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39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 006

CONTENTS

Monday, April 10, 2006

(Part A)





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 141 
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NUMBER 006 
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1st SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, April 10, 2006

(Part A)

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

[The Address ]

  (1100)  

[English]

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed from April 7 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment as amended.
    Mr. Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to speak in this new session of Parliament, I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to my constituents of Don Valley East for re-electing me as their federal representative in Ottawa. I also ask my volunteers to please accept my heartfelt thanks for their hard work and dedication. I would also like to thank the hon. leader of the official opposition for placing his confidence in my abilities in asking me to serve as the official critic for National Revenue.
     I also congratulate you, Mr. Speaker. Once again the members of the House have expressed their confidence in you to preside over this Parliament. I also offer my congratulations to all returning parliamentarians and new parliamentarians.
     As an opposition critic, I intend to do my best to keep the government accountable and to make this a productive Parliament regardless of however long this minority government survives.
    It has been noted that this is one of the shortest throne speeches on record. It is a remarkably thin document that is equally short of new ideas. It does in fact address five narrow objectives identified by the Conservatives and yet it is what the speech does not mention that makes this speech truly remarkable.
    Let me cite a few examples. The speech says nothing about protecting the environment and the Kyoto agreement. It is silent about funding for citizen communities. It ignores students and access to post-secondary education. It makes no mention of honouring the groundbreaking Kelowna accord reached last year between the government and Canada's aboriginal peoples. For those Canadians looking for affordable housing, they have no prospect of any form of help from the federal government.
    There are, however, some things to talk about regarding the five narrow objectives outlined in the throne speech and how they match up in reality. An accountability package, crime and punishment, family allowances instead of early childhood development, personal tax increases to pay for a cut in the GST and a health care guarantee.
    In terms of accountability, let us review what has happened in the first few weeks of the Conservative government in office. Throughout his career, the newly elected Prime Minister has claimed strongly to support an elected Senate. As a Reform member of Parliament, this was his mantra for years and yet his very first act as Prime Minister was to give a Senate appointment to his personal friend and campaign manager. That puts accountability down the drain. To add insult to injury, his second act was then to make the same person the unelected Minister of Public Works, one of the largest departments at the federal level responsible for government procurement. The public works minister is not a member of the House and therefore is not subject to the daily question period. Canadians are asking what kind of accountability that is.
    Does the Prime Minister believe he is above accountability? The Prime Minister talked about restricting lobbyists and yet he turned around and immediately appointed a lobbyist as his Minister of National Defence. We are talking about someone who has listed over 40 top defence companies as his clients. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
    On top of that, we have since learned that Conservative staffers who worked for current cabinet ministers suddenly jumped into the private sector and are now registered lobbyists.
    The Prime Minister talks about turning a new leaf. Well, he is certainly turning a new leaf. Do members remember the Mulroney era on the take? Here we find the Prime Minister's idea of accountability involves rewarding his closest friends.
    Let us move on to crime and punishment. My constituents of Don Valley East are deeply concerned about gun violence on the streets of Toronto. In the last Parliament the Liberal government had prepared a comprehensive legislative package to combat crime on a number of levels.

  (1105)  

    Bill C-82 would have created minimum penalties for smuggling, trafficking and possession of firearms and other weapons. It would have created new offences specifically aimed at breaking and entering to steal guns and would have offered protection for those witnessing a crime involving firearms.
    What happened to that bill? The Conservatives effectively killed the legislation when Parliament was dissolved last November. This was a bill that my constituents wanted to become law but it became an unfortunate victim of political brinkmanship.
    What about guns? The Liberal Party pledged to ban all handguns and get them off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. What is the Conservatives' response? They plan to gut the firearms registry that is being used by police which would make it easier for criminals to obtain unregistered weapons.
    There are so many things to talk about. Let us talk about child care. For the first time in Canadian history the federal government had finally reached an agreement with all 10 provinces and the territories to provide affordable, accessible and quality child care for all Canadians. In the throne speech, the Conservatives have promised to simply tear up these agreements, kill the early learning and child care strategy and replace it with nothing more than what amounts to an old-fashioned family allowance which, after tax, will do little or nothing to assist families.
    An Alberta politician once offered a $25 cheque to each voter if he were successfully elected. That politician was none other than William Aberhart, Premier of Alberta in the 1930s and well remembered in history for his elaborate vote-buying scheme. Let us fast-forward to the 21st century and we have a Prime Minister using the very same method of flaunting taxpayer dollars to buy his way into office.
    On the subject of taxes, let us take a closer look at the Tories' proposed 1% cut to the GST. The Liberal Party firmly believes that the first target for income tax reduction should be income taxes, not consumption taxes. It is far better to return more money to the taxpayer at source than to simply reduce sales taxes.
    In order to pay for the so-called tax cuts, the Conservatives are going to wipe out the $50 billion tax reduction plan started by the Liberal government and make history by being the first federal government to raise personal taxes since the Mulroney government.
    The Prime Minister is planning to raise the basic personal amount that Canadians can earn tax-free; roll back reductions of tax rates in the first three brackets, which would have benefited low and middle income families; and eliminate a proposed working income tax credit to help low income people move away from social assistance which would have resulted in putting thousands of low income seniors back on the tax rolls after they were removed in the Liberal budget last year.
    Why is the recently elected government punishing low and middle income families while, at the same time, rewarding its wealthy friends with tax cuts?
    The Conservative government has traditionally blamed the Liberals for leaving the country in bad financial shape. This time the Tories have no excuse. As my colleague, the hon. member for Wascana, recently noted, no other incoming government in Canadian history has inherited a better fiscal situation.
    As an incoming government, it has inherited a strong economy, eight consecutive surpluses, world-leading reductions in federal debt, low interest rates and low inflation, a AAA credit rating and unemployment at a 30 year low.
    I therefore challenge the government to live up to the expectations that people have developed over the past 12 years and to work with members on all sides of this House to make this country better for all Canadians.

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. We are very proud of the fact that you have been selected.
    I would like to respond to one of the things the hon. member opposite said. She said something about the government inheriting such a fine fiscal position from the previous government. I wonder whether she has ever stopped to consider the reasons the previous Liberal government was able to balance the books. There were a number of reasons. One of them was that the Conservatives howled about it until finally the government was pressured into doing it, but it was also the policies of free trade, which bring about $1.5 billion everyday into this country. That was what the Liberal Party campaigned against and that is what has given it to a great extent the fiscal gift which has permitted it to balance the budget and stop the interminable borrowing.
    I would also like to point out the GST, which the Liberals said they would eliminate in their campaign. I remember Mr. Chrétien saying during an election campaign that it would be gone. That GST brought in billions of dollars and using that money the Liberals were able to balance the budget. I think also of the $30 billion that they took out of the civil service employees pension fund, who were entitled to half of that. Half of it belonged to the employees. I think about the $50 billion they took out of the EI fund.
    The ways in which they balanced the budget and gave us presumed fiscal health is questionable at best. Let us not forget that in fact the amount of debt that the Liberals left the Conservatives when we took office on January 23 is pretty well the same as the debt that they had in 1993. I think they should probably be a little more sensitive to where all this money came from. I would appreciate the comments of the hon. member on these things.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government took power, it inherited a bankrupt country because, in good fiscal times, the Conservatives did not know how to manage the economy. People were desperate. Interest rates were at their highest. There were 20% interest rates and unemployment was high. People wanted hope and, therefore, the federal government was very careful in how it balanced fiscal responsibility and social responsibility.
    We now have the best economy and we are the envy of the G-20 countries. We have a record. We hope that the Conservatives do not have another spending spree as the one they did under the Mulroney government and bring back another deficit.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would just like to remind my colleague that, as I said last week, any slight improvement in the economy under the Liberal government is attributable to the Conservative government's introduction of the GST and free trade, which the previous government opposed.
    I would also like to defend the Minister of National Defence's reputation. He is a competent man. Unlike his Liberal counterparts of the past 13 years, he has no intention of leaving the merchant and military fleets in their current advanced state of deterioration.
    Why did the previous government leave the military fleet in such a state? We cannot even provide adequate transportation for our troops to accomplish humanitarian missions or missions like the one we have undertaken in Afghanistan.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate that when a country is bankrupt, it has to look at what is important for the people. The social welfare of the people is extremely important. The Liberals inherited a bankrupt country. The World Bank and everyone else said that we were a third world economic basket case. In order to get our house in order, we had to look at the priorities.
    No matter how much the Conservatives talk about the free trade agreement, they are ones who signed such an agreement that left us with so many problems. Uncle Sam has decided that he will be the one to decide whether the free trade agreement is acceptable or not and I do not think the Conservatives should take so much credit for it.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for British Columbia Southern Interior.
    I rise today in the House for the first time and I do so with a great sense of humility and of course enthusiasm about the possibility that always accompanies change. Clearly, a significant change was exactly what the people of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek voted for on January 23. I remain sincerely grateful for the confidence and trust shown in me and I will not let them down.
    Short days ago, as I took my place for the first time in this great chamber, I was struck by the fact that within our great democracy working people like myself, originally from a small community like Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, as part of life's journey can still make their way through the halls of our national Parliament.
    I wish to thank my wife, Barbara, who is in the gallery, and my family and my friends who have believed in and supported me over the years as we follow the trail leading to this place. To the good people of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, my office is now open. My staff and I are available to work with everyone to make our community stronger, to address the needs and questions around federal programs and services, and to fight for the change that Canadians voted for in the past election. Constituents now have a representative who will take their concerns to the government instead of bringing the government's message to them.
    In regard to the throne speech, I am encouraged to see some NDP priorities referred to, but we have heard promises of such things as child care over the past 12 years only to be disappointed. Action, not words, creates change. Before this new government becomes too self-assured, I would remind it that more than 60% of Canadians did not vote for its vision, its so-called five point plan. More than 60% of Canadians did not vote for its vision of child care.
    Approximately 16% of Hamilton families live in poverty and $1,200 will simply not begin to either meet the needs of those families if there are no affordable, accessible child care spaces. We need ongoing sustainable funding for a publicly administered child care program, not another tax credit or moneys given only to be clawed back. The NDP will stand firm in its commitment to public, not-for-profit child care.
    The Conservative plan to give $1,200 to each family for each child under six, and cancelling the first agreement in years that would have made public, not-for-profit spaces, is shortsighted to say the least. If the Conservatives were serious about helping Canadian families, why not do both? Why not help parents pay for the child care they choose while also ensuring that there are quality, affordable, not-for-profit spaces being built?
    Parents in Hamilton were excited about the best start program, excited about this much needed program that was working with parents and the community to create more spaces, better care, and a more integrated approach to families, schools and the community to improve early childhood education in our community. Best start was also supposed to ensure that all parents, regardless of economic and social circumstances, had access to quality child care options.
    Instead of promoting this worthwhile program in communities like Hamilton across Ontario, the government is cancelling $1.4 billion of the $1.9 billion in federal money promised that made best start possible.
    I must echo the words of my leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, when I remind the House, it is the will of Canadians and the majority of the House to build a truly national child care program. I call on the government to build upon the current agreements instead of cancelling them. Working together we can achieve more for child care in the next 12 months than the previous government did in 12 years.
    One in five Hamiltonians live below the poverty line. Child poverty is still epidemic in the country. In my riding, the highest incidence of low income is with new Canadians, recent immigrants to our country. Yet in its throne speech, the government did not talk about poverty once, or what we need to do to address social and economic causes of poverty. It was a shameful omission. There is much to be done.

  (1120)  

    I will stand firm in this House to ensure that the little progress that has been made by the Government of Canada over the last few years is not rolled back and that we do more to fight poverty in our country. While the throne speech did mention working families, it is the NDP that has promised a working families first agenda in this Parliament. This is good news for the people of my community. They have seen significant restructuring of major industries.
    Many people who live in my riding, particularly in the Stoney Creek area, work in manufacturing and steel industries. They live in fear of not only losing their jobs to globalization but because of poorly crafted trade agreements that the last Conservative government put into place. They also now face the fear of not having a company pension when they reach retirement age.
    New Democrats have long called for sectoral strategies for our important manufacturing industries such as steel and auto parts. Corporate welfare, handouts and more tax cuts do not encourage businesses to change their behaviour.
    When industries are deciding whether to invest in making innovative products that often have higher price tags, perhaps those that would clean our air, they need to know consumers will buy them. For example, consumers who want to buy green cars must have access to rebates and other incentives to afford these newer, more environmentally friendly cars. Broader support to workers in these sectors to ensure that they have the skills to participate in these industries through EI reform is essential.
    While the government did talk about working families in its Speech from the Throne, there is nothing new or substantial there for them. As millions of baby boomers prepare to retire, pension protection has never been more important. In the last Parliament, we won protection for workers wages. In this Parliament, we will fight for the pension security that workers deserve.
    New Democrats will continue to fight to protect workers basic rights and better assistance for new Canadians and their families, so they can take the productive place in society that they came to Canada to provide.
    The NDP is putting working families in Hamilton and all across Canada first. We want to talk about pocketbook issues beyond the simplistic approach of a GST cut. We want to talk about accountability and cleaning up corruption beyond government. We want to talk about ensuring that Canadians can afford the prescription drugs they need, get adequate dental, vision and health care, and have access to better EI programs.
    The Conservative government talked only about innovation in health care in its throne speech. It did not talk about the need to invest in innovations instead of squandering our money on GST or corporate tax cuts.
    We are failing our parents and grandparents, the people who built our country because too many of them cannot get the basic care they need. That is why I am so pleased to join my caucus colleagues to fight in this Parliament to enact the principles in the NDP's senior charter.
    We will give working families the tools they need to support their parents and grandparents, so that seniors have access to good quality, long term care, so that seniors and people with disabilities get the home care they need, and so that no senior is ever forced to choose between buying medicine that they need or buying groceries. Seniors have waited long enough. Working families have waited long enough.
    The Speech from the Throne promised more support to Canadian core values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights around the world. The Prime Minister has pledged that this would be achieved through a bigger diplomatic role, a stronger military and a more effective use of aid money.
    As the NDP advocate for human rights, both domestic and international, I intend to hold Mr. Harper and this government to those promises made last week. Promoting human rights at home or abroad is a big part of what makes us Canadian.
    Canadian values must be reflected in our actions overseas and we must continue to ensure that we address human rights issues at home. I and my NDP colleagues will not waver in our determination to ensure that Canada's foreign policies reflect our values.
    Before my election, I was a member of the Strengthening Hamilton Community Initiative, begun after the events of September 11, to respond to an increase in racially motivated hate crimes in our community. The initiative's goals have been to bring civic and community representatives together to come up with collaborative solutions to ensure that prejudice and exclusion had no place in our community.
    Building diversity and inclusive communities needs support and action from all levels of government. I hope that we will see more of this from this government as it promotes diversity. Canadians sent all of us to Parliament to work. People said they wanted change and they wanted the NDP to balance that change and ensure that there are no rollbacks where progress has been made.
    I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities to represent the people of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We have a new member in the chamber who just finished his speech, but perhaps a little reminder that we cannot use the names of members of Parliament in this chamber.
    I appreciate the point of order by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville. I would also appreciate if other members, especially those who are of the class of 2006 with me, would take note of this advice.
     We will now go to questions and comments. I would like to remind the House that this is to last five minutes. There seems to be a great deal of interest, so we will try to fit in as many as possible. The hon. member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. It is a great opportunity for you and I know you will do a super job.
    In the speech of my new colleague from the NDP, he ranted on at length about being totally against corporate tax cuts and that this was the worst thing that could possibly happen in a country. We see tax cuts for everyone, including big business that creates a lot of jobs, as economic empowerment.
    His country cousins in Saskatchewan, where I am from, brought down their budget last week. The largest item, which was the foundation and cornerstone of that budget, was $95 million in tax cuts to big business. We see this as a great thing for Saskatchewan, but the member still rants and raves about that. I see the former finance minister, who is also from Saskatchewan, is in agreement with me, that there seems to be quite a disconnect between the NDP in Ottawa and the NDP in Saskatchewan, which has finally got around to doing the right thing.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, in response to the questions and comments, when I rant, I am a lot louder than what the member heard today.
    The reality is there always has to be a balance, fiscally. If we give corporate tax breaks when we cannot afford to and when we make our programs pay, as Mike Harris did in Ontario, it is a terrible price for our citizens to pay. Very simply, there is a balance that needs to be struck. We want to see more investment in Canada, not corporate tax cuts.
    Mr. Speaker, in his speech the member referred to child poverty and some of the economic solutions that we might present. Is the member aware that 15% of all families in Canada are lone parent families, but they account for 55% of all children living in poverty? This is a significant spike in terms of demographics.
    Does the member have any suggestions on how we address the breakdown of the Canadian family to address poverty?
    Mr. Speaker, the very first thing the government can do is stop the intended clawback around the $1,200 tax credit. Other than that, we have to reinvest in our community in those areas which will address poverty and get to the root causes of it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his first speech in this House. I share his concerns about poverty. I would like to thank his party for supporting the Bloc Québécois' proposed subamendment concerning a program for older workers. I know that similar situations have arisen in the Maritimes.
    Should the government not have included in its Speech from the Throne a clear position on establishing an independent employment insurance fund? Such a fund would enable the government to provide better services and to ensure that all of the money paid into employment insurance by employees and employers is reserved for the EI program, not used to fund other government programs. I would like to hear my colleague's opinion on this question.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I recall that some years ago 85% of the folks who applied for EI got it. With changes that were put together by the Liberal government around 1995, it started robbing the EI fund. Today about 27% of the people who apply get EI.
    From my perspective, this is insurance for workers. It belongs to workers and should not be used for any other purposes.
    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour for me to be here. As a school teacher, when I studied government with my students, I emphasized the fact that politics was indeed an honourable profession. All of us are here because we want to serve our country. In my case, I became involved in politics because I am concerned about the future of my country.
    My parents came to Canada as political refugees, fleeing the horrors of the Russian revolution and civil war. They were very thankful that Canada gave them a home where they could raise their family in peace.
    My father spent 38 years working in a lumber mill. As a youth going to school, I was also able to work there, earning a union wage at that time of $1.92 an hour.
    Thanks to my union job and relatively low tuition fees, I was able to finish university basically debt free. This is no longer the case. It is harder for students to get well-paying jobs as our industry is hit by the negative effects of NAFTA and the ideological pressure to contract out jobs.
    Many students work in various fast food outlets trying to make ends meet and are faced with increasing tuition fees. It is not uncommon for university graduates to have a debt load of from $20,000 to $60,000 upon finishing.

  (1135)  

[Translation]

    Our government wants to reduce the GST when there is apparently not enough money available for post-secondary education. I think things would be fairer for ordinary families if education were more affordable.

[English]

    It is an honour and a privilege to represent those in B.C. Southern Interior. I will do everything I can to represent their interests, just as our previous MP and his staff have done. I thank him for his hard work and wish him all the best in his retirement as he hits the golf trail and prepares gourmet meals for his wife, Ann.
    The past few years have been perhaps the most enriching ones of my life. The energy and time put in by all the volunteers, in addition to their individual financial contribution that kept coming in, was truly amazing.
    I am happy to announce today that four of these amazing people Ann Harvey, Laurel Walton, Gina Petrakos and Jayme Hadikin have accepted positions as my assistants. Together with an amazing Hill veteran, Jennifer Ratz, I believe we have a team second to none.
    In addition to our Castlegar office, it is my pleasure to announce that, as of June 1, I will have part time offices both in Oliver and in Princeton to better serve the western part of my riding.
    It is difficult to name all those dedicated and committed people who have stood beside me over the past years, but a special thanks should be said to my wife. In spite of the fact that she said “I think you're crazy” when I said I was thinking of running for office, she is still right here with me in Ottawa.
    The three others who encouraged me right from the beginning are our former MLA, Ed Conroy, his wife, Katrina Conroy, who is now our MLA, and Lily Popoff, our riding president at that time.
    Before moving on to talk about some issues facing our riding, I would like to pay tribute to some old-timers who not only supported me in the campaign, but who have spent their entire lives, or most of their lives, in the pursuit of social justice. My old friend Albin Carlson from Oliver, a long-time social democrat from Sweden, who will be 100 years old this year; Marshall and Isabella Johnson of Princeton, who will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this year; Agnes and Hugh Herbison of Argenta, with roots in the Quaker community, who have been fighting for peace and justice for many years; and finally, what would I have done without Harold and Phyllis Funk when we blitzed Grand Forks with leaflets last September?
    Many diverse ethnic groups make their home in our riding. It was indeed a pleasure for me on New Year's Day to be present at the Sikh temple in Oliver, as it was to have met some members of the Portuguese community in Osoyoos prior to the last campaign. I have also had the privilege of attending a couple of dinners at the Columbo Lodge in Trail, one of the gathering points for the Italian community.
    One of the main reasons my wife and I moved to Castlegar 12 and a half years ago was because of the Russian presence in that area. It is possible to go downtown in Castlegar and Grand Forks and hear Russian spoken in restaurants and on the streets.

[Translation]

    The Doukhobors came to Canada at the turn of the 20th century because of religious persecution in Russia. They are pacifists, who have worked for peace and justice since the community was established.

[English]

    Over the years they have made contributions to the cooperative work ethic of toil and peaceful life. They have built railroads, developed farms, flour mills, sawmills and jam factories.
     One of their trademarks is choral singing. Their beautiful acapela choirs have performed at the United Nations and in Europe. I invite everyone to come to Castlegar in the May long weekend to attend the Doukhobor Youth Festival and get a taste of Doukhobor culture, especially the delicious food.
    Two members of this community have been helping to build bridges between Canada and Russia by undertaking projects in that country. Mike Kanigan has been helping people in Rostov-on-Don to set up a door and window manufacturing business, while Alex Jmaeff has spent a number of years in Yasnaya Polyana spearheading a bakery and restaurant project.

[Translation]

    In the Kootenay Boundary region, many people, including members of the Doukhobor community, are working for peace and justice. They want Canada to work with the United Nations to promote peace throughout the world and they are concerned about the role our country appears to be setting for itself these days and especially our military commitment.

[English]

    I would like to thank my friends, members of the Kootenay Regional United Nations Association and others for their tireless pursuit of world peace. They, along with many in our riding, welcome the debate on Afghanistan, which will take place this evening.
    At this time I would like to recognize Private Will Salikin of Grand Forks for his contribution and service to our country. On behalf of all Canadians, I wish him well as he recovers from injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan.
    A young woman from Castlegar, Mireille Evans, is currently preparing for a dangerous mission in Colombia as a volunteer with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. She will be spending time in the peace community of San Jose de Apartado to help discourage, by her presence, the abduction and killing of community members by illegal paramilitary groups. I fear for her well-being and I salute her courage.
    The throne speech talks about reducing wait times in our hospitals. One way of ensuring that patients receive timely care is to target federal funding for long term senior care spaces. This would open up more acute beds in our hospitals, which would in turn decrease surgical wait times.
    As members can see, there are many concrete and positive alternatives to cutting the GST by 1%.
    Our rural communities are facing difficulties. We have heard over the past week what farmers are telling us. Unless there is some immediate help and a long term agricultural policy, the family farm, along with the thousands of towns and villages in rural Canada, will be a thing of the past. In my riding of British Columbia Southern Interior, our cattle industry needs some flexibility to be able to access locally owned and approved slaughter facilities. It is a disgrace that we allow Washington State to dump their apples in B.C. while our primary producers in the Okanagan are fighting to survive.
    It is my hope that there will soon be an end to the softwood lumber dispute. I urge our government to demand an immediate return of the $5 billion-plus which was literally stolen from our communities. I urge the Prime Minister to remind the U.S. President that this is not a way to treat our friends.
    I am encouraged to see there will be a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We in B.C. Southern Interior live in a pristine place. It is important that we preserve our wilderness areas and species that inhabit them, such as the mountain caribou.
    Finally, the survival of our rural way of life depends in part on a fair and just federal infrastructure program. Our communities need continued assistance and more flexibility in deciding their local priorities. A common thread uniting the citizens from Manning Park to Kaslo, Salmo and New Denver is a desire to live in sustainable and prosperous rural communities.
    I urge all members of all political parties to work together to truly represent the interests of rural Canada.

  (1140)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my congratulations on your new duties.

[English]

    I want to thank the member for his speech and welcome him to the House of Commons, and also his colleague, who spoke earlier and who, like me, is a maritimer. It is nice to have a band of maritimers here even if we ended up having to come to Ottawa for what we consider gainful employment but what others would say is a little more dubious.
    The member spoke about the question of child care, which we also support and which we advanced in the last Parliament, with funding for it negotiated with the provinces. We advanced an agreement for developing an early childhood program as well as assisting lower and moderate income families through tax breaks, through tax reductions and the increase in the tax exemption, both of which the Conservatives took a completely different tack on. Their tack in fact assists higher income earners, people who can afford having only one member of the family working outside the home with the other working at home. In this situation, only the lower income is taxed. If both family members are working at $30,000 or $40,000, they are fully taxed and there is very little revenue.
    The same is true with the GST and low income families. Most of the expenditures of low income families are not taxable items, but if someone is earning $100,000 plus, the GST reduction is a substantial rebate. It is fitting that the Conservatives would reduce the GST because, after all, it was their party that introduced it. Neither our party nor theirs would oppose that type of economic approach.
     Perhaps the member could explain to me why his leader would have de facto supported the Conservatives in the last election, knowing exactly what their agenda was, knowing that these were the items they were promoting. The Conservatives were straightforward in saying that there would be a financial transfer to families with children under six, not considering that it still costs a lot of money for education, maintenance and care for children above six.
    They were also straightforward in saying they would provide a slight reduction in the GST but that at the same time this would be paid for by an increase in tax exemptions and personal taxes for lower and moderate income families. Could he explain why his leader would de facto have supported that type of government?

