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39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 006

CONTENTS

Tuesday, October 23, 2007





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 142 
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NUMBER 006 
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2nd SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1000)  

[Translation]

James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and Northeastern Quebec Agreement

    Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the annual reports for 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03, for the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement.

Canada Elections Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, we all remember the controversy caused by the Chief Electoral Officer's decision to allow voters to vote while wearing a veil. On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I promised to introduce a bill to amend the Canada Elections Act.
    This bill will require all voters to establish their identity, with their faces visible, before they can vote. The bill also provides that when a voter does not have photo identification with their name and address, the voter can provide two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer.
    As we have mentioned, this situation is absurd and must be corrected through legislation. This is why we are introducing the bill.
    In any case, I believe this bill will easily receive unanimous consent. I would remind the House that every party has indicated its support for this approach. Furthermore, the government announced this very intent in the Speech from the Throne.

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

  (1005)  

[English]

National Defence Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, we have a rather ridiculous situation right now where members serving in the Canadian reserves do not have a guarantee of job protection when they serve on a mission for Canada. My bill aims to rectify that.
    When reservists serve on a Canadian mission, they should have a guarantee that their job will be protected and be there for them when they return to Canada.
    Currently, three provinces have elected legislation, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, to protect jobs that are covered under provincial jurisdiction. My bill would change the federal legislation so that people who work in jobs under federal legislation would be covered.
    Actually, the House proposed some changes in 1998 but, under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, those changes have never been implemented.
    I push the government to ensure that our reservists who serve Canada have a guarantee that their jobs will be protected when they come back to this country.

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

Excise Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, charities are increasingly funding the acquisition of medical equipment that community hospitals need. In my riding alone, the St. Mary's Hospital Foundation's Back the CAT campaign raised $1.6 million for a CT scanner and the Whistler Health Care Foundation raised $1.3 million for a CT scanner. The Powell River Health Care Auxiliary has similar plans.
    Canadians who give to our hospitals and help their neighbours get the medical care they need should not have to pay GST on these donations. The bill would ensure that the funds raised by our hospital foundations will go even further in helping to improve Canadians' health care.
    I ask my colleagues from all parties to support the bill and help gets results for our hospitals and for Canadians.

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

Canada's Clean Air and Climate Change Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is with some pleasure and some regret that I present this bill. This was, of course, the clean air and climate change act that was rewritten by all members of this House.
    I have the support of the member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the NDP, who has helped create the full circle of this bill. He created the subcommittee, the standing committee that was able to address the flaws in the original government act, and worked with all members of Parliament from all sides of the House to create some progressive environmental legislation for this country in the absence of true leadership on this front, which Canadians are demanding on a daily basis. The world is demanding that Canada finally take its place on the stage and do its part in the battle against climate change.
    It seems that, in coming full circle, we finally present the government with a way forward, a way in which it can no longer delay real action against climate change and can no longer tell Canadians that it cannot be done.
    We in the New Democratic Party believe that this is an issue that must be addressed and that it can in fact be done.

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

Petitions

Income Trusts 

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present an income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Mr. Doug Alderson of Peterborough, Ontario, who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept.
    The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he had promised never to tax income trusts but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.
    The petitioners call upon the Conservative minority government to admit that the decision on income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise and to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

  (1010)  

Logging Industry  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present to the House today.
    The first petition involves restrictions on log exports from private lands. Private lands are regulated by the federal government and one-third of the land mass of Vancouver Island is actually a private land forest.
    The petitioners note that of approximately one million acres of private forest land on central Vancouver Island, nearly 70% of the logs harvested are currently destined export. They are, therefore, calling upon the Government of Canada to implement a tariff on logs exported from private lands to level the playing field and ensure that Canadian mills, as well as secondary industries that rely on byproducts from processing, are given equal opportunity.

Rail Transportation  

    Mr. Speaker, my second petition involves the E & N railroad, that is the Esquimalt and Nanaimo railroad, which goes from Victoria up to Nanaimo in my riding and further up to Courtenay and Comox.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to act speedily to keep the E & N railroad running. They note that the E & N is part of Vancouver Island's economy and its history and that it was a federal guarantee made as a precondition of British Columbia entering Confederation.
    I would note, along with constituents, that we all have an interest in advancing green energy and transportation options. The petitioners are asking for help to keep the E & N railroad running.

Natural Health Products  

    Mr. Speaker, my final petition involves a private member's bill, Bill C-404, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (natural health products). There are 564 signatures on this petition from my own riding; Qualicum Beach; Parksville; Brandon, Manitoba; London, Ontario; and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
    Canadians are asking that support for the use of national health products is widely accepted in our society to promote health and wellness and improved access to natural products would allow Canadians to better manage their own health and relieve pressure on the health system.
    The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to enact Bill C-404 and take the GST off natural products and make them more available to Canadians to help promote wellness and health.

Questions on the Order Paper

    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine on a point of order.

Point of Order

Bill C-357—Employment Insurance Act  

[Point of order]
    Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the floor. As I am sure you recall, a few days ago, I informed you that the Bloc Québécois intended to respond to the Conservatives' request concerning Bill C-357. They called for a royal recommendation concerning the creation of an independent employment insurance fund. I will now raise a few points that will surely enable you to make an informed decision about this issue.
    I would like to bring to your attention our argument against requiring a royal recommendation to pass Bill C-357, to create an independent employment insurance fund. That is why I am addressing you today.
    At the outset, we recognize that the content of Bill C-357 is very similar to Bill C-280, as introduced in the 38th Parliament. It is clear that the Speaker's ruling on June 13, 2005, included a number of elements that were open to interpretation. The Conservatives are referring to those very elements to support their assertion that the bill now before us requires a royal recommendation. That is why we must take the time to review the Conservatives' arguments point by point.
    First, the Conservatives claim that passing this bill would lead to additional expenses. That is totally false, because the current legislation already provides for fluctuations with respect to premiums and conditions of eligibility, which determine the fund's revenues and expenditures that go through the government's consolidated revenue fund. This bill is not designed to change these provisions, so it is not true that the bill would engender additional costs. Therefore, there is no basis for the claim that this bill would bring about “additional” or “new” expenditures.
    The Conservatives are saying that the appropriation of public revenue will be altered depending on the circumstances and the way it is managed. The current legislation provides for a contribution to be deducted from every pay cheque and it is understood that this money will be used to ensure supplementary income to contributors who need it because of their own economic circumstances. The eligibility criteria for employment insurance and the premium rates that determine the revenue and expenses of the fund, will serve the same purpose and use the same mechanisms when this bill is enacted. I would add that a change to the eligibility criteria would still require a legislative change. Let us be clear, not only does this bill not require additional expenditures, but what is more, the purpose of and reason for these public funds will not change in any way.
    We acknowledge, as the Speaker said on June 13, 2005, that it does involve transferring public funds to an independent employment insurance fund, but royal recommendation is not needed for two reasons. The Speaker himself said, on May 9, 2005, that:
    The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill.
    Although there will indeed be a transfer of revenue to an independent fund, the circumstances, manner and purposes by which the commission will set the premiums and manage the revenue will not change at all. Furthermore, the spirit of the current act will be better protected since the revenue generated by the premiums will no longer be used to serve interests other than those defined by the act, namely those of the workers. Using revenues that should go into the fund, but instead are taken into the consolidated revenue fund for purposes not listed in the act, will no longer be possible.
    A royal recommendation would be necessary if the bill were seeking to withdraw revenue from the government's consolidated revenue fund to be used for purposes other than those described in the act. In this case, it is clear that the purpose of the bill will not alter anything in the current legislation. On the contrary, it will allow the spirit of the act to be respected and prevent the misappropriation of funds that the Liberals and Conservatives are known for.

  (1015)  

    Fourth, the argument cited on June 13, 2005, that the investment of public monies by the Commission represents new or different expenditures, must have workers seeing red.
    The federal government continued to invest—or, in other words, spend—the public monies from the fund to pay down the Canadian debt, which violated the spirit of the law. It clearly did not act in the interests of workers, who watched these monies—that they, with their employers, had paid to ensure themselves against economic downturns—disappear. It was the government, not this bill, that invented a new purpose for the fund and its surpluses.
    Finally, adding 13 commissioners will be financed by a small increase in expenses, which will no longer appear as an expenditure from the consolidated revenue fund, given that the Conservatives recognize that the employment insurance fund will no longer be a part of the consolidated revenue fund. Since the Conservatives no longer know how to oppose an idea that they supported in the past for purely populist considerations, today they are attempting to use procedural arguments to avoid openly declaring themselves against a bill that is necessary and that contributors have demanded for many years. Only their neo-conservative ideology, hidden behind a populist facade, can justify such deplorable actions.
    With that, I conclude my presentation.
    I thank the hon. member for his comments. I will most certainly take them into account, along with the others, when I rule on this bill.

Speech from the Throne

[The Address]

  (1020)  

[Translation]

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your team a good session, and to welcome the new pages as they start their new jobs.
    No one will be surprised if I speak specifically about justice. Overall, the Bloc Québécois was disappointed in the throne speech. Our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, clearly indicated our conditions and expectations.
    We also spoke about the Kyoto protocol. We clearly wanted the government to confirm that it would follow through with the commitment we made when Kyoto was signed: to bring greenhouse gases down to their 1990 levels and then reduce them further still. We do not have a green government—this we know. This government is very irresponsible when it comes to the environment, and the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has had many opportunities to speak about this.
    We would also have liked the government to agree with the views of many important representatives of civil society and our fellow citizens, that Canada's mission in Afghanistan must end in 2009. Since the beginning of the mission we have been critical of the fact that there has not been a satisfactory balance of development assistance, international cooperation and military objectives.
     Obviously we hope that attention will be focused on the entire question of forestry and the manufacturing sector. We know what hard times those sectors have experienced. Certainly we hope that supply management will also be discussed, for it is an extremely important issue in rural communities. And we hope that the government will eliminate the spending power in relation to matters under provincial jurisdiction. There have been calls for this for 50 years, and the Bloc Québécois is certainly not going to be satisfied with the government’s dishonest subterfuge.
     With that introduction, we must now talk about the justice system. First, what an exercise in cosmetics this is, what an exercise in stage management! Watching the press conference given by the Minister of Justice, his colleague the Minister of Public Safety, and the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, we had the impression that we were attending a play by Molière, starring Tartuffe. We were given to think that since the Conservatives took power in 2006 the House of Commons has been the victim of obstruction when it comes to the justice system. We were also given to think that the government has been prevented from having its justice initiative passed.
     And yet when we look a little closer, we see that since January 2006 the Conservative government has tabled 12 bills relating to the justice system. As we speak, six of those bills have received royal assent and have thus become law. Of those six bills that have become law, three were passed using what is called the fast-track procedure, with the unanimous consent of all leaders in the House of Commons.
     So out of 12 bills, six have become law, and three of those were passed with the consent of all parties using the fast-track procedure; four reached the Senate, at first, second and third reading, while both in the House and in committee there were only two bills remaining. It has to be said that in parliamentary history there have been more vigorous examples of obstruction. When six bills receive royal assent, four are being considered in the Senate and only two are left, you cannot, in all honesty, appear at a press conference and say that you have been unable to get your bills passed.

  (1025)  

     For the benefit of our constituents, I will mention the bills that were passed.
     First, there was Bill C-9, on conditional sentences. It is true that we did propose some amendments. It is our job to do that. We are a responsible opposition. What is the role of the opposition? It is to ensure that bill are improved and made as perfect as possible. We would be completely irresponsible if we did not do our work. As far as the bill on conditional sentences is concerned, the government ultimately wanted to do away with that option for judges and we highlighted that.
    Bill C-17, which dealt with judges’ salaries, was also passed, followed by Bill C-18, a rather technical bill on DNA data banks. Moreover, in tribute to our unfortunately deceased colleague, Bill C-19, which creates a new offence under the Criminal Code with regard to street racing, was passed unanimously.
     Two other bills were passed within 48 hours, which is an indication of the cooperation among opposition parties. One of those two was introduced by the Bloc Québécois, because of incidents of piracy, the unauthorized use of camcorders to record movies in theatres, particularly in Montreal. The other bill dealt with the signing by Canada of an international convention to fight organized crime.
     Four other bills were being dealt with in the Senate, or I should say, “the other place.” There was, first, Bill C-10, concerning minimum penalties for offences involving firearms.
     Next, there was Bill C-22, which dealt with the age of protection under the Criminal Code. Some of my colleagues followed that subject with a great deal of interest. The Bloc Québécois had asked for a five-year proximity clause. The Bill was before the Senate. In spite of some questions, our position was relatively favourable. The bill had been amended in committee.
     Then there was Bill C-23, somewhat technical, on the language of juries and the accused.
     I do not want to forget to say, Mr. Speaker, that I am sharing the time allotted to me with the likeable and charming member for Sherbrooke.
     Finally, Bill C-35 on reversing the onus of proof was also passed. Some television journalists described this bill as reversing the onus of proof for parole. However, the bill was not about parole but about pre-trial bail hearings.
     There were two bills remaining about which we had and still have questions and amendments to propose.
     The first deals with drug-impaired driving. We are in favour of the new provision in the bill requiring individuals to take sobriety tests. Peace officers and police could stop people who are driving erratically under the influence of drugs. We were in favour of certain provisions to require people to submit to sobriety tests.
     We amended the bill however because, as unlikely as it might seem, it would have been irresponsible to pass this Conservative bill without any amendments. Imagine someone driving along in his car together with a friend. They drive down the road—let us say the Trans-Canada highway, for example, to please some of my colleagues here—and it turns out that the friend, who is driving, has marijuana in his pockets or his luggage. If we had passed this bill, the car owner would have been held liable. That did not seem responsible to us or legally sound.
     There was also another bill about which we had a lot of questions. Unfortunately though, I have only a minute left and so I am going to proceed to my conclusion and allow the hon. member for Sherbrooke to take over.
     We are going to take our work in committee very seriously. We will not allow ourselves to be dictated to by the government which, in a fit of authoritarianism, might demand that the opposition propose no amendments to Bill C-2.

  (1030)  

     We will amend Bill C-2 if we think that is the direction in which the testimony we hear is taking us. As always, I can assure the House that the Bloc Québécois will act in a serious, responsible, reasoned way. We would also like to remind the House of the justice proposals we made last June.
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, because of time constraints, I did not hear my eminent colleague talk about this last bill, about which we had serious reservations. I would like him to give us some more information about it.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my young colleague. If I am not mistaken, he is the youngest member of Parliament from Quebec. The bill he is referring to concerns dangerous offenders.
    For 50 years, the Criminal Code has contained provisions we have not challenged. We agree that some people are extremely violent and present such a high risk of reoffending that they must be declared dangerous offenders. People who are declared dangerous offenders can receive indeterminate prison sentences and are not eligible for parole for seven years.
    The problem with the new Bill C-2, has to do with the list of 22 offences. Some of them, such as incest or attempted murder, are very serious, but others such as assault need some explanation. For instance, if my dear colleague and I were to have a fight—it would not last very long—that would constitute assault.
    We are not downplaying assault, but we want to know why it is on the list of 22 offences. After an offender has committed three offences on the list, automatic sentencing applies. We question whether this is the right way to assess how dangerous an offender is.
    This does not mean that we will vote against the bill, no more than it means we will vote in favour of the bill. What it means is that we have some serious work ahead of us, in committee.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy listening to this member. I do not speak his mother tongue, but I get the impression that his speeches are always very fluent and very well delivered, and of course our interpreters do a fine job as well
    I, too, would like to ask him about the member's response to this question vis-à-vis the reverse onus. I am exasperated when I hear this member and other members in the House, members from the Liberals and sometimes also from the NDP, decrying this. Somehow they feel it is unfair to people because they are being called guilty instead of being called innocent until proven guilty.
    Is it not true that if one has been charged and convicted of serious crimes such as aiming a gun at a person, pulling the trigger and missing, not once but twice or three times, it really has been the accused himself who has proven he is a dangerous offender? The bill the member is talking about merely proposed that at this stage this individual be declared what he has already proven himself to be, that is, a dangerous offender. The reverse onus actually is a way out, whereby this person gets yet another chance in which he can say, “I am not a dangerous offender and here is the proof”. It gives him that opportunity.
    Do we not have, as a government and as the enforcers of the law in this country, the obligation to put away people who just cannot learn after one, after two and after three times?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, what has come across only too well is my hon. colleague's understanding.
    I will therefore try to be very clear. First of all, the American states that tried this system of reverse onus later reversed their decision.
    Why? Because in matters of justice, when we set out to imprison someone indefinitely—I hope the interpreter will translate this clearly: the result of being declared a dangerous offender is indefinite incarceration—this is not seen as automatic sentencing.
    We agree that the Criminal Code should contain provisions for declaring someone a dangerous offender. Now, maybe after just one offence, an individual might have to be declared a dangerous offender. Perhaps three offences are not needed. It is possible, at this time, for a psychiatrist to be called by the Crown in order to testify, after one offence, that the individual should be declared a dangerous offender.
    The problem is that, when his colleague, the Minister of Justice, appeared before the parliamentary committee, he was unable to explain to us why the system is not working, why we should modify the system and resort to automatic sentencing after three offences.
    We will have the opportunity to listen to the minister again during our work on Bill C-2 and I hope his explanations will be clearer this time than when he first appeared.

