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39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 004

CONTENTS

Thursday, April 6, 2006





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 141 
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NUMBER 004 
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1st SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers


  (1000)  

[English]

    Order, please. The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest. I will now hear from him on his question of privilege.

  (1005)  

Privilege

Communications between Bureaucrats and Members of Parliament 

[Privilege]
    Mr. Speaker, I have two questions of privilege. How do you want me to proceed? Did you wish me to proceed with both at once or one at a time?
    If the hon. member could proceed with both, we will deal with them at the same time.
    Mr. Speaker, the first question involves an issue which arose during the election campaign in my capacity as a member of Parliament, and obviously the earliest opportunity to raise it is this morning. In order for you to understand what has occurred, I have to give a bit of background.
     In the 38th Parliament I was a member of the House Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The House of Commons had charged that committee in December 2004 to study and report to the House of Commons within one year on Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act. The subcommittee finished its hearing of witnesses in October or November, I cannot quite recall which, and we were just about ready to sit down to begin deliberations of our report when the election was called.
    When the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of the time appeared before the committee, they came with a number of officials, two of whom, Mr. Stanley Cohen and Mr. Douglas Breithaupt, were identified as the experts on the Anti-terrorism Act. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of the time invited me, if I wished to, to contact these two gentlemen and any others through his office if I wished to discuss any matters with respect to Bill C-36.
    Of course, the election occurred, and it occurred to me as an individual who never likes to go down a one-way street that there are always two possibilities in an election: one either wins or loses. I was hoping I would win, of course, but I thought that in the event I were to lose I had put over a year's work into this committee and had 104 recommendations and questions that I wanted to put to the ministry so that it would have the benefit of my views. I therefore sought a meeting with these two individuals so I might communicate these 104 points to them, so that in the event that perchance I was defeated in the election, at least the work that I had done would survive by having been passed over to the appropriate justice department officials.
    I began by doing everything in accordance with the channels of communication that I was told to do, namely, I contacted the then parliamentary secretary and asked that he arrange a meeting with these two individuals. I did not hear back, so on Monday, December 12, I contacted Mr. Stanley Cohen directly through my office. When I say “I”, I mean my office. We got his voice mail. We left a detailed message explaining why I wished to speak to Mr. Cohen and asked that he call me back.
    Mr. Cohen did not call me back, so on the following day my assistant called and talked to his office coordinator and assistant, Linda Ménard. Actually, we got her voice mail. Again it was explained what I wanted. When he had not heard back by 2 p.m., he called again. She answered and they had a conversation in which it was explained what the purpose of my call was and why I wanted to speak to Mr. Cohen. She assured my assistant that Mr. Cohen had received my message and would return my call.
    By Wednesday I had not received a call from Mr. Cohen. I began to get frustrated. I called the chief of staff for the then Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Hilary Geller, and explained the difficulty. She indicated that she understood there was a PCO directive that had gone out instructing bureaucrats not to speak to members of Parliament during an election campaign. I indicated that I wanted to speak with justice officials and spoke with the chief of staff of the Minister of Justice. His name is Jonathan Herman. He said he would contact Mr. Cohen personally and suggest that he at the very least return my call. Mr. Cohen never returned my call.
    My assistant then called his assistant again on December 14 and left a message explaining that I was getting more and more frustrated. She returned the call and indicated that Mr. Cohen was not going to be available for two or three days. In my view, it became clear at that point that Mr. Cohen's office was being intentionally uncooperative in returning my telephone calls.

  (1010)  

    I then turned my attention to Mr. Doug Breithaupt, who was the second gentleman who had been identified as an expert. My assistant called his direct line and left a message on December 15 and also spoke to his assistant, who suggested that I make the request by e-mail. I made the request to Mr. Breithaupt by e-mail, asking that he contact me. Mr. Breithaupt did not return my call or respond to my e-mail.
    I tried to find out what was going on. Since it had been suggested that it was the PCO that had issued the directive, my assistant contacted the PCO. We contacted the clerk's office there through the then Prime Minister's switchboard, asking them what kind of directive had gone out to bureaucrats not to speak with members of Parliament during an election.
    A Hali Gernon returned the call, indicating that she was not aware of any such directive but that it would not have come from the communications and consultation section, which is where she worked, if it had been issued. My assistant then spoke with the PCO clerk's office manager on December 15 and explained my problem. By the following Friday, my assistant had not heard, so again called. She indicated that she had just been told that the PCO had not issued a directive and that it may have come from the Public Service Commission.
    My assistant then immediately called the Public Service Commission and spoke with Debra Crawford, director of parliamentary affairs, who, believe it or not, did return our call. She said that the Public Service Commission had posted clear guidelines for the impartiality of public servants on the PSC website, but in no way do those indicate that bureaucrats cannot speak to MPs. In fact, she said that MPs and their office staffs continue to receive regular service for their daily business with the public, and of course I knew that because we were dealing with them.
    My assistant indicated the problem and that we had come full circle. I still had not been able to speak with these two officials, nor had I been able to receive a copy of any written directive to the public service indicating that no one should speak to members of Parliament.
    On Monday, December 19, not having had at least the courtesy of a telephone call from either of these two gentlemen to explain that they, in their view, could not speak to me, I then called the Deputy Minister of Justice, John Sims. The Deputy Minister of Justice did not return my call either; however, Melissa Cassar, from the then Minister of Justice's office, called and indicated that there could be no conversations because of an e-mail prohibiting bureaucrats from speaking to members of Parliament. I asked for a copy of that e-mail from Melissa and of course she could not locate such an e-mail.

  (1015)  

    The reason I am raising this is that, in my view, my abilities as a member of Parliament have been impaired. In my opinion, and I believe this is correct, we remain members of Parliament, and certainly our constituents consider us to be members of Parliament, until the actual date of the writ. That is why they continue to come into our office. That is why they continue to ask for our help.
    I can understand if there would be some sort of a directive from bureaucrats, but it seems incumbent that if there is a direction to bureaucrats it should also be given to members of Parliament, so that we know, first of all, who gave that direction not to speak to members of Parliament, second, on what basis that direction was given, and third, so that we have some input into coming up with some kind of reasonable policy during an election period.
    What I have determined as a result of my experience is that either there is no such vague policy directive or, if there is, everybody is afraid to show it to a member of Parliament. I believe that has breached my privileges as a member of Parliament to effectively exercise my duties. Let us suppose I had not been running for election. Let us suppose I was going to retire, wanted to finish off some files before I did so and called these justice department officials to try to finish off some of these files. Even though I was not seeking re-election, according to this phantom directive they would have been prohibited from speaking to me.
    Mr. Speaker, I think this is completely outrageous and I believe it is a breach of my privileges, and if you so find, on a prima facie basis, I would be prepared to move a motion to refer this matter for further study to the procedure and House affairs committee. That is the first point.

  (1020)  

Advertising Expenses  

     Mr. Speaker, the second question of privilege is one that might be considered minor in terms of monetary amounts but it is an irritation and it is a possible overzealous interpretation, in my view, of the manual of members' services.
    On October 28, 2005, I was contacted by a newspaper called The Interim to place my usual Christmas greetings. I have placed my Christmas greetings in that newspaper for at least the last 16 years. Immediately my office indicated that I would be prepared to place my Christmas greetings in The Interim that year. The cost of that was $100 plus 7% GST which is $107.
    On November 24, 2005, Interim Publishing mailed me the expected invoice for $107. That invoice arrived in my office on December 1, obviously mailed before the election and arrived after the election was called. I approved the invoice for payment on December 3 and sent it in. It was rejected. The reason given to me for the rejection was section 6.2 of the Members' Allowances and Services manual entitled Constituency Offices and Services. I say parenthetically that this has nothing to do with my constituency office. I have dealt with this through my Ottawa office for 15 and a half years.
    In any event, under the heading Constituency Offices and Services it states:
    Advertising: Because of certain restrictive provisions of the Canada Elections Act, Members are not allowed to use their Member’s Office Budget to advertise during dissolution up to and including election day. Members should review and cancel their advertising commitments.
    Being a lawyer I wanted to check everything out so I contacted The Interim and I received a written letter indicating that the particular issue had been published and mailed to the public on November 25, four days before the election was called. I had approved it a month before the election was called. It had been prepared and mailed before the election was called.
    House administration believes that under the heading of advertising in section 6.2 it indicates that the invoice could not be paid even though I could not possibly cancel my advertising commitments since they had already occurred and since the matter was already being delivered across Canada. By the way, this paper goes across Canada, not into the riding of Scarborough Southwest exclusively so that I might be re-elected.
    In my view, my privileges as a member have been breached because we are entitled to advertise. I believe I have complied with all of the rules and regulations but House of Commons officials have taken an interpretation which I believe to be too restrictive under the very unique circumstances that occurred. Everybody knows I have no control over the timing of an election. I did not know an election was going to be called. Had an election been called before the issue had gone to press I would have been happy to cancel it. However since it had already been mailed it was too late.
    In this instance I would suggest that if you find that there is at least a prima facie case of privilege this matter could be referred by way of motion to the Board of Internal Economy to examine it.
    I say parenthetically as well that there were numerous members of Parliament on both sides of the House who also advertised in that particular edition of that particular newspaper. I do not know how many of them had their particular request for payment authorized or how many of them were rejected. If any of them were authorized, then mine should have been authorized. If they were all rejected, then I would suggest that all of those bills be reviewed and that the wording of that particular section be very carefully examined by the Board of Internal Economy.
    The bureaucrats who service us as members of Parliament are not agents of Elections Canada which has its own people. If for some reason Elections Canada believes this particular expense should be included within election expenses, then that is something that my campaign and Elections Canada will work out individually. I ask that this matter also be found to be a prima facie case and referred to the Board of Internal Economy.
    I hope on both of these issues I will have the support of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a remark in connection with the first question of privilege that my hon. colleague lamented about. He expressed his frustration about an alleged directive from the PCO that prevented interaction between him and his office and specific bureaucrats. While I certainly can sympathize with his frustration, I want to point out for viewers who might be watching this at home and anyone who might be in the gallery today, that this is in connection with the direction of the former government of which the member was a member. This has nothing to do with the administration of this new Conservative government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the first question of privilege my colleague raised.
    The most recent election marked my fifth campaign. It was the first time I too had heard of this alleged directive. During the campaign, I had the feeling that my privileges as a member were being breached, even though we remain members until election day.
    Since 1993, I had never come up against a bureaucratic brick wall when trying to solve problems for constituents. And I am not alone. My colleagues had the same experience as my Liberal friend. This is not normal.
    In the end, not only are our privileges breached, but we are unable to obtain immigration, revenue and other services for our constituents. Even during an election campaign, we have to be able to serve the public. For 50 years, the public has suffered because of an inappropriate directive. Like my colleague, I am wondering whether it actually exists.
    Yet calls my office made to departments in Ottawa to deal with issues on behalf of constituents systematically went unanswered because of this directive.
    Old government or new, this sort of barrier to public service must be eliminated. When the next election is called, members should not be faced with a bureaucratic brick wall.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, speaking to the first point of the privilege that has been raised by the Liberal member, it is up to the Speaker to determine whether there is a prima facie case of privilege but I have to say that I and my colleagues experienced many of the same kinds of frustrations that are being described.
    I think two very important points need to be made. First, it is of course up to the Speaker to decide whether there is a personal question of privilege for an individual member but I think it is in the minds of many members and of the public that exactly what we have heard described and what we experienced was the predictable, lamentable outcome of the culture of entitlement that really characterized the previous government.
    The second point is that I know our public servants, who work very hard for Canadians, do not expect nor should they expect that they will have their names, individually, and their reputations, individually, dragged across the floor of this House by members who are complaining about their own privileges having been trampled upon. I wonder whether there is not every reason to be guarded and concerned about the situation that is evolving here on the floor around this discussion.
    I think it is absolutely in order for us as individual members to indicate that our privileges have been interfered with but I would urge the Liberal member, who has chosen to name public servant after public servant, to look upon his own government's actions, which was the government in power at the time that created the clamp down, the shutdown, not just on information but on cooperation that is normally extended by those very professional public servants.

  (1025)  

    Mr. Speaker, although the hon. member may have a grievance I really do not see under what guise the Speaker could consider this a prima facie question of privilege.
    This is the first time we have heard of this and, if it does please the Speaker, I would look into the matter and get back to the House later today or first thing tomorrow before the Speaker's ruling.
    I think I have heard enough on this point for the moment. I will deal with the second question of privilege first.
    The hon. member for Scarborough Southwest has raised a question about advertising that, in my view, has nothing to do with his privileges as a member. The rights granted to him by the Board of Internal Economy to advertise, to give him a budget and so on are not privileges of members of Parliament. They are rights that are granted by the board and by statute and do not come with the package of privileges that we normally claim as privileges of members of the House. Accordingly, I will treat the matter as referred to the Board of Internal Economy.
    The member could write to the board and make it clear but I think the board could receive the Hansard of today, look at it and decide whether or not the member has an argument. However it is purely a technical argument with the board. It has nothing to do with privileges and, accordingly, in my view it ought not to be raised as a question of privilege and I dismiss it out of hand.
    On the first question of privilege we have heard submissions from various parties in the House and I thank hon. members for their submissions. I will take the matter under advisement so that if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons wishes to come back later he will have an opportunity to make further argument on it. It need not necessarily be today. Then, if the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest wishes to respond to his arguments, I will hear more.
     I will take the matter under advisement. I will look into it and come back to the House with a ruling in due course.

Points of Order

Member for Haldimand--Norfolk 

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order. Graves' disease is a genetic thyroid condition that affects 1 in every 100 Canadians. Its symptoms include a dramatic increase in metabolism, shakes and tremors, and sensitivity to heat, cold and light. It also sometimes affects the eyes in a range of different ways. While there is no cure yet, there is treatment. It just takes time.
    I was very recently diagnosed with this non-life-threatening condition and am responding well to treatment. As it now appears that I have had this disease for almost a year, I can assure everyone that it in no way affects my ability to do my job.
    I raise this today to ease the concerns of my colleagues and constituents and to explain why from time to time I may wear tinted lenses when I have the honour to rise here.

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region's 15th annual summit in Seattle, Washington, July 14 to 18, 2005.
    While I am on my feet, I would like to present a second report, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States interparliamentary group respecting its participation at the 46th annual meeting of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group held in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, September 30 to October 3, 2005.

  (1030)  

National Appreciation Day Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, today I am extremely proud and pleased, on behalf of the good citizens and constituents of Prince Edward—Hastings and, of course, the balance of the people of Canada, to introduce a bill entitled national appreciation day.
    This enactment would designate the third day of March in each and every year as a day for the people of Canada to express appreciation for the heroic work of members of the Canadian Forces and emergency response professionals, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics.
    I believe all members of the House and all parties would agree to support and see a speedy passage of this bill.

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

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill entitled “An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act”. This enactment would amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act to allow the survivor of a contributor to receive an annual allowance after the death of that contributor, notwithstanding the fact that the contributor and the survivor married or commenced to live in a conjugal relationship after the contributor had attained the age of 60 years. In all fairness and decency, I believe all members would agree to the swift passage of this bill.

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

Canada Elections Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, in consideration to some of the difficulties that colleagues from all parties in the House may have experienced on occasions, I am pleased to introduce this bill to amend the Canada Elections Act. This enactment would ensure that telephone, fax or Internet service is provided in a timely manner to the campaign offices of each and every candidate in all federal elections and in all parties. In order to ensure parity, I believe my esteemed colleagues would agree to seek approval and swift passage of this bill as well.

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

Development Assistance Conditions and Accountability Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, in accordance with some of the inadequacies that we have seen with regard to the disposition of funds by developmental agencies, I am honoured to introduce a bill today entitled “An Act respecting the provision of development assistance by the Canadian International Development Agency and other federal bodies”.
    This enactment would set out criteria respecting resource allocation to international development agencies and would enhance transparency, accountability and monitoring of Canada's international development efforts. Once again, I believe all members in the House would agree to support and see a speedy passage of the bill to protect Canadian taxpayers' dollars and service the needs of the international community.

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

  (1035)  

Nuclear Energy Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this bill would ensure that the proper ministry handles the proper responsibilities, so I am pleased to introduce a bill entitled “An Act to amend the Nuclear Energy Act (change of responsible minister)”. This enactment would amend the Nuclear Energy Act in order to make Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the federal organization responsible for research on nuclear energy and its development and marketing, accountable to the Minister of Industry rather than the Minister of Natural Resources.
    The enactment would also transfer to the Minister of Industry those shares of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited that are owned or held by the Minister of Natural Resources. I believe it respects the nature of industry and of course the disposition of allocation of responsibilities to the ministry that is better suited to handle that. I believe all members would agree as well to the swift and speedy passage of the bill.

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

Employment Insurance Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, children are our most important resource and raising those children well should be a key priority. All families and their circumstances are different and one model of child rearing does not fit all.
    Therefore, families need as much flexibility, options and choices. It is estimated that 25% of our children will enter adult life with significant emotional, behavioural, academic or social problems. Therefore, investing in children, particularly in the first three years, is an imperative not an option.
    The bill would respond in part to this need by seeking to amend the Employment Insurance Act to increase the benefit period for maternity and parental leave to a full two years.
    I want to dedicate the bill to my first grandchild, Mae Johnson, who was born on December 19, 2005 during the last election. Children must come first and I look forward to earning the support of all hon. colleagues.

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

[Translation]

Income Tax Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present my first bill in this House. Its purpose is to amend the Income Tax Act to provide a tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions.
    The purpose of this bill is to encourage new graduates to settle in regions experiencing economic difficulties, thereby curbing the exodus of young people. This bill will provide graduates of vocational schools, colleges and universities with a maximum tax credit of 40% of their earnings, up to $8,000.
    I am proud to be tabling a bill that will enable thousands of young people in my riding, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, in my region Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, in several regions in Quebec and throughout the country to work where they grew up.
    In closing, I would like to thank my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot , the Bloc Québécois finance critic, for his support and advice while preparing this bill.

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

  (1040)  

[English]

Parliament of Canada Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I first introduced the bill in the Chamber in 1999 and this is the fourth time that I have introduced this particular bill. On behalf of all Canadians and constituents who vote for us, if we truly wish to be accountable, we must be accountable to our constituents and it is time that the despicable aspect of floor crossing has to stop.
    I remind those in the Chamber today and those listening that this is not the no tell motel where we check in under an assumed name. We have a responsibility to those constituents and so I am hoping that the next time the bill comes forward that it will garner the full support of all members of Parliament, including the member for Vancouver Kingsway.

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

Income Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, as you know, in an aging society many of us are caught in what we call the sandwich generation where we are looking after children and our parents. Many of those people looking after our elderly are elderly themselves and they incur tremendous expenses on their own looking after the care of people who are severely disabled or under various ailments. I believe that the expenses they incur while looking after their loved ones should be completely tax deductible.

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

Sale of Medals Prohibition Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, we have all seen it, medals that are worn by the bravest of our Canadians are for sale at garage sales, on the Internet, or in various flea shops around the country.
    I believe that the medals that the men and women of our military and RCMP wear are not currency that they have dangling from their chest. They wear those medals in honour of their sacrifices, in honour of their colleagues, and in solemn remembrance of those that left before us.
    I do not believe that those medals should be sold for profit. I believe that they should be honoured in the tradition that they have been worn by the bravest of our Canadians. This bill would prevent the sale of those medals.

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

Canada Health Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, there are 346,000 children in this country that have autism spectrum disorder. Unfortunately, the federal government does not play a role in their lives at all. We are asking the federal government to assist the provinces and territories with financial funding through the health care system to provide the treatment that these families can then give to their children.
    It is unacceptable that 346,000 children and their families are left out of the Canada Health Act all together. This bill would include those beautiful children so that they would have a chance at a quality of life that we all take for granted.

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

  (1045)  

Canadian Autism Day Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, quite simply, on April 23 of this year and every other year we would like to have that day recognized as national autism day, so that people such as Laurel Gibbons of Ottawa and Roxanne Black of British Columbia and their children could be recognized on what these children and their families go through on a day to day basis.
    By having a national day in honour of this, we could then possibly turn our attention to further research and further assistance, so we can find a cure for this neurological disorder. By highlighting this day, we also highlight the abilities that these beautiful children have and what they can provide to our country as well.

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

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, in my riding is the largest indigenous black population in Canada. The community is called Preston, a very historic community in our country. I think it would honour them and our country if the name of my riding were changed to Sackville--Preston--Eastern Shore.

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

Internet Child Pornography Prevention Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, one of the most despicable things in our society is Internet child pornography. We need to do everything in our power to stop this or mitigate it to its lowest level.
     One of the things we can do is have ISP providers partially responsible for monitoring their sites and passing that information on to our authorities so we can track down these low-lifes and scumbags, as we call them, and stamp out child pornography. We need to do everything we can to protect the innocence of our children.

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

Income Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, we would not have the society we have today if it were not for the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who support various charities and issues throughout our country. The dues they pay, for example, to Lions Clubs, the Kinsmen, the Legion, churches or whatever should be 100% tax deductible.

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

  (1050)  

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, first, I wish to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. It is a great honour and given your length of service in this chamber, it is well-deserved.
    I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Speech from the Throne

[The Address]

[English]

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed from April 5 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, first and foremost in my remarks I want to thank the voters of Malpeque for their confidence in me in returning me to the House of Commons. I might add as well how proud I have been to have served the riding of Malpeque, under two prime ministers, in a party that turned the finances of the country around and turned the government over in extremely good shape to the new government entering the House. I also am looking forward to this time period of holding the government to account as the member of Parliament for the riding of Malpeque.
    The Speech from the Throne sets out the government's general direction, but this speech fails completely. As much as the Prime Minister may want the country and Canadians to have only five key priorities, that is not how a country as complex as Canada functions, nor how a federal government should respond.
    The minister who best revealed how the Prime Minister intends to function was the Minister of Agriculture. He told the CBC that if he brought forward legislation this spring “The Prime Minister would look at him as if he were from Mars”, meaning basically that if the issue brought forward were not in the Prime Minister's five key areas, then do not bring it forward this spring. I can tell the House clearly that farmers on the Hill yesterday do not want the minister or the government to be from Mars. They want the minister and the government to act on their concerns, whether they meet with the Prime Minister's five key issues or not.
    The message from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Agriculture was clear to farmers and any Canadian: the Prime Minister does not consider it worthy of attention. If this issue does not meet with the five priorities of the Prime Minister, they are out of luck. The Prime Minister has decided that only his agenda matters and those other issues, whether related to trade, or related to rural Canada in terms of the agriculture crisis and farm income, or the future of the fishery, or issues related to transportation and infrastructure, or the needs such as in Atlantic Canada in terms of economic development, will just have to wait.
    Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention at the beginning that I am splitting my time with the member for Laval--Les Îles.
    Let me turn to the issue of agriculture. I want to congratulate the new Minister of Agriculture in his position and his responsibility. As agriculture critic for the official opposition, the Speech from the Throne is a failure as it relates to agriculture. Yes, there was a paragraph in the speech, but it basically looks like it was almost an afterthought.
    Let us begin with this one fact. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in February of this year, stated that farm income across Canada would decline in 2006 by a further 16%. In the previous year, 2005, the farm income crisis situation was evident and responded to in five specific areas.
    First was the ongoing support for income support programs such as CAIS. The government committed itself to working cooperatively with all stakeholders on improving the program. While the Prime Minister said during the election campaign that he was going to scrap the CAIS, he has now at least changed his mind and said that it will be in place for a year to give some stability. However, the lending community as it relates to primary producers has been taking action, in part because of the uncertainty caused by the Prime Minister himself.
    Last year as well there was the direct infusion over the year with support going primarily to grains and oilseed producers, beginning in March of 2005, of close to $1 billion in ad hoc payments to assist with spring planting and other needs of producers.

