chris joined the cadets after graduating from Kennebecasis Valley High School in Quispamsis in 1990. He joined the regular officer training program on a full military scholarship.
     One of his high school teachers this morning described Chris as a strong student who was a hard worker and who always had a smile on his face.
    Lieutenant Saunders leaves behind his wife Gwen and two young sons in Halifax. He was a loving father, husband and son, and he will be greatly missed by those who loved him.
    While serving our nation, the men and women who wear a Canadian Forces uniform put themselves in harm's way every day. Yesterday Chris Saunders gave the ultimate sacrifice, losing his life in the service of our country.
    On behalf of the citizens of Saint John, I wish to offer our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Lieutenant Saunders. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this most difficult time.

Intergovernmental Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the recent first ministers meeting will not be remembered for any great innovations by the federal government with respect to health.
     The Prime Minister claimed he had a vision of national standards. Instead, he turned his back on the shared legacy of Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau and endorsed asymmetrical federalism.
     Asymmetrical federalism is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the way federalism should work: provinces exercising their jurisdictional authority within the framework of our Constitution. It is not a new thing. It is just not a Liberal thing.
    The Conservative Party has always believed strongly that areas of provincial jurisdiction must be respected. We were very impressed by the Prime Minister's endorsement of our policy, but this era of intergovernmental enlightenment did not last long. The throne speech mentioned no such commitment to asymmetrical federalism or to respecting the constitutional authority of the provinces.
    What are the provinces to think? Is it asymmetrical federalism or Liberal politics as usual?

  (1400)  

Speech from the Throne

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak for the first time in the House to commend the Prime Minister for a throne speech that lays out the foundation for a strong and progressive vision for this nation.
     It builds upon other recent successes: the first ministers meeting on health care, a bold speech at the United Nations, and the deftly executed first offering of Petro-Canada. It demonstrates clearly that our government is ready to make this Parliament work for Canadians.
    What is of concern to me is the cavalier way in which this Parliament is being regarded by some members of the opposition: as a game of chicken, a game that will put the priorities of Canadians in a train wreck in the name of ego and partisanship.
    While the opposite side of the House plots and schemes and engages in games of chicken, we on this side of the House are ready to govern. We are ready to make this Parliament work and achieve great things for Canadians and nothing will deter us from that course.

[Translation]

Saint-Émile Knights of Columbus

    Mr. Speaker, this fall will mark the start of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Saint-Émile Knights of Columbus in the riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
    In the coming months, a number of special activities will take place in the community, reflecting the dynamism and vitality of this group.
    The Saint-Émile Knights of Columbus are recognized as leaders and their commitment to the community has been acknowledged for the past 50 years. I could not, of course, begin to list all their wonderful accomplishments, but the commitment of these men over the past half-century is a fine tribute to their founder, Father Michael McGivney, and continues his example.
    As the group prepares to begin its celebrations, I join with my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois in extending our most sincere fraternal wishes to the Sainte-Émile Knights of Columbus. Congratulations.

[English]

University of Prince Edward Island

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to pay tribute to Mr. Norman Webster, who will soon be completing an eight year term as the distinguished chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island.
    Chancellor Webster has had an exciting and diverse career in a variety of roles, ranging from Rhodes scholar to political columnist. He served as Beijing correspondent for The Globe and Mail during China's cultural revolution and went on to become editor-in-chief of both The Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette.
    Appointed chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island in 1996, Norman Webster brought a love of education to the job and has contributed enormously to UPEI's development as a world class institution. I have always been impressed with the astounding energy with which Chancellor Webster conducted his affairs. His enthusiasm for students will be sorely missed.
    I ask members to please join me in expressing our gratitude to a remarkable gentleman who served our university with optimism, grace and generosity.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, the closure of the American border to Canadian beef has caused the worst crisis seen in beef and related sectors in the past 30 years.
    These industries had done well in an almost ideal free market environment, which included the United States, with very little in the way of subsidies. This has all been destroyed by U.S. protectionism, which is simply wrong.
     Not only has our government's undiplomatic treatment of Americans contributed to our border remaining closed, but the Liberals have done little to deal with the problem.
    The government must do better. It has to figure out that simply having the border open will not solve the problem, because the industry will remain vulnerable to future closures. What must happen is the quick expansion of packing and processing capacity to allow processing of all of our beef and related animals here in Canada. This will re-establish a competitive market and allow us to take control of the industry once again.
    It is long past time for the government to act. Talk is no longer enough. Our cattlemen need action today.

  (1405)  

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, the establishment of a Standing Committee on the Status of Women is an important step forward for women parliamentarians and indeed all Canadian women.
    The national Liberal women's caucus has called for this initiative several times over the past years and is extremely pleased to see the request realized. Having a national all-party committee will strengthen and build upon the progress that has been made by the women's movement across the country.
    I know that my colleagues on this side of the House offer full support to this committee and look forward to working in a positive manner with colleagues from all parties to further the equality of Canadian women.

[Translation]

Yves Tessier

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to a resident of Blainville who has recently returned from Nevada's International Police and Fire Games with a gold medal in shot-put.
    This international event brought together more than 600 competitors from 25 different countries. Yves Tessier is considered the best shot-putter in Quebec. A motorcycle policeman, he still finds time to lobby in connection with the lack of facilities for his sport in the region and to act as the spokesperson for the Blainville athletic association.
    This 37-year-old policeman won a bronze medal in Indianapolis in 2001, a silver in Barcelona in 2003, and another gold this summer in Calgary at the Canadian Masters Athletic Association championship in Calgary. A role model for the young people of Blainville, Yves' perseverance has earned him the honours we are proud to share with him.
    The Bloc Quebecois joins with the residents of Blainville—
    The hon. member for Malpeque.

[English]

Public Service

    Mr. Speaker, the threat of a widespread public service work stoppage is of concern to all Canadians. Any work stoppage has a dramatic and negative impact not only on the economy but also on the lives of Canadians in a most direct way.
    It is therefore critical that both parties, the Treasury Board and representatives of PSAC, make a renewed and sincere effort on their return to the bargaining table. Both sides, and I emphasize both, must in good faith seek a fair and equitable resolution to the outstanding issues.
    Public service workers of Canada perform a key function and have demonstrated a high degree of professionalism in conducting government business.
     For collective bargaining to work, both Treasury Board and PSAC must negotiate with the objective of finding a settlement and must stay at the table until they get the job done.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, health care in my riding has become like housing in communist Russia: it's free, but there isn't any.
    The government has supposedly rescued the health care system. That is not true.
    This summer the Saskatchewan government decided to shrink health care in my riding by closing down facilities and removing ambulance service. One affected area involved the communities of Val Marie, Bracken, Climax, Frontier and Claydon, an area of about 2,500 square miles. The government in its wisdom decided to lay waste to the only health care facility in the area and make it an eight hour a day clinic.
    The local people have responded. They tried to negotiate with the provincial government. No chance. They have appealed to the federal minister. No response. They have now raised hundreds of thousands of dollars privately to keep their public health facility open. What we need is a commitment from the federal government to protect our right to access and a commitment from the provincial government to keep the facility open.
    Is it not ironic that health region number one, the birthplace of medicare, will be using private money to keep the public health system operating?

Lupus Awareness Month

    Mr. Speaker, October is National Lupus Awareness Month. In recognition of this, I would like to remind the public and the members of this House of the devastating nature of this disease.
    Lupus is an autoimmune disease that prompts the body to attack its own muscles, kidneys, joints, skin, brain, lungs or heart. Lupus is a potentially fatal disease for which no good diagnostic test exists.
    It is estimated that lupus affects more than 50,000 Canadians, of which 90% are women and 20% are children.

  (1410)  

[Translation]

    I also want to recognize the courage of people with lupus, who must struggle with this disease, and the help provided by their families and friends as they do so.

[English]

    Finally, I would like to thank the countless individuals and organizations that work toward improving the quality of life for those affected by lupus.

Chris Saunders

    Mr. Speaker, all Canadians today are shocked and saddened by the death of Lieutenant Chris Saunders, an officer on board HMCS Chicoutimi.
    On behalf of my caucus I extend deepest sympathy for this tragic loss to Lieutenant Saunders' wife Gwen, their two young sons and to his family, friends and colleagues.
    As the member of Parliament for Halifax, I know the resilience of military families and how supportive they are of one another in the face of adversity. Lieutenant Saunders died serving Canada. For that, his community and his country express deep gratitude and extend our heartfelt sympathy.
    We extend to Lieutenant Saunders' injured colleagues best wishes for a swift recovery and our prayers for all HMCS Chicoutimi crew to return home as speedily and safely as humanly possible.

Chris Saunders

    Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Fundy Royal and citizens of New Brunswick, I would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences on the passing of Lieutenant Chris Saunders. His loss of life was the result of a fire aboard the HMCS Chicoutimi.
    Lieutenant Saunders was a truly distinguished servant of Canada, who started his military career in the 31st Service Battalion in Saint John while still in high school. As an outstanding student, he received several honours while in school and won a scholarship to military college in Saint-Jean, Quebec.
    Earlier today I had the privilege of speaking with Debbie Sullivan, Lieutenant Saunders' mother, who remembered her son as a strongly committed young man dedicated to his job, his country and his family. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Lieutenant Saunders and will not forget the ultimate sacrifice that he made.

[Translation]

HMCS Chicoutimi

    Mr. Speaker, on Monday, when they set out for Halifax from the port of Faslane, Scotland, on their maiden voyage, the 57 crew members of HMCS Chicoutimi could not have imagined the tragedy that awaited them on the first leg of their Atlantic crossing.
    The fire on board the submarine on Tuesday turned into a nightmare yesterday when one crew member, Lieutenant Chris Saunders, a combat systems engineer from Saint John, New Brunswick, succumbed while being transported to hospital.
    In this time of grief, our thoughts are with the family and friends of Lieutenant Saunders.
    We also salute the courage of all the crew members and their families in the difficult times they are going through. Your sense of duty is commendable and exemplary; we are very grateful to you.