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is not that we have supported the government. First of all, I agree with the member with regard to the child care program. What we want is to have this program sustainable for many years, not just for one year. It is important to distinguish child care as opposed to babysitting. We believe there should be qualified professionals in the field to look after young people, especially to assist those single parent families and others who need this very worthwhile service.
    As far as supporting the government is concerned, we must understand that the Liberals were in power for 12 years and those 12 years were 12 years of promises. They promised to do this and they promised other programs.
     It is the Canadian people who decided this, not our party.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first off, allow me to congratulate you on your election and accession to the position of Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole House.
    I would also congratulate my colleague who has just spoken. I would like to ask him a question. Quebec has established a day care system that has proven to be the best in Canada. The government is proposing to provide $1,200 annually per child under six, that is, a preschool child. Quebec has created the best system, which costs it between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion. If the current government proposal were adopted, Quebec would lose $800 million.
    Could my hon. colleague explain to the House his vision of the day care system he and his government would establish if they were in office? Does he see a Canada wide system or a system that would allow the provinces to decide themselves how the money would be distributed in the matter of day care centres?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.
    What can I say? We could use the Quebec model in the rest of Canada. That system works well. We could set up a similar system in Canada. It would be the best thing to do for our country.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege and a pleasure to rise in the House today and speak to the throne speech.
     I would like to advise you at the beginning of my 10 minutes that I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.
    I would like to begin by thanking the constituents of Battlefords—Lloydminster for sending me back to this place to continue many of the arguments and debates we have been having for the past nine years I have been here, and for a couple of years before that when I served as a constituency coordinator for Elwin Hermanson, who went on the lead the Saskatchewan Party and of course has done great things in the province and will continue to do so.
    It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the throne speech, that document of the vision and the accountability we are bringing to the House. It is based on everything we campaigned on, on our five major planks. There was a lot of discussion by the Liberals and some of the media that there was a hidden agenda, but I am here to say there was no hidden agenda. Everything we said during the election campaign is underscored in the throne speech, in this document of focused vision, which would be the best way to describe it.
    We are hearing a lot of nitpicking from the other side about how we are building on the great economic stability that the Liberals built up during their 13 years in power. The member for Don Valley East was going on earlier about that great economic period and so on, but agriculture did not benefit from that economic period. If anything, primary producers, the farmers and ranchers in this country, are in worse shape now than they were 13 years ago.
     In those 13 years, we have not seen any sort of direction, vision or program stability that would speak to this issue. In the nine years I have been here, I have seen group after group come forward and say that this program does not address what they need and this program does not develop into what they thought it would, and then a real reticence about the fact that the federal government shows leadership in a lot of the agricultural files. The formula for the disaster in business risk is 60-40 with the provinces. There has been a lot of discussion on that formula and I think that is a good thing. We need to discuss that and do a lot of work on the equalization formula as well, but those come in a little later on.
    Having started with agriculture, let me drop back to the other five units in the throne speech. With regard to accountability, we campaigned hard on the lack of accountability and on the lack of measures to trigger an audit, whether it is for first nations bands, which themselves are calling for better and more timely audits, or others. This plan would allow the Auditor General to do that. Someone who does not have an axe to grind, so to speak, will be able to go in, have a look at those books, say what is going well and what is not, come back with an action plan, and give it to the department, saying, “Act on this. Let us see something change”. I think that is a great thing.
    I know that for a lot of the nine reserves and the urban component in my riding, with some 15% of the population in the riding being Cree, the rank and file are excited about this. When we talk to the chiefs and councils, and of course the national leaders, we hear them saying that they do not want this, that they do not want anyone looking over their shoulders. That is unfortunate, because this will actually bring in more stability. If they are looking to long term vision and some constructive steps to build a better relationship with the people in the constituency they represent, this is an excellent tool for them to take advantage of. I hope they will.
    Through access to information, it is also going to allow folks to have greater input into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Wheat Board. A lot of departments like that are arm's-length crown corporations that really have no accountability to the taxpayers who are asked to pony up and keep them alive at times, and of course in the case of the Wheat Board, the producers who support it and would like to have better access and more timely reports and so on. That is a whole other debate in and of itself.
    Regarding tax cuts, tremendous discussions went on before we put forward our platform, Mr. Speaker, and I know you took part in that as well. Everyone seemed to realize that the GST cut would affect everyone. I hear a lot of naysayers from the Liberals and the NDP saying that it only helps the rich. Let me tell members something. Everyone in my riding, regardless of income, pays GST. It is a hidden tax. We pay for it at the gas pumps, in our rent, or in the payment we make on a house when we buy it. We pay it when we pay our power bill, our telephone bill or our heating bill. It is in there. Having the GST go down a point is going to be significant for everybody at every level, whether they rent or own, whether they are a senior or a high level income earner. It is all based on how it is going to be good for everyone.
    The Liberals are saying their tax cuts were bigger than our tax cuts. I have tried to figure that out, but I cannot for the life of me figure out if those cuts actually even passed. That was part of the economic statement last fall, leading up to the election. They were all flying out, with $750 million for farmers and so on, which we have delivered. We went ahead and did that, warts and all. We made sure that money to producers was expedited. They needed it this spring.

  (1150)  

    As for all these tax cuts the Liberals talk about that were part of their agenda and so on, I cannot for the life of me figure out where they went. Our GST cut is certainly going to be more beneficial to people than a pledge or a promise that was never really implemented.
    We also are doing a lot of work on the criminal justice system. This is one of the issues that really dragged me into this place 10 ago and got me started in politics in a way that was much bigger than just handing out pamphlets and putting up signs. The firearms registry was the thing that drove me into this place.
    We have been working diligently. We were never deterred from the idea that we were going to get rid of the long gun registry. It serves absolutely no purpose in the criminal justice system, other than to deflect what is now over $2 billion away from real policing, real court work and real criminal justice systems to a system against duck hunters and farmers. It serves absolutely no purpose at all. We are working diligently to unwrap that horrendous package the Liberals put together. Some 132 orders in council have isolated and insulated the nub of the long gun registry. We are going to tear that sucker down. It is going to take time, but we are going to get there.
    With regard to child care, there has been a lot of discussion here as to whether that $1,200 per year is adequate. It is light years ahead of whatever was offered under the Liberals or any of the NDP provincial governments. They gave us zero: no dollars and no child care spaces. This $1,200 speaks to $100 a month per child under six so that parents can make the decision about whether they go to the institutionalized system or have Aunt Fannie do it. They would have the money to make those choices.
    We think that is the right thing to do. It just makes common sense. People elected us because of this. They voted for change. They saw that change in our election platform. People said that the Liberals talked about this for 13 years. The NDP, just before the election, went on and on about how the Liberals had not done a thing about it and they were absolutely right in that instance. The Liberals did not do a thing.
     What the Liberals were proposing was based on the Quebec model. They had agreements for one year out of five. We are going to honour that one year. The five year commitments that the Liberals talked about could and would cost some $10 billion a year. Let us do the economics. They pledged $5 billion for five years. That would not create anywhere near what is required. Our program creates 125,000 spaces over five years, plus that $100 a month per child that is to go to the lowest income earner of the family. It is money that people are going to be able to do things with and they voted for us because of it.
    The whole health care debate has been driven by everybody but people needing health care. We have a whole basis for health care in this country that is based on politics and administration, not on actual health care. People cannot get any work done without seeing three or four specialists; they have to run back and forth and do all these things. In rural Canada, that is compounded by the long distances we have to travel. In my riding, people can get in to see a doctor in our small town if they are lucky--if there is one left. Then they get referred into the larger community, and from there, into Saskatoon or Regina or even Edmonton, outside the province, because that is where people have to go to have any kind of MRI or CAT scan or any of those types of things done. We are seeing people absorbing that travel cost. It is horrendous for them to have to travel those distances and of course absorb the overnight stay costs and all those types of things and still not be able to get the results they want.
    We are looking at working with the people out there and with the parties in this House to better the quality of life for all Canadians coast to coast to coast on a myriad of issues. The five that we highlight in the throne speech merely tell Canadians that we are following through on the pledges and promises we made during the election.
    I started by talking about agriculture. That is the biggest issue in my riding. I am here to tell the House that we are going to continue that fight. We are going to work with producers to come up with situations that are common sense, producer friendly and producer driven.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, congratulations in your new role. You are doing an excellent job.
    I would also like to say that I am glad to see the member back. However, I was absolutely amazed that he would even mention the aboriginal people in his riding. I am glad that he has some and recognizes them, but I would love to know if any of them voted for him after the dismal record of this government in the last Parliament in its continual voting against land claims and, as the terrible situation of aboriginal people in Canada was gradually being lifted, that party also voted against the increased funds we put in for the programs for aboriginal people.
     I want to know if, inside his caucus--certainly, behind closed doors is fine--he is going to fight for the maintenance of the Kelowna agreement and the residential schools agreement as they stand. They are two historic agreements. They were not written overnight. It took a lot of negotiating. It was very difficult and it took a long time to finally come to an agreement on something that was so historic and so heartfelt. There were tears at the residential school signing. It meant so much to heal that long rift in Canada. This cannot be undone. This cannot be tinkered with, not without great jeopardy.
    I want to know if he is going to fight for these great initiatives that have so much support, I am sure, from the aboriginal people in his riding and the people across the country. They certainly will not solve all the problems, but they are historic. I want to know if this member will fight for keeping those agreements intact and keeping the $5.1 billion that we have already paid for the Kelowna agreement and the $2.2 billion for the residential schools agreement.
    Mr. Speaker, certainly there is a lot of work to be done on both the residential schools file and the Kelowna agreement. The devil is always in the details. That is always what we saw with the Liberals. They would have ad hoc meetings behind closed doors and do a lot of the political spin and so on. They have always had the leadership in their pockets. What I hear ordinary aboriginals say in my riding is, “What does this really come down to? What does this really mean to us?” They do not know and I cannot tell them that yet either because there are still a couple of court order hoops and hurdles to be followed through with on the residential file.
    As for the Kelowna agreement, as I said before, the devil is in the details. We really do not know what all that encompasses and how long term that is going to be. I have always had a concern and the concern of most aboriginals in my riding is when is it going to be over and when will we finally see some resolution.
    The Liberal government in its political wisdom went ahead with a consultation period on the residential schools. Eighty per cent of the money went to lawyers and consultants and 20% went to the so-called victims of the residential schools fiasco. We do not need to take any lessons from the former Liberal government on what to do about the aboriginal file. We will look at it case by case, detail by detail and move forward, not sit still or move backward like the Liberals did.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment.
    I want to ask my colleague a question with regard to child care and poverty. It was noted that many provinces have not even signed onto the agreement. There does not seem to be genuine acknowledgement. The province of Manitoba, with an NDP government, has put substantial money toward child care spaces and also wants to progress with that file. That agreement was signed. The Manitoba government was very active in making sure that was a priority. It is something the provincial government wants to deliver in its province very significantly to affect the issue of child poverty.
     A member in the House crossed the floor. He moved from the Liberals to the Conservatives. What happened is important to note. Under the Liberals, that individual, now the Minister of International Trade, had promised for years, and on two occasions specifically in front of committee, that he would bring forward a national auto policy, something the Liberal government never delivered.
    Now that the Conservatives have the Minister for International Trade, and like his ideas, his background and thoughts, will they now finally deliver on a national auto policy, or will they abandon that and all the manufacturing jobs across this country?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I have time to get through all of the member's questions.
    On child care, certainly there is a great debate across this country as to who can best deliver and how it should be delivered. With respect to the Liberal program I think there was agreement by three provinces that actually signed on. The year is almost up. That was last year's--
    An hon. member: They all signed on.
    Mr. Gerry Ritz: I mean in the actual funding and how it was going to be done. They had agreements. It was supposed to be a five year program. They were talking about $1 billion a year over five years. Anybody will say that was a drop in the bucket. That would not reverberate any more than the $750 million to farmers did.
    It is going to take a lot more than that to put in the institutionalized day care that the NDP is crying for. The NDP knows it cannot be done for the dollars that are out there. It would drive us back into deficits if we were to fund that to the tune of $10 billion a year. I do not think it would be financially expedient for any government to follow through with the pie in the sky ideals that the Liberals set. We know that just cannot be done.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my first speech in this Parliament by acknowledging and thanking the wonderful people of Edmonton--Sherwood Park for sending me back here again. It is indeed an honour. I feel particularly privileged, but also I feel the burden of responsibility to represent them well.
    I had the opportunity this past weekend to stand at the Sherwood Park Trade Fair. I do not know whether other members do things like that, but it was my 15th year that I have had a booth at the fair.
    On Friday I was there but I was interrupted because I had to go to a funeral of a friend. I was standing at the booth for about six hours, and on Saturday it was close to 11 hours. My knees complained at the end of the day, but my brain and my heart got a lot because there were hundreds of people who came by. I hardly had a chance to sit down. They were telling me how happy they were that the Conservatives have formed the government. The main theme that I heard from them was that finally we have an end to the mismanagement of the money by the Liberals. That was a constant theme.
    A number of people asked about the gun registry and how soon we would be able to scrap it. I told them that we have a minority government and on the parts of it that will require legislative approval we expect that the other parties will finally come to their senses and support some real measures in addressing the question of crime and not waste it, as our leader and the Prime Minister said, targeting duck hunters. They are not the ones who perform criminal acts. It is the criminals who do, and it is those very criminals of course who have access to guns and will not register them.
    The main issue was the corruption that was unearthed by the independent Auditor General of Canada and also the independent Judge Gomery and the fact that under the previous administration money was literally stolen from Canadian taxpayers.
    Consequently, those are the issues they had. At the end of two gruelling days of standing there, I felt elated because I listened to my constituents and they almost unanimously expressed great support and gratitude that we were now on this side of the House.
    With it of course comes added responsibility, and I believe that I and my colleagues bear that honourably. We want to do what is best for our constituents, for our individual provinces and for our country as a whole.
     I am very pleased that the throne speech addressed the major issues. Instead of making 85 promises and hoping to deliver on one or two of them, we focused on just five primary issues. They have been iterated a number of times here, so I will not repeat them individually. I will simply say they are the issues that resonate with Canadians. These are the things they want done. We are committed to do our very best to get those things through Parliament and have them enacted.
    During the short time I have today, I would like to speak primarily about families and child care. It is no secret that over the years I have been a strong advocate for strong families. The members who were here before this Parliament and have heard me speak noticed when I was on the opposition side that whenever issues of the family came up, I made strong statements. I have always done that.
    As a matter of fact, I am quite convinced that the viability, the strengths, the very character of our country is based not on all of the other issues which sometimes we look at, but rather on strong, vibrant families. In my view, both from my own experience as a youngster growing up, which now is a long time ago, and also in the raising of our own children, I realize more than ever the importance of a strong family bond.

  (1205)  

    I remember reading not very long ago that if a father wants to have the best influence on his children, the best thing he can do is to love their mother. I thought how significant that is, because it shows the basic unit of the family, the marriage of a man and a woman, and the children, and their care for the children.
    I am very pleased that in our throne speech and in our election platform we were careful to put in measures that strengthen the family. I do not know whether I should give too many personal anecdotes; I think I will probably limit it to two or three.
    We decided that when our children were born my wife would be a full time mom. I had a fairly above average paying job as a professional math instructor at NAIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. With the high taxes and all of the expenses, we had difficulty making ends meet and so I took on the additional job of teaching night classes. Besides the additional income that I earned, I also enjoyed those adult night students who were there to further their careers.
    I brought home a little extra income. This was many years ago. I remember saying that Tuesday nights I worked for Trudeau and Thursday nights I worked for my family because even back then, about half of our income went to taxes. It is very important that families be given a tax regime that will allow them to look after the needs of their families.
    To a great extent I was an absentee father. I was also involved in volunteer work and worked two nights a week there and came home usually after the children were in bed. I am really grateful to my wife who did the major role of raising our children. I am so glad that she was there for them. She was there in the morning to send them off to school. She was there with them before they ever went to school. She was there for them when they came home from school. I think it helped to add to the character building in our children's lives.
    Then I think of our own children. Our daughter, Beverley, has two children, Dallas and Kayla. She, too, was a full time mom. Her husband is a farmer. Often the parenting went on in the truck while they were sitting waiting for the combine to bring another load of grain or wherever. There was a lot of good bonding time. It was an excellent opportunity for the parents to influence and to build character into the children.
    Our son, Brent, and his wife, Susie, have three children, our wonderful grandchildren, Noah, Hannah and Micah. They are so beautiful. We just love all of five of them. That is why I mention their names here. I am so happy that Susie also is able to be a full time mom. But that is not without sacrifice. We must recognize that every family that makes that decision makes it at a considerable financial sacrifice. They forgo one income in order to do that but it is so valuable. I wish that more Canadians could do that.
    I recognize there are some families where it simply is not possible. The economic demands are great. In far too many cases, there are single parents who have been left with the responsibility of raising their children and child care is needed. But I am absolutely adamant that it is the parents' decision as to what care they use.
    After our children grew up, my wife took on the job of being a full time nanny for neighbours of ours. She was not a registered government sponsored day care but I can say that those children in the Schaufele residence got the absolute best personal care they could in the absence of their mother. She looked after them and we have grown to love that family as if it were our own. In fact, we have often said that we have become their surrogate grandparents, even though they have grandparents of their own.
    The plan we have for child care is absolutely the best. I support it. I urge all members of the House to support the measures we are taking to strengthen families and to strengthen child care.

  (1210)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new position.

[English]

    The previous two speakers for the Conservative Party began with the warm and fuzzy topic of gun control and then got into secondary subjects such as family and how important it is. However since they chose to talk about the long gun registry, I personally take some offence as a Liberal, as a duck hunter and as an outdoorsman in always being castigated as the people who are not in favour of cracking down on crime and on the misuse of guns.
    Under the heading, Tackling Crime, on page 6 of the brief document entitled the Speech from the Throne, which is what we are talking about here, there is no specific mention of getting rid of the long gun registry. Yes, it was not administered the way it was supposed to have been and there was waste. However measures were put into place to bring it under control and to bring it into the harmony that the police chiefs across this country were calling for. The harm guns can do is only mentioned two or three times.
    If gun control was the priority of the two members who spoke in reply to the Speech from the Throne why was it not specifically in the Speech from the Throne?

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked why this or that is not in the throne speech. Our leader and our government chose to have a throne speech that was very direct and focused on the primary issues. When it comes to gun control and addressing the issues of crime, the gun registry is but one part of it. I think we ought to remember that.
    With respect to the criminal use of guns, it is well recognized that criminals do not register their guns. I cannot imagine two guys on their way to rob a bank and Joe saying to Bill, “Hey, Bill, our guns aren't registered”. And Bill says, “Well, why don't we stop by at the police station and register them and then we'll carry on”. Let us give our head a shake. It will not happen.
    When we address the issues of crime we need to ensure we have enough police on the streets and in service so they can find, arrest and charge the criminals. Then we need to enable our courts with proper laws, including minimum sentences, so that those who are accused and found guilty receive a penalty that is befitting the crime. That is the issue and that is why it was stated that way.
    Mr. Speaker, my question is about agriculture. We know that agriculture was not selected as one of the five priorities. This has created quite a bit of heat in terms of the farming community demonstrating on Parliament Hill.
    In my area around Windsor, Ontario, Essex is one of the strongest agricultural producing communities in Canada. Agriculture is a significant issue. Farmers are looking at not planting this season because of the conditions and the terms that are there. On Friday in the debate in this chamber a number of Conservative members called agriculture the sixth priority.
    Is the Prime Minister correct in terms of having five priorities or is it his colleagues who are correct in saying there are now six priorities? When will Canadians see the deliverance of that sixth priority in the form of actual programs that farmers can implement this year?
    Mr. Speaker, agriculture is a tremendously important issue. After almost 13 years of Liberal dithering on this file, farmers have struggled and suffered. There is no doubt that there has to be a major shift in the kinds of policies that we have affecting the agriculture and the agrifood community.
    The member asked why agriculture was not in the throne speech. I would like to point out the fact that there is a whole paragraph on agriculture in the throne speech, which is about 150 times as much as there was in the last throne speech delivered by the Liberals.
    I think that under the Conservative government there will be a major shift and improvement for the agriculture community. I look forward to the fact that our new and energetic agriculture minister will actually deliver. We have already done that, as is known. The Liberals thrived on announcements. They would announce and announce and re-announce but never deliver. In our first few weeks of office our agriculture minister actually--
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kings--Hants.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the hon. member for St. Paul's.
    I would like to begin today by thanking my constituents from Kings--Hants who have given me the honour and privilege of being their representative now through four elections.

[Translation]

    I was elected for the first time in 1997. It has always been a great pleasure for me to represent the electors of Kings—Hants.

[English]

    Coming from Kings--Hants, which is, by the way, one of the most beautiful ridings anywhere in this beautiful country, gives me a special concern particularly for environmental issues. I live in a little community called Cheverie on the shores of the Minas basin, where we have the highest tides in the world. Climate change is not an esoteric concern when one lives on the shores of the Bay of Fundy or the Minas basin in Nova Scotia.
    The people of Kings--Hants and the people of Canada are justifiably concerned about the environment. What are Canadians to make of what has been the most environmentally unambitious throne speech in the history of Canada?
     At a time when Canadians are united in their concern for action on the environment, this is a government that is silent, that lacks ambition and that lacks vision to build a cleaner, greener Canada. At a time when Canada's Minister of the Environment takes over as president of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the government has no plan to meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At a time when accountability and transparency are supposedly the hallmarks of the government's modus operandi, more than 100 federally funded climate change programs have been secretly eliminated.

  (1220)  

[Translation]

    Protecting the environment is a top priority for Canadians—usually one of their top three priorities. Our government responded to the priorities of Canadians by taking action to ensure a better future. Since 1999, the Liberal government had invested over $10 billion to address the environmental priorities of Canadians.

[English]

    What was among the first actions of the new government? It was to cut and destroy many of those actions, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from climate change programs. Included in this radical amputation was the community-based one tonne challenge, a program which supported communities in their efforts to identify and address local climate challenges.
    Less than a month ago, the environment minister said in a CBC interview that the one tonne challenge was a “really good example of the kinds of things that we want to focus on”. However one week ago, on the day that the Sierra Club is now calling “Black Friday”, she ended funding for groups across Canada that were engaged in the one tonne challenge. Three weeks ago she said that the one tonne challenge was the kind of idea that the government believed in and a week ago she cancelled the funding. There is no consistency with the government's efforts on the environment.

[Translation]

    Our government adopted strategic measure to meet these objectives in the short and long terms. By balancing the need to protect the environment and the need to increase our productivity, we created a vision focussed on sustainable development. We consulted every level of government and our strategy for the future is reflected in the programs we developed.

[English]

    The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and provincial governments have been important partners with us. We worked with municipalities across Canada building green infrastructure through the $675 million green municipal fund, a program created by the Liberal government in 2000. To date more than 450 projects have been approved with an investment of $275 million leveraged to an additional $1.8 billion.
    Climate change is a major challenge. It requires all governments to work cooperatively with the private sector. The fact is that the Liberal government understood that the impact of global climate change would have significant impacts, not only on issues of the environment but in terms of issues of health care, in terms of issues of quality of life and on an ongoing basis the very principles that we value in Canada in terms of being in a country with one of the most pristine and beautiful environments anywhere in the world. Citizens who have made a difference in Canada and engaged with their governments could be making more of a difference. The one tonne challenge was important because we were engaging Canadians from coast to coast to coast with the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    Our government demonstrated leadership by greening government operations. As minister of public works, I reformed our federal fleet management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Today 40% of the federal vehicle fleet operates on alternative fuels. This is not only important in terms of a reduction in greenhouse gases from a direct perspective, it is a strategic step in helping to stimulate demand for alternative fuel vehicles, alternative fuel infrastructure and associated green technologies, such as biofuels.
    In taking a leadership role, our government was not only reducing its own emissions but actually helping to increase the options available to Canadians for making sustainable development part of their ongoing life, part of their purchasing pattern and providing a solid platform for emissions reductions across the transportation sector, in fact building a market for these kinds of products.
    Our record on greening government extends beyond fleet management to how we manage our buildings, how we use our purchasing power to actually create demand to actually go to market on an ongoing basis. In fact, in our building management we reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 24% and saved, at the same time, Canadians $16 million. This was not only good economic policy in terms of what we were saving the taxpayer, it was good environmental policy. Environmental policy has to be integrated into economic policy on an ongoing basis.

  (1225)  

[Translation]

    As far as energy is concerned, our government expanded the potential market for renewable energy.
    We proposed a minimum standard by which 5% of the energy used by the federal government must come from renewable sources.

[English]

    We took action in the budget of 2005, a budget that the Sierra Club called the greenest budget in the history of Canada, to ensure that our government operations would be greened and we would play a leadership role with the private sector and other levels of government within Canada on that.

[Translation]

    I believe that environmental policies must be used to create economic opportunities.
    Canada could be the world leader in environmental technologies such as green energy. To do so, the government must invest in research and development. Generous tax credits must be implemented for investment in this area. With that approach we could attract the capital and the talent. This would give young people the opportunity to earn a living while being innovative.
    In this vision, Canada would play a more important role in making the world greener.

[English]

    Our leadership, internationally, is important. Canada has a history of respecting her international treaties. We have signed on to and support the principles of Kyoto. The fact is that it represents not only an environmental responsibility or an important leadership role in terms of multilateralism, it also represents an economic opportunity for us not only to respect our international treaties, to respect the Kyoto accord, to maintain within Canada the kinds of policies that we had implemented as a government previously, which could help us meet those targets, but to create economic opportunities within Canada in what will be the fastest growing area of the 21st century, and that is the area of environmental technologies, particularly on renewable and clean energy.
    We have an opportunity to move ahead as a country, to embrace environmental technologies, to embrace the economic opportunities inherent in environmental technologies and renewable energy and to create economic opportunity out of environmental policy.
    I would propose that the government needs to see environmental policy for what it is, not only in terms of its imperative and of building a cleaner, greener Canada, but also in terms of its opportunity of building the kind of economic opportunities where young Canadians can not only have an opportunity to make a living in Canada but can make a difference in the world.
    I would propose: that the Minister of the Environment issue a clear and unequivocal statement regarding its priorities on sustainable development; that funding be restored to all climate change programs that have been cut by the government, including the one tonne challenge; that the government pledge to conduct an open and transparent decision making process when sustainable development programs are under review as opposed to cutting them by stealth; that the Minister of the Environment move forward on climate change by implementing strategies and programs announced in the April 2005 project green; that the government commit to maintaining and expanding sustainable development research capacity which enables Canadians, communities, public and private sector decision makers to make informed decisions; and that the government continues funding research and development and in fact expands it for clean technologies that can help create economic opportunity and build a cleaner, greener Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for speaking on the environment. It is a topic we will return to in the weeks to come, for it represents a national concern and an important issue for our future.
    My colleague referred to black Friday. In response to that, I would like to point out the 13 black years under the Liberal government, in terms of environmental performance. I have before me an excerpt from a magazine published by Équiterre that states, “the increase in greenhouse gases in Canada now appears completely out of control, surpassing the 1990 levels by 24%”.
    I understand my colleague's wish to speak on the environment. During the 13 years under the Liberal government, greenhouse gas emissions increased exponentially. What was the result? Environmental specialists suggested that precious time had been lost due to proposals for relatively costly and rather inefficient measures that produced no tangible, concrete results on a global scale.
    The Speech from the Throne proposes measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Of course, the throne speech does not contain 50 pages of such environmental measures, but it proposes concrete action, nonetheless. The time for discussion about the environment has passed and we must now take action.
    My colleague spoke at length about the environment. Why does he have so much to say now when we have seen nothing concrete in this regard for the past 13 years?

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question. In fact, it is very important to consider the challenges. In the traditional economy, it was difficult to combine economic growth with reduced greenhouse gas emissions. It is possible to do so, but it is very difficult, with the growth of the oil industry in the traditional economy.

[English]

    There is a disproportionate level of emissions produced by the natural resource sector, particularly in the oil and gas sector.

[Translation]

    Most of our economic growth was in these sectors. Consequently, it is a challenge to reduce emissions and, at the same time, have economic growth in traditional sectors such as natural resources.
    However, it is possible to have economic growth and reduce emissions for the future. This takes fundamental changes in our economy and our environmental policy. We put in place significant changes to reduce emissions.
    Project Green will be a good approach, and I am confident that it will reduce emissions. However, the Conservative government has decided to cut funding for these programs.
    In my opinion, this is dangerous for the environment and does not bode well for our future economy.