  (1055)  

    In October an additional commitment, through supplementary estimates, of $348 million was lost to farmers due to the efforts of the other three parties causing an election.
    There was an additional announcement of $755 million in November of 2005. This money was booked in November and the new government has only managed to get $400 million of that out to farmers as yet, according to the Minister of Agriculture recently. What is the holdup with the government?
    Last year a comprehensive report on farm income entitled “Empowering Canadian Farmers in the Marketplace” was tabled with the federal and provincial ministers of agriculture. It has some 46 recommendations and provides strong support for the farm community. The government should be acting on those recommendations and moving forward so it empowers primary producers in the farm community.
    That was the direct action taken by an activist government in response to the needs of Canadian farmers. That is what the previous minister of agriculture and agri-food did as part of his responsibility to those he represented at the cabinet table, the farmers of Canada. His job was to fight for additional assistance and he received it.
    Ministers should not stand before audiences of desperate people and say that they would like to do something, but they do not want to disturb the Prime Minister's timetable or disrupt his plans. We need to see some leadership from the government as a whole on the farm crisis before us.
    Also during the election the Prime Minister left the impression that there would be $500 million for producers. However, we find out now that it is not $500 million more for producers. It is $500 million over and above the safety net programs, which means it is about $1.2 billion short of what was actually funded over the last two years by the previous government. That is unacceptable. As farmers said on the Hill yesterday, they need cash and they need it now.
    I see the member for Essex sitting opposite. I was surprised last night by his comments. While he said during the election campaign that the government would give immediate assistance to primary producers, he did not mention the word agriculture in his speech last night. He did not mention farmers. We have not seen a dime come forward from the government as yet. All we have seen is part of the money that the previous government put in place.
    The Minister of Agriculture is either prepared to defend the interests of farmers in Canada in need or he is not. The Minister of Agriculture is a good person and a great individual. By reading the throne speech and seeing practically nothing in it in terms of the agriculture portfolio, I can only assume that the Minister of Finance, the President of Treasury Board and the Prime Minister himself have their own priorities in agriculture, and primary producers do not seem to be a part of it.
    Yesterday close to 10,000 farmers from across Canada were on the Hill. They outlined their concerns about the inaction of the government and the fact that it had not put forward an ad hoc program for producers this spring. That is what the Minister of Agriculture has indicated thus far. Farmers are demanding cash and they need it now. The Minister of Agriculture called a press conference and basically said not to look to him because the problem relative to CAIS lay with the provinces. They support CAIS but it is not the only program.
    Members across the way now make up the Government of Canada. They cannot sit there and just complain any more. The throne speech should spell out clearly what they are going to do for those rural communities many of them represent. We need to see some action. That is what producers yesterday were telling members opposite. That is what they were telling the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture. They want to see some action, not just hear words. It is not enough to say the problem is with the provinces. The members opposite are in a position of responsibility. What we need to see from the Prime Minister and the new government is leadership and leadership is going to require dealing with the farm crisis, putting money out there, or at least catching up to the kind of financial commitments that the previous government put in place.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member opposite. In particular, I noted how quick he was to take credit for the finances of the nation which have now been turned over to the Conservative government. What he left out was the fact that during his government's tenure in office, it was the recipient of a great deal of revenue generated by the GST and by the benefits of free trade. Both were policies I am quick to note that he and members of the Liberal Party adamantly opposed and fought tooth and nail to prevent, and then were the recipients of both of those financial policies.
    It is also interesting to note that when the election commenced, the Liberals were opposed to what they used to be opposed to. Let me rephrase that. They did not want to see the GST lowered, and they are still opposed to lowering the GST so that ordinary Canadians could keep more of their hard-earned money.
    The credibility of the member opposite is somewhat speculative. Then he had the audacity to stand up with great pomp and ceremony and such over the top emotion yesterday that I thought he might come out of his shoes and suggest that somehow this government, after two months in office, was entirely responsible for the terrible state of the Canadian farm. He suggested that somehow a government that has been in office just over two months should bear sole responsibility for the over 12 years of neglect that the member's government demonstrated in addressing the crisis of the family farm.
    The member takes hypocrisy to staggering new heights when he gets up in this chamber and tries to castigate the current government for the state of the family farm.
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how the member opposite does indeed change positions. I saw a great cartoon a little while ago. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was tied up in a pretzel because he made an announcement one day and the Prime Minister changed it the next. I thought it was quite appropriate.
     The Minister of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for ACOA talked about the GST.

  (1105)  

    And your island, Mr. Potatohead.
    Yes, he is responsible for Prince Edward Island as well. We hope that he will take that issue seriously.
    Let me get back to the point on the GST. What we are concerned about on this side is that there is tax relief for low income Canadians.
    A study released on March 29, 2006 by an independent non-partisan research institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, found that 5% of families earning over $150,000 a year will receive 30% of the benefits from the Conservative tax cuts, an average of more than $2,010 in savings each year. On the other side, almost half of Canadian families earning less than $40,000 will receive only 20% of the benefits of the Conservative tax cuts, an average of just over $163.
    The GST cut the Conservatives are proposing, and taking away the tax reduction that the Liberals put in place, will transfer the benefits to the rich in society and take them away from the less well off. That is what the Minister of Foreign Affairs ought to be concerned about.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am angry, not to say enraged, to hear the speech by my Liberal colleague.
     It was the Liberals of the previous government who precipitated the agricultural sector into one of the worst crises, which has now become even more brutal. For nearly three and a half years now there has been trouble in the agricultural sector. Everything started when bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly called “mad cow”, was discovered in Alberta.
     Since then there has been a snowball effect on the dairy producers, who were its first victims. Next came the cattle farmers. Now it is the grain growers, who for two years have been getting next to nothing in international prices, for those prices are set by Americans vying with each other to subsidize their agricultural sector. We have seen the rise of the Canadian dollar, the doping of the Canadian dollar with western oil exports. There has been no compensation for hog producers, for example, who are also experiencing what is almost the worst crisis of their lives.
     For three and a half years, those people did absolutely nothing to help farm producers. We knew from the outset that the stabilization program set up by the Liberals would not work, because the compensation mechanism was totally warped.
     Now here we are with one of the worst crises. Those people are responsible. This gentleman, a past president of the National Farmers Union in the Maritimes, did nothing in the 13 years he was in that office, and nothing again over the last three and a half years.
     I am also counting on the Conservatives to respond quickly. Yesterday I was not satisfied with the minister’s reaction. We must take action before all the agricultural producers of Quebec and Canada are wiped out. We must do so quickly, with significant amounts of money. In recent years the government has been more catholic than the Pope. It has slashed subsidies, starting with the dairy subsidy which at that time was paid to all the dairy producers in Canada.
     We have beaten our competitors to the punch. With the result that, today, it is not the quality or supply of our products that is lacking, but the subsidies. We are competing with the American and European subsidies. That government did nothing over all those years to help out the producers. And here we are facing the worst of crises.
     What does the past president of the National Farmers Union for the Maritimes say to that?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I believe the member and I are in agreement that the government has to take prompt action. It has not shown that and it is certainly not showing that in its speeches. In fact the Minister of Agriculture seems to be backtracking on ad hoc funding.
    The member knows that last March 31 there was a billion dollars put out there to primary producers to assist them in terms of getting their crop in the ground. We need to see the same kind of action from the government.
    With respect to the international subsidies of other countries, I suggest to the member, and I hope that he would be on side, that the government should adopt the programs and recommendations outlined in the report empowering farmers in the marketplace.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House of Commons on behalf of the official opposition to reply to the government's throne speech.
    Before I begin, allow me please to welcome the new government, especially the new members. I would also like to offer you my warmest congratulations on your appointment as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole House. I have no doubt that you will provide the wisdom and calm needed in this House.
    I must also take a moment to thank the residents of Laval—Les Îles in Quebec for electing me a fourth time. It is an honour to continue to be their voice in Canada's Parliament on issues such as immigration, early childhood, youth employment, expanding the labour market, infrastructure development, old age pensions and, right now, bilingualism. Their trust will not be betrayed.

[English]

    In the 10 minutes that I have, I will cover four issues missing from the government's agenda: integration of minority language communities outside Quebec, support for la francophonie arts and culture, youth and child care.
    The Governor General's opening remarks reminded me of my own travels across Canada and the people I have met in the two great linguistic communities. I too can attest to their tremendous asset to our country. We are indeed living in a country where everything is possible. We can follow our dreams and help build a strong and united country.

[Translation]

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am not satisfied with the rigid contrast found in the message of the Government of Canada. It offers no vision for the ongoing integration of francophones and anglophones in Quebec or for the development of official language minority communities.
    The year 2006 will mark the 40th anniversary of French immersion programs. It all started with a project at the Riverside school board in St. Lambert, Quebec. Today, this vision of the duality and equality of the two languages is enshrined in the Official Languages Act, and $751.3 million over five years has been earmarked by the action plan for official languages, which sets out clearly the government's responsibility for putting it in place. Linguistic duality is now firmly entrenched in the foundations of our multi-faceted society.

[English]

    The mother tongue of almost six million people in Quebec today is French. Almost 66% of another approximately 700,000 English speaking people speak French at work. Also, 400,000, or 63%, or another half a million people without French or English, many of them immigrant workers, live and work in French.

[Translation]

    The most recent statistics indicate that nearly seven francophone workers in ten living outside Quebec, or some 566,000 people, use French at work.
    The Liberal vision of a bilingual country has taken root. We now have a government that is trying to destroy that vision. The day before yesterday I asked a question in this House about the future of bilingualism in Canada. The hon. member responded, and I quote:

[English]

    “We have a strong minister in charge of heritage and culture who has indicated that she wants to promote that”, meaning bilingualism, “throughout Canada”. The member also said that “bilingualism is something this party supports”. I am very happy about this since the Prime Minister can certainly thank the Liberal policy on bilingualism for having had the opportunity to learn French.
    How has the government shown support for bilingualism? The Prime Minister appointed a unilingual minister whose mandate is to coordinate the horizontal work of the government in promoting French and English. What has that minister done since her appointment? She has refused every attempt by the Commissioner of Official Languages, Madame Dyane Adam, to meet with her.
    The Minister of Canadian Heritage has yet to say two words about official languages or even meet with francophone and other national organizations which are still waiting two months later for a return phone call.

[Translation]

    These groups confirm today that:
    in the Speech from the Throne, arts and culture in Canadian francophonie have been eradicated from the vision of Canadian society as the Conservative party sees it. The Conservative party wants to build a strong, united, independent and free Canada, but it is an aberration to think they can do so without culture, without the arts and without cultural diversity. We cannot accept this. How does the Canadian government intend to sustain these sectors, these strong social, economic and educational drivers of our Canadian society and true foundations to building our identity, within the francophone and Acadian communities?

[English]

    Instead, the minister had a lot to say about the CBC even before her briefing and nothing to say about the minority language community.
    There is more. Without even bothering to read the mandate of the Canadian Unity Council, funding was gutted from the council because it does not fit into the Conservative government's vision of open federalism that, according to the throne speech, recognizes the unique place of a strong, vibrant Quebec in a united Canada.

[Translation]

    The Canadian Unity Council is a non-profit, non-partisan organization created in 1964 when a group of francophone and anglophone Quebeckers established the Canada Committee, which was the precursor to the council. Its mandate is to create an openness toward federalism and its mission is to inform and mobilize the public on the development and promotion of Canada. It stems from our social foundations as a nation.
    Most of the council's work affects young people. For example, its summer job and student exchange program, originally supported by all parties, allows young francophones and anglophones to improve their second language while discovering a region of Canada they are unfamiliar with. I know for a fact that one hon. member opposite benefited from this program when he was young. Because of this decision by the Conservative government, roughly 80 Canadian employees, including 21 at the council's head office in Montreal, have lost their jobs.

  (1115)  

[English]

    The Conservative government talks about supporting democracy, about accountability, open federalism, respect for diversity, bilingualism and the understanding of cultures. How does it do it? It does it by gutting the funding of the Canadian Unity Council across Canada.
    Here is an institution able to add to the dialogue of our country. It has or, more aptly put, had offices located in every region of the country. Thirty-two regional round tables were held in Quebec alone through the Council's Centre for Research and Information on Canada. They engaged all sectors of our society: academics, business people, volunteers and the general public. Their work was citizenship participation in action.
    How do Canadians get to understand their country if cultural misperceptions exist, if access to people's stories is cut off? If integration and adaptation is eroded by the government's hidden agenda that is now coming to light, how many other non-profit community based organizations are going to be affected?
    In the meantime, the Prime Minister's first public address to public servants, delivered mainly in English and posted on the government's website, was a direct violation of the Official Languages Act. Now we know the Conservative leadership's stand on bilingualism. Since being elected and establishing its cabinet, the government's target has not been about bilingualism because it has no vision.
    It has been about building super jails to house youth while abolishing the gun registry, instead of putting in place better community support systems and leaving in place the substantive national crime prevention strategy and the youth employment strategy that have helped to reduce crime by 12% over the last 10 years.

[Translation]

    This government's Speech from the Throne is an insult to the five-year plan of action to allocate $751.3 million to official languages. The agreements reached between the federal government and the provinces on early childhood education helped to fund more places for official language minority communities.
    Nova Scotia could have stimulated the vitality of its francophone and Acadian communities. Newfoundland and Labrador could have worked with its associates, such as the regional health services, to satisfy the needs of francophone children.
    There were also plans to have the appropriate authorities report on the provisions available for services in French. This government will put the future of our children at risk because of its linear views on flexible and open federalism.

[English]

    The Conservative alliance government might definitely need to use as its guide the foresight which our forefathers showed to build a federal system that would be flexible and accommodating of diversity.

[Translation]

    In that way, the Conservative alliance could build on one of Canada's greatest strengths—the federal system of government. In the meantime, it would build on the unique strengths of the different parts of our federation.

[English]

    I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I was seated in another place.

[Translation]

    My name is Steven Blaney and I am the member for Lévis—Bellechasse.
    I would first like to thank my colleague for wishing--

[English]

    The member has to be in his own seat if he wants to speak. I did not think he looked like the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, but he was sitting in her seat. If the member wants the floor he has to take his proper seat. We will give him time to do that.
    The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse.

  (1120)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first I wanted to thank my colleague for welcoming all new members of Parliament, including myself, here to the House of Commons. I am proud to have the opportunity, as the representative for Lévis—Bellechasse, to ask her my first question.
    I listened closely to her address. I can sense her love of the French language, which is one of Canada's greatest cultural assets. It is also the language spoken in the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse.
     The Government of Canada and all departments are responsible for defending the French language. And the Conservative government intends to do so. The election of this government has already contributed immensely to the promotion of the French language, both in Quebec and across the country.
    I ask my colleague this: how did her government help promote French culture when the French language was sullied by several scandals?
     Mr. Speaker, I really do not at all see the connection that my colleague is trying to make between these two things. What is very clear is that in our party there are a lot of bilingual people from across Canada. This is one of the signs of the respect our party has for our country’s two founding languages, not just for the French language.
     Furthermore, I would like to remind the member that, when we were in power, we set aside a large sum for language-teaching. The amount of $751.3 million over five years was provided for the action plan for official languages.
     A question arises, and I would like to put it to my colleague and to all the members on the other side of this House. Do they intend to respect this agreement for $751.3 million provided for the action plan for official languages? We have not heard anything from the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women or from the Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages. They were appointed over two months ago and we have not seen anything yet. We stand before a large void. This is very worrying for us.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment.
    The throne speech, as the hon. member has said, was very light. It was light on details, light on vision and light considering that only one-third of Canadians voted for the Conservative government. Perhaps that is the reason that the Conservatives do not reflect the Canadian values of bilingualism and respect for other cultures.
    As the member has said reviewed the whole speech from the throne and other areas and is so well-versed in issues, what are other areas that my hon. colleague thinks that the Conservatives have arrogantly duped or insulted Canadians of francophone origins?

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the government’s website, on which the Prime Minister, for more than 24 hours, left his speech totally in English, except for a few words in French, in spite of the fact that we contacted him.
     It is the duty of the Prime Minister of Canada, of the leader of the government, to be the first to respect legislation. The Official Languages Act clearly says that all government documents, those from Ottawa as well as those coming from elsewhere in Canada, must be presented to the Canadian public in both official languages.
     Perhaps that does not count for some people, but it is very important for us whose language is the minority official language in Canada. I am sure that my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse would agree with me, contrary to his party.

  (1125)  

[English]

    I was not recognizing the hon. member on questions and comments. The time for questions and comments has expired. I was recognizing the hon. member on debate as the hon. member is the next speaker.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the people of Winnipeg South who elected me to this chamber. I also would like to highlight that my wife, who is my biggest supporter, is very happy to be here today.
    I am happy to be participating in this debate on the most recent Speech from the Throne which contains a number of important new initiatives that I found of great interest as a westerner, as an aboriginal Canadian and as an entrepreneur. I am especially proud to speak before you today, Mr. Speaker, as a Métis member of Parliament from Winnipeg South, an area of Manitoba which has not elected a Métis representative since Louis Riel.
    A lot has changed since then and the Prime Minister highlights that change by giving me the opportunity to work as the minister's parliamentary secretary in this important department relating to aboriginal issues. I also look forward to working with the Prime Minister on our government's important new initiatives which will benefit everyone in Canada, including our first peoples.
    Of these new initiatives there are several I would like to highlight. For example, take those measures designed to strengthen the family, that vitally important institution that lies at the heart of everyone's community. It represents the very foundation of this country.
    One of the most important measures would give Canadian parents greater choice in child care, so they can choose the option that makes the most sense for them. This is particularly important now that the family unit has changed. Many families have different makeups and their needs should be addressed. In these various situations it is critical that their children be well cared for while they are on the job and that child care options be right for their child and match the family's needs and values.
    However in order to get this right it costs money and many families do not have enough money. This is where the Government of Canada comes in, helping to make good child care a bit more affordable.
    The problem is that the federal government has not always done a very good job of addressing the needs of families. This was particularly true since the previous government tended to have a do nothing approach to child care, which became a one size fits all approach whenever an election was looming.
    As a result, the previous government ploughed every penny of taxpayer dollars into publicly funded daycare, while stubbornly refusing to accept that there might be any other options. We as a government campaigned on a different approach. We as a government believe that money is best kept in the hands of parents who can decide what the best care option is for their children. It is simply a matter of philosophy; would parents rather be given a choice or would they rather have the government tell them how best to care for their child? I and my colleagues believe that choice should and must rest with parents.
    Under the old system, if a family did not fit into some stereotype dreamt up by Ottawa bureaucrats, ivory tower academics or lobby group leaders they were simply out of luck. Families had to choose between trying to live their lives the way the experts said they should or digging into their own often meagre financial resources to pay for child care that matched their needs. That was then and things have changed. This government recognizes that every family is unique, which means their needs are different too, including their child care needs. That is why the Speech from the Throne calls for greater choice in child care by providing parents with a child under the age of six with $1,200 per year to help them purchase child care that is right for them and right for their child.
    That is not all, to ensure parents keep as much of their income as possible, the throne speech also contains a commitment to drop the GST from 7% to 6% and ultimately down to 5%. Such a tax cut would be particularly welcome for those families living on modest or fixed incomes, people whose income is often too low to allow them to benefit from a cut in the personal income tax rate.
    Since the GST is the one tax that everyone pays no matter what they earn, cutting this tax benefits all Canadians. Again, this is a question of philosophy. Where is the hard-earned money of Canadians best kept? Both our government and Canadians believe that their money is best kept in their pockets. Cutting the GST is a tax cut that benefits all Canadians from all income levels. I am sure these benefits will become quite apparent.

  (1130)  

    Strengthening families is about more than just money. It is also making sure that people can get the medical treatment they need to live long and healthy lives when they need it. After all, they paid for it.
    This is addressed by our promise to negotiate a patient wait times guarantee. Under such a system, people who cannot get the medical care they require in their own locality in a timely fashion using the public system can go to a private facility or another jurisdiction with the cost being paid by public insurance. Such a guarantee is long overdue. People who often require significant medical attention on an urgent basis in the past could not get it. This was particularly true in families with young children or elderly or disabled family members.
    The universality of health care has long been ignored and we will do our part as a government to ensure that Canadians get the health care they deserve and the services they are entitled to.
    Mr. Speaker, I am also splitting my time with the member for Calgary Southeast.
    Of course, some families involve veterans, many of whom are seniors living on fixed incomes. These are people to whom we owe a lot which makes it imperative that they be treated with respect. Unfortunately, one group made up of first nations, Métis and Inuit veterans has not received the respect it deserves.
    I recently had the pleasure of witnessing the honouring of five such veterans myself. Bob Ducharme, Oscar LaCombe, John Pederson, Joseph Clement and the late Louis Lamirande are Métis nation citizens who along with their brothers made a great sacrifice for our country, who for too long have not been properly recognized. This is why I was so pleased that the government committed to making redress for the inequities they have suffered for the last 60 years. I look forward to working with the government to make this a reality.
    This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Métis National Conference in my home province of Manitoba. I can tell the House that the Métis people are fiercely proud of their veterans. I, along with them, look forward to the day when their sacrifices and their selfless contribution is awarded the recognition it deserves, not just from their families but also from government.
    The Speech from the Throne contains measures aimed at protecting and strengthening communities, For example, to ensure citizens can go about their daily lives in peace and security, the throne speech contains measures aimed at combating gangs and youth violence that we see in some of our larger cities including my home of Winnipeg. To do this, it proposes a two-pronged approach. First of all, we will get serious about youth crime by giving police and the justice system the tools they need to combat it.
    The message here is simple. If one commits a serious crime, one is going to do serious time. This message is even stronger given the resolve of our justice minister who will stem the tide of victimization in our justice system. Law-abiding Canadians will be protected with him at the helm.
    However, tougher laws and law enforcement cannot by themselves solve all the challenges in this area which is why the Speech from the Throne calls on government to help those young people already in trouble to get back on track. It commits us to working with our partners, in the community and other levels of government, on projects that encourage young people to make good choices, so that they can get their lives back on track.
    Taken together this should go a long way toward providing our young people, who are after all the very future of our country, with the help they need to become healthy, productive and well-adjusted citizens capable of making their own special contribution to this country and their community.
    Canadians are yearning for change. They are looking for new ideas and they want a government that works for them and with them. The throne speech contains a number of important new measures which, when implemented, will strengthen Canadian families and communities even more.
    However, translating these commitments into action will not be easy for we are talking about complex issues where everyone must get involved if we are to enjoy success. We will require the ideas and cooperation of all members of the House if we are to find solutions to challenges facing us. By working together we can be an example to all Canadians. We can show them that through cooperation much can be achieved. Together we will restore the public's faith in their elected officials. It will not always be easy and it will require hard work. Still, it will be worth the effort, for when we are finished, we will have laid the groundwork for a stronger and safer Canada.
    It is for this reason that I support the commitments in the throne speech and I encourage other members to do the same.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on his election to the House, but I would like to make a few comments about the speech itself.
    When he talks about long ignored, long ignored and long ignored, I would like to point out something that was very much ignored. My hon. colleague from Prince Edward Island talked about how there was very little in this throne speech regarding the agricultural world. I can point out even less that was said about the fishery. As a matter of fact, I will even go further and say there was nothing, other than to point out that the oceans provide a vital resource, which is an incredible flash of brilliance that has been talked about very much.
    I would like the hon. member to address the situation in the fishery. As recently as a few days ago, in the Atlantic snow crab industry, our fishermen went back out on the water. In a situation where prices are low and the resources are not as plentiful as they used to be, the question becomes management. One of the grave concerns in the fishery is about local management and more local say, something that was talked about very much by the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans from Newfoundland and Labrador.
    I would like my hon. colleague to address this situation. Perhaps he would like to give us some vision on what the government sees for the fishery. I am not sure whether the throne speech, all 12 pages, was written by the government or Robert Munsch. It was very cute, but very small on detail, especially regarding the fishery where there was virtually nothing.
     Mr. Speaker, we often hear members of the previous government talk about what was accomplished in the past, yet we currently find ourselves in this state. When we refer back to the 13 years of the previous government, it really dumbfounds me to hear the questions that are asked.
    We are waiting for a plan that we are going to be implementing regarding the fishery. Right now we are focusing on our five priorities. I assure the member that when the finance minister comes out with his plan, it will make sense and it will be focused. It is unfortunate that we have seen a 13 year term, but he will be seeing a plan from the finance minister as soon as possible.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the government wants to give our constituents choices, but before leaving Victoria I received a visit from many parents who were very concerned about the lack of their prospects next year when there will be no new child care spaces created. Many of them plan to be going to university next year and now they are faced with uncertainty. Many young parents simply lack the funds.
    In Victoria, child care costs for one month are about $800. It is obvious that $1,200 will not go very far. I am wondering if the government truly wants to give Canadians choices, whether it will consider broadening its definition of choice.

  (1140)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I believe we demonstrated in the throne speech, we have a philosophical difference in our opinion on child care. We believe that choice should be present. The previous government looked at a single system which only offered one choice, state-run child care. Our position is that we are going to be offering more choice. We are providing stay at home parents, or any parent, with $1,200 per child. This gives a new option. We are also going to be providing incentives for 125,000 new spaces. This is an important change and departure from the previous government. We are looking forward to implementing it as part of our upcoming agenda.
    Mr. Speaker, let me begin by adding my words of congratulations on your elevation to the Chair. Mr. Speaker, as dean of the House and one of the most respected members of this place, it is encouraging for all of us to see you assuming your rightful place in the Chair. As a member of the government, I am delighted that you will not likely be participating in question period very often in the future.
    Let me also begin by thanking my constituents of Calgary Southeast for the honour of serving them for a fourth mandate here in the House of Commons. It is a particular honour in my case, not to be boastful, because they rewarded me with more votes than any other candidate in this election, 46,000 votes, which is more a sign of the growth of Calgary than the quality of their member of Parliament, I assure the House. It is also a sign of the need for, among other things, this Parliament to allow full representation by population given that many of us from cities like Calgary represent a huge and growing population that deserves proper representation.