[English]

Edmonton

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the great city of Edmonton on the occasion of its 100th birthday.
    In 1795 the Hudson's Bay Company established a trading post on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River called Fort Edmonton. The railway arrived in 1902. It was incorporated as a city in 1904 and designated the provincial capital in 1906.
    Edmonton quickly became known as the gateway to the north, a phrase that has held true since the Klondike gold rush when prospectors venturing northward stopped in Edmonton to trade their goods and gather supplies.
    Edmonton has long had a diversified economy, historically driven by the fur trade and agriculture.
    Then, in 1947, oil was discovered just south of Edmonton at Leduc No. 1. The pipeline and petrochemical industry were established and the economy and population began to boom.
    Edmonton is a city whose quality of life is second to none. We have a vibrant arts community and our citizens are renowned for their charitable leadership and community fellowship.
    I ask all of my colleagues here in Parliament to wish the city of Edmonton a wonderful 100th birthday.

Breast Cancer

    Mr. Speaker, October is breast cancer awareness month.
     I would like to recognize four women from my riding of Tobique--Mactaquac who attended a national golf tournament and helped raise awareness for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation at the same time. Angela Welch, Lisa Thomas, Crystal Brown and Pauline Pelkey of the Woodstock Golf and Curling Club led the 36 teams at the Canadian Ladies Golf Association's Scramble Fore the Cure.
     The Scramble Fore the Cure is a major event on the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation's fundraising calendar. The event raised nearly $70,000.
    Congratulations to the Woodstock foursome on their win and best wishes to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in its goal of creating a future without breast cancer.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Official Languages

    Mr. Speaker, I am saddened to learn that a group claiming to represent the interests of Canadians, a group called Canadians for Language Fairness, intends to take the City of Ottawa to court to prevent it from providing bilingual services to its residents.
    Their spokesman, Sebastian Anders, is none other than the Canadian Alliance Party candidate who ran against me in the 2000 election. That party is now called the Conservative Party. He was also a Conservative Party organizer in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell during the recent election.
    On behalf of my constituents, I demand that the leader of the Conservative Party denounce and dissociate himself from the pronouncements of Sebastian Anders and reaffirm his party's commitment to Canada's linguistic duality.

[English]

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, we now have a Speech from the Throne commitment to a national child care program. This is a benchmark after 20 years of promises from both Conservative and Liberal parties in election campaigns.
    I have been across the country over the last month meeting with and listening to the child care community. There is great expectation. Canadian families are all now waiting for the details, timelines, legislative framework and a commitment of money.
     We have an opportunity in this minority government to have this promise finally delivered. We New Democrats will be working hard to ensure that it actually happens and is rooted in the principles of quality, universality, accessibility, developmental, inclusive and affordable. We also insist that it be publicly funded and delivered, and that it be enshrined in legislation.

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[Oral Questions]

[English]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, I know you will not mind if I begin by expressing on behalf of the Conservative Party, and I am sure all members of the House, once again our regrets and our condolences to the family of Lieutenant Saunders and also to commend all those on board who continue to show such bravery in the face of adversity, and to assure all those people that our prayers are with them in the coming days.

[Translation]

    Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister about the condition of the crew of the submarine the Chicoutimi. The Prime Minister assured this House that the crew was safe and sound. Later we learned that a tragedy had occurred and that Lieutenant Saunders had died.
    Will the Prime Minister once again update this House on the conditions on board and assure the House that the rest of the crew is safe?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much once again the sentiments that have been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. I would like to inform the House that I have ordered that the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower and all federal buildings and establishments fly at half-mast immediately in honour of the late Lieutenant Chris Saunders.

[Translation]

    I have ordered the national flag of Canada to be flown at half-mast on the Peace Tower in Ottawa and on all government buildings and establishments, effective immediately until further notice, in honour of the late Lieutenant Christopher Saunders.

[English]

    The information that we have is that one of the two who have been taken off the submarine is in a more difficult health situation than the other. We have been told that the other six are in reasonable condition. Again, I would inform the hon. member that because communications are difficult the information is evolving. I am sure the Minister of National Defence, in response to the next question, will take over.
    Mr. Speaker, let me ask the Prime Minister to clarify some things he perhaps would be more able to clarify. There are three other submarines like the Chicoutimi in Canada's fleet. This morning the defence minister admitted that the subs are, “not up to 100% of their performance yet”. We are all aware of the history of problems.
    Could the Prime Minister assure us that the Chicoutimi was 100% safe before it was put to sea?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the House is that the maritime command, and in fact all of our military personnel, ensure how equipment works because security is the most important concern for their men. I can assure members of the House that the Canadian navy took all the precautions and professional measures necessary to determine the seaworthiness of this ship before it set to sea. I have had assurance from the chief of the maritime command that all necessary precautions were taken about the security of the ship before it set to sea. That is the procedure in our navy.
    Mr. Speaker, I would have preferred a direct answer rather than a different set of wording. Let me put my next question in any case.
    We all know the Chicoutimi has a history of safety concerns, and I will list them: cracks in engine valves, plugged turbine pumps, leaks, engine malfunctions, problems with the breathing systems, and rust problems that restrict it from deep dives.
    When can we expect a full inquiry into what took place? When will the House receive a full report? When will we know the full truth of what transpired?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a great strategy on behalf of the hon. member to ask questions for which there is no answer so then he can say that he is not getting a serious answer.
    The hon. member knows well enough that the way in which this system works is the military is in charge of these inquiries. They are the professionals who are responsible. The military will determine the inquiry. The navy will do a professional inquiry. When the facts are known, those facts will be made available to the House. I do hope that the Leader of the Opposition does not think the House is qualified to do that inquiry. I leave it for the professionals in our maritime command.
    Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government acquired four used submarines from Britain, it clearly made an inaccurate assessment of the difficulties and costs involved in reintroducing decommissioned submarines to service. There has been a litany of problems, including leaks, dents, severe corrosion and diving restrictions which should have been anticipated.
    Will the Minister of National Defence acknowledge that the submarine fleet and its crews face undue risks which should have been addressed before these vessels were put to sea?
    Mr. Speaker, I will certainly agree with the hon. member that there have been problems in the commissioning of these subs and Canadianizing them to the way in which they can fit into our navy. We all know what those are, but I can assure the member these have not been undue risks.
    I have been assured by maritime command that these are risks that exist in the normal process of bringing these ships up to speed. They are still in the process of being properly commissioned.
    I want to assure members of the House that the ships in question are being run by our naval professional staff under great circumstances and they are going to be of great service to our navy.
    Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of the government to minimize the risks that our sailors, soldiers and aviators face every day. It is obvious that the government does not have a rescue plan to come to the aid of our submarines when they are in distress even though serious problems plague the submarine fleet.
    Will the Minister of National Defence advise the House why HMCS Chicoutimi was not escorted across the Atlantic Ocean by one of our navy surface ships on its maiden voyage to Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of the government to support our maritime command and our competent naval officers in the exercise of their functions. We have done that.
    I have perfect confidence that we have supported them. I have perfect confidence in their capacity to make the operational decisions that our navy needs to make and I will continue to support them. That is what the government has always done.

[Translation]

Speech from the Throne

    Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne is not meeting the Quebec government's expectations. Yesterday, Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's intergovernmental affairs minister, made the following statement, “I would like the Speech from the Throne to be amended to explicitly provide for the respect of provincial jurisdictions”.
    Could the Prime Minister tell the people of Quebec whether or not Liberal MPs will respect the wishes of the Government of Quebec by voting in favour of the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to an amendment calling for measures to “fully respect the provinces' areas of jurisdiction”?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I can almost quote from the speech I made yesterday. I made it very clear that we had no intention of infringing or interfering in provincial jurisdictions.
    Mr. Speaker, if it is so clear, why not spell it out in the Speech from the Throne? It would be even clearer.
    On September 16, the Prime Minister called a first ministers conference for October 26 to discuss, among other things, “financial pressures facing provinces and territories”. This is consistent with the amendment to an amendment put forward by the Bloc Quebecois, asking “that the financial pressures the provinces are suffering as a consequence of the fiscal imbalance be alleviated”.
    Since the Bloc's amendment to an amendment is along the same lines as his September 16 announcement, what is stopping the Prime Minister from voting in favour of the amendment to an amendment?
    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc's amendment to an amendment is asking members of Parliament to vote in favour of Parliament's totally abdicating its responsibilities with respect to public finances. We are not prepared to do that. We are going to assume our responsibilities in this place.
    Mr. Speaker, this is such a misinterpretation that it reeks of bad faith. Everyone agrees that Quebec and the provinces are faced with a serious lack of financial resources. Even the Prime Minister recognizes that. On June 3, he said, “Are the provinces facing financial pressures? Absolutely!”
    If the Prime Minister agrees with the facts, why does he refuse to include them in the throne speech supporting the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne and indeed the conduct of the government in the prior two or three months go a very long way to addressing the concerns of provinces, including the province of Quebec.
    We are for example putting an incremental $41.3 billion into health care and an incremental $33 billion into equalization, not to mention things like child care and contributions to communities and cities.
    The Government of Canada is behaving in the national interest on behalf of all Canadians.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Quebec minister Benoît Pelletier identified not only the equalization program as posing a problem, but the whole issue of transfers to the provinces, which should also be discussed by Quebec, the provinces and Ottawa.
    If the Prime Minister agrees that these issues must be examined, why is it unacceptable to support the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to the amendment, which, precisely, reaffirms the need to alleviate the financial pressures that the provinces are facing?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on the money side of the question, the hon. gentleman might be interested to know that the total provincial revenues, their own source revenue plus federal cash transfers, have substantially exceeded federal revenues for more than two decades and they are expected to continue to do so.