  (1035)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak with regard to the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
    The Bloc Québécois was quick to set out what the throne speech should contain. Even though this has probably been done many times before, for the benefit of the voters who are watching us on the parliamentary channel—I imagine there are a few million people watching this morning—we should give a bit of background again and tell people what may have inspired this throne speech.
    Thirty-one of the 126 Conservative members used to be Reformers, and eight of the 32 cabinet members were as well. That gives us some idea of the thinking behind this throne speech.
    The Bloc's demands were very clear on Afghanistan, federal spending power, measures to address the forestry crisis, meeting Kyoto commitments and commitments to Quebec, and supply management. Of course, there were many other elements, which my colleague from Hochelaga mentioned previously, including justice. Important issues still have to be discussed in this House, and I know he will do a good job and introduce important improvements to the bill.
    The government did not address any of the Bloc's five priorities. Although we demanded a withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2009, the government set the date at 2011, after creating a commission to analyze the situation and make recommendations to the government.
    Federal spending power has by no means been eliminated. Instead, the government is placing limits on federal spending power for new shared-cost programs in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. We were clear on this. Federal spending power had to be eliminated, and in the event the government invested in areas of jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces, they had to have the right to opt out of these programs with full compensation.
    We also care about respecting our Kyoto commitments. The government's sanctimonious attempts to make us believe that it is an ardent crusader in the fight against greenhouse gases and for clean air are green indeed, but they are more often the inexpert sort of green than the environmentally friendly kind. We are a long way from achieving the goals that we must reach as soon as possible given the current state of our air quality and the greenhouse gases that are threatening the entire planet.
    I would like to discuss measures to address the crisis in the forestry industry and supply management.
    The crisis in the forestry industry has been going on for a long time. The Conservative government—which has done no better than its Liberal counterpart—resolved the softwood lumber crisis in a way that was bad for the industry and for workers. The Bloc Québécois has demanded that the government do something to help the forestry industry and, especially, forestry workers.
    In the Speech from the Throne, the government said that it was concerned about the crisis, but it offered nothing concrete to help revive the industry or to help older workers who have been laid off. I would like to read the following excerpt from the throne speech.
    Our Government will stand up for Canada’s traditional industries. Key sectors including forestry, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism are facing challenges. Our Government has taken action to support workers as these industries adjust to global conditions and will continue to do so in the next session.

  (1040)  

    When I hear that “it will continue to do so in the next session”, knowing that 130,000 jobs have been lost in Quebec in the manufacturing sector since 2003—of which 65,000 since the Conservatives came to power—I find unfortunately that the fears of Quebec and Canadian workers are justified with regard to even greater job losses in the future than what we have already experienced.
    With regard to the manufacturing sector, I would like to return to the attitude of the Minister of International Trade, who is currently negotiating 28 free trade agreements with various countries. He is rushing into 28 agreements when no study or analysis of the impact on Quebec and Canadian industries has been carried out—nothing that was not minor or cursory. Consequently, we are unaware of the potential impact on manufacturing jobs in Quebec and Canada.
    We know very well that the Minister of International Trade supports purchasing goods at the lowest cost for our companies. Therefore, he supports importing to supply Canadian companies. This also has a direct impact on the Canadian suppliers of the same types of goods. This will result in greater job losses.
    My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville tabled Bill C-411 to establish more specific and pertinent criteria for preventing, among other things, dumping by various countries. In the meantime, our Minister of International Trade is attempting to negotiate, piecemeal, quickly and without any analysis, all sorts of free trade agreements with other countries. That gives rise to concern, as voiced by the government itself in the throne speech, that the situation will further deteriorate rather than improve.
    Finally, there is supply management. It is obviously an important aspect which has an impact on the regions, in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing, because of the crises.
    We know full well that the regions are important components in the development of a country—Quebec and Canada as well—and in the stability of agriculture, as well as of employment in the manufacturing sector.
    As for agriculture, let us remember that in the past few months, the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have made many statements that betray the government's true intentions. Even if, in the throne speech, the government seems to be in favour of maintaining supply management, contradictory comments have been made. The Minister of International Trade even said that one day supply management would have to come to an end. The former Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food suggested that supply managed farmers prevented the government from properly defending the interests of Canadians at the WTO, and that they should consider compromising.
    So it is clear that none of the Bloc's five demands was satisfied. And even if there seems to be an interest in supply management, the evidence is there and the comments have been made. The agricultural community will not be able to survive with policies like the ones this government could develop.

  (1045)  

    In conclusion, supply management is very important, as is the manufacturing industry. But all the other issues brought up by the Bloc Québécois in speeches and debates are important as well.
    So, for these five main reasons—the demands I mentioned earlier—and for a number of other reasons that were brought up in this House, we ask the Liberal Party to reconsider its position, to not give in, to not go against its beliefs and to give the Conservative government a chance to go back to the drawing board.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments in his speech today.
     The hon. member and I sat on the international trade committee together in the last session. We had some very interesting discussions. We learned many interesting facts, some of which the hon. member maybe did not portray in the best light, regarding some of the reflections from witnesses who talked about what this new government has done to support the economy, to grow the economy and to encourage trade.
    I take exception to some of the member's comments. Certainly some jobs have been lost in many of the sectors, and we empathize with those folks who have lost their jobs. However, we have to look at the overall numbers. Since this government took power, there have been 590,000 new jobs created and 80% of those new jobs are high paying jobs.
    Canadians are very adaptable. They do not necessarily have to move to find these jobs. They have gone out and found these jobs. That is a positive. They think that this government is doing a great job of providing new economic growth for them. In the last year alone, 280,000 new jobs have been created.
    I realize in the hon. member's region there have been some job losses. We have had this discussion. However, is there not a reflection in the jobs that have been created that they actually are compensating for some of the lost jobs?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have to look beyond the job creation numbers. On a political level, the Conservatives are telling us not to look at the polls but at what is happening on the ground. However, when we see statistics on the unemployment rate, we have to be equally careful not to always accept the figures we are given as gospel truth, since determining the unemployment rate and conducting political polls are done by a similar process and methodology.
    Indeed, jobs have been created, but what kind of jobs? We have to make a distinction between the manufacturing world in Quebec and that in the rest of Canada. It is absolutely not the same thing. They do not compare. Quebec's economic growth is largely geared toward exports. The manufacturing world is rather seriously affected by the Conservative government's international trade policies.
    In my opinion, the ease with which the Conservative government enters into free trade agreements with other countries, without really weighing the consequences to the manufacturing industry, causes significant job losses: since 2003, almost 130,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing. These jobs may have been replaced, but not with jobs of the same quality with the same income for the workers. We see more workers slipping into poverty.
    In our society we look at the unemployment rate from time to time and we say that everything is going well since the rate is steady or going down. Nevertheless, people are getting poorer. We have to do everything we can to try to keep our manufacturing jobs. We have to invest in research and development. We have to encourage innovation and not just settle for creating indirect service jobs that often pay minimum wage. We have lost a great deal of good salaries that helped people get out of poverty, a poverty they are quietly slipping back into with Canada's trade policies.

  (1050)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Macleod, which was once my home.
    I am proud to stand here today to talk about one of the five priorities that our government set out in last week's Speech from the Throne.
    As was laid out in the speech, this is a time of economic uncertainty and volatility in the wider world, and while the economic fundamentals of Canada continue to be strong, our country is not immune from this turbulence. The key to getting through this kind of turbulence is coming out in a strong and prosperous way and making sure that we get the economic picture right. This is critical.

[Translation]

     We are certainly living in dynamic economic times. Technology is changing faster than ever and there is no slowdown in sight. The power of computers doubles every 18 months and bandwidth is expanding even faster.
     Just when we have finally figured out our BlackBerries, we are being offered the next generation of wireless devices we can use to access more information faster than we could ever have imagined. All of this is already here, literally at our fingertips.

[English]

    Amid this fast-paced change, intense global pressure is now redefining how businesses must compete. As a result, economic success is judged by different standards than it was even 10 years ago because with the click of a mouse, billions of dollars can move around the globe.
    As it stands, Canada is well positioned to be successful. Our economy is strong, growth continues to rise, unemployment is low, and taxes are declining.

  (1055)  

[Translation]

     Many of our industries are in excellent shape. Our aerospace industry is the fifth largest in the world. Our biotechnology sector ranks third in terms of the number of firms. Our automotive industry stands among the best in the world and our performance in oil and gas extraction is unequalled the world over.
     Despite all this, there is no doubt that Canada is still facing economic challenges and that we must be vigilant if we are to be able to stand up to global economic pressures. As I said, part of the solution lies in having a clear understanding of the overall situation. It is the government’s responsibility to do that.

[English]

    Since coming to office, our government has taken that responsibility seriously. We have worked hard at creating the right economic climate, cutting taxes, reducing the federal debt, investing in education, improving the regulatory environment. In other words, we have ensured that the best conditions for the private sector exist so that the private sector may flourish, so that it may do what it does best, which is to create jobs for Canadians and prosperity.

[Translation]

     This fall, the Minister of Finance will present an economic and financial update that will provide information on the next steps in the Advantage Canada process, along with the five priorities in the Speech from the Throne.
     Advantage Canada, the government’s long term economic plan, is based on sound fiscal management and is intended to create five advantages for Canada that will help individuals to improve their quality of life and help businesses to succeed on the global scene.

[English]

    First is a tax advantage establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment anywhere in the G-7. Second is a fiscal advantage eliminating Canada's total government net debt within a generation. Third is an entrepreneurial advantage reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape. Fourth is a knowledge advantage developing the best educated, most skilled and flexible workforce in the world.

[Translation]

     And the fifth advantage, an infrastructure advantage, will create modern, world-class roads, bridges and ports to ensure the seamless flow of people, goods and services.

[English]

    In providing effective economic leadership, the government has made great strides, but we realize that more needs to be done. The Speech from the Throne gives us a clear path to follow in moving toward Canada's goals and economic objectives.

[Translation]

     We believe that the taxes Canadians pay are still too high. Since we came to power, we have implemented or announced income tax and other tax reductions of over $37 billion for individuals and families, and reductions of more than $3.5 billion for businesses. But we have to cut taxes even farther.
     That is why we will be presenting a long term plan for broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families, one that will include keeping our promise to cut the GST again.

[English]

    We know it is the government's role to set the right conditions for entrepreneurs to succeed and to help create the ideal climate in Canada. In this sense, the Prime Minister released the national strategy on science and technology in May and invested $1.9 billion in budget 2007 to support new science and technology policies, programs and priorities.

[Translation]

     Canadians expect all levels of government to cooperate in creating a more vigorous economy. The government of Canada is firmly resolved to work together with the provinces and territories to eliminate barriers to domestic trade. We will be considering ways of using the federal power to regulate trade and commerce to improve the way our economic union works, for the benefit of all Canadians.

[English]

    Our government is aware also of the need for copyright reform and that this is essential to ensuring Canada remains competitive. We will introduce legislation in the next few months that will provide legal measures for rights holders, clarify the rules relating to copyright as they apply to Internet service providers, address the educational and research use of copyrighted materials, and address consumer interests.
    We will launch our building Canada plan, the largest investment in Canadian infrastructure in half a century. The result will be safer roads and bridges, more competitive businesses and, indeed, a better quality of life for all Canadians.
    Our success as a trading nation relies in part on modern and efficient transportation systems. This is indeed a primary responsibility of government. Through the building Canada plan, we are investing in our transportation and trade hubs, including the Windsor-Detroit corridor and the Atlantic and Pacific gateways.
    It is clear that what the government has put forward in the throne speech has received wide acclaim from Canadian business leaders. Today in the National Post Carrie Tait noted that Canadian business leaders praised this particular throne speech, with 71% of business leaders from small and medium-sized businesses considering this a great road forward for the country. Of the people surveyed, 90% support the Prime Minister's plan to cut taxes for individuals and families. Only 5% found these measures to be undesirable.
    That is an incredible vote of confidence. Of the people surveyed, 88% are in strong support of reducing interprovincial trade barriers. As well, a majority of those polled are strongly in favour of the proposed plan to reduce the GST to 5% from 6%.

  (1100)  

[Translation]

     And by providing economic leadership, our government will also be standing up for Canada’s traditional industries. Key sectors such as forestry, manufacturing and tourism all have challenges that must be met. The fluctuation in the Canadian dollar in recent years is one of the factors causing problems for Canada’s traditional industries. While our government has already taken steps to assist Canada’s traditional industries, we will be doing more. Our long term plan of broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families will provide significant and timely assistance for those industries.

[English]

    The agricultural sector will benefit from our government's promotion of biofuels and the new growing forward agricultural framework.
    In sum, this is an excellent throne speech. Canadians can trust that the government will provide them with continued leadership to ensure continued prosperity and a quality of life unequalled anywhere in the world.
    Mr. Speaker, I must say I am not surprised that the minister would think the Speech from the Throne is indeed excellent, but I think the reality is quite different, especially if we are in a family looking for a child care space or if one is a student looking for student debt relief or an individual who cares about cities. There are many deficiencies.
    I think the government missed a wonderful opportunity to paint the future for Canadians. A successful Speech from the Throne is one that paints a future where people see themselves. I do not think many Canadians see themselves in this Speech from the Throne.
    Cities do not see themselves in this speech. Gord Steeves, the president of the Canadian Federation of Canadian Municipalities states, “Clearly, the budget surpluses of recent years demonstrate that the government has the resources to provide tax relief to Canadians and invest in our cities and communities”.
    That, of course, was the Liberal legacy.
    Mr. Steeves states:
     We are disappointed that the Government has chosen to forgo this opportunity.
     None of these municipal priorities and strategies were fully addressed in today's Speech from the Throne. This will not only hinder the success of our cities and communities in a competitive world; it will impede the realization of the Government's overall objectives because the future of our country is tied to that of our cities and communities.
    That is hardly a ringing endorsement of the Speech from the Throne.
    I also want to state very clearly that this speech is very much a reflection of the retail politics approach of the Conservative government. I say this because there are major issues in the medium term, the short term and the long term, issues such as Canada's aging society. Where is that? What is the government's plan to address that particular issue?
    Where is the government's plan to address the issue of emerging markets like China and India?

  (1105)  

    Order. The plan is for there to be some time left for the minister to answer the question. The member has taken up half of the five minutes. I have to give the minister some chance to reply.
    Mr. Speaker, I respect my colleague and I appreciate the question. Let there be no doubt that when Canadians look at the throne speech, they will not see an image of the Liberals. There will be no Liberals who will find themselves represented in this throne speech.
    Whether we talk about sovereignty and Canada's place in the world, economic leadership, or dealing with criminal justice or the environment, and I will deal with each of those in turn, this is not a Liberal throne speech. It sets the priorities of Canadians, not the priorities of the Liberal Party. In that sense, I agree with my friend. If Liberals look at this throne speech, they will not find themselves.
    In regard to dealing with sovereignty and Canada's place in the world, the Liberal Party had 13 years to deal with these issues. The Liberals had 13 years to assert our sovereignty in the world, in the north, in the Northwest Passage, in Canada's Arctic, and they did not do that. This government is doing it. We are engaged in the necessary steps to make that happen.
    In terms of our place in the world, this government and this Prime Minister have done more to put Canada on the world stage in a proud place, standing up for freedom and democracy, than ever happened under the Liberal Party.
    It is true, and I do not think anyone in the House would disagree, that we will not find the Liberal image in this throne speech, because we are getting on with broad based tax cuts for families, for businesses and for individual taxpayers and that is not what the Liberal Party is about. We have reduced the GST. We have indicated that we are going to reduce the GST again. Liberals will be deflated by the throne speech because the throne speech is about reducing the taxes of Canadians.
    On criminal justice, the bill that has been put before the House is dealing with the priorities of Canadians. If one is soft on crime the way the Liberals are, one will not find one's image in the throne speech. There is no doubt about that. But this is what Canadians are telling us they want to see. We are moving forward. We are tough on crime. We are going to deal with these issues because they matter to Canadians. We are going to keep our streets and our communities safe. That is what people want us to do.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. Minister of Industry was on a roll and I almost want to hand the microphone back to him so he can continue. He was doing an amazing job of explaining why the Liberals cannot understand the wonderful things we are talking about in the Speech from the Throne, but we hope they will listen very closely to our responses to the throne speech. Maybe they will understand when we finish explaining it to them.
    I very much appreciate this opportunity to add my remarks to those of the Minister of Industry as well as those of the Minister of Finance in support of the Speech from the Throne.
    Let me say first how honoured I am to be the newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. This is an honour I share with all of my constituents in the riding of Macleod. I look forward to working with the minister and with Parliament on finance related policy issues and legislation.
    Canadians sent us to Ottawa to get things done. They were tired of all the talk and little action. We promised Canadians that Canada's government would provide a long term vision toward a strong future for Canada. We promised to do it in a manner that was committed, focused and fiscally responsible. That is exactly what we did and that is what we will continue to do.
    The Minister of Finance has spoken about the government's plan to build on the decisive action it has taken thus far in fulfilling its commitment to Canadians. This commitment is why Canadians sent us to Ottawa. We have a plan, a plan that is not just for the short term to win votes. Our plan shows that we are in it for the long haul. It is a long term economic plan called Advantage Canada.
    Advantage Canada provides Canada with five key advantages so that we can compete effectively in the global economy and attract new growth and investment. Let me remind hon. members of just what those advantages are.
    First, Advantage Canada provides a tax advantage. In short, our goal is to reduce taxes for all Canadians and establish the lowest tax rate in the G-7 on new business investment.
    Second, Advantage Canada will create a fiscal advantage by eliminating Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation.
    A third part of our long term plan is to create an entrepreneurial advantage for Canada by reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace.
    Fourth, Advantage Canada will provide a knowledge advantage. This will create the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce so that Canada is ready to take on the world.
    Finally, Advantage Canada will create an infrastructure advantage. In order to compete internationally, we need to build the modern bridges, roads and gateways necessary to link our nation and make our workers and businesses more efficient.
    We have put our plan into action by building on previous initiatives to deliver on the government's vision for Canada. Today, I would like to remind hon. members of some of the initiatives the government has taken, initiatives that are important to Canada and to Canadians.
    One of the first jobs to be done when we formed the government was to reduce taxes for Canadians. We did that in our inaugural budget of 2006. In fact, we delivered more tax relief than the previous four federal budgets combined, something to be proud of.
    We did not stop there. Our first two budgets, combined with our tax fairness plan, have provided significant tax relief for Canadian individuals, families, students and seniors.
    To start with, we reduced the GST from 7% to 6%, which was a tax cut for everyone.
     We introduced the Canada employment credit to help offset the costs of working. This recognizes employees' work expenses for things such as home computers, uniforms and supplies.
     We are providing a new child tax credit that recognizes the additional expenses involved in raising a child. About three million taxpayers will benefit from this initiative.
     What is more, we are introducing a working income tax benefit to help low income Canadians over the so-called welfare wall.