[English]

    It is possible to have economic growth and at the same time reduce emissions if we have a plan. We put in place a plan that is being dismantled by the Conservative government. It does not believe in the idea that in reducing emissions, environmental policy can coexist with economic growth. The Conservatives are old thinking. What we did reflects new thinking, which is why the Sierra Club referred to our plan and our 2005 budget as the greenest budget in the history of Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as we know, the Liberal Party set limits on emissions of greenhouse gases, namely CO2. Permits will be issued, or at least penalities will be imposed for emissions. The Liberal Party set the cost of these emissions at $15 per tonne. While we have guaranteed the industry that it will pay no more than $15 per tonne of emissions, on the world market the cost is estimated at 47 euros or approximately $70.
    So if we want to promote greater awareness and lower emission levels, why did the Liberal Party cap the cost at $15 rather than letting the market determine the cost?

  (1235)  

    I very much appreciate the question from my colleague on this matter.

[English]

    His question about the cost on a per tonne basis is an interesting one. The Conservative's plan to provide a transit pass benefit or a tax credit for public transit utilization is the most inefficient economic approach to this. In fact their plan reflects absolutely no positive approach in terms of cost benefit analysis if we look at the actual cost per tonne.
    I would urge the member, if he wants to get into those arguments of how we use tax dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a per tonne basis, to look at his own party's plan which has been roundly recognized--
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Paul's.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as the social development critic for my party, I am very pleased to stand today to respond to the throne speech.

[English]

    First, I want to thank the truly engaged citizens of St. Paul's for sending me back to this place. It is truly humbling. The citizens of St. Paul's represent the best of Canadian democracy, a democracy between elections that insists upon two-way accountability between citizens an their elected representatives.

[Translation]

    As a family doctor, I understand the importance of the social determinants of health. Proper management of such determinants as poverty, violence, housing, equity, training and particularly early childhood development, is the real solution for the sustainability of the health system and a key factor in our economy.
    As a doctor, I am also obsessed with the importance of accountability of results for all government projects and programs.

[English]

    Today we watched the first blow to the accountability of the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and to the whole government when the minister acknowledged to the Toronto Star that the planned tax incentives for early learning and child care would not work. It did not work in Ontario or New Brunswick and it did not help in any of the communities, in terms of not for profit, to create one more space of early learning and child care.
    It is quite clear the government has no plan, not one more child care space. This is going to be the real accountability for the government. It will be the real results that we will be watching. We need policies that are based on evidence, not ideology. The tax system cannot fix everything. As my friend the hon. member for Kings—Hants and I are often known to say H.L Mencken's quote, “For every complex human problem there is a neat and simple answer that is wrong...”. Unfortunately, crime will not be fixed by more cops and the tax system will not fix all the problems. We cannot go backward on early learning and child care just because of an ideology.
    In 1981 when my older son Jack was born, I had been in practice as a family physician for over five years. I had delivered hundreds of babies, but as a mother I was a total rookie. I was insecure and highly conscious of how much I did not know. My husband and I eagerly sought the advice of more experienced parents, early childhood educators, public health professionals and both sets of grandparents, who, happily, lived close by.
    If there is one thing I am thankful for, and there is certainly more than one, it is that I was surrounded by people and resources who could help us with this monumental responsibility, that is parenthood. I was lucky and I knew it. It is the toughest job any of us have ever done.
    Many of my patients were very much alone as they tried to raise their children. Parents were far away, there was no partner, they were living on social assistance, hoping for a better future for their children, a better neighbourhood, a backyard instead of a balcony. They thought about going back to school or about getting jobs, but there were barriers, the biggest one being the lack of affordable quality child care.
    Without exaggeration, in my 20 years as a family doctor not one week went by that I did not hear mothers or fathers expressing anxiety about who was looking after their children or their ability to find quality child care that they could afford. Now we have wait lists that demonstrate my anecdotal evidence for the thousands of families whose children are on those wait lists now. That is why I believe the Speech from the Throne should have confirmed the early learning child care agreement signed by each of the provinces and demand that the Conservative government stand by those agreements as well. It really does take a village to raise a child.
    Critics of the former Liberal government's program have attempted to turn the debate into a question of whether parents or paid professionals are better at raising children. This is a gross oversimplification of the issue, misses the mark and ill-serves Canadians. We acknowledge that staying at home is a choice that must be honoured and respected.
    What the government does not understand or chooses to ignore is that all families, urban or rural, single or double income, one parent or two, day job or shift work, can benefit from the ready availability of a broad range of quality care and early learning services, such as prenatal classes, parent-child drop-ins, licensed child care, early learning activities and after school programs. These services can make the lives of parents easier and ensure that they can make the choices that are right for their families, while ensuring the best possible start in life for their children.
    However, one cannot choose what does not exist. Too many of these services are unavailable to meet the needs of those who want them and where they are available, the cost is often prohibitive. Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, and the government is offering--

  (1240)  

    Since the hon. member is experienced, she will know that we do not refer to other hon. members by their name but by their title or riding.
    Mr. Speaker, the government is offering $100 a month while the cost of full time child care can reach $90 a day. A few more dollars in people's pockets does nothing to create new spaces. This is not a choice; it is only an illusion of choice.
    Meanwhile, the move to cancel the agreement that the provinces negotiated in good faith and signed with the Government of Canada is already taking choices away from Canadians. There will be no choice for the single mother who thinks she is going back to school this fall if the spaces that were going to be created are not.
    The waiting lists are just getting longer and longer. There will be no choice for the child care worker in Alberta to attend a course in order to earn an early child care educator certificate if the jobs are not there after she earns it. There will be no choice for the Saskatchewan nurse who decides to stay home until her child is in school if the proposed program for all four year olds in that province is cancelled. That nurse will not be in the workforce this fall.
    That is the real, personal, and immediate impact on Canadians, economic and social, as a result of the cancellation of the early learning and child care agreement. It is long term social and economic costs. We know that if we do not invest in our children, we pay dearly down the road in health care costs, special education and corrections. When parents who need help do not get it, we all lose. We lose money.
     For every public dollar we invest in preschool children, we save $2 later. We save $7 later for the children from our most vulnerable families in corrections, special education, and mental health. We lose when at risk children grow up to become dangerous to themselves and to society.
    I am not alone. The majority of Canadians want this program. All 10 provincial governments have made their choice as demonstrated through agreements they have signed. Parents and advocacy groups have been clear.
    In January nearly 63% of Canadians voted for a party that supports a national system of early learning and child care. These parents know that such a program will give all of our children the opportunity to thrive while giving them as individuals the peace of mind that they need to be full participants in the workforce if they so choose.

[Translation]

    Almost all Canadians are aware of the importance of child care services in early childhood development. Ninety-four per cent believe that the first six years of life are the most important for brain development. Eighty-nine per cent believe that poor child care services hinder development regardless of family history. Seventy-nine per cent feel that well-trained child care workers provide better service.
    Child care services have overcome significant obstacles in the public eye. Two-thirds of the population now feel that these services foster child development. Only 17% perceive them as “child-minding” services.
    Child care services are also viewed as an essential service.

[English]

    We are now paying horribly in Toronto for the ideologically driven cuts that Mike Harris made to homework clubs and family counselling. That has resulted in a problem with guns and gangs, Those kids felt, after joining a gang, that it was the first time they ever belonged. The first time they had ever been told they were good at something was when they were found to be good at shoplifting.
     I have talked to those kids. They know that had there been a homework club, had there been family counselling, and had there been the kinds of interventions in the community, their lives would have been very different. I believe the government must stick to the facts and must do what is evidence based. Trying to pit parents against child care workers as though it is either/or, is absolutely unacceptable.
    I encourage the minister, the Prime Minister and the entire caucus to go to an early learning centre and talk to the moms and dads there who want more resources like that for their families. Every day they are grateful and every day they want the government to do the right thing and honour the agreements. This government will be accountable for the results, socially and economically, the number of child care spaces, and the readiness to learn measurements as the children hit school.

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Cancelling agreements with the provinces has major social and economic consequences.

[English]

    I want the government to be put on notice that we are watching for the results.
     Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for her vigorous defence of children in Canada who are in day care. I think we can all agree and come to a consensus that children are among the most vulnerable of individuals in our society.
    However, the member may not be aware of the fact that only five days ago, on April 5, Statistics Canada issued a report highlighting a number of surprising statistics. First, only 16.2% of Canadian children between the ages of six months to five years are enrolled in day care centres and second, Canadian parents, given the choice, prefer other forms of child care by a margin of 4.5 to 1.
    The Liberal one size fits all solution does not work for most Canadians. There is an even more astounding study that was completed by the University of Guelph in 2000 that showed that nationally 54% of day care centres report having vacancies with 30% reporting vacancies in excess of 10%. Given these statistics, I have a question for the member. Why is her party intent on preserving vacant day care spaces when the government has a plan which allows for parental choice, pays $1,200 per year, per child under six, and creates 125,000 day care spaces that will actually be full?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the member has used some liberty in interpreting the Statistics Canada results in regard to the idea that people would prefer a choice which is not a choice for them.
    The fact that some of the people have been unable to find affordable child care spaces has meant they have had to choose a different family kind of approach for their children. According to that same report, 54% of children are in some form of child care. The problem is that the parents are not comfortable with the quality of the choices they have made because of the lack of choices in terms of licensed spaces where they know the quality of the people looking after those children.
    I am appalled that in Toronto we actually end up with companies selling spyware in teddy bears, so that people actually know what is happening to their child during the day. If we had more licensed spaces that were actually dealt with by quality people, those people would be able to relax and not worry what happens to those children. This is of severe economic and social consequence to both the parents and children.
    It is extraordinarily ridiculous for the member to suggest that there is an oversupply of child care spaces in the country. There are wait lists. That is not what Statistics Canada said. The member has misinterpreted the results. The results are there because the choices were not there for those parents or they could not afford--
    We will now revert to questions and comments. The hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to let the member know that we certainly share her concern where child care is concerned.
    The NDP caucus has a passion for child care that was shown very clearly in the last Parliament when we worked so hard to get a national child care program that was framed in legislation, committed to a not for profit delivery system that would be available to every family across the country.
    I would like to ask the member though, why did it take her party 13 years to get to what Tom Axworthy referred to as a death bed repentance on child care? Why should we believe that the passion that we hear from the member now is any more real than the words that we heard from the Liberal Party and caucus over the last 13 years in the House?
    Mr. Speaker, as the House will recall, the original commitment of the Liberal government had presumed that there would be a partnership with the provinces. While Mike Harris was in Ontario, there was no possible partnership with Ontario and therefore it made the whole program grind to a halt.
    As soon as Prime Minister Martin became the prime minister, our platform became clear that we would do this in a unilateral way by putting $5 billion on the table. We were then able to immediately find partnerships with all 10 provinces. All signed on to this historic agreement but with the flexibility they wanted, such as finding a small centre for francophone families in an anglophone town or finding small centres for children with disabilities. This agreement enabled Alberta to use the money for education of early childhood workers and for Saskatchewan to fund a universal program for four year olds. That is what the effect of the 10 deals has been.
     I believe that is the reason the government must honour these agreements because it shows the best of this country in terms of the flexibility that we have shown to each of the provinces.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Lambert.
     Because this is the first time I have spoken in the House since the election on January 23 of this year, you will permit me to thank the people of the riding of Joliette. For the third time, the voters have again expressed their confidence in me. I will always be grateful to them for this. I can assure them that I will do everything in my power to represent the interests of the region of Lanaudière and Joliette, and the interests of Quebec.
     I will now address my remarks to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to come back to the meaning of the Bloc Québécois vote on that speech. I think that we have to be careful not to interpret it incorrectly. I have on occasion heard some rather loony interpretations of the Bloc Québécois’ support from representatives of the new government.
     The Speech from the Throne seems acceptable to us, essentially because of three factors. First—this is probably the clearest thing in the speech—the present Prime Minister, unlike the Prime Minister in the former Liberal government, has recognized that he is the leader of a minority government. He had no choice but to do so, first because of the reality of the House, in which his government does not have a majority of the seats, but also because of the wishes of the people. In Quebec, for example, 70% of the people who voted did not vote for the Conservative Party. The great majority of them voted for the Bloc Québécois. The fact that the Prime Minister has recognized this is, in our opinion, an indication of openness to the opposition, and also to the democratic choice that Canadians and Quebeckers made on January 23.
     Second, because the Prime Minister has recognized that he is the leader of a minority government and that he needs the opposition in order to govern, he has obviously included some of the opposition’s concerns in the Speech from the Throne. I will identify some that the Bloc Québécois has been expressing in this House for many years.
     The first one that comes to mind is the fiscal imbalance. The former government and the former Prime Minister created quite a dramatic moment for us all when, a few hours after the Speech from the Throne, they had to give in to the opposition parties. Those parties were calling for logical amendments to the throne speech, including an amendment to recognize the fiscal imbalance. We reached a compromise because the Bloc Québécois is, first and foremost, a constructive and responsible opposition party. The drama concluded with finely tuned wording stating that the government recognized the existence of financial pressures some call the “fiscal imbalance”.
     At no time during the last term or during the election campaign were the Liberals able to acknowledge this. At only one point during the debate did the member for LaSalle—Émard let slip the words “fiscal imbalance”, but he pulled himself together immediately.
    Simply acknowledging the fiscal imbalance in the Speech from the Throne is proof that this government is more willing to address the issue. However, I must note that the wording used—fiscal arrangements—allows the government to buy time. This does not fool us at all. As my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot stated this week, it is clear that the fiscal imbalance cannot be corrected without transferring tax points or GST revenues to the provinces. The Speech from the Throne could have mentioned this measure, which would not require extensive study given that the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance already made very similar recommendations.
    Recognition of the special cultural responsibilities of the Quebec government is also a good sign. Giving Quebec a seat at UNESCO, like it has as a member of the Francophonie, shows a willingness to recognize the distinct nature of Quebec culture. Of course, this does not go far enough.The government should also recognize the national character of Quebec culture and the existence of many nations within the Canadian political sphere, including Quebec and Acadia, first nations, and of course, Canadians. The government is taking steps toward this, but they are just baby steps.
    In the Speech from the Throne, the government backed away from its campaign promises. I will not go on at length about this, as I am sure my colleague from Saint-Lambert can do a better and more detailed job of it than I. All the same, this is a beginning.

  (1255)  

     There is room for cooperation. It may be possible to find avenues for ensuring that Quebec has access to the international stage not only in culture and education, but also in all of its fields of jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois will be working on this in the weeks and months ahead and, I hope, over the coming year.
     The third element among the Bloc’s concerns has to do with the international treaties that will be submitted when they are important. We realize that many treaties are signed by Canada and its partners. However, some are more important than others. In the past, in fact, the former government and former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien felt it important to submit the Kyoto protocol to the vote of this chamber.
     We are told that this procedure will be applied more often. The Bloc Québécois warmly welcomes this new openness. You will remember that our colleague, the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, had tabled a bill in this chamber precisely to this effect and which was defeated by a lack of support from the Liberals. Now that they are in opposition, we can only hope that their behaviour will be governed by common sense again.
     First, the Prime Minister acknowledged that he is leading a minority government. Next, he incorporated the opposition’s concerns in the throne speech, in particular certain concerns of the Bloc Québécois. Finally, the third element is the inclusion of the subamendment tabled in this House by the Bloc. That subamendment asked the House to recognize there was no reason for the lack of a strategy to help older workers who lose their jobs. And yet, this is a reality.
     Again this week, in my riding, 50 persons unfortunately were laid off because of the competition from China. Many of those people are over age 55 and will have difficulty finding other employment.
     The Bloc Québécois believes it is important to help out older workers who lose their jobs. Among other things, this strategy should provide for income support measures or avoid a decrease in anticipated early learning and child cares spaces in Canada
     These three elements make the Speech from the Throne acceptable to the Bloc Québécois. But the speech is still extremely vague as to how the government intends to give tangible form to this new openness. As we have indicated, on issue after issue, the Bloc Québécois will be exerting the necessary pressure to come up with results that meet the concerns and needs of Quebec and Quebeckers.
    Some issues, however, get no mention whatsoever in the throne speech. I have to point that out. As concerns what is going on in my riding of Joliette, for example, there has been no mention of reopening the RCMP detachments. As we know, the detachment in Saint-Charles-Borromée, in Lanaudière, was closed by the RCMP as were nine other detachments.
    In this region, as my colleague from Repentigny will testify, there is a huge problem of squatting where farmland is used for the illegal production of marijuana. Since the RCMP closed its detachment in Joliette, we have noticed a significant increase in the production and trafficking of marijuana and other illegal drugs, especially around schools. Parents are concerned, educators are concerned and elected representatives are concerned. They are all calling for the reopening of the detachment at Saint-Charles-Borromée. Obviously, what goes for the Lanaudière region goes for the other regions of Quebec as well.
    The first nations were also given lip service. The federal government must assume its responsibilities in the day to day matters of the first nations. In my region, Lanaudière, there is a major safety issue. Over 40 people have died in recent years on an extremely dangerous stretch of road. Together the federal government and the provincial government have a responsibility to make the road between Saint-Michel-des-Saints and Manouane safer.
    In conclusion, I will mention two other issues. One is a firm commitment to make no concessions at the WTO on supply management and the other is an immediate emergency plan to help the softwood lumber sector, where businesses are going into bankruptcy one after the other. In recent years, there have been huge job losses in this sector. In the last Parliament, the Conservatives supported the Bloc in this regard.
    We have a lot of work ahead of us. We will work constructively to come up with solutions in response to the concerns of Canadians and Quebeckers.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a valid point. So why does he not agree with the journalist, André Pratte, who admitted that a fiscal imbalance may have existed in the past, but stated that the Liberal government had dealt with it through new health care and day care accords, and new accords with municipal governments?
    If a fiscal imbalance existed in the past, it is now clear to everyone, including André Pratte, that it no longer exists because our government, the Liberal government, dealt with it.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I would like to remind him that, fortunately, his party is no longer in power. We may now have the opportunity to find solutions to the fiscal imbalance.
    I must call attention to this stubborn refusal to acknowledge the existence of a fiscal imbalance. Only the Liberal Party, and perhaps André Pratte, refuse to recognize its existence throughout Canada. I could quote some statistics for him.
    I would remind the hon. member that the health care accord constituted investments that reduced the fiscal imbalance by only $800 million. However, the former finance minister went ahead with a unilateral reform of equalization, which meant a tremendous financial loss for Quebec. The shortfall in Quebec still totals at least $2.5 billion annually.
    We could do so much more with that money. We want to sort out the fiscal imbalance so that we can strengthen Quebec's position.
    Once Quebeckers are ready to assume their sovereignty, the transition will be easier.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, perhaps he more than anyone, being from the Bloc Québécois, would agree with me that it was the culture of secrecy among the Liberals that allowed corruption to flourish, especially in their operations of the sponsorship scandal in Quebec. Even though the Speech from the Throne spoke a great deal about accountability and transparency, in actual fact the Conservative government has pulled the access to information reform components out of its accountability act.
    How would the member react, as a member of Parliament from Quebec, to this idea that access to information laws will not be part of the accountability act? They will be relegated to a committee where they will probably die a natural death and the culture of secrecy will continue.

  (1305)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question, as it will allow me to complete my allotted 10 minutes. We are sometimes unable to say everything we would like in the short time we have.
    I would remind my colleague that the leader of the Bloc Québécois and the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie stated that our party wants the Access to Information Act to be strengthened and the government to demonstrate real accountability.
    The Prime Minister's attitude toward the media during his first few weeks in office was disturbing, to say the least. He tried to avoid the press. In my opinion, this is out of step with the exercise in transparency that he has invited us to take part in and that the Bloc Québécois will play a constructive role in. The hon. member is quite right: we have reason to be concerned.
    As I mentioned, we have a minority government. I hope that the opposition parties will take common stands. I know that my colleague from Repentigny will work to make sure that we truly achieve the accountability and transparency that are needed to strengthen democracy.
    Mr. Speaker, in speaking today I would first of all like to reiterate my thanks to the constituents of my riding of Saint-Lambert who re-elected me. I will do my very best on their behalf.
    Many of my constituents are concerned about the future of culture in Quebec and in Canada under a Conservative government. Some of them even believe that the term “culture” is not part of the Conservative vocabulary owing to the absence of any significant vision for culture in the throne speech. I would like to believe that this is a misunderstanding.
    At this time I must point out the importance of culture. What is culture? It is that which enables humankind to create a framework for itself and for its development. It helps us to think for ourselves. It enables us to understand the world and to contribute to changing it for the better.
    In Quebec, many of us believe that culture is key to having a sense of belonging to a community. It represents the essential fibre of a people, influencing its thoughts, words, actions and daily life and enabling the development of individual members of the community. For Quebec culture, this reality is intertwined with the exceptional need to affirm itself and to encourage the expression of its originality in North America.
    Pursuing this affirmation, modernity and international influence is, for the only francophone state in the Americas, both a major cultural challenge and a top collective choice. Cultural Quebec is ready for sovereignty. As an exceptionally creative society, in a context of globalization and the burst of new technologies, it is important from now on for us to consider the challenges of communications and telecommunications, of creating and experiencing the arts, of accessing public institutions, cultural industries and heritage.
    One of the main duties of the Bloc Québécois is to defend this reality to the Conservative government, which threatens to destroy any chance of a normal existence. In light of the Speech from the Throne, we anticipate the upcoming Conservative budget to be completely out of touch.
    Rabelais said, “Science without a conscience will lead to the destruction of the soul”. Is the end of culture in Quebec and Canada nigh? With the Conservative government, that is the question.
    Is the Conservative government against culture? Is the Conservative government against the arts? Is the Conservative government against artists and artisans? Is the Conservative government against renewal?
    Silence on the issue of culture—I repeat—leads us to anticipate a slow death of culture by destruction of the arts, artists, the next generation in Quebec, of Quebec's identity, by the liquidation of our cultural sovereignty. This destruction will strike a major blow to Quebec's humanist and progressive culture, which has resisted standardization and cultural uniformity and which, during the Quiet Revolution, became formal policy, in the public service in particular. Public service and progressive culture are inextricably linked.

  (1310)  

     Would the silence concerning culture in the Speech from the Throne be hiding rather the temptation of a massive intrusion by the private sector, with its alienating financial power, into arts and culture?
     Are we going to witness the dismantling of the museums? Are we going to witness the end of the transmission of knowledge in schools? Are we headed towards U.S.-style homogenization? Will we eventually undergo the unilateral, impoverishing ideological marking of content in the publishing media? Are we going to witness the accelerated deterioration of our public television and radio services, followed fatally by privatizations and moronic ratings races to sell available brain time to consumerism?
     Life teaches us. To consume is to be consumed, but to cultivate is to create, to sow in the hope of reaping, to protect in order to receive.
     A society makes its mark in history and in the hearts of the living only with its culture.
     So, I beg you, support arts and culture; do not destroy them.
     If by chance they do so, we would be curious to know one last thing first. Could it be the orchestration of the WTO directives devoid of any reference to the common good by being weaned on neo-liberalism that will inspire the destruction of our arts and culture? The question is relevant, since this type of destruction is already taking place symphonically in countries with neo-liberal government ideologies.
     Quebec is not asleep. An infraspectacular resistance is building. The political maturity of the people of Quebec is reinforced in proportion to the predictable assaults of challenges to what makes the common good. It will withstand this civilized-seeming barbarity.
     We will stand firm for culture!
     In closing, here is a quotation from André Malraux, who said it in 1968.
    Culture is what provides a foundation for man—I would add woman—when he no longer has the foundation of God.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for what he had to say about culture.
     Our new road map does talk about culture. I would like to remind my colleague that we have a culture of accountability here in Ottawa. In my view, the highest priority of this Speech from the Throne was to re-establish confidence in our members of Parliament and elected officials and the confidence of people in their government.
     This culture of accountability can be seen particularly in the fact that the throne speech was not a laundry list of priorities that head off in all directions but never reach any of their goals. I would like to reassure my colleague. Culture is important for Canadian and Quebec society. We know how much the great federal institutions have done to support and sustain French, English and Quebec culture.
     Let us take, for example, the role played by the CBC. Again last night, there were some broadcasts that had very high ratings, which reached large audiences and helped specifically to advance culture.
     In his address, my colleague covered a lot of points. But I did not hear any specific recommendations or suggestions regarding measures that could be included in a budget to support culture and continue doing so through federal institutions.
     If he has some specific suggestions, therefore, I would encourage him to let us know. I would also like to know if, when a budget is introduced by our government in the course of our work in the House and there are measures to support culture, will my colleague be in favour of them?

  (1315)  

     Mr. Speaker, the very first basic recommendation is to have a cultural policy vision. We were surprised in the throne speech at the lack of any sign of a cultural policy at all. That is the starting point.
     Recently I questioned the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Status of Women in this House, to highlight the idea advocated by the Bloc Québécois for almost four years now of increasing the Canada Council’s budget from $151 million to $300 million. This is a request that keeps coming up and that is made in Quebec and the rest of Canada for the sole purpose of enabling more than half of our artists and craftspeople to have at least a decent standard of living.
     The government may pride itself on being an international leader in cultural diversity and agree to sign and ratify conventions on diversity, but it must to look to its own house to see whether enough has been done to support culture through supporting creators, writers and craftspeople. It appears that this work has not been done.
     Successive governments as well as this one—I would not want to prejudge; I will wait to see the facts—have not responded favourably to the expectations of the cultural community. If there was any hint in the Speech from the Throne of responding positively to the request from Canada and Quebec about the Canada Council budget, I think that someone would have mentioned it. This absence is of great concern to us, and that is why I spoke out today.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his remarks.
    Is he, like me, afraid that the present government will act on remarks it has made in the past about privatizing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation? Does he think that it could abolish certain agencies, such as Telefilm Canada? Does he think that it could refuse to increase funding to the Canada Council, which needs a bigger increase and stable funding over several years in order to carry out projects throughout Canada?
    Canadian Heritage was asked to increase funding to museums. We know the state of museums across the country. This investment is vital if we are to protect our heritage and our culture from sea to sea.
    Does the hon. member fear as I do that, as with day care, tax credits are being proposed as a sort of panacea? The Fox network in Canada can produce all the films they want in Canada without having to draw on individual or corporate investment through the government.
    Does my hon. colleague share my concerns?