Municipalities

    Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the government is about to say no to Canada's mayors. This is not very surprising because after all the Prime Minister did not even include the commitment to the fuel tax in the throne speech.
    Mayor Miller told me today that the government is in the process of transferring the national debt on to the shoulders of the municipalities. This is unacceptable.
    Will the Prime Minister honour his promise? Why can he not make that promise today and commit 5¢ per litre of the fuel tax?
    Mr. Speaker, earlier this week I had a very good meeting with a number of mayors and the FCM. I can assure the hon. leader of the NDP that it is the government's intention to fully live up to the commitments it made during the election campaign.
    Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister were intending to live up to his promises, he would have put it in the throne speech. The fact is that he did not.
     Nothing prevents the Prime Minister from listening to the mayors right now and sharing more of the fuel tax. Nothing prevents him, except that he has decided to put far more money against the debt, while cities build up an $11 million per day debt.
    Why will the Prime Minister not come through with his commitment that we all heard?

  (1430)  

    Again, Mr. Speaker, let me assure the hon. member that the government fully intends to live up to its commitment made during the election campaign. I made that very clear. It is in the Speech from the Throne and it was in my speech.
    I also fully expect that the government will be able to retire debt. I think that it is our responsibility to those who live in the cities of tomorrow not to be burdened with a huge national debt.

Sponsorship Program

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Public Works told the House that 10 million documents have been turned over to the Gomery inquiry. That is 10 million documents conveniently after the election campaign. Before the election, the documents submitted by the government could fit on a single book shelf.
    Where were these millions of documents before the election and why did the government hide the truth from Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I draw the hon. member's attention to the statement by the Information Commissioner yesterday that lauded our Prime Minister and our government for its openness and transparency with information both for the public accounts committee and for the Gomery commission.
    We have provided 10 million pages of documents to the Gomery commission and have in fact gone back to 1994 in a remarkable step for cabinet documents. We are cooperating because we want to get to the truth in this party and in this government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, they hid the documents because these documents show that the cabinet had concocted a strategy to dupe the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party. These revelations would surely have had a bearing on the outcome of the election.
    How can we believe a government that hides the truth from Canadians? How can we believe you?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on a day to day basis over the next several months we will hear testimony at the Gomery commission and we will not prejudge Justice Gomery's work by commenting on that testimony. Today's testimony could be contradicted by next week's testimony.
    We on this side of the House, in this party, want to see the full report from Justice Gomery which will lead us to the truth. We are not going to interfere with that. The hon. member is prejudging a lot of the important work that is being done by Justice Gomery and I would urge him not to do that.
    Mr. Speaker, we hear contradictions in testimony coming from the government every day. It was confirmed yesterday that the Prime Minister knew all along about the secret slush fund that fuelled the sponsorship program.
    We also know that Treasury Board officials red flagged all kinds of problems in the sponsorship program at the same time as the Prime Minister was vice-chair of Treasury Board.
    Does the Prime Minister really expect us to believe that he knew nothing at all about the problems in the sponsorship program until he read the Auditor General's report?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Prime Minister has said repeatedly in the House that he was aware of the unity reserve. He was not aware of all of the individual projects and that is of significant difference. The hon. member is taking some pretty significant liberties with the truth in this case.
    However, I am glad that he has once again drawn the attention to the House of the importance of transparency and openness. I would ask him to review what the Information Commissioner said yesterday when he said that the early signs were very positive, that this Prime Minister was sufficiently self-confident, courageous and honest to beat the secrecy that has been the--
    The hon. member for Medicine Hat.
    Mr. Speaker, either the Prime Minister knew early on about the problems in the sponsorship program or he was asleep at the switch when the sponsorship train went over the cliff. It was one of the two.
    Is the Prime Minister not a little bit embarrassed that his only excuse for not knowing about the sponsorship program was that he was neglecting his duties at Treasury Board?
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is modest about his accomplishments and he will not brag about this, but I will. The fact is that the Prime Minister's first step was to cancel the sponsorship program.
    Furthermore, he established the Gomery commission which has remarkable powers and a mandate to discover the truth. We have cooperated with that commission with the fact that 1994 cabinet documents are being provided.
    We in the government are not afraid of the truth and I would ask the hon. member to have similar courage and wait for Justice Gomery's report.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, on September 15, the Government of Quebec signed the premiers' agreement on health. Its acceptance was on the express condition that Quebec not be subjected to any federal accountability mechanism.
    Now the throne speech makes no mention of the terms of the specific Quebec—Ottawa agreement on health. On the contrary, it repeats the obligation for all governments, Quebec included, to be accountable.
    Can the Minister of Health again confirm that the agreement of September 15, 2004 imposes no obligation on the Government of Quebec to be accountable to Ottawa with respect to health, despite what is implied in the throne speech?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the fact that we entered into a historic agreement to provide $41 billion over 10 years to the provinces means that we are a successful federation.
    Quebec would be setting the benchmarks in reporting to its citizens as will all the other provinces. We will be correlating all those reports through the Canadian Institute for Health Information, or CIHI, so that we have a national understanding of where the money is going, and whether or not we are successful in reforming, enhancing and improving our health care that all Canadians love from coast to coast to coast.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, when I asked whether he could impose penalties for non-compliance with the September 15 agreement, the federal Minister of Health replied as follows:
[...] we are going to take legislative action. A member of the Prime Minister's Office has said that a mechanism will apply to all, Quebec included, in order to ensure compliance with the agreement.
    Are we to understand that the federal government is prepared to impose penalities on the provinces, including Quebec, should it feel that its requirements are not being respected?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a federation that works, contrary to what those people over there believe. The fact is that we want to depend on the good faith of all of the provinces and territories to ensure that the agreement is lived up to.
    We have an obligation to the taxpayers across the country to ensure there is accountability and we will do so.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the government announced in the Speech from the Throne its intention to establish a single environmental assessment process in Canada. Yet, the Minister of the Environment said yesterday that he does not intend to impose a single environmental assessment system.
    Can he clarify this issue? Are we to believe the Speech from the Throne or the Minister of the Environment?
    Mr. Speaker, both; there is no contradiction. The Government of Canada will improve its own environmental assessment process to ensure that the departments work together better, to make it better, more responsible, quicker and more effective.
    We will immediately begin to increase harmonization with our provincial counterparts, who have been calling for the same thing, and all the stakeholders. Only the Bloc Quebecois does not agree because, by definition, the Bloc never agrees.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that in May 2004 Quebec signed a harmonization accord on environmental assessment with Ottawa, but today we learn that the federal government is thinking about imposing a single environmental assessment system.
    Does the Minister of the Environment realize that this approach threatens the terms of the 2004 agreement between Ottawa and Quebec on environmental assessments?
    Mr. Speaker, leave it to the Bloc to promote such paranoia. If an environmental assessment agreement was signed in 2004 that means we have a federation that works well. I thank my hon. colleague opposite for confirming once again how well Canada works.

[English]

Canada Post

    Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Prime Minister will remember his words from before the election when he said that every piece of information and every fact will be made available to the public as quickly as possible. Well, the facts are these: The Deloitte & Touche audit of Canada Post was given to the Prime Minister before the election was called. He knew it had harmful information. The Prime Minister decided to delay its release until after the election.
    I ask the Prime Minister today, would he now explain the contradiction between his words and his deeds?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, the words of the hon. member are without foundation. The fact of the matter is that the board of directors of Canada Post requested that Deloitte & Touche be given additional time to finalize the report before delivery to the government.
    The critical fact is that no report was received by the government until after the election. At that time, soon after becoming the minister, I received the report and two days after that, I released it to the public.
    Mr. Speaker, obviously the only words that are without foundation are the words of the Prime Minister and the promises he made before the election to be open to Canadians.
    The Prime Minister had the Deloitte & Touche interim report. He knows it. He was aware of it before the election. He had a choice to make at that time. He could release it as he promised he would do, or he could hide it and break his promise to Canadians. That is the choice he made.
    I have asked the Prime Minister to be open and transparent and I will give him another chance to do that. Before he goes off on his globe trotting journey around the world, maybe he would like to explain to Canadians why he chose--
    The hon. Minister of National Revenue.
    Mr. Speaker, it sounds as if the hon. member read his second question without listening to my answer.
    It is impossible to hide something from the public of Canada when one has not received it. As I said just a few seconds ago, it was the board that requested a delay in the report. The government received the report only after the election and I released it to the public. Those, for the second time, are the facts of the matter.
    Mr. Speaker, how can Canadians trust or respect someone whose solemn word proves worthless? The Prime Minister, facing outraged voters, purported to establish a new process for senior appointments to crown corporations. He promised, “We are going to condemn to history the practice and the politics of cronyism”. Well, the new guidelines have just been swept aside for a Liberal crony to chair scandal plagued Canada Post.
    Let the Prime Minister speak. Why does his word mean so little?
    Mr. Speaker, to repeat the answer to this question, I received a recommendation of names from the board of directors of Canada Post. I selected one of those names, Mr. Feeney, at an annual base salary of $17,100. I recommended that name to the cabinet. The name was accepted.
    Then, in the spirit of cooperation in today's minority government, Mr. Feeney has agreed to appear before a parliamentary committee before he assumes his duties on October 28.
    Mr. Speaker, nothing can excuse breaking solemn promises to Canadians. Nothing. The Prime Minister gave his word. “No longer will the key to Ottawa be who do you know”, he pledged, “Let's be clear. This culture of change that we are bringing to Ottawa is not some exercise in political grandstanding. It is genuine change”.
    But Gordon Feeney is chair of Canada Post today because of his Liberal connections. The new process was simply thrown out the window.
    Let the Prime Minister speak for himself. What does he have to say to Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, Liberal connections? I am unaware of that.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. How is the poor member for Calgary--Nose Hill going to be able to ask another question if she cannot hear the answer?
    The Minister of National Revenue has the floor and the members will want to hear the answer.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, the job of the chair of Canada Post is to promote the governance of that institution and to seek out a new CEO. It is an important job which Mr. Feeney is undertaking for an annual salary of $17,100. In my opinion, he is totally qualified to undertake that task, but I will listen to any negative points that the members of the opposition may have if they summon him to appear before them.