  (1110)  

    We are increasing the lifetime capital gains exemptions for Canada's two million small business owners to $750,000 from the existing $500,000, and the first increase in that in 20 years.
    In our tax fairness plan, we introduced income splitting for pensioners, a move that will provide targeted assistance to many seniors. The tax fairness plan also took action to level the playing field between corporations and income trusts, bringing Canada in line with other jurisdictions around the world.
    In budget 2007, we are taking tax fairness a step further with our anti-tax haven initiative, an initiative that will help prevent tax avoidance.
    This government also recognizes the importance of improving our ability to compete globally and we have done just that. The fact is that we have moved quickly to improve Canada's competitive environment.
    Look at what we have done so far. We are reducing the general corporate income tax rate from 20.5% in 2008 as part of our commitment to 18.5% by 2011. We are eliminating the corporate surtax in 2008. We increased the threshold for small business income eligible for a reduced federal tax rate from $300,000 to $400,000 as of 2007.
    We are reducing the 12% rate for eligible small business income to 11.5% in 2008 and 11% in 2009. We eliminated the federal capital tax in 2006 and we increased capital cost allowance rates for buildings used in manufacturing and processing and other assets.
    We are also providing a major new accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturers until the end of 2008. This will allow them to write off their investments and equipment over two years, a much needed shot of adrenalin to help Canadian businesses encourage new economic investment and create jobs.
    Of course, our plan for Canada is more than just reducing taxes. Advantage Canada's multi-faceted plan illustrates just that. Just look at budget 2007's historic investment of more than $16 billion over seven years for infrastructure. This brings federal support in this area to over $33 billion.
    Moreover, we are reducing the federal paper burden for businesses by 20% and reducing the number of tax filings and remittances for more than 350,000 small businesses. This government set out a challenging agenda for Canada and it has risen to that challenge.
    As I mentioned, we have reduced taxes significantly for individuals, families and businesses, total tax reductions over three years of approximately $41 billion. We have reduced the federal debt by $27 billion. Not only that, through our tax back guarantee we are passing on the interest saving on reducing the national debt to Canadians by reducing personal income taxes.
    We are limiting the growth of spending in government, we are balancing the books, and we are taking on the environmental challenge with a plan that is both responsible and capable of being achieved in Canada.
    Where are we today? I can say that we are in an enviable position internationally. Our economic fundamentals are rock solid. We are on the best financial fiscal footing of any country in the G-7.
    Where do we go from here? We have a solid foundation firmly in place. The Speech from the Throne lays out the plan for the future that will build on that foundation. The government said in the Speech from the Throne that it will bring forward a long term plan of broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses and families. This follows through on our commitment to ensure economic security for Canadians as we look toward the future.
    Now we need to work together as Canadians. By supporting the initiatives contained in the Speech from the Throne we can make this happen. The upcoming fall economic and fiscal update will detail progress on our plan, which is built on a foundation of sound fiscal management.
    Together we have built a country that is prosperous and safe. Now, with strong leadership and a solid plan, we can build an even stronger Canada and offer an even better future for our children.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have to take some exception to my colleague's comments. I am always incredulous when I hear Conservatives take credit for all the money that was left by former governments, the good fiscal policies that left the money so they could actually make some of these decisions.
    I have a direct question for him on reducing taxes. You mentioned that it is a good deal. Before we hear your comments, you were talking about the thousands of jobs that have been created, the hundreds of thousands. I want to know what tax cuts do for people that do not have jobs.
    In my riding of Kenora thousands of jobs have been lost and across northern Ontario tens of thousands of jobs. These people do not have jobs. You can mention in here the softwood lumber deal, but--
    Order. The hon. member has been here awhile now. He should know he should not be saying “you” this and “you” that. You are supposed to address your remarks through the Chair.
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.
    Mr. Speaker, I do need to remind the member and other hon. members here that we do not take lightly the fact that Canadians have lost jobs, but we do take seriously the fact that the unemployment rates in Canada are the lowest they have been in 33 years. As I said before, Canadians are very adaptive. They have gone out and found new jobs. There are job opportunities because of the strong economic growth in this country.
    I realize this may not refer specifically to the hon. member's province, but in Quebec alone that province added 70,000 jobs this year. Those are not just part time jobs. Those are real, high paying jobs.
    The hon. member asked how tax cuts help Canadians. We cut the GST from 7% to 6%. Every Canadian who spends money benefits from that tax cut. So for anyone to suggest that this tax cut did not help all Canadians is not reflective of the positive decision that was for this government to make. Positive enough with the feedback we have received, we are going to push forward on reducing it to 5% because we realize with this strong economy people are spending money. They want to receive the tax benefits and by reducing it to 5% there is going to be tax reductions for all Canadians.

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no fairness in this throne speech. Ordinary Canadians are working 200 hours more today than nine years ago and two-thirds of Canadians are not benefiting from economic growth. I cannot understand where is the fairness when there is over $60 billion of corporate tax cuts since 2000 and just last year alone there was a tax cut of $12.67 billion in corporate tax cuts.
    Where is the fairness when corporations such as the big banks are making $19 billion worth of profit and there is absolutely nothing for ordinary Canadians whether it is for child care, universities, home care, public transit, or for cities like Toronto? Where is the fairness in this throne speech?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member uses some very definitive numbers and let me quote some numbers that would reflect perhaps the opposite of what the hon. member is suggesting.
    There is $3.7 billion to support low and modest income Canadians through the cut in the GST. Those are real numbers. Those are numbers that Canadians paid less in taxes; $11.7 billion for families with children through the universal child care benefit. Those are real numbers. More than $7.4 billion for Canada's low income seniors and $1.4 billion to provide basic social development programs for our first nations.
    I fail to see the argument that the hon. member raises. These are real numbers that Canadians can vouch for because they have seen the savings.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to participate in this debate on the Speech from the Throne, which was delivered a week ago today.
    The Speech from the Throne is a broad array of platitudes. It is made up of self-congratulatory statements and promises, some of which are encouraging, some of which of course were made before and remain unfulfilled.
    The Deputy Speaker: Will you be splitting your time?
    Hon. Shawn Murphy: Yes, I will. I neglected to mention that. I will be sharing my time with the member for Don Valley East, and I want to thank you for pointing that out to me.
    Some of the general ideological thrusts I certainly can agree with. I certainly support some of the statements dealing with the Arctic. The last time I believe I read a statement about this, the direction at that time was to have three or four major military boats in the Arctic and leave it at that. This speech seems to develop on that and take it one step further, talking about development, research, et cetera, which I find a much better direction to follow.
    Canadians are going to be disappointed in some of the other areas that they are looking for. With climate change of course, we have more words, but we are dealing with a government that has done absolutely nothing since it got elected. It canceled the Kyoto accord. It removed any reference to it on its web page. It joined the APEC organization, which is dead against Kyoto. It wants to use what it calls aspiration goals, which members know, I know and every Canadian knows, are totally meaningless.
    The speech talked about the Afghan mission. I certainly agree Canada has a role and Canada has a future role in that particular part of the world. It is very important but it is my position and our party's position that the combat mission should end in February 2009. We certainly will have other roles and obligations in that particular country. It is time for other NATO countries to put their shoulders to the wheel.
    Again, what the government has tried to do here is put it over to a group of five individuals who are told not to consult the public, have no public consultations, but come back with a report in February. In other words, to turn the channel as it has done with climate change.
    However, I want to use the limited time available to me today to talk about a statement in the Speech from the Throne that I believe we as parliamentarians should consider. It is very significant to this country, and that is to introduce legislation to place formal limits on the use of the federal spending power, which of course is implicit in the British North America Act. It has been recognized by our courts and of course it has been going on for years and years.
    The Government of Canada has to consult with the other 10 provinces and three territories, respect their wishes, their aspirations and their values, but at the end of the day, the Government of Canada has a responsibility for each and every Canadian for the common good. It has to have a pan-Canadian view. It has the responsibility to act on behalf of the country.
    Successive governments from various political stripes have developed programs, they have maintained programs, and they have enhanced programs under this particular ambit. Some examples are the Canada Health Act, medicare, employment insurance, old age pension, the old age supplement, the Canada pension plan, the child tax benefit, post-secondary research, the national housing program, infrastructure, and the new deal for the cities. This is just a partial list.
    Each one of them was supported by successive governments, enhanced, improved and changed, but each program required a government with a pan-Canadian view.
    We are in a large geographical country with a relatively small population. We have to have a shared destiny. We have to have common goals because many of us in this House and many Canadians believe that Canada is stronger than its diverse parts. We have to have programs, policies and initiatives that respond to our values, our sovereignty as a nation, and as a government we have to act in the best interests of the nation.

  (1125)  

    We have at this juncture a toxic mix of a government that does not believe in a strong Government of Canada and another party that does not believe in Canada. This is an unholy marriage and it should concern all Canadians.
    Many Canadians may ask where this thinking is coming from. It is not coming from Canadians I have talked to. It is not coming from members of the government. People will say that they are proud Ontarians or proud Manitobans but first they will say that they are proud Canadians. Where does this come from? The answer is that it comes from the Prime Minister.
    I would suggest that the last time the Prime Minister was elected, he set out his vision for Canada in an open letter to the premier of Alberta. In that letter, he stated that Alberta should build a firewall around itself, that it should withdraw from the Canada pension plan, that it should collect its own personal income taxes, that it should eliminate any association whatsoever with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and that it should ignore whatever provisions there are in the Canada Health Act. In other words, it should break the law, fight the matter in the courts, pay the penalties and allow no federal involvement in health care in that province.
    The letter concludes, “take the initiative, to build a firewall around Alberta”.
     I assume the letter was addressed to the premier of Alberta, but that same policy, that same line of thinking, would apply to the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, et cetera.
    There might be those who are watching this on TV who think I am making this up. I am not. I will post that letter, that vision of Canada, on my website later today for all Canadians to read and analyze and come to their own opinion.
    This is not my agenda for Canada. It is not the agenda of those people who sent me here to Ottawa. This is not about standing up for Canada. People are screaming that they want their country back. It is not the position of members of the government party either. This will be an interesting debate in this particular Parliament.
    Before we even start the debate, as we discuss the role of the federal government to meet the future challenges of this great country, we should ask ourselves what John A. Macdonald would think. What would Tommy Douglas think? What would his views be on this direction? What would Lester Pearson think? That is going to be a very interesting aspect.
     I have put my thoughts on the table on this particular issue. It is my firm belief that to succeed in the future, this country needs a strong federal government, a government that has a pan-Canadian view and a government that acts on behalf of every Canadian. I do hope we have that in the years and decades to come.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's impassioned remarks about Canadian things and un-Canadian things. Apparently he does not believe in questioning how any particular part of the country should be allowed to fit in to the entire framework that is Canada.
    He rhymed off some of the things that were mentioned in a letter that the current Prime Minister was one of five authors of in which the offending word was mentioned one time in the entire letter. People will get the impression that it was start to finish, firewall, firewall, firewall. The word was mentioned one time. The member acts as if he is doing the country a service by tabling this letter, which, of course, has been public knowledge for many years.
    An hon. member: It has you worried.
    Mr. Laurie Hawn: It does not worry us at all.
    Does the member believe that provinces, like Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan or any other, should be able to state their place in the country under the terms of the Constitution, which gives them the right to pursue things like health care, policing, pensions and so on, as the province of Quebec has done and as any other province has the right to do under the Constitution? Does he believe those rights should be taken away from the provinces?
    Mr. Speaker, the provinces certainly have a role, a duty and an obligation to do these things but there must be a role for the central government.
    What would have happened back in the 1950s when health care was being developed if someone had said “no, that is a provincial jurisdiction”? What would have happened when the Canada pension plan was being developed if someone had said “no, that is a provincial jurisdiction”? We would have none of those plans and programs.
    My friend references the letter. Yes, it was mentioned once but in the whole letter that was the final conclusion. The whole gist of the letter is that particular province should get out of everything, that it should withdraw from the Canada pension plan, that it should collect its own personal income tax and that it should eliminate any association with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
    I invite my friend to read the letter where it states that Alberta should ignore the Canada Health Act and fight the matter in the courts. If it then loses in the courts, it should pay the penalty and allow no federal involvement in health care policy in Alberta. After going through this whole hodgepodge of initiatives, which that particular province should do, it should, “take the initiative to build a firewall around Alberta”.
    I have a question for my learned friend. Is that his vision of Canada? I do not believe that is the vision of the people in Edmonton who sent him to Ottawa.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, we will ask the questions around here. I do thank my hon. colleague for his response. It is a matter of legitimate debate as to what role the provinces play and what role the federal government plays.
    Clearly, and this Prime Minister is no different, there is a strong role, and he has never strayed from that, for the central government in Ottawa. There is also a very strong role to be played in cooperation with that central government in Ottawa by the provinces in determining what is best for those provinces. There is some leeway. There is some overriding federal legislation, such as the Canada Health Act, on which all the provinces need to stay between the ditches.
    Surely my hon. colleague would agree, or not, that the provinces should be in a position to deal with the federal government on, not necessarily an equal footing but a respectful footing, and that their aspirations that apply to their area of the country should be taken into consideration.
    Mr. Speaker, the very short answer to that question is yes, there is a legitimate role for the provinces. They need to cooperate and collaborate. The point of what I am saying here is that there is a role for the federal government.
    Let us look at the whole list of plans that came forward. All it would take, if someone had the attitude that certain people in this House have right now, which is that the provincial jurisdiction cannot do it, then we would not have medicare, the Canada pension plan, employment insurance, the child tax benefit nor the old age supplement. The list goes on and on.
    Yes, there is a role there. Both levels of government need to stop the politics and begin to cooperate, collaborate and act in the best interests of the people they represent.
    However, these programs cannot change just to suit the ideological bent of a certain provincial party that is in power in that province. Ottawa must have a strong central government that puts the interests of every Canadian first, that has a pan-Canadian view and is here for the common good.
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, as a member of Her Majesty's official opposition, to speak today on behalf of my constituents of Don Valley East in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
    Now that I have had the opportunity to review the contents, I am astonished, not by what is actually contained in the speech, but more so by what the speech fails to mention.
    As the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I am shocked by the fact that the throne speech makes absolutely no mention of women or women's programs in spite of the fact that women constitute 52% of the population. This is astonishing given the fact that Persons Day, the day in 1929 when the British privy council office declared that women were persons under the law, fell in the same week as the Speech from the Throne.
    I suppose this apparent omission by the government is due to the fact that this past year the Conservatives made history through drastic cuts to the Status of Women, including the closure of regional offices, staff layoffs and the elimination of advocacy from the mandate of the organization.
    Canadians are also surprised that the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was somehow overlooked in the throne speech as well.
    Another glaring omission is any mention of relief for the estimated one million Canadian children who live in poverty and an estimated half million impoverished seniors, many of whom are women.
     I can assure all members and my constituents that a plan to fight poverty will be at the heart of any future Liberal agenda, as it always has been in the past.
    What of the aboriginal Canadians where poverty is rampant in communities across the country? The Speech from the Throne does contain a decision to finally offer an apology to the victims of the residential schools program but it in no way discharges the Conservative government from its obligation to implement the Kelowna accord.
    By ignoring the aboriginal people, the Conservatives are refusing to provide desperately needed measures in health, education and infrastructure as promised in the accord. Instead, the Conservatives see it far more fit to make “the serious problem of auto theft” a national priority.
    On the subject of crime bills, Canadians are wondering why the Conservatives are attempting to blame the opposition for holding up legislation when it was the Prime Minister who sabotaged his own agenda when he prorogued Parliament. The fact is that for more than a year now the Liberals have offered repeatedly to fast track as much as 70% of all the justice measures that the Prime Minister brought to Parliament.
    Indeed, when the Prime Minister decided to prorogue Parliament and kill all five of the original justice bills, four of them had passed through the House of Commons and were awaiting approval by the Senate. In fact, those bills would have been law by now if it were not for the partisan games that we are currently witnessing.
    This is just a lame attempt by the Conservatives to force an unwanted federal election on Canadians. Who pays the price as a result of this political brinkmanship? Ultimately, it is ordinary Canadians who will pay the price while the Prime Minister dithers and wastes another 18 months with no measurable results.
    In order for Parliament to work, the Prime Minister must learn to work with parliamentarians.
    On the subject of the economy, the throne speech mentions tax cuts but, after almost two years, the Conservatives new government has come up short on tax relief.

  (1140)  

    While there has been a 1% reduction in the GST, many leading economists have warned the Prime Minister that the reduction in consumption tax does little to stimulate the economy. Nor does it allow Canadians to keep their hard-earned cash. In fact, the first budget of Canada's new government introduced a tax increase for those who earned the least in our society. Low income Canadians saw their personal tax rate increase from 15% to 15.5% in budget 2006. It is unfair to low-income Canadians to pay for a reduction of the GST when it is far more efficient to reduce income taxes at source and give Canadians a real tax break.
    Last week, the leader of the official opposition addressed the Economic Club of Toronto on the subject of how to generate more investment, improve living standards and ensure good jobs for ourselves and for our children. Part of the plan is to continue to reduce corporate income tax.
     Under the previous Liberal government, the corporate tax rate was lowered from 28% to 19%. As a result of these tax reductions, companies have more capital to reinvest in the Canadian economy and ultimately offer high quality jobs to Canadians. Unfortunately, the Conservative government's tax record has been, to say the least, sadly lacking thus far.
    The finance minister's first blunder was the income trust fiasco, when the Conservatives deliberately broke their promise to Canadian investors, many of them being seniors, who saw more than $25 billion in retirement savings go down the drain overnight.
    The new government's next blunder, which was universally denounced as the worst tax policy announcement in 35 years, was to end interest deductibility and therefore deny Canadian companies a competitive edge in the global economy.
    When the Conservatives were first elected, they promised to usher in a new era of accountability and transparency into government. Indeed, the throne speech declared that Canada's new government was clean, this despite the fact that the Conservative Party is under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, the Commissioner of Elections and the federal Privacy Commissioner.
    The Privacy Commissioner has launched an inquiry into whether the Prime Minister violated the privacy of Canadians by compiling a mailing list based on the ethnic and religious background of Jewish communities and other so-called target groups.
    The Commissioner of Elections is looking into an alleged multi-million dollar sham where the Conservative Party attempted to cleverly circumvent electoral laws by channelling funding for radio and television ads through at least 66 local candidates in the 2006 election.
    The Ontario Provincial Police is investigating the Prime Minister's inner circle concerning allegations that an Ottawa candidate for mayor was asked to leave the race in exchange for a federal appoint.
    What of transparency in government?
    It has now been disclosed that the current Conservative government is far more secretive than any previous government. Not only are access to information requests taking longer to be released, they are far more likely to be censored and to have information withheld. Moreover, many requests have to be vetted by the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic office of the Prime Minister.
    Canadians would like to know what this has to do with transparency and democratic government.
    Certainly the people of Nova Scotia are questioning what is happening in the constituency of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, where the entire Conservative riding association has been suspended for daring to oppose the Prime Minister. They democratically elected a candidate of their choice, a candidate who is currently a distinguished member of the House. He was kicked out of the caucus for simply defending his province in Confederation.
    This turn of events is not surprising, considering the Prime Minister, after 18 months, has yet to call a first ministers meeting and address provincial grievances head on.
    In closing, once again I thank my constituents of Don Valley East for electing me to be their representative. I intend to work hard on their behalf and I intend to do everything I can to make this Parliament work. That is, after all, what Canadians elected us to do.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record. Oftentimes we are faced with some inaccuracies coming from the other side.
     I note that the funding for Status of Women was increased by 42%, bringing it to its highest level ever, at $15.3 million in the last budget, and the member voted against this.
    My question has to do with taxes. I want to also point out that I think most Canadians obviously support a reduction in the GST, which is something that maybe the Liberals do not understand. We have had many Liberal members who have publicly stated that they would raise the GST if they came back into power.
    Does the member agree with the Liberal approach to the GST? If so, how much would she raise the GST by and how quickly would she do it?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government never lets truth stand in its way. In its first budget the Conservatives cut $15 million from the Status of Women. When the women's groups started challenging them, they reinvested that $15 million, so it zeroes out. They have not done any 42% increase.
    In terms of the GST, all economists, anybody who has any common sense in economics, say that the $5 billion is misspent. That lack of revenue could have been better utilized in social spending.
    The Conservatives need to learn economics 101, which is that consumption taxes are not important. We have to eliminate poverty through reduction of income taxes.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in her conclusion, my colleague touches on the issue of poverty, about which I would like to hear more from her.
    In the throne speech, the Conservative government has chosen a so-called offensive strategy in matters of defence, crime and public safety and security. The vocabulary can be found in this document.
    The government uses an attack approach and goes full steam ahead with everything connected to its ideology. However, when it is a matter of—to use one of its expressions—addressing poverty, the silence is resounding. And yet an entire segment of our society—comprised of youth, families and the elderly—is affected.
    Thus, I would like to hear more about this from my colleague, whom I thank for her speech.