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I had put a lot of hope in the former Canadian Heritage minister, who had vision.
    Unfortunately, after 13 years of dickering, few strong signals were sent to reassure the cultural community. We are talking today about the Conservative government. Clearly the lack of any significant reference in the throne speech is worrisome.
    We have heard nothing about changes in the rules regarding foreign ownership. Whoever has control over creation and distribution will have control over content, hence—and I am looking down the road as I say this and not making any accusations—the possibility of consciously or unconsciously selling out cultural sovereignty. It is fundamental.
    We have concerns with regard to all the points the member mentioned, which, unfortunately, his government did not defend, as we had hoped it would.
     On this matter, the present government worries me more.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Wetaskiwin.
    It gives me great pleasure to rise on this occasion as a member of the new Conservative government in Ottawa. The people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke have my sincere gratitude for giving me the honour and the privilege of being their representative in the 39th Parliament of Canada. Now that the Conservative Party is the government of our nation, I pledge that I will not forget the people who made this possible. They can be assured that I will continue to fight for the issues they tell me are important. I am their servant.
    There are many, many individuals to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude for the confidence they placed in me, for their hard work and the selfless hours they put in, to build on the winning streak that has marked the re-emergence of democracy in Canada. The Ottawa Valley became the eastern beachhead of democracy in 2000 and marked the beginning of change as together we entered the 21st century. I extend my heartfelt thanks to our entire campaign team and to the many hundreds of other volunteers who demonstrated what a truly grassroots campaign Ottawa Valley style is really all about.
    If anything demonstrates the difference between the new Conservative government and the old regime, it is in the treatment of families and children. During the recent federal election I campaigned on the promise to support parents' child care choices through direct assistance and by creating more day care spaces in the workplace. Anticipating a July 1 start, our plan would see every family with a child under the age of six receive an annual child benefit of $1,200 per child to choose the day care arrangements that best suit their needs. Our plan gives choice to parents to make their own decisions about their family in a way that best suits their needs.
    What is not clear is whether or not the Liberal Party of Ontario plans to claw back this child care allowance the way it claws back the national child benefit from the neediest children in our province, those whose parents are on social assistance.
    The Liberal Party oversaw a deal in 1997 which resulted in the clawback of the national child benefit supplement from the pockets of some of our neediest children. As a new program in 1997 to assist Canadian families with children, it replaced what many Canadians called the baby bonus. It was introduced as the Canada child tax benefit, the CCTB. It included a basic benefit and a supplement, the national child benefit supplement, the NCBS.
    The NCBS program was supposed to reduce poverty among low income families with children. Negotiations between the federal and provincial governments around the implementation of the NCBS resulted in most provinces, Ontario included, deducting the NCBS amount from the benefits received by families who were on social assistance. This is what is commonly known as the NCBS clawback. Many provinces justify the clawback on the basis of fiscal imbalance.
    In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, social programs such as housing, welfare and child care have been downloaded to the second tier municipality, which in our case is the county, by the province without the funds and little say in the rules to run these programs. I note that in the county of Renfrew some of the 80¢ dollars that are provided by the province for child care were returned unused. Out of every dollar the province of Ontario received from the federal government, it was taking a 20% cut with the expectation that the 20% would be squeezed out of parents already overtaxed through their local rate paying from a property tax base that is already stretched to the maximum.

  (1325)  

    The net effect of the child care program being pushed by the opposition would see increases in property taxes facing taxpayers, particularly those on fixed incomes and forcing them out of their homes. It would make the dream of home ownership unaffordable to millions of Canadians who would not be able to afford a mortgage and crippling high property taxes.
    Both parents are forced to pay household debts and work outside the home. This in turn drives up the need for even more day care which in turn raises taxes. This is a vicious cycle that conveniently forgets the people whom this discussion is all about, the children.
    It has been recognized, even by the defeated Liberals, that the problem of allocating billions and billions of dollars for a day care program with no control on how that money is eventually spent is the greatest weakness in the top down approach to government programs. So much for providing benefits directly to the children. The drive to provide Soviet style institutionalized day care is being pushed from the top down, not the other way around that has been suggested by the opponents of giving parents choice in child care.
    I mention this specific example to illustrate that for the previous 13 years, Canadians had been saddled with an interventionist government that without a doubt has been anti-family. The worldwide trend away from Soviet style institutionalized day care has been very pronounced in those countries that were formerly part of the old Soviet empire and are now democracies. Our plan to provide benefits directly to families is in tune with the experience of other democratic countries.
    On a positive note, our new Prime Minister has recognized the fiscal imbalance as a national concern. The current Ontario government campaigned on the promise to stop the clawback, a promise it promptly forgot once it became elected. While I am encouraged by the support of the provincial NDP in Ontario to defend the $1,200 per child benefit for children under six, I look forward to the fourth party in the House making a similar declaration of support. Even child poverty activists in their own party acknowledge that the best way to help families in modest circumstances is to provide direct assistance, not another government program filtered through many fingers with little time left at the end of the day for the supposed intended recipients.
    Canadians are paying attention to this debate about choice in child care. Carolee Slote from Pembroke called to ask me to tell our new Prime Minister and all members of Parliament to “stay the course” on our campaign pledge on child care. Carolee asked me to give this message, “I am a stay at home mom. My children are just as important as the children of parents who work outside the home”. That message is one I have been hearing from my constituents on a continual and regular basis.
    This weekend past, community leader Del O'Brien stated that it could not be emphasized enough how the Conservative child care plan will help children in rural areas, whereas the other did not. He is pleased overall to see how rural Canada is finally receiving the attention it deserves under the new Conservative government.
    Our country has many resources, but none are more precious than our children. They represent the hopes and the dreams of families, communities and the entire nation. They are our future. I am pleased to be a member of a government that cares about supporting our most vulnerable members of society.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member is taking good care of my mother who lives in her riding.
    I have three questions for the member.
    I am delighted she brought up the national child benefit, which we brought in, and which is said to be the greatest social program since medicare. We gave parents the choice to stay at home and would have given a larger amount to parents than the new Conservative plan.
    I am glad she mentioned the clawback. Her party is the last party in the House to come onside and agree that the clawback on poor people is bad. What is her party going to do to stop that clawback? What is her party going to do to stop the clawback on its own program because it is taxable and people will not get the $1,200?
    Finally, she is giving the choice to a mother to support her family by going to work and maybe making $80 or $100 a day or choosing to stay home and get $2 a day from her party's program. If she were a mother at home, how would she spend that $2 a day?
    Mr. Speaker, the clawback is not a federal clawback. It is a provincial clawback. I know that the Conservatives in Ontario are working very hard to stop that clawback.
    The choice the member opposite mentioned between x number of dollars a day versus $2 a day is not the choice we are discussing. We are discussing a choice as to whether or not a parent can stay at home and provide the enriching and nourishing atmosphere that a mother or father or other relative can provide in caring for the child in the home versus having to take the child outside the home.
    When parents stay home to take care of their children, they are not doing so with the expectation of receiving money for it. They are making the sacrifice. The Government of Canada recognizes that their children are important and therefore provides a benefit in the amount of $1,200 per year per child age six and under.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are talking about $1,200 less tax.
    I was listening to the member's remarks in English because I am trying to practise my English, and I want to be sure I misunderstood. I would therefore ask my colleague to explain again what she meant when she said that the Conservative government wants to give families a real choice because it does not want Canada to have a system like the one in the former Soviet Union, where child care was state-run.
    Does my colleague think that the child care system in Quebec can be likened to the system in the former USSR? Is that her government's position?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the choice in child care is a choice between having a parent or a family member stay at home versus a state run institution.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment to the Chair.
    It is interesting the criticism level, which I think is fair, to the McGuinty government on clawbacks that affect children. The fact of the matter is it was actually the Harris regime that clawed back the national child care benefit that hurt so many Ontario children. Now the member actually sits in the same caucus as some of those members. I would like her to reconcile that position. How can she sit with a government that instituted this practice which hurt so many Ontario children?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member that the current provincial government campaigned on many promises of not raising taxes, and also on the promise to stop the clawback. That is just one of a litany of promises that have been broken.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. I look forward to working closely with you.
    As this is my first speech in the House of Commons, I would like to begin by thanking the people of the great constituency of Wetaskiwin for the resounding endorsement they gave me on January 23. I would like to invite you, Mr. Speaker, and all of my colleagues to come to Wetaskiwin to experience our renowned western hospitality.
    On the July 1 weekend, the town of Ponoka will host the 70th annual Ponoka stampede, the largest six day professional rodeo in Canada.
    History abounds at the old Wetaskiwin Courthouse, which was built in 1907, and the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, which dates back to 1799. In Lacombe, visitors are welcome at the flat iron building, one of the few buildings in Canada with this unique and distinctive architecture that has been recently transformed into a visitor interpretive centre.
    At this time, I would also like to thank those who were so instrumental in getting me here today. I would like to thank my wife, Barbara, and our children, Eryk, Kasandra and Krystian, who have supported me so much and provide me with the strength I need to work so very far from home; my parents, Gordon and Beverly, and my brother and sister for the strong family ties they have provided for me; and my campaign team and all those who have supported me and the Conservative Party in this most recent election and all past elections.
     I would also like to thank Dale Johnston, the former member for Wetaskiwin, for his nearly 13 years of tireless and dedicated service to the constituents of Wetaskiwin. I hope he and his wife, Dianne, enjoy a well earned retirement.
    I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister for bringing forward a focused agenda that aligns the government's priorities with the priorities of Canadians.
    The five priorities that we campaigned on will be implemented by the government. Canadians voted for change because they were tired of empty promises. They wanted accountability. They wanted a government that lived up to its billing and politicians who worked for them, not for themselves. The government will do that and more.
    Despite the fact that agriculture accounts for roughly one in eight jobs and 8.3% of the total gross domestic product, it was virtually neglected during 13 years of Liberal governments.
    Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector is a key contributor to our quality of life. In the constituency of Wetaskiwin, agriculture is at the heart of our local economy. Our farming roots run long and deep.
    Last week, my father, who has farmed in the Lacombe area for over 40 years, celebrated a birthday. While he is younger than many of today's farmers, it is not an occupation that can be pursued forever.
    Even though we have the best, most fertile soil in Alberta, young people are leaving the family farm in droves. Like me, they have found employment and careers away from the uncertainties and struggles that are part and parcel of the business of farming.
     Drought, BSE, grasshoppers, subsidies and trade irritants have contributed to the loss of many family farms and have left the farm industry struggling to cope. Farmers and cattle producers are a resilient lot, but when they are in dire straits they, and all the communities that rely on their success, should be able to count on their government to help them fight for their livelihoods.
    No one works harder than our agricultural producers, something the new government knows well. Rural Canada is important to the government and we will work hard to help them retain their livelihoods.
    The Conservative government believes that agriculture is a key strategic economic sector, so the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food acted immediately after his first cabinet meeting and announced payment of the $755 million, under the grains and oil seeds payment program, would be sent out immediately. Already, more than 73,000 cheques totalling nearly $400 million have been distributed to producers. Then, he travelled across the country and listened to hundreds of producers tell him about the difficult financial situation they are facing and their desire to continue farming.
    The government also recognizes that the CAIS program does not meet the needs of producers. Changes will be made to the program to make it simpler and more responsive to the needs of producers. We are urging the provinces to get on board and help us develop a program that really works for farmers.

  (1340)  

    During the last election campaign the Conservative Party promised an extra $2.5 billion investment in agriculture over five years. We will demonstrate our commitment to farmers by creating an economic climate that rewards hard work and innovation.
    It is hard work and innovation that characterizes the people of the Wetaskiwin constituency. They have invested in technology that allows them to diversify and branch out into new value added products. An example of this is the proposed environmental gasification plant in Rimbey, which would use agricultural byproducts as the key feedstock component. This innovative plant would allow the community to continue to diversify, create jobs, and still maintain its strong agricultural base and complement our thriving oil and gas sector.
    We have always been innovators in central Alberta and we have not looked back since the discovery of oil in 1947. The petrochemical industry has added a new and exciting dimension to life in Alberta. Thanks to black gold, new industries are locating throughout the constituency of Wetaskiwin in towns like Lacombe, Rocky Mountain House, Blackfalds, Ponoka and Calmar. Thanks to the spirit of the local people, this remains a great place to live, raise a family and conduct business.
    Ours is a family oriented society, home to independent parents who want their government to treat them fairly. They want to feel safe and secure in their communities. They want our government to stand up for safe streets by tackling gun, gang and drug violence and keeping criminals off the streets. They want choice in child care. The one size fits all approach pursued by previous governments does not work in areas like Wetaskiwin. By providing parents with $1,200 a year for each child under six, it allows them to find the best solution for their family, be it public or private day care, a relative or a neighbour.
    Families in the constituency of Wetaskiwin work hard to pay their taxes and they want to see the hard-earned dollars they send to Ottawa used prudently. They want to keep more of their income to pay for the necessities of life. The government believes that Canadians pay too much tax and so the Prime Minister developed a tax plan that over time will reduce the tax burden on all Canadian families.
    The reduction in GST will bring a tangible savings to young families, so they can buy their first house or perhaps move to a larger one. It will make big ticket items like a new car or appliance a little more affordable and it will leave more money in parents' pockets to save for their children's education and for everyday goods and services they acquire from their local businesses.
    Lower taxes will encourage job growth and give parents secure, steady employment. We value our way of life and look forward to real change and results. We in Wetaskiwin finally have a government that will deliver real change as outlined in the throne speech.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his election. In his speech he talked about his community. I am from a rural area as well, as is the member, and it is true that people do not necessarily have the same choices in family assistance. For example, when looking for child care in a rural area or an urban area choices are important. The member mentioned that and I support him.
    Would he not agree that perhaps there should be a compromise in the position put forward by the Conservative government in the Speech from the Throne ? In its campaign and in the program that had been put forward by the former Liberal government in cooperation with all provinces there would be a real evolution and development of child care across the country. There would be reasonable salaries for people working in those facilities, with the evolution and development of good facilities in early childhood intervention, as well as some direct assistance to the families.
    I would prefer that direct assistance to families be in the form of increased child tax credits, so that they would provide more assistance to lower income Canadians, those who need it the most, rather than just a per capita transfer to families of $1,200 per child under the age of six. I would also prefer to assist children over the age of six because early childhood intervention or education costs continue.
    Does he see a compromise through negotiation or discussion between the vision put forward in the Speech from the Throne by the Conservatives and the vision shared by 70% of the population in this country?

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, one of the first doors I knocked upon during my campaign was in a small community called Alhambra, which might have maybe 40 houses, and a young lady carrying a baby was visiting her parents. As she came down the stairs she almost jumped for joy at the concept that she would have the ability to get $1,200 per year for her child because she had made the choice to be a stay at home mother, much like my wife and my family have done. I think that the $1,200 choice is a compromise for the benefit of all Canadian families and is more aptly directed that way.
    When it comes to past the age of six, the Conservative platform did campaign on things like $500 tax credits for young people involved in sports and so on. We do have a comprehensive plan that will not just address the early childhood years of parenting, but will address many things that are common to all families as they raise their children. That is what I would leave with the hon. member.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I have tried to get an answer. I have listened to the speeches by my colleague and the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who preceded him. With an offer of $3 a day, she said she wanted to offer families a real choice, at $3 a day, between staying home and going to work, at $3 a day, I repeat for the third time.
    Does the member who just spoke agree with his predecessor, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, who suggested that the child care system in Quebec is comparable to the system in the former Soviet Union? Does he agree with his colleague's comment? Is that his government's position?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am the member for Wetaskiwin. I will let the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke answer the question when she has the opportunity to do so.
    However, I would point out to my colleague from the Bloc Québécois that right now there are about 370,000 children in the province of Quebec who would qualify for the $1,200 a year payment which would result in payments to Quebec in the order of $444 million per year. That is substantially more than the $1.2 billion over five years promised by the previous Liberal government. I would just throw that back at the member and suggest that perhaps this plan is better for the people of Quebec and it will put more money in the hands of the parents to make the choices they need to make for their children and families.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Yukon.
    I am pleased to have the opportunity today to rise in the House and highlight some of the concerns that I have with the government's agenda outlined in the Speech from the Throne, called “Turning a New Leaf”.
     I appreciate the opportunity to continue in this House as a representative for the constituents of Kitchener Centre. I would like to thank the citizens of Kitchener for the confidence they have placed in me and for their continued support.
    One would think that after 13 years in opposition the new government would have made constructive use of that time and would be in a position to articulate a clear, comprehensive vision for the future of Canada. Unfortunately, in the government's blueprint for the future, we see no evidence of the appreciation for the complex and wide-ranging issues that face Canada.
    The government has the opportunity, indeed the privilege, to lead a nation that is economically sound and in the best fiscal position of any country in the G-7. This is a time to share economic success with Canadians and provide meaningful investments in important Canadian priorities. The government's agenda falls short in many respects and it is causing concern right across Canada.
    The Speech from the Throne echoes five priorities. These are the priorities that formed the cornerstone of the Conservative election campaign. They seem to be a single focus for the government.
    The GST cut is a priority, despite constant criticism from economists right across the country that it presents benefits for higher income families while offering relatively little tax relief to low income Canadians.
    The plan also includes a commitment to crack down on crime, with stiffer penalties, contrary to the research that shows crime prevention programs, not stiffer penalties, are what bring crime rates down.
    A wait time guarantee alone is not a cure-all for health care. We must work in cooperation and consultation with health care partners to restore confidence in our universal public health care system.
    The principles of the Prime Minister's accountability act were also outlined in the throne speech. We all learned very important lessons on accountability from the report of the Gomery commission. It is not enough simply to talk about transparency, talk about openness and talk about accountability if our actions demonstrate the opposite. The public takes politics seriously and they have high expectations of their elected officials. They deserve nothing less.
    The last item on the government's agenda includes cancelling the child care funding agreements with the provinces and providing a small baby bonus for families with young children. As the parent of any busy young child will tell us, this is not child care. This is not providing opportunity.
    The holes in this agenda are massive and they are shocking. As a representative of Kitchener Centre, a diverse and multi-faceted urban centre, I am very disappointed that cities and communities are ignored in the government as it takes its vision forward. We depend upon strong communities and strong cities for our prosperity. The link between healthy cities, productivity and competitiveness is well established.
    I am proud of Kitchener. It is a great city to live in and a terrific place to do business. It is an inclusive community. Kitchener has become an attractive destination for new Canadians. Over the years, Kitchener has grown and it has diversified to meet the challenging and evolving needs of a modern society. The federal government needs to be a partner in supporting and inspiring the kind of growth that we have seen in Kitchener and, as a matter of fact, the kind of growth that we see right across Canada. Cities need federal support and partnership to ensure continued growth.
    Good policy is good policy, regardless of the partisan stripes under which it is conceived. I encourage the government to engage municipalities in collaborative activities such as those initiated by the Liberal government in its new deal for cities. Our cities need updated infrastructure, effective public transit and affordable housing. Homelessness continues to be a tremendous challenge in communities such as mine, right across Canada.

  (1350)  

    The supporting communities partnership initiative program, as part of the national homelessness initiative, has supported local initiatives that address local housing needs in urban centres. We cannot simply abandon the progress that has been made on this important federal issue. I believe everyone in this House believes that all Canadians should have access to affordable housing. Let us ensure that our future policies reflect that belief.
    When I look at my own city, I am amazed at the various opportunities there are to enjoy Canada's art and culture. Our nation is home to a wealth of talent, enabling us to share and celebrate our culture through music, arts and theatre. In our museums, we discover and share the heritage that has provided the foundation for our continued growth. The Canadian identity is rich in its diversity and continues to evolve with our changing cultural landscape. Continued funding for the arts, the support of the CBC and museums is absolutely essential in preserving and sharing our culture and our identity.
    I believe our nation is only as good as the air we breathe. Canadians know that our health and the health of our children, the quality of our communities, and our continued economic prosperity depend on a healthy environment.
     The problem of climate change is creating new health and environmental risks. We cannot look into the future without a solid commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the challenge of climate change. For the health of this generation and for those who come after us, the government must define an environmental strategy.
    There is no doubt that Canadians chose change on January 23. We respect that. I look forward to working in opposition to hold the government to account for the commitments it has made.
     However, I have to say that my greater concern lies in what is missing from the Speech from the Throne. We live in a complex, demanding, diverse nation. We must govern for today, tomorrow and beyond. We must be both responsible and ambitious, focused and flexible, to ensure that Canada continues to prosper through the leadership in this 39th Parliament.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

  (1355)  

[English]

Hockeyville

    Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today and talk about Kingston's bid to become Hockeyville, as part of the nationwide competition being sponsored by the CBC, the NHL and Kraft Canada.
    Our region of southeastern Ontario has sent more than 70 players to the NHL and the Olympics, including my hometown of Gananoque's Alyn McCauley and Kingston favourites Don Cherry, Doug Gilmour, Kirk Muller and gold medallist Jayna Hefford.
    The Hockeyville competition is bringing out the best in people. In a wonderful gesture, our friends to the south in Kingston, Massachusetts, have officially given their endorsement to Kingston's bid. The Kingston selectmen passed an order of council publicly declaring Kingston, Ontario, as the spiritual birthplace of hockey. This letter was sent to Kingston's mayor, Harvey Rosen, and copies were sent to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, U.S. Senator John Kerry, and David Wilkins, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada.
    Congratulations and best wishes go out to the Kingston organizing committee, called the Friends of the Great Frozen Game, and to the local economic development agency, which is providing support for this great Canadian initiative.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, April 6, I was present to listen to the take note debate on agriculture. There was much talk about getting cash into the hands of farmers. Based on comments from producers in my riding, one of the reasons we have cash issues is a CAIS program that fails to deliver timely payments to producers.
    Daily, I get calls from producers frustrated by the complexity and bureaucracy. Many must seek help from accountants to assist with the completion of their forms. This adds one more outlay of cash, which cuts into already thin margins.
    It is obvious that a program that could have supported some of this spring's cash shortfall is not working for everyone. We need a program built with producers, for producers, that delivers results.
    I encourage the minister to implement an immediate review of the current administrative processes to reduce the time it takes to process individual CAIS files.

Philippine Canadian Community

    Mr. Speaker, the Philippine community contributes significantly to the quality of life and vibrancy of my riding of Thornhill and our country. It reaches out when others are in need. Now this community needs our help.
    On February 17, we were all very shocked when an entire mountainside collapsed in Leyte province in the Philippines. This disaster left scores dead and horrible devastation in its wake. As always, the Philippine Canadian community wants to help families back home.
    Erlinda Insigne, president of the Filipino-Canadian Association of Vaughan, Pempe Saavedra Jr., president of the Leyteno Association of Ontario, and Yolanda Ladines, president of the Markham Federation of Filipino Canadians, and others have worked tirelessly to raise funds and bring attention to this terrible tragedy.
    I strongly support their initiatives and ask the public to give generously. Today I am calling on the government to follow the leadership of the Philippine community by increasing its small contribution and matching the funds raised.

  (1400)  

[Translation]

Olympic Games in Turin

    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois salutes all of the athletes who participated in the Olympic Games in Turin, particularly athletes from Quebec.
    These men and women brought the nation of Quebec great joy as they stood on the podium, great disappointment as they came so close, and great pain, both emotional and physical, when bad luck struck, as it did skaters Dubreuil and Lauzon. They deserve our admiration.
    I would like to congratulate the following medal winners: Éric Bédard, Danielle Goyette, Jonathan Guilmette, Charles Hamelin, Jennifer Heil, Clara Hugues, Gina Kingsbury, Charline Labonté, Anouk Leblanc-Boucher, Dominique Maltais, Caroline Ouellette, Amanda Overland, Kalyna Roberge, Kim St-Pierre, Mathieu Turcotte, François-Louis Tremblay, Sarah Vaillancourt and Tania Vicent. Their exceptional achievements are a source of inspiration and motivation for Quebec youth.

[English]

Forestry

    Mr. Speaker, University of B.C. researchers found a link between sawmill workers who experienced more periods of unemployment and the incidence of their children attempting suicide.
    Analyzing data collected in rural B.C. over the period of 1985 to 2001, the report states that “male children of fathers with low duration of employment at a study sawmill while their children were less than age 16 had a greater odds of attempting suicide than children of fathers with high duration of employment”.
    Steelworker president Rick Wangler, Local 1-363, based in Courtenay, wrote in a recent letter, “People's lives have been turned upside down, communities have been devastated, and forest industry workers suffer fatalities, injury and suicide at alarming rates”.
    Softwood lumber tariffs close mills. With mills closed, raw logs are approved for export under federal law. Workers and their families watch as truckload after truckload of our logs leaves to create work in mills across the border.
    Something must be done for resource communities before more studies find more drastic and deadly consequences.

Farm Families

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak in the House for the first time since my election. I would like to thank the constituents of Peace River who have bestowed on me the responsibility and the privilege of representing their vision for the future.
    This week many farmers in my community will begin field work in preparation for spring seeding. I want to take this time to acknowledge and commend their strength and the resilience of each farmer who again this year will commit his or her full resources to plant the fields of our nation. Despite the ongoing uncertainty within the industry, farmers, both young and old, are showing great leadership as they press forward with this year's planting.
    Over the next number of months the House will have the opportunity to stand with our farmers by supporting initiatives, such as choice in child care, a cut in the GST, our replacement for the CAIS program and other supportive measures. I ask that all would stand together with our government as we support our farm families.

Poverty and Homelessness

    Mr. Speaker, the 325 delegates of the Evangelical Fellowship's Roundtable on Poverty and Homelessness published the Ottawa Manifesto last Monday.
     Among other things, it said:
    We encourage Christian groups to support and partner, wherever possible, with government initiatives aimed at the substantial reduction of homelessness, poverty, and their root causes.
    We believe that homelessness will be a priority for policy makers concerned with justice and mercy.
    Throughout western history, when governments and the church have put care of such people at the centre of their agendas, both have flourished.
    Those are all legitimate points.
    The Liberal government funded Supporting Communities Partnerships Initiative, commonly known as SCIPI, and affordable housing. I just wish that I saw something in the Speech from the Throne that gave me faith that this is, one, a priority with the government, and two, that such funding will continue.

  (1405)  

Alberta Centennial Medal

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my constituents in Calgary Northeast for their vote of confidence for allowing me to continue to serve them in the House.
    As part of Alberta's centennial celebrations, I presented an Alberta centennial medal to Bruce Howe for his outstanding community service. Bruce is a father, an upstanding member of the community and someone whose life was shattered when his daughter Kelly was killed by her partner in 1995, a victim of domestic violence.
    Since then, Bruce has raised over $100,000 for five Calgary women's shelters and he has given of himself to save others from the tragedy that he and his wife have been forced to deal with.
    After 11 years, Bruce has announced that he will not be able to continue his annual Kelly Howe Star of Hope Campaign. After so much effort, Bruce deserves a rest and he deserves our thanks and gratitude.
     His dedication and work have helped those affected by domestic violence and his selfless sacrifice will ensure that Kelly's star will continue to shine bright in the hearts and minds of so many people.

[Translation]

Hatley Inn

    Mr. Speaker, on March 27, 2006, fire destroyed a historic gem in the Eastern Townships: the Auberge Hatley. This has left a tremendous void for North Hatley and all of its residents.
    The inn was one of the only five-star establishments in Quebec.
    As a leader in hospitality and gastronomy--not only in the riding of Compton—Stanstead but in all of Quebec--the inn had gained worldwide recognition. Jacques Chirac, the president of France, even chose to vacation there in 2003.
    From a heritage standpoint, the loss is immeasurable. The century-old building converted to an inn in 1947 possessed a character all its own which was a constant reminder of North Hatley's thriving past.
    My heart goes out to the owners and 60 employees of the inn, and the citizens of North Hatley and surrounding area, who must have felt a part of themselves go up in smoke.
    I wish them all the best for a speedy reconstruction of this renowned inn.