[Translation]

Public Service

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.
     Some years ago a policy was put in place to distribute Government of Canada jobs in the national capital region in a particular way: 75% in Ottawa and 25% in the Outaouais region of Quebec. At present, the number of jobs on the Quebec side is hovering around 20%.
    What is the minister going to do to comply with this policy?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I have also discussed this with the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer. We do respect the 75/25 principle. It is not exactly being applied at this time. This situation should be attended to as soon as possible.

Industry

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.
    More than 11,000 Canadian businesses were taken over by foreign investors under the Mulroney and Chrétien governments. Nothing could be easier than getting Investment Canada's green light for an acquisition; the light is always green.

[English]

    Will the minister commit today to review the Investment Canada Act to secure an effective examination of foreign takeovers of Canadian firms, including human rights, labour and sustainability standards, starting with the expected Minmetals purchase of Noranda?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for asking me that question because it gives me the opportunity to thank for the first time the people of my constituency for allowing me to be here.
    The hon. member also knows that foreign investments in Canada, foreign acquisitions, are reviewed by the Minister of Industry. We will continue to do that. The Government of Canada has an unassailable record of human rights. We will continue to have an--
    The hon. member for Churchill.

Canada Post

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.
    Under his direction the Treasury Board minister introduced new guidelines to clean up the mess created by the Liberals. The revenue minister blatantly ignored these guidelines when he appointed his buddy, Gordon Feeney, to the board of Canada Post. Now he says he will put the appointment before a parliamentary committee. How is this any different from the procedure used under the predecessor's regime?
    Will the Prime Minister either revoke Mr. Feeney's appointment or at least guarantee that he will accept the recommendation of the committee?
    Mr. Speaker, if the member would read the guidelines, I could tell her how they are different. We instructed all the boards in the interim to appoint a nominating committee that would review and recommend candidates. That was done. Candidates were presented to the minister. The minister was then charged with making a selection and presenting that selection to the House of Commons, which will be done the moment a committee is struck.

[Translation]

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago the Conservative Party denounced the closing of nine RCMP detachments in Quebec, a decision that could endanger the safety of communities in those regions. Yesterday the federal Liberals' Quebec caucus said it shared our concerns.
    Why is the government endangering the safety of Quebeckers by closing these RCMP detachments? Will the minister take action to reverse this unfortunate decision?

  (1450)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member would not want me to interfere in the operational matters of the RCMP. I do want to reassure the hon. member that this is a redeployment. The number of RCMP officers in the province of Quebec will remain the same. This redeployment only took place after broad based consultations, including the Sûreté du Québec.
    Everyone, I am sure, is aware the RCMP is not the provincial police force in the province of Quebec. The RCMP works strategically with them. The redeployment is taking place to ensure that strategic cooperation is facilitated.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the closing of nine RCMP detachments in Quebec is intended to reorganize the resources needed to fight organized crime and terrorism. Just by chance, all the detachments being closed are in places that had the misfortune not to elect Liberals.
    Does the minister believe that crime only strikes in Liberal ridings?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe the outrageous allegation that I have just heard from the hon. member.
    I simply go back to the fact that the RCMP, in all provinces and territories in this country, regularly makes decisions around redeployment. The number of officers in the province of Quebec will stay the same. In fact, the redeployment is taking place so that we can work with our partners, like the Sûreté, to do a better job of fighting organized crime.

[Translation]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, former Minister of Canadian Heritage Hélène Scherrer flew to the Banff television festival in a Challenger jet, which ended up costing the taxpayer $55,000. During her time in Banff, she gave a speech that had but one purpose: to discredit the leader of the Conservative party. This was a purely partisan expenditure.
    Why then was this trip paid for out of public funds?
    Mr. Speaker, Ms. Scherrer accepted the invitation in early January 2004, or in other words well before the election call. The festival took place in June. Ms. Scherrer gave a speech. No partisan event was held.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would invite the Prime Minister to recheck that speech. It was overly partisan and way out of line. Héléne Scherrer and the Liberal Party broke the election financing law by having the taxpayers pay for her election speech in Banff. Now she has a plum patronage job as the Prime Minister's principal secretary. The Liberal Party policy seems to be: break the law and get rewarded.
    Will the Prime Minister end this Liberal cycle of corruption immediately and force his party to pay back the expenses of this trip?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Banff festival is the most important festival for Canadian television and new media. It was the role and duty of the Minister of Canadian Heritage to attend, particularly as she had been invited back on January 9. As far as I know, we are still ministers, even during an election campaign.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, once again, the lives of members of our armed forces have been put in jeopardy, as evidenced by the tragic events that recently unfolded on the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi.
    Since there is still potential risk, could the Minister of National Defence tell us about the measures that military authorities intend to take to ensure the safety of the submariners who are still adrift along the coast of Ireland?
    Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that all the members of this House are concerned about the fate of our brave submariners aboard the HMSC Chicoutimi. I can assure the House that these people are professionals. The British navy is there to help. Our own navy has dispatched another ship to the scene.
    I can assure the House that every possible measure has been taken. I hope to soon be able to report that these brave men have made it back safely and that we can determine the causes of this serious accident.

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, considering that the four submarines have been experiencing a great many problems since they were bought, will the minister ensure that all necessary corrective measures will be taken before these four submarines are deemed to be operational, even if it means docking them until then?
    Mr. Speaker, this is precisely why, this morning, I asked the head of navy what measures they were taking. He assured me that the other three submarines are operational. Of course, the navy, the air force and the army always try to figure out the causes of every accident, to decide what to do with our equipment. I trust their professionalism. They will find the causes of the accident and we will make sure that it does not happen again.

[English]

    The hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Health

    Mr. Speaker, I thank everyone for that warm introduction. I have to say, however, that I do not think the government side will be applauding after I ask my first question.
    This question is for the Minister of Health. This week the minister said that the Government of Ontario should account for how it spent the additional $83 million funded by the federal government to care for hepatitis C victims. Is that not ironic, the minister providing advice on accountability?
    When will the government be accountable for all the victims who were affected by hepatitis C, not just those on the existing list who qualified for compensation?
    Mr. Speaker, we provided over $1.1 billion which is in a trust fund for the post-1986 and pre-1990 victims. We provided over $300 million to all the different provinces to deal with the pre-1986 and post-1990 victims. The fact is that the government has provided close to $1.6 billion all together in those two programs for all the victims in this particular situation. This is obviously a very difficult situation. Yes, I can tell Ontario and I can tell the other provinces that--
    The hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the Minister of Health that people are suffering and this babble is not helping.
    According to the original agreement, the provinces do not have to account for this money until next year.
    Will the health minister ask the other provincial governments to account for how they spent their share of the money ahead of the scheduled reporting date?
    Mr. Speaker, yes, I will ask them for accountability. As per the agreement, the accountability will be some time in 2007.
    I have stated my preferences. When there are very serious questions being asked by people who are suffering and people who have suffered injuries, the answers should come now so that their concerns are satisfied and Canadians' concerns are satisfied.
    Yes, I am asking them to be accountable.

  (1500)  

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne broadly outlined the government's plan for a new deal for cities and communities. The Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities has pursued an exhaustive consultation with stakeholders, for which he is to be congratulated.
    Would the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities please provide the House with more detail on the gas tax and when municipalities across the country can expect to see the money flow?
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the House that during the election campaign, and confirmed in the Speech from the Throne, we indicated that we would provide $5 billion for sustainable infrastructure over the next five years.
    The amounts will start to flow with budget 2005. We will begin on a modest ramp but it will spike up in the fifth year to $2 billion. That money will flow to the provinces as soon as we have completed negotiations with the provinces and discussions with the municipalities which will allow us to go forward.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister just excused and dismissed the $55,000 Challenger trip of his principal secretary to give an exclusively partisan speech right in the middle of the national campaign because she booked it back in January.
    If she was interested in representing the government's cultural policy, she could have done that legitimately as a minister but she did not. She went there as a Liberal attack dog. Every line in that speech was a partisan line.
    How can the Prime Minister defend his principal secretary spending $55,000 of tax dollars in violation of the Elections Act--
     The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage.
    Mr. Speaker, I have the invitation right here. It is an invitation dated January 7. It was her role and her duty to be at the festival--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The minister is right beside me and I cannot hear her because of all the noise. We are entitled to some silence so the member can hear the answer. The member for Calgary Southeast has to hear the answer for a supplementary.
    Mr. Speaker, the Banff festival is a most important festival in audio, visual and television. It was her duty to be there.
    As for the speech, she gave a speech at the Banff festival pertaining to the Banff festival. It was her duty to be there and she accepted the invitation on January 7.
    Mr. Speaker, she has the invitation but I have the speech. It was not her duty to go there and give a partisan screed. That is not the job of a minister of the crown, certainly not at taxpayers' expense.
    She had the bad judgment to abuse public funds, to violate the Elections Act and the Prime Minister has had the bad judgment to appoint her as principal secretary.
    Will he call that person on the carpet and insist that the Liberal Party repay the public for the $55,000 that was misspent?
    Mr. Speaker, I do have to repeat that Madam Scherrer was Minister of Canadian Heritage. She had the obligation and the duty to be at the Banff film festival, which is a most important film festival in audio-visual in Canada. She gave a speech at the Banff film festival pertaining to the Banff film festival.
    She was a minister during the campaign and it was her duty as a minister to be a minister during an electoral campaign.

[Translation]

Presence in Gallery

    I wish to draw the attention of members to the presence in our gallery of Her Excellency Danielle Saint-Lôt, Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism for the Republic of Haiti.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

[English]

     I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Committee on Social Affairs from the National Assembly of Vietnam, led by Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoai Thu, Chair of the committee.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government House leader what the business is for the rest of the week and for next week after everybody goes home and has a nice Thanksgiving weekend.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we intend to continue this afternoon, tomorrow and next Tuesday with the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

[English]

    Members will have observed a number of bills on today's Notice Paper. These bills will be introduced tomorrow. On Wednesday and Thursday of next week, the government will proceed with motions to refer to committee before second reading two of these bills, namely, the bill respecting the protection of children and the bill respecting whistleblowers.
    As a consequence of the House schedule this week, the House leaders have been unable to meet, an omission that will be corrected this evening. I will discuss the business for the remainder of next week at that time.