  (1150)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question. As the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we have heard from poverty groups. Poverty affects mostly women, especially women who are single and divorced and who have children.
    In terms of addressing poverty, they have overwhelmingly told us that they need a change, a reduction in income taxes. Instead of reducing income taxes, the Conservative government increased it from 15% to 15.5%.
    In terms of child care spaces, the Conservatives created no child care spaces. The $100 baby bonus gave nothing to families struggling to make ends meet.
    I agree with the hon. member that the attack on crime is really smoke and mirrors compared to what should be done for poverty.
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Don Valley East for an excellent speech.
    I want to point out that when we consider we have an aging population, where in a few years the ratio between workers and seniors will drop from five to one to three to one, how can the Speech from the Throne be silent on the very important issue of immigration? Immigrants represents the greatest hope to fill labour shortages in the country.
    Finally, is the reaction to the Speech from the Throne shared by the residents of Don Valley East? In my area the residents of Vaughan are asking how a nation improves its standard of living and quality of life by reducing investment in people, workers, seniors, students, children and families, and how does a G-7 nation improve its quality of life by cutting in areas like research and development, education and the environment?
    The citizens of Vaughan have rejected the Conservative vision of the country. Has the hon. member found the same thing in her riding?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right that the Speech from the Throne is missing in specifics in a lot of areas. I have been on television and have talked to my constituents. They find that the government has no vision whatsoever. How do we take the country from here to the 21st and 22nd century?
     The Conservatives have nothing for research and development. Despite the fact that the Canadian Foundation of Innovation received its first funding from the Liberal government for $800 million, the Conservative government cut it to $500 million.
    It is very important to note that this is a visionless government, but we will have to work and fight to get there.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to speak to the throne speech. I will be sharing my time this morning with the member for Simcoe—Grey.
    When I was a younger man, as a public servant in British Columbia, the premier of the day had an expression which I find has been very useful to me over time and is useful again today. He used to say, “If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there”.
    The throne speech is a good example of a document with leadership provided by the Prime Minister and the government. It shows Canadians and parliamentarians where we want to go.
    Concerning the reference to the North Star, as members know, the North Star is a navigational beacon that helps navigators, who are faced with turbulent waters or confusing routes, with a variety of choices. They always come back to that North Star, that navigational beacon, to ensure they are always ultimately headed in the right direction.
    If we think about the North Star in the context of the throne speech context, there are five points to a star. These correspond to the five priorities articulated in the throne speech.
    I will focus on the economic prosperity priority, economic management, in my comments.
     When we look at the Canadian economy and address the issue of Canada's prosperity, and we have had a lot of it over the last 10 or 15 years, indeed over the last many decades, we have to recognize that Canada is a small trading economy. By that I mean Canada's population is about 34 million people spread over a varied and huge land mass, close to 10 million square kilometres of land, the second largest land mass, nationally speaking, in the world. We can compare that with the state of California which has 37 million in one state.
    Therefore, we are a country where our prosperity has been fundamentally driven by international trade. Without liberalized and open trade, Canadians would be much poorer. In fact, we would be a marginal economic society today without trade and commerce.
    When we look at the global economy and what is going on in the world, the whole issue of trade, the way we trade and what drives trade and competitiveness has changed fundamentally with changes in the global economy. People talk about globalization.
    In his book Thomas Friedman refers to the world as being flat. It is a world where it is no longer good enough to sit back in Canada, produce here and sell abroad. We have to face the fact that in the world economy today we are dealing in an economy of global value and global supply chains. We are in an economy where anyone in any part of the world is a potential customer, supplier and competitor.
    We are in a world today where if one wants to be competitive, one has to be prepared to import technology. Over 95% of the technologies developed in the world are not Canadian. We have to reach out to the world economy to get them.
    We are in a world where if one wants to be a competitive supplier in the global economy, one has to recognize that production, distribution, marketing, manufacturing, research may all have to be situated in different places around the world. That is not to say that Canada cannot have a very powerful economic base here. We absolutely can, but we have to recognize that we are competing in a global economy. There is nowhere to hide.
    China is here to stay as is India, Brazil and Russia. There are many emerging economic dynamos in the world economy and we will have step up and compete with those economies as we go forward.

  (1155)  

    That is why the throne speech refers to a global commerce strategy. The government is developing a global commerce strategy. It is a strategy that changes the way we think about international trade and investment. It is a strategy that basically looks at trade in the world as dominated by global supply chains, global value chains and networks, whatever one chooses to call them.
    In that kind of world, the objective of a global commerce strategy has to be to ensure that Canadians and Canadian companies get as high up in those value chains as they can possibly be. Ideally, we want to be driving those supply chains on a global basis, but at a minimum, we want Canadians and Canadian companies to be high up in those chains.
    That takes a different approach to trade. It is no longer good enough to go on trade missions to try to sign contracts for sales here and there. Global competitiveness in this economy requires that Canadian companies invest abroad, that we bring foreign investment into Canada and that we import, because a lot of imports are in fact critical inputs into Canadian production and ultimately into Canadian exports and wealth creation.
    We have to take a very different approach to global commerce today, but the goal is to get high up in the global value chains. The question is what are the tools that we have to do this and how do we array those tools in a cohesive way, in a way that knits them together in a self-reinforcing, comprehensive and effective trade strategy? That is what we are doing with global commerce.
    First, we are looking at the negotiated legal framework agreements that facilitate global trade for Canadian companies, such as free trade agreements and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements. We are looking at bilateral trade agreements. We are looking at multilateral trade agreements. We are looking at air bilaterals. We are looking at all of the framework policies that we have to negotiate with other countries to create a level and attractive playing field for Canadian companies.
    Second, the frameworks do nothing by themselves. There has to be a globally competitive transportation and logistics system. The throne speech focuses on gateways and corridors for trade. The Asia-Pacific gateway initiative is a good example of a transportation and logistics system that is going to transform Canada's and indeed North America's ability to compete in the global economy of today.
    There is nothing that will do more for northern Canada, whether we are talking about the northern Prairies, the territories or the Arctic, for the creation of wealth and prosperity than the Asia-Pacific gateway initiative, particularly the port of Prince Rupert and the whole transportation and logistics corridor through Prince Rupert, across Canada and up into Canada's north.
    The third piece of our strategy is to provide direct services and resources. Whether it is Export Development Canada, the Canadian Commercial Corporation or our trade and consular service, we are increasing the tools that we have to directly support Canadian companies that are engaged in international commerce. We are expanding our presence.
    When we look at the regional focus of our global commerce strategy, we begin with the North American platform, as we call it. The North American platform basically refers to NAFTA. The North American economy is an economy of 400 million people. That is a huge market. It is one of the most dynamic, technologically rich economies in the world. It has enormous sources of capital. It is an opportunity for Canadian companies to participate in a major economy which is broader and deeper than Canada's and to build our competitive strength on the basis of the North American platform.
    We have given top priority to ensuring that the North American platform is strengthened. Whether it is a security prosperity initiative, improvements under NAFTA, or a variety of other initiatives relating to improving the flow of goods and services and people within North America, the platform is critical.

  (1200)  

    Going from the North American platform, we are giving top priority to the Americas. The Prime Minister has given top priority to the Americas. We are negotiating free trade agreements with a number of countries in the Americas. Then when we look across the Pacific, we are doing an enormous amount of work to develop trade agreements, investment agreements, technology cooperation agreements with countries in the Asia Pacific region. We are doing the same on the Atlantic side. We have just signed an agreement with the EFTA countries and we are intensifying our work with the European Union.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his speech. Of course, we will not agree on some issues related to the economic plan of the government, particularly its lack of a proper level of investment as it relates to human resources development.
    The minister did touch upon an issue which is extremely important and that is Canada's population. As the minister knows, we are going to see a decline in the ratio of workers to seniors from five to one to three to one. The minister would understand the implications that would have in Canada's economic capacity to be productive.
    What is the long term view of the government as it relates to the issue of immigration? I happen to think that we have not maximized the human resources potential of individual Canadians who can build bridges to other countries. Would the minister favour increasing immigration levels in this country as well as increasing immigration settlement funding?

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, this government's fundamental approach to immigration is actually consistent with the premise to the hon. member's question. We recognize that we have human assets, many of whom come from China, India and other countries around the world where we are attempting to develop deeper and stronger trade and investment and other international relationships.
    First off, we do believe very strongly that we have to do better than governments have done in the past to take advantage of our human resource assets which are multicultural in nature. Second, the government has put in place and will continue to implement an agency to assist with the recognition of foreign credentials. Many of our ethnic communities are highly trained and could contribute very substantially economically, but they have not had their credentials recognized. This government is committed to doing that both with resources and the way we organize--
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister spoke about the economy and wealth. He even referred to the North Star, a reference used in the conclusion of the throne speech, to toot his own horn. We were told that:
    Like the North Star, Canada has been a guide to other nations—
    After congratulating himself, could the minister tell us why the Conservative government ignores and neglects an entire segment of the population and the very sad, but true, reality of poverty? When will the government follow the light of this North Star and tackle poverty?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the reality is this government has a focus on homelessness. It has a focus on poverty.
    When we look at the Canadian economy, the potential for growth, the potential in the north, the potential in communities which have been at the margins of the Canadian economy for decades and decades and sometimes throughout our history, we are entering an era, thanks to the northern focused policies in particular of this government, where many, many Canadians are going to have opportunities they could not have dreamed of 10 or 20 years ago. They are going to have opportunities to participate in wealth creation, to benefit from the education system, to have jobs which are permanent and sustainable, to learn technologies, to start to participate in the global marketplace.
    We are going to see the rising tide of the Canadian economy raising all boats, including the boats of those who have been less fortunate up to now.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate on the Speech from the Throne.
    A little over a year and a half ago Canadians made a choice. It was a choice to end the reign of a tired, scandal plagued and directionless Liberal government. Canadians seized the opportunity to elect a government with clear goals, focused determination and a willingness to make tough but very necessary decisions.
    Our government is achieving real results. Our government is being accountable to the people. We are putting the needs of individuals, families, workers and seniors first.
    Canadians elected a Conservative government with a bold new vision for Canada, a government that is continually aspiring to further growth and greater prosperity for the benefit of all Canadians. At the centre of this vision is our long term economic plan called Advantage Canada. It is a plan to give Canada and Canadians the key advantages to be able to compete effectively and attract new growth and investment.
     Advantage Canada focuses on creating five key advantages: a tax advantage, reducing taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G-7; a fiscal advantage, eliminating Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation; an infrastructure advantage, building modern, world-class infrastructure that promotes economic growth, a clean environment and international competitiveness; a knowledge advantage, creating the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world; and an entrepreneurial advantage, reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape, and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace.
    This is an ambitious, forward thinking plan. It is, as Thomas d'Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives remarked, a strategy that will “enable Canadians to take on the world and win”.
    Advantage Canada was laid out before the Canadian people last fall. Since then we have not let this plan collect dust on a shelf. Canadians elected a government that would act and not deliberate ad nauseam. We have begun taking concrete action to create the advantages to build a strong economy for today and for tomorrow.
    Over the past 20 months, we have been creating an environment for further investment by reducing taxes significantly for individuals, families and business. It is a total of $41 billion in reduction of taxes over three years.
    We are paying down the national mortgage by an amount equivalent to $1,142 for each man, woman and child in Canada. In fact, in September the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance announced an additional debt payment of $14.2 billion for 2006-07. This moves the federal debt to GDP ratio to its lowest level in a quarter century.
    We are dedicating all of the interest savings from the shrinking federal debt to further reduce personal income taxes as part of our tax back guarantee. To date, we have provided Canadians with over $1.5 billion in annual personal income tax relief.
    We are limiting the growth on spending. We are balancing the books and improving our environment with a plan that is not only responsible but is achievable. After years of debate we have also restored fiscal balance in Canada.
    While advantage Canada is the road map guiding our way, the Speech from the Throne gets us closer to our destination. The Speech from the Throne outlined five core priorities for this session: strengthening Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; strengthening the federation and our democratic institutions; providing effective economic leadership for a prosperous future; tackling crime and strengthening the security of Canadians; and improving the environment and health for all Canadians.
    These priorities do not respond to the needs of politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa. These priorities were not imagined through a top-down, paternalistic approach. Those of course are the hallmarks of a Liberal government.
    Responding to and acting on the needs of everyday Canadians, these are the hallmarks of a Conservative government. We are putting Canadians and their families first. We are building a proud legacy of tax relief by committing to broad base tax reductions for all Canadians. We are giving all Canadians real choice in child care through the universal child care benefit. We are working to ensure Canadians get the medical care they need faster. We are making historic investments in infrastructure and post-secondary education. We are creating safer neighbourhoods through tough new legislation on crime.

  (1210)  

    These are all issues that matter to everyday Canadians and we are taking real action to tackle these issues. That is what Canadians want: a government that responds to their needs and gets the job done. This government understands that.
    The opposition, especially the Liberal Party of Canada, does not understand that. In government, the last Liberal leader, the member for LaSalle—Émard, was routinely derided for his lack of direction. In opposition, the current Liberal leader, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, has carried on this legacy, waffling on issue to issue to such a degree that even some of his Liberal colleagues have openly criticized him. I raise this not simply as partisan rhetoric, but to contrast our decisive leadership with that of the Liberals. We do not waffle and dither. We get the job done.
    We are getting the job done on cutting taxes, but taxes in Canada are still too high. That is why, as I mentioned earlier, the Speech from the Throne made a commitment of further broad based tax relief for individuals, businesses, and families. This, in addition to a further cut in the GST, is something that constituents in my riding of Simcoe—Grey cannot praise enough.
    Further tax cuts will help make a strong Canadian economy even stronger. Indeed, since we took office, over half a million new jobs have been created. Even better news is that not only is the economy is creating a lot of jobs, but it is creating good, high paying jobs as well.
    Quoting from a July 2007 CIBC World Markets report, I note, “The good news is that the Canadian economy created almost 200,000 new jobs in the first 6 months of 2007”. In even better news, the quality of those jobs is on the rise and, states the report, “the combination of rising employment and improving quality is a sure recipe for rising personal income”.
    The significance of such employment numbers should not be minimized. As Eleni Bakopanos, former Liberal MP and now new chief adviser to the present Liberal leader, once noted in this very House, “The best economic and social program is job creation”.
    We believe in the value of work, but we acknowledge that some people need support to succeed in the labour market. For many low income Canadians, taking a job can mean being financially worse off. Some individuals who receive social assistance benefits often lose in-kind benefits such as subsidized housing if they get a job.
     Having had eight and a half years at the provincial level working as a political staffer and having spent a great deal of time in constituency work, I can relate and I can recall this as an issue. Of course our Minister of Finance also worked provincially, and I am so pleased to see that this is why he has addressed this issue. That is why we are implementing the working income tax benefit. This new benefit will make working more profitable for low income Canadians, helping them over the so-called welfare wall.
    We have also acted to support low income Canadians on other fronts. We have provided $1.4 billion in funding to increase the affordable housing supply. We launched the nearly $270 million homelessness partnering strategy to help homeless and at-risk individuals build a better future.
    Canadians made a choice a year and a half ago. They chose a government with goals and a vision responding to their needs. We have delivered results. We have put the needs of everyday families first. To quote a recent Macleans editorial, “It's been a long time since we've had a prime minister so closely attuned to the interests and priorities of the Canadian main street”.
    Yet there is still work to be done, with opportunities and challenges ahead, but Canadians can rest assured that this Conservative government will provide the leadership needed to ensure a strong and secure economic future for Canada.