[Translation]

     I would also like to express my gratitude to the Prime Minister for making me his parliamentary secretary and for assigning me certain responsibilities. I have great faith in this Prime Minister’s leadership and in his vision for the future of our country.

[English]

    It is a vision that was well and briefly articulated in the Speech from the Throne. Members opposite have criticized the throne speech for its brevity. It is impossible of course in any throne speech to provide a comprehensive program for every area of public policy. What we see here though is a different approach. Canadians voted on January 23 for change and they have a new government which has expressed that spirit of change in this throne speech document. They have a government which is focused on achieving results, focused on priorities, and not distracted by dozens of priorities.

[Translation]

     The former Prime Minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, has said that if a government has 45 priorities, it has no real priority. He was right.
     That is why the present Prime Minister has decided to set a government agenda that focuses on certain priorities shared by all Canadians.

[English]

    Those priorities were well articulated in this throne speech.

[Translation]

     I would like to stress the fact that the first priority of this government is, obviously, accountability. We are going to replace the previous government’s culture of kickbacks with a culture of accountability. That is why the first bill introduced by this government, which will be tabled next week, I believe, will be the Federal Accountability Act. The purpose of that act will be to carry out the most ambitious reform of federal institutions in the modern era of Canadian politics.

  (1145)  

[English]

    This will affect everything from party financing to access to information to whistleblower protection to the ability of the Auditor General to look into every nook and cranny of government to route out waste, and to stop it before it begins. That will be our hallmark.
    We are setting a high standard and we in the government recognize that. We are setting a high standard for ourselves, and if we fail to meet that standard, a price will be exacted. We understand that. We understand that mistakes will be made. The Prime Minister has said that no one is perfect in any organization with thousands of people. Mistakes will be made. The difference in this government is that when those mistakes are made, deliberately or otherwise, there will be consequences and people will be held accountable.

[Translation]

     That is the difference between this government and the previous one. Under the previous government, politicians and public servants could do anything at all without being held to account.
     That is why Canadians voted against the Liberal government. They saw the enormous waste of their money. Canadians and families in this country work hard to earn that money and pay their taxes. They want to support the services provided by the government, but they do not want to see the waste, the corruption and the kickbacks that they witnessed over the last 13 years.

[English]

    That is why this government has a mandate for accountability and change.
    I am speaking directly of my own constituents now. We are very blessed in Alberta generally, and in Calgary particularly, with tremendous prosperity. I think my riding is the fastest growing constituency in the country. We have become magnets for risk taking, entrepreneurialism, business and enterprise.
    The people in my constituency in particular would like me to say that they want us to be focused here on reducing the tax burden on Canadian families. I think they are pleased that one of the first acts of this government and the tremendous new Minister of Finance from Whitby—Oshawa will be a universal tax cut for every Canadian family.

[Translation]

     The Liberal Party’s finance spokesperson said during question period yesterday that his party is in fact opposed to reducing the GST, because they want to keep the previous Liberal government’s tax strategy.
     The income tax reductions proposed in the Liberals’ last budget do nothing for the 32% of Canadians who have the lowest incomes. Those families do not pay income tax, because they do not have enough income for that. However, all Canadian families pay the GST. That is 100% of Canadian families who will benefit from a tax reduction in the first budget of this government, thanks to a reduction of the GST from 7% to 6%.

[English]

    Then, of course, it will go to 5%.
     This is a universal tax cut. It is just like our day care program, our choice in child care allowance. It is a universal approach.

[Translation]

     In the past, the Liberal Party was in favour of the principle of universality in public policy, when it comes to social programs. It supported the principle of universality, under which everyone must have access to the same services. In fact, it developed a child care centre program that actually targeted 20% to 24% of parents, those who use institutional child care services. However, it forgot about all the other Canadian families and the great diversity of choice that is available to them for child care.

[English]

    We are not going to forget the other three-quarters of Canadian families. We are going to provide 100% of the families with preschool children with resources to assist them in their child care choices. Yes, we admit that it is not perfect, but to be blunt, we do not have the fiscal capacity to provide the $13 billion in budgeted money that the advocates of a universal, Ottawa-run, institutional-government-knows-best, cookie cutter style of Liberal day care program would cost. That $13 billion is precisely why the Liberals never delivered such a program in 13 years. It was 13 years and $13 billion. They delivered nothing except a tiny pilot project last year, at a billion dollars a year.
    The Liberals pretend that the choice is between universal, quality day care and the $1,200 a year choice in child care allowance. What nonsense. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, the choice is between something, the $1,200 a year, or nothing, which is what the Liberals delivered after 13 years.
    Those are our priorities. I know that, in particular, accountability, tax reduction and child care choice are priorities that my constituents would like me to speak to.
     As a word of personal interest, I would like to commend my hon. colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister for the new principled dimension of our foreign policy that we are already seeing at the beginning of this government.
     I am somebody who came to this place partly because I had a heart for human rights issues abroad and for moral principle in foreign policy. I am delighted to see that already in the first few weeks of this government we have seen some principle restored and Canada's prestige restored to our role in the world, most clearly typified by the Prime Minister's brilliant voyage to Afghanistan. Many Canadians have said to me that they now feel proud of their government again. That, I think, is already our greatest achievement.

  (1150)  

    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. It is certainly well deserved. I know the member has the full support of the House.
    In his speech yesterday, the Prime Minister reiterated a point that the opposition members have used quite often, and that is that the existence of a surplus at the end of a fiscal period means that Canadians have been overtaxed. It is a very interesting point, because the member is a learned member in financial matters and knows very well that in order to pay down the debt a surplus must be created.
    The current national debt is still in the range of $500 billion. In fact, it is just a little lower than it was when the Liberal government first took office back in 1993, notwithstanding that there had been, since 1997, eight balanced budgets and surpluses, so that yes, there was $65 billion of debt paid down, saving about $3 billion of interest expense. But it does raise the question: what is the true fiscal dividend to Canadians when we balance budgets and create surpluses? Does it mean that we should spend the surpluses or is the real dividend the savings on the interest on the national debt?
    Since the Speech from the Throne also indicates that the government will be presenting responsible budgets during this 39th Parliament, what is the position of the government with regard to the paydown of the national debt when times are good, knowing full well that we cannot pay down debt when times are bad?
    Mr. Speaker, first let me congratulate my hon. colleague on his re-election. I will not say more nice words about him, because I have done so in the past in the House and those nice words found their way onto his election brochure in this most recent campaign, which was not well received by his Conservative opponent. So while I congratulate him on his re-election, I hope it is the last one.
    Let me say that the member raises a very important issue. I think it is known that I used to be president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. One of the issues that drove me into political life was the desire for fiscal responsibility and a real concern about the intergenerational transfer of wealth that is represented by these enormous debts we are handing on to future generations. I will certainly be a voice in this Parliament and this government for continued reduction of the federal debt.
     I can assure the hon. member that the hon. Minister of Finance shortly will present a budget that will continue the reduction of the federal debt, both in relative terms as a percentage of our gross domestic product and in absolute terms. We will run a government that is in the black, with balanced budgets and with surpluses.
    The best way to achieve growing surpluses is to have a growing economy, which is precisely what we will provide by allowing Canadians to keep more of their own money, because we, unlike the Liberals, believe that families and small business people and entrepreneurs know better how to spend an extra buck than politicians and bureaucrats. They will create the wealth, and that growth will help provide that kind of surpluses to eventually pay down the debt and reduce the intergenerational burden.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to say at the outset that I hold you in such high regard, and when I am throwing vitriol and righteous indignation through you at the other members it is strictly a reflection of the parliamentary system, not anything I hold toward you personally on those matters.
    I would like to ask the hon. member about issues of accountability and debt. I represent the Mushkegowuk clans of the James Bay coast, who have been suffering from years of absolutely disgraceful systemic negligence. As we are talking about debt, I will give members an example in regard to the people of the James Bay coast: up to 30% are not even registered under health insurance plans. The federal government has been aware of this. No moves have been made. My office staff fly to these communities regularly to hold birth certificate clinics to get these people on plans, but what happens is that the first nations health branch will not cover the costs for people in isolated communities who are being treated with emergency medical treatments.
     The branch is accusing health officials in the hospitals on the James Bay coast of being irresponsible with the growing debt. That debt is created from the refusal of bureaucrats in the first nations health branch to deal with this issue. The hospital is trying to service people. It has an obligation to service people.
    First of all, in terms of the debt being faced by our communities in the first nations through underfunding, will the government act on it? Second, in terms of accountability, will we get some accountability on the bureaucrats at INAC and the first nations health branch who have to deal with the communities and who keep these communities continually under their thumb?
    Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the member's hard work on that issue; we have discussed the question directly in brief.
     I believe the hon. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has come forward with the first comprehensive plan to address the crisis in access to quality water on aboriginal reserves. This is certainly a government that will want to cut the red tape and empower people in their local communities, including their band councils and reserves, to find solutions that work.
     I would say that in principle what the member says makes perfect sense to me. I am sure the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs will take that into account as he continues to try to help solve this serious problem in our aboriginal communities.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my distinguished and respected colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île. I would also like to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker and thank the electors in my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for their vote of confidence for a fifth consecutive time. I will continue to work with my usual passion and conviction to improve the welfare of my fellow citizens.
    Expectations for the new government are high. They parallel the commitments made by the Prime Minister during the election campaign. He has the arduous task of repairing the breakage from 13 years of waste by the Liberal regime, a cynical, arrogant and corrupt regime that slashed transfers to the provinces to fund the obligations set for them under the Constitution.
    I was happy, but not surprised. Throughout the election campaign, the Prime Minister made firm commitments regarding the fiscal imbalance. He convinced some voters in Quebec that he would settle the matter and rectify the fiscal imbalance. I was not surprised to hear that. I was happy, because it was beneath the previous government to even acknowledge the existence of a fiscal imbalance in Canada.
    The government must now rectify two aspects of the fiscal imbalance. First, there is the vertical fiscal imbalance, the government's ability to tax our fellow citizens beyond its financial requirements for carrying out its mandate. The governments of Quebec and the provinces, on the other hand, are unable to obtain the financial resources they need to meet the obligations set out for them in the Constitution. In other words, there is too much money in Ottawa for the federal government's requirements and not enough in Quebec and the provinces to enable them to carry out their mandates as effectively as possible. These are fundamental mandates to provide direct services to the public such as education and health care and other provincial obligations.
    We are not asking the government to resolve this issue tomorrow. However, we are asking that it start making corrective changes as early as the next budget, which will be brought down in a few weeks. In particular, we are asking it to promise to sit down with Quebec and the provinces to negotiate, much the same as in 1964 at the Quebec conference between Mr. Pearson, the Prime Minister of Canada, and Jean Lesage, the Premier of Quebec. In 1964, it was agreed that the federal government had a fiscal overcapacity and that major reforms were needed in the provinces, in matters of education and student assistance in particular. At the time, Mr. Pearson agreed to hand over some of the federal government's tax fields to the provinces that wanted to benefit from this. In 1964, only Quebec benefited. Today, when we talk about tax points and their value of several billion dollars, it comes mainly from that conference.
    Our expectations when it comes to the vertical fiscal imbalance are that the government will initiate discussions with the provinces and with Quebec and end up transferring these tax fields or taxes like the GST, transferring revenue, and taking jurisdictions that are exclusive to Quebec and the provinces away from the federal government. With this new revenue, Quebec and the provinces could fulfil their basic missions.
    The second type of fiscal imbalance the federal government must correct is the horizontal fiscal imbalance. The government has a fundamental instrument at its disposal, an instrument that has even been in the constitution since 1982 and that is equalization. The horizontal fiscal imbalance is the inequality between the provinces in their ability to obtain tax resources to provide comparable services from east to west in Canada. This equalization system can offset the horizontal fiscal imbalance, in other words, the disparity in provincial wealth obtained from taxes and used to fund basic programs.
    The current situation makes the imbalance much more apparent than ever. Alberta, for example, is swimming is unbelievable wealth. Soon the Maritimes will have their turn thanks to offshore oil. Meanwhile, the other provinces are getting poorer in relative and absolute terms.

  (1200)  

    We must not forget that the oil boom and Alberta's massive oil exports are artificially raising the value of the Canadian dollar. In Quebec and Ontario in particular, but in the Maritimes as well, businesses are becoming less competitive, especially against emerging countries. When the Canadian dollar is pumped up by oil exports, the whole manufacturing sector suffers, in Quebec and the rest of Canada.
    Today, with the rise of economic powers such as China and India, a number of regions are faced with massive job losses. I will come back to this later. Business owners do not know where to turn, with increased competition and the rise in value of the Canadian dollar, which makes businesses less competitive.
    Equalization is the perfect way to try to alleviate the disparity between provinces, but there needs to be a way to accurately measure each province's revenue-raising ability before the have-not provinces can be adequately compensated with equalization payments. Equalization reform is needed.
    First of all, the equalization formula has to be based on the 10-province standard. Each province's fiscal capacity must be calculated against a Canada-wide average, not just a five-province average, as is the case now. All 10 provinces have to be taken into account. As well, some tax bases, such as property tax, need to be reviewed. For some provinces, estimates of the government's ability to raise property tax revenue are used. These provinces' property tax capacity can be overestimated, with the result that they receive lower equalization transfers than they actually need.
    Second, when we say that each province's total fiscal capacity has to be considered, this means that we must not remove a tax base from the equalization formula, as the Conservatives are proposing to do. They want to take out non-renewable natural resources. This would skew the system and add to the horizontal fiscal imbalance between the provinces. One province's relative wealth would increase, while the other provinces' relative wealth would decrease. We have to be consistent.
     Equalization is the only program with constitutional status. In the past it was felt that there would be growing inequalities among the provinces in terms of their capacity to collect wealth in the form of taxes, and this program served to correct that. Equalization has to be reformed, but not in the way the Conservatives have proposed to us.
     We are on the government’s side if it intends to rectify the fiscal imbalance in the medium term. The situation at the moment is urgent. Post-secondary education—i.e. colleges and universities—has been underfunded for many years. That began when the former finance minister, who later became Prime Minister, made savage cuts to transfers to the provinces for the funding of post-secondary education.
     The situation in which we now find ourselves is dangerous. I have met with the president of the Association des collèges du Québec and the principal of François-Xavier-Garneau college, in the Quebec City region. They informed me that, since the mid-1990s, education programs have been reformed and modernized to take account of labour market realities and technological development. However they do not have the funds to set up these new programs. It is becoming a disaster. We know that education is fundamental, that it is the future of our economy and our societies. We do not even have the money to modernize our programs, much less set them up.
     When the Conservatives were in opposition, I chaired a sub-committee on the fiscal imbalance. I told them that we needed to increase the federal contribution to 25%. They agreed. This represents an increase in transfers for post-secondary education of $4.9 billion per year for all of Canada. This has to be done. The government must take action on this.
     I would also like to mention three other issues of close concern to me. One is POWA, the program for older worker adjustment. With the fierce competition from emerging countries, it is important to help workers aged 55 and over to get through this period until the time comes to retire. This program used to exist in 1997. In my riding, the people from Peerless in Acton were the last to benefit from it, in 1997.

  (1205)  

     Since then we have been fighting to bring it back. This is urgently necessary. The program is not expensive, and it helps the families of workers aged 55 and over to pull through.
     Of course, the government must act on agriculture and the RCMP posts. The Conservatives have agreed to reopen the eight RCMP posts that had been closed.
     In Saint-Hyacinthe, we expect to be waging total war against crime, thanks to the Info-Crime committee established by the warden of the RCM, Ms. Beaulac, and myself. We also believe we can do this with appropriate policing tools. That requires the reopening of the RCMP post in Saint-Hyacinthe and assignment of a significant number of investigators to it, i.e. eight. That is the functional mass that is necessary.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot on his re-election. We have been colleagues for some 13 years now and I always learn something when he speaks.
    Since the beginning, Federal and provincial relations have been a big issue with the Bloc. We know that provincial jurisdiction covers things like child care, housing and social services, but in this Parliament child care has become an issue. I was very concerned when the OECD report came out and basically characterized, other than Quebec's model, the child care experience in Canada as glorified babysitting.
    There now is a debate about whether we should give money directly to parents or give money to national programs, which could be extremely expensive. We agree on one thing, and that is it is an imperative not an option that we invest in the raising of our children.
    In the light of how this debate has evolved, has the Bloc taken a position with regard to the priorities of children and their needs in this evolutionary society and is there a model which would provide a greater flexibility and support in choices for parents so that children do in fact come first?

  (1210)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his question. He is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect.
     We have indeed taken a position with regard to children, young, older and in between. First, we have to talk about child care centres. The agreement signed on that subject between the previous government and the government of Quebec must be honoured. We insist on this. We will continue to fight, together with the government of Quebec and all parties in the National Assembly, to have the present government honour the signature of the previous government.
     Second, my colleague from Trois-Rivières will have an opportunity a little later this week or next week to introduce the proposal that, if there is a direct transfer to parents for children under the age of six, that transfer must be done properly, that is, in the form of a refundable tax credit, and not in the form of a lump sum payment of $1,200 to families, which would be taxable. Under the latter option, families with low or moderate incomes would be heavily penalized by the tax on their cash transfers.
     Third, I would mention education. Post-secondary education, colleges and universities, that too is for young people. For a number of years, they have been underfunded. We support the demands by the federations of students in Quebec and Canada for restoration of the transfer that was eliminated in 1994-1995. At that time, it was worth $2.2 billion, but since then there has been inflation. As a result of the emergency correction of the federal transfers in college and university education, that transfer is now worth $4.9 billion.
     Fourth, when we talk about child poverty, we have to think of the parents. Because if the parents are poor, their children are poor too. At present, because of the emerging nations, including China, India, Brazil, in the agri-food industry, and Chile, we find ourselves in a situation in which workers are experiencing mass layoffs. We have seen this in the Huntingdon region, the Drummond region, and in my region as well, in the case of Olymel, AirBoss, and so on. We have to help the workers. That can be done by reforming employment insurance and especially by introducing the assistance program for older workers.
     After 30 or 35 years of service, workers are finding themselves in a situation in which, after a few months, they are no longer entitled to employment insurance and have to become social assistance recipients. To do that, they must sell all the property they have accumulated since they began working, for 35 years, all the time they have held jobs that demand unbelievable vigour and huge outlays of energy. At the end of the day, after 30 or 35 years, people can no longer reposition themselves on the labour market.
     In 1997, POWA targeted workers aged 55 and over. That program enabled them to live decently and with dignity until their pensions started. The program was not expensive. When it was abolished, the cost was $17 million for the whole of Canada. Today, that must be about $60 million or $70 million dollars. On the other hand, we have to think about the number of tragedies that a program like this can avert.

[English]

    I am sorry, but the time for questions and comments was used up by that one exchange. I would ask members, in the future, to try to keep their questions and their answers shorter.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment to the position of Deputy Speaker. I thank my colleague for his speech, which was brilliant, as usual.
    And I thank the citizens of La Pointe-de-l'Île for re-electing me for a fifth time. Their strong support meant a lot to me and is a positive indication that they support the positions that the Bloc Québécois will defend to ensure the progress of Quebec.
    To begin my reply to the Speech from the Throne, I would like to refer to yesterday's question period. It was my turn after my party leader and I asked the Prime Minister about keeping an election promise regarding UNESCO. He replied, “I am sure that the members of the Bloc will not support such an agreement. We know that their objective is to do much more than give Quebec a voice on the world stage”.
    First of all, I must say that the Prime Minister is right and wrong at the same time. Simply because we are Bloc members does not mean that we would be willing to accept a proposal on Quebec's position in the federal framework if that proposal were unsatisfactory. As we will see, there are many federated countries that have given their component parts the power, for instance, to sign treaties. In point of fact, we are sovereignists and we hope to achieve more than just a place for Quebec on the world stage. We want Quebec to play a role similar to small countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, which all contribute significantly in terms of international aid and conflict resolution. We believe that we could play such a role. However, what we hope to achieve here is progress for Quebec.
    I would like to point out that I was inspired by a book written by Stéphane Paquin, who studied models of federalism that have been reformed since the 1990s. Belgium is certainly a case in point. Following a debate that ended in 1993, Belgium permitted its federated entities--regions and communities--to play a role on the international scene. They have become the model to be admired and also to be copied. Rather than leading to the anarchy that some believed would ensue, this model on the contrary has also created mechanisms for cooperation enabling the regions and communities to further their respective development.
    There are three types of treaties in Belgium, that is to say treaties signed by the federal government. It must by law consult them, but the treaties are concluded and ratified by the government. However, treaties that fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of communities or regions and that are concluded and ratified by the authorities of these entities do exist, from the legal point of view, in the same manner as treaties concluded by the federal government. The parliaments of the federated states approve treaties.
    In matters of shared responsibility, the treaty is concluded according to a special procedure, as agreed to by all the governments, and must also be approved by all the parliaments concerned.

  (1215)  

    If a parliament does not agree, the treaty cannot be approved. Of course this requires discussion and negotiation. However, this allows each entity to make known its point of view. The same principles apply to international representation. When an entity is not satisfied with the position taken, there is no position. For example, Belgium will not voice an opinion; it will abstain rather than voting or speaking. This does not mean that Belgium is powerless on the international scene. On the contrary, compromises are sought out. This is a situation that does not occur often here.
     Spain is another country that is very interesting and that is not a federation. It is a unitary state made up of communities. The communities are consulted when treaties are made or for international representations. Catalonia is an exception, since it has signed an agreement with the Spanish government, and a bipartisan committee studies treaties and international representations. That enables Catalonia to express its particular points of view. It might also be recalled that Switzerland allows its entities to sign treaties, provided they are consistent with what exists on the federal level. The great respect Switzerland shows to each of its entities is well known. This does not occur with respect to sovereign countries; the entities are federal entities.
     I am insisting on this subject, because we think that, when the Prime Minister made his statements during the election campaign, he made an appeal for Quebec, particularly in the current context, to finally see its jurisdictions respected. I will quote a few of these statements:
    We will respect federal and provincial jurisdictions, as they are defined in the Canadian Constitution.
     In a while, through you, Mr. Speaker, I will put some questions to him because Canadian jurisdictions, since the strong centralization movement of federation, have lost a lot of their shine and their essential oils. In Le Devoir of last December 20, one could read:
    On the international level, Quebec, as well as the other provinces, though they see less need for it, “will have a say in matters affecting their own jurisdictions,” said the leader of the Conservative Party.
     So this does not concern just their jurisdictions, but it does affect them. The Prime Minister also said:
—we are going to design mechanisms that will give the provinces a greater role in their own areas of jurisdiction on international issues.
     In his much talked-about speech on December 20, he also said:
    Clearly this issue is of greater concern to Quebec than the other provinces. I am ready to discuss mechanisms to enable the provinces to extend their jurisdictions on the international scene.

  (1220)  

     The extension of jurisdictions on the international scene is the doctrine favoured by Paul Guérin-Lajoie in 1965. On the basis of a decision by the Privy Council, a colonial court, he demanded the right for Quebec to negotiate, sign and ratify its own treaties, since globalization meant that Quebec needed to have a hold over its treaties and over international representation.