[English]

Essex Scottish Regiment

    Mr. Speaker, on August 19, 1942, 32 officers and 521 soldiers of the Essex Scottish Regiment joined 5,000 other Canadian and allied personnel on Operation Jubilee, an assault across the English Channel on German positions in Dieppe, France. After five and a half hours of fierce fighting, only 2 officers and 49 soldiers of the regiment were left to return to England.
    The Windsor-Essex region re-built its regiment which landed at Normandy on D-Day and carried the fight on the long left flank through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
    Today our region has rallied again to commemorate the regiment. The Dieppe Memorial Project has drawn support from business, union, civic and political leaders in our region. As a member of the Regiment's Delta Company, our goal is simple: to storm the beaches this summer with our remaining veterans and place a new monument to the courage of the men of Essex in Dieppe.
    I call on members of the House to play a role in helping our veterans make this historic trip to Dieppe. Let it be our way of saying thanks to our veterans.

The Khalsa

    Mr. Speaker, this week, Sikhs around the world are celebrating the 307th anniversary of the birthday of the Sikh nation and Sikh faith, the Khalsa.
    I would like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and other members of Parliament for attending the 13th Vaisakhi celebration this morning.
    Over a quarter of a million Sikhs live as peaceful and full participants in Canadian society and have made important contributions in every sphere of Canadian life. Today Sikhs are a full and active component of Canadian society.
    As the first Sikh member of the Canadian Parliament, I join with my colleagues in House of Commons in congratulating all the members of the Sikh community on this historic occasion. Vaisakhi promotes harmony and goodwill in Canada, a country where tolerance and compassion abound.

Canadian Forces

    Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for CFB Petawawa,“the home of the warriors”, it gives me great pride to acknowledge the men and women based there and all our military members in the role they are playing in bringing peace and security to the people of Afghanistan.
    Members of Canada's armed forces have our gratitude and encouragement as they represent our nation overseas in difficult situations. Our policy of steady and consistent support, firm but unprovocative resistance to those in this world who challenge our way of life, is a direction from which we must not veer.
    Canadians can take pride in the fact that we are supporting humanitarian projects in Afghanistan. Girls are going to school, Canadian doctors are treating the sick and democracy is taking root. Canada's foreign policy has been determined by circumstances we did not create and some of which we cannot alter.
    If we are strong, united and resolute at home we will keep the respect of the nations with which we cooperate internationally.

  (1410)  

Telecommunications

    Mr. Speaker, it took a leaked document from Geneva to tip off Canadians to this government's secret negotiations to strip away Canada's sovereignty in broadcast and telecom services.
    The GATS negotiations on telecom and audio visual services run counter to present Canadian broadcast laws, would strip our domestic policies and render any commitments we made at UNESCO meaningless.
    The government is sneaking around Geneva trading away Canadian jobs and cultural policy. Let us shine a light and who do we see? We see the hon. trade minister who just happened to be the lead Liberal on the file.
    I think it is pretty clear that he did not have to cross very far on the ideological floor to finish off what the Liberals began, which is the selling off of Canadian sovereignty.

[Translation]

    The GATS negotiations are not consistent with our UNESCO commitments. Why should Quebec be offered a seat at UNESCO when the Conservatives have already taken away our cultural diversity?

[English]

Nunavut Project

    Mr. Speaker, Thomas Berger's final report, “The Nunavut Project”, for the Government of Canada and Nunavut and the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. states that my unique territory drastically needs to increase Inuit employment and provide an effective Inuktitut-English bilingual education system.
    Seventy-six percent of Inuit youth drop out of school compared to a national average of 25%. Without a basic education and competency in Inuktitut or English, Inuit youth are not reaching their potential. That results in high unemployment, while bringing in other workers costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year.
    Instead of spending millions on Arctic defence, surely it should be spent on Inuit employment and bilingual education.
    As Inuit become more involved in their own governance and territorial development, Canada's sovereignty is asserted.
    It is imperative that the Kelowna accord plus Mr. Berger's essential recommendations for Nunavut be implemented without hesitation.

[Translation]

Dominique Maltais

    Mr. Speaker, born in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, in Charlevoix, Dominique Maltais grew up on the shore of the St. Lawrence River with the Massif de Petite-Rivière-Saint-François in her backyard. Dominique began snowboarding on the mountain at age 11. She was born for this sport. At 5 feet 11 inches tall, and with her strong build, she can be physical in a sport where victory is closely contested.
    She recently became the snowboard cross world champion by winning the snowboard cross competition at the last Snowboard World Cup competitions in Furano, Japan, clinching the Crystal Globe.
    It has been a dream season for this athlete from my riding. After winning the bronze at the Olympic Games in Turin, she has sealed her position as one of the greats of her sport with the Crystal Globe.
    To top it all, the Massif has named one of its trails after this fine athlete.
    Dominique, the people of Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, Charlevoix, and all of Quebec are proud of you.

[English]

Red River Floodway

    Mr. Speaker, Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg are once again bracing for the possibility of a major flood.
    All members in the House and, indeed, all Canadians will remember the devastation of the 1997 Red River flood, the human tragedy and the hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. This flood tested the Red River floodway to its maximum capacity and Winnipeg was literally spared from being another New Orleans.
    The previous Liberal government had committed to funding 50% of the first phase of the floodway expansion and had indicated it would be there to support the final phase of the floodway as well. When asked if that commitment was still there the new Conservative regional minister from Manitoba indicated that it would be up to the Prime Minister to decide.
    Although the Minister of Canadian Heritage indicated last week in the House that no Liberal commitments would be honoured, I am sure all Canadians would expect their government to protect its citizens and honour this commitment.

Goods and Services Tax

    Mr. Speaker, on January 23, Canadians turned over a new leaf. No longer did they want a government that made promises and then sat back and did nothing.
    In 1993 the Liberal Party campaigned to scrap the GST. After much time, much talk and even recommendations from the member for Malpeque to lower the GST by at least one point, the Liberal Party did nothing.
    Thirty-two per cent of Canadians do not pay income tax and would not save a dime from the Liberal income tax plan. A Conservative government has promised a tax cut that will benefit every Canadian. Every member of our family will see the benefit of the reduction of the GST from 7% to 6% and eventually to 5%. We will leave more money in Canadians' pockets every day.
    What a novel idea, a government that says what it will do in a campaign and then actually delivers. Reducing the GST from 7% to 6% to 5% is something Canadians can take to the bank.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Photography Museum

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that the Musée populaire de la photographie officially opened in Drummondville in February. Jean Lauzon is the founder of this little museum with big ambitions, as he so aptly puts it.
    The Musée populaire de la photographie traces the history of photography through displays of a large collection of original and reconstructed cameras and historical and contemporary photographs.
    The museum is intended to serve as a public research and teaching institution devoted to the preservation, study, appreciation and recognition of the history of photography.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, last week we challenged the Prime Minister's claim that tax breaks to corporations would create child care spaces. This weekend the minister responsible admitted that such tax credits fail to create child care spaces.
    The provinces want the government to continue with the Liberal child care agreements. Parents want the government to continue with that funding. The municipal council in the minister's own riding wants the Liberal child care funding restored.
    Will the Prime Minister now admit he was wrong or does he plan to push ahead with a plan that his own minister admits will not work?
    Mr. Speaker, we have made a commitment to Canadians to do two things. One is to provide every Canadian family with a child care allowance. We have also made a commitment to bring forward a program that will create child care spaces. The Minister of Human Resources has indicated that we are flexible on how the program is put together in a way that will create spaces.
    Let me be clear that when we bring in our program next year it will have space creation targets, something that was missing in the previous government's program.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the child care network in Quebec is a model for Canada and the entire world. In Quebec there is reason to be proud. They have a program that most Canadians need. Yet, the Prime Minister will not budge. He claims that these tax benefits will be equivalent to a national child care program.
    Will he now promise to respect the agreements that the Liberal government reached with the provinces on child care?
    Mr. Speaker, the leader of the opposition is suggesting that some provinces, especially Quebec, are capable of managing their own child care system. We respect that.
    We intend to provide an allowance to every family for child care. That way families will have a choice and have a program that can create new child care spaces. That is what this government will do.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, ultimately what the Prime Minister's plan will involve is slashing almost $4 billion from child care funding in the country. In Ontario alone, cancelling the child care agreements will cancel 11,000 spaces. What does the government offer in return? Less than $4 taxable a day.
    In Ontario, under the Harris government, we saw federal payments to low income families clawed back. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the provinces will not claw back the money that he will give to low income families in our country so they can have the same child care advantages that other people in the country--
    The right hon. Prime Minister.
    Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition speaks pejoratively about the amount of money we will be spending on child care.
    Let me quote Premier Binns of Prince Edward Island. He notes:
    We've got 8,000 kids on P.E.I....That works out to 9.6 million that would be new money coming to P.E.I. on an annual basis. That's substantially more money that would be coming than what would have come under the Liberal plan.
    That is true for every province in the country.

  (1420)  

[Translation]

Lobbying

    Mr. Speaker, last November the leader of the Conservative Party told us that he ordered his political staff to leave immediately if they wanted to do any lobbying.
    Six months later, 45 of them are lobbyists representing 200 companies.
    Why did the Prime Minister promise one thing and allow another?
    Mr. Speaker, we will be presenting in this House our bill on federal accountability. With this bill, and with the cooperation of the opposition parties, we will be keeping our promises.
    The hon. member who just spoke is from Quebec. Last weekend I noticed that the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence and the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore were opposed to our efforts to include Quebec in UNESCO.
    Is that the position of that hon. member from Quebec?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, despite the Prime Minister's rhetoric, we see people like Goldy Hyder and Tim Powers acting as Conservative government spin doctors every day. Yet they are registered and paid lobbyists who have no official position in the Conservative government.
    Will the Prime Minister tell the House which government officials are briefing them and will he ban this practice in his so-called accountability act?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is right in noting that these particular individuals have no role in the Conservative government. They are invited, as Conservative Party members, from time to time to speak to the media. That is a decision the media will make.
    I renew my question whether that Quebec member supports the efforts of the government, in the interests of national unity, in creating a role for Quebec for UNESCO, yes or no?

[Translation]

Softwood Lumber

    Mr. Speaker, the town of Lebel-sur-Quévillon is seriously affected by the softwood lumber crisis. In November, the Domtar paper mill closed down. More than 700 workers might lose their jobs. It is all well and good for the Prime Minister to resume talks with the U.S. government, but that will not resolve the lot of the softwood lumber industry workers here and now.
    Will the Prime Minister finally grant the loan guarantees to cover what Washington has confiscated from the softwood lumber industry, namely $5 billion, as he promised in the election campaign?
    Mr. Speaker, President Bush indicated his desire to resolve the softwood lumber issue. I have asked our officials to hold consultations to see whether it is possible to resolve this in the near future.
    Nonetheless, if we are not successful with the United States and do not get such an agreement, this government intends to support our softwood lumber industry.
    Mr. Speaker, it is nice to talk about the future with President Bush, but the future of the softwood lumber workers and industry is playing out today. Money is needed today.
    During his campaign, the Prime Minister promised up to $5 billion in loan guarantees. It is in the Conservative program and was said during the debates.
    For President Bush to realize what is going on, does the Prime Minister realize that along with his discussions with President Bush he needs to have concrete measures such as loan guarantees for the softwood lumber industry right now?
    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, I told President Bush that if we do not reach an agreement on softwood lumber, this government would have a loan guarantee program to help our forestry industry.
    Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, another NAFTA decision was made in favour of Canadian and Quebec softwood lumber industries.
    In the wake of the summit in Cancun and of the remarks by the Prime Minister, can he provide a formal guarantee that compliance with NAFTA is a prerequisite to resumption of negotiations with the Americans in the softwood lumber dispute?

  (1425)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is clear. If we go forward and find a resolution to softwood lumber, it will be vitally important for Canada and for North America that NAFTA and decisions of NAFTA are in fact respected.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Conservatives promised loan guarantees to the softwood lumber industry. Bob Jones, a senior official with Industry Canada, announced in Les Affaires on April 1 that all plans, including the loan guarantees were now on hold.
    Will the Prime Minister tell us whether or not he intends to implement his plan for assistance so urgently required by the softwood lumber industry?
    Mr. Speaker, this is my first intervention in the House. I am very happy and want to thank the people of Beauce for the trust they have placed in me. I will be their worthy and proud representative.
    As regards the question by the hon. member of the opposition, I would add what this government said during the election campaign and what it is preparing to do. Unlike the opposition parties, we have an election platform and we will honour it.

Afghanistan

    Mr. Speaker, it takes months of preparation to deploy our troops. Given that our obligations in Afghanistan will end in 10 months, Parliament should soon debate and vote on a new deployment.
    Can the Prime Minister tell us when the government will inform the House of its intentions concerning our troops in Afghanistan after February 2007? What is the timetable?
    Mr. Speaker, the government will soon be considering its options with respect to the participation of our troops in Afghanistan. The Parliament of Canada sent our troops to Afghanistan for a long-term mandate. We support our troops' mission.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the government ran on a promise to Canadians that there would be a vote on deployment of our troops. Our engagement in Afghanistan finishes in February of 2007, and I will ask the Prime Minister a simple question.
    Will he keep his promise to Canadians to ensure that there will be a vote on any further deployments, following February 2007, in Afghanistan?
    Mr. Speaker, our troops are already deployed in Afghanistan, have been deployed for some time and, as we know, will be there in some form in the next few years.
     The Canadian government supports our troops. I know the governing party does and I believe the official opposition, other members of the House and Canadians do. I would urge the NDP to get behind our troops in Afghanistan.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister expressed concern over his then defence critic's recent lobbying activities on behalf of at least 28 military supply firms. He said that he was concerned about conflict of interest on procurement.
    My question is for the Prime Minister. What is the status of the airlift procurement and why is the Prime Minister no longer concerned over the blatant conflict of interest his minister represents on this very file?
    Mr. Speaker, first, the hon. member obviously was not here Friday and did not hear my response about conflict of interest. I have no conflicts.
    As for airlift, it is a high priority for the defence department, and I am waiting for the recommendation from staff.

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is a new standard. Just because the minister says there is no conflict, there ought to be no conflict.
    As the Polaris Institute noted, the defence minister's “rap sheet on working for the arms industry is as long as your arm”. What is worse, the Conservative platform looks like a tailored wish list for most of his former clients.
     Now we see Airbus running a huge advertising campaign since his appointment to that portfolio.
     Why is the Prime Minister not concerned that defence procurement may turn into a concession stand for his minister's former clients?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the House before, the Minister of National Defence, who was a member of the armed forces himself and is very knowledgeable on the defence industry, has complied and will comply with all conflict of interest regulations.
     However, let me be clear. The spending plans of the government for national defence are there to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the best equipment possible.

Access to Information

    Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board has now admitted that key provisions to improve the access to information law are being pulled from the so-called accountability act.
    Could the Prime Minister explain to the House why this key provision and clear election promise is not being honoured?
    Mr. Speaker, I learned with great interest, by the comments of the member opposite, that all of a sudden now, after 13 long years in government, he has a real interest in accountability.
    Let me confirm that the government will be announcing tomorrow that we will be proceeding with all the campaign commitments we made with respect to accountability and we made to clean up the ethical mess left by the previous Liberal government.
    Mr. Speaker, we look forward to seeing that tomorrow. I hope the Prime Minister will be assuring us that he will honour his clear election commitment and legislate or introduce the provisions to improve the access to information law, which was recommended by the Information Commissioner and endorsed by the House committee last fall.
    Mr. Speaker, the one thing that has been absent on the debate about the federal accountability act is the absence of a call of support from the official opposition. I hope tomorrow they will be announcing that they will be standing up and supporting our federal accountability act.
    I read with great interest in the Ottawa Citizen this morning that one person who thinks we have gone too far with our proposals is the commissioner himself. It said, “Don't give me too much power, info czar says. Reid says Tories' proposals far more 'radical' than he requested”.
    We will move forward with real reform to the Access to Information Act.

[Translation]

Older Workers

    Mr. Speaker, among the urgent problems that require solutions, the massive layoffs of workers aged 55 and older take top priority. There is a solution and the government knows what it is.
    The government has supported the Bloc Québécois subamendment to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne concerning the need to establish measures to help older workers. Can the government now restore hope among workers aged 55 and older, including those in Lebel-sur-Quévillon, and announce the implementation of such a program in the next few weeks?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we recognize that this is an issue. If there are any recommendations or reports as to how to proceed with this, I would like to have the opportunity to review them. The issue does have broad implications, so that could take a little while.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we will help the minister. The entire manufacturing sector is concerned about the problem facing workers aged 55 and older who are the victims of mass layoffs. On June 14, 2005, the current government supported the Bloc Québécois motion for measures to assist older workers. Last week, in the debate on the Speech from the Throne, it also supported the Bloc Québécois subamendment concerning this same issue.
    Why does the government not act quickly? This is an urgent problem that must be resolved immediately.

  (1435)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I said, I would be happy to review any recommendations that the hon. member would like to make. We take that in the context of what is happening right across this country.

[Translation]

UNESCO

    Mr. Speaker, in his speech in Quebec City last December 19, the Prime Minister promised that Quebec would have a seat at UNESCO, along the lines of the francophone summit.
     Will the Prime Minister admit that in making that promise he misled the public, as he ought to know that only sovereign countries may vote at UNESCO?
    Mr. Speaker, after his election, our Prime Minister met with Premier Charest, on March 8. They agreed that they would assign their respective ministers to work toward ensuring that Quebec has its voice heard at UNESCO.
    We want to work with Quebec. Hon. members will see the right outcome.
     Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne says that Canada speaks “with one voice”, but that he intends to collaborate with the provinces in a manner respectful of their jurisdictions.
     Are we to understand from this that if there is disagreement between the positions of Canada and Quebec, Canada will abstain?
    Mr. Speaker, in the last election campaign we committed ourselves to consulting with the provinces with a view to creating a formal mechanism to ensure their participation in international negotiations and forums affecting their jurisdictions.
     I have invited the Council of the Federation to submit ideas to us on this subject. I am eagerly awaiting those ideas.

[English]

Minister of Public Works and Government Services

    Mr. Speaker, I was planning to direct this question to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, but unfortunately, the Senate is not sitting this week.
    The Minister of Public Works and Government Services is responsible for a department that spends $13 billion annually. Given the fact that before accepting his appointment to the cabinet the Minister of Public Works raised funds for the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party, how does this not put him in a conflict of interest in discharging his ministerial responsibility?
    Mr. Speaker, first, to all members of the House, the government is proud to have Michael Fortier as part of its government.
    Second, this government and the Prime Minister will meet all the ethical standards that we have set for this country and for the government. I look forward to the opposition's support for our federal accountability act.
    Mr. Speaker, we know for a fact that the Minister of Public Works and Government Services accepted donations on behalf of the Conservative Party during the recent election campaign. The minister now has the ability to single-handedly award contracts of up to $40 million. For the sake of transparency and accountability, can the Prime Minister show to the House that the minister will disclose all the individuals and organizations that he accepted donations from?
    Mr. Speaker, the minister has complied and will comply with the Senate ethics code, with the ministerial ethics code, and with the new conflict of interest code that this government will be introducing in this House.

[Translation]

Forest Industry

     Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago, the Prime Minister told the forest industry, the forest workers and the designated communities that their fate was ultimately in the hands of President Bush. But that is not what he was saying on December 17 and other times, when he promised loan guarantees and assistance for the workers and communities.
     People are suffering and are already affected. Must they also wait for President Bush to get help?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to reply to my hon. colleague’s question.
     Regarding the loan guarantees and all the programs to support the forest industry, we are going to work with our colleagues. In due time, the opposition will know what is happening with these programs.
     Mr. Speaker, that is not an answer. At this very time, British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and recently Quebec have delivered the goods, supported the forest industry.
     But the minister asks us to wait until the cows come home. What kind of government is this?
    Mr. Speaker, the forest industry waited 13 years for results from the opposition and for 13 years there were none.
     We are going to act to support the forest industry and work to ensure that it is as competitive as possible. Insofar as relations with the Americans are concerned, we are a government that has confidence in its relations. Together with our friends, we will negotiate something in due course.

[English]

Government Accountability

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians from coast to coast sent a message on January 23 that they wanted an end to the 12 and one-half long years of Liberal waste and mismanagement.
    The Conservative Party has promised to implement the federal accountability act to end the Liberal culture of entitlement.
    Would the President of the Treasury Board tell the House if the government will meet its campaign commitments on accountability, and when can we expect the government to act?
    Mr. Speaker, I can confirm to the member that the Prime Minister and this government will keep its faith, will keep its commitment and deliver the federal accountability act as its first piece of legislation when we table it tomorrow.
    The bill that will be tabled in this place tomorrow will be the toughest piece of anti-corruption legislation ever tabled in Canadian history and will clean up the ethical mess left to us by the previous government.
    Mr. Speaker, if it is true that freedom of information is the oxygen that democracy breathes, I think we are having another smog day here in Ottawa. Even though the Conservatives ran on open government, they seem to be running away from meaningful access to information reform. Access to information was supposed to be the cornerstone of their accountability act.
    I want to know from the President of the Treasury Board, who was it who got to him? Was it the PCO? Was it his own senior party people? Was it the crowns? Who was it who got him to change the principles on which he was elected about open government?
    Mr. Speaker, I can confirm to the House that this government will proceed with all the commitments that we made in the last election campaign. We will be presenting a bill tomorrow with more than 250 sections, one that meets all 13 of the broader commitments we made with respect to cleaning up the mess left to us by the previous government. We will move forward with substantial and meaningful changes to the Access to Information Act, something that should have happened over the last 13 years.
    I would note again with great interest that some people, including the access to information commissioner, think we are far too radical and going too far.
    Mr. Speaker, I am not calling the President of the Treasury Board a liar, but I sure do not want anybody here to think I believe him when he says that sending that stuff to committee was anything more than a stall and delaying tactic.
    It was the culture of secrecy that allowed corruption to flourish when the Liberals ran things around here. The only way to stem that culture of secrecy is by access to information law reform. All the rest of the accountability act pales in comparison to that meaningful thing.
    I would like to ask the President of the Treasury Board if he would consider a trade. I will trade him meaningful reform to access to information for all of the other tinkering that is--
    The hon. President of the Treasury Board.
    Mr. Speaker, it appears that my colleague from the New Democratic Party has some capacity of clairvoyance to be able to anticipate what is in the bill.
    The bill will bring in major reforms with respect to access to information, including opening up many large crown corporations, finally allowing access to information in the billion dollar secret foundations established by the previous government. It will also bring in major reforms to bring in a corruption watchdog to protect whistleblowers against bullying by the Liberals. It will end the revolving door between lobbying firms and ministers' offices and will clean up government once and for all.

  (1445)  

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage has said that she will not honour any commitments made by the Liberal government, yet the former Liberal government had reached an urgent and historic agreement with the survivors of Indian residential schools.
    Why will the Minister of Canadian Heritage not allow early payments to be made to the elderly and sick survivors of Indian residential schools?
    Mr. Speaker, as I have previously indicated to the House, the residential school agreement of November 20, 2005 was an agreement in principle. The final agreement contemplated two further steps, neither of which has happened at this point. The negotiations remain confidential. However, I think it only fair to advise the House that a party other than this government is currently dragging its feet in complying with the agreement in principle.
    Mr. Speaker, it is simply unacceptable that the government will not allow payments to be made to elderly and sick survivors. Every single day of delay by the government means another four people die without seeing their just compensation.
    Will the minister commit today to issue the compensation cheques immediately?
    Mr. Speaker, at the risk of repeating what I have already said, there are two preconditions to the agreement of November: court approval and the preparation of a final agreement. There is no final agreement. There is no basis upon which to make interim payments. A party other than this government is dragging its feet. I will continue to keep the House advised.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government's commitment to double the funds of the Canada Council for the Arts by 2008 was the result of two years of widespread consultations with Canada's cultural community.
    Last week the Minister of Canadian Heritage said her government had no intention of honouring any commitments made by the previous government. Does that include the Liberal government's commitment to defend cultural diversity, or to strengthen Canada's linguistic duality, or in support of aboriginal languages? Is the minister preparing to abandon all of these commitments, or just the one to the Canada Council for the Arts?
    Mr. Speaker, this government intends to meet its commitment to the cultural community and to the artistic community. We will meet every commitment that is good for the creators, good for Canadians and good for our country. We will be able to move forward on our commitment to the arts and culture community once we look at the needs that are going to be required by the community. I am meeting with the Canada Council to determine those. We unfortunately were not able to find within the fiscal framework any financial commitment by the previous government.
    Mr. Speaker, that commitment was in the fiscal framework. I am sure her colleague the Minister of Finance will help her find it.

[Translation]

    Last month, the government announced it was cutting financial support for the Canadian Unity Council. By cutting these funds, it is putting an organization at risk, namely Encounters with Canada, a wonderful student exchange program. We know that the government is currently looking at this matter and we encourage it to do so. However, time is passing.
    Is it the government's intention to continue to fund Encounters with Canada and, if so, will it confirm its contribution by the end of the month?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, once again the Liberals have their facts incorrect.
    In fact, I spoke directly to the member opposite and assured him that the Encounters with Canada program would be continued and that no students or no youth would be deprived of their participation in a very good program that benefits all Canadians.

[Translation]

Quebec Zoo

     Mr. Speaker, in the last election, the present Conservative member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles promised $22 million in assistance for the Quebec zoo, and the mayor of Quebec said that the zoo could only be kept going with federal funding.
     Does the government intend to honour the commitment made by its member and commit funding for the Quebec zoo?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will point out that the Government of Quebec is the funding agent for the Quebec zoo. That government, which is not just anybody, made the decision not to request assistance from our government.
    Given that these are the wishes of the government of Quebec, you will understand that we are respecting the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec.
    Speaker, one might ask why they talked about it during the election campaign. The Minister of Economic and Regional Development is claiming that no request was made. He is relying on a refusal letter from the previous government to justify his inaction.
     A request was indeed made to the previous government, the mayor of Quebec City made another request last week, and the people of the city are behind it, in the streets, to save their zoo. What more does the minister want in order to act? What more does he want?
    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that in 2001, the Liberal government proposed $17.8 million in assistance for the Quebec zoo and aquarium. The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who is on her side, made an issue of the flag. Because he did not want to fly the flag, the $17.8 million was refused, in 2001.
     And yet when it comes to getting their paycheque, people do not worry about whether there is a maple leaf on it. They collect the money, when it is theirs.

[English]

Human Resources and Social Development

    Mr. Speaker, despite a severe shortage of skilled workers, there is a deafening silence from the government when it comes to skills training. This is a priority for Canadians. We committed $3.5 billion for new labour market agreements. Last week, the heritage minister said her party would not honour any Liberal commitments.
    Does the government plan to abandon Canadian workers or will the minister honour our skills training initiatives?
    Mr. Speaker, the new government is very proud of the skills development programs it is offering. First of all, through the campaign, we promised our apprenticeship program, where employers will receive incentives to hire new apprentices and where the apprentices themselves will receive grants as well as assistance with their tools and their tax books. We are going to be working hard to get skilled workers out there, where they are needed and when they are needed.