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will not get into comments which might be fairly highly partisan.
    However, in the minister's capacity with respect to Canadians abroad, I wonder if she would undertake to apprise this House of the latest developments with respect to Brenda Martin, a Canadian who has been incarcerated for some time in Mexico. It is a very complex case. We have now learned that she is no longer able to make collect calls to Canada. Her situation appears to be desperate, to say the least.
    I would like to find out from the minister if she will undertake to this House to ensure that our consular officials are attending to Ms. Martin's situation. We had every expectation that she might be released within the next few weeks, but it turns out that this case has been put back again.
     While the minister will probably respond by saying that we do not get involved in judicial matters within another country, I am looking to ensure that from a consular perspective--I will not bore the minister with all the details because I think she knows them--she will undertake to apprise herself of the latest developments with respect to Ms. Martin's case, and I hope there will be absolutely no misunderstanding with Mexican authorities as to how important this case is for Canadians and, I trust, for her office.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to let the member know that I honestly do look forward to working very closely with him on a number of consular cases where Canadians are in difficult situations abroad.
    I think the hon. member knows very well, as he did stand in my shoes--and I can pull out Hansard, media reports, correspondence and such--that he himself very often in the past has said two very important things, one being that I am bound by the Privacy Act with respect to speaking in detail about a case. I can assure him that on any consular case I will do my ultimate, my very best, to work with our consular officials to ensure that every Canadian is being provided the consular services he or she is entitled to.
     I am very aware that he has a keen interest in this case. I will continue to follow up with him. However, I do also want to point out one more thing with respect to consular services. He made a comment about getting involved in the judicial system. Again, I have endless quotes and endless pieces of correspondence in which he has said that very thing himself: we do not have the authority to intervene in the judicial system in another country.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I certainly did not want to give the impression to the hon. minister that I was misquoted. It appears that she may not have heard me correctly. I would urge her to look at the blues with respect to what I did say. While we cannot get involved in the judicial matters of another country, we do have a consular perspective, and I do understand that the minister may have mistaken what I said.
    I am not sure that that is a point of order. We will move on to questions and comments. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
    Mr. Speaker, my question actually has to do with housing. Yesterday the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing talked about Canada's track record on housing and homelessness. He talked about how shocking it was in a country as prosperous as ours to see housing and homelessness in a state of crisis. His report talked about a number of factors, but there were two specific things I would like the member to address.
     First, he said that he was “disturbed to see the devastating impact of the paternalism that marks federal and provincial government legislation, policies and budgetary allocations for aboriginal people on and off reserve”.
    Second, he talked about the fact of the lack of funding to non-government organizations that advocate on behalf of first nations, women and other minority groups for adequate housing. These organizations are seriously underfunded in Canada. He said that it undermines our democratic process when we do not have NGOs that can actually advocate in a democratic way for people who are perhaps facing homelessness and the housing crisis. I wonder if the member could address those two questions.
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to issues for our natives in this country, we do have a new minister who is very dedicated to the file and of course we have seen some incredible progress from the former minister on that issue.
    What is really important here is that we can have a debate in the House and talk about how we can improve situations, but I think it would be nice just every once in a while if the opposition were able to recognize some of the support the federal government does give to low income Canadians. I happen to have a list of that support with me and I would not mind going over it.
    Budget 2007 proposed significant benefits for low income Canadians. It included $550 million annually through the working income tax benefit to make work more rewarding for more than 1.2 million individual Canadians. There was also a working families tax plan that will remove 230,000 low income taxpayers from the tax rolls. That is a substantial number. I have just one more, which is the introduction of a new registered disability savings plan program to improve the financial security and the well-being of children with severe disabilities. This is just part of what we are doing.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
    I really was looking forward to the government's throne speech. The government said when it prorogued the House that it would chart a new course for this country. I expected it to live up to those words. The government prorogued this House. That is a very serious act. That turned back the clock on many bills and motions that had been worked on for months by the members of this House.
    I thought that since the government took this step, it would truly have a new direction, a new course, but I was disappointed. Once again the Conservative government looked in the rear-view mirror. It missed an opportunity. It is taking Canada in the wrong direction, the wrong direction on climate change and the wrong direction for seniors, for children, for first nations and for ordinary Canadian families.
    The biggest disappointment was the government's complete and utter failure to address climate change. Last spring, my colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, worked hard in an all party committee to improve Bill C-30, the clean air and climate change act, so that Canada could begin to move in the right direction.
     All parties agreed that Bill C-30 was going to be a good start, but the government is not even bringing it back. In fact, it is bringing back only a small portion of it even though the majority of the House agreed on the changes to Bill C-30. What arrogance. What contempt for this House the government has. Once again it has broken the trust of ordinary Canadians.
    I and many others from my riding and across the country are disappointed in the government's stance on the environment because we are running out of time. Ordinary Canadians are doing their part. They are changing their light bulbs. They are conserving water. They are converting to hybrid cars. However, no matter how many of us change our light bulbs, if the government does not change course all our efforts will be futile.
    The government could have made a big difference if it had implemented hard caps on large carbon emitters. That would go a long way to meeting our emission targets. It decided to go with intensity based measures instead. With the expansion of the oil sands looming on the horizon, intensity targets will do nothing to reduce Canada's emissions. When we produce more oil from the oil sands, we also will be producing more greenhouse gases.
    Another opportunity was missed by the government when it came to addressing the needs of seniors. My colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain, introduced the seniors charter last year. It was debated and passed by the House, but the government has never enacted it. The government had an opportunity in this throne speech to implement the priorities of the charter, including primary care, long term care, home care and free pharmacare and dental care. These things would all enhance the quality of life for seniors.
     However, once again the government has let seniors and all Canadians down. It is another broken promise. The governmentt said it would act on what was passed by the majority of this House.
    When it comes to hope and fairness for ordinary Canadians, the government has done nothing on the issue of affordable housing and homelessness. We have just seen $14 billion in federal surplus. The government has announced that this year's surplus will be twice what it had anticipated. Quelle surprise.
    With all that extra money in the coffers and with all the need for housing in my communities, and in fact with nearly two million Canadians across this country who do not have what is deemed to be acceptable housing, why did the government not make it a priority to invest in a national housing strategy?
    I have been to many first nations communities in my riding. The housing situation there is even worse. For example, in Port Hardy, the Gwa'Sala-Nakwaxda'xw are in dire need of acceptable shelter. They live in mouldy homes. Sometimes as many as 25 people are living in one house and three families live together in a home built for single family occupation. These are deplorable conditions and they need to be addressed immediately.

  (1225)  

    The same goes for child care. I have been talking with parents and child care workers in my riding from Port McNeill to Courtenay, and they are telling me that there is a crisis. Failure on the part of the government to address the crisis has resulted in longer wait times for child care space and increasing costs. There is up to a two years wait for a space. That means we have to register our child before it is even born.
    Child care centres need reliable, long term funding to provide the kind of access that parents and their children are looking for. That is why the NDP proposed the child care act that will soon be voted on at third reading. That is the kind of solution today's families are looking for, real commitments to child care in this country.
    I would like to address two things that are crucial to Vancouver Island North, two things the government mentioned in its throne speech that it would protect. It said it would stand up for forestry and fishing, but on these two files, the government has a very bad track record.
    The Conservatives sold out forestry communities and forestry workers in my riding and across this country when they signed the sellout softwood agreement. Because of that agreement, it is not profitable for companies to mill logs in Canada, so they ship raw logs to the U.S. or abroad and we get to buy them back as finished lumber.
    The irony is not lost on the constituents of Vancouver Island North. Our communities are surrounded by forests, yet lumber mills are closing from B.C. to Atlantic Canada as more and more raw logs and jobs leave this country. Pulp and paper mills and fibre mills are having a hard time getting fibre because there are very few sawmills left to provide it.
    I introduced Motion No. 301 to curtail raw log exports and to encourage value added and manufacturing right here in Canada. The natural resources minister said he recognized that something needed to be done about the situation that is killing our resource based communities, but again, the government has failed to act. I do not call that standing up for an industry, for workers or for our communities.
    The other issue that I would like to mention is that the Conservatives said they would stand up for the fishing industry, but again, they are going in the wrong direction. Last spring, they introduced Bill C-45, a new fisheries act, without consultation with fishermen, first nations or anyone from our communities. That bill has gone now because of prorogation, but why did they bring it forward in the first place? No one wanted it.
    They also said that they would decentralize the DFO and have more decision making on the coasts of this country. After almost two years there has been no movement on this promise. Instead, I have to ask the government if they are trying to kill our west coast fisheries.
    Just a few weeks ago an order came down from on high to cut the Chinook egg take for the entire west coast. When asked why, the Conservatives said it was due to a lack of funds, but I remember last year when I asked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans about a budget cut, I was told that it had not been cut, so there should have been lots of money there.
    Thankfully, the decision to cut this egg take and to kill the Chinook fishery was turned around, but a decision like that should never have been made in the first place.
    Also, a recent barge spill in my riding in Robson Bight is causing grave concerns because the fuel tank and vehicles are on the bottom of the ocean continuing to leak oil and diesel to the surface. Environmental groups, local businesses, students and concerned people from around the world donated money to carry out an investigation. We called on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to also carry out an investigation, but the ministry waited a full two months and finally, after the environmental organizations announced that they would do carry out an investigation, the government was embarrassed and had to come forward and say it would do one too. It finally did the right thing.
    These oil spills are having a devastating effect on the waters and on the salmon in the Strait of Georgia. Salmon are the canary in the coal mines of our oceans. They feed whales and people, and are a source of cultural and ceremonial significance to first nations of B.C. The health of salmon is important to the west coast and we are in danger of losing them.
    Enhancement must be increased. Monitoring of sport and commercial fishing must be increased if we are to have a clear picture of what is going on off our coast.

  (1230)  

    There are many reasons not to support the direction in which the government is going. I am speaking for the thousands of Canadians in my riding who oppose this direction. I and they have little confidence--
    Questions and comments. The hon. member for Peterborough.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to what the hon. member was saying and I cannot help but think that she is missing the point.
    I would like to address a number of things, but I recognize that my time is limited so I will go back to what she said on the environment. She said regular Canadians are cleaning up, they are changing their light bulbs, changing cars that they are driving and they are taking transit. Is that not exactly what the government has been encouraging? Is she not missing the point? Did the government not take the initiative to encourage a change from incandescent bulbs to the new energy efficient bulbs?
     I spoke to the Vancouver Transit Authority. Its transit pass sales were up 40% after the measures that the government took to encourage people to buy transit passes. The member misses the point.
    There are ecotrust transfers to the provinces. In my own home province of Ontario we are going to start piping in clean hydro electric power to replace coal-fired energy. These are massive advances on the environment. It is a shame the member misses the point and does not see it. I would like to know if she would acknowledge these advances on the environment.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his questions, but I think he missed the point on a whole lot of areas.
    I said that ordinary Canadians are doing their part. They are trying really hard because they understand how critical it is to save the environment and they are looking for leadership from their government and they are not finding it.
    The ecoenergy program that the government put forward is a disaster. People are writing to me to tell me they have tried to get funding but that they cannot get it, so many things are not covered, things that would actually work such as solar panels. It is one thing that is not covered.
    The government needs to take action on large final emitters. We can do everything such as change light bulbs, cars and all kinds of things, but if the government does not introduce hard caps on large emitters, it is all for not. It will not make any difference.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in her speech, my hon. colleague mentioned the softwood lumber agreement. As we all know, the Bloc Québécois has long criticized the government's inaction in this file. We were calling for, among other things, loan guarantees to allow businesses to get by until we could resolve all the problems with the Americans, using every available legal recourse against the United States. The government refused to act and, in the end, concluded this terrible agreement, which is a sellout.
    However, the companies were in such a difficult situation that everyone in Quebec was asking their member to support the agreement. When I say everyone, I mean employers, employees, unions and the entire industry. Naturally, since the Bloc Québécois represents Quebeckers, we supported the agreement. The NDP did not support it, which I can understand, given that, at the time, that party had no elected members in Quebec and does not claim to represent Quebeckers.
    Thus, I would like to know the following. Now that the NDP has a member in Quebec, the next time such a situation arises, when the party must choose between defending the interests of people outside Quebec or the interests of Quebeckers, what will it do? Will it continue to turn a deaf ear to the people of Quebec? Or will it change its stance? For instance, is the party going to allow its member in Quebec to vote in favour of something that is unanimously called for in Quebec, even if it goes against the official party line?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber agreement has devastated the industry in Vancouver Island North and like I said, the irony is not lost on people in my riding. We see truckload after truckload of raw logs leaving our forest dependent communities to be milled elsewhere. That is all a direct result of the deal that was made with the U.S. It has basically sold out our industry and communities.
    It is tragic. Thousands and thousands of jobs have been lost and now we are seeing the effects across the country. In Atlantic Canada there are mills closing. My colleague from Acadie—Bathurst was showing me pictures of trains of logs that are leaving his communities and that is costing thousands and thousands of jobs there.
    I have to ask once again, why is the government not standing up for our communities and jobs for Canadians? We should be protecting jobs for Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to take part in this debate. It is a privilege for me to rise in the House today to reply to the Conservative government's throne speech.
    I want to re-emphasize that our caucus, unlike others, is united in our belief that the throne speech shows clearly that the Conservative government is planning on taking Canada further in the wrong direction.
    I am part of a party that knows what it believes and unlike some other members of the House, we will not be afraid to stand up for the principles we share with hard-working Canadians.
    I will speak a little later about some of the specifics of the speech, but I want for a moment to reflect on what is not in the throne speech. What is not in the speech is almost as telling about the Conservative vision for Canada as what is in it.
    Even though one of the Conservatives' key promises in the last election was for health care and reducing wait times the throne speech makes no mention of improving wait times. In fact, the throne speech does not even mention the words “health care” or “medicare”, not even once.
    The throne speech also does not speak about education or training. The words “university students” and “post-secondary education” never even appear in the throne speech. In fact, the only reference to education in universities and colleges at all is to say that families are worrying about the escalating cost.
    Apparently, if one is a student or a parent looking to save for post-secondary education, one cannot depend on the Conservatives to deliver. It is not part of their vision.
    Development workers we are asked to honour by voting in favour of a mission in Afghanistan that we know a majority of Canadians do not support. Other workers mentioned are those in Canada's traditional industries, like manufacturing industries and steel. Steel is still a major employer and economic driver in my community. I guess apparently these industries can rest easy. At least they are mentioned in the Conservative vision for Canada.
    How workers in these industries who are supposed to be comforted by the fact that for nearly two years in power absolutely nothing concrete has been done to plan for the future of these industries is actually beyond me.
    At least manufacturing workers are in the vision for the future. No other workers are mentioned. The entire topic of jobs alone is mentioned only once in the entire throne speech.
    Afghanistan gets six mentions, the military three, the same for the Canadian Forces, but jobs and the Conservative vision of this country is worth only one single mention.
    The throne speech also does not speak about inclusion or multiculturalism. Those words are not in the speech because of a lack of vision that the Conservatives have in these particular area. The only time women are even mentioned in the throne speech is in the context of men and women in uniform.
    I could go on but during this last week Canadians are beginning to express the concerns the NDP have expressed for months in the House and in communities across the country. They are beginning to say as we have that the government must change direction. Canadians see Canada at war. Canadians see our climate in crisis and that middle class families are falling further and further behind.
    This was the time for the federal government to show leadership. This was the time for the Conservative government to show all Canadians that its vision includes their needs, their hopes and their desires for a better future. Sadly in the eyes of many it did not do it. The Conservative government has proven once again that it simply cannot get the job done.
    Our NDP members listened very carefully to the throne speech and the subsequent debate, and we were somewhat surprised to hear that the Prime Minister is now open to the NDP proposal of long standing that the Senate should be abolished. That is a long ways from the man who put an unelected Senator in charge of signing cheques for our people's money.
    The promised apology in the Speech from the Throne to Canada's first nations for the terrible injustices and abuses in the residential school system is possibly the only bright spot. An actual apology might have been better. It is unclear why Canada's aboriginal peoples have to wait even one moment longer, but that promise is one that I guarantee my colleagues and myself will hold the government to.
    During the prolonged summer break I met with many of the hard working folks in the riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek. As an aside I would like to mention and acknowledge the excellent provincial campaign of the NDP's Paul Miller in my riding. The people of Hamilton East--Stoney Creek have chosen the NDP to represent them in Ottawa and now in Queen's Park. I know they have chosen an excellent representative.

  (1240)  

    Over the extended summer break, I heard countless stories from hard-working folks who are having real trouble making ends meet. Today, when tremendous wealth is being created in our country, in fact more wealth than at any other time in history, these families have told me that they now need to work longer just to make ends meet. Something is clearly wrong with this picture and Canadians know it.
    The NDP has been warning about the growing prosperity gap and how it is putting working families and the middle class further and further behind. Now we have the shame of more than two million seniors living in poverty across this country, the same folks who helped establish the fundamentals that gave us the wealth that we have today. At the same as our seniors are facing financial and personal crises, a few people at the top are enjoying the benefits of the current economy.
    A fine example of the growing gap happened in my community. When Stelco came out of CCAA protection and was sold, while former shareholders and retirees dangled in the wind, one of Stelco's top company executives pocketed over $60 million. People also told me that they were expecting action from the government to help their families make ends meet, to make the necessities of life more affordable and to ensure them greater financial security.
    With the throne speech, the Conservative government could have chosen to reduce the prosperity gap between the rich and the workers of Canada, but no. Instead, it chose to do nothing on that front.
    Speaking of workers from my riding, on the weekend I was told of their disappointment in the throne speech because it showed them how much the government fails to understand their plight or, worse, that it does not care. Canadians know that what is needed now is real leadership in these key sectors of the economy. What they also now know is that the Conservative agenda announced in the throne speech has failed them once again. A quick mention of the sector fails to give hope to the families and communities that are suffering massive job losses across this country resulting from the government's devastating policy.
    The speech also fails to provide leadership for families when it comes to health care. Still today, across Canada millions of families cannot find a doctor, wait times are still too high and the cost of prescription drugs continues to skyrocket. By ignoring these fundamental issues, the Conservative agenda, as it was laid out in the throne speech, has turned its back on improving health care for today's families.
    I want to say here today that despite the Conservative indifference through all of this, the NDP caucus will redouble its efforts to campaign for universal drug coverage. Whether it does so in the House or on the streets, no matter. The hard-working families of this country must get the drugs they deserve based on their doctors' advice and not on their ability to pay.
    Earlier this summer, I was in Montreal in Outremont and I observed one very important thing that voters in Quebec have in common with voters all across Canada. They are terribly concerned with climate change. If we listen, working Canadians everywhere are very concerned about the future climate changes being predicted by scientists from around the world. They are now beginning to recognize that the current government has and the preceding government failed to get Canada on the right track for tackling climate change.
    Quebeckers and all Canadians know that under the Liberals greenhouse gases increased by 23% beyond Kyoto objectives. Canadians are asking questions, such as how the Liberals, when the current leader was minister of the environment, could have allowed greenhouse gases to increase to levels even greater than the Bush administration. Canadians know we are facing an uncertain future and an unprecedented global crisis and they are, rightly, asking why the Conservative government continues to use Liberal failures as an excuse for inaction on this file.
    Beyond those questions, Canadians are demanding real, concrete action now. They know that the watered down clean air and climate change act is not the path to follow if Canada is to truly respond to this crisis.
    In my riding, I have heard folks talk regularly about the growing concerns with regard to the combat mission in Afghanistan and that it is not the right mission for Canadians. People were very clear. While they support our troops in every sense of the word, they told me that this was not the role they wanted to see their country play on the world stage.
    It is only the NDP that has always been clear and consistent on this issue. It is the wrong mission for Canada. We are not a afraid of the consequences of our actions because we firmly believe in our principles.