  (1225)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, federal-provincial jurisdiction and constitutional issues are always going to be long-standing debates in this place, particularly with the Bloc. The Bloc has championed many issues over the years, among them the EI fund, cheese, shipbuilding, and the fiscal imbalance. The member has spent a lot of time on international and foreign affairs. I appreciate her comments on some of the international perspective.
    Perhaps the member could share some thoughts about this constitutional situation that we are in, where Quebec is not now a signatory to the Canadian Constitution but is prepared to operate within the principles of the Constitution to try to move forward. We have to move this file forward at some time. Does she believe that there is a possibility down the road of a constitutional amendment process which would provide the opportunity to better achieve the objectives of all Canadians, including Canadians in Quebec?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would just like to tell my colleague that I too appreciate his sometimes surprising but always interesting questions.
     I remember — others must have heard it as well — the current Prime Minister emphasizing during a debate that he would arrange to make it possible for Quebec to sign the Canadian constitution. Frankly, it is a strange situation, to say the least. As a result of the Supreme Court’s interpretation, we say of it in Quebec that it is like the tower in Pisa and always leans in the same direction. Quebec must abide by the rules of a constitution that it did not sign. This does not make any sense. We remember the last attempt. I would frankly be surprised if the Prime Minister were to try it again, but if he does, I would be astonished if he succeeded. It is sad, in a way.
     I have before me texts from legal scholars saying to what extent­—since 1937 and 1949, when the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ceased deciding jurisdictional conflicts, among others, and was replaced by the Supreme Court—Canadian federalism has become centralized to the point of no longer really meeting the criteria for a federation and instead becoming a unitary state. In view of all the interpretive theories, the jurisdictions recognized in the Constitution can be circumvented, identified, used and enclosed in all sorts of ways, with the result that we are headed more toward a unitary state.
     As we know, I am a sovereignist. I think that this deterioration, this centralization of the Canadian federation, can no longer be reversed.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, while I can appreciate that the hon. member would love to plunge the House back into a constitutional debate, I can assure everyone that the object of the government is to get things done for Canadians. We feel that will be very uniting for Canadians, including those in Quebec.
    I would like to address what the hon. member indicated originally, a point that was made by the Prime Minister yesterday, which was that the Bloc would not likely be satisfied with whatever the outcome was regarding the negotiations on UNESCO. The point is quite simple. Because the Conservatives' end goal is diametrically opposed to that of the Bloc in that we want to unite Canada from coast to coast to coast and Bloc members do not, they quite simply will not be satisfied with any outcome.

  (1230)  

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I will repeat—and I am certain that I will do it often during this Parliament and will not be the only one—what our leader said yesterday, namely that we are here to achieve progress for Quebec which is to say to make its jurisdictions as broad again as they must be for the development of Quebec, which is a people and a nation. This is not a whim; we are a people and a nation. There are other countries in the world that consist of various peoples and nations and that find a way to recognize the place of all their peoples to ensure their development. That might have been possible in Canada, but it has not happened.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Transport, my colleague the member for Pontiac.
    It is a great privilege for me to rise in this place for the first time. At the outset I would like to thank the electors of Ottawa West--Nepean for their support. I commit to them that I will work hard each and every day to serve their interests in this place. Their priorities which they sent me here to address are health care, crime, support for seniors, and to be an advocate for our public servants.
    A great number of very distinguished people have preceded me in this place. I would like to pay tribute to Marlene Catterall who served as our member of Parliament in Ottawa West--Nepean for the past 16 or 17 years, to David Daubney, Beryl Gaffney, Bill Tupper who was a real mentor to me, former Speaker Lloyd Francis who was good enough to come to my swearing in, along with David Daubney, Walter Baker, Dick Bell, and my great-uncle who served as the member for my riding in the 1940s. I am very privileged to follow him.
    Today I rise to speak about accountability. It is one of the most important responsibilities, in my judgment, facing any government. Canadians, all of us, were shocked at the sponsorship scandal and other examples of irresponsible government. It shook the confidence of Canadians to the core. As the Prime Minister has noted publicly, and I do not think we can do it enough, this Conservative government does not blame the members of the public service for what happened. They did not cross the line. It was their political masters who did.
    I want to say very directly that rebuilding the public trust can be the most important legacy for the 39th Parliament. Our federal accountability act can change how government works. It will make it easier not just for the House but for all Canadians to hold their federal government to account. I hope we will use this first step to rebuild the public trust of Canadians in their government.
    We are going to focus on five key reforms. We want political reform through changes to electoral and party financing so that there is real confidence that undue influence is not exerted on the political process, on the parliamentary process or indeed on government. We want parliamentary reform through enhanced support for parliamentary committees so that all members of Parliament can do their jobs, and through stronger roles and greater independence for the officers and agents of the House of Commons and Senate.
    We want public sector reform through better and improved accountability structures.
    We want procurement reform to ensure that Canadian taxpayers are getting value for their hard-earned tax dollars and that the processes are open.
    We want to see additional reforms to help increase transparency in government.
    The reforms we will present to the House and through the House to Canadians will be far reaching and comprehensive.
     Accountability is the very foundation for Canada's system of responsible government. It is key to assuring Parliament and Canadians that public resources are used both efficiently and effectively. Accountability means leading by example. That is especially true for those who aspire to public office, for members of Parliament and the political parties that all but one of us represent.
    As I mentioned earlier, the federal accountability act will reduce the opportunity to exert undue political influence through large and secret donations of money to political parties and candidates. This will ensure greater transparency and help Canadians feel more confident about the integrity of the democratic process.
    Canadians expect their elected representatives and indeed all public office holders to make decisions that are in the public interest and not in their personal interest both now and in the years to come. Public office holders must perform their duties and arrange their private affairs to withstand the closest public scrutiny. They must uphold the highest ethical standards at all times.

  (1235)  

    The weaknesses in the current Lobbyists Registration Act have increased the perception of conflict of interest. We must be concerned about conflict of interest, but we must be equally concerned about the public perception of conflict of interest. Some people feel that there is a privileged access to government that is reserved only for a chosen few. That is something this government intends to deal with head on when we introduce the federal accountability act next week.
    I am privileged to represent the riding of Ottawa West—Nepean. In the national capital region a huge number of men and women work in the public service and deliver important programs and services that touch the lives of all Canadians every single day. We recognize the professionalism and dedication of the men and women who work in the public service and the value that they bring to the table. As Conservatives we see a strong role for a vibrant, healthy and dynamic private sector as the instrument of economic growth, as the engine of opportunity in the country, but it does not demean the important role that the public sector plays in the Canadian economy and the important role that members of the public service play.
    The federal accountability act will help clarify roles and responsibilities which first and foremost will strengthen accountability. Our objective through the federal accountability act which was cited in the Speech from the Throne will be to have an even stronger public service, one that will continue to be second to none internationally.
    The government is one of the largest purchasers of goods and services in the country. I strongly believe that the bidding process for government contracts must be fair, open and transparent. The federal accountability act will include an overarching statement of principles to meet these objectives.
    One of the most important roles of Parliament is to hold the Government of Canada to account for the use of taxpayers' dollars. To do this effectively, parliamentarians need objective and fact-based information on how the government spends funds. That will be an important part to the parliamentary budget authority that we will propose next week.
    I look forward to working with members on all sides of the House to make this new federal accountability act reality. The measures that I highlighted today signal a dramatic change in the way this city works to move from a culture of entitlement to a culture of accountability that pervades Parliament Hill, that pervades the public service, that pervades Canadian society so that all taxpayers will have the confidence that their tax dollars are spent wisely and well.
    I look forward to working with members on all sides of the House, with my own caucus colleagues, with members of the official opposition, with members from Quebec and the Bloc Québécois and colleagues from the New Democratic Party. Pat Martin, one of the NDP members of Parliament, was quoted in the Hill Times. He said that we could leave a better legacy--
    Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I am very delighted to hear the hon. member speaking but I think there is a time honoured tradition in the House that we do not refer to members by their names, as was the case by the hon. member. Perhaps the Speaker might want to be more attentive to these concerns.
    I will just remind the hon. President of the Treasury Board to refer to our colleagues either by their riding names or by their titles.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member said that we could perhaps have no greater victory in this first session of the 39th Parliament than that we could pass, enact into law, the federal accountability act, to leave a legacy of accountability and to show all Canadians that we can make this Parliament work and that we can clean up once and for all the cynicism that has grown over the past 13 years.
    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.
    I congratulate the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean on his election and on his move from provincial to federal politics.
    The hon. member talked about accountability. He spoke about the public servants, that they are not to blame. I believe that in all services, whether they be public or private, there is no perfection. There is always a problem somewhere. I would be very happy to give the minister a copy of the front page of a newspaper where the Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, said at the first inquiry initiated from her report, “public servants broke just about every rule in the book”.
    I am not here to stand up and blame all the public servants. I am saying that there was a fault. We went in and cleaned it up, which brings me to my question about the accountability act.
    Today, there is an unelected appointed senator--another broken promise--who is going to be heading the biggest department in government. As a government accountable to the people supposedly under the accountability act, how can we ask him questions about procurement, for example? How are we going to ask questions to the new minister who does not sit in the House of Commons? The way I see it and the way most Canadians see it, we are elected by the people to be accountable here. Where is that minister going to be accountable?
    Mr. Speaker, I expect that every day the Minister of Public Works and Government Services will be on his feet answering questions in question period in the other place. I think he was asked two questions yesterday. This is good for accountability. As well, another 25 ministers will be here in the House of Commons.
    I respect the opinion and judgment of the member opposite. I would be dishonest if I did not put on the table my concern about the continued maligning of our public service. The Liberal Party has tried to blame our public service for the scandal and the member opposite has thrown fuel on that fire. No member of the public service woke up one day and said, “How do I funnel money to the Liberal Party in Quebec?” That is a fact. Public servants did not do that.
    What we did see in Justice Gomery's report was the active involvement and collusion of senior members of the Liberal Party both on Parliament Hill and in the province of Quebec, who were involved in the disbursement of public funds. We heard stories of envelopes filled with $7,000 and even $50,000 in cash. No member of the public service woke up one day and wanted to funnel money to the Liberal Party in Quebec. I can assure the member opposite of that.
    Someone will have to stand up for the public service. I can say that there will be two people who will be doing that. They will be the political minister responsible for Quebec, the member for Pontiac, and there will be myself, the member for Ottawa. We will be the first two to stand up for the public service.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on joining the House of Commons. I am sure he will bring us some of his wisdom from the Ontario legislature. It is great to have him here.
    I followed his comments with great interest. I totally agree with the member that we have to have public trust in our institutions. To that end, the Liberal government undertook quite a few things.
    Let me say to the member opposite, because he talked about the public service, Chuck Guité was inherited from the previous Conservative government.
    The other issue I wish to raise in talking about public trust is I suggest that the member read On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years. This is important reading for members to understand how this works. Also the member really should take a look at the W5 program where Schreiber gave $300,000 to a former prime minister.
    I am hoping that under this air of accountability and this quest that we all have as parliamentarians to clean up the ethics of government that an investigation will be launched. It really does go to the very heart of his presentation, which is private versus public interest.

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Kitchener—Waterloo for his welcoming remarks on my election to this place. I look forward to working with him and others.
    I think the last time the Liberal Party tried to investigate Brian Mulroney it ended up paying him hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars and having to issue a formal apology. Taxpayers' dollars went to pay for Liberal bungling. The member should be very cautious if he wants to reopen that issue. I remember the former justice minister having to issue a public apology and writing a very large cheque, perhaps a seven digit figure, over a million dollars in legal fees for that bungling. I hope we do not have to go back down that route.
    With respect, I disagree profoundly with the member opposite. The member opposite said that Chuck Guité was inherited from the Conservative government. Our public servants do not work for a Conservative government or a Liberal government. Our public servants work for Canadians. We have a non-partisan public service. I want to underline that for the member opposite.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in the few minutes granted to me as the member for Pontiac, the transport minister and the minister responsible for Quebec, I would like to speak briefly on how the program outlined the day before yesterday fits in with the desire for change expressed by Quebeckers.
    Before I do so, I must first thank the citizens of the beautiful riding of Pontiac. I would not be here today without the trust and support of the majority of my constituents. Together, the residents of Pontiac and I have embarked upon a wonderful adventure--one that will bring change. I remember very well a campaign meeting held one cold December night, during which an elderly woman admitted that she had never voted for the Conservative Party in her life. Fortunately, I was able to reassure her as I told her, “Nor have I, Ma'am”.

[English]

    The people of Pontiac are proud people. They are honest, hard-working and independent people. They believe in fundamental values, community spirit and regional solidarity. They believe that efforts should be rewarded and initiative should be encouraged. They are courageous and compassionate people.
    Though its first limits start only a few kilometres from this historic precinct, the Pontiac region needs help to develop its full economic and social potential. I want to assure the people of my riding that I will do my utmost, both within and outside this chamber, to give new hope and better opportunities to the people of the Pontiac.

[Translation]

    As a member from the Ottawa-Gatineau area, I would also like to tell the thousands of public servants who work in the area and throughout Canada that we understood the frustration many of them felt when an attempt was made to pin the rap of scandals on them. The truth is--and I am reminded of this every day since assuming my duties as a minister--Canada has one of the best, if not the very best, public services in the world.

  (1250)  

[English]

    I know my colleague, the member for Ottawa West--Nepean and President of the Treasury Board, shares these sentiments. I look forward to working with him to give our public service and servants the respect they deserve and the instruments they need to continue serving their fellow citizens with pride, integrity and independence.

[Translation]

    The election on January 23 did not just bring a new government and a new political party to power. That has happened many times in our history. But seldom do voters decide to make a more profound, more radical change in the calibre of their elected representatives. That is what happened on January 23. Canadians renounced a philosophy of government, a concept of federalism, that led to the worst abuses in recent years, and embraced a new vision of our future.
    For too long, the former government acted as though Quebec was its to plunder. Illegally, with tricks and lies, it took whatever it could. The former Prime Minister banned members and officials from the party for life because their actions were simply indefensible.
    At first blush, the Federal Accountability Act, the first piece of legislation we plan to introduce, may seem complicated to many Canadians. Yet it can be summed up in just two words: never again.
    The throne speech referred to our government's commitment to address any fiscal imbalance so that all governments have access to the resources they need to meet their responsibilities. This imbalance reached dangerous levels under the former government. Our commitment to deal with this problem is very ambitious. But as with all our priorities, we have not chosen the easy way. We will focus on what is important and urgent. We may be a minority government, but we do not intend to be a caretaker government. We want to be a decisive government that takes action.

[English]

    Fiscal imbalance is not just a Quebec issue. It is a Canadian problem which affects nearly all provincial governments. It also affects our cities even more where 80% of Canadians live. This is why we have put it on the top of our agenda, not because we think it is easy to accomplish but because we believe it must be done.

[Translation]

    During another time not so long ago, I had the privilege of serving in another parliament, at the Quebec National Assembly. I have already noticed some differences, but I see in my new colleagues around me today the same dedication to strengthening their nation and the same desire to serve their constituents. That is why I want to congratulate the hon. members from all the parties and the independent member from the riding of Portneuf on their recent election or reelection. They already have my admiration and they can count on my cooperation.
    Upon entering this room as a member for the first time the day before yesterday, I must admit that some memories came back to me. For instance, I remember the sense of trust and solidarity that existed between then Premier Bourassa and Prime Minister Mulroney. This sense of cooperation between these two remarkable leaders, which was applied in the interest of all Canadians, served the interest of Quebec quite well.
    No one can deny that there currently exists between the new Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec a community of similar ideas and ideals that can only result in great accomplishments.
    When I was in the National Assembly there was no Conservative party, but there was a sovereignist party, a close relative of my new friends at the Bloc Québécois. That is another reason why I do not feel out of place here. There is common ground everywhere. It was no so long ago that sovereignists hoped that Robert Bourassa would support Quebec independence one day. In the end, he was a fine example of how the interests of Quebec and the integrity of Canada could both be served.
    Today the sovereignists are saying they will support some of the promises the Prime Minister made about Quebec during the last election campaign, such as Quebec's involvement in UNESCO, because that could possibly serve the separatist cause. I would say to them, amicably but frankly, that the success of our commitments toward Quebeckers will not be to demonstrate that independence is possible. On the contrary, it will demonstrate that it is not necessary. We will prove that federalism works well when it is well thought out and well managed.

  (1255)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Minister of Transport on his recent election.
    He talked about his local riding of Pontiac, about economic self-sufficiency and how he plans to prosper in his riding.
     In our province and across many smaller communities one of the great programs that has been implemented over the past few years is the port divestiture program. Would the minister tell us the status on that, given the fact that the program ended on March 31 and many of these communities are now hanging on the fate of this program to achieve economic self-sufficiency? Would the minister please bring this matter to the House?
    Mr. Speaker, we are discussing a program that came to its end on March 31. It is a program which I believe has demonstrated over the last number of years its viability and success.
     As I speak today, this program is being revised. We are reviewing it. I will certainly let the Minister of Finance follow up on the next steps that should be taken, but hopefully this program will be pursued. I believe it has done a lot of good. I feel that there have been some problems. There are areas where there has been some difficulty. That has to be reviewed in the light of what was done. We will get back to the House, and I will personally get back here, and let the hon. member know what will happen in terms of the next steps.
    Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating you for the honour of presiding in that chair. I have every confidence that your judgment will be as good as your eyesight when you recognize the NDP way down in this corner where we reside.
    My congratulations, too, to the Minister of Transport for accepting this important role.
     I think the minister would agree with me that freedom of information is the oxygen that democracy breathes. I know he has experience in government and would agree with me that access to information is one of those rights that we enshrine in Canada and is one of the instruments by which we shine a light on the operations of government and feature open government as one of the cornerstones of our democracy.
    Could the minister explain why his government has seen fit, under its new accountability, act to strip out the access to information reform that was the centrepiece of that piece of legislation? Why is his government going to ground, as it were, and slamming the door on true transparency and openness when surely he knows, as everyone in this country knows, that transparency and accountability have become the buzzwords of Ottawa today? If we had true access to information laws and open government, we would have 30 million auditors scrutinizing the operations of government rather than one overworked Auditor General.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, needless to say, I will be looking toward my right on numerous occasions, so the member need not worry. I will be listening with a lot of interest to the questions that are raised.
    The question posed on access to information is a very interesting one. In my previous professional political life I had the opportunity of pursuing that piece of legislation in the Quebec national assembly. We had the opportunity as a government to adopt a measure that extended to the private sector elements or dispositions of our provincial legislation for the public sector.
    I reassure the member that the government's intention is not to cover up access to information. On the contrary, the government, through the President of the Treasury Board when the piece of legislation will be known, will be able to demonstrate, without any doubt, that what we want to do is bring transparency into the government operations. We want to bring in accountability and all these values and notions that we share on this side of the House and certainly that my hon. colleague shares. We will be able to see that the government wants to pursue that endeavour with as much vigour and ingenuity as he has suggested.
    Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating you and your fellow Speakers. You certainly have an important job in the House ensuring that decorum is maintained and the impressions of Canadians are enhanced.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton—Springdale.
    I would also like to congratulate all the other members of the House, those who have been re-elected and those who were newly elected. I started out on this side of the House, over in the rump. I remember the Prime Minister was down on that side back in 1993. Certainly, as new members, we were very enthused and in some ways naive, but it has been a really incredible privilege, and I say that for all of us, in being able to serve our constituents in the Parliament of Canada.
    There is no question that our families greatly assist us in the work that we do. In my case in particular, my wife Nancy and my daughter Erin have put up with a husband and a father being off in Parliament since 1993. I extend a special thanks to all the volunteers who believe in the democratic process, and help each and every one of us get to this place.
    When I first came into the House in 1993, this country was on the verge of bankruptcy. Unemployment was very high. There was not a lot of hope and there was a lot of despair. Over the years when the Liberals were in government, we restored the country's fiscal health. Instead of going on at length, I draw the House's attention to the Globe and Mail article on March 31 that stated:
    A strong economy, a booming job market and generous government benefits have lifted more than one million Canadians out of the low income ranks since 1996.
     Poverty has been reduced to 11.2% from 15.7% in 1996. That is important. Granted, one person in poverty is one too many, but the fact of the matter is we made change. The other part of the issue is that we were able to give hope versus the despair that we inherited.
    I looked over the throne speech and I must say it is a throne speech that I have seen in my years in the House. The government talks about bringing back accountability. We as a government have done a whole lot of those things, but it is one of those issues where the work is never done and we have to continue working on it.
    I urge the President of the Treasury Board, as he is making up the legislation, to perhaps take a look at the book entitled On the Take, which chronicles the abuses of the Mulroney government. I also ask him to pay special attention to W-Five, which pointed to Schreiber making payments of $300,000 to the former prime minister. I think that is important. The people of this country have a right to have some kind of accountability framework around it.
    In terms of helping families and Canadians, we all want to do that. Over the years the Liberal government put in place record tax cuts.
    On the issue of tackling crime, I am a bit bothered at the U.S. style approach that has been taken. I say that because the rhetoric around that issue from the Conservative Party is very much like the rhetoric that comes from the Republicans in the United States. When we compare the crime rates of the two nations, while we have our problems, we are much better than the United States of America.

  (1305)  

    Providing child care support is going to be a real issue for us because it is not going to create one child care space nor is it going to enhance early childhood education. It is going to give money to parents who have preschool kids.
    I must commend the government on another issue that it talked about and that is regarding an apology to Chinese Canadians with respect to the head tax. I agree that is long overdue. What is lacking is a comprehensive approach. We as a country have to come to terms with that. Apologies should also go to Ukrainians, to those Canadians who were interned during the wars, to first nations people, and also to all those people who were discriminated against in the evolution of Canadian history until we arrived at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
     In a very real way it was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that said those acts of discrimination were wrong. It was the charter that said we are not going to go there anymore. We are going to have it guide us in our future legislation. To that extent I have proposed a policy, call it the hall of the charter, which would educate Canadians about past injustices. Whether one is French, a first nation, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Italian, Black, or Asian, it is important that we understand each other's history because then we can understand why we need something like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that we learn from our past mistakes and to ensure we never go there again. I am a bit disturbed that in this document there is no mention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is supposed to bind all of us as Canadians.
    I have a greater concern with this throne speech about what is missing. There is no mention of post-secondary education. There is no mention of research and development. There is no mention of the Kyoto accord or the Kelowna accord. There is no mention of the charter. There is no mention of protecting manufacturing jobs in Canada which are under threat by countries that dump here from overseas.
    Most important, there is no mention of anything really substantial with respect to citizenship and immigration. Reforming the Citizenship Act was part of the throne speech of the last government. When the House fell in November of last year, we were on the verge of receiving legislation from the government to upgrade the Citizenship Act. There was all-party agreement in committee on how that should be done. The report on the revocation of citizenship received concurrence in the House, but there is no mention of that here. I really hope that we are going to deal with this issue.
    I look forward to working in the 39th Parliament, recognizing that I am a temporary guardian of the public trust. I am here, just like every colleague in the House, to represent our respective constituencies.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, as my predecessors have done, I would like to congratulate you on your new position.
    I would like to thank the member for Kitchener--Waterloo for a most enlightening speech and for his dogged determination over the years to guarantee that all Canadians, Canadians by birth and Canadians by choice, are treated equally by legislation, and that Canadians by choice have the same charter rights and are not subjected to the political process of citizenship revocation.
    In the last session of Parliament the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration tabled a report dealing with the question of citizenship revocation. How does my colleague think the current government may best deal with the flawed citizenship revocation process?
    Mr. Speaker, we can deal with it by adopting the 10th report of the citizenship and immigration committee which received concurrence in the House. Let me also point out that this issue applies to six million Canadians who were not born in Canada. Thirty-nine members of the House were not born in Canada. We are talking about something that is very sacred. We are talking about our citizenship rights. Essentially, we have to get the Citizenship Act before Parliament and before committee, so we can collectively pass an act that we can all be proud of.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is great to have the member for Kitchener—Waterloo back. He served with me on the Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration in the previous session.
    I would like to thank the citizens of Vaudreuil—Soulanges for the renewed trust they have placed in me.
    The immigration system, I agree, has deteriorated and suffers from some significant shortcomings, particularly in terms of the rights of refugees. By failing to implement the refugee appeal division, the government is not respecting its own legislation.
    Delays in processing permanent residence applications are also growing. There is no real possibility for regularizing the status of nationals of certain countries affected by moratoriums on removal.
    Reuniting immigrant and refugee families is truly a nightmare and causes much distress and suffering.
    My colleague has shown a great deal of enthusiasm for citizenship issues and we have made great strides together. The refusal to table the citizenship act promised in the Liberal throne speech has also been a source of considerable frustration.
    Does the member believe that there is a certain consensus about the possible solutions to problems affecting temporary workers, the obvious lack of workers in several areas, including the lot of illegal immigrants? With regard to citizenship, I would like to hear the member address the issue of international adoption.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I worked with the hon. member on the citizenship and immigration committee, and I see another colleague of mine across the way from Surrey. We really had a wonderful experience as parliamentarians because we could work in a non-partisan fashion. We could take very difficult issues and arrive at a consensus.
    I agree with the member that the refugee appeal division has to be enacted into law. One of the things we continually worked on was to make that happen. We said that when the government appoints members of the refugee board, it should be based on competence. That is essentially what has happened. We have put that in place and I must say I am a little disturbed to find out that three members of the Montreal refugee board, who have received excellent appraisals and who were hired by an independent tribunal, have lost their positions.
    We have always said that things must be based on competence. One of the problems with the refugee board has been that people did not have the experience. We needed experienced people on that board and I hope that the minister will revisit that decision.
    In terms of temporary workers, there is a solution. We must begin from the premise that if we were to take every worker in this country who is undocumented and ship them out of the country tomorrow, our economy would take a big cut because those jobs need to be filled in this economy. We must issue temporary work permits and see if over time we can regularize these workers, so they can become landed immigrants and Canadian citizens, and partake in the Canadian dream.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak in response to the Speech from the Throne. I first would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the new colleagues and new members in the House on their victories.
    I also would like to begin by expressing my sincere and genuine thanks to my constituents of Brampton--Springdale for their support in awarding me this tremendous honour and privilege to continue to serve as their member of Parliament.
    I also would like to thank the thousands of volunteers who dedicated many tireless hours to ensuring that we would be successful in our victory in Brampton--Springdale. I thank my volunteers for their had work and their tremendous commitment.
    As I stand here before the House today as a member of the opposition party for the first time, I would like to assure Bramptonians and Canadians that I will continue to be a firm proponent of ensuring that we create and build an environment in which children, seniors and families have the opportunity to really prosper and succeed.
    In addition, I look forward to working on behalf of my constituents and thousands of Canadians to ensure that the values of equality, of justice, of acceptance, of respect and tolerance continue to remain the hallmark of our great country. Many of these values unfortunately have not been highlighted in the Conservative government's future agenda.
    As I stand here today in the House, I wish to echo the concerns of many of my constituents of Brampton--Springdale who have called and e-mailed on their disappointment in the vagueness in regard to the lack of vision presented in the Speech from the Throne.
    Although the Speech from the Throne reiterated the five Conservative campaign priorities and added two additional priorities with regard to federalism and the international obligations, it really provided no comprehensive plan or path for the future of our great nation. Many priorities and issues that are important to Canadians from coast to coast have been neglected in the Speech from the Throne.
    The path that the Prime Minister has envisioned avoids issues that face our seniors, our women and our young people. It really makes no concrete reference to our first nations communities and barely even touches upon many of the issues that face our new immigrants such as foreign credential recognition.
    In short, the Speech from the Throne really sets no clear goals and provides no legislative or fiscal framework of how these initiatives will be implemented.
    It was unfortunate that in the Speech from the Throne language was utilized which was very unstatesman-like and also focused on the past instead of really ensuring that the Speech from the Throne would focus on the future.
    Many of the priorities outlined do not serve many of the other pressing issues that our country faces. What Canadians need now is a government that will ensure and is prepared to face the many challenges that are encountered by families on a day to day basis. I think it is extremely important that the Conservative government move forward on a positive note, on a positive message instead of promoting negativity.
    As I stand here today, I think it is extremely fortunate that the Conservative government has inherited one of the best fiscal records of any incoming government, due to the tremendous achievements that were accomplished by the Liberal government and by our former ministers of finance.
    This incoming government has inherited from the previous Liberal government one of the strongest economic records, one of the best fiscal records in the G-7, a 30-year low in unemployment rates and eight consecutive balanced budgets. Yet I find it extremely shocking that the government is going on a slashing binge and cutting very important social programs that are essential to many Canadians and their families.
    The first question that I think is important to ask is, why is the government cancelling child care funding agreements with provinces that have taken years of hard work and dedication by many members of the House and many stakeholders from coast to coast to implement?
    The Conservative plan to scrap the child care agreements reached by provinces after much negotiation and with stakeholders by the Liberal government has been put in in favour of a taxable $25 a week payout to parents. Having a cash payout to parents is really not a child care strategy or a child care plan. As many of us know, $1.60 a day is not going to allow parents across the country to provide quality child care for their children.