Technology Partnerships Canada

    Mr. Speaker, for 10 years the Liberals mismanaged Technology Partnerships Canada to the point that the program was mired in scandal and controversy. They kept day to day operations of the program secret. No one ever knew if money borrowed by the private sector had been repaid and lobbyists like David Dingwall collected millions of dollars in securing grants for their clients.
    Audits were done on the TPC program. Could the industry minister provide this House with an update on these audits and if companies are compliant?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
    When I became Minister of Industry, I immediately asked my officials for a detailed accounting of the Technology Partnerships Canada program. I can assure you that we have launched an unprecedented initiative to apply the principles of accountability and transparency to this program.
    We issued a public report on March 24 with all the facts and figures, and our government is convinced that our partnerships with the private sector must be governed by transparency and accountability. Canadian taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being managed.

[English]

Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, last week the Prime Minister, on the matter of border issues with the United States, said: “However, this is a law passed by Congress. President Bush must respect it”.
    In 2001, this Parliament passed a new immigration act which included a provision for a fact-based appeal for refugees through a refugee appeal division. Will the Minister of Immigration and the government do what the Liberal government refused to do and respect the law passed by this Parliament, and immediately implement the refugee appeal division?
    Mr. Speaker, we have discussed this. I take the hon. member's concerns very seriously, but I point out that under the current provisions, people who are refugee claimants have many avenues of appeal and some of them take years to go through the process. We have one of the most generous acceptance rates in the world. We will consider what the member is saying, but right now people do have many avenues of appeal and often they are successful.

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, concerns have also been raised by the Portuguese, Pakistani and Caribbean communities about deportations of undocumented workers. It is estimated that up to 200,000 work in our economy and have families who have integrated into our communities. They are among the most exploited workers in Canada.
    Will the Minister of Immigration stop deportations and regularize these workers with an in-Canada program, based on successful employment and health and security checks? Will he ensure that their important contribution to Canada is not lost?
    Mr. Speaker, the member makes a good point. These people should come to Canada through regular channels. We want to see them protected by our laws, but I point out that the previous government took the same position. In fact, in a letter from August of last year to the member for Davenport, the previous minister said:
    However, the granting of a blanket amnesty to undocumented foreign workers would send the message that there is a reward for those who remain in Canada without the proper authorization. This would further increase the pull factor for illegal entry to Canada, encouraging illicit activities such as people smuggling, marriages of convenience, and exploitation or abuse of persons without status.
     That is the previous government's position.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, on March 26, a Canadian citizen, Mr. Celil, was detained in Uzbekistan and is facing extradition to China where he has been sentenced to death in absentia for defending the human rights of Turkish muslins in Xinjiang province. Access to Mr. Celil has also been denied to his family and Canadian consular officials.
    Will the government listen to the pleas of his family and take all possible legal and diplomatic steps to defend Mr. Celil's basic human rights, and to save him from inevitable torture and certain death?
    Mr. Speaker, I understand my colleague's concern. It has been expressed to us on previous occasions. The department continues to make regular contact with the family as we will commit to doing, of course. We will take all diplomatic measures possible and necessary to intervene in this particular case, and as the member can appreciate, we cannot comment publicly on some of the privacy matters that affect this individual.

[Translation]

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, agriculture is the main industry in a number of regions of Quebec and Canada. Many of these regions depend on supply management.
    Can the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food explain to the House the government's position on supply management?
    Our government's position was very clear. Last week, during the special debate on agriculture, the Prime Minister was very clear. We supported the supply management system during the federal campaign, and we are going to support it during the WTO negotiations.

Canada--U.S. Border

    Mr. Speaker, first we had the Ontario tourism minister accusing the Prime Minister of giving in to President Bush on the mandatory passport issue. Now we have Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec, challenging the Prime Minister's position of quietly accepting an American law that would make it mandatory for Canadians and Quebeckers to carry passports to cross the border.
    Given the fallout of such a measure for the economy and tourism, will the government take up this issue again and demand that the Americans find a solution other than using passports at the border?
    Mr. Speaker, when I saw the Prime Minister in Cancun, I was proud that he had reopened this subject and that he had made it a priority for the Government of Canada.
    We are going to be taking this situation in hand. We will be in a solid position to explain that this is a serious matter for Canada as well as for the United States.
    Once again, I am proud of the Prime Minister for making a strong case for the importance of this issue. We will resolve the problem.

  (1500)  

[English]

Presence in Gallery

    I wish to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the hon. Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal for Ontario.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[Translation]

Income Tax Act

     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-217, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (definition of “Gaspé Peninsula”).
    He said: Mr. Speaker, the aim of this bill is to correct an unacceptable situation. Half of the riding I represent is eligible for the investment tax credit applicable to eastern Quebec and eastern Canada, while the other half of the riding is not. So, farmers living in Kamouraska are eligible to a tax credit when, for example, they buy a tractor to improve their productivity, whereas people in Montmagny and L'Islet are not eligible. The situation is the same for manufacturers.
    The aim of this bill is to correct the situation so that the entire population, all my electors, are eligible for the tax credit in order to eliminate this discrimination against what may be described as federal resource regions.

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

[English]

Agricultural Supply Management Recognition and Promotion Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it does indeed give me pleasure to bring forward this bill. The intent of this bill is to further support our successful supply management sector and to ensure that the support, which all political parties in the House agree with, is provided for within a legal framework.
    There has been some confusion on whether the government really does support supply management. This gives the members of the government the opportunity to show support in this House through a piece of legislation indicating that all parties do indeed support this successful system of marketing.

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

  (1505)  

Income Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this bill would provide for a deduction to volunteer emergency workers of $1,000 if they perform at least 100 hours but less than 200 hours of volunteer service as an emergency worker, and $2,000 if they provide 200 hours or more of service. In other words, it would provide equity to all those who volunteer in their communities to assist their neighbours in a time of emergency. It would also give recognition to firefighters.

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

Corrections and Conditional Release Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, today many criminals are released early without any willing participation in rehabilitation programs or without demonstrating any intent not to reoffend.
    With the intent of replacing statutory release with earned parole, I am honoured to introduce a bill today entitled, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (elimination of statutory release) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
    This enactment would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to eliminate the notion of statutory release. It would provide for the repeal of section 127, which creates the entitlement to statutory release, and sections 129 to 132.
    I believe members of all parties in the House would agree to support and see a most speedy passage of the bill.

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

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a repeat of a bill I introduced in 2004. The bill would stop the clawback of the pensions of those military and RCMP officers, who serve our country so well, at age 65. As the House knows, when those people reach the age of 65 their Canada pension is clawed back from their superannuation. As well, those who become disabled have their CPP disability clawed back from their superannuation.
    We think that is wrong. These people serve our country with gallantry and with great effort and we think it is time that we left a little more money in their pockets when they retire at 65.

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

Heritage Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Protection Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to reintroduce this bill. In the last Parliament it was Bill C-391. It is an act to recognize and protect Canada's hunting, fishing and trapping heritage.
    Canadians know that hunting, fishing and trapping have long been part of Canada's history, both for the aboriginal community as well as the pioneers, and today it also plays a big economical role in the country.
    Therefore I ask the House to support the bill because it is in all of our interests, both economically and on the heritage side.

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

  (1510)  

An Act for the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

     He said: Mr. Speaker, property rights need strengthening in federal law because they were intentionally left out of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My bill would make up for this grave omission by strengthening the property rights provisions in the Canadian Bill of Rights.
    Last year the Canadian Real Estate Association commissioned an extensive survey involving almost 10,000 respondents. Ninety-two per cent of telephone respondents thought it was important that the government fairly compensate property owners if their property was expropriated and 88% thought it was important for the government to fairly compensate property owners if restrictions were imposed on how their property was used.
    In addition to strengthening property rights protection in the Canadian Bill of Rights, my bill would also require a two-thirds majority vote of the House whenever the government passes laws that override fundamental property rights.
    Court case after court case have proven that Canadians have no protection whatsoever to the arbitrary taking of property by the federal government. It is time to correct that injustice.

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

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that you seek the consent of the House to assign the same number to my private member's bill as it was in the last session of the House, which is C-391.
    Is there unanimous consent to number the bill introduced by the hon. member a few moments ago Bill C-391?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

Speech from the Throne

Amendment  

    Mr. Speaker, I think you would find unanimous consent among the parties for the following motion. I move:
    That, in relation to the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne today, and notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the debate on the amendment continue until no later than 6:15 p.m. and at the conclusion of the debate, the question be deemed put and the amendment be deemed adopted.
    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

    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)

Petitions

Undocumented Workers   

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour, for the third time, to present a petition signed by many Canadians from across the country. The petition indicates that many undocumented workers are living in Canada with their families. Many of them have children who were born here and who would be unjustly upset if their parents were deported.
    The petitions therefore call upon Parliament to suspend the deportation of undocumented workers and find a humane and logical solution to their situation.

[English]

Income Tax Act  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions primarily signed by hard-working people from my riding of Oxford.
    The first petition asks that Parliament amend the Income Tax Act in order to permit a pension from a registered pension fund to be split between spouses.

  (1515)  

Criminal Code  

    The second petition, Mr. Speaker, asks that Parliament retain section 241 of the Criminal Code without changes in order that Parliament not sanction or allow the counselling, aiding or abetting of suicide, whether by personal action or the Internet.

Child Care  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of presenting a petition today from people in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour who are concerned about the government's plans to offer child care and specifically to rescind the agreement on early learning and child care. It says, among other things, that 84% of parents with children are both in the workforce, 70% of women with children under the age of six are employed, that a taxable $100 a month allowance amounts to a child benefit, and a meagre one at that, and will not establish new child care spaces.
    As child care is an everyday necessity, they call upon the Prime Minister to honour the early learning and child care agreement in principle and to commit to fund it for five full years.

Hunting and Fishing  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting two petitions signed by people from across Canada.
    First, I want to thank the people of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for sending me back to the House for a fourth time.
    The first petition calls upon the House of Commons to enact the act which I tabled today to protect Canada's hunting and fishing heritage and to ensure the rights of present and future Canadians who enjoy these activities are protected in law.

Fuel Taxes 

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition calls upon the House of Commons to enact legislation to eliminate the federal excise tax on diesel fuel, the gasoline used in farming operations and commercial fisheries, cap the amount of tax it collects on gasoline and eliminate the practice of applying GST to provincial fuel tax and federal excise tax, the practice of charging tax on top of tax.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

[The Address]

[English]

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY

    The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment as amended.
    Mr. Speaker, my question for the member involves the issue of child care. The Conservative plan is to provide a process for creating new child care spaces and, second, to provide to the parents of each child under six the sum of $1,200 per year.
    The Liberal plan was to enter into agreements with each of the provinces and to provide certain funding to those provinces for the purpose of child care. As I understand the process, a bureaucracy would be set up for each province to receive the money. There would then be another bureaucracy to distribute the money, generally to municipalities. We are now talking about three different bureaucracies to dispose of the money under the Liberal plan.
    Does the member not believe that is a waste of money when that funding could be used by the children and parents?
    Mr. Speaker, as the mother of four children and as somebody who was president of seven child care centres when I was a public school trustee, I know this area intimately.
    The money was to be used by existing structures to give parents choice. What we have to recognize is that the Liberal government used the child tax benefit to flow money to families.
    If the Conservative government feels that it is very wise to give $1,200 to families with children under six, I say go ahead but call it what it is. Call it a family benefit and then invest in child care for the existing structure, such as in my riding in Waterloo region where it is used for capacity building. A single nurse who works on night shift should be able to take her child to an in-home child care provider who is regulated by the region and receive the same kind of flexibility that a working parent needs. A parent staying home should be able to send his or her child to a best start program so the child can have the kind of interaction with other children in the playgroup.
     We looked at Manitoba where it is capacity building and raising the kind of salaries that ECE people get who do this very important job. It was a very broad range of a smorgasbord that parents, no matter how they were choosing to raise their child, would have choice.
    The people in my riding who are familiar with child care have said to me, quite simply, that the Liberal government had it right. We were putting the money where it needed to go and we were providing good options for parents. It is something I absolutely do not see in the Conservative government's plan.

  (1520)  

    Mr. Speaker, in reality, however, the fact is that the previous Liberal government did not create one solitary child care space. The Liberals have stood up in the House of Commons and have accused us of taking spaces away but we cannot take away that which does not exist. Thirteen years; zero child care spaces; billions of dollars spent; no results achieved.
    We have endeavoured, before the House and before the Canadian people, to invest in a plan that puts dollars directly in the pockets of parents and then they can decide if they want to use the schemes of which that member spoke. They can take those child care dollars and put them to work in the various child care options that may exist in her riding.
    If they choose to stay at home, they will still get the money. If they choose to have a family member take care of a child, they will still get the money. We are giving parents that choice instead of having government rob them of their options.
    I will conclude on one note. If the Liberal government had continued with its plan, which we intend very proudly to cancel, that money would have been enough to perhaps provide a child care space for maybe 1 in 20 or 1 in 25 children. Our plan flows money to every single child. Why is the hon. member against a universal system that gives money to every child?
    Mr. Speaker, I really do appreciate the sentiments of my young colleague across the floor, and I would have to say that had the government provided substantial money instead of what really amounts to bus fare, because anyone who has had a child in child care realizes that this amount of money--
    The member for Nepean—Carleton is rising on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, we have very clear provisions in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms that prohibit discrimination on the basis of age. I note that the member made very specific reference to one of my personal qualities being--
    I do not think that reference to a member's age, including the ancient age of the Speaker, is somehow discrimination. The hon. member for Kitchener Centre is making her point. Certainly she is free to mention the relative age of other members, at certain risk, of course, to herself, but this is a risk we all take in the House. The hon. member for Kitchener Centre has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, I take my colleague's point. However, what I would like to continue saying is that the government has provided bus fare, not child care. The reality is that anyone who has had children in the child care system or anyone who has raised a child realizes that $1,200 does not go very far. In order to provide parents with true options, it has to be a comprehensive plan.
    I would also point out to my friend across the way that provinces provide the child care. It was in partnership with provinces, in recognition of the proper, appropriate role of provinces and territories, which is why the minister of the day in the Liberal government went across Canada signing undertakings and agreements that reflected the needs articulated by provinces and communities. It was not a one size fits all approach, because, as we all know, Quebec has some wonderful examples that the rest of Canada can learn from.
    It was a whole list, a comprehensive approach to early learning and nurturing of young children, not just child care, that we as a Liberal government were undertaking. It saddens me to hear my colleague across the way talk about being proud to cancel something that could have been so meaningful to so many members of the community.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, a throne speech is supposed to be a vision of a government for the country. As critic for northern affairs, it is my job to share with members that I have a vision for the north and to criticize any government that falls short on its vision of the north.
    The Liberals have a great vision of the north as an integral part of a great nation. There is the territory of Nunavut, a land of snow and shrimp and seals and unlimited potential in mining and oil and gas. It is a land of polar bears, a magnificent animal endangered by climate change. Most important, it is a land of indomitable Inuit people who have survived in that harsh climate for thousands of years.
    There is the NWT, the Northwest Territories, with its own unique first nations and aboriginal people: the Inuvialuit, the Sahtu, the Gwich'in, the Deh Cho, the Dene, the Métis, the Tlicho and others. It has one of its greatest economic projects on the horizon, which we have not heard of from the government, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Remarkably, it is a territory that has brought Canada to third in the world in one of the most famous commodities in the world: diamonds.
    Then, of course, there is Yukon, with the world famous gold rush, Canada's highest mountains and the largest icefields outside the polar caps, and 14 unique first nations of its own.
    Our vision of Canada is part of a nation from sea to sea to sea, remembering that the northern coastline is the largest of any of those three coastlines. We have a vision that understands the vast unexplored resources of our great nation in the north, but we also understand that these must be developed responsibly because of a very delicate and fragile northern ecosystem.
    We understand and we have a vision of northern aboriginal peoples in which our government has negotiated unique arrangements of government to government to government to government; unique in the world. We have a vision where we put in the largest environmental program in the history of Canada to protect the northern contaminated sites, the federal contaminated sites in the north.
    We have a vision that understands the dramatic changes of climate change. Although some opposite may not agree that it is even occurring or that it is man made, it is not in the future: it is already there in the north. We have had the most rapid change of any part of the world, where our species have changed dramatically, the ice roads our economy depends on are melting, and our buildings are shifting on the permafrost.
    We have a vision of the north that understands the extra costs of northern health care, where it can cost more than $10,000 just to get a person to the hospital. That is before we even start the health care costs they have in the provinces.
    We understand in our vision of the north that land claims agreements, although they are historic and tremendous achievements, must not only be signed but must have the proper resources and spirit put into them to keep them going and make them work.
    We understand in our vision of the north that it is a harsh land where, as Robert Service said, life just hangs by a hair, so we committed for the first time in history to put four search and rescue planes in the north. I hope that for the sake of the lives of northerners the Conservative government follows through on that promise of this nation to the people of the north.
    Because there is such a high percentage of aboriginal people in the north, our vision understands the historic importance of the Kelowna agreement and the residential schools agreement. These were negotiated with the priorities of first nations people, not the priorities of government. It was a very delicate balance, with many groups involved. After months of negotiation, there finally was a deal that cannot be taken apart piecemeal. It has come together and put in $5.5 billion for the Kelowna agreement, which would have such a great effect on the north, and the residential schools agreement, which is an agreement for the ages, as I think the Grand Chief said. One could see the tears at the ceremony. We have a vision that will stand by those agreements and fight for them.
    We have a vision of the north that we need to protect its sovereignty as much as the rest of Canada's, which is why we put in the UAVs, the most northern and longest patrols in recent memory, with underwater surveillance, first time ever satellite coverage in the north and the first ever full military exercise in the north.

  (1530)  

    We have a vision of the north that understands the economic development opportunities and challenges, and we created the northern economic development fund. I am certainly going to fight to make sure that is maintained by the new government. We had a vision that realized the special costs of running the northern territories and therefore gave the northern territorial governments the largest transfer payments increases in their history.
    We have a vision of the north that understands the harsh reality of trying to create infrastructure in a harsh climate where there is permafrost, where the pipes and the roads keep shifting, and we understand trying to finance that when there are very few taxpayers spread over huge areas. We put in special northern infrastructure base funding in the three territories.
     We have a vision of the north that understands the importance of investing in innovation and in research and development specifically in the north, which is why we put in $150 million for international polar year, which I certainly hope the government will follow up on.
    Finally, we provided unparalleled attention, vision and strategy on the north with the announcement and implementation of the northern strategy. I still remember that day, when more cabinet ministers than were ever seen at a press release put the attention of the entire government and its departments on the north, with the three northern premiers all heralding what was probably the greatest announcement of the year on the northern strategy.
    Why would anyone, in a 10 minute speech, spend nine and a half minutes talking about previous Liberal throne speeches and budgets rather than discussing what this throne speech we are debating now had to say about the north and the Arctic?
    Because, shamefully, this throne speech made absolutely no mention of the north or the Arctic.
    There was no mention of bilingual education funds and Inuit hiring in Nunavut. There was no mention of international polar year or very important administration or cultural buildings for CYFN, for the Kaska and for Kwanlin Dun. There was no mention of Labrador and its Inuit, Innu and Métis.
    There was no mention of the northern aboriginal health costs, northern infrastructure, the northern climate change centre whose funding was cut, the northern research rescue planes or northern contaminated sites cleanup.
    There was no mention of housing crises in Nunavut or a northern vision and strategy. There was no mention of the needs of the Association franco-yukonnaise or the other the francophone groups of the north. There was no mention of protecting the Arctic environment or the Arctic national wildlife refuge, which was promised during the campaign.
    The previous prime minister saw great promise and had a great vision and a great belief in the north. I am going to stand up and fight for all those things even though they were not mentioned in the vision of this country by the government in its Speech from the Throne.
    At the turn of the century, Chief Jim Boss wrote to the government and said he needed land for his people because the animals were disappearing and they could not survive. Chief Isaac, near Dawson City, made sure, with his colleagues, that the signs and the culture of his first nation were moved out of the area so they would not be lost in the huge influx and effects of the gold rush migration. Elijah Smith led a delegation to Ottawa to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau to set up one of the most unique arrangements in the world with aboriginal people in their land claim and self-government agreement.
    All these people had vision.
    This throne speech that does not include the northern half of Canada, that did not have the words “north” or “Arctic” in it even once, is absolutely shameful.
    Mr. Speaker, in the presentation of my hon. colleague from Yukon I noted with some interest some of the issues he has raised in terms of the development of a northern strategy. This strategy was put forward to the territorial leaders and to the people of the territory as an answer, as a vision. In my territory, it then turned into a sum of money, some $40 million.
    That sum of money was then turned over to the territorial government. It did not find an answer for it either. It simply turned the money over to the communities to do with as they saw fit, so the Liberal support for the north and for a strategy there was somewhat limited. I would hope that in this Parliament we can put together a strategy for the north that will work, that will have some impact on the many serious issues facing the north, issues that really and truly need the attention of the House and Canada.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on his election in the north. I would also like to pay tribute to our colleague, Ethel Blondin-Andrews, who was in the House for 17 years and gave tremendous service to the people of the Northwest Territories.
    With regard to his comments, I am sorry to disagree with him. He wants Parliament to design a strategy for the north. Our vision was the same as it was with the Kelowna accord, which was designed by the leaders of the aboriginal people. Our vision for the strategy was designed by northerners, not by Parliament. There were hearings and conferences across the north. The northern people developed that strategy, and it was close to being released.
     The member, coming from the north, should surely know that it was on a website and that all northerners had a chance to input. The strategy was developed because of what northerners felt they needed. It was not Parliament. I will not support him in suggesting that Parliament develop a vision because our vision was that the people of the north develop their own vision.
     It is true that at the very opening we gave an advance payment of $40 million to each territory so they could, in their own way, promote their part of a northern strategy. I was looking forward to this northern vision, which had been designed by the people of the north, coming out. I certainly hope the opposition, in good faith, will carry through that process which was coming to the end.
    Mr. Speaker, the issue of economic regional development is extremely important and it is absent in the throne speech. I recall that there was an important debate in this place about some of the emerging segments, particularly mining in the north and developing that base industry. Therefore, we are talking about support for this regional economic development instead of handouts.
    Could the member update the House on exactly what has been happening and how we can better invest in the north to ensure the people can take their place in earning the lives that they deserve?
    Mr. Speaker, congratulations to you too on your new position and the excellent role I know you play as the grandfather of the House, if that is the term.
    I am delighted the member brought up economic development. There was nothing in the throne speech not only for the north but for the whole country. The cabinet of the Government of Canada traditionally has been split in half, in the committees, on the economic and social sides. It is not surprising there were no social programs in the throne speech, but on the other side, what was there for economic development for anyone in the country?
    There was nothing for the two biggest northern sectors: mining, as the member said, and the many provisions that we put in related to taxation, et cetera, it, and tourism. There was nothing for small business, big business, the fisheries, which are important in the north, and nothing for forestry. We had that very large program, I think it was $900 million, announced for the forestry industry. There was nothing for oil and gas, which is very big in the north. As I mentioned, there was no reference to the two biggest projects coming for Canada, the two pipelines in the north.
    The member is absolutely right. There was nothing for the north or indeed for the rest of Canada. There was nothing for innovation and competiveness in this modern economy. We will be falling behind the rest of the world. There was nothing for the dramatic shortage of tradespeople and apprentices at this time, like our $3.5 billion program.
    I am glad the member asked about regional development. We had a hard-fought battle the last time to get the northern economic development fund. The governing party, when it was in opposition, talked time and time again against regional development. I hope it will not follow up with what it said while in opposition and cancel ACOA, western diversification and our hard-fought northern economic development fund.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your well deserved position. It is good to see a Manitoban in that particular place as well.
    Before I begin, I wish to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the Minister of Public Safety and member for Okanagan--Coquihalla.
    It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak about our new government's Speech from the Throne.
     First though, I would like to take a few moments to thank the constituents of Provencher in Manitoba for choosing me once again to be their representative in Parliament. Since my first election to this place in 2000, it has been my great honour to serve them first as a member of the opposition and now as the Minister of Justice. Many of my constituents are facing a particularly difficult time right now, faced with flooding on the Red River and the Red River Valley. Representing their concerns in Ottawa is always my first priority.
    I listened with interest to the member for Yukon. He talked about dramatic shortages and crises. It reminds Canadians, once again, of the state in which the past government left the country. These crises and shortages were never addressed over the 13 years that the member and his government were in power.
    My constituents and ordinary hard-working Canadians from coast to coast said it was time for a change on January 23. The Speech from the Throne indicates very clearly what change they will see. Our new government truly will turn over a new leaf.
    I have had the opportunity to talk with ordinary Canadians from all walks of life, both during the election and since. I can tell the House that there is a real appetite for a government that has focus, direction and knows what it wants to achieve. To many Canadians, our new government's five key priorities are a welcome change from the previous 13 years of a Liberal government that had clearly lost its way.
    We will clean up Ottawa by passing the federal accountability bill. We will lower taxes for every single Canadian by reducing the tax that we all pay, the GST. We will give parents real choice in child care by giving a $1,200 annual payment for each child under six and help to create more child care spaces, 125,000, as the Prime Minister has stated. We will work with provincial and territorial governments to establish a patient wait times guarantee. We will ensure safer streets in communities by cracking down on crime. As Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, it is on that key priority that I will focus my remarks today.
    When it comes to reforming our criminal justice system, the Conservative Party has a strong history. Others are more recent converts. Take for example that during the election campaign we heard the Liberal Party campaigning on the same mandatory minimum prison sentences that it claimed only months before were ineffective and draconian. We also saw the NDP get onboard and support putting violent criminals behind bars, reversing years of opposition to tougher crime measures. On this side of the House, we have been clear. Our party fought for tougher criminal justice when we were in opposition. We campaigned on tougher criminal justice during the election. We will deliver tougher criminal justice in government.
    I was pleased to join the Prime Minister last week in speaking with the Canadian Professional Police Association. We both had the chance to discuss what our new government would be doing to create safer communities by cracking down on crime. I will elaborate on the message we delivered to Canada's police a little later. For now, I would like to speak to why improving the justice system is such an important aspect of our new government's agenda.
    In the Speech from the Throne, Her Excellency the Governor General said:
    Canadians have always taken pride in our low crime rates. Safe streets have long characterized Canada's communities--from villages to towns to cities. Safe communities allow families and businesses to prosper.