  (1245)  

    This is why we will oppose the Speech from the Throne. Unlike the leader of the Liberal Party, we will not pretend and we will not criticize only to sit back later and hide behind excuses. We will not shirk our responsibilities.
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to Afghanistan, the NDP is consistent. It will abandon Afghan women and children to the Taliban.
    However, that is not what I want to talk to the hon. member about. He quoted some items on poverty. Many people in Canada are living in poverty and this government is committed to making a difference there. However, it is not helpful when the statements used are completely misleading and at complete odds with actual facts.
    In its May income report, Statistics Canada revealed that Canadians at every level benefited from the positive economic conditions that have prevailed since the early 1990s. Before taxes, the richest 20% in the country make 13 times as much before taxes in income redistribution as the bottom 20%. However, after taxes and transfers, that gap is 5.6 times, which can be significant to the folks in the bottom 20%. I would point out to my hon. friend that in 1996 the gap was 5.6 times. It has not changed.
    For the member to stand there and say that poverty is accelerating off the clock is absolutely untrue. I would like him to acknowledge the fact that it is his socialist roots that are making him mislead this House and mislead Canadians. Poverty needs to be dealt with but let us deal with it on the facts.

  (1250)  

    Mr. Speaker, somewhat like a magician, they trick us with one hand to keep our attention and then they pick our pockets with the other.
    I can speak directly to poverty. In my riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, according to the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, 95,000 families are living in poverty and 52% of those are seniors. The majority of the remaining people in poverty in Hamilton East—Stoney Creek are women and children. Those are the facts.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the hon. member tell us, among other things, that he wanted to promote a universal drug plan. That is just like the NDP. I agree with him, except that the way he describes it, we would have a universal drug plan imposed and run by Ottawa. In Quebec, we already have drug coverage.
    He said he went to Outremont and that Quebeckers have things in common with Canadians when it comes to the environment. I agree. However, having a centralist party like the NDP in power would mean the imposition of Canada-wide standards, when we are fighting to get recognition for the efforts made by Quebec's industries to achieve the Kyoto protocol targets. But the NDP would like to impose Canada-wide standards.
    I have the same question for him that my colleague had for his predecessor: with respect to the Bloc's amendment to reduce and even eliminate the federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions, namely that of Quebec—for which there is a consensus in Quebec—why did he vote against the Bloc amendment, against our desire to stop the federal government from interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces?
    I would like an answer. I do not want him to be evasive and skirt around my question, as his colleague did. I would like him to respond directly to the question.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate hearing from the member opposite. Having a prescription drug plan in his province is certainly an achievement and one that should be shared across the country, but we are part of a federal establishment here and the role of the federal government is to set standards nationally across our country. We see the prescription program as something that must be a national program.
    Mr. Speaker, the throne speech did not mention how the immigration system would be fixed in order to have less wait times to bring families to Canada, to have the rules relaxed so that more family members can join their loved ones in Canada and so the visitor visa system would not be arbitrary so people can visit their loved ones in Canada. Because that is missing in the throne speech, how does it impact on the riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a very concerning topic because in my region we have tens of thousands of new Canadians who are separated from their families and looking forward to the opportunity of bringing their families together.
    We have the once in a lifetime bill that was proposed by the member for Hamilton Mountain. It is shameful that there was nothing in this throne speech to even begin to address that significant issue.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brant.
    I am pleased to speak in response to the Speech from the Throne in this second session of the 39th Parliament. However, much like the original first session throne speech, there is a lot of rhetoric but little substance. Even worse, the new government has completely failed to live up to its billing in its first throne speech. I need to mention a couple of those points.
    One of the reasons that I believe I need to mention that is because we really need to see specific legislation because the words of the government mean little other than to try to manipulate the public minds, in which it tries to leave the impression it will do something and does not do it. I will give a couple of examples.
    In its highly publicized and propagandized Federal Accountability Act, the public appointments commission never came into being and yet Conservative political patronage just about flows like molten lava, frothing against what seems to be a brow-beaten federal bureaucracy and the appointments go through. I cannot understand how many of those appointments that are going through are strictly political patronage appointments coming out of former premiers' offices.
    On accountability itself, the new government finds itself under three investigations and the Prime Minister fails to answer questions on those matters. Question period is dominated by the Conservative in and out scheme, in which the Conservative Party padded its last campaigns to the benefit of its national election spending.
    Increasingly, there is evidence of the Prime Minister for the new government saying and doing two very different things. Nowhere is this more evident than the government's response to primary producers, the farmers of this country.
    One of the new government's greatest failures is in agriculture. I want to spent a little time on that subject as agriculture critic for the official opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will remember the Prime Minister, in April of 2006, standing in this House and promising farmers cost of production. He even promised cash before spring. That cash never did come through. Did farmers see cost of production? Is a $720 cheque on a $60,000 loss meeting cost of production? No, I certainly think not.
    The Prime Minister in fact broke his word and he cannot be trusted.
    The former minister though did cancel the family farm options program that took $246 million directly out of hard-strapped farmers' pockets. Again, the Conservatives broke their commitment to hard-pressed farmers in this country.
     The Prime Minister did in fact keep one commitment. He did not have the right to make that commitment, mind you, and he attempted to do it illegally. He attacked the Canadian Wheat Board and its duly elected farmer board of directors. The only thing that stopped the Prime Minister from his ideological attack on the Wheat Board was that the federal court ruled that the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada, broke the law of this country. That is a Prime Minister who claims to talk about law and order but, against the advice of the Department of Justice, he went out there hoping that farmers would not challenge him in court, which they did, and he was stopped by the Federal Court of Canada for trying to do an illegal act.
    Obviously, the bottom line is that the Prime Minister cannot be trusted, especially when it comes to the farm community. He cannot be trusted on accountability. The evidence is in. He cannot be trusted on his word to farmers because he failed to meet cost of production. He cannot even be trusted on law and order because the federal court has basically claimed that he was involved in an illegal act.

  (1300)  

    The throne speech absolutely fails to address the agricultural concerns of our country. The government has failed to follow through on its commitment to farmers in the last election. The throne speech has failed to demonstrate any concern for the plight of beef and hog producers facing historic low prices. It has failed to address the unfair trade practices used by our competitors internationally. It has failed to bring in more aggressive safety net programming to deal with low farm incomes and high debt. It has failed to propose implementation of an all party agriculture committee recommendation to deal with the farm crisis.
    That all party committee made 36 recommendations, any number of which the Government of Canada could have picked up. For example, it could have ensured that a product in a box was a product of Canada. The government failed to pick up that recommendation. It could have ensured that imported food met the same standards as those that Canadian farmers have to meet. It failed on that one and failed to pick up on 34 others.
    If the Conservatives really wanted to go a little further out on a limb, they could have gone back to a report that I drafted in 2005 called “Empowering Canadian Farmers in the Marketplace”. They could have picked up on any number of recommendations in my report, such as strengthening the Competition Act so farmers had some protection or policies to help farmers receive decent prices from the marketplace. Again, they failed in that regard.
    Let me mention where the government has tried again to manipulate the public mind through the throne speech.
    The throne speech claims support for supply management. However, with the government's targeted attack on the orderly marketing of the Canadian Wheat Board, which appears in the very same paragraph, it is demonstrating complete hypocrisy and an absolute contradiction of its stated support.
    Actions speak louder than words. The Prime Minister stated “he will enact market choice” for western grain farmers. This completely undermines collective marketing through either the Canadian Wheat Board or supply management.
    Let me be clear. The alleged support for supply management in the throne speech is an absolute and complete fraud, nothing less, nothing more. We just need to look at the paragraph. If there is choice in one marketing system, it has to be allowed in the other. It will undermine collective marketing, which empowers farmers in Canada to receive decent returns in the marketplace. Obviously that point is in the throne speech for consideration only.
    Let me come back for a moment to hogs. The hog industry is in terrible trouble. Let me quote a letter from a person in my riding:
    I'm not angry, just resigned to the fact that the Canadian government is stepping away from small independent production models in agriculture.
    Perhaps if that is going to be the policy they can help farmers exit with some dignity and maybe their house.
    In P.E.I. alone, in the last several months producers accounted for some 2,500 sows that went out of business. That is the equivalent of 80,000 hogs. This industry is in trouble, yet there is not a word in the speech about the hog industry and hog production.
    There is not a word about beef either in the Speech from the Throne. Beef producers find themselves in the situation where they are receiving around $900 when they were receiving $1,400.
    I would love to get into the government's failure in terms of coming up with a safety net, but let me conclude this way.
    The throne speech sets out the government's vision for the near term future of our country. There are only 60 words in the speech that are devoted to the government's vision for an industry that provides the food we eat each and every day. Only 60 words have been given to the industry that provides jobs and sustains communities. The Conservatives spend more time attacking a marketing institution than talking about a vision that would put income and returns in the pocket of farmers.
    The throne speech is absolutely unacceptable. The government is an abject failure in terms of what it is doing, or not doing, for the farm community.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will begin by identifying the absolute hypocrisy in the member's speech. I am offended and so are the producers in my riding of Peterborough, who wholeheartedly rejected his government's vision of agriculture. That was the government of the CAIS program. That government was so complicit on supply management that it allowed milk protein concentrates to escalate in the country. It allowed butter oils to come into our country. It took away 15% of the dairy market in our country and there was not a word from that government.
    The Conservative government has moved on compositional standards for cheese. We have moved on article 28 to protect supply management.
    The Liberals were also complicit on BSE. When we saw it breakout in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom, what did the Liberals do to protect Canadian farmers? Nothing. BSE absolutely decimated the beef industry in our country and that government wears it because it was complicit to it.
    I have heard enough about the Wheat Board. Sixty-three per cent of farmers said that they wanted a choice and the Liberal Party said they should not have one. Those farmers will render their decision on the Liberal Party at some point in the not too distant future.
    Our government will take no lessons from the former government on agriculture because it decimated agriculture in our country. This government is providing some of the best times for agriculture that our country has seen in decades. I am proud of it.
     I would love to hear him comment on some of that.
    Mr. Speaker, the member seems to be the attack dog for the Conservative Party these days. All he needs to do is look in the mirror. That member stood on the stage and said, “the CAIS program would be destroyed”, that the Conservatives would end the CAIS program.
    What did the Conservatives do? They changed the name. AgriStability is the new CAIS program. They have failed to change it. The former minister of agriculture, the one who was fired for failing to meet the mission of the Prime Minister in getting rid of the Wheat Board, went out to farm community in Ontario. Ontario farmers want business risk management. They want companion programs. They want regional flexibility. What did the minister from the Conservative Government of Canada say to them, “absolutely no”.
    That member does not represent farmers in his riding. He is applauding the moves of his government. I know there is only one minister in that government and that is the Prime Minister. The member is like many of the rest, a trained seal sitting in the back corner to take his direction from the PMO.
    It is time he stood up for farmers in his riding and for farmers in Ontario and demanded business risk programming for those farmers.
    Order, please. There is still two and a half minutes left for hon. member's questions and comments period. I am having a great deal of difficulty hearing both the question and the answer.
    I will go to the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for another question or comment.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a very quick question for the hon. member. It says in the throne speech:
    Together with our Government’s strong support for Canada’s supply-managed system, these approaches will deliver stable, predictable and bankable support for farm families.
    Is there a more silly statement in the throne speech?
    Mr. Speaker, it is one of the silliest statements in the throne speech. The fact is we have to look at what the government says and what it does.
    I have outlined from the previous throne speech how the government failed absolutely to meet the needs of the farm community. We do not expect any better from this throne speech.
    We know the government took $246 million out of the pockets of farmers on the family farm options program. By undermining the Canadian Wheat Board, we know the Conservatives are trying to take $655 million, which the Wheat Board maximizes in returns back to Canadian farmers.
    Who will make that gain? It will be the grain trade in the United States, the corporate grain sector. Is that who members on the other side really want to represent, the corporate grain trade, rather than the primary producers of our country who are suffering?
    We cannot believe those words.
    Mr. Speaker, all four political parties have different sentiments regarding the Speech from the Throne. Canadians have said, overwhelmingly, that they do not want an election. The Liberal Party understands this and we will continue to make the government work, despite obvious Conservative attempts to orchestrate its own defeat.
    Ontarians went to the polls less than two weeks ago. Saskatchewan will be voting in two weeks time and Newfoundlanders voted just two weeks ago today. Canadians are justifiably tired of elections and they want to see this Parliament work.
    I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne and to voice some of my concerns with it, concerns on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Brant.
    I will deal with the manufacturing sector. Although it was mentioned, albeit briefly, along with the forestry, fisheries and tourism sectors, I was troubled by the Prime Minister's failure to mention any specifics regarding a plan to support Canada's ever important manufacturing sector. As manufacturing jobs are being lost in Ontario and elsewhere across Canada, the Conservative government is doing virtually nothing to stop this very significant job loss crisis. I am fearful that the government does not fully comprehend the consequences of its inaction.
    Canada has lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs since 2002 and real output in manufacturing is declining, not just employment. For instance, value added GDP is below its year 2000 peak. Some argue that manufacturing is simply becoming more efficient and that is why it is shedding jobs. In reality the entire sector is shrinking.
     As a country, Canada is especially sensitive to exchange rate concerns since fully 90% of our exports go to the United States. We are thus much more vulnerable than Europe, Japan, China and India to changes in the international value of the U.S. dollar. With our dollar now at par with the U.S. dollar, the government must come to understand that reliance on a weak Canadian dollar is not a strategy. It is certainly not an effective strategy with respect to preserving Canada's manufacturing sector.
    A manufacturing sector under pressure clearly affects the 2.1 million Canadians who work in the sector as well as their families. Job loss in this critical sector affects the millions more jobs that depend on manufacturing as the engine of our economy, especially in Ontario.
    In my riding of Brant, with a population of some 130,000 individuals, the manufacturing sector is represented by six of the top ten employers. Therefore, I urge the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry to at least match what the Ontario Liberals are doing for the manufacturing sector.
    Premier McGuinty's Liberals put together a $500 million package that attracted over $7 billion worth of new investment in the auto sector. The Ontario government also improved the tax credit available to businesses, which take on the important task of training of future skilled workers. This incentive is designed to reduce training costs in an effort to get more young people into skilled trade apprenticeship programs. Education sources confirm that students are lining up to enter the skilled trades, but have been unable to secure training positions for the essential hands-on portion of their programs.
    Clearly the Ontario government is helping out.
     How should the federal government? For starters, the federal government could adopt the 22 recommendations made by the House of Commons industry committee, including the key recommendation of a five year window for writing off capital investments at an accelerated rate.

  (1310)  

    The purpose of that window obviously is to encourage investment in the equipment needed to regain and enhance Canada's competitiveness. Instead, the Minister of Finance has reduced that window to just two years, not enough time for businesses to properly plan and three years less than the all-party committee itself recommended.
    While Canada's manufacturing sector clearly struggles, the booming oil sands industry continues to enjoy a much more generous accelerated capital cost allowance, an advantage which will continue at least for the oil sands until 2015.
    Many business leaders have justifiably called for an extension of the accelerated capital cost allowance for the manufacturing and processing industries. This is especially true with the Canadian dollar at par. It has never been more affordable for Canadian businesses to invest in new machinery and equipment.
    Canada needs to create more investment, to create rising living standards, to create the jobs of tomorrow in the Canada of today, to create a competitive tax system, to create a true Canadian corporate advantage.
    I was also bothered to hear virtually nothing in the Speech from the Throne about poverty. We need a plan to fight poverty. Poverty today for many Canadians is a reality, a reality that mocks the prosperity known by most Canadians. Today in Canada more than half a million of our senior citizens live in poverty.
    The men and women who built this country deserve much better. Pension splitting I concede is of some assistance for seniors with partners, but what about those seniors without partners? What about the hundreds of thousands of single seniors? There is no mention whatsoever in the throne speech of anything that will help single seniors.
    What about the disabled? It is to Canada's shame that over 50% of disabled individuals cannot find employment. These are individuals who through no fault of their own were born visually impaired, born hard of hearing, born physically disabled. Surely in arguably the fairest, freest, finest country on earth everyone without exception deserves a chance, deserves an opportunity, deserves the affirmation and the self-esteem which accompanies a job, which accompanies a place in the workforce.
    For Canadians who do not face physical challenges, the unemployment rate is around 6% or 7%. For Canadians with disabilities, the unemployment rate is in excess of 50%. This is shameful. There is no mention in the throne speech about incentives for corporations or businesses to hire individuals with disabilities.
    I commend the Minister of Finance for a provision with respect to severely disabled children, but those are the children. What about disabled adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s who want to work but have no opportunities presented to them? I think it is time with a $14 billion surplus that this country come to the aid of those individuals who have disabilities.
    I appreciated this opportunity to speak in the debate on the Speech from the Throne.

  (1315)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member referred to poverty in his speech. I would like him to comment on a specific population that is affected by poverty: our seniors.
    Guaranteed income supplement recipients who are getting the maximum benefit are living under the poverty line. The current Conservative government, which has been in power since 2006, has given no real indication, either in the throne speech or in its actions, that it intends to address this dramatic situation.