  (1320)  

    The Ontario government recently announced that it would not proceed with its plan to create 6,000 new child care spaces. The Conservatives keep talking about choice. What choice are parents going to have if child care is expensive and unavailable due to the chronic shortage of spaces?
    All provinces, as well as parents' groups, women's groups and advocacy groups, especially those representing the lower and middle income class, have not been in favour. They have been opposed to the Mr. Harper's plan because they recognize the importance of ensuring a nationally funded--
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member across referred to the Prime Minister by his name. We ask that the rules of the House be respected and that the distinguished colleague stay within the confines of the Standing Orders of the House.
    I thank the member for his point of order. I would remind the member for Brampton--Springdale that we refer to colleagues either by their riding names or by their titles.
    Mr. Speaker, the point of order is noted. I apologize.
    One must also ask the question to the Conservative government of why there has been no mention in the Speech from the Throne about the implementation and the continuation of the historic Kelowna accord, which would ensure that the standard of living for the Canada's first nations, Inuit and Métis people is raised.
    Moreover, the Conservative Speech from the Throne did not talk about innovation, research and development, important qualities that our nation must ensure to compete in a global arena. We require those qualities to ensure Canada's success in the global arena, yet the Speech from the Throne had no mention of global competitiveness.
    The Conservative government has inherited one of the best fiscal records from the previous Liberal government. I would hope that as it moves forward it will ensure that Canada continues to remain one of the best countries in the world.
    As we all know, it is of priority and extreme importance that we have a knowledge-based economy. That knowledge-based economy will be built by people, by investing in people with regard to education, human resourses and a proper health care and child care plan.
    Another issue raised by many of my constituents is the GST. They have asked why the Conservative government is willing to reduce the GST by 1% , yet not retain any of the $30 billion tax cuts proposed by the previous Liberal government. Talking to any economist, one realizes that the savings provided by the Liberal government are of much greater value and benefit to Canadians than the 1% GST cut proposed by the Conservative government.
    The Prime Minister needs to ensure that the government listens to Canadians. He needs to re-evaluate his plan to ensure that Canadians of all socio-economic backgrounds benefit from any financial savings. When we take a look at the statistics, only 5% of families make over $150,000. The Conservative plan of a reduction of 1% in the GST would provide 30% of its benefits to those 5%. When we take a look at it, half of Canadian families from coast to coast earn less than $40,000 a year. While 50% of Canadians are earning less than $40,000 a year, only 20% would receive the benefits of Conservative tax cuts, an average of just $163 per year.
    The only clarity offered in this plan by the Conservative government is it would benefit higher income families while those who need the help the most, middle and lower income families, would not benefit.
    I must also question the Prime Minister's intentions in reneging on Canada's Kyoto commitments to deal with climate change and the environmental degradation to Canada's air, land and water. We need to talk about sustainability. Cancelling the one tonne challenge that was utilized to promote many of these important criteria across this country is not a step in the right direction.
     As we move forward, it is important that the Speech from the Throne and the priorities of the Conservative government reflect the needs of all Canadians, regardless of their cultural backgrounds and socio-economic record, and ensure that it focuses a message on positivity.
    I would hope that the other priorities I spoke about, such as immigrants, the aboriginal population, seniors, young people and women, would be addressed by the Conservative government in the future.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new position.
    I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her very insightful review of the Speech from the Throne and for noting that there is a total lack of vision, that there is no protection for the low and the middle income and that it appears the Speech from the Throne and the Conservative platform would only benefit the 5% of people who are in the higher income bracket.
    Could my hon. colleague comment on this? Where else has the government failed to look after the needs of the middle and the lower income Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, when we take a look at implementing any initiatives in our great country, it is important to realize that 50% of families make less than $40,000. We have spoken about the very minimal benefit that the low and middle income class families would receive from the reduction in the GST. However, if the previous Liberal government's plan for $30 billion in tax cuts would be implemented and sustained, we would ensure that many lower and middle income class families would also receive benefits.
    Some of the other issues that have been neglected in the Conservative plan and in its priorities also deal with the issue of affordable housing. Many constituents in Brampton—Springdale require affordable housing. Unfortunately, once again, there is no plan of action in the Conservative plan.
     In looking at the Speech from the Throne it is very evident that it is very minimal in terms of substance. It was a brochure, and it was one of the weakest speeches from the throne that has ever been done.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on her speech and remind her that the Liberal government had such a fine fiscal record thanks to two measures implemented by the previous Conservative government, that is the free trade agreement and the goods and services tax. It was an unpopular tax that the Conservative government had the courage to introduce in order to cut the deficits run up by the previous Liberal governments.
     We know that the previous Liberal government accumulated surpluses but that it also made deep cuts to health care, which is essential, especially for people on low incomes.
     Why did this government not reduce the GST more quickly since it was running surpluses?

  (1330)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is really important that as the Conservative government moves forward it also takes a stroll down memory lane. Every Canadian knows that Brian Mulroney as prime minister and the former Conservative government left with one of the worst economic track records, and the Liberals inherited that.
    It was only due to the tremendous amount of dedication shown by ministers of finance in the Liberal government that ensured we had eight consecutive balanced budgets and a 30-year low in the unemployment record. We invested $42 billion in health care. We made investments in the environment, in our seniors from coast to coast and in a national child care strategy.
    The Conservatives must never forget that they are inheriting the best fiscal performance and record of any incoming government due to the Liberal government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member referred to the lack of a commitment to young people. The post-secondary education transfer is still one of the most urgent aspects of the fiscal imbalance that we are discussing. Yesterday, the Minister of Finance dodged a question in this regard by saying that we would have to wait for the budget first, and then the consultations and deliberations, before we could address this important question. While the minister just sits on his hands, the students at universities and colleges are suffering under terrible debt loads, which just get worse.
     Does the hon. member believe, as I do, that if we want to see this brilliant future that the throne speech talks about, we must first act much more quickly than this government seems ready to do and then—

[English]

    The member for Brampton—Springdale, 30 seconds or less, please.
    Mr. Speaker, when we speak about investing in our young people and in our education, it is the Liberal opposition that will stand up for these values. I would hope if the member opposite truly believes in investing in young people and in education, that the NDP will not be in bed with the Conservative government and will be an effective voice for young people across the country.
     The Liberal government previously had invested in education by ensuring tax cuts for tuition fees, not providing minimal investments in young people just in terms of their books. The Liberal opposition will continue to be an effective voice for young people from coast to coast and we will--
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country.
    It is a pleasure to speak today in reply to the Speech from the Throne. It is with a great deal of honour that I take my place here in the House of Commons as a Conservative member from Tobique—Mactaquac in New Brunswick.
    I thank the voters and my campaign team for giving me the opportunity and privilege to represent the issues and concerns of my constituents.

[Translation]

     I would like to take advantage of this occasion to thank the voters for giving me the opportunity and privilege of representing their views on the various questions and concerns of my fellow citizens.

[English]

    I am honoured to be here with all the members of the House. The first two months as a new MP has been both challenging and gratifying, including my première semaine en immersion française.
    I want to take this opportunity to welcome friends from the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac in Fredericton, New Brunswick, as well as some relatives, who are with us here today. I also was happy to have some of my riding staff join us here in Ottawa at the beginning of the week. They were unable to be here today as they were returning to the riding. I am not sure if yesterday's question period was too much for them.
    For those members who are not familiar with the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, it is located in western New Brunswick. It is one of the larger ridings in Canada and covers some 250 kilometres from north to south along the Saint John River and spanning from the U.S. border to almost Boiestown in central New Brunswick and all points in between.
    The riding of Tobique—Mactaquac is home to a diverse community which includes both anglophone and francophone municipalities as well as two first nations communities, namely Woodstock and Tobique. Tobique—Mactaquac is known for the picturesque beauty of the Nashwaak, Tobique and Saint John River valleys and the head waters of the Miramichi River system. It is also a region of proud heritage in agriculture and forestry and a riding that boasts manufacturing, including McCain Foods.
    Of course, there are problems. The family farms that cultivate these fields are facing hard times. There have been many factors at play: international trade issues, market forces and a previous government that did not respect the family farm.

  (1335)  

[Translation]

     I am proud of the new Minister of Agriculture. He has a firm grasp of these problems and intends to address them.

[English]

    Under the Conservative government the family farm can grow and prosper and all of Canada can be proud in the food and agricultural products we offer to the world.

[Translation]

     I hope to be fortunate enough to work together with the minister on this matter in order to help our farmers.
     Forestry is also very important in my riding, and unfortunately, since the difficulties and restrictions at the border, we have seen a steep decline in the jobs related to this sector.

[English]

    I am pleased to be part of a government that understands the concept of resource management and that industry needs innovation and change to be viable in the future. In spite of these issues, the people I represent have an entrepreneurial, can-do attitude and work very hard for every dollar. They want their government to work hard for them. They do not waste their money and they were very clear with me during the election when they said that government should clean up its act and that it could not be a trough for personal friends and insiders.
    I want to thank the Governor General for delivering the Speech from the Throne and setting this new Parliament on a path to a better Canada. A new government gives all of us a time to stop and re-evaluate the direction for the country. We will not run a government where the rich friends of members are given lucrative contracts for government projects. Some of these projects were real and some were not but all were funded by the taxpayers of Canada without any consequence.
    There must be consequences. Our new government will not allow for this practice to continue. Our first act in the House of Commons will be to bring in the federal accountability act. During the election we said that our first move as the government would be to clean up Ottawa, starting with the accountability act. This is exactly what we are going to do. This is an important piece of legislation. We want to restore Canadians' faith in the way they are led. Without the faith of the population, we have a country on a decline. That is not the country we want to give to our next generation. Canadians expect politicians and public sector employees to conduct themselves with the highest ethical standards.
     The government must be more effective and accountable to Parliament and to Canadians. The federal accountability act will set out in legislation an end to the influence of big money in politics by banning corporate and union political donations. It will also limit individual donations and put it back to the grassroots in our parties. It will strengthen lobbying rules and put an end to the revolving door that allows former ministers, political aides and the top bureaucrats to turn around and lobby the government for contracts. One portion of the act that I am proud of is the section that will give more power and teeth to the independent watchdogs, such as the Auditor General. This is all about making the federal government more transparent and accountable. It will not be about adding red tape. It will be about making it easier for people to do their jobs.

[Translation]

     I am a professional accountant and member of the Certified General Accountants Association of New Brunswick.

[English]

    In my role as an accountant and a consultant, I had the opportunity to work in Canada, the United States and Australia. In each case, my goal was to implement processes to secure various companies' assets from breaches in trust and ensure they were properly safeguarded. That included a budget authority to ensure credibility in our financial forecasts.
    I believe government must take all measures possible to safeguard its assets and I believe the act will put in place the processes to do just that.

[Translation]

     I understand the importance of complying with my association’s code of conduct. If I observed only part of this code, I would certainly lose my licence to practise.

  (1340)  

[English]

    We need tough rules for government, including crown corporations and foundations created under federal statute. The accountability and ethics code also requires me to report ethical breaches and put processes in place for companies to protect all their stakeholders, including employees and shareholders. Why should the federal government not be held to the same high standards of ethics? Our act will protect whistleblowers from reprisal when they surface unethical or illegal activities they have seen while working in a department or agency that serves the federal government. Our citizens have the right to know what is going on in government.
    Finally, we will make government more open by strengthening access to information laws, including extending laws to crown corporations. Such changes will take a thorough and complete debate to ensure we balance concerns for personal privacy, commercial confidentiality and national security.

[Translation]

     I believe that this part of the legislation is important for a new start. As a member of Parliament, I think that it will help us establish a work relationship based on collaboration that will be productive for all Canadians.

[English]

    These principles will give Canadians the good, clean government they expect and deserve. It also builds on our platform commitments and takes into account discussions with officers of Parliament, such as the Auditor General, the Information Commissioner, public policy experts, eminent Canadians and unions.
    Accountability is everyone's business. It requires that Parliament, the government and public service work together to serve Canadians honestly and with integrity. Let us work together and use this bill as one thing we can all get behind immediately. It is time to move from a culture of entitlement to a culture of accountability. We will fix the system for Canadians and the time is now.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his debate to the Speech from the Throne. He does come from a great riding. I had the opportunity of working in his riding in the Saint John River valley for a number of years as the president of the farmer's union and I know many farmers in the area.
    Farmers have called me about the potato wart issue and the case that is going on there and I know they have called the member as well. During the election I believe the member opposite left farmers with the impression that, should the courts rule against the government, the leader of the Conservative Party, should he become prime minister, would not appeal the case. I think farmers need to know whether that is what the member really meant during the election campaign, that the government would not appeal the case if it went against the government and in favour of the farmers on potato wart.
     Mr. Speaker, the agricultural producers in the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac knew clearly where I stood on that. In fact, they were aware that our campaign escalated to the national office during the campaign. They are very aware of this and there should be no discussion as to where I stand on the issue.
    Mr. Speaker, I, like the member for Malpeque, want to congratulate the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac on his election and wish him all the best in the House.
    The member spoke about the accountability act but the first thing the Prime Minister did was to appoint his campaign chair as a non-elected senator and then appoint him as the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. The situation is that we have an unelected campaign manager walking around Ottawa somewhere and spending $50 million a day.
    My question for the member is, will this accountability act put an end to this sad spectacle?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has said in the last couple of days, the appointment of that person was to reach out to the area of Montreal for representation in his cabinet. He did a fine job in making the selection. The person he selected is accountable on a day to day basis in the Senate. In fact, he made statements yesterday. I feel he is accountable and if members want to know where he is they can just go down the hall.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, it warms my heart to see you sitting in that Chair. We sat as colleagues before. We should give you a big round of applause. No one could possibly be better suited for such a role.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    Mr. Pierre Poilievre: I noticed that the member commented extensively and very eloquently, I might add, on the accountability act. The act will be the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. It will bring in a watchdog to protect whistleblowers against bullying. It will end the revolving door between lobby firms and ministers' offices. It will give the Auditor General the power to shine light in every dark corner in her hunt for waste, theft and corruption. It will ban big money and corporate cash from political campaigns all together. That is sweeping legislation and it will be the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history.
    Does the member believe that this law, which will be the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history, will restore faith among his constituents in this political process?
    Mr. Speaker, absolutely. During the election campaign it was very clear from the constituents of my riding and every riding that I travelled to across New Brunswick that they were very concerned about cleaning up government.
    Having had experience in audit functions and in implementing Sarbanes-Oxley in various companies in the U.S. and Canada, I believe this will be the right thing to do, the right direction and our constituents will be very happy with the results.
    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. I look forward to your bringing honourable decorum to the House.
    On January 23 the people of Kelowna—Lake Country confirmed that they, like Canadians across the country, wanted a change of government. I am proud to be standing in the House of Commons representing the citizens of Kelowna—Lake Country. I thank them for their support. I thank all the volunteers for making it happen. I am humbled and honoured to have been given the responsibility. I am proud to be a member of a party that recognizes it is time for a change in the way we deliver government to the people.
    The 2006 election proved that Canadians are weary. They are weary of hearing about the misuse of funds, of insiders appointed to high levels of government who believe they are above the law, of watching the Auditor General struggle to bring to light wrongdoing only to have it ignored, or to watch it get caught up in the circus of political theatre only to be reminded that under the current system there will be no accountability and no relevant punishment meted out to those who have committed real crimes against Canadians. It must stop. Canadians will never regain confidence in government if we do not make it stop.
    As members of Parliament, we should not be the enablers of scandal. We must be the defenders of the people's right to honest, good governance. Canadians expect every politician and public sector employee to conduct themselves according to the highest ethical standards. On this we must deliver.
    We must deliver a government in which Canadians can once again be proud. We must give back to them a government that works for them, one that invests its resources not for the pursuit of power, but for the purpose of creating relevant and timely programs and services; for in truth, the biggest casualty of a lack of government accountability is the business of government itself. If the programs and services required are not in place, real solutions to longstanding problems are not carried out and confidence in doing business with the government wavers.
    Many of my constituents should be excused if they believe federal accountability to be an oxymoron. I have many files on my desk already that express my community's frustrations with delays in non-existent funding from the previous government for important issues like Highway 97, a passport office, affordable housing, crime prevention strategies, health care and supportive social programs for seniors and youth. Many have had their attitudes hardened by the federal government's promises for assistance, only to have important programs delayed while being forced to read about misspending and inappropriate fund allocation.
    Thousands of farmers are visiting Parliament Hill this week. Some of them represent orchardists from Kelowna—Lake Country. These growers were promised a farm income stabilization program that would be responsive to their needs, as well as being open, transparent and accountable. To the duress of all Canadians, this never happened.
    The 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park forest fire was the most destructive natural disaster in the history of British Columbia. In total, over 30,000 of my constituents were evacuated from their homes and hundreds returned to find nothing but charred chimneys and the foundations upon which their homes formerly sat. Since then the City of Kelowna has had to undertake $2.6 million in drainage mitigation in order to prevent upwards of $10 million worth of fire related flooding damage. Despite assurances in 2004 that a national disaster mitigation strategy was being developed to help with such costs, the program still does not exist today.
    Residents of Lake Country may not be used to the idea of an accountable government that would ensure that disaster mitigation is a priority, but I can assure everyone that they, like most Canadians, are very supportive and excited by the notion of it. They listen closely, too, when other issues are at stake.
    Recently Kelowna—Lake Country has been at the head of the debate on the future of Canada's first nations and aboriginal people. Their livelihood is of tremendous importance to our community. The fact that Kelowna was chosen to host the recent meeting between first nations, aboriginal leaders, premiers and territorial leaders bears witness to this. While there was much goodwill, there was also a sense of unease about the accountability of the promises made. My constituents want the Kelowna accord to be successful, but are all too aware of the systemic problems that could hamper its effectiveness.
    Accountability in Ottawa is imperative, but it must also extend to the government's agreements. For the previous nine years I was a councillor for the City of Kelowna and a member of the regional treaty advisory committee. I have a good working relationship with Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louis and the band councillors. Consequently, I am very concerned about the plight of Canada's aboriginal community. I believe that an independent auditor general would provide a very necessary and concrete measure to further foster aboriginals' unique and important role in Canadian society.

  (1350)  

    In previous federal governments, upwards of $9 billion was spent on Indian affairs. Strikingly, over 70% of that money did not find its way to the reserves. Instead it found its way into the pockets of lawyers and consultants.
     Instead of contributing to the proliferation of cleaner water, safer streets and better schools, money has disproportionately been spent on those who work in the boardrooms. This industry needs to be overhauled. We need to ensure that first nations people directly receive the majority of the funds.
    An independent auditor general would provide transparency and bring these discrepancies to the forefront. It would allow native communities to see where their money was going and initiate dialogue on how their federal funding could be more effectively and efficiently utilized.
    Canadians need a government to ensure that there is accountability not only relevant to Ottawa and Parliament, but also relevant to all areas that involve the commitment of federal funding designed to help Canadians. Federal accountability is our commitment and our obligation. We are obliged to change government from a culture of entitlement to a culture of accountability. When we do so I believe we will see a government that works better for all Canadians. We will move away from government which too often fails to deliver programs directly to those in need, to a culture of effective programs and services where the funding reaches the intended purpose.
    This is the reason our first order of business is to table the federal accountability act and to put in place the foundation of good governance. The new federal accountability act, the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history, will change the way business is done in Ottawa. It will not be easy, but change must begin in our own backyard. That is why a large part of the federal accountability act will focus on cleaning up corruption in Ottawa. Accountability should be the engine that drives government, not a casualty of political warfare.
    The federal accountability act builds on our platform commitments and takes into account our discussions with officers of Parliament such as the Auditor General and the Information Commissioner, public policy experts, imminent Canadians and unions. This act will address long-standing and difficult issues head on.
    We will increase public confidence in the integrity of the political process by tightening the laws around political financing and lobbying, by eliminating the power and influence of money and the insider. It is time we made the work of independent officers of Parliament such as the Auditor General, the Ethics Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Registrar of Lobbyists purposeful.
    To accomplish such a reformation in Canadian politics, Canadians will require the cooperation of all parties in the House. If we are going to give Canadians the effective government they expect and deserve, then we must all come to the table with the intent of doing what is right for Canadians. We must ensure that our objective is clear, that there is a structure in place to provide for a political system of accountability.
    Our number one priority is to restore Canadians' faith in government and provide them with a government that works for them, not in spite of them. This is not a partisan idea. This is the core value of democracy. Accountability is an objective upon which we all agree and one which we must achieve. That is what Canadians expect from us and it is what the constituents of Kelowna--Lake Country expect from me.
    In closing, accountability is everyone's business. It requires that Parliament, the government and the public service work together to serve Canadians honestly and with integrity. I support the Speech from the Throne and look forward to working with all my colleagues in the pursuit of providing Canadians with a federal accountability act that will be deserving of their trust, their confidence and their respect. This is the broadest ethics reform this country has ever seen. The best is yet to come.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member into this august House.
    It is interesting to note that he talked about accountability, yet in the accountability act proposed by the Prime Minister, in fact the Auditor General has the most powers and the crown corporations too.
     It is very interesting to note that the current Prime Minister himself thinks he is above ethics. He has displayed arrogance and basically thumbed his nose at the common people while saying he is about ethics. He started by appointing his friend and campaign manager to the--
    An hon. member: Feathering his own nest.
    Ms. Yasmin Ratansi: Yes, to feather his own nest, Mr. Speaker.
    He appointed him to the Senate and then lo and behold appointed him as the Minister of Public Works. He has allowed his previous MPs--
    An hon. member: A lack of accountability.
    Ms. Yasmin Ratansi: A lack of accountability, Mr. Speaker. He has allowed his previous MPs to become members of the Privy Council and lobbyists. He has allowed former employees of the Conservative caucus to become lobbyists.
    How does he justify to his constituents that accountability on that side of the House is going to work?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her kind welcome to the House. I look forward to working with her and the rest of the members.
    Our Prime Minister and our government have clearly indicated that our number one priority is the federal accountability act to clean up the waste, corruption and mismanagement that has taken place over the last 13 years of Liberal government. Accountability is everyone's business. We need to clean things up.
    I respect our Prime Minister. I look forward to working under his leadership to bring great government that is concise, clear and one that all Canadians can be proud of not only today but for many years to come.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your recent appointment. You look very good in the chair.
    I was incredibly encouraged by the Speech from the Throne.
     I was involved in trying to get the whistleblower legislation through in the last Parliament and we got it passed.
    I am so proud of the new Conservative government that is going to propose the new accountability law. I am very encouraged with that.
    My understanding is that the accountability act will be one of the toughest anti-corruption laws in Canadian history. For example, the act will bring in a corruption watchdog to protect whistleblowers against bullying. It will end the revolving door between lobby firms and ministers' offices. It will give the Auditor General the power to shine light in every dark corner in her hunt for waste and theft. It will ban big money and corporate cash from political campaigns. It will move from a cultural of entitlement to a culture of accountability. We are fixing this system for all Canadians.
    Does the member agree with this?