Speech from the Throne

[The Address]

[English]

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to the speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to say a few words about the government's agenda in this new and very different Parliament and about the subamendment that is now before us from the Bloc Quebecois.
    The government's agenda flows directly from commitments made to Canadians in the June election campaign. That is now embodied in the Speech from the Throne. It is an ambitious agenda for an ambitious country.
    Beginning with health care, we will implement the historic agreement which the Prime Minister reached with all first ministers in mid-September. By that agreement the Government of Canada will provide the provinces and territories with more than $41 billion in new health care funding over the coming decade. That is on top of some $36 billion per year which the federal government currently invests directly and indirectly in the health of Canadians.
    This means that we have met and surpassed all of the federal financial obligations laid out by the hon. Roy Romanow in his landmark report on health care. We have a long term agreement duly signed by every premier from every province and territory. It provides the best terms ever on transparency. It is a triumph of successful Canadian federalism and it allows all of us to focus all of our efforts at long last on the real substance: shorter waiting times, more health care professionals, better equipment, improved primary care, home care and catastrophic drug coverage, better services in the north and for aboriginals, more health innovation, and improved public health and wellness.
    To a very large extent, that is what the throne speech and that is what this session of Parliament are all about, but there is more.
    There is equalization, the Canadian way of building equity and fairness among all our provinces and regions. Equalization has been an integral part of federal-provincial fiscal arrangements since 1957. It has been in our Constitution since 1982. It typically transfers some $8 billion to $10 billion annually from the Government of Canada to those less fortunate provinces whose revenue raising capacity falls below a certain calculated standard.
    The existing equalization system is based upon a hugely complicated formula with at least--count them--1,320 constantly moving parts. Provinces are concerned that it lacks clarity and predictability and it sometimes works retroactively.
    When equalization payments go down, as they do on occasion according to the formula, even though that means the gap between the have and the have not provinces has narrowed, and that should be a good thing, provinces still worry about the adequacy of the system. To meet these concerns, we have tabled the biggest changes in equalization in all of its 47 years.
    For this current year we will put two new financial floors under existing calculations, boosting overall payments from what was expected to be about $9.2 billion this year to about $10.8 billion all together, well above the average value of the equalization program over the past five years.
     For next year and going forward, we will go further to create a new equalization base amount which will then be indexed to increase automatically year by year into the future. The new base amount for fiscal year 2005-06 will be set at the highest level that equalization entitlements have ever reached, that is, $10.9 billion. The index factor on top of that base will be 3.5% per year and we will review the arrangement every five years.
    We have thus addressed all three concerns about clarity, predictability and adequacy with what amounts to an estimated $33 billion in improvements in federal contributions to the provinces and territories over the coming decade. First ministers will meet again on October 26 to finalize the details.
    There is more. We have outlined important plans for early childhood development, learning and care; for seniors, the disabled and their caregivers; for aboriginal Canadians; for cities and communities; for rural Canada, agriculture and natural resources; for the north; for the environment; and for Canada's place of respect and distinction in world affairs. Still there is more.

  (1510)  

    Our commitment is to balanced budgets, fiscal discipline, steady and sensible debt reduction, and just as we have done in every budget since 1996, further reductions in federal taxes especially for lower income Canadians, and to enhance the competitiveness of the Canadian economy.
    The fact that Canada has been a strong fiscal, economic and social performer over the past seven years is the direct result of our successful battle in the 1990s to beat the deficit. It is a battle that we fought and a battle that we won.
    After nearly three decades of chronic red ink, no growth, high interest rates and lost jobs, we balanced Canada's books in 1997 and we have kept them balanced every year since. We are the only G-7 country to be operating solidly in the black. Our triple A credit ratings have been fully restored from where they were in the mid-1990s and later.
    Since moving into surplus, the average standard of living of Canadians has increased at a faster pace. There has been more improvement in the past seven years than in the previous 17 years.
    Our careful planning and prudent budgeting have given Canada the strength to deal with expensive and unpredictable crises like security threats, natural disasters, the SARS outbreak, and of course BSE in the livestock sector.
    We have also had the wherewithal to invest in primary Canadian priorities like health care, learning, families and innovation while also paying down debt, cutting taxes and always balancing the books. However, we can never take our fiscal and economic success for granted. It is crucial to the well-being of Canadians everywhere but it is not automatic.
    That is why I was very pleased to see a substantial portion of the Speech from the Throne devoted to the challenge of how we maintain and build upon our economic strength, because that is the enabler for everything else that Canadians want to do. It is the enabler for the things we do in common with our provincial colleagues and partners, things like health care and equalization, but also post-secondary education, certain other social programming, infrastructure, the environment, agriculture, immigration, regional development, housing and alleviating homelessness, innovation and research.
    Our economic success is also the enabler behind our direct federal responsibility for things like the public pensions of an increasingly aging society, international diplomacy, foreign aid and world trade, national defence, national security and dealing with national emergencies. Of course there is still that federal debt of more than $500 billion, which incidentally is nearly double the size of all provincial and territorial debt combined. Just keeping that debt current consumes about 20¢ out of every dollar of federal revenue. It adds up to about $35 billion a year, probably the biggest single expenditure item facing the Government of Canada.
    No one should doubt the serious responsibilities carried by provincial governments. Of course, their jurisdictions, just like the federal jurisdiction, must always be respected. At the same time, in fairness, it also needs to be noted that both orders of government have access to all of the same major tax bases.
    It has to be noted that some provincial revenue sources, like royalties and the proceeds from lotteries, are not available to the federal government. It has to be noted that provinces have complete autonomy in setting their own fiscal policies. It has to be noted that federal fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets and debt reduction save interest costs not just for the Government of Canada but for all Canadians, including provincial governments.
    It has to be noted that recent improvements in national economic performance will boost not only federal revenues but also provincial revenues. It has to be noted that the Government of Canada is already committed to substantial increases in its annual multibillion dollar transfers to assist other governments, most notably for health care of $41 billion, and equalization of $33 billion, not to mention other things yet to come, such as child care, communities and others.

  (1515)  

    It has to be noted that, just like the provinces, the Government of Canada too has serious responsibilities to discharge, as I have already outlined.
    It is interesting to note that international comparisons show that Canada, as a very successful country, a very successful federation, is one of the most decentralized federations in the world.
     On the money side of the equation, total provincial revenues, that is, their own source revenues plus federal cash transfers every year, have substantially exceeded federal revenues for more than two decades now and they are expected to continue to do so.
    For all of these reasons, I have profound difficulty with the motion from the Bloc Quebecois, which is now before the House. Both its premise and its remedy are, in my view, fundamentally wrong. It denies recent progress on things like health care and equalization. Most seriously, it ignores the duties and the responsibilities of the government and the Parliament of Canada by proposing essentially the delegation of a huge portion of national fiscal decision making on an unaccountable and absolutely open-ended basis to one single provincial premier acting alone.
    Let me make it clear. I have enormous respect for the premier of Quebec. I had the honour of sitting in the House with him and working with him on such things as the environmental challenges, for example. He is an outstanding leader of his province and he did a superb job at the recent first ministers conference on health.
     I think we are all very proud of Mr. Charest, but that does not change the fact that it would be a distortion of our democracy to bind federal fiscal policy to the pronouncements, past, present or future, of any person or authority outside this chamber and not accountable to this chamber.
    Further, to single out the premier of one province, as this motion does, is a fundamental disservice to the leaders of every other province and territory. The premier of Quebec, I suspect, is not the only premier with some pretty strong views on financial matters and it is probably true that among the premiers there are many and varied opinions. It is not a case of one size fits all.
    On the question of equalization, for example, I know the premier of Quebec has a very strong position and I respect that position. However, with the greatest of respect, I also know that the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador has a very strong position, as does the premier of New Brunswick, as does the premier of Saskatchewan and, I suspect, on the other side of the equation, so does the premier of Alberta and so does the premier of Ontario.
    The issue here is not speaking for provincial premiers. My point is this: it is simply not acceptable to enshrine the view of any authority outside of Parliament as the basis of federal fiscal policy. It makes no sense from the perspective of responsible government because this is the place where those fiscal decisions are ultimately made, and it makes no sense from the perspective of fairness and understanding within our federal system.
    Therefore, I would urge all hon. members to support the thrust and the fundamental direction of the throne speech itself and to defeat the subamendment in the voting later tonight.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have listened very carefully to the comments of my colleague from Saskatchewan. I agree with some of the things he said about equalization, but I must register my extreme disappointment that, just like the throne speech, he was silent on the issues in Saskatchewan that have now seized the province, that is, the BSE crisis and the recent frosts that have claimed a lot of the grain and oilseed crops.
    We were told during the election that we should elect a Liberal because then there would be a strong voice at the cabinet table. We have had this member at the cabinet table for many years and agriculture is in such a predicament now that it is as if there is no one there speaking up. I wonder if the member can explain his silence on this issue.
     He is not strongly advocating for agriculture. We have a severe crisis. That border remains closed. We do not seem to have any voice in the government for our province. I do not understand why the throne speech was silent on this area, and many other areas need to be addressed.
    I would appreciate it very much if he would begin to express some concern and give us some indication of where the government is going on this. We cannot wait any longer for equalization payment agreements. We can have all of these high-sounding things that should have been addressed years ago. Why is there not something now coming forth for agriculture? It is in desperate need in the province and this minister should recognize that.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in the hon. gentleman's final remarks, because I gather that his party is intent on voting for this subamendment that is before us tonight, which would have the effect of essentially scuttling the equalization deal that is presently before the federal government and the provinces.
    He should know that this deal is worth $507 million this year alone to his province and my province of Saskatchewan. The government of Saskatchewan wants that deal. It wants the $507 million so it can participate in programs to alleviate BSE and so it can participate in programs to alleviate the impact of the frost. It is very anxious to have this equalization deal proceed on schedule. If this amendment were to pass tonight that deal could very well be scuttled because of the diversionary tactics of the opposition in the House of Commons.
    On the issue of agriculture, I am very pleased that we have in place a $5.5 billion agricultural policy framework that includes within it a whole series of safety nets, including a more robust crop insurance program that, because of the very severe frost conditions in western Canada, will pay out this year probably the largest indemnities it has ever paid out.
    I am also pleased that we have provided $1.8 billion in incremental funding over and above the agricultural policy framework, that is, $1.8 billion to directly address the issues related to BSE.
     I am very pleased, despite what I hear from the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and the member for Yorkton—Melville, that in putting together these programs we had the active engagement, involvement and advice of members of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, who are a lot more learned on this subject than the hon. member, I would add. They helped us design this program and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association says this most recent tranche of programing is exactly what the industry needs and wants right now.