  (1320)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. The premise of her question is that governments have a responsibility to incrementally, slowly but surely, narrow the gap between those who have and those who have not.
     There are many seniors who have not. They have not enough and they have no opportunity, because of their age, to better their situation. They have left the workforce on a permanent basis. I agree with the member that there has been no provision for seniors for many months.
     Again, with the $14 billion surplus available to the Minister of Finance and the government, more could and certainly should be done for Canada's seniors.
    Mr. Speaker, there are many seniors who are having difficulty finding money to buy prescription drugs. These seniors are having difficulty finding affordable home care, finding high quality services so they can stay in their homes. Some of them have difficulty in paying nursing homes that have decent nursing care.
    The member talked about the importance of narrowing the prosperity gap, the gap between those who are rich and those who are having difficulty making ends meet. However, I noticed the Liberals' record while they were in government that there was a huge tax cut of $100 billion which started in 2000. Each year since then, until 2006, there is almost $50 billion to $54 billion in tax cuts. This means that Canada has fewer financial resources to invest in seniors to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. The prosperity gap continues to grow.
    How would the member justify that kind of huge corporate tax cut? I recently heard the Liberal leader saying that it is the direction in which he would like to take Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, something that often escapes members of the New Democratic Party is that business creates wealth. The private sector goes a long way toward creating wealth. At times the member and her colleagues rather forget that simple lesson of economics.
    The Liberal Party wishes to foster a competitive business climate in this country that will assist every single Canadian.
    If the member wants to go back 10 years and talk about the Liberal record when the Liberals were in power, that is her prerogative, but frankly, we prefer as a party to look to the future. We prefer to move forward and not replay the past.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak concerning the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

[English]

    As the Speech from the Throne made clear, the Government of Canada will continue to build a better Canada by focusing on five clear priorities: first, strengthening Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; second, building a stronger federation; third, providing effective economic leadership; fourth, continuing to tackle crime; and finally, improving our environment.
    Our government will continue to provide Canadians with the economic leadership they want and deserve. That leadership has delivered practical and positive results. Today, after 21 months of Conservative government, our economy is strong and our finances are healthy. We have the right long term economic plan for Canada, called Advantage Canada, a plan that will give us the means to deliver on all of our commitments set out in the Speech from the Throne.
    After 21 months, by any measure our economic and fiscal fundamentals are the strongest they have been in a generation. Canadians are enjoying the second longest period of economic expansion in Canadian history. Canada's unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 33 years and the share of adult Canadians participating in the workforce is at a record high. In fact, since our government took office, employment has increased by more than 590,000 jobs, with employment up in every province in Canada. Indeed, Canada is one of the few countries with a public pension system that is financially sustainable.
    This past weekend, I met with my G-7 finance minister counterparts in Washington. While we have much in common, Canada stands alone in one key respect. We are the only G-7 country with budget surpluses and a falling debt burden. That is something of which all Canadians can be proud.
    There are many reasons why our country is doing so well: strong consumer demand and employment growth; record high commodity prices; near record corporate profits, which have boosted investment; low stable inflation; and a shrinking tax burden. I will have more to say about the state of the Canadian economy shortly when I release the fall economic and fiscal update.
    Thanks to our strong economic and fiscal fundamentals, we have what it takes to deal with any existing or new challenges to the nation's future prosperity. One such challenge is the potential for weaker growth in the United States and overseas as the United States housing market continues to contract and recent turbulence in global financial markets continues.
    Another challenge, of course, is the rapid appreciation of the Canadian dollar vis-à-vis the U.S. currency. On the one hand, our stronger dollar should lower costs for imported machinery and equipment for businesses, and it should also reduce prices for consumer goods. On the other hand, we recognize it has been a real challenge for the manufacturing, forestry and other exporting sectors.
    Finally, Canada is on the verge of a demographic change with the rapid aging of our population. This issue will affect all levels of government as the share of the working age population begins to decline.
    While challenges are out there, they are not insurmountable. Private sector forecasters expect continued economic growth over the next two years. What does that mean for the government's finances? It means government revenues should remain strong and government finances healthy. It means we can continue to eliminate debt, reduce taxes and invest in the priorities of Canadians.
    We live in an exciting, changing, challenging world, a world where people, jobs and investment move more rapidly across the globe than ever before. It is a world Canada is more than capable of taking on.
    Our government recognized early on that building an even greater country for our children and grandchildren requires a solid plan, a plan to create jobs, keep unemployment low, reduce taxes, reward hard work and help people get ahead. That is why in November 2006 we unveiled our long term economic plan, Advantage Canada, a plan to make Canada a world leader for today's generation and for generations to come.

  (1325)  

    Advantage Canada focuses on creating five key advantages: first, a fiscal advantage eliminating Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation; second, a tax advantage reducing taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G-7; third, an entrepreneurial advantage creating a business environment that unlocks private investment by reducing taxes, reducing unnecessary regulation, reducing red tape; fourth, a knowledge advantage creating the best educated, most skilled, most flexible workforce in the world; and fifth, an infrastructure advantage building modern infrastructure to ensure the seamless flow of people, goods and services.
    Advantage Canada was designed not only to provide our country with a clear long term economic vision, but also the ability to adjust to ever changing global realities. It is an ambitious plan. Just as important, it is a practical one.
    This government has not allowed Advantage Canada to become another document accumulating dust on a shelf. Over the last 21 months we have been creating an environment for further investment by reducing taxes significantly for individuals, families and business, a $41 billion reduction over three years and by moving Canada's overall tax rate on new business investment from third highest to second lowest in the G-7 by 2011.
    We released a plan to create a Canadian advantage in global capital markets, a plan designed to achieve increased protection and income for investors, better jobs, more investment and prosperity. We set out a global commerce strategy. This is a new course for Canada's engagement in commercial relations worldwide and we released a new science and technology plan to guide future government decision making.
    After years of debate we have restored fiscal balance in Canada. These achievements are clear evidence of a government ready and willing to go a little further and reach a little higher.
     On building a fiscal advantage for Canadians we have already made a significant down payment that any homeowner can appreciate. We have reduced the federal debt by more than $27 billion over the past two years or more than $1,142 for every man, woman and child in Canada. This is at the same time provincial and territorial governments will have reduced their debt by almost $40 billion.
    What does this mean for Canadians? This means that we are paying off the national mortgage and at the same time reducing taxes even further. Under our tax back guarantee we are giving Canadians a direct stake and a direct benefit in how we manage government finances on their behalf. We are dedicating all interest savings from the shrinking public debt to further reduce personal income taxes. To date we have provided Canadians with over $1.5 billion in annual personal income tax relief as a result of our tax back guarantee.
    We also intend to focus future federal-provincial discussions on strengthening the economic union by improving regulatory efficiency and removing barriers to internal trade and labour mobility in Canada.
    On creating a tax advantage, I have already described the tax back guarantee. We have reduced taxes for Canadians by over $41 billion over three years and yet that is not enough. Canadians still pay too much tax and deserve to keep more of their hard-earned tax dollars.
    We have taken initial steps also to bring forward the working income tax benefit which the official opposition failed to do and this is to help Canadians who are receiving social assistance to get into the workforce and not have all of their benefits clawed back so that it is not worthwhile for someone to enter the workforce in Canada. We need people to enter the workforce. We have labour shortfalls across Canada and this is a good way of moving forward on that agenda.
    The entrepreneurial advantage is important. Reducing red tape is very important. We need to support the RCMP and industries, as we have indicated in the Speech from the Throne. Also requiring assistance are the forestry industry and of course the automotive industry which is facing some manufacturing challenges as are other manufacturing industries, particularly in Quebec and Ontario.
    We have accomplished a great deal in the first 21 months. Of course there is more to do. That is why we have the five new clear priorities that will enable us to build a legacy of peace and prosperity.

  (1330)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised by what the Minister of Finance said. The throne speech contains absolutely nothing for the manufacturing industry or the forestry industry in particular.
    I would remind the minister that since April 1, 2005, 21,000 workers who depended on forestry for their livelihood—including plant workers, forestry workers, machinists and truckers—have lost their jobs and 156 plants have closed.
    The situation throughout Quebec is catastrophic. Many towns are threatened, and many regions are in difficulty because of the forestry crisis. What is more, the federal government has cut $68 million from the budget of the Economic Development Agency of Canada, money that was to go to help communities in difficulty.
    Will the Minister of Finance promise to reinvest massively in the Economic Development Agency of Canada and help affected communities? Absolutely nothing has been done to date and absolutely nothing will be done in the future, judging by the throne speech. The government claims that it is sensitive to this issue, but it has not announced any real measures.

  (1335)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the member opposite knows, the unemployment rate in Canada is the lowest it has been in more than a generation. It is the lowest it has been in 33 years.
    It is true that there have been losses in the manufacturing sector, particularly in central Canada. Fortunately, those folks who are losing their jobs are largely being able to obtain new employment, good jobs by the way, in the service sector. Indeed, this is part of what has happened internationally in terms of the developed countries having strongly growing service sectors.
    Having said that, regarding the forestry sector and other manufacturing sectors, in the last budget we brought in a very large, accelerated capital cost allowance provision, estimated to cost about $1.3 billion. This is to permit our manufacturers to get brand new machinery and equipment over two years and write it off over that period of time. That is the way we are going to keep manufacturing strong in Canada: by moving up the scale and making sure that our manufacturers have the best and most productive technology.
    Mr. Speaker, members of the House might know the story of old King Canute, who hundreds of years ago took his throne to the beach, ordered the tides not to rise and his feet got wet.
    I would submit that the minister is Canada's new King Canute. He goes to bankers and says, “Let the bank rates come down”, and the bankers say, “Get lost, king”. Then he goes to the retailers and says, “Let the prices come down”, and the retailers say, “Get lost, king”.
    The point is that the minister is engaging in blatant posturing in matters over which he has achieved nothing and has no leverage. Is he not embarrassed at this blatant political posturing?
    Mr. Speaker, I knew the member for Markham—Unionville was the president of the GST club. I did not know his contemporary was King Canute, but I guess he has been having informed discussions with that person.
     I congratulate him and his leader for their persistence in raising the GST. They want to get that GST up. His leader has called it wasteful that we are reducing the GST. They want to raise taxes for Canadians by $12 billion, led by the finance critic, the member for Markham—Unionville, and the Leader of the Opposition. These are the people who are asking Canadians for some credibility. They want to raise their taxes by $12 billion, something they think is a good thing to do. I do not think Canadians agree with them.
    I am very proud of the fact that ATM users in Canada, seniors, students and people with disabilities, all got positive responses from the banks in Canada. I know the member for Markham—Unionville does not care about those people. We accomplished that. The Liberals did nothing, which is what they usually do.
    Mr. Speaker, I noted that the minister talked about reducing the deficit by $24 billion. What he did not talk about was the social deficit that he has increased in this country.
    I want to know about the deficit of 200,000 homeless Canadians. I want to know about the deficit where there are no additional child care spaces. I want to know about the deficit where 1.6 million children live in poverty in this country. I would also like to know about the $100 billion municipal infrastructure deficit, the loss of 300,000 jobs, and the additional 33,000 jobs that we are going to lose because of this Korean free trade deal.
    I want to know what the minister is going to do about the social deficit the government has created?
    The hon. Minister of Finance has approximately 30 seconds to respond.
    Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of the WITB program, not only because it is my riding of Whitby--Oshawa, but it is the working income tax benefit.
    I do not know why the NDP votes against it. The New Democrats say they care about working people. They say they care about people getting engaged in the workforce. Here is a government program and initiative that helps people on social assistance come into the workforce and they are against it.
    They talk about caring, but when it comes to actually taking action that helps real people in Canada get to work and support their families, they vote against it.

  (1340)  

    I notice that the hon. Minister of Finance only used 10 minutes of his allotted 20 minute time slot. Was it his intention to share his time?
    Yes, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

[Translation]

    Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour.

[English]

    Order, please. The hon. member for Mississauga South on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not mind if the finance minister would like to maybe finish his time, but there are House rules about the splitting of time particularly if the member does not give notice at the beginning of the speech. The Chair has occasionally asked during the middle of the speech, but after we have had questions and comments, I believe the rule is clear. If you could please check with the table, I believe the time for that slot has expired.
    Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, I think we could solve the dilemma here by just being collegial, as we like to be in a minority Parliament. I would suggest that you simply ask for unanimous consent that the request to share the time be granted.
    Does the hon. Minister of Finance have the unanimous consent of the House to share his time?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to speak in support of the 2007 Speech from the Throne. From the moment the speech started, I knew that it was a defining moment for not only our government, but also all Canadians. And I was not disappointed with the vision this government has for Canada's future.
    Canadians have every reason to be proud of their country and of what we have accomplished. We have worked together to build a nation that serves as model for the rest of the world. Advantage Canada, our government's long-term economic plan, is based on sound fiscal management. Canadians now want a government that will help them build on this heritage, a government that sets clear objectives and that gets real results.
     To meet those expectations, our government set out in the Speech from the Throne, its vision of a Canada based on the following five priorities: strengthening Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world; strengthening the federation and our democratic institutions; providing effective economic leadership for a prosperous future; tackling crime and strengthening the security of Canadians; improving the environment and the health of Canadians. In the final analysis, Canadians want a government that will be accountable for its actions and their results. They want a government that gives priority to Canadians and their families.
     Today, Canadians are holding on to a bigger share of their income because we have reduced taxes, including income taxes. Families have a real choice in terms of day care thanks to the universal child care benefit. Canadians can now count on a government that is determined to help them receive the medical care they need more quickly, and a government that is tackling crime and strengthening the security of our cities.
     All of these matters are of great importance to Canadians. That is why they elected our government: to improve conditions for them and their families. Canadians want a government that gets concrete results. Thanks to the dynamic leadership of the Prime Minister, our government is getting those results. The economic and fiscal update this fall will spell out our progress toward achieving those objectives.
     Let us stop for a moment to reflect on some of the initiatives launched by our government to show how we are investing in our families. In terms of taxation, for example, we have delivered or announced tax reductions amounting to more than $41 billion over three years for Canadian companies and individuals. The family is the basic unit of our society and our government will continue to support our families and help them to achieve their dreams of a better and more secure future.
     One of the first measures taken by our government in its first budget was to honour our promise to reduce the GST. We immediately reduced it to 6%, which was an important step because it really was a reduction with general application. It affects all Canadians, whether individuals or families. In the Speech from the Throne last Tuesday, the government announced that it will deliver the second part of its election promise and will reduce the GST to 5%. Our government keeps its promises.
     In the 2006 budget, we also introduced the universal child care benefit to provide support for families.

  (1345)  

    This plan is giving families the resources to make the choices that will enable them to balance work and family as they see fit, regardless of where they live, their particular circumstances or their preferences.
    With Advantage Canada, the government has committed to working with the provinces and territories to do away with the social security trap by implementing the working income tax benefit to make work more profitable for low- and middle-income Canadians.
    The working income tax benefit is designed to make work more lucrative and attractive for approximately 1.2 million Canadians who are already part of the workforce and to encourage them to keep working. Moreover, we expect that the working income tax benefit will encourage about 60,000 more people to join the workforce.
    In Budget 2007, the government followed up on the group's recommendations by announcing a new registered disability savings plan to help parents save money to ensure the financial security of their severely disabled children. This plan, the first of its kind in Canada, will ensure the financial security of disabled children, improve their quality of life, and bring peace of mind to their parents.
    The tax fairness plan allows pension income splitting for pensioners. This initiative will give families a greater incentive to save and invest their money to ensure their financial independence following retirement.
    As I said earlier, our government will continue to invest in our families and our future. As we said in the Speech from the Throne, we are committed to helping those who want to escape the hardships of homelessness and poverty. As you know, the new homelessness partnering strategy came into effect on April 1, 2007. The strategy's $269.9 million over two years will promote new structures and support measures to help the homeless and people at risk create a better, safer future for themselves.
    We have accomplished great things, but we still have a lot to do. Our government believes that families, individuals and businesses are still paying too much tax.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to my hon. colleague's speech. I know he is the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière in Quebec, a region that was affected by the major closures in the manufacturing industry. He is familiar with the reality facing older workers in the Montmagny region, where Whirlpool and other textile companies have closed.
    When we passed the first Speech from the Throne after the election, his party accepted one of the Bloc's amendments, which targeted an assistance program for older workers. Last year, in the latest budget, a committee was created in order to eventually establish an income security program for older workers, to help them make it to their retirement. This time, however, there was no mention of this issue in the throne speech.
    Some people have been waiting for this program since the last election, for the past year and a half. On many occasions, his colleagues have said that we will eventually see something. In the meantime, people do not have the minimum income they need to get by until their old age pension. Couples are being torn apart and, sadly, some people have even committed suicide.
    Can the member explain to me why his government has not shown enough sensitivity to announce, once and for all, an assistance program for older workers? This is a matter of respect for the dignity of these workers who have been supporting their families for the past 30 or 35 years by working for the same company, but who are now forced to rely on social assistance, because of his government's insensitivity.
    Mr. Speaker, I take my dear colleague's question as a show of support. Our government is aware of all the problems that can be faced by older workers and we are concerned.
    We have already adopted important measures in order to create advantages. At present, Canadians want a government that will help them build on this heritage, a government that will set clear objectives and obtain tangible results.
    To meet these expectations, our government announced, in the throne speech, its vision for Canada based on the following five major priorities: strengthening Canada's sovereignty and place in the world, strengthening the federation and our democratic institutions, providing economic leadership for a prosperous future, tackling crime and strengthening the security of Canadians and improving the environment and the health of Canadians.
    In the end, Canadians want a government that is proud of its actions and its results.
    Mr. Speaker, with regard to tax reductions and decreasing the GST by 1%, these reductions only continue to diminish the government's capacity to invest in measures to resolve the social imbalance and make strategic investments in the economy.
    Given the current budget surpluses, has the time not come to adopt a balanced approach and to reinvest in our future?
    The people of my riding have given me a very clear message to deliver to Ottawa. They are demanding that the government reinvest in its citizens, in its communities, and in more affordable education and housing. There are still 1.6 million children living in poverty in Canada.
    Is it not time to act?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question, because the measure to reduce the GST from 7% to 6% and from 6% to 5% is the most practical way to help Canada's poorest families. Often, these families pay no tax. As well, our budget included an incentive to help low-income families stay in the workforce.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
    I am happy to speak about the throne speech today as my party's critic on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I would like to talk mainly about the situation in the forestry industry. In this throne speech, the Conservative government completely ignores the crisis the forestry industry is going through.
    In the throne speech, the government only briefly mentions the challenges facing an industry that has existed for more than a century in Quebec, perhaps because the crisis does not affect Alberta's interests. In Quebec, the whole economy is being affected by the problems in the forestry industry. Entire regions are suffering because of job losses, unemployment and plant closures.
    In my riding, Trois-Rivières, the Kruger paper mill had to close temporarily, laying off 1,000 workers. Many plants north of La Tuque, in Saint-Michel-des-Saints and elsewhere have also been affected. These plants cannot count on the federal government to address the problem, which requires a reorganization of the regional economy.
    One of the non-negotiable demands the Bloc Québécois made as a condition of its support for the throne speech was that the federal government introduce tax measures to support the regions of Quebec affected by the forestry crisis.
     This means that the federal government will have to fix some of the mistakes it has made. We all remember its refusal to help the forest industry throughout the entire softwood lumber dispute and the major effects this had that are still being felt today. An economic upswing in many parts of Quebec has long been hampered by Ottawa’s refusal to act. The Bloc Québécois demands an end to this Conservative ideology of laissez-faire. The Conservative government must realize the urgency of the situation, act responsibly, and take the necessary action to turn the situation around.
     The Bloc Québécois has insisted on a clear mention in the Speech from the Throne of fiscal measures to help the regions affected by the crisis in the forest industry. However, there are no specific measures in this speech to help workers, companies and regions affected by this crisis. Although the government says it is very concerned, the Prime Minister has not provided any solutions or taken any steps to help the industry recover, not to mention any programs to help workers.
     The government even has the crust to boast about what it has done to support the industry and the people working in it. There is no truth to any of it. The only thing the government has done is cut the community assistance programs and leave the workers who lost their jobs at the mercy of the crisis. The only promise in this speech is that the government will continue doing nothing to offset the effects of the crisis in the forest industry.
     We in the Bloc have proposed a number of measures. One of them, for example, is to bring back the fund to diversify forest economies that was eliminated by the Conservatives, although the management of this fund would be turned over to local stakeholders. The Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec did away with this fund on the excuse that it was not being used properly.
     Instead of relaxing Ottawa’s inappropriate and bureaucratic criteria, decentralizing the program, and making the regions responsible for managing it in accordance with their own needs, the minister simply eliminated the program, thereby depriving the regions that needed it most in order to diversify their economies. Like a lot of federal programs, this fund was more suited to meeting Ottawa’s objectives than the real needs of the regions affected by the crisis.
     For these reasons, the Bloc Québécois wants the fund brought back, although the management of it should be turned over to local stakeholders. It is local people, as we have always said, who know what is needed. They are best placed to determine who needs this fund, why they need it, and how to get the regions out of the economic quagmire in which they find themselves.
     The second measure would set up a loan and loan-guarantee program to help finance investment in production equipment. There is nothing about this in the Speech from the Throne. The federal government has done nothing to help the industry caught up in the softwood lumber crisis.