  (1400)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct in that whistleblowers could be exposed to potentially career ending moves when they bring forth discredited actions they see taking place. What has brought it home is the whole sponsorship scandal of the previous government.
    I stand behind the accountability act. It is one of the reasons I am proud to be a member of the government today. I look forward to implementing the act as soon as possible.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, on the important issue of child care, sound policy must be based on facts rather than misconceptions.
     For example, nothing the former government finally did even remotely resembled a national child care system. Firm agreements were signed with only three of Canada's 13 provinces and territories.
    Then there is the myth that our government will not honour those few agreement: again false. They include an opt-out clause after one year. Exercising this right is fully respectful of the terms. And, rather than providing for needed day care spaces, promised money had almost no strings attached.
    Canada's diversity is widely applauded. How can those who champion diversity at the same time attempt to force Canada's young children into a “one size fits all” bureaucratic system?
    Our Conservative government will continue with measures to support all parents and families to carry out their important child care responsibilities. We believe in diversity, in choice in child care.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, in my constituency of Vancouver South there is a historic landmark, Joy Kogawa House, the childhood home of renowned Canadian author Joy Kogawa. It is the home from which Ms. Kogawa and her family were removed as part of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the second world war. The existence of this house is a powerful reminder of a shameful episode in Canada's history.
    The house is due to be demolished on April 30, 2006. The Save Joy Kogawa House Committee and the Land Conservancy of B.C. have mounted a campaign to save the house and turn it into a museum and writers' residence, but Canadian Heritage has denied the emergency funding request from these organizations. The Minister of Canadian Heritage will not even meet with them. I urge the minister to meet with the organizations and find a viable solution to preserve this very important historic site before it is too late.

[Translation]

Legal Awareness Event

    Mr. Speaker, the Salon Visez Droit, an event organized by the Bar of Montreal, will take place April 4 to 7 at the Grand-Place of the Complexe Desjardins in Montreal. Numerous public and community agencies and private companies have been invited to come and inform the public about its rights and obligations.
    The four days of law-related activities are designed to promote a better understanding of our legal system. Admission is free.
    While the seminars, mock trials, exhibitors and quizzes draw many participants, the most popular activity by far remains the free legal consultations. Visitors interested in writing a will, finding out how to obtain money owed them, or learning about the legal steps involved in starting up or merging a business will find all the information they need right there.
    I would like to thank the Bar of Montreal for putting on this ninth edition of the Salon Visez Droit.

[English]

Mining

    Mr. Speaker, last week we learned that the Holloway gold mine near Matheson, Ontario, is shutting down. Over 150 mining families in Matheson, Kirkland Lake and Larder Lake will be affected, because these communities, like mining communities across Canada, are dependent on increasingly aging ore bodies.
    It is time for a coherent policy for mineral exploration in this country. Let us take the super flow-through program as an example. That one worked. It was geared for the needs of exploration companies out in the field. Yet the Paul Martin Liberals killed the program and sent a very clear message that the needs of northern Ontario just did not matter.
    The NDP has fought for mining in Canada. We have fought for northern Canada and we will continue to fight. We are calling on the Stephen Harper Conservatives to stand up today, reinstate the super--
    The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay would not want to set a bad example so early in a new Parliament, with new members present, and refer to another hon. member by his full name. I am sure he meant the Prime Minister and nothing more in his comments. I know he will want to show proper restraint the next time.
    The hon. member for Burlington.

  (1405)  

Volunteerism

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand here today in the House of Commons as the member of Parliament for Burlington. I want to thank the voters of my community for this privilege. I will honour this trust with integrity and dedication. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in the House and with the citizens of Burlington. Together we can deliver on the needs of our communities and on our vision for this great nation.
    At this time, I would like to formally honour Ms. Lynda Carpenter, who was recently named Woman of the Year for the city of Burlington. Ms. Carpenter is a tireless Burlington volunteer who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for our local hospice. Her efforts have allowed many terminally ill patients and their families to deal with their final days with comfort and dignity.
    On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to express our sincere congratulations to Lynda Carpenter, Burlington's woman of the year.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's musical heritage is alive and well. Just this past weekend, the Junos were held in Halifax, celebrating artists from coast to coast.
     From February 23 to 27, the east coast celebrated its own thriving music industry with the East Coast Music Awards. Over 30,000 people took in the events and the excitement of ECMAs, held over five days in my hometown of Charlottetown. The phenomenal success of the ECMAs far exceeded everyone's expectations.
     I would like to offer my congratulations to every musician, organizer and volunteer. I would like to also congratulate the nominees and award winners for their tremendous contribution to our country's outstanding music industry.
    I am proud of what the city of Charlottetown continues to accomplish as a cultural and economic centre in Atlantic Canada.

Veterans Charter

    Mr. Speaker, on April 1 the most sweeping change to veterans' benefits in 60 years came into effect.
    Later today, the Prime Minister, along with the Minister of Veterans Affairs, representatives of Canada's six major veterans' organizations, Canadian Forces members, and veterans will celebrate the launch of the new Veterans Charter.
    Supported by all parties of the House, the new charter is a clear example of how the Government of Canada is supporting its troops at home and abroad. It is a comprehensive wellness package that will benefit Canadian Forces members, veterans and their families.
     The package contains key elements to support their transition from military to civilian life, including: rehabilitation, health benefits, job placement assistance, financial benefits, and the disability award.

[Translation]

    Congratulations on this historic event.

Valéry Trottier

    Mr. Speaker, my first words will be for the voters in Laurentides—Labelle who elected me for the second time in January. I want to thank them for placing their trust in me.
    On the occasion of Quebec Adult Learners Week, I would like to pay tribute to a young woman in my riding who has excelled in French.
    Valéry Trottier, a secretarial student at the Centre de Formation Professionnelle Mont-Laurier, won the Le Mot d'or 2006 contest in business French. This contest, which is organized by the Conseil pédagogique interdisciplinaire du Québec, is designed to promote the use of French in business.
    In August, Valéry will travel to Provence with the support of the Office franco-québécois pour la jeunesse.
    Congratulations, Valéry. The French language is the cornerstone of our culture, and we need to recognize what the younger generation is doing to further our dream.

[English]

Livestock Industry

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the U.S. district court in Billings, Montana ruled against R-CALF USA and thus ended 12 months of R-CALF's legal wrangling aimed at closing the U.S. border to Canadian beef and cattle.
    Last spring, the dithering Liberal government was caught asleep at the switch while 70 Conservative parliamentarians fought for and were granted standing in this crucial case. For the first time in history, Canadian parliamentarians were granted standing in a foreign court.
    Yes, it was Conservative parliamentarians who had the initiative to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak, and get the job done for Canada.
    Yesterday's ruling in Billings is cause for celebration for the Canadian cattle industry and all Canadians. The Conservative Party of Canada stood up for Canadian producers in Billings, Montana, and this government, this agriculture minister and this Prime Minister will continue to stand up for Canadian producers wherever and whenever it is needed.

  (1410)  

Vimy Ridge

    Mr. Speaker, on April 9, 1917, 100,000 Canadian troops in World War I, from all regions of Canada, battled solidly entrenched enemy soldiers at Vimy Ridge in France and won.
    Over the previous three years, 200,000 allied soldiers died in failed attempts to take this strategic battleground. The Canadian corps, by their extraordinary efforts, planning and tactical execution, took Vimy Ridge. On that day, nearly 4,000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives and thousands more were wounded. This battle is now considered a turning point in the first world war.
    At Vimy Ridge, Canadian soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder for the first time in international battle under the Canadian flag and under a Canadian commander. This victory has become known as the day when Canada truly became a nation, and it earned for Canada a signature on the Treaty of Versailles.
    April 9, this Sunday, is now an official heritage day in Canada as a result of the enactment of former Bill C-227. This coming Sunday, April 9, will be the 89th anniversary of the great battle of Vimy Ridge. I therefore invite all members of Parliament to participate in local Legion events to honour this important day.

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, during the throne speech, the Conservative government promised to help ordinary Canadians balance work and family life.
    Yesterday the member for St. Paul's suggested that our government would need to “give everybody a Teddy bear with spy-ware in it to find what is actually happening to their kids if [the Prime Minister] is not prepared to give regulated child care spaces”.
    First we had beer and popcorn. Now this. This is incredibly insulting to every grandparent, sister, uncle, aunt or friend who looks after children on behalf of a loved one.
     This is yet another example of the absolute arrogance of the Liberals and their belief that they know more about our children than parents do.
    We believe that parents know best and that is why we are putting $1,200 a year directly into their hands. With the creation of 125,000 new child care spaces, Canadian families will be strengthened. Ordinary Canadians will get the support they so desperately need.

Walk of Life

    Mr. Speaker, April 7 is the 12th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 men, women and children were slaughtered while the global community effectively turned its back.
     Today in Halifax and many other communities, through the leadership of SHOUT, Students Helping Others Understand Tolerance, Canadians are coming together to remember the horrendous Rwandan tragedy. They walk in solidarity with survivors of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the continuing horror in Darfur. This Walk of Life symbolizes the death marches to which so many victims have been condemned. Let us never forget these genocides.
    Parliamentarians must intensify efforts for stronger action by our own government, the United Nations and other international bodies to halt the killings in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions displaced. We must stop this genocide in slow motion now, before thousands more lose their lives.

Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, I rise before the House today to express my sincere honour and sense of privilege to have the support of the constituents of Brampton--Springdale and to be able to serve as their member of Parliament. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many volunteers who dedicated countless hours to ensuring this victory.
    I want to assure my constituents that I will continue to work on their behalf to ensure that the values of equality, justice, acceptance and tolerance continue to remain the hallmark of our great country.
     Furthermore, I will continue to be a firm proponent of creating an environment in which children, seniors and families have the opportunity to prosper and succeed. To achieve this, we must ensure that we tackle the many challenges, that we empower our young people and address the issues of crime and violence, and that we work together to raise the standard of living for all women and seniors.
     I believe that as Canadians we must continue to strive to build upon our record of achievement and ensure that we remain one of the best countries and nations in the world.

[Translation]

Normand Saey

    Mr. Speaker, on March 11 the Outaouais lost a great sovereignist, Mr. Normand Saey.
    His entire life, Mr. Saey gave freely of his time and energy, and made every effort to promote the sovereignty of Quebec. He worked with the major players in the sovereignist movement as well as all the leaders of the Parti Québécois.
    A long-time volunteer with the Coopérative funéraire de l'Outaouais, and a founding member of the Gatineau Bloc Québécois, he was also known for his work, at various levels, with the Société nationale des Québécoises et des Québécois de l'Outaouais, particularly organizing the Fête nationale du Québec.
    I had the honour of working with Normand Saey. I would like to pay tribute to him for his tireless efforts and his love of Quebec.
    The thoughts of the sovereignist family are with his spouse, Manon Guitard, in this difficult time.
    Normand, we will miss you.

  (1415)  

[English]

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, I recently visited the Montessori Children's Academy located in Paris, Ontario, where I met with staff and students participating in the preschool program. I was very impressed by the facility, the staff and, most of all, the wonderful learning and caring environment.
    In my riding of Brant, many parents and child care administrators have great concerns that children and educational and care facilities such as the Montessori Children's Academy will be left out of the new government's child care agenda. Heather Wilson, the director of this facility, stressed to me the need to give the children of our country the best possible start in life, emphasized by the message of her academy, “Early Learning Lasts for a Lifetime”.
    The reality in Canada is that most families have both parents working full time outside their homes. They deserve to have quality and universal care and their children deserve a stimulating learning environment that will lead them on a path of healthy growth and lifelong achievement.

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, for 13 years of Liberal scandal my top ten memories are: ten, the former Prime Minister's imaginary homeless friend; nine, strippergate; eight, Liberal finance minister gives his steamships a Barbados tax haven; seven, former Prime Minister's ad scam letters about hot wives, wine and golf games; six, Liberal cabinet minister bypasses $5 Pizza Hut coupon for a swanky $224 candlelit pizza dinner for two; five, shawinigate shakedown; four, Mr. Dithers goes to Ottawa; three, gun registry misses $2 million mark on way to $2 billion broadside of a barn; two, suitcases and brown envelopes of ad scam cash; and the number one memory of Liberal scandal, Dingwall's money for nothing and his Chiclets for free.
    No wonder Canadians chose Conservative change on January 23.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to what the Prime Minister said yesterday about his party's child care program.
    Statistics Canada now tells us that over half the children under five in this country are in child care; a 12% jump in the last eight years. Of course income support is welcome, but where are the quality child care spaces going to come from? The government has no plan to build affordable child care spaces.
    My question is for the Prime Minister. Why does his government believe that tax breaks to large corporations are the only way to create the child care spaces that Canadian families need?
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development will be working over the next year on the second part of our program which will be designed to create 125,000 new child care spaces. In the meantime, we will be proceeding, within the next year, with the programs put in place by the previous government which have no child care space targets whatsoever.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, honestly, the Conservatives' plan makes no sense. It offers families only a fraction of the cost of child day care services. You do not have to be an Einstein to get the Conservatives' message, “You are on your own.“
    Does the Prime Minister really believe that tax breaks to large Canadian corporations will create the necessary day care places for Canadian families?
    Mr. Speaker, the House knows that we have a plan to give each Canadian family $1,200 a year for child care. It is better than the nothing the Liberals provided. We also have a plan to create places in day care centres. We will work with the provinces, which are responsible for child care. I would remind the hon. Leader of the Opposition that the Government of Quebec has already created such a program.

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's answer illustrates exactly what we are talking about. Some families are spending $1,200 a month and he brags about giving them four taxable dollars a day, shortchanging our children by small change from the government. Ultimately, the message is, “Don't worry about child care; big business is going to put this in place for you”.
    Surely the Prime Minister has to admit he cannot guarantee that his plan would create even one child care space in this country.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, the plan which we will put in place over the next year will target the creation of 125,000 spaces over the next five years. The previous government's plan had no space creation targets whatsoever. This government is going to lay before this House a plan to give a child care allowance to every family for every preschool child. I hope the party opposite will vote in favour of parents and children--
    The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, a number of Canadians consider the environment a priority for the future of the planet. However, the intentions of the Conservative government are vague, and climate change is certainly not one of its priorities.
    Can the government tell us clearly today whether it intends to honour Canada's international commitments to the Kyoto protocol?
    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the hon. member describes our plans as vague. I can quote Tom Axworthy, a Liberal Party advisor, who is proposing new policies for the party. I agree that it needs new policies. However, Mr. Axworthy said that their policy on Kyoto was “not real anyway“.
    Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Prime Minister is incapable of a commitment to honouring the Kyoto protocol. In addition, there is total confusion over the abolition of certain programs intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    Can the government confirm today that it intends to abolish the program to make the homes of low income earners more energy efficient?
    Mr. Speaker, the former government told the international community that it intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6%. It increased them 30%. That is the record of the previous government.
    We are working on a plan to really reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is the position of this government.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport said at noon that the Kyoto protocol objectives are unrealistic. This casts doubt on the Kyoto protocol itself, yet the Minister of the Environment is currently chairing the conference.
    Could someone tell us whether the government's position is to challenge the Kyoto protocol and, accordingly, Canada's signature?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have come to the same conclusion as many world leaders and that is that the international community will not achieve the Kyoto protocol objectives.
    Other countries are in the process of coming up with alternatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This government will work with the international community with a view to achieving these objectives.
    Mr. Speaker, another of our concerns is this government's willingness, it seems, to cut subsidies to a number of agencies that are working on the Kyoto protocol issue. Such is the case for Équiterre, an agency in my riding that is doing excellent work.
    The Prime Minister is talking about working with the international community. Could he start by working with the opposition parties, issue a moratorium on his intentions, submit his plan and allow parliamentarians to discuss the whole matter before acting?
    Mr. Speaker, as the leader of the Bloc knows full well, the previous government had a record of spending billions of dollars without achieving the desired results in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
    This government has no intention of spending taxpayers' money without achieving results.
    Mr. Speaker, this government is sending quite a signal in rejecting a moratorium on cuts to environmental programs.
    Will the Minister of the Environment admit that slashing program spending without letting members assess her future plan and hear the comments of the Minister of Transport amounts to nothing less than the demise of the Kyoto protocol in Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is my first time rising in the House as the new Minister of the Environment, so I would like to take a moment to thank my constituents for returning me to the House of Commons. It is an honour.
    The environment is important to all of us in the House and I look forward to working with all of the opposition parties and my colleagues on this file. The climate change program review process was initiated by the previous government. At this point the Minister of Natural Resources and I are reviewing the recommendations from our departments on these programs.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, not only did the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration state that the Kyoto protocol would send us back to the stone age, not only did the Minister of Transport add that Kyoto's objectives were unattainable, but the Minister of Natural Resources and the government have apparently cut funding to climate change programs by 40%.
    In the light of all that, can the Minister of Natural Resources still say that his government still wants to implement the Kyoto protocol?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

[Translation]

    Order, please. The Minister of the Environment has the floor. She has risen and has the floor.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, now I know what it feels like to be on this side of the House.
    I encourage the hon. member to participate in the debate as we move forward with our made in Canada solution. Our government is clearly, as reflected in the Speech from the Throne, committed to reducing pollution and greenhouse gases for the betterment of the health of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, 13 years ago the Liberals promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. Instead, they went up by 24% or more. Even George Bush had a better record in dealing with pollution than the previous government.
    In the throne speech the government has stated:
     It will take measures to achieve tangible improvements in our environment, including reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
    My question for the Prime Minister is simply this. How is cutting the funding for climate change initiatives going to get us toward the commitment that was made in the Speech from the Throne?
    Mr. Speaker, I was wondering how many questions it would take before the leader of the NDP mentioned George Bush.
    In any case, the way we are going to get toward a new climate change program is making sure we have the funds available, that the funds are taken from programs that are not working and not effective and are put toward those that will result in the reduction of greenhouse gases.

  (1430)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, thanks to the Liberal Party, Canada has dropped from leader to environmental delinquent. The OECD considers Canada one of the world's worst polluters. The result is that our children and seniors are suffering from asthma because of year round smog.
    Will this government do as little and be as timid as the Liberals?
    If not, where is the Prime Minister's plan to ensure families have pure air?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with the leader of the NDP that the previous government failed. In fact it did not resolve either the problems of greenhouse gases or those of pollution. This is why we are making policy and financial changes as we develop a new plan.

Taxation

     Mr. Speaker, I have before me quotes from the finance minister indicating very clearly that he should join our “Don’t increase my taxes” campaign, which I started a few hours ago.
     When will the minister sign up for the “Don’t increase my taxes” campaign?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, increase taxes from where? We have different sets of numbers from 2005 from the party opposite, which was then the government. We have budget 2005. We then have the NDP budget which followed that. We then have the spending announcements post-budget 2005, and the fiscal update. Then we have all the promises that were made after the fiscal update.
    When the member opposite talks about taxes, I ask, increase taxes from where? Which of the five sets of numbers?
    Mr. Speaker, I had the experience before when the bureaucracy tries to bury one in numbers whereas the reality is absolutely simple. The federal government is swimming in cash, and there is absolutely no reason to increase income taxes on hard-working Canadians. That is the fact.
    The minister will agree because in his own quotes he has said that income tax cuts “have been most effective in creating jobs”, “boost productivity growth”, “put money right back into people's pockets”, letting them “spend the money as they see fit”. He puts it eloquently. When will he join our campaign?
    Mr. Speaker, there was a campaign recently and the people of Canada voted for change. One of the changes they voted for were lower taxes. Unlike the party opposite, we do not just talk about lower taxes. We will reduce taxes for all Canadians so that all Canadians will bear less of a tax burden.
    We are looking at all of our fiscal commitments. We will honour our fiscal commitments to the people of Canada who voted to turn over a new leaf.

[Translation]

The Environment

     Mr. Speaker, on March 11 the Minister of the Environment said that the one-tonne challenge was a good project. Three weeks later, she ended all the environmental grants under the program.
     If the minister thought that the one-tonne challenge was a good idea, why cancel it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member that the previous old Liberal government initiated a program review. We are not going to fund programs that are ineffective and not in the interest of taxpayers.
    Where the review identifies programs or parts of programs that are not working, it is not in the interest to continue that funding, and we will stand by those decisions.

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, the environment is the number one priority for Canadians. Just because it does not fit into the Conservatives five simple little priorities does not mean it should not be a priority for the government.
    We have a responsibility to continue making the plan that the Liberal government implemented work. It was working; it can work. We can meet our Kyoto targets if we work together as Canadians, but not if we cancel the programs that engage Canadians in making it happen.
    How much are the Conservatives cutting from these programs? How many programs are being cut? Will the Conservatives guarantee that the funding from the programs being cut will be used for other environmental--
    The hon. Minister of Natural Resources.
    Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to talk about his government's record, I am happy to do that. As the Prime Minister said, after spending billions and billions of dollars, greenhouse gases have gone up 30% more than the Liberal targets.
    Those programs that are deemed not working, not effective by an independent program review that the old government initiated, we are not going to fund. It is not in the interest of the taxpayers.
    We will develop a made in Canada solution and bring programs forward that will actually reduce greenhouse gases.

[Translation]

Arts and Culture

     Mr. Speaker, an entire Speech from the Throne and not a single significant word about culture. This is a clear admission of negligence. At the end of the 38th Parliament, the previous Minister of Canadian Heritage made a very formal promise to increase the Canada Council’s budget from $150 million to $300 million.
     Will the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women take up this promise, which was in response, I would remind everyone, to a unanimous request from the arts and culture community in Quebec and Canada?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the government will follow through on its commitment to the arts and cultural community. We have committed to support them and to ensure that they will be able to sustain themselves and continue their contribution to Canadian life and to an improved Canadian perspective internationally.
    We will commit to supporting the arts and cultural community in the ways that are most meaningful to them and where the money is needed.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, to encourage the government to become more involved, I would remind it that culture is a major source of job creation, as shown by a number of studies. Any investment in culture is of substantial benefit to the economy.
     Will the minister therefore admit that the increase in the budget of the Canada Council is not only an excellent decision for culture but also beneficial for the economy?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the government recognizes the benefits of the artistic and cultural community, not only to its cultural life but to the economics and the economy of this country. We will be working with every agency that benefits our cultural community and Canada in the appropriate ways.

[Translation]

Aboriginal Affairs

     Mr. Speaker, the previous government promised in Kelowna $5.1 billion for aboriginal peoples. Unfortunately, the history of relations between the government and aboriginals has been marked by a host of broken promises. Even though the Kelowna agreement does not respond to all the concerns of the aboriginal chiefs in Quebec, they feel that it is a first step in the right direction.
    Does the minister intend to keep the agreement signed with the aboriginals?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. We need to work together. We must first address a tragedy resulting from twelve years of inaction during the Liberal era. Now we will be doing what is needed to improve the quality of life for all aboriginals. This new government acts. Insofar as drinking water is concerned, we have already delivered tangible results.
     Mr. Speaker, an agreement in principle was signed for a comprehensive settlement of the native residential schools question, but it has still not come into effect. The government can assuage its conscience by signing agreements, but all the delays mean that too many victims die every day without ever being entitled to their just reparations.
     Can the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development promise to implement the agreement on native residential schools as soon as possible?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, we are talking about agreeing on an agreement in principle. We are working now with the aboriginals and their lawyers. The current issue is the question of the final agreement.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and I hope someone can relay the message.
     Why is the minister backtracking on the department's green procurement policy by closing down the Office of Geening Government Operations?
    Mr. Speaker, the information in the member's question was as bad as his joke. The government is going forward with a greening government program.
    Mr. Speaker, accountability is no joke. The Speech from the Throne demonstrates the government's lack of commitment toward the environment. After years of progress on greening government procurement, the government is turning back the clock. Why?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague should get his facts straight. The greening government program is going ahead. The hon. member is wrong.