  (1525)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance is saying so many incorrect, narrow and twisted things it is outrageous.
    To say that our amendment to the amendment is threatening the accord on equalization is twisted. What our amendment to the amendment says is that we must go further than equalization, resolve equalization, but go beyond and examine all federal transfers.
    The Minister of Finance, who prides himself on helping the agricultural sector, does not recall having made a commitment that he did not live up to when he was responsible for the Canadian Dairy Commission four years ago. He cut the $6.03 a hectolitre provided to dairy producers. It provided Quebec dairy producers with $120 million. He said he would raise prices accordingly to compensate for the losses. He never did. This man does not honour his commitments.
    Today, he is talking nonsense. He just told my Conservative colleague that our amendment to the amendment is threatening the equalization accord. What equalization accord?
    Two weeks ago I attended the first ministers' conference. They presented a convoluted position for reforming equalization. He says there is no agreement. Yes, there are agreements with the receiving provinces to make substantial changes to the equalization system based on all 10 provinces and a realistic view of property taxes.
    This minister is talking nonsense, as the government did earlier, as the Prime Minister did during oral question period when he said this would be abdicating the federal government's responsibilities.
    This is so wrong and warped that it is bad faith. It is bad faith. It reeks of bad faith.
    I have a question for the Minister of Finance. Will he admit that he and the Prime Minister made promises?
    They need to broaden the scope of the first ministers' conference and come better prepared than they were two weeks ago at the health conference, when the Prime Minister did not even know what he was talking about. They need to be ready to explain to the provinces the shameful surpluses that were accumulated not by good administration, but by making cuts to employment insurance, health and education. That is what you have been doing for 10 years. So much for your good administration and your surpluses.
    While people have needs in health and education, there are surpluses here. Will he address the public's real concerns?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when the Government of Canada invests an incremental $41 billion in health care, that is looking after the concerns of Canadians in partnership with the provinces.
    When we enhance equalization by $33 billion, that is looking after the concerns of Canadians in partnership with the provinces.
    When we propose measures to improve child care, to improve the quality of life in our cities and communities, to expand affordable housing in the country to deal with the needs of senior citizens, the disabled and their caregivers, and when we try to address the needs of aboriginal Canadians, who are among the least advantaged of all of us in society, that is indeed taking care of the interests of Canadians.
    That is what is in the throne speech and this government is very proud to stand by that throne speech.
    The hon. gentleman wonders why voting for his subamendment would somehow potentially affect equalization. If the opposition effectively destroys this Parliament and brings it to a screeching halt, then everything on the agenda goes up in the air. That is the problem.
    Canadians want to see health care dealt with. They do not want another fast election.
     Canadians want to see equalization dealt with. They do not want another snap election.
     Canadians sent us here to do the business of the country in a responsible and responsive manner. They want this Parliament to work. There is an obligation on all of us to cooperate with each other and get the results that Canadians expect.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask the Minister of Finance a question, and to comment on that part of the Speech from the Throne that focuses on fiscal discipline.
    I want him to know that contrary to popular opinion, New Democrats are very concerned about fiscal discipline and very supportive of that approach. I would suggest to the Minister of Finance that he jive that rhetoric with his actions by applying the fiscal discipline model to the question of projecting revenue and accumulated surpluses. He is aware of our concern about these accumulated surpluses to the tune of $80 billion over the last 10 years and that goes automatically against the debt because of the formula with which we have to live.
    Would the Minister of Finance accept a notion that we have advanced in the House, and that has been raised by a number of academics, particularly Michael Mendelson from the Caledon Institute and others, for the establishment of an independent parliamentary budget office so we would have before Parliament a voice to give us regular advice on fiscal forecasts of the Government of Canada? That was a proposition we made in the spirit of constructive contribution to this minority government. Some of the opposition members support it since they have adopted the idea and included it in the main amendment to the Speech from the Throne.
    Is the Minister of Finance prepared to move on this idea?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member for Winnipeg North would acknowledge that at least a portion of the idea that she is suggesting is drawn from experience in other countries, most particularly in the United States. I would note in that experience that sometimes it works well and sometimes it does not. There are, for example, some unfortunate conflicts that emerge between the CBO, the congressional budgetary office on the one hand, and the office of budget and management associated with the White House on the other, and in the third place, the department of the treasury. There are some differences between our system and the American system that makes some of the ideas not directly transferrable.
    On her essential point that we need to have greater precision and accuracy in the process of forecasting and laying out fiscal and economic projections into the future, I agree with that principle absolutely. That is why the government has asked one of the most prominent forecasters and modellers, Mr. Tim O'Neill of the Bank of Montreal, to provide a comprehensive review of the Canadian way of doing these forecasts and advancing these econometric models. We want to ensure that we are producing those fiscal projections in a way that matches up with the best practices in the world.
     I am very pleased to report to the House that not only will Mr. O'Neill bring his great experience and expertise to bear on this issue, but we have also enlisted the cooperation and support of the International Monetary Fund that will be participating in this review process as well to ensure that--
    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. minister. I know he is providing a fulsome answer for the member for Winnipeg North but time has expired.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
    First, I begin by congratulating you on your return as our Speaker. Your steady hand in the past has given us the confidence to move forward with the challenges a minority government situation can bring.
    I would also like to thank my constituents for returning me to Ottawa as their representative. Their support and encouragement is humbling. I look forward to exceeding all their expectations. The campaign seemed very brief, but I met many of the new constituents.
    I would like to especially thank at this time all those who took the time to assist with my campaign, while putting my aspects of their person lives on hold. Their participation in our democracy is a gift to us all. Thanks again.
    This week we heard the Speech from the Throne, and many of us could be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu. Much of what we heard was recycled, rehashed, repromised Liberal letdown. I am not surprised, but I am disappointed.
    Given that the Prime Minister has been in power for almost a year, and planning for a decade before that, I expected much more. I expected a vision, a focus for Canada, organized priorities with organized goals. Instead of a finely trimmed racing schooner heading for the finish line, we see a government that resembles a dinghy floating on an ocean, lost, drifting and in desperate need of a plan.
    Nonetheless, the government reoffered its throne speech again. Again the Liberals have promised to introduce a national child care program. This is a promise that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien promised three times before and failed to deliver on. Now, under much of the same cabinet, the Prime Minister has promised the same thing yet again.
    The government is promising a quarter of a million spots within the next five years. This plan apparently will cost $5 billion. However, before we get too excited, let us not forget that this is the same government that promised to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Instead of achieving their goal, it bought new VIP jets for themselves. Life is about choices and choices are about priorities.
    The Conservative Party believes that parents should have the tools and the choices to care for their children. Good child care is important to the Conservative Party. We know parents will choose what is best for their children, and we believe parental choice is imperative because different families have different needs. Child care needs in our rural communities are vastly different from those in the centre of our urban centres. One size will not fit all.
    I must admit that it is difficult to comment on this program as the government has yet to table legislation or even lay out a proposal. I guess a decade was not enough time to prepare.
    In one form or the other it has been promised before, but the Liberals have failed to deliver. We will have to take a wait and see approach until this government determines if it actually intends to deliver on its promise this time. It is quite a record of broken red book and throne speech promises.
    Child care is a provincial responsibility. There are serious logistical, jurisdictional and economic issues that must be better explained by the federal government before we can move ahead. Universal daycare is something that will require the cooperation of the provinces and the federal government. How would such a program be implemented and, more important, audited for cost and performance?
    We have seen programs, such as the national gun registry, stray far from its original mandate, goals and budget. There are only so many boondoggles that one government can afford.
    The government does not have a good track record of dealing with the provinces on jurisdictional issues. Given that the Romanow report came out several years ago and it took until this fall for the deal to be hammered out, we cannot realistically expect anything for a long time.