  (1540)  

    There is the impression that somehow Canada has a lower crime rate than say, for example, the United States. We know now that Vancouver has the highest property crime rate in Canada and the United States and Winnipeg is in second place. In terms of violent crime, the most recent statistics that I have read is there were approximately 950 incidents per 100,000 residents in Canada compared to 450 in the United States. We have nothing of which to be proud both in respect of our property crime rates or our violent crime rates.
    The passage that I quoted from the Governor General's speech makes its clear. Our priority of cracking down on crime is rooted in Canadian values. It is a priority for our new government because it is a priority for every Canadian. People rely on safe communities as they go about their daily business, no matter where they live. In fact, it concerns me that in too many Canadian communities safe streets are no longer simply a given. Instead, citizens are anxious and more fearful that criminals could harm them or their families, perhaps for no reason at all.
    Have we taken our safety and security for granted? I do not think that is the case. I do believe, however, that the previous government neglected the issue for years and now we are seeing the results.
    It was under the previous Liberal government that the numbers of police on our streets dwindled, while billions of dollars were spent on a useless gun registry that was putting resources toward tracking duck hunters and farmers. It was the Liberals who kept house arrest available for violent and repeat offenders when in fact they promised the House in 1996 that house arrest would never be used for violent or repeat offenders. It was the Liberals, who as I indicated, refused to put in place effective mandatory minimum penalties for serious crimes.
    Under the Liberal watch, we saw the problem of guns, gangs and drugs grow not only in our cities, but in smaller communities and suburban areas all over the country. The Liberals allowed the sense of safety and security, which Canadians have in their homes and communities, to be undermined. What the previous administration did not seem to grasp was that for any government there was no more important task than the protection of its citizens. Canadians understand this. They are fed up with watching their local evening news provide a steady stream of gun violence and criminality.
    Police and prosecutors are growing frustrated, as well. I mentioned that the Prime Minister and I both spoke with representatives of front line police very recently. As the first line of defence against guns, gangs and drugs, I heard their concerns loudly and clearly, that our laws seemed more focused on the rights of criminals than on the rights of law-abiding citizens. I met with this group frequently in the past as well, in my previous role as opposition justice critic and in my various provincial roles. I was struck by how their concerns today were the same concerns they were bringing up for years.
    We will also prevent crime with strong social programs and effective economic policies. These programs will help end the cycle of violence that can lead to broken communities and broken lives. We will work with provinces, territories and other partners to support solutions that will help young people resist the lure of guns, gangs and drugs.
     The new government has a mandate to deliver these changes. They are exactly the types of changes that Canadians have been crying out for because they have felt less secure in their homes and their communities. We intend to deliver.
    I believe there is broad support from my colleagues on both sides of the House for the change that we will bring to the justice system. I certainly look forward to working with all of them and particularly with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, to tackle crime and to keep Canadians safe.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member across talked about the five key priorities, but he did not mention the first priority of the Prime Minister, and that was to appoint his campaign co-chair to the Senate and then put him in charge of the public works ministry. He is responsible for about $40 million each and every day.
     This is totally foreign to the House. The House of Commons is supposed to be an institution of accountability. Never before has a person be given charge of a portfolio like this in time of peace.
    The member opposite is a member of the executive of government. Tomorrow the government is going to introduce the accountability act. Could the minister assure the House and Canadians that this issue will be dealt with in the act and put an end to this sad spectacle sooner rather than later?

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, without wanting to correct the historical errors in those statements made by my colleague across the way, I will simply state that this government is committed to righting the problems that the former government created over the last 13 years.
    There have been huge issues relating to ethics and the issue of trust that people have in respect of the expenditure of money. We will move forward on the commitments that we have made.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech. He had a lot to say about safety and making our communities safer. Towards the end, he slipped in a few words about the fight against poverty. In fact, this fight is important to helping us face reality and eliminate problems at the source.
    Does my colleague not find it odd that in the Speech from the Throne, not a single word was said about employment insurance? While he was in opposition, his party supported the Bloc Québécois' motion to create an independent employment insurance fund. Is that not an important weapon in the fight against poverty? In particular, this would make it easier for young people to obtain employment insurance. It would also support measures now being piloted in regions with high unemployment.
    Can we expect the government to extend these agreements to maintain the special consideration given to regions struggling with high unemployment? Do these measures not constitute important weapons in the fight against poverty and violence by eliminating problems at the source rather than resorting to the correctional system after the fact and filling up our prisons?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in fact I share the concerns of the member that we do have to address certain basic economic and social problems in our society in order to assist in breaking the cycle of violence and crime.
    I want to make it very clear that it does not matter how much money we put into social programs, educational programs and other very worthwhile government objectives which I support. It does not help to put in all that money if we leave the drug dealers and the gunmen on the street.
    I look forward to my colleague's cooperation as we move forward in creating strong social policies for this country to assist the poor and the underprivileged. I expect that he will also support us in our efforts to get rid of gangs, drugs and guns that control so many of our streets. I look forward to his cooperation.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a quick comment on the statistics that the Minister of Justice threw out so casually on the comparison of crime rates. We looked at them last year and he knows there are some fundamental flaws with them. I caution the minister in spouting them across the country because there are serious doubts about their accuracy.
    The minister made some comments about the NDP during the campaign and supporting some of our positions. The reality is that we had done that and I had personally done it in the justice committee along with the justice minister in the spring and fall of last year.
    For the first time in the throne speech I saw that the Prime Minister was speaking out in favour of social programs and of funding social programs, which was a key part of the NDP platform around controlling crime in this country. Would the minister agree with me that that was a late conversion on the part of his government to support the NDP position on how best to deal with crime in Canada?

  (1555)  

    Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to approach the issue of crime from many aspects. I think that has been the traditional Conservative approach.
    We do believe in strong social programs, but we want effective programs that deliver results for Canadians. My concern is that if we do not tackle the issue of the drug dealers, the gunmen and the gangs on the streets, those social programs will not work. Canadian taxpayers' money will not be put to the best use.
    If I have in any way misinterpreted my colleague's position on mandatory minimum sentences and he is now supporting mandatory minimum prison sentences for gun crimes, drug dealers, and repeat offenders, I welcome his support. We will work together on that issue so that we can create the environment in all of our communities, large cities, small communities, rural areas, where social programs will actually be effective in stopping the cycle of violence.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Speaker on his successful election. He will once again rule over us as the referee here in the House of Commons. I want the Speaker to know, and I am going to say this very openly even though it was a secret ballot, I voted for him. With the new government accountability act it will be very difficult for politicians to try to get some kind of kickback or favour for what they do, and we support that, but maybe in one of those moments when I have gone too long in response to a question in question period, as the Speaker rises to cut me off on that 35 second time limit, maybe he will remember that I voted for him and will be just a little more gentle with me.
    I will also say that I voted for him for good reasons. Mr. Speaker has ruled judiciously over this House. He is very fair-minded. He has a good combination of humour yet seriousness at those moments and I think he is moving us along the path to decorum in this House, and so I congratulate him.
    I also want to thank my constituents who have elected me and asked me to serve them and to speak for them. My heart goes out to my constituents because in six years they have had to show up to vote for me four times: in a byelection in 2000, and in elections in 2000, 2004 and again in 2006. I thank them for their diligence. I also thank them for the increase in the percentage this time. I know why there was an increase in my vote. My wife accompanied me so much during the campaign, as she usually does, that my constituents thought it was my wife Valerie who was running, and therefore, I got an increase in the vote. I want to acknowledge her for that.
    I listened to members across in their criticism of the Speech from the Throne. It is the job of opposition members to criticize, but I heard members saying there was nothing in the speech for Canadians. Having spent a few years in the trenches in opposition, I know it is an arduous task and we did not enjoy our time there, but maybe I could give them a word of advice to assist their credibility. Every now and then when the government does something good, if they give a bit of credit for that, they in the same process will actually garner credibility for themselves. There is always something good in a throne speech. I used to regularly give credit to the federal Liberal government, although not extended credit, for positive things that I was able to find, albeit with a magnifying glass, in the throne speeches. May I suggest that the Liberals could do the same.
    Once I saw a speech given on a proposal and there was nothing good in it, yet I still stood and said that at least the printing was nice. Trying to find something good to say, as my mother would say, adds to one's credibility.
    There were five priorities in the Speech from the Throne, one of the shortest throne speeches in history. This shows that our purpose is not to smother Canadians with overarching layers of government, but in fact that we respect Canadians. We think that Canadians who have the ability to act on their hopes and dreams can achieve them. It is our job to clear the way, clear the clutter and help them do that.
     I went door knocking during the campaign from one end of my constituency to the other, and I look forward to door knocking again this week in my constituency. I continued to hear these five priorities reflected from one end of the constituency to another.
    It was down in Okanagan Falls in a mobile home park as I was going door to door that a lady with not much in the way of financial resources was bemoaning the fact that it seemed that elected people and their friends were able to get so much for themselves and there seemed to be a lack of accountability for that. There she was in that mobile home park asking that we change things and make things open and more accountable, to at least give her some peace of mind that we were caring for the few tax dollars that she was paying. Government accountability is going to do that and I am excited about it.
    While door knocking in Peachland during the election, a woman told me how she had to wait for a long period of time for some very serious operations. In fact, she wound up going somewhere else and paying. She was not a wealthy woman, but she paid for those operations that should have been provided to her in a short period of time. That is why I support in the Speech from the Throne that this government will put in place health guarantees, wait line guarantees that will ensure that people will get the kind of health care they need when they need it and where they need it. I heard that right through my constituency.

  (1600)  

    On the aspect of the GST and lowering taxes, in the northwestern reach of my constituency there is a beautiful town and wonderful community called Logan Lake. It is a quiet but thriving community with wonderful hard-working people and others who worked their whole lives and now have retired there.
    Some of the seniors in that area told me that income tax reductions and these other reductions are all good, but for those who do not pay taxes, where is there something for them? They wanted to know when they were going to see a reduction in the GST, that promise that was made by the Liberals as far back as 1993. It still rings in my ears that the Liberals were going to scrap, abolish and kill the GST. It never happened. A senior in Logan Lake said to me, “Why do you not start to reduce the GST?” I am so thankful that our Prime Minister saw that as a priority.
    On the issue of choice in child care, there I was on a cold afternoon, I can well remember, door knocking with some of our volunteers. A woman came to the door. I do not like guessing ages because sometimes one can guess too high or too low and lose a vote or win a vote. I would guess that she was in her late 30s. She said, “I have voted Liberal all my life but I am going to be voting Conservative this time”. She said there were two reasons. She said, “Finally it looks like the government is going to give me some choice in child care. I have raised my kids at home, plus worked part time and finally, that is being recognized by the government”. She was not begrudging her neighbour who had some type of institutional care and was receiving some support, but she said, “Finally we are getting this kind of support”. She also said, and if my volunteers were here they could vouch for this, “The more I see that Stephen Harper guy, the more I like him”. Is that not true, that the more our Prime Minister--
    An hon. member: Order.
    Hon. Stockwell Day: I was just quoting. I am allowed to quote from other sources.
    The more people see our Prime Minister the more support that we seem to be gaining. People see that this government is focused on the priorities of people, not the priorities of government.
    The final and fifth important area has to do with crime. From one end of my constituency to the other I heard the concern about crime and security. In the beautiful community of Kaleden in the southern reaches of the constituency, people are very concerned that there are not enough officers being supplied to the Penticton area detachment to be in their community enough to help with some of the serious crime that is going on in that wonderful community.
    I am delighted that we are able to make a commitment of 1,000 more RCMP officers from one end of the country to the other, and also the commitment of another 2,500 officers in municipalities right across the country.
    I heard it in the town of Merritt where just before the election a sexual offender with 42 prior convictions was released early into the community with no warning to the RCMP and no warning to the community. There were some provisions written on his release. One of them was that he was not allowed to contact or be in a relationship with somebody under 14.
    The Liberals previously resisted our request to raise the age of consent from 14 at least to 16 to help policing and to help officers deal with those who would be predators and would prey on our kids, not just on the streets but on the Internet.
    I am very honoured to have this portfolio, the minister responsible for public safety and emergency preparedness. I want to say a word about the 52,000 employees across the country in a variety of agencies, the RCMP, our border agency, CSIS, our intelligence agencies, our corrections services, and in so many other areas. I hope I have not left any out.
    I have been able to travel to border crossings, to different ports, to policing detachments to see the work they are doing. These people every day, every night are going to their jobs with a sense that what they do is important, because it is. The safety and security of a people should be the first priority of every government. I am glad that is the case with this government.
    There are five priorities, which are the five priorities that I heard continually throughout the election. There are five areas of commitment that we are going to keep. Yes, we are addressing other areas also that are important, just as agriculture was so powerfully addressed here last week. That is going to benefit orchardists in my area, those who operate and grow the vineyards, those who are out in the fields.
    We are there with Canadians on these five priorities. I am proud of that. I am going to be working with my constituents to see that we achieve in these areas.

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, having worked with you in committee and in the House for years, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you. I can think of no other person more deserving to hold this position than yourself.
    The hon. member said opposition members have not complimented the throne speech and that is wrong. Just the other day I was on my feet and on four occasions complimented the government and actually thanked it for outlining the fact that we are the number one country in the world and have achieved tremendous success. Canadians are proud of our accomplishments. I am glad the government put this in the throne speech because it is acknowledging the accomplishments of past years. I greatly respect the hon. member and have worked with him before. My question ties in to the responsibilities of the Minister of Justice as well.
    During the campaign all the candidates were making different promises. My opponent in Scarborough Centre, Roxanne James, said publicly in her brochure, which I have right here, that “We will repeal the gun registry”. That statement was made on behalf of that party. The Minister of Public Safety said the other day that it will be harder than the Tories expected to dismantle the registry because it will require a legislative vote in Parliament. Of course it is going to require a vote in Parliament.
     Were the candidates such as Roxanne James lying or is that party going to keep the gun registry? The government should put it to a vote. I see the member for Yorkton--Melville, who has been an advocate of getting rid of the gun legislation, sitting in the House. Is the government going to keep that promise? Why does the government not put this to a vote? Is the government going to keep its word and put it to a vote? Of course it is going to take a vote. Will the repeal of the gun legislation be put to a vote as promised, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, we are going to keep all of our commitments and especially those related to the gun registry.
    I acknowledge the fact that the member opposite and I have worked together on a number of issues and I respect his diligence in this regard. When we bring in the legislative elements of the gun registry, I will look for him to be rising in his place and voting with us to dispense with a long gun registry that the Auditor General has pointed out cost in the area of $1 billion.
    I remind my colleagues that when the long gun registry was first brought forward, we were told it was going to be a money maker. I want to acknowledge the incredible work the member for Yorkton—Melville has done in this whole area. His work has been absolutely unparalleled. He has worked harder on this than anybody in this place. We were told this registry was going to make money and then after the first year or two when it started sliding downward, we were told it was going to break even. A couple of years later we were told it was only going to cost a couple of million dollars. For a long gun registry that simply does not work, the cost is now going to be somewhere in the area of $1 billion.
    That is why I can assure the member opposite that the hand gun registry, as we said, is going to stay in place. Other provisions, such as the required safety course, will stay in place. The list of prohibited weapons will still be maintained. We are going to move those resources of $1 billion out to the streets and communities and put more officers on the streets, provide programs for youth at risk, and provide programs dealing with gang activity.
    My colleague, the Minister of Justice, will be bringing in mandatory sentences related to those individuals who commit crimes with firearms. Some of this is going to be legislative and some may not. We are going to bring the legislative side into the House. I look forward to good support from my colleagues across the way.

  (1610)  

    Mr. Speaker, my first question is with respect to the western hemisphere travel initiative, and I thank the minister for his interest in this file. My concern comes from the response I received from the Prime Minister. We know this initiative is going to have a tremendous impact on our tourism industry. Government studies and independent studies have shown so as well. Does the minister support my call to bring the Minister of Industry into this file? Does he support a call for a national tourism strategy to deal with the WHTI?
    The United States and Canada have altered a treaty on the Great Lakes, the longest unarmed border in terms of the water system. United States coast guard vessels are going to be armed and will be able to fire 600 bullets per minute. This has been granted by the Canadian government. Why is it necessary for that kind of fire power on our Great Lakes system?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge discussions I have already had with the member for Windsor West. He is concerned about a number of the issues and he has obviously raised them today and has brought forward some solutions that we in fact are looking at.
    On the western hemisphere travel initiative, for those who may not be familiar with it, an act was passed in Congress a couple of years ago that is going to require anybody entering into the United States to have a passport or an acceptable equivalent that will be acceptable to the United States government. It was actually our party, while in opposition, and the New Democrats, who continued to raise this as a concern of the last two years. The federal Liberals were not dealing with it at all.
    We could see the impact coming. It is going to hit most severely those Americans who do not have passports. As a matter of fact, only about 22% of them do. Polling shows that they are reluctant to get passports. That means that they have another reason to stay at home rather than to cross the border into Canada, either on a short term trip or for longer business interests if they do not have a passport. That is going to have a negative effect on our economy.
    The Conference Board of Canada has estimated some $7.7 million a day will be lost from coast to coast just because of that initiative. I was pleased to see the Prime Minister make this a priority in Cancun. It was one of the first announcements that came out when he met with the President. The President of course has to deal with the fact that Congress voted on this, but he is supportive of a solution.
     I have been charged with working with the secretary of homeland security in the United States in terms of working on a solution. We want to come up with a solution and will work hard for it. The member for Windsor West mentioned a couple of different groups or individuals who could be brought into the equation and I say to him, by all means. To him and to others here in the House, the more people we can bring around the table to look at how we are going to solve this, the better.
    He also mentioned the issue of the U.S. coast guard. The U.S. makes its own view in terms of how it is going to arm its vessels. We have been very clear with the United States that armed vessels are not allowed to cross into Canadian territory. The Americans are certainly going to be able to patrol their own particular areas, but that is not something that we in fact are doing on the Great Lakes with our marine capability there. We have made that also very clear to the Americans.

[Translation]

    Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Québec.
     Permit me to begin my first speech in the House of Commons by thanking my fellow citizens in the riding of Papineau for the trust they have placed in me and the enormous honour they have done me by allowing me to represent them here, as a Bloc Québécois member. As others before me have said, an election campaign is not the work of a single person. An electoral victory cannot be the result of the work done only by a candidate. It is thanks to the hard work and extraordinary devotion of hundreds of activists that I am in this House today. I want to express my loud and clear thanks to them.
     As they have asked me to do, I will ensure that my work contributes to representing their interests and to enabling Quebec to progress toward long-awaited sovereignty.
     The Speech from the Throne was brief and a number of concerns were not mentioned: no mention of issues of concern to women, the unemployed, artists; no mention either, generally speaking, of issues affecting the poor and disadvantaged. I would hope, however, that that speech, which lays out the new government’s priorities, does not sum up all of the government’s concerns, and that in fact we must look elsewhere to find the other important aspects of what the government will be doing in future. On that point, the subamendment moved by the Bloc Québécois that will help older workers to get better support from the government, which passed unanimously, is evidence of the openness of this House to widening the field for what this 39th Parliament will do.
     We should understand from that openness that beyond the Conservative Party’s five priorities, which I acknowledge are legitimate, we can tackle other issues that require our attention and that are just as much a priority. As well, the francophone and Acadian communities of Canada were given short shrift in the Speech from the Throne, a scarce few lines, as follows:
    I have met with people from our two great linguistic communities and I can attest that our linguistic duality is a tremendous asset for the country.
     You will agree with me that it is a little short and that it is understandable that the francophone and Acadian communities are disappointed. Still, we can interpret this sentence in the light of the statements made by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign. During the leaders’ debate on December 15, 2005, the Prime Minister said:
    French is an essential fact in this country. It is the reason why I have been working for a long time to be able to speak my country’s second language. It is also the reason why the new Conservative Party is supporting the two official languages and their equal status in all the institutions of Parliament. We are also in favour of support for linguistic minorities and assistance for second-language education....a Conservative government intends to create a unique francophone secretariat within Canadian Heritage to recognize French across Canada.
     He also stated, the next day, in St. John, New Brunswick:
    Clearly we intend to continue supporting the minority communities and second-language training for Canadians....I think that we are ready to continue this work
     Then, in Quebec City, on December 19, 2005, he made this declaration:
    We must never forget that Canada was founded in Quebec City, by francophones. This is why I say that Quebec is the heart of Canada, and that French is an undeniable element of the identity of all Canadians, even though some of us do not speak it as well as we should.
     Of these three public statements, what must be retained is the Prime Minister’s will to support the French fact throughout Canada.
     The French fact in Canada is in urgent need of such support. During the last campaign, the leader of the Conservative Party did not limit himself to making statements of belief on behalf of the French language in Canada, he also signed a solemn commitment on behalf of the communities, which reads as follows:

  (1615)  

    By placing my signature at the bottom of this statement of commitment, I acknowledge that linguistic duality is one of the foundations of Canadian society and that the official language communities, and more particularly, the francophone and Acadian communities, are one of the pillars of this duality and consequently of Canada. By doing so, I agree to take every means necessary for the Government of Canada to promote their continued development.
     The Speech from the Throne does not—we must admit—reflect the commitments made by the Prime Minister during the last campaign. We must be concerned.
     La Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, in a press release on April 6, 2006, reacted thus:
    La Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada is expressing its deep disappointment and concern regarding a Speech from the Throne that has left almost no room for linguistic duality or the francophonie in minority settings.
    In the Speech from the Throne, the notion of linguistic duality is found in the preamble by the Governor General, but not in the government program, and this is upsetting
    commented the federation's, Jean-Guy Rioux.
    He added:
     We must also lament the fact that, in the list of our country’s fundamental values, the speech mentions neither linguistic duality nor diversity.
     La Fédération culturelle canadienne-française was of a similar opinion:
—this government's Speech from the Throne is a complete disaster for the artistic and cultural sectors of Canadian francophonie and the francophone and Acadian communities in which they work. The concerns of these two sectors, with the arrival of the Conservatives in government, are gaining ground.
    René Cormier, president of the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française, said:
    I must admit, we are deeply disappointed. Except for the Governor General's preamble, there was no mention of the arts and culture in the Speech from the Throne, nor was there anything about linguistic duality. The message we get from the Speech from the Throne is quite clear. 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 and we are particularly perplexed and concerned about what will happen next.
    These reactions show us that there is a clear disparity between what the Prime Minister said during the campaign and what was said in the Speech from the Throne.
    In this context, what should happen next?
    We believe that the government should correct this omission and prove that he is concerned about the francophone and Acadian communities.
    In 2001, excluding Quebec there were more than a million Canadians whose mother tongue was French. However, the number of those who use French at home keeps decreasing. It went from 671,000 in 1971 to 613,000 in 2001. The challenge for many of these communities is one of survival and not development. The risk many of these communities face is that of assimilation.
    Veritable little French bastions, stubborn and determined to exist, these French ramparts in North America, as the president of the Fédération canadienne-française et acadienne calls them, need our support. Not the symbolic support found in election campaign rhetoric, but solid support found here, in this House.

  (1620)  

    Francophone and Acadian communities can count on Quebeckers. They can count on the Bloc Québécois, which deeply admires their courage, creativity and determination to preserve their language, culture and identity.
    As such, I urge the government to offer tangible support to these communities by increasing the budget for Canada-community agreements from $24 to $42 million dollars in the next budget.
    I would also urge the government to provide a clearer definition of its rather vague "French language secretariat" and to give it the means to provide adequate support to communities. Finally, I urge the federal government to offer services in French everywhere in Canada.
    The Bloc Québécois will work very hard for these communities. As the critic for la Francophonie and Official Languages, I make a commitment to this issue. I will take this commitment as seriously as the Prime Minister will, I hope, take his.
    I believe that this House can bring about tangible improvements for Canada's francophones and Acadians. I sincerely do.

  (1625)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, first, I apologize to you for my previous reference. I found out that the word is “dean”. You are in such an important position that I would want to give highest praise to the dean of the House. It is a well deserved position.
    I thank the member for bringing forward some omissions in the throne speech. In fact, I would like to use this time to apologize to the government. The press asked me if I saw something good in the throne speech and I said that I saw aboriginal entrepreneurs, women who felt their voices were not heard and women who were victims of violence as being good and that showed up in the newspaper. I did not realize, however, that the Governor General had written that and not the government. I apologize.
    Aboriginal people, the environment, immigrants and seniors are very important to the fabric of Canada but there was no reference to those except as an afterthought in the conclusion. Would the member and her party agree with me that those are important fabrics of Canada and that there should have been more mention of aboriginal people, the environment, immigrants and seniors other than an afterthought? We put in programs to help millions of people in those areas.
    If the member agrees that the omissions she talked about and the ones I talked about are so important, why is the Bloc Québécois being so easy on the government in this debate?

[Translation]

    It is well known that the Bloc Québécois strongly supports the cause of aboriginal peoples. We have proven it in the past. As citizens of Quebec, we have set an example for Canadian society in terms of the plight of aboriginal peoples and how to ease it.
    I believe that my colleague is aware of the advances that have been made in Quebec.
    Let us look at the Bloc's position.

[English]

    The word in English is “soft” on government. I think the Liberal Party should thank us for that. Since it is in such a bad position, I do not think it would be very happy if we pushed too hard on the government right now.
    The Bloc and Mr. Duceppe have said that we will work with the government as we did before as long as we take into account Quebec's interests and the Bloc Québécois' interests, which is what we intend to do.
    I would remind members that we should not refer to members of the House of Commons by their names.
    Mr. Speaker, just because people do not want an election does not mean we cannot stand up for our principles and fight for things that are not in the throne speech, such as capital gains. It contains nothing for communities, for cities, for the disabled, for the Doha round to help farmers, nothing on drug abuse, education, students, fisheries, forestry, the historic Kelowna accord, homelessness, infrastructure, low income people, mining, a northern strategy, oil and gas, the Pacific gateway, regional development, research, rural people, small business, big business, social programs, tourism, trades and volunteerism, contaminated sites cleanup and International Polar Year.
    We are going to stand up and fight for those things regardless of the situation in Parliament. We are not doing it just because we are politically ready or not for an election.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, certainly there are a lot of things that were not in that document. That is why we have pointed a few of them out.
     As well, we have tried to see, from previous statements by the Prime Minister, how we could expand the points of interest on which the government should take action, because these are promises the government has made us. I would encourage my hon. friend to do the same thing.
     Given the very many topics that were left out, we would surely achieve more if other people on this side of the House wanted to do the same thing and paid attention to the government’s promises, to ensure that they were honoured.