Government Policies

    Mr. Speaker, on January 16 the Minister of International Trade warned Canadians that Conservatives would let the weak die, would demolish the national child care programs, would turn its back on first nations and aboriginal peoples and would undermine Kyoto. He said that poor Conservative public policy would result in deficits and the decimation of social programs.
    Is this an accurate reflection of the policies of the Conservative Government of Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, it was an exciting election campaign. There was a lot of partisan rhetoric from a lot of people. I want to say one thing. I am very proud to have been asked to serve in the cabinet of this new government. I believe I made a very good decision.
    I want to finish by saying, Mr. Speaker, that I will be serving the people of Vancouver Kingsway as well as I possibly can, and I am going to do it very effectively with significant results.
    I take it, Mr. Speaker, that the minister is saying that what he said is not official government policy, so was he wrong in January or is he wrong today?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of International Trade just noted, the government decided to look beyond the partisanship of the election campaign and form a government that reaches out to all Canadians. I am very proud of the fact, and I think the Minister of International Trade should be very proud of the fact that he put his country ahead of his party. Members opposite should do the same.

  (1445)  

[Translation]

Member for Eglinton—Lawrence

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, who is also a candidate in the Liberal leadership race, suggested that showing respect to the people of Quebec would divide the country. He has provided, yet again, more evidence of the Liberals' arrogant attitude toward Quebec.
    What does the Prime Minister think of the comments made by this member who wants to become leader of the Liberal party?
    Mr. Speaker, after the sponsorship scandal, it is essential for the new government to try to rebuild the image of federalism in Quebec. We will do so by respecting the Constitution and the autonomy of the provinces and by involving the provinces in international matters where discussions affect their responsibilities. This includes giving the Government of Quebec a place in UNESCO.
    It is detrimental to national unity for the member for Eglinton—Lawrence to oppose our initiatives in this matter.

[English]

Canada-U.S. Border

    Mr. Speaker, at the recent trilateral meeting in Cancun, President Bush stated that he intends to enforce a new American law requiring all people crossing over the American border to have passports. It seems our Prime Minister is willing to roll over at this impractical U.S. plan that is going to create nightmares at the border crossings and affect trade and tourism in our country.
    My question is straightforward. Did the Prime Minister present a counter-proposal to President Bush or did he simply throw in the towel?
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly expressed to President Bush, and it was expressed to American officials by all Canadians present, that we believe this law is not in the interest of either of our countries, that it will inhibit commerce and inhibit travel between our countries.
    However, this is a law passed by Congress. President Bush must respect it. We would expect the United States to respect our laws, and our government will make sure we are not caught with our pants down and we are ready when this law comes into effect.
    Mr. Speaker, I hope this administration at least wears its pants to the meetings because quite frankly, this issue is emerging very significantly. We know that right now only 20% of Americans have passports and a new study today indicates that one out of every three Americans will not even participate in a new regime.
    Centres like Victoria, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Edmundston and my riding of Windsor will be harmed by these new rules. The bottom line is these new rules will kill Canadian jobs and affect the Canadian economy. Will the Prime Minister please outline his government's plan to ensure that he is going to protect the workers of our nation?
    Mr. Speaker, there will be meetings between the Minister of Public Safety and his American counterpart to get on top of this issue and make sure our countries are ready for this new law, if and when it comes into effect. In the meantime, I would be very interested in finding out how the NDP plans to force Americans to get passports.

Government Contracts

    Mr. Speaker, the trend of the Conservatives to do as they say, not as they do continues.
    It seems the government has rewarded the Prime Minister's friend and key member of his transition team, Marie-Josée Lapointe, with an untendered contract to reform, of all things, the tendering process. While I am sure her consulting firm is ecstatic, Canadians are not.
    Now that the Prime Minister is in government, will he keep his word, undo this contract and end sole-sourcing for his friends?
    Mr. Speaker, as minister I take responsibility for what goes on in my department. The moment that my political staff and I learned of this contract, it was immediately terminated.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the Conservatives are so proud that when they--
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

  (1450)  

    Order. The hon. member for Ajax--Pickering has the floor for a question.
    Mr. Speaker, I ask the Prime Minister directly, when was this decision made, after the hand was caught in the cookie jar or before?
    Fundamentally the point is that the Prime Minister made a promise, he broke it, he was caught, and now he is changing his mind. There is a pattern here that is totally unacceptable.
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite obviously does not know what accountability looks like. I am the minister. I take responsibility. The moment a political actor heard about this change, heard about this contract, we believe in providing leadership by example and the contract was terminated.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, four elderly residential school survivors die every day.
    Yesterday and again today the government has made excuses for not respecting the agreement that provides for immediate payment to victims.
    My question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage. As minister responsible for this matter, how many more elders need to die before they will receive the respect they deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, the government continues to work on this. As I indicated to my hon. friend yesterday, there were two preconditions to the residential school agreement. The first was the preparation of a final agreement. That has not happened. The second was court approval. That has not happened.
    I have spoken with former Mr. Justice Iacobucci about this matter. We anticipate progress and we will continue to keep the House informed.
    Mr. Speaker, let me first of all thank the electors of Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River for electing me and allowing me to represent them here.
    On Monday a thousand residents of the Canoe Lake Cree Nation in my riding were deprived of clean water because of a malfunction of their water treatment plant.
    In a recent announcement by the minister responsible, he talked about certifying workers and training, but no funding announcement. Shame. As the House knows, the Kelowna accord booked $400 million for such initiatives.
    When will the minister stand up for aboriginal communities and commit to desperately needed funding?
    Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that there was a system failure at Canoe Lake this week and this government together with first nations dealt with it in exactly the way the member's government never did.
     We moved immediately. Public health was taken care of. The system was repaired. It was remediated. Those first nation citizens today are going to be drinking water that lives up to national standards that the former Liberal government would not institute.

[Translation]

Social Housing

    Mr. Speaker, the lack of any mention of social housing in the Speech from the Throne is dismaying.
    How can a government that says it wants to tackle crime and provide prospects for young people not realize that the solutions to this problem start with support for building decent housing for low-income families?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, during the campaign we made a commitment to work with industry to develop affordable housing. We are exploring options for that. We will continue to consult with industry to make sure that the program we develop will end up producing real results.

[Translation]

Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, one of the government's priorities is accountability and it says it wants to present a bill on this shortly. For a number of years now, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for returning officers to be appointed by the chief electoral officer based on the skills of the candidates and not on their political affiliation.
    Does the government intend to take this Bloc Québécois request under advisement and include it in the upcoming bill?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am quite pleased to work with my colleague from Quebec. I can tell him that the answer to his question is yes.

Arts and Culture

     Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage what her priorities were. In her answer, which was not an answer at all, she never mentioned the Canada Council. This is very worrying. Again today, she says that her priorities are to support performers and creators. However, the Canadian Conference of the Arts, the Mouvement pour les arts et les lettres and the country’s numerous other cultural and artistic bodies maintain that the top priority is to increase the budget of the Canada Council.
     Are we to conclude, from the eagerness with which she did not answer the questions, that she has no intention of honouring the Liberal government commitment to double by 2008 the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is certainly not our intent to honour any Liberal commitment.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The Minister of Canadian Heritage has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, our intent is to meet the commitments and to honour our commitments to the people of Canada and to the arts and culture communities. Our intent is to make sure that they have the resources that they require to meet their needs. The creators and the performers of Canada for years have been at the end of a string with the former government. We will make sure that they have stable funding. We will make sure that the resources go to the performers and the creators, as they should.

Gomery Commission

    Mr. Speaker, sadly, the sponsorship scandal highlighted 13 years of Liberal waste and corruption. As most Canadians are aware, Justice Gomery reported on this last year, yet his findings are now being challenged.
    Can the Minister of Justice assure us that the Conservative government will defend Justice Gomery against spurious legal actions by various Liberals?
    Mr. Speaker, the government will defend all allegations of bias and unfair process against the commission based on the evidence that is known at this time.
    In respect of defending matters of fact, departmental officials advise it is appropriate that the commission defends that aspect of the hearings and in the alternative that an amicus curiae be appointed to do the defence.

Softwood Lumber

    Mr. Speaker, last August Canada won on softwood lumber under binding dispute settlement. When the Bush administration in effect said it would not respect NAFTA, the former Liberal government did absolutely nothing to stand up for Canadian rights.
    One month ago, on the Prime Minister's watch, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed further illegal punitive tariffs on Canadian value added products, like flooring.
    Would the Prime Minister tell the House what specific actions he has taken to protect the small businesses newly hit by the latest bullying, or has he just rolled over here, too?
    Mr. Speaker, I can say categorically having been on this file for a couple of years now that this Prime Minister has escalated this issue to the highest levels with the President of the United States.
    We are looking at all options on both sides of the border. We are digging into this and we are going to come to a resolution that will be in the best interests of the Canadian industry and all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see the minister emerge from the witness protection program. I can see why the Conservatives took a Liberal to handle this file; there is no difference in policy.
    For Woodland Flooring in Comox, B.C., this bullying means a loss of 25% of sales.
    Giving away Canadian rights under NAFTA by trying to negotiate a side deal means the death of binding dispute settlement, and that opens every other industrial sector to the same kind of illegal actions.
    Since he has no plan, would the Prime Minister at least commit today to not accept one penny less than the over $5 billion that is owed Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that there is more than one company affected by the softwood lumber dispute. The Government of Canada has an obligation to the industry across this country. We will solve this problem, and we will do it in the interests of all companies and all regions of Canada.

  (1500)  

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, genocide is being committed in Darfur right now where 200,000 people have been murdered and the situation is getting out of control. The United Nations has called this the worst humanitarian catastrophe in world. Bartering with the butchers from Khartoum will not end this problem.
    My question for the Minister of Foreign Affairs is simple. Will he call on the United Nations quickly to push for, assemble and deploy a rapid reaction force to Darfur as soon as possible to save these people's lives?
    Mr. Speaker, I know my hon. friend opposite has a long held interest in this file. Canada is very pleased and very proud of the role that it has held in the region albeit there is certainly much more work to do as the member knows. Yet, Canada has welcomed the recent African Union's decision to move into transition and put United Nations forces on the ground. There has as yet been no official request put to Canada, but we are certainly going to continue to work with our international allies to do everything we can to elevate the status of the people in Darfur.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal questioner forgot to mention that under the Liberal watch, water quality on reserves has been steadily deteriorating. We saw the awful effects of this neglect in Kashechewan. Could the Minister of Indian Affairs tell us what the government's plans are to provide clean water to reserves across Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, the tragedy of Kashechewan and the experience at Canoe Lake remind us of the abject incompetence of the former Liberal government in dealing with this issue. After 13 years and the expenditure of close to $1 billion, the Liberals left aboriginal Canadians living in 21 communities at risk and an additional 170 communities at high risk.
    The new Conservative government and the new Prime Minister are committed to accountability and to results. We will act. We have already taken action with respect to water, remedial standards and national standards. We will stay the course.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of a number of persons. I would ask hon. members to restrain their applause until all have been introduced.
    First, there are six veterans representing major Canadian veteran organizations here for the launch of the new Veterans Charter. They are: Mary Ann Burdett, Ken Henderson, Brian Forbes, Retired Colonel Donald Ethell, Robert McKinnon and David Munro. Accompanying them are Elsie Wayne, former MP and Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 722 Communications Squadron Reserve Group and Major Mary Furey of the 722 Communications Squadron Reserve Group.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    This being Thursday, I believe the House leader for the official opposition has a question.

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that the House would be anxious to learn today from the government House leader.

[Translation]

     Could he tell us what business is planned for tomorrow, next Monday and Tuesday, and the last week of April?

[English]

    In that context, I wonder if the minister would provide for us full details on the rules applicable to the special debates that we have requested on both agriculture and the Canadian deployment in Afghanistan. Incidentally, we thank the minister for agreeing to these requests.
    Further, I wonder if the minister could specify for us the days between now and the end of June that will be devoted to the business of supply. In other words, will he designate today the required opposition days? Finally, when will the government present its long awaited first budget?
    Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to be in a position to answer the Thursday question, though I feel like asking the member opposite a question. Is that what he did as finance minister? Did he announce in advance when his budget would take place? Did he? I will check on that and perhaps get back to the member.
    It is the government's intention to continue with the second appointed day of the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne and the third, fourth and fifth appointed days will be scheduled for Friday, and Monday and Tuesday of next week.
    When we return from the Easter break, it is our intention to conclude the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
    The member is quite correct, I have a number of motions that I believe will need the approval of the House. We will have a take note debate on Canada's commitment in Afghanistan on Monday, April 10. Therefore, I move:
    That a take note debate on the subject of Canada's significant commitment in Afghanistan shall take place pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 on Monday, April 10, 2006 at the conclusion of regular government business.

  (1505)  

    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

    Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties with respect to the take note debate tonight. I believe you will find unanimous consent to the following motion. I move:
    That notwithstanding the special order adopted yesterday concerning the take note debate scheduled for tonight on agricultural issues, the debate shall begin at the conclusion of the orders of the day and shall continue for no more than five hours and that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, any member rising to speak during debate may indicate to the Speaker that he or she will be dividing his or her time with another member.
    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

    Mr. Speaker, I believe that once again you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, at the conclusion of debate today on the subamendment to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the subamendment be deemed adopted.

[Translation]

     Does the Honourable Leader of the Government in the House have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
    The 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.

    (Motion agreed to)


Speech From The Throne

[The Address]

  (1510)  

[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 her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Surrey North. I also offer you my sincere congratulations on your re-election. I would also like to thank the people of London—Fanshawe for their trust and support and for the privilege to serve them in the House.
    I wish to talk about the people I serve and about the impact of the Speech from the Throne and government policy on their lives. I want the new Conservative government to understand how very important positive action is to the well-being of the people in the community of London—Fanshawe.
    I will begin by telling the House about Bill Hiltz. Bill is a physically challenged adult who deals with cerebral palsy and autism. He depends on his family home provider and support workers for everything in his life; food, shelter, personal care and communication. Bill is among the fortunate. He has family home providers, Joyce, Stan and grandma Ursel, who genuinely love and care for him.
    For members here who may not have experience with cerebral palsy or autism, my concern is that there is absolutely no mention of Canadians with disabilities in the throne speech. By not making any commitment to improve the lives of the most vulnerable Canadians, the Prime Minister is treading down the same path as the previous government and ignoring the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
    New Democrats have recognized these citizens and prepared draft legislation, the Canadians with disabilities act. We need a commitment from the government to address the needs of children and adults like Bill Hiltz. With the support of the federal government, resources can and must be available to enable disabled Canadians to have the quality of life they deserve as citizens of this country.
    The statistics are a matter of shame. Disabled Canadians have great difficulty securing employment, finding affordable housing, receiving the education they need and, as a result, many of them live well below the poverty line. This must be remedied.
    I would also like to talk about the auto workers in my riding. As I am sure members are well aware, many of my constituents depend either directly or indirectly on the Ford assembly plant in Talbotville. Recently, the company announced it would reduce the Talbotville assembly plant to one shift.
    If this proposal goes ahead it will have a profoundly negative effect on the economy, not only of the London region , but on the economy of Ontario and Canada. In the Speech from the Throne the new Conservative government made reference to promoting a more productive and competitive economy. There was, however, no reference made to how this more productive economy would be achieved. We cannot be more productive without the well-paying jobs provided by the auto sector.
    We need a clear industrial strategy for Canadian workers and support for the auto industry. Like the GM plant in Oshawa, the workers at Ford's Talbotville plant are among the most productive, competitive and dedicated workers in the world. They have demonstrated year after year the ability to produce a quality product. They do not need lip service from their government about productivity. They need secure jobs to raise their families and make their contribution to our community.
    It is not a failure on the part of workers' productivity that closes auto plants; it is our high dollar that is killing competitiveness. We need more commitment from the government than just a throw away phrase in a throne speech.
    The throne speech also failed to address housing needs that are evident not only in London—Fanshawe but across Canada. One of my constituents, Bill Clarke, a disabled veteran who lost both legs in the service of his country, was in desperate need of adequate housing. I first met Bill in 1990. He lived in one of the three storey walk-ups that comprised a compound of four crumbling, unhealthy, unsafe buildings in my riding. Many of the residents had lived in these buildings over a long period of time. They had become a community.
    However the disgraceful disrepair of these buildings was making tenants ill, deprived them of security and drained them both physically and emotionally. Doors did not fit properly so heating and cooling costs borne by the tenants were extreme. The roofs of all four buildings leaked, causing water damage inside the tenants' homes and creating a mould problem in each apartment. Safety lights were not maintained and unsecured garbage chutes were a hazard to children.
    When I met Bill Clarke he asked me to help the tenants purchase the buildings, secure the funding to effect the necessary renovations and create a co-op.
    I am pleased to say that after significant work by my provincial office and members of the federal NDP caucus, we were able to secure federal funding and build Talisman Woods. It was the last federally funded co-op in Canada. It gave the people in my community the safe, affordable, decent housing they deserved. Tragically, there is no mention whatsoever in the Speech from the Throne about housing.

  (1515)  

    Canada is one of only two G-8 countries without a national housing strategy. In 1996 the former leader of the Liberals abolished the affordable housing program secured by New Democrats in the minority government of the 1970s. In the spring of 2005 the NDP budget secured $1.6 billion for affordable housing construction and $100 million for energy conservation in affordable housing.
    Bill Clarke died of cancer in December of 2005. He is truly missed by all who knew and loved him. In the years since the Talisman Woods Housing Co-op became a reality, Bill lived in decent and secure housing. He deserved this comfort.
    It is essential that the Government of Canada commit to ensuring that the NDP budget money flow to desperately needed housing projects in our communities and that it further commit to the restart of a national housing program to build the affordable and co-op housing units desperately needed by first nations, seniors, students and people with disabilities. There is far too much missing from this throne speech that is of profound concern to me and the citizens of London—Fanshawe.
    My riding is blessed with a wonderful, vibrant community college, Fanshawe College. In the north part of London we have the University of Western Ontario, my alma mater. For the students of these institutions there is nothing in the throne speech. After 13 years of Liberal inaction, students in my riding have seen the student debt soar. The average tuition at colleges and universities has almost tripled in the last 14 years. They should have been front and centre in the government agenda.
    New Democrats have and will continue to advocate for the restoration of funding cuts by the former finance minister in the Liberal government. We will continue to advocate for lower tuition fees, a long term federal grant system to make education and training affordable. We will continue to insist on an overhaul to the Canadian student loans program. Our students, the future leaders and contributors to our economy and communities, deserve far more than to be an oversight.
    I wish I had more time. I had planned to talk about the need for more affordable public transit. Many Canadians depend on public transit to go to work, to school and have effective environmentally responsible transportation.
    However I would be remiss if I did not speak about the child care town hall meeting that I had in my riding. More than 125 people were present and they provided much valued wisdom and advice to me in regard to their absolute need for safe, affordable, regulated, not for profit child care. They utterly rejected any government plan to replace the child care spaces they need with a cash proposal and market based solution. Neither works. My constituents waited for more than 20 years for the child care spaces promised first by a Conservative and then a Liberal federal government. They are demanding the kind of child care that would be realized if we had the child care program proposed by New Democrats. They want a child care act.
    Finally, I want to tell the House about two constituents, Jose Rodriguez and his spouse, Miriam Portillo. They are refugees who escaped Guatemala in 2000 after Jose had been kidnapped, two of his uncles murdered and both Miriam and Jose threatened by armed police. They are facing deportation on April 14, 2006.
    After six years as contributing members of our community, they will be sent back to very real danger, despite having worked, volunteered and built a life in London, Ontario. Even with the best efforts of my office, two ministers of the current government refuse to abandon the hopeless practices of the previous Liberal government.
     Miriam and Jose have an application with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Their lawyer has indicated that they have a good chance to succeed with this application but because the hard-working public servants at CIC do not have adequate staffing, it will take time to be processed. We have asked for extra time so Miriam and Jose can be safe in London while the application is processed. It has been denied.
    We can do better. The people of this nation deserve better than the failure they have experienced in the Liberal years and from this less than inspired throne speech. I, with my caucus, will work diligently over the next months to achieve more for the working families of Canada and more inclusion of NDP priorities so that all Canadians will benefit.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, I welcome and congratulate the hon. member on her maiden speech in this chamber. I think she will find a lot of friends in this place with some of the points she made today in her speech.
    Earlier today I spoke and shared with the House some piece of research that found that about 25% of Canadian children enter adult life with significant emotional, behavioural, academic or social problems. This should be a beckon call to all Canadians and parliamentarians to ensure that our policies and priorities do in fact put kids first. I want to congratulate her on her contribution to the debate on child care.
    We know that one solution does not fit all. We know that families need flexibility, options and choices. Giving money to people and allowing them to use it as they wish is certainly one approach. However we have the problem on the other side where today's child care system within Canada, which the OECD, other than for the Quebec situation, has characterized as glorified babysitting. We do have to move beyond glorified babysitting to good quality child care but it is tremendously expensive. Some have suggested that the cost would be as much as $15 billion per year for a national child care program.
    I wonder if the member could comment on what she would see in terms of a transitional approach to providing child care support to Canadian families in need which is realistic of the financial realities.
    Mr. Speaker, I do indeed have 29 wonderful colleagues and I am very proud to stand with them.
    As the member pointed out, there is no simple solution no matter what we do but I think we should begin with the $1.8 billion that we saw in the NDP spring budget and invest that money in child care as it was intended. I am a former teacher and, while I recognize the fact that education may well be expensive, I can say that ignorance is far more expensive.
     I can also say that as a secondary school teacher I could see very clearly the difference between those children who came to my classroom who had received the interventions that every child with a disability deserves and those who had not. By the time they get to grade 9 the strategies in terms of managing their disabilities, the time for remediation is long past. We need to act immediately.
    As an admirer of Fraser Mustard, I would say that there is absolutely no substitute for proper, regulated, not for profit child care to ensure we have children who can participate fully in the economy of the future and, might I suggest, Mr. Speaker, look after you and I in our dotage.
    Mr. Speaker, I was impressed with the member's comments about the high cost of developing ignorance in our young people. I would like to point out that every child in the country, if they have special needs or learning disabilities, has the right to the adequate support they need in education, unless, of course, one is a first nation child because under the former federal Liberal government's policy we were not getting the kind of funding that we needed for special education on reserves. People from our region are being moved to non-native schools to get that funding and it seems to be a position that the present Conservative government wants to maintain.
    What does the hon. member think about the fact that a large first nation population in the country is not being given adequate funding for special education needs under federal government funding?