  (1535)  

    Child care is very different. In each corner of the country, local and provincial governments have already realized this. By the time regional, cultural and economic adjustments are made for each party of the country, we end up with anything but a national program.
    In addition, we are interested to know what side deals will be negotiated with various provinces, as we saw in the recent health agreement. How much control will the federal government have over its funding and how much control does the federal government want over its funding?
    As members can see, this is a complex matter that will require a lot more information from the government before we can get an accurate picture of where the government intends to go on this issue. We believe all professional child care providers should be properly qualified and certified. This is also a provincial responsibility, but the federal government can encourage a minimum national standard. Provincial jurisdictions must be respected.
    I do want to stress that whatever plan the government proposes, it must not limit the options available to parents. Parents must have fair options to choose how to raise their own children. Parents choose their child care arrangements based on many things other than just budget constrictions. Child care can be based on cultural preferences, language preferences, educational options, location of service, family needs, medical needs and many other priorities. These are important criteria that must be incorporated into any proposal.
    Another area I wish to touch upon is the lack of attention in the throne speech to the plight of our rural agricultural communities. These communities have been devastated by years of unexpected, unprecedented challenges that have pushed farm families to the brink of ruin. Many have left the land and many others are running out of options to stay on the land.
    The CAIS program and CFIP are a joke. They have failed to deliver the help when and where needed. The frustration that farmers have experienced with these programs have only added to the stress and the strain of the situation. The government needs to listen to our farm families to better meet their unique needs. So far that has not been the case.
    Unfortunately, the throne speech offers little as far as hope and solutions go. While I am not surprised, I am very disappointed. In fact this is part of a disturbing pattern of growing indifference from the Liberals to agriculture.
     In the throne speech agriculture received no more than a single word of reference in passing. The throne speech before contained just two sentences of attention to farm families, a significant drop from the speech before when they received 14 seconds of discussion in the speech. Sadly, I would not be surprised if the next speech contained nothing for Canada's suffering farm families and the agricultural industry.
    This situation is unacceptable and the Prime Minister should be ashamed for turning his back on his election promises. He promised to make agriculture a priority and he has failed. So much for dealing with major issues facing those in agricultural communities and agricultural industries in the agricultural sector.
    The finance minister should also be ashamed of his participation and lack of influence in this situation. The people of Saskatchewan not only expected better, but he promised better. I expected more from a man who has been chasing the job of prime minister for so long. I also expected better from a government that needs to earn the respect and the support of Canadians.
    Before I sit down, Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your position.

  (1540)  

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I too congratulate you on your new appointment.
    There have been discussions and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That, during the take note debate on the bovine spongiform encephalopathy, any member may, after notifying the Chair, divide his or her speaking time.
    Is it agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to.)

[Translation]

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed consideration of the motion for an Address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment and subamendment.
    Madam Speaker, first I would like to congratulate the member who just spoke on the throne speech. It is her first speech in the House in this 38th Parliament.
    Essentially she said that it gave her a sense of déjà vu. The throne speech we heard this week was a rehash. A photocopy of Jean Chrétien's previous throne speeches.
    This throne speech bears two initials, they can also be found in the schedules. In the throne speech, the initials JC appear. They stand for Jean Chrétien. The same initials can be found in the schedules: JC for Jean Charest.
    The Prime Minister started writing his Speech from the Throne from the standpoint of areas of provincial jurisdiction. When we talk about labour training and labour, health care and education, direct support to municipalities, subsidized housing and child care, we talk about areas 150 per cent under Quebec's jurisdiction.
    The Prime Minister might have looked at the schedules to the Quebec premier's throne speech.
    I would have thought that in the Speech from the Throne the new Prime Minister would have taken his distances from the former Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, and the Liberal policies of his government.
    He might have included in the throne speech real reform of the employment insurance plan giving status to seasonal workers, relaxing eligibility criteria and increasing the number of insurable weeks. I might have read in the throne speech—but it is not there—that the government was committed to amending Canada Labour Code to include anti-scab legislation and also to eliminating the excise tax on gasoline in order to help the transportation industry in the regions.
    I might have seen in the throne speech a real fisheries policy, and help for road infrastructure, air transportation and shipping in our areas as well as mining.
    My question is this: did the member notice, as we did in the French and the English versions, that this Speech from the Throne does not come close to being a Speech from the Throne. It is an empty shell.
    There is nothing in it to help the regions develop. There is nothing to promote regional development and stop the exodus of young people. There is no incentive to create jobs in the regions to employ young people or seasonal workers. Unfortunately, the latter cannot find work year-round. They work in various sectors and need employment insurance at specific times of the year.

  (1545)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate you on your appointment.
    I also want to thank the member for her speech. Regarding the matters related to agriculture, I agree with the member. I know that it has been a very difficult past few years for the agriculture industry and that members across this place have continued to demonstrate a sensitivity to the plight of the agricultural community.
    However, I am also very interested in her comments with regard to the child care issue and the investment in children. I think there will be good support in this place for quality child care with a secure consistent attachment to a committed adult. The issue is the equity between parents and the choices that they have. Parents who choose paid child care would not only get subsidized care, but they would also have access to the child care expense deduction which is not available to those who choose to provide care in the home to their own children.
    Therefore, would the member consider amendments to things such as allowing the stay at home caregivers to take advantage of the child care expense deduction for the costs that they incur at home? Another example might be to open up or extend the child care expense caregiver credit not only for the aged and infirm but also--

  (1550)  

     The member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague. We must allow parents to raise their children and make the proper decisions on how those children are raised.
    My daughter in fact had a nanny at one time in her life when it was a necessity. I have a son that is at home with his two daughters while his wife is at work because he has a disability.
    Our families have to make those choices and that is the proper way of doing it. Being from a rural community I look at a rural area compared to a downtown in one of our large cities. There are so many different things that we have to look at.
    We must ensure that there is a proper plan and that it is done properly. That is why I am looking forward to seeing what the government brings forward and if it does indeed bring forward a child care program.
    Madam Speaker, first of all, I wish to congratulate the hon. member on her re-election.
    Just recently the B.C. Ferry Corporation of the B.C. government assigned a deal of over $500 million with a German company to build two or three ferries for the B.C. ferry system.
    Many of us are outraged with that because we believe that shipbuilding companies and the workers who are attached to shipbuilding should have access to those jobs. That money then flows back to the communities, especially in the west or in the east or even in Quebec for that matter.
    I have yet to hear the Conservative position on that deal. Does that party support the shipbuilding policy that was designed by the unions and the corporations?
    For example, we had J.D. Irving and Buzz Hargrove singing out of the same hymn book on this. We had a policy called “Breaking Through: Canadian Shipbuilding Industry”. The government has yet to initiate that policy. Our companies and our workers are unable to get access to these tendering processes and these jobs.
    I would like to have the member's personal view on what she thinks we should do in Canada to have a viable shipbuilding policy so that our workers in British Columbia, Quebec and in the Atlantic Canada region can have access to those jobs.

  (1555)  

    Madam Speaker, I am sorry to tell my hon. colleague that I am not aware of the whole situation and I would prefer to have my colleague who looks after fisheries comment. My expertise is in regard to the fishermen cops who we have in Saskatchewan. We would gladly give them to the member.
    Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate you on your appointment. It is certainly well deserved. I would also like to congratulate my colleagues on both sides of the House on their re-elections.
    There are many old friends back along with new people who will hopefully become friends because in this place we find, despite our political stripes, that for the good of the country we must work together.
    I wish to thank the constituents in St. John's South--Mount Pearl who returned me to this tremendous building where we have an opportunity to do so much for them, and hopefully for the country.
    The name has been changed to St. John's South--Mount Pearl, which signifies most of my riding. I once had about 70 communities in the old riding. Now I have two cities with one extra town, Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove, a place very near and dear to me. That makes up the total riding.
    Most of our speakers have gone over the issues in the throne speech. I am going to do a cursory run through of a number of them and then concentrate on a couple of issues which are of great concern to my own riding and province.
    Perhaps we should mention the fact that we are speaking on the subamendment. There are people who have concerns about the subamendment. In fact, some of our premiers today expressed some concern because they were interpreting the subamendment a little further than it actually goes.
    The concern is that the Bloc has asked the government to concentrate on the financial pressures provinces are suffering as a consequence of fiscal imbalance and that it should be alleviated, as suggested by the Premier of Quebec. Nobody has any problems with that.
    Some of the provinces might have difficulty if the premier or the Bloc in its subamendment had demanded that we use the mechanisms perhaps as would be suggested. That is not the case. It is pretty straightforward and something that we can support.
    The throne speech itself has an interesting sentence in it. It talks about creating a strong economy supported by a committed and excellent public service. There is no doubt that we have a committed and excellent public service and it is very supportive of the country and the work that has to be done.
    The question is whether government is supportive of the public service because right now PSAC, the union representing the workers, is negotiating with the government and we wonder from some of the signals whether the government is negotiating in good faith. We hope it is and that a resolution will be found quickly so that we can get on with the work.
    The speech talks about a review of the EI program. It is badly needed. We emphasized it in our amendment. I hope we concentrate on the plight of seasonal workers because of the downturn in the economies of agriculture and the fisheries. The infrastructure is falling apart in our country. We see very little construction which leads to a dearth of work in relation to seasonal workers.
    We have people who need to get out of the workplace. We must look at an early retirement program for people who have been around so long, who have contributed so much, and are finding it so difficult. We cannot forget those who have already been displaced and whom we have ignored.
    I hope we live up to the health care agreements that we signed with the provinces. That is extremely important and I hope we do it in the light of proper federal-provincial cooperation.
    It is great to see the child care program mentioned, but it has been mentioned now for 11 years and I hope this time, with the minority government situation, that pressure can be put on government to deliver.
    We can never forget the seniors, those who have done so much for us. The word is mentioned but we do not see much substance here. That also ties into affordable housing and drug costs because these are the people who are really affected.