  (1630)  

    Mr. President, this is the first time I have spoken in the House, except for this afternoon during question period, and I take this opportunity to thank my fellow citizens in the riding of Québec who have elected me for the fifth time. I will live up to the expectations of the people of my riding. As usual, I will work hard and with integrity.
     Let us now look at some of the things left out of the Speech from the Throne, although we cannot draw any broad conclusions from that speech about this government’s actual intentions in several areas. Certainly, there are a few general priorities, but I think there are also several omissions in relation to a number of areas and facts of life that all Quebeckers and Canadians are familiar with.
     And so there is talk about open federalism, respecting jurisdictions, and, among other things, the place of Quebec in international forums, where areas under those jurisdictions are being discussed. There is talk about a place similar to Quebec’s status within La Francophonie. There is a desire to limit federal spending and to part company with the previous government, which was very paternalistic and, most importantly, centralist.
     The Bloc Québécois cannot oppose that. We do in fact see some openness.
     In any event, no one can criticize the approach taken and choices made in the Speech from the Throne, which was rather brief and quite succinct. It is not a cause for concern for us, in any event, in terms of the first steps taken on the path that this new government will follow.
    Seven out of ten electors did not vote for a Conservative government in Quebec, and six out of ten in the rest of Canada. This is a minority government. We would hope that the Conservatives will acknowledge the facts of life in a minority government, and will be able to work with the various opposition parties, so that we can achieve a number of things in several areas that were not mentioned in the speech from the Throne.
     When the time comes to take sides on measures that will probably be part of the budget, we will undoubtedly see whether the budget meets a number of expectations, in this instance the expectations of everyone in Quebec.
     We therefore feel some concern about certain of the government’s intentions. In terms of its desire to apply national plans and national strategies, we do not know where that will lead. We are therefore somewhat concerned, because we criticized the former Liberal government quite a bit, in particular for its proposal to impose national strategies and plans. Great care will have to be taken, and it is to be hoped that the new government will do things differently from the previous one.
     They also say they want to resolve the fiscal imbalance. Again, this is not entirely clear. Within the government, the Prime Minister says that this will not be done in the coming budget, but will be part of the next one. So we will have to be patient, because this may come later, in a future budget, we don’t know when. But a minority government has to demonstrate that it intends to take quick action to show the people that it wants to effect a change.
     We know that this government’s finance minister somewhat contradicted his Prime Minister when he said that this budget would be dealing with the fiscal imbalance. He created hopes that we could have a debate and come up with some alignments, try to determine how far we can go to resolve this fiscal imbalance.
     We will have to continue to be very alert, very cautious, and give the public the true situation as to the real intentions of this government.
     During the election campaign, they also promised $1,200 to families with young children under six. This indicates another attempt to interfere in fields of provincial jurisdiction, with no regard for the agreement that had been reached, an agreement I worked on with my NDP colleague from Sault-Sainte-Marie. It took a long time to discuss that agreement, a lot of time.

  (1635)  

     People were waiting for the end result of that agreement. These agreements were discussed in each of the provinces. They were signed, and now there is to be no more of them. They represented $800 million for Quebec.
     We would propose a new method, one that would not penalize families, something of which we are very much aware. We have been very clever. We propose instead a refundable tax credit. That would be less of a penalty for many families. We know that $1,200 is not in fact the net amount that will end up in the pockets of the persons receiving this allowance.
     What we heard was not what could have been expected from this government.
     The disadvantaged and underprivileged are among those who have been most forgotten in the Speech from the Throne. Also left on the scrap heap has been the POWA, the program to support workers aged 55 and over who lose their jobs, for example when factories close down. There are now new players on the international market who produce at less cost goods intended for the population of Canada and other countries. So we are seeing factories close because their operating costs are too high.
     In Charlesbourg, a company called Chaussures Régence lost 200 jobs on December 31, 2005. They just shut the doors. These new unemployed people came to see me in my office. Some of them have formed a coalition to make a claim under POWA. These people worked in a company for 35 years and then overnight found themselves with no income because they did not have employment protection and insurance.
     We are anxious to see what the government’s position will be. It displayed a certain amount of sensitivity before the elections. I hope that it will remember the compassion that it said it had.
     The same is true of social housing. They roundly denounced the billions of dollars accumulated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. We do not know either what the government’s position in this area will be.
     The parliamentary secretary to the health minister is very aware of the mental health issue. Not only is this an area in which something should be done, but mental health involves several goals that need to be achieved at the same time, including better living and working conditions and adequate social housing. We need an entire system. To do this, we should help the provinces meet the needs of their people instead of intervening in place of them.
     The government also presented a national plan to reduce waiting lists. It is not acting any differently than its predecessor would have. They would like to establish provincial plans and be able to give their approval to Quebec’s. We are very sensitive in this regard. There is a commission underway in Quebec, on which all the stakeholders in the health question have a seat. This commission is dealing with the accessibility of health care. The Chaoulli decision gave a green light in Quebec to reform health care or at least to improving its availability.
     We will not be in favour of the establishment of a public health agency. I do not know what the new government’s stand will be on this. It must be remembered that health is a provincial matter. It would be much better advised to invest the money in the Canada health and social transfer and in education. The provinces will be able to meet the needs of their citizens. In my view, this is the winning approach and one that is well suited to meet Quebec’s expectations.
     That is all the time I have for this. I would have liked another 10 minutes. I have not finished, but that will be for another time.

  (1640)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Quebec. I would like to congratulate her on her re-election.
    In her speech, she said she supports the integration of Quebec into international institutions, probably based on the model of the Francophonie. In fact, Quebec and New Brunswick can act on their own behalf during Francophonie summits and at other international events.
    My question concerns UNESCO. As we all know, this is a UN body in which only countries have the right to vote. What solution does the hon. member propose to help our government, so that Quebec may be fully recognized at UNESCO?
    Mr. Speaker, the short answer is sovereignty, for then we would be a country.
    Personally, I wonder about the Conservative Party's promise. I would draw two conclusions. First, that the government, and specifically the Prime Minister, was wrong to hold out such a promise to Quebec during the election campaign, knowing that only a country can officially sit at UNESCO. The mistake seems to have just been discovered. The Belgian model has been suggested to him. If he had thought carefully about it, he might have answered differently and he would not have given Quebeckers false hope. During an election is no time to play word games because, once someone is elected, words must be put into action. Maybe he did not think he would be the one in power. However, now that he is, he must keep his promises. Clearly, he has reached a dead end.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her remarks and congratulate her on being elected to Parliament again and having the trust of her constituents.
    It was said that the Conservative government's first throne speech neglected to mention several things. But it is Canadians and Quebeckers who were truly neglected for the past 13 years. Previous throne speeches did not focus on priorities. They were shopping lists that tried to please everybody. They were litanies of promises that were not kept.
    It is easy to seduce voters. It is not so easy to keep and honour our constituents' trust.
    The throne speech, which proposes measures for Canadians, is geared to Canadians' needs. It includes the reduction in the GST, the child care allowance, improved access to health care and measures designed to change the attitude toward the provinces.
    This throne speech also shows that the government can be flexible. Take, for example, the amendment that addresses older workers. In my own riding, there are shipyard workers who were also neglected for the past 13 years. I hope they will have a support program and that, thanks to the Conservative government, they can have sustainable jobs. No support program can do that. As we say in Quebec, we are in business when private industry can create jobs.
    Lastly, I would like to come back to something that previous speakers said: Quebec is a vital part of Canada. Not only Mr. Harper said it, but the leader of the NDP did as well. I think that my Bloc Québécois colleagues were there. I hope that we can work together to get things done in this House in the interest of Canadians.

[English]

    Before I recognize the hon. member for Quebec, I would remind the hon. member and other hon. members, because it has happened a couple of times this afternoon, not to refer to members of the House by their surnames. The hon. member referred to Mr. Harper. Earlier someone referred to Mr. Duceppe. This is out of order.
    The hon. member for Quebec.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat difficult to answer my new colleague from the South Shore because there really is no question for the Bloc Québécois. I think perhaps he is criticizing the former government. However, now that they are in power, we should respond to what is on the table. I find his answer somewhat lacking. He states that there are no major omissions, but what about social housing, employment insurance, the independent fund, and the POWA program. He spoke about the 1% GST reduction. How people spend their money will determine if they pay less tax. I believe families will receive $200 per year at the most. We cannot say that it is not a good thing, but it is not an exceptional measure, although it seems that this is what the member believes.
    I would prefer that the Conservative Party ask real questions rather than condemn the former government. That has already been done and it is no longer in power. It is now up to them to deliver the goods.

  (1645)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, if I could note first, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's.
    I thank you for the opportunity to speak here today, Mr. Speaker. As this is my maiden speech in the House of Commons, I would like to thank the citizens of Barrie for giving me the honour to serve and fight for their concerns in this historic chamber of democracy.
    I must admit that the first time I walked into these chambers, I got goosebumps. I did so because of the respect I have for this chamber.
    I truly believe that politics can be a noble cause as long as we remain committed to the debate of ideas and public policy. Today I believe that debate needs to focus on law and order.
     In Barrie we take a great sense of pride in our traditionally low rates of crime. However, even our peaceful community of Barrie is unnerved and shaken by the growing rates of crime.

[Translation]

    Even in Barrie, a fairly quiet and peaceful community north of Toronto, my constituents are concerned by the apparent increase in violent crime. I promised them that this new Conservative government would be taking a new approach to the treatment of criminals and I am proud that our government is keeping its promises right from the start.

[English]

    Prior to my election as a member of Parliament, I served on our local council and was a lawyer with a general practice. One thing that sticks with me is that in my municipal ward during my second year at council, there was a beating of a young individual in Tall Trees park. This shocked individuals in the north end of Barrie. It shook their confidence and their sense of security. Those residents in northern Barrie deserve better. They do not deserve to have their safety shattered.
    Just this past weekend I was involved in a park clean up in the downtown Allendale subdivision of Barrie, where just a few weeks ago a 14 year old was stabbed to death by a 16 year old. This is in Lackie's Bush in Barrie. These tragic incidents are not simply the exception, but they are becoming increasingly common in Canada. Canadians deserve to feel safe within the confines of their own communities. This is not too much to ask. This is the least we can do for Canadians.
    Over the last 13 years we have seen a Criminal Code and a Youth Criminal Justice Act that have become increasingly liberalized. How do we deter young offenders when there is no real punishment for their peers who commit crimes? How do we deter drug offenders when they get a slap on the wrist, a conditional sentence to go watch TV in their own house? How do we deter gun crimes when the offenders get told to take a time out in the corner? I would tell all criminal offenders that if they do not respect their neighbours, their community and their place in the community, then how can they expect their community to respect them, their rights and their place in that community? It is for this reason that I am so proud to serve as a member of the government under the leadership of the current Prime Minister. Canadians are tired of talk. They want action and they want it now. That is what Canada's new government is going to do, take action.
    The government will set mandatory minimum sentences for serious violent and repeat crimes. We are going to hold the criminals to account. This means making sure that sentences match the severity of crimes and getting violent criminals off the street so they cannot reoffend. The government will send a strong message to criminals that if they commit a serious crime, they will do serious time. That is why during our mandate we will take the following actions.
    We will introduce mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug traffickers, weapons offences, repeat offenders and crimes committed while on parole. We will end conditional sentences for serious crimes, or appeal the faint hope clause. We will replace statutory release with earned parole. Parole is a privilege and it has to be earned.
    Holding criminals to account will require more police. Having served as a councillor, I can appreciate how the previous federal government left police forces cash strapped with pie in the sky legislation focused on rhetoric and not good, sound public policy, without any means to implement those necessary changes.
    That is why we are also going to work with our partners in other levels of government to make sure there are more police officers on the streets. This is of vital importance, because many of our police forces are currently underfunded and under siege. This situation carries dire consequences for public safety.
    The lack of police patrols inevitably leads to more crime. I mentioned two parks in Barrie, Tall Trees park and Lackie's Bush. If a crime occurs, the citizens deserve to have some police presence. Our communities deserve the right to have a police force that has the financial resources and capacity to respond with all the severity of the law.
    I do not want to put the police chief in Barrie, Wayne Frechette, in a position where he must choose which criminal acts he can respond to and which ones he cannot. If we have laws in the country, they must be enforced. We need to give our police forces the tools to act.
    The federal government is going to act. We will establish a new cost shared program with provincial and municipal governments to hire new police officers, to reinvest savings from the long gun registry into front line enforcement and invest new federal money into criminal justice priorities, including youth at risk programs.
    During the winter campaign I had the opportunity to be part of two town halls. The first one involved our Minister of Finance, and the second the Minister of Justice. Both sessions had participation from every key police department, the OPP and the Barrie police, along with contributions by Mayor Rob Hamilton and the chief of police who hosted one of the meetings for us.

  (1650)  

    The underlying theme of these discussions was that the criminal justice system had become a revolving door. Our police chief would bring criminals into court and see them let out that same day or shortly thereafter.
    The residents of Barrie and our police force believe we need to get tough on crime. We need to foster a greater level of tangible deterrents in sentencing and an enhanced sense of personal accountability for those who break our collective trust.
    This government believes that enough is enough. We deserve to feel safe within the confines of our neighbourhoods. The Prime Minister will make a difference. This government will act. We will not coddle criminals. We will not waver in our convictions.
    I look forward to going back to Barrie and being able to say to my constituents that we will create a Criminal Code that will hold fully accountable those among us who do not respect the rule of law and the dignity of human life.
    In conclusion, I would simply like to thank this Prime Minister and our current Minister of Justice for pursuing an agenda of accountability and justice, which has been long overdue in Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, the debate has often addressed the issue of crime and putting serious criminals away. I do not think there is anyone in this place who would disagree that those who have committed violent and serious gun crimes should have penalties which are commensurate with the seriousness of the crime.
    I am not sure if the member is aware, but in this place one of the things that we found out is that half of the people in Canada's jails today suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol related birth defects. Many of these people also have been the perpetrators of serious crimes. The member probably will know that there is no rehabilitation for someone who suffers from mental illness due to prenatal consumption of alcohol by the mother.
    Maybe the member would agree that we need a comprehensive approach to crime. We have to have a balance between prevention and, as he also mentioned, resources. The policing authorities are not the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada. The police cannot even have enough resources to address the marijuana grow house problems. How is it that we are going to get the resources into the hands of the provinces without encroaching on provincial jurisdiction and indeed without taking over those responsibilities which constitutionally belong to the provinces?

  (1655)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is certainly amusing to hear that we cannot get involved in areas that are not our responsibility when the previous government continually talked about a new deal for municipalities. Municipalities are not within the domain of the federal government. Certainly if we work with the provinces and the municipalities, as I mentioned, it is one of our platform goals to hire more police officers by giving the resources to those who deal directly with this.
    In the last government, mention was made that there were 1,059 vacant RCMP spots. That is unacceptable. This government not only wants to hire officers for those positions and provide the resources to do so, but to work with municipalities to hire 2,500 police officers across this country. As much as we may want to talk about reasons why the status quo is acceptable, which I do not believe is the case, if we look at the statistics for 2004, homicides went up 12%. Last year everyone in the House would have been mortified with some of the tragic incidents that happened.
    I find it unacceptable to simply accept the status quo of the current Criminal Code. It does not offer adequate deterrents. To make up excuses why we cannot act would not do justice for the people who have fallen to tragic deaths over the last year. This government needs to act. The Prime Minister will act. It is an honour to be part of this government.
    Mr. Speaker, I offer my congratulations to you on your ascendancy to a seat that befits your long service in this place, your wisdom and your stature.
    I ask the member, where in this vision would he put the very important activities of prevention and treatment? In my own community we had a treatment centre for people who ended up in trouble with the law. It was doing excellent work, particularly where drug addiction is concerned. The centre was returning people to the streets in better shape than when they had arrived at the centre. In fact, people went on to live constructive lives and made some contribution to society because of the centre.
    That treatment centre was shut down by the previous government. It was actually set up by the government before that. It would be an excellent vehicle if it was looked at again and revamped and resourced again, so that it could become a treatment centre that would deal with some of the challenges that we see out there as people struggle, both victims and perpetrators, to better themselves and create safer streets for all of us.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe this debate needs to centre not only on how to help a criminal not repeat, but also the victims.
    We need to start focusing on sentencing. One statistic that I find surprising is that in 2003 Nathalie Quann in the Justice Canada report “Drug Use and Offending” made note that the average sentence for a drug trafficker was only 87 days.
    Perhaps it is about time we looked at the sentences that are being given. We do not need drug traffickers watching TV on a conditional sentence. Let us give real deterrents for real criminals.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Barrie on a good speech. It was well delivered. I am sure the constituents of Barrie will be well represented in this and in future Parliaments. I also take a moment to congratulate you in your office as Deputy Speaker.
    During my remarks on the throne speech, I will speak to a number of things that some parliamentarians, especially the opposition parties, have overlooked. We are talking about change here, not just a change in government but a change in the direction of government. Our primary focus of the throne speech, and I expect the primary focus of the upcoming budget, will be on change.
    If we look at the Liberal record of broken promises, of the sponsorship program in Quebec and across Canada and the broken promises to the military, it would be my hope that there will never be a political party of any political stripe that will break its bond with the Canadian public the way the Liberal government did.
    We have stated that we will clean up Ottawa by introducing and passing the federal accountability act. We will lower taxes for all Canadians by cutting the GST from 7% to 6%. We will ensure safe communities by cracking down on gun, gang and drug crimes. We will give parents a real choice in child care, with a $1,200 annual payment for each child under six. We will work with the provinces and territories to establish a wait time guarantees.
    Those are five clear priorities. That does not mean there are not other priorities. That does not mean we will not look at other issues that face Canadians, their families and the regions of Canada. It does mean we are a government with a direction and a plan, and we will address specific issues in a fundamental way that has not occurred in the country for 13 years.
    I would like to address two specific issues in my remarks today. Unfortunately, we do not have unlimited time. There is a lot that needs to be said and we do not have time to say it all. I would like to speak a little about the military and the fundamental, disgraceful Liberal record of supporting the military. I also would like to speak a little about child care and the way the numbers are stacking up. Every time I read an article or listen to someone else talk about child care, I get a different set of numbers, but when we actually analyze those numbers they are quite remarkable.
    Let us talk about cleaning up government. Let us talk about delivering our election promises to the Canadian people. Specifically, let us take a look at the Conservative plan to support the military versus what happened under the Liberals. Everything was promised under the Liberals. Nothing, quite frankly, was delivered.
    We can take a look at what happened when we put our troops in Afghanistan. There was a spending spree by the Liberal government because they did not have the tools to do the job in Afghanistan. In particular, they did not have armoured personnel vehicles. To ensure that our troops were properly equipped and trained, they had to go out at the eleventh hour and spend a tremendous amount of taxpayer money on giving our men and women in Afghanistan the tools to do the job. That was in 2001.
    In 2001 we had 2,769 medium logistic vehicles, or wheeled vehicles. They were already 20 years old, the wheel rims were cracked and they had no spare parts. All of a sudden the government found itself not just on a peacekeeping mission, but in a very serious war zone. It decided that it would cost $3,500 per vehicle to fix these things up. The government was willing to spend the money because it looked bad, and we had men and women in harm's way. Then the government decided it really could not do that, so maybe it would buy new armoured personnel carriers. This became a $1.2 billion project. It included 1,500 military vehicles, a large number with armoured cabs, 800 commercial trucks and 300 trailers

  (1700)  

    Fourteen months later this project, which was announced, then re-announced and then announced again by the Liberal government on how it was looking after our troops in Afghanistan, remains unfunded. There was never a dime put into it.
    Surely this is not acceptable. Surely we have to change the way we are doing business in Ottawa, specifically in the House. The idea that we can make promises and not keep them is absolutely unacceptable in this place.
    Specifically on child care, we have come up with a plan that puts money in the pockets of all Canadians. The largest portion of it will go directly to the poorest Canadians, Canadians of very limited income. There will be equality in child care for the first time.
    The Liberals got elected in 1993 promising a child care program. Not one full time space was created. There were a few part time spaces, but no full time spaces. There was no choice.
    Rural Canadians and Canadians living in remote locations were totally left out of any child care plan. There was no spending analysis done. There were no predictions on how this could be paid for in the future. There was no plan. There was never any intention of them keeping their word on it to begin with. It was all smoke and mirrors.
    Let us take a look at the Liberal spin, how that has affected the media and how that has affected the information sources to which ordinary taxpayers are listening. I was reading the newspapers and some of the reporting on it. I picked up an article by Terry Weber of the Globe and Mail. I encourage members to read it. It states:
    According to the government agency, about 54 per cent of children aged six months to five years were in child care in 2002-2003, compared with 42 per cent in 1994-1995.
    We see that child care has gone up. It goes on to state:
    In the most recent period, three forms of child care—daycare centres, child care outside the home by a non relative and care by a relative inside or outside the home—each accounted for about 30 per cent of all care
    My question is this. What is he saying? Are 30% of Canadian children in child care? When we read it, it is not what he is saying. He is saying roughly one-third, 33.3%, are in child care of the 54% who are actually in child care. That is very misleading.
    If we get the statistics from Statistics Canada and take a long hard look at what the Liberals have been talking about in child care, a little investigation tells us that of all children in child care, and remember that is 54% of all children in Canada, 25% were enrolled in a day care centre as the main care arrangement. Twenty-five percent of 54% is 11% of the population that is in some type of an accessible day care situation that does not include a family.
    When we hear the Liberals' rhetoric on child care and what they have done for children in this country, it is patently false.
    It is very encouraging to see a government willing to lay out priorities, willing to stick to those priorities and actually deliver those priorities.

  (1705)  

    Mr. Speaker, talking about rhetoric, the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's talked about our military. I chaired the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, of which the hon. member was not a member. He never sat on that committee so he really cannot speak from experience.
    The hon. member is being intellectually dishonest when he said that we did not have the equipment and we had no money. He should reflect on the last two budgets alone. I will not go to the last three or four budgets.
    Senior military staff came before our committee, one after the other, praising the Liberal government for the investments. They were so happy with what we had done, they applauded us.
    Let me clarify this for the hon. member because he talks about procurement and equipment. Today, we are talking about buying heavy lift airplanes. They do not even exist. They are not even on the assembly line. The earliest we could possibly receive them, if we placed an order today, is maybe seven or eight years down the road. We do not just snap our fingers and say that we want airplanes, or that we want jeeps, et cetera. That just simply does not happen.
    Maybe in his world or in the world of the a minority government they think they can take an order paper to Grand and Toy and say that they want to order airplanes. That is just not the case.
    The hon. member has not got a clue what the military has been saying.

  (1710)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the rhetoric from the hon. member opposite, and he is right. I certainly not sit on the defence committee, but my father was a veteran and my grandfather was a veteran of both world wars. They fought with bolt action rifles, which are better than some of the equipment our military has today.
    He does not have to lecture me about the military or my stance or my defence of it because I will look out for the military first and foremost every time.
    Look at the Liberal record of helicopters that were promised and taken away. Look at the lack of equipment. Look at the troops coming home from peacekeeping missions, taking their helmets off and giving them to the troops going on duty, even to the point of taking their boots off and giving them to the replacement offers. It is absolutely shameful.
    What I have said is very clear. There was a promise of armoured personnel carriers. Not one armoured personnel carrier that was promised was delivered. The only ones delivered were already en route.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in recent years I served with my colleague on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, where we tackled the issue of infrastructure.
    Unfortunately, the Speech from the Throne says absolutely nothing about federal infrastructures. In our regions, the majority of infrastructures are in an appalling state, having been abandoned years ago. The federal government is responsible for looking after its own infrastructures and ensuring that they are usable.
    There is nothing in the throne speech to indicate that the newly elected government intends to take responsibility again for these infrastructures, and for repairing and appropriately maintaining them.
    Like me, my colleague comes from a maritime region and, in his riding as well, there are infrastructures in terrible shape. I am referring in particular to small craft harbours that are the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The situation is not much better on the Transport Canada side.
    The throne speech said absolutely nothing about managing the resource and the fishery. There was but one small word, the word “ocean”. That is all I saw. There was nothing in the throne speech to indicate a new approach to managing the resource and our oceans.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I sat on the fisheries committee together for a number of years. I have always enjoyed my hon. colleague's interventions. He has always approached the fisheries committee with a team approach and certainly has been a steadfast proponent for small craft harbours throughout Canada, not just in Quebec but throughout the entire country. I very much appreciate that.
    The difficulty here is that this is a throne speech and we are not detailing every single issue we are going to deal with. There are serious needs in the maritime community. There are serious needs because of a lack of funding and a lack of spending over 13 years of neglect by the Liberal government. There have been 13 years of neglect for our small craft harbours. Certainly there has been a serious rationalization in the number of docks and wharves that could actually be supported and paid for by government. I understand the previous government had to do that. That had to be rationalized. Most of that has occurred. Hopefully we will not see that trend continue.
    We have a new Minister of Transport and a new Minister of Fisheries and I expect they will be looking at these issues in a very serious manner, understanding the unique dovetailing between the maritime community and this infrastructure that is very much needed, the same way that highways are needed for the rest of the country. This is something we will want to look at in the future. The member should not be too disheartened that it is not mentioned in the throne speech. There are clear priorities there. Those are priorities that are needed and priorities that we are going to deal with.

  (1715)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Markham—Unionville.
    Since this is my first opportunity to address the House in this new Parliament I want to express my gratitude to the people of Pierrefonds—Dollard who gave me their confidence for the fifth time by renewing my mandate. I promise to continue to defend and serve their interests to the fullest. I also want to commend the hon. members from all the parties who were re-elected and those who are sitting here for the first time. Public service is a noble commitment that requires the best of one's self. I want to assure my colleagues of my full cooperation in any matter promoting the general interest of our fellow citizens.
    The Conservative government delivered a Speech from the Throne last week that, unfortunately, is sorely lacking in concrete measures to adopt to improve the lives of the citizens of our country. It is nothing but empty words, a list of platitudes—there is absolutely nothing tangible in it. I find it highly regrettable, since Canadians could have expected a lot more from a brand new government that got elected by promising a lot more.
    There is nothing new in this throne speech about accountability, for example. It was the Liberal government that took the initiative to issue very clear guidelines to protect federal public servants who blow the whistle on misappropriations and those who commit them. It was also the Liberal government that took the first step to adopt stricter measures for lobbyists who have previously worked in government. The same goes for party financing, since in-depth reforms were initiated by the previous government in order to ensure better transparency and greater integrity.
    It was also the Liberal party that undertook to enhance the autonomy of the auditor general, since the government was determined to ensure integrity in public finance management by correcting what needed to be corrected and by prosecuting anyone who broke the law. What concrete measures is the Conservative government proposing in order to go further in this direction? Once again, there is absolutely nothing in the Speech from the Throne on this matter.
     The Conservative government gives us only hollow words as if it were afraid to make a real commitment. We must note, of course, the eagerness with which this government took credit for measures that had actually been taken by the previous, Liberal government. Furthermore, this government claims to consider that Canadians pay too much income tax. In fact, it is not at all the interests of the average citizen that the Conservative government wishes to defend but rather those with large fortunes. As evidence, I refer to the GST reduction of 1%. Is anyone going to benefit from this more than those who can buy luxury cars and big new houses for themselves? This measure will have only a microscopic effect on the income of average or low-income citizens. These are the people, though, that a government worthy of its name should be favouring. No major measure was announced in the Speech from the Throne to lighten their burden.
     Finally, the government has inherited a very strong economy, which is the result of the economical and responsible management approach assumed by the Liberal government throughout its mandate, and which was clearly beneficial for the vitality of the Canadian economy. It is therefore the economic heritage of the Liberal government that made the accumulation of a large budget surplus possible for the federal government, and this is what enabled the federal government to invest in our social programs, in health and in everything concerning the betterment of citizens.
    Even more seriously, there is absolutely nothing in this Speech from the Throne to provide support for middle-class citizens and those most in need, notably where affordable housing is concerned. This government is deliberately forgetting that one of its most essential duties is to act to improve the living conditions of these significant parts of our society. No one should be sidelined in a country as prosperous as Canada. Nowadays the go