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for reminding us of the deplorable situation that first nations children and communities face in the country.
    The federal government has a special relationship with first nations. It is a relationship that goes back several centuries and, unfortunately, we have not lived up to our end of the obligation.
    In terms of special education, I must say that it has been horrifically underfunded, federally and provincially, all across the nation. All of our children deserve the very best that we can provide for them because they will be the leaders of tomorrow. We talk about the democratic deficit in this place. It will continue as long as we do not see our children receive the kind of support so that they can come to this place and take over the job of leading this nation, and that means people from every community, it means women, visible minorities, the disabled and first nations people.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise for my first speech as the member for Surrey North. I want to thank the people in my community for entrusting me to represent them in Ottawa. I am pleased to share my time with the member for London—Fanshawe.
    Let me begin by acknowledging the work and the contribution of Chuck Cadman, the former member for Surrey North. When Chuck died last July, Surrey North constituents lost a much loved and respected MP and I lost a friend of 25 years. It seems to me that the friendship between the two us was an example of the cooperation and civility that has been talked about by all parties in the House over the last two days. Chuck and I were from very different political parties, but it did not matter. We could be friends. We could play Trivial Pursuit together, although he always won the musical questions. We could also find common ground, common goals and common solutions for the people of Surrey North. That is what Canadians expect from people elected to this chamber.
    The constituency of Surrey North is extremely diverse. When walking down the streets one will hear people speaking Punjabi, English, Hindi, Arabic, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Korean to name some of the more prominent languages. One would also hear many aboriginal dialects spoken because the constituency has a very high number of urban aboriginal people. Many of those people were educated in their country of birth in trades and professions that this country desperately needs, but they cannot get similar employment here. We need to move ahead with assessing credentials. We are missing the skills of those people and their talents are being wasted.
    Surrey is the fastest growing city in Canada. We have the largest number of building starts in the country. There is a rejuvenation in our city centre. We are very concerned about the implementation of the agreement with cities on infrastructure. The south Fraser perimeter road which is desperately needed for our economy in order to move goods quickly around the city of Surrey needs to be finished. We want the government to follow through on the commitment that was made to cities.
    In Surrey North people live primarily in modest homes and apartments. Some people have no homes at all. Many people in Surrey North need skills to get into the workforce. I encourage action on apprenticeship. There is a building boom in Surrey. There is a building boom in British Columbia with the Olympics coming. There are jobs out there for people, if they can get into skills and training programs. That was missing from the throne speech. I do not want encouragement; I want action. I want jobs available for those people.
    A satellite campus of Simon Fraser University is located in North Surrey. For many students the costs are prohibitive, whether they be for a skills or apprenticeship program, a diploma or university degree. This is particularly true in Surrey North which has a very low family income. As parents we all want the best for our children. It is heartbreaking to watch parents who cannot provide for their children what they see being provided for other children.
    We have a growing number of working poor, people who work but must use a food bank because they do not make enough money to feed their children. At the food bank a few months ago there was a little girl, seven years old, who was tugging on her mom's sleeve saying, “It's okay, Mommy, don't worry. I'll try not to eat so much”. That is shameful in a country such as ours. People need skills to get back into the workforce. They want to work.
    Many people with disabilities live in North Surrey because it is the only place where there is affordable housing, and even the use of the word “affordable” is questionable. They do not have the supports they need. Not only do they not have the support, as my colleague mentioned, but the community misses out on the special skills and talents they have to offer. The disabilities act must come forward.

  (1530)  

    Our leader and our party have spoken of the need for a seniors charter. There are not enough long term care beds. I did not hear that issue mentioned in the throne speech at all. The beds that we do have are private and far too expensive for most people who live in Surrey North.
    Another concern for many seniors in Surrey North is that of pensions. Seniors from India, a Commonwealth country, who have become Canadian citizens and have lived here and worked here do not have access to a pension and will not have access to a pension until they have been here for 10 years, even though they contributed for many years in India. They do not have access to pensions, as do people from 37 other Commonwealth countries, because Canada does not have a treaty with India. This creates severe hardship for many seniors from India and it needs to be remedied.
    The citizens who sent me to this chamber are concerned about crime. They want immediate solutions and long term solutions. They are concerned about drugs and the explosion in the use of crystal meth. They are concerned about drunk drivers and the number of people who have been killed in our community as a result of drunk drivers who leave the scene.
    I intend to work with MADD and with the member for New Westminster whose bill did not come before the House. His bill would have reduced the level of alcohol in the blood that is considered legal or illegal. It needs to be reduced at least by .2% so that we can be sure people are safer on the roads. Legislation needs to comes forward. I made that commitment to my community and I made that commitment to Dona Cadman.
    As I said earlier, my riding of Surrey North has a low family income. In order to support their families and earn more than $8 an hour, people need skills upgrading. That means going back to school. Those people need child care. I do not see real action on child care in the throne speech to help these families.
    What happens to children over the age of five? Do families suddenly not need child care anymore because their children are over the age of five? Is the government encouraging more latchkey children? I would think it would not want to do that, but the government is only talking about children up to the age of five. That is totally unacceptable. Families will not find the money for before and after school care. Children will be at risk.
    One dollar spent on good quality child care saves $7 later on in schooling, in justice, in the prison system, in job retraining. How can that not be an important investment?
    I want to close by talking about health. Surrey Memorial Hospital in my riding is probably the busiest hospital in the lower mainland. Everybody would be encouraged by the phrase “wait time guarantee”, including my local hospital. I perceived encouragement in the throne speech, but I hope the action takes into consideration a report released today which indicated that we will have a shortage of 78,000 registered nurses by 2011. I am a bit puzzled about the action that will actually implement wait time guarantees.
    I do hope when I see the term “wait time guarantee” that this guarantee also includes the horrendous wait time for mental health beds and for drug and alcohol rehabilitation beds. The wait time for these beds is costing our system millions of dollars and is creating tragedies for families. It is destroying people, their families and people in their communities. I hope the wait time guarantee includes those types of beds.
    We do not want or need more encouragement, although encouragement is always a good thing and we all try to give it to each other. What we want to see is action on the part of the government that will reflect the needs of families in my constituency of Surrey North and other constituencies across this country.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, child care continues to be very topical among many of the members.
    I was a little concerned when Canada received a report from the OECD that characterized our current child care services in Canada as equivalent to glorified babysitting.
     In terms of providing, or moving toward quality care and early childhood development, does the member think we should be investing money in the current system to bring the standards of personnel within the system up to higher levels than McDonald's employees so that we could take the first step toward establishing quality child care for Canadian children?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly we should expect people who care for our children to be better educated than those who prepare their hamburgers. The money is well spent on education for all kinds of child care providers.
     I take some issue with the OECD saying that it is glorified babysitting. We do have qualified, non-profit, excellent child care in a variety of places in this country, although there is more unsafe and unregulated care. I have no idea what it feels like as a parent to go to work and leave a child who cannot yet talk with someone the parent does not know very well and the child is not able to tell the parent what life was like at the end of the day.
    I do believe that whether it is in a larger centre, family care or neighbourhood care, that education for providers is one of the first things we should do. I know from my British Columbia experience that if we offer education to people who have not had it, they will reach out and grab it. They will take advantage of the resources. I have seen this happen. It would be money extremely well spent.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the voters of the riding of Manicouagan for having granted me this fifth mandate.
     Like many of my colleagues, I received the introduction to the Speech from the Throne. I am still looking for the Speech from the Throne.
     This introduction to the Speech from the Throne included of course the five promises and commitments of the Conservative government.
     Where, in the Speech from the Throne, are the Conservative government's policies on employment insurance, the creation of an independent commission and improvements in this program? Employment insurance is insurance in case of loss or termination of employment.
     Where, in the Speech from the Throne, are the initiatives aimed at reducing poverty, helping low-income families and senior citizens, and increasing public housing?
     Where, in the Speech from the Throne, are the means of redressing the fiscal imbalance and funding the health and education systems in the provinces?
     Where is the assistance for municipal and highway infrastructures? There is nothing in the Speech from the Throne.
     Nor do we find anything about regional development, aboriginal peoples, job training and job creation, the Kyoto protocol and the environment.
     Where is the Speech from the Throne?

  (1540)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if I had an hour and a half, I would probably be able to give a partial list of what is not in the throne speech.
    We were very disappointed not to see a commitment to employment insurance. Because it is cut off so quickly, it causes people to move quickly into poverty. We were very disappointed not to see anything on post-secondary education that would make it affordable, regardless of what that looks like. It no longer means just university. We did not see anything in the throne speech about health care, other than a wait time guarantee. What about public health?
    Mention was made earlier that there are a lot of places in this country that do not have potable water. What about prevention? What about something for children under five? We know that if they start school by age five, they are bound to be more successful further along. There is research in almost every school across this country to prove that. Where was early childhood development in the throne speech? It was not there. Where was literacy? Where were the other health issues, such as mental health and drug and alcohol addiction, that are destroying our country?
    Those are some of the issues, as well as others which the member mentioned, that we did not see in the throne speech at all.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlottetown.
    I read the Speech from the Throne with a great deal of interest. It struck me that the Speech from the Throne looked essentially like a reproduction of the election pamphlet of the Conservative government during the election campaign. This reproduction of the Conservative government election pamphlet essentially could be summarized under the various issues of the federal accountability act, the reduction of the GST, the crime initiative, the $1,200 for child care, and a patient wait time guarantee.
    For those of us who have reflected upon the issues of the day, on the real issues that I think we need to address if we are to secure the long term prosperity of this country, then I would have to say that the Speech from the Throne perhaps is a good document if we are into retail politics, which I think the Conservative government is into. But I think that if we are to reflect upon the serious issues of the future prosperity of this country, then we need to look at and keep our eyes wide open as to what the challenges and opportunities are for this country.
    It is amazing to note that in the 21st century in a G-7 country in a Speech from the Throne we actually do not read very much about issues that will in fact determine the prosperity of our country. By that, I mean that issues like innovation, competitiveness, R and D, and human capital are virtually absent.
    There is a question that I ask myself. If we in this chamber are in fact interested in talking about serious issues that matter to the future of the country, then I have to ask myself, what is really the national purpose? What is the objective? What is the overarching theme of the Speech from the Throne? What is it really trying to achieve? How are future generations to find hope within the words that are found in this document?
    I was also struck by the fact that the Speech from the Throne was perhaps written in isolation of what is occurring around the world. What are some of the pressures that we as a country face? Obviously, for those who are following international trends, the pressure is that we have a changing demography in this country, a changing demography that should really ring an alarm bell for the government. There is the low birth rate of the past 30 years. There are significantly fewer workers supporting more seniors. Within 10 short years, there will be three and a half working Canadians for every senior. Today it is five to one.
    What does that mean in the sense of our ability as a country to produce, to sustain our social programs? What does it mean for future generations? By the year 2015, which is not far, only a few years from now, our labour force will shrink. If we do not have a plan that speaks to productivity-oriented initiatives, it seems to me that we are going to lack the human and financial resources to maintain the type of citizenship to which we have grown accustomed. These are serious issues.

  (1545)  

     No, productivity, innovation and competitiveness are not things that we can go out there and sell in the world of retail politics. Focus groups will tell us that words like “productivity” are not something that people respond to very well, but what is this place about? This place is not about being popular. This place is about taking on the challenges that one must face to bring about positive change to people's lives in the future.
     This place is the place where we should debate issues that will matter to the future of our country. We can all shrug our shoulders and say that the ratio of working Canadians to seniors is going to be three and a half to one in a few years. We can ask what we are going to do about that and say that there really is not much we can do about it. A defeatist government would do that.
    But there are things that we must do. We must look at every single policy through the productivity prism so that we can enhance the standard of living for Canadians, so that we can provide greater opportunities for people--and for our young people as well.
    I guess there really are not facile questions for complex issues, but I think that we, within ourselves, regardless of our political stripe, must find the inner strength to address these fundamental concerns. I think there is a strong case to be made that we need to address the eventual skill shortage that we will face as a nation. Governments have the responsibility to come up with those answers.
    There is something else going on out there. It is really the realignment of global and political economic strength. We cannot be oblivious or blind to the fact that there are emerging markets: Brazil, China, and India.
    There is also the great challenge that we face here within North American economic space. This also goes back to the issue of an aging society. Even within our own North American continent, we face challenges. Why is that? Because there is really one country that is younger than the United States. That is Mexico. We will face economic challenges as a result of that. As Mexico's productivity rises and it invests more money in human resources, as will China, India and Brazil, I think we are getting the picture. I think we cannot stand still and not even, in a Speech from the Throne, address the issue of human capital.
    How can we not in this day and age talk about the importance of lifelong learning when we have fewer workers? How do the members as individuals and as a government present a Speech from the Throne that does not recognize these realities?
    And then, we need to understand that clearly for us to maintain our standard of living, there is only one way to do it, and that is to increase our productivity. I do not see it. I do not see it in the Speech from the Throne and it is troubling. I do not see it in the Speech from the Throne because it does not provide hope for people. If we are not able to increase the productivity of our country, if we are not able to generate greater wealth for our country, then we cannot take care of our seniors, we cannot invest in infrastructure, we cannot provide educational opportunities for our people, and we cannot provide opportunities to speak to lifelong learning.
     We cannot do any of that if we are not focused like a laser beam on generating greater wealth. That in fact should be the focus, not just on the government side but for everyone in this chamber who cares about the future of our country.
    The government is in an enviable position. When I came here in 1988 we were in opposition. We formed the government in 1993. I remember that we inherited high interest rates and high unemployment. We inherited conditions that were really poor.

  (1550)  

    Today, the Conservative government is blessed with balanced budgets, with surpluses. It has the resources to really bring about the type of change that is required to bring prosperity to the country in the future. We need to seize this opportunity and be responsible, because nothing but the future of the country depends on it.
     I look forward to debating these issues in the coming months, not just in this chamber but across the country, because the future does indeed matter.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments and congratulate him on his re-election. However, I note that throughout his entire discourse, when he laid out very clearly the problems of productivity and demographics that haunt our nation, he failed to offer a single, solitary solution to those problems. He ranted about the Speech from the Throne and his displeasure with it. He complained that it was not of the sort that his former government would have written, almost omitting January 23, election day, from the history in his mind.
    The reality is that under his past Liberal government our productivity fell further and further behind. The Irish economy grew its productivity at five times the rate of Canada under the last year of the Liberal government. The average Canadian worker has to work five hours to achieve what an American worker achieves in four hours. Those are simple economic productivity data.
    That all resulted from 12 years of Liberal government, so why will the member not now join with our agenda of cutting taxes on capital gains, reducing the GST to encourage more consumer spending, and using tax incentives to get more apprentices into the trades? All of these steps, driven by a small, focused government rather than large fantastic multi-billion dollar schemes, are aimed at creating a more productive economy. Why will the member not join us in that enterprise?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is for me to join anybody. I was talking about productivity before anyone around this chamber, so it is not for me to join those members.
     I want to set some conditions, of course, that have helped governments deal with the productivity issues. The past Liberal government, which I was very proud to be a part of, laid out a road map that I think would have resulted in productivity gains.
     The point here is that what we are debating is the Speech from the Throne and the issue is absent from it. That is my major concern.
    On the issue of the generation of wealth, and not the generation of wealth just for the sake of generating wealth, I think we generate wealth because we want to share it, and we benefit from that type of generation of wealth. We benefit as citizens. But there are many things to look at. We have to maintain a macroeconomic environment, as we did, of low inflation and interest rates. We also reduced taxes. We also invested in infrastructure. We invested in human capital. Obviously the Speech from the Throne did not say anything about that.
    In an era where brainpower is going to be the way to the future and the way to generate economic growth so we can sustain our social programs, I do not understand why the Conservatives are not talking about it at all. They are saying that we are going to be calm and maintain our standard of living simply by being.
    No. It is not going to happen just by being. It is going to happen with a plan that makes sense and speaks to a productivity enhancement agenda.

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for the history lesson on the Liberal Party of the last 13 years. The Liberals certainly did reduce the deficit, but they created a human deficit.
    Right now, with this new throne speech, I do not think we not see much hope of changing that deficit, a deficit that denies Canadians productivity in their own lives, that denies Canadians and their children the opportunity to move past the problems they may have within their own living.
    If the corporate tax rate that was in place before the Liberals got in had been in place today, there would have been an extra $60 billion raised by the government. This year, the corporations have put only $20 billion of that back into the economy in investment. There is a real loss to our economy.
    What does the member think of the tax position of this throne speech? Is it going to change any of the things he and his party did for Canadians during their 13 years of government?
    Mr. Speaker, we have lowered taxes and people were better off under a Liberal government.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the House for the opportunity to participate in this debate on the Speech from the Throne. I want to begin my remarks by thanking the voters of the city of Charlottetown for the trust and confidence they have entrusted in me. It is a privilege to represent them in the 39th Parliament.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your position as Deputy Speaker of this House. You are the dean of this House and we are all very pleased that you are in this role right now.
    I would like to deal with the throne speech. Everyone in this House I believe agrees that it is thin, it is brief, and it is more notable for what is not in the throne speech than what is in the throne speech. However, it might have achieved more success than perhaps some people give it credit because in a situation like this, as veteran politicians will indicate, the goal or the objective will be to manage expectations, to lower expectations. If the objective of the author of this speech was to lower expectations, then I believe the author has succeeded. In fact, I would submit that the author has basically eliminated expectations. Anyone reading this would have no expectations, or very little expectation of anything positive coming from the agenda of the government.
    However, having said that, we have to move forward on a progressive basis. There are things in the Speech from the Throne where I believe, as a member of Parliament, common ground can be found.
    First, I would like to speak briefly on the issue of crime. It has become an issue in certain areas of Canada. We have to look perhaps not so much at the crime but the causes of the crime. If the package introduced in the House by the government comprises of public education, rehabilitation and sentencing, I am certainly prepared to look for common ground. In my view, one of the main causes of crime in my area is drugs, and certainly the sentencing of drug offenders is something that we as a Parliament should look at very closely.
    On the whole issue of the accountability act, which I understand is going to be introduced in this House shortly after Easter, that is something that we can hopefully find some common ground. It is good to have rules that are clear and that everyone understands. However, what does concern me and I find very unsettling are the actions of the Prime Minister since he was elected.
     First, he appoints a lobbyist to be his defence minister. He will not cooperate with an officer of Parliament. He tries to fire the same officer of Parliament. He appoints a person who ran as a Liberal who was against everything the Conservative Party stood for as a minister of executive council. Then, the grandaddy of them all, he appoints his campaign chairman to a position of an unelected senator and then appoints him as the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.
    He is on what I would refer to as an ethics binge and it is very unsettling to this House. I hope and I trust that the accountability act will deal directly with the actions of the Prime Minister.
    I find particularly troubling the appointment of the campaign manager to the position of an unelected senator and then given the position as Minister of Public Works with a budget of $15 billion. He is answerable to no one in this House. He is accountable to no one in this House.
    We do not know where he is. Mr. Speaker, you do not know where he is. The Clerk sitting at the Table does not know where he is. There is no one in this House who knows where that man is. All I know is he is somewhere around Ottawa. Apparently he is wearing a trench coat. He has a black briefcase. He is spending $50 million every day of Canadian taxpayers money and he is accountable to no one. He is answerable to no one. I find that very troubling. The cord of accountability has been severed and that is deeply troubling.

  (1600)  

    I do hope that when the President of the Treasury Board introduces his accountability act after Easter, that it will directly deal with that situation and we can put an end, a sudden end, to this very sad spectacle that is going on before the Canadian people.
    The issue is, what will we do until then? That is two or three weeks down the road. We have this campaign manager/unelected senator out there, unanswerable and unaccountable to anyone, spending $50 million a day. What will we do until then? I have no idea. I have thought of it and maybe other members of the House will have some suggestions as to what we can do to stop this spectacle from going on.
    One thing I just thought of was that we could create the version of a 21st century posse. You could deputize 10 members of the House, Mr. Speaker, to go out and find him. I know we cannot bring him into the House, but we could lock him to a post outside the House and then we could ask him questions. It would not be satisfactory, but there would be some limited semblance of accountability. That is how crazy this situation is.
    I look forward to the accountability provisions. I do believe and have trust and confidence in the President of the Treasury Board that he will deal, through the act, with the situation and put an end to this sad spectacle.
    I have listened to the debate on child care and I honestly believe that the debate is off on the wrong foot. We have a situation here. There is merit with both plans. I will talk about the Conservative plan.
    First, there is a plan of $1,200 per month for children under the age of six. This is an income support measure. I think it will be welcome, in most families, or all families I should say. I would be more enthusiastic if it were means tested. However, I do not think we can discuss that. We do not have to create a whole new program or architecture.
    Actually, it can be accomplished simply by an amendment to the child tax benefit and the national child tax supplement. It will be made available to all parents. Parents of children under the age of six years old would get $1,200. It would be very simple and less costly to administer. That is something the government ought to consider.
    Parents of a child under six in a low income family are presently getting the child tax benefit and the national child supplement in the vicinity of $31 and it means increasing that amount to $4,300. If it does not compromise, which is the caveat, the national child care agreements that have been signed by all 10 provinces, I will certainly support that sort of income support initiative. However, I do add, that income support initiative has nothing to do with early childhood development.
    We went through this. There is an agreement made between the Government of Canada and all 10 Canadian provinces. I do acknowledge that every family in Canada is different, but this is part of our educational system. It has to be expanded and retained. I would be very disappointed if there was any movement in the House to compromise any of these agreements that have the broad support of all Canadians and eight of the 10 premiers in this country.
    One disappointment that I do have in the throne speech, and it was touched upon by the previous speaker, is the whole issue of productivity. This goes right into some of the early childhood development agreements. We have to, as a Parliament and a society, look at everything through a productivity lens. We have to invoke measures and put them in place to promote work, make people work, save and invest. That is something we have to look forward to.

  (1605)  

    In closing, it is incumbent upon us to make this Parliament work for all Canadians. We have to move forward on these and other issues.
    Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from P.E.I. for his comments and remarks. I enjoyed his speech. He spoke at length about accountability because that seems to be the theme, the centrepiece, of the legislative package we are being promised by the newly elected Conservative government.
     He did raise the seeming contradiction of having an unelected senator serving as the Minister of Public Works, with an unprecedented budget for giving out contracts and spending money, and limited access, oversight and scrutiny opportunities for the activities and operations of that new minister.
    Another issue along those lines came up as well. We are all filling out our declarations of personal assets to file with the Ethics Commissioner as we speak, but we do not really know what guidelines or unique status the senator may enjoy. Is it the Senate ethical guidelines that apply? Is it the House of Commons ethical guidelines? What declaration is the senator supposed to make?
    I understand that senators are allowed to sit on the boards of directors of companies, which MPs are not allowed to do. Senators in fact are doing so. Does that mean that our new Minister of Public Works is sitting on the boards of directors of 10 or 12 different companies, some of which may run into conflict because they seek contracts with the federal government? It is just a bad precedent, in my view, and I would like my hon. colleague's comments on that.
    While I have the floor, I would also like to ask his views on the idea that the federal government has now stripped the access to information provisions out of the accountability act, which I believe will be the kiss of death to this access to information reform package. He and I have seen this movie before. This is like déjà vu for us because we got snookered once by his government on access to information. I want to know if he thinks it is happening again.

  (1610)  

    Mr. Speaker, I do not have the answers to some of the issues. I do not know the details of what the Senate accountability regime is over there. I have never been a senator and probably will never be a senator.
    The member made two comments. First, he stated that this is unprecedented. I certainly agree with that. It is totally unprecedented to give an unelected campaign manager/senator a $15 billion budget and basically have him answerable and accountable to no one.
    The member also talked about limited access. I beg to differ. I do not think there will be any access. He is not in this House. We do not know where he is. We do not know what he is doing. We do not know how he is spending this $15 billion. I guess we do have limited access in that we may be able to see him before a House committee, once the House committees are up, but the member makes a very good point. This is a sad spectacle. It is very troubling. It breaks the cord of accountability in the whole parliamentary system that we operate under.
     I hope the President of the Treasury Board deals with this issue and that it is dealt with when the accountability act is tabled. I could write the section in the act. All it has to say is that no campaign manager/unelected member, who is unaccountable to anyone, shall have a budget of $15 billion. If we put that right in the act, everyone will be happy.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your new position. I would like to thank my esteemed colleague for his insight into how thin the Speech from the Throne is and how it does not really have any new ideas.
    However, I would like to focus on accountability. How can a government that comes in saying that it is turning a new page do the things that it is doing, appointing an unelected member, a friend of the Prime Minister, into the Senate and giving him a budget of $15 billion--
    He will not have much time to reply to the question, so please hurry.
    My question for the member is this. What were the things that were put in by the previous government on which the new government can capitalize?
    Mr. Speaker, the member said “a new page”. This is a new page. It is a new page in accountability and how to deal with it. We have never seen this in the House before, that the very first act of business by a Prime Minister would be to appoint his campaign chairman to the Senate and then appoint him as a minister with a budget of $15 billion--
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I realize that we are fairly new coming back to the House in this session, but the member who just spoke is a veteran of the House of Commons. While I appreciate his new-found respect for an elected Senate, I would like to remind him that it is in violation of the House rules to state disrespectful reflections on members of Parliament as a whole and on senators. The comments made were totally out of order.
    I will look forward to the member's support once the expense claims from members are printed by the Chief Electoral Officer and we see what the Liberals also are putting out in terms of lobbyists for campaign managers. We look forward to the proper claims.

  (1615)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I congratulate you on your new position.
    I am appalled to hear those comments from a veteran parliamentarian. She uses the word being respectful. For God's sake we sat in this honourable chamber for years in government and we all heard from that party which is now in government, and with the greatest of respect, even though two out of three Canadians voted against it. I remind the members of that. It is trying to teach us to be respectful. It is that party which used words such as “crooks, criminals, thieves”.
    I think we are getting a little argumentative, especially on this my first day and first 15 minutes in this chair.
    Mr. Speaker, the member who raised the point of order I believe is referring to chapter II, Standing Order 18. If she reads it carefully, the reference to speaking disrespectfully refers to the Sovereign. The further point on that relates to the use of offensive words against a member of Parliament. That was not her point of order.
    Therefore, I believe the point of order is out of order.
    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I have the reference.
    I will consider the reference later. At this moment I would like to recognize the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

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