  (1600)  

    Omitted entirely from the speech was agriculture. There was one little reference, three letters I believe, and no reference made to the arts. We have to remember that our heritage and culture must be preserved.
    The municipalities will get a portion of the federal gas tax. We do not know how much, when, how thinly it will be spread and we have no idea if an arrangement has been made with the provinces for delivery so that the money given by one will not be clawed back by the other.
    That takes me to the issues relating to my own area. During the election we had two major commitments made by the Prime Minister and I will read them to the House. These are not my words by the way but the words of the hon. Minister of Natural Resources. He said “the Prime Minister has given me the responsibility of finalizing the deal on the Atlantic accord as soon as possible. That will bring Newfoundland and Labrador 100% of its offshore oil royalties without affecting the provinces equalization payments”.
     What the Prime Minister actually promised was 100% of total revenues. We hope that will be carried out. The minister said today that a a few i's had to be dotted and a few t's had to be crossed but he said the same thing at the beginning of the campaign four months ago. We hope the deal is being finalized but we hope it is being finalized as promised.
    The other thing the Minister of Natural Resources said concerning Newfoundland and Labrador was “the Prime Minister came to this province and promised to do whatever it took to win foreign overfishing on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, including custodial management. He has listened to the concerns of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and he is acting on these concerns”.
    What a farce. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Natural Resources promised during the election to deal with this issue that has drawn so much attention in this hon. House. Just before we went in to the election, the House passed a motion telling the government to deal with this issue.
     What has happened now? In the throne speech the Prime Minister and the government said, and this was the only reference, “we will enhance the rules of enforcement”. An extra boat will be sent out to issue extra citations so that more and more people will be frustrated with foreigners thumbing their nose at us as they bring our resources home. This is an insult to all Canadians. That is an issue that has to be dealt with.
    The Prime Minister himself went to the United Nations. All the members said on both radio and television that the Prime Minister mentioned fish at the United Nations. He was trying to deflect the responsibility of dealing with this issue to an international circus. We know what will happen, which is what has always happened in the past, nothing at all. Our resources will be diminished and destroyed while the government twiddles its thumbs.
    We are asking the government to step up and live up to its promises because if not there will be another government that will do it shortly.
    One other thing I would like to mention in the short time I have left has to do with the issue of education. Many topics were mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, the cost of health care, child care, the health of seniors, the economy and the need to develop our resources. An educated population can do that but very little reference was made to education. We must ensure that every child in this country has the opportunity to receive a full education regardless of geography and regardless of his or her socio-economic status. We have to make sure we have a contributing population so that in turn the country can be developed by them.

  (1605)  

     I recommend that the government immediately appoint if not a minister at least a secretary of state responsible for the coordination of education. There is absolutely no coordination of education between the federal government and the provinces. Nobody accepts responsibility for the job that has to be done. We better get on with the job. We will do our best to cooperate to make sure the job can be done.

[Translation]

     Madam Speaker, I just listened with amazement to the member's comments. We almost need a magnifying glass to read the throne speech. When it comes to the situation of the unemployed, we have to search for information, we really need to look extremely closely. The government's only commitment in this respect is to “review the employment insurance program to ensure that it remains well-suited to the needs of Canada’s workforce”. That is a little hard for those who are out of work and for seasonal workers to swallow.
    In the riding of Louis-Hébert, we have young workers who do not qualify for employment insurance because of an arbitrary threshold set at 910 hours. These people are wondering why a throne speech, which is supposed to be a statement of intentions, contains so few of them and such little food for thought. A long and hard look is needed. The unemployed are forgotten. They are cast aside. This throne speech does not say much about what will be done to help them.
    Reference was made earlier to seasonal workers. My colleague from the Conservative Party mentioned it; and it is also true for several regions, including the Quebec City area. Some people would like to see a little more content in it.
    I hope that the Liberals who are running the country will be able to put their words into action and to flesh this throne speech out. Frankly, as it is, it leaves us unsatisfied. There is nothing in it for the unemployed. No remedies are provided; it is a mere statement of facts. This is absolutely deplorable. The unemployed may have been overlooked, but they will not forget the government's decisions or lack of decision.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely correct of course. I think I referred to the fact that the throne speech mentioned a number of areas, such as employment insurance, child care and seniors, with absolutely no substance. Their subamendment coupled with our amendment put some meat on those bones but we should not have to do that. It is not our job. It is up to government to present a vision for the future, not a requiem for the past, which is exactly what we have in this throne speech, a regurgitation of the same old issues that have been raised for years.
     People want to hear what the government is going to do, not to hear again that it has a problem here. We know that, certainly in relation to seasonal workers. Because of the lack of attention the federal government has paid to the country, because of the lack of funding to the provinces, our infrastructure, which I will use as one example, is falling apart: our highways, our water and sewer, and general recreational infrastructures. Years ago we could drive throughout this country, particularly in the summer during construction season, and everywhere we would go there were bulldozers, trucks, backhoes, name it. Now we can drive almost anywhere unimpeded because there is nothing underway. These were the jobs that kept Canadians working.
    We have seen a fishery mismanaged. We see people in that seasonal line of work out of work. We see our agriculture being ignored. Again, these people are out of work.
    We must realize that we must concentrate on dealing with the resources we have because they in turn can create the jobs that improve the economy and give us the money to deal with health, child welfare and everything else. It is a very simple procedure but if we omit one part of it the rest falls apart, and they have omitted the whole works.

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    Madam Speaker, the member talked about how the infrastructure is in bad shape. I have often had the discussion with regional and municipal politicians about the accountability these levels of government have, which collect taxes from people, to invest in infrastructure and then when they do not have it they turn around to the federal government. The federal government has stepped up, the member is quite right, but where is the accountability of those who collect money from ratepayers at the levels when the infrastructure is their jurisdiction?
    Madam Speaker, I know my time is short. I do not argue with that. The member has a pretty good point that it is the responsibility of all levels, municipal, provincial and federal.
    However, what has happened and why the federal government has been blamed is that there has been so much downloading that the others cannot afford to do what has to be done. To prove that I challenge the member to look at the budgets of the municipalities and the provincial governments and then ask who has the surplus.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, first, let me congratulate you on your appointment.
    Second, I would like to inform you that I will share my time with the member for Beauce, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.
    Permit me to salute and thank my constituents from Brome—Missisquoi for this fourth mandate, for the renewed trust they put in me during this last election. They are certainly proud to have heard the Speech from the Throne delivered to us a few days ago.
    Concerning my riding, I will deal with a few issues. Of course, health care is important. The Speech from the Throne talked a lot about it. However, an issue particularly caught my attention in this Speech from the Throne. It is the environmental issue. My riding, concerned a lot about the environment, is facing environmental problems, while, of course, having environmental assets.
    Let us start with the negative. There is a problem with the quality of water in Lake Champlain. The government asked the International Joint Commission on Boundary Waters to examine the problems of water quality in Lake Champlain. It did. The commission held hearings this summer and is to meet the local people soon.
    As for Lake Memphremagog, everyone has heard about it. In Coventry, Vermont, Americans want to expand a landfill site. Indeed, they want to triple the size of the landfill site. This would be dangerous for our Lake Memphremagog. It should be understood that the people of Magog, Sherbrooke and the whole region drink water from Lake Memphremagog. Thus, the Lake Memphremagog and the Coventry landfill site issues require careful attention.
    However, there are also good news. This is an issue on which I worked extensively and which deals with the creation of a reserve at Mount Sutton. This is extraordinary. This is in cooperation with the Quebec government. It is a reserve at Mount Sutton. We have to ensure there is cooperation among the different levels of government to guarantee future generations an abundance of such green spaces in the country.
    The Speech from the Throne addressed cooperation at length. What does cooperation mean? It means less bickering. Our friends from the Bloc are not ones to dislike bickering. The Speech from the Throne addresses cooperation at length. Hon. members know that there is always a single taxpayer. He pays at the municipal level; he pays at the provincial level; he pays at the federal level, but it is always the same taxpayer. He asks one thing: that the people he elected agree. In the area of health and municipalities, we saw the desired degree of cooperation, one that works with this government.
    In his speech in reply to the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister talks about cooperation 11 times.
    An hon. member: When it suits.
    Hon. Denis Paradis: On page 43 of the Debates of the House of Commons:
    If we can make cooperation not just rhetoric but reality.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Denis Paradis: It seems like they do not want to hear the word cooperation.
    Further, on page 44, it says, and I quote:
— working with the provinces and territories to secure a 10-year agreement for better health care.
    A little further we read:
—I will meet with the first ministers to put in place some of the most meaningful reforms to equalization—
    On the same page it says:
—the premiers and I sat down with Aboriginal leaders—
    And it continues:
—as we work with provinces, cities and communities on the mechanism and ramp-up for our transfer of a portion of the gas tax—
    On the next page, page 45, we read:
    We will also be working with the other orders of government on infrastructure—
    I am already up to six quotations. Here is the seventh, found later on the same page:
    As a government, we will work with the territories and Aboriginal groups—
    In the next paragraph, we see:
—in collaboration with our circumpolar partners.

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    On the next page, we read:
—we will work with the provinces, the territories and stakeholder groups to increase support for family caregivers—
    It goes on to say:
    When the government of Canada brings together its 13 territorial and provincial partners—
    And that is the meaning of the Speech from the Throne. I think it is important that our friends in the Bloc recognize, although it does not suit them to, the degree of cooperation and collaboration that exists among the various levels of government.
    We are talking about respect for jurisdictions. They are going to talk about it. Not only do I feel it coming, but I have heard it. They are talking about the fiscal imbalance.
    In our constituency offices, people are well aware that we respect provincial jurisdictions. What they are looking for from their elected officials are answers. They do not want any more hassle. “Will you be able to get along together?” I ask the House: will we be able to get along together? I think the answer from our friends in the Bloc still involves a lot quarrelling.
    There is this constant desire to sow discord and fuel it. They claim that it is not working and will not work, that nothing is working. That is not our message. The message of the throne speech is a positive one.
    They talk about financial pressures, about fiscal imbalance. They used those words in an amendment to an amendment. But before putting this amendment to an amendment forward, did they confirm with the council of the federation that this is what was wanted? Did they check?
    I have heard that the council of the federation is not unanimous on this matter. Let there be no misunderstanding: things are going well. Members have seen the health accord signed by the council, the premiers and the Prime Minister of Canada. We have seen that, and see what is coming with respect to equalization. I think that that too will work very well.
    It is essential that we work together rather than divide and conquer. I do not think that Quebec's premier needs the Bloc Quebecois to convey his messages to this House or to the government.
    Let us consider this issue for a moment. Allegations were made about the fiscal imbalance. An entire theory has been built around this topic. That is not what matters. What matters is that, for each issue, we can sit together, negotiate and ensure that a win-win situation is achieved. That is what matters. That is what the Prime Minister of Canada is doing with the provincial premiers. That is what matters to us. We do not want to squabble; the time for squabbling has passed.
    I will conclude with an example, on page—
    Some hon. members: Absolutely not.
    Mr. Denis Paradis: My colleagues do not want me to conclude. I realize that my time is running out.
    On page 4 of the Prime Minister's rep