  (1400)  

     The Bloc Québécois has been constantly asking the government for many years—
    I must interrupt the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. She will be able to resume her speech later for five minutes in order to finish it.
     It is time now for statements by members. The hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac has the floor.

Statements by Members

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

Young Leaders in Rural Canada Awards

    Mr. Speaker, today, the Secretary of State (Agriculture) announced the recipients of the Young Leaders in Rural Canada Awards.

[English]

    The winner of the leadership award for outstanding contribution to a rural community is Meghan Detheridge of Sydney, Nova Scotia, who raised over $200,000 for a local world-class skateboard park.

[Translation]

    The winner of the partnership award for developing and emphasizing community collaboration, is one of my constituents, François St-Amand, from St. Andrews, New Brunswick, who worked hard to make the school a part of the community and helped build a local park, open a free child care centre and develop an after-school program.

[English]

    It is inspiring to have such motivated individuals who are committed to improving the lives of rural citizens and I am pleased to stand here today to recognize the achievement of these fine young Canadians. These young people, like our government, believe in getting things done for rural Canadians. I congratulate them and say bravo.

Eunice Grayson

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to pay tribute to Eunice Grayson, an extraordinary volunteer, visionary and community leader. Sadly, last week Eunice left us, passing away peacefully at her home.
    In our community, Eunice was best known for pioneering the Learning Enrichment Foundation. As the LEF's founding executive director, Eunice worked tirelessly to ensure that new and less fortunate members of our community had access to job training, language classes, child care, skills improvement and, above all, hope.
    Today, the Learning Enrichment Foundation is a nationally recognized leader in the holistic approach to community economic development.
    Eunice was a kind and caring soul, a citizen I was proud to represent in this House and a lady I was fortunate enough to count as a friend.
    Eunice was born with the maiden name Service, a most fitting name for she gave so much of herself for the benefit of the less fortunate in our community. Her service, her sacrifice and her name will be fondly remembered in York South—Weston.
     I know the hon. members of this House will join me in celebrating the remarkable life of Eunice and extending condolences to her family on her passing.

[Translation]

MusiCan Award

    Mr. Speaker, on October 13, Bernard Hébert, a music teacher at École polyvalente Nicolas-Gatineau, was presented with the MusiCan Teacher of the Year Award by Céline Dion in Las Vegas. Mr. Hébert is the first francophone teacher to receive this award.
    The award came as no surprise to the administrators at École polyvalente Nicolas-Gatineau. They were the ones who nominated Mr. Hébert to MusiCan last year in recognition of his 32 years teaching music.
    The mission of MusiCan, which was created by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, is to ensure that young people have access to a comprehensive music program through their school system.
    My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to congratulate Bernard Hébert for this award, which recognizes the passion for teaching music that he maintains to this day.

[English]

Lord Selkirk Boy Scout Pipe Band

    Mr. Speaker, I recently attended the 50th anniversary reunion of Winnipeg's Lord Selkirk Boy Scout Pipe Band. It was a great event but, as an alumni, the best part was the fact that the founding pipe major and instructor, Pipe Major Robert Fraser, was on hand to help us celebrate.
    Bob Fraser, originally from Arbroath, Scotland, is still an instructor with the band at 85 years of age and has taught literally hundreds of boys over the years to play the great highland bagpipe, all without any fee ever being charged because, in his view, passing on a culture is something one does for the sheer joy of it.
    Bob Fraser also passes on to his students the example of his patience, good humour and all around gentlemanly way of being.
    I congratulate the band but, even more so, I send a great big thanks to Bob Fraser. Lang may his lum reek.

Canadian Fertilizer Institute

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to welcome members of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute as they gather in Ottawa this week.
    This industry employs some 12,000 people and contributes $7 billion a year to Canada's economy. We provide 12% of the world's fertilizer materials and export to more than 50 countries.
    The fertilizer industry helps farmers provide safe and nutritious food to the world's growing population. Fertilizers have enabled farmers to triple crop production in the past four decades.
    The industry can also take pride in its environmental record by reducing emission levels 10% while it increased total production by 39% since 1993. Increasing fertilizer use means more carbon dioxide is taken from the atmosphere by plant growth.
    Surely, the Canadian fertilizer industry rates among the most efficient in the world.
    I encourage all my colleagues to learn more about this essential industry while Ottawa is honoured to host the Canadian Fertilizer Institute.

  (1405)  

York Regional Police

    Mr. Speaker, recently the York Regional Police received the Webber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
    York Regional Police were recognized for their proactive approach in tackling concerns about youth and gang crime. The police agency partnered with community groups, parent associations, faith groups and athletic leagues to create an anti-gang strategy. Working with the community, York Regional Police have implemented new youth programs, offered free transportation to community centres and engaged young police officers in youth mentoring programs. Through this strategy, York Regional Police have significantly reduced the street level crime associated with youth.
    I congratulate Chief Armand La Barge and the front line officers for their outstanding leadership.The efforts of the York Regional Police are a model for police agencies across Canada and around the world and demonstrate that the first step in the battle against crime is prevention.

[Translation]

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute the valiant efforts that Canada's farmers put forth every day to produce the best, healthiest food in the world.

[English]

    Canadian agriculture and agri-food drives 8.2% of our GDP, employs about two million Canadians and accounts for $28 billion of our international trade. That is why agriculture is a priority for this government. Through measures in budget 2006 and budget 2007, a total of $4.5 billion in new funding is flowing to the agricultural sector.

[Translation]

    Our government is listening to farmers and is taking steps to respond to their concerns.

[English]

    This government will continue to put farmers first by working toward a stronger, more vibrant farm gate and by helping the sector capture some of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

[Translation]

Forestry Industry

    Mr. Speaker, even though the forestry crisis plaguing the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region and a number of other regions in Quebec is far from being resolved, the Conservative government is boasting about its achievements.
    Several thousand jobs have now been lost, mainly because of this government's inertia. When the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec cut $50 million from the diversification fund that would have helped regions affected by the forestry crisis, he exacerbated the decline of the industry.
    The Bloc Québécois has proposed real solutions to help the industry, such as bringing back a fund to diversify the forestry economy, a loan program for investment in production material, a tax credit to promote business development and an income support program for older workers.
    Once again, the Conservative government's inertia is making it clear that the Bloc Québécois has an essential role to play here.

[English]

A Capital Experience

    Mr. Speaker, there is a special group of high school students here today. They are participating in a program I call a “Capital Experience”. Each October, two student leaders from each of the seven high schools in my riding come to Ottawa for three days to learn about career opportunities in public life.
    They have visited Parliament, the Korean Embassy, Amnesty International, the Department of Foreign Affairs, CHUM studios, the Prime Minister's Office, the Press Gallery and SUMMA Strategies.
    I wish to thank those who shared their time with these students. I also thank the businesses and service clubs who sponsored them.
    Today I welcome to Parliament: Cathryn Woodrow and Mac Adams from Fenelon Falls; Kassy Smith and Dylan Robichaud from St. Thomas Aquinas; Bethany Snelgrove and William Prentesco from Haliburton; Amanda Franco-Brooks and Monique Elliot from Brock; Rebecca Reeds and Meaghan Williams from I.E. Weldon; Amber Flynn and Nathan Dinnick from Crestwood; and Andrea Hawkridge from Lakefield.
    I ask my colleagues to join me in wishing these young people seated in the gallery today all the best as they make decisions regarding their future careers.

[Translation]

Knights of Columbus

    Mr. Speaker, this year, the Knights of Columbus are celebrating their 125th anniversary. At the same time, Aylmer Council 5281 of the Knights of Columbus is marking its 45th anniversary and Saint-Jean-Bosco Council 12189 in Hull is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
    I am pleased to commend the contributions made by the Knights of Columbus to the greater human family, and particularly to the Hull-Aylmer area.
    Humbly and unassumingly, the Knights of Columbus perform acts of great generosity. They epitomize respect, dignity and selflessness through their daily activities.
    The Knights of Columbus fulfill their commitment to the community brilliantly, and provide help and support to so many of their fellow citizens. They are carrying on a long tradition of charitable work and activities.
    The members are passing on an important lesson of brotherhood through the ages. I would like to express my warmest thanks to all Knights of Columbus members.

  (1410)  

Speech from the Throne

    Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne sets our government's directions for the new session and reflects the concerns of the Quebec nation, including the desire to put a stop to crime and make communities safer.
    Bill C-2, which tackles violent crime, includes measures that were examined in depth during the last session: minimum sentences for offences involving firearms; raising the age of consent from 14 to 16; declaration of dangerous offenders; reverse onus in cases of firearm-related offences; and drug-impaired driving.
    Why is the Bloc planning to vote against these measures? Luckily, the Bloc does nothing but talk and cannot come to power. It would seem the Bloc would protect criminals rather than honest people.

[English]

Corporate Tax Cuts

    Mr. Speaker, $60 billion is a very stark figure. It is a lot of money. That sum, $60 billion, has been given in corporate tax cuts to huge corporations, like big banks, since 2000.
    I fail to understand why banks that made $19 billion in profits last year will get even more tax breaks according to the Conservatives' throne speech. In all, by 2011 there will be a 10 point drop in the federal corporate tax rate since 2001.
    The Liberals and Conservatives give tax breaks to the richest Canadians, but there is nothing for affordable child care. There is nothing to hire more nurses and doctors. There is nothing to invest in our cities, our artists and to improve our public transit.
    Just for this year without the big corporate tax cuts, Canada would have had $12.7 billion to invest in ordinary Canadians. To give even more corporate tax cuts after the billions in tax giveaways is insulting to the two-thirds of Canadians who say they are not benefiting from the economic growth. It is wrong and it is unfair.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans seems to be missing the point when it comes to trawlers and quotas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He said yesterday about the quotas, “whether they catch it in a dory or in the Queen Mary, it does not make any difference”.
    The current uproar in P.E.I. is not related to the quotas. Everybody knows the quotas have not been changed. The uproar is over the use of this specific type of fishing gear which has proven destructive to stocks in other areas.
    The minister knows full well that this type of gear has never been used in the gulf for this very reason. Local fishermen are concerned about the safety of the herring and bycatch stocks and have questioned the research methods used by DFO to estimate the health of the stocks.
    Until we can be assured that midwater trawlers will not decimate the herring industry, it is best to err on the side of caution, which is what DFO is supposed to do.
    If the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans thinks that jigging from a dory is no different from dragging a net the size of five football fields through the ocean, he is obviously very dismissive of the valid concerns of people who make their livings from the sea.

[Translation]

Louise Robert Beaudin and Marie-Josée Cloutier

    Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today in this House to acknowledge the remarkable work of a farmer in my riding. Louise Robert Beaudin was named “woman farmer of the year” at the 11th annual Val-Jean farm women's union gala on October 6.
    Louise Robert Beaudin is the sole proprietor of L.R.B, a large-scale farm in Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur, and she manages the fields, the finances, the land clearing and a number of other jobs. Louise is passionate about farming and she has my deep admiration and sincere congratulations.
    I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Marie-Josée Cloutier on winning the scholarship for excellence in training at the same gala.
    These two exceptional women represented the region of Val-Jean at the Saturne gala of the Fédération des agricultrices du Québec on October 20.

[English]

Manufacturing Sector

    Mr. Speaker, last week the Speech from the Throne made scant mention of the manufacturing sector and no mention at all of the auto sector. I am fearful that the Conservative government does not fully comprehend the consequences of its inaction with respect to these sectors.
    Canada has lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs since 2002. According to research conducted by the Canadian Auto Workers, 30,000 more manufacturing jobs will be lost if Canada enters into a free trade agreement with Korea.
    The Liberal Party will not support a Canada-Korea free trade agreement unless it eliminates existing trade barriers and provides true free market access to the Korean market.
    A future Liberal government would be committed to a multilateral approach to free trade and would put Canada's long term economic interests first, including the interests of our very vital manufacturing sector.

  (1415)  

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, this government understands that modern infrastructure is vital for economic growth, increased productivity and improved competitiveness.
    Working with the provinces, territories and municipalities, we are taking concrete steps to renew Canada's infrastructure.
    As outlined in the throne speech, we are making the largest federal infrastructure investment in Canada's history through our Building Canada initiative. This massive federal investment will help build better roads, bridges, water systems, public transit and international gateways.
    This will directly benefit the Niagara region and all Canadians through shorter commutes and more competitive businesses. In fact, representatives of the Niagara region are here in Ottawa today to talk about improving Canada's borders and talk about our gateway to the United States and to the world.
    We are listening and ready to work with communities across Canada, including the Niagara region, to renew and build a world-class infrastructure to promote economic growth.
    We are getting the job done. We are bringing Niagara issues to Ottawa. Niagara is ready to act.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Elections Canada

    Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada has ruled that the Conservatives broke the law. Individuals implicated in the scheme are now MPs, cabinet ministers and senior advisers to the Conservative government.
    The question remains about the Prime Minister himself. What did he know about this scheme and when did he know it?
    Mr. Speaker, the government House leader has responded to these accusations on many occasions.
    Clearly, the Leader of the Opposition knows that he makes such allegations in this chamber under the protection of parliamentary privilege. I encourage him to have the courage of his convictions. If he believes what he has said, he should make these accusations outside the chamber where those whom he is libelling and slandering have recourse to the courts to hold him responsible for—
    The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. We will have some order. We are on to the next question now and the Leader of the Opposition has the floor. There will be order, please.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister knows very well that we have a press release that said exactly what I just said. It was a decision that has been ruled on by Elections Canada. We did not invent it.
    The law has been broken. What does the Prime Minister know about this?
    Mr. Speaker, I did not realize a Liberal news release was the final word on the law.
    We happen to believe that our election financing activities are entirely legal. We know they are because they are what the law permits and they are consistent with the practices of other political parties in Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter.
    Elections Canada found that the Conservatives broke the law and tried to bilk taxpayers for more money than they were entitled to and that they exceeded their spending limits during the last election. We said so publicly and we will say it again outside.
    I am asking the Prime Minister to explain himself. What did he know?

  (1420)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to bilking taxpayers for money they want to spend on political campaigns, there is a pretty good public record on that. It was investigated by the Gomery Commission, which made some pretty conclusive findings: $40 million missing through Liberal Party coffers.
    The difference is our activities are entirely legal. We continue to practise legal politics and we will continue to do that in the future.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we have already named the people involved outside the House. Elections Canada has already named the people involved outside the House. Even Conservative candidates have named the people involved outside the House. That is not the issue.
    Why is the government not telling the truth inside the House?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we tell the truth inside the House and outside the House. We tell Canadians what we will do and then we do it.
    On the matter of accountability, our record is clear and our election financing activities are entirely legal. We know they are legal because they are what the law permits and they will continue to follow the law in the future.
    Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada has ruled on this matter. Election finance laws are there to ensure that no party has a money advantage.
    The Conservatives sought that money advantage. They transferred federal money straight to ridings and demanded that it be paid right back, all to play fast and loose with the rules. People employed by the government were involved in this scheme.
    Why will the Prime Minister not admit to Canadians that the party spent more than its limit and did indirectly what the Canada Elections Act prohibits directly?
    Mr. Speaker, we did no such thing. What we did was engage in financing activities in our campaigns that fully followed the law. That is what we have done in the past. That is what we will do in the future.

[Translation]

Charter of the French Language

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage said that the Bloc was picking a fight by suggesting that the Canadian Labour Code should respect Bill 101, that we were interfering with language issues and that the federal government is promoting bilingualism.
    Is the government not interfering with language issues by promoting bilingualism in Quebec and by picking a fight with Quebec, where most people support Bill 101?
    Mr. Speaker, Quebec has its own language legislation, and the country has its Official Languages Act. Our government is committed to promoting both official languages in Canada, and the Bloc is desperately trying to create conflict between Quebec and the federal government.
    I would like the leader of the Bloc to tell us if he supports the new Quebec identity bill introduced by his colleague, Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti québécois.
    Mr. Speaker, to become a Canadian citizen, one must speak either English or French, but to become a citizen of Quebec, one must speak French. This is in line with the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which predates the federal charter. Since they are talking about two classes of citizens, I would point out that the federal government is creating two classes of workers: those who have the right to work in French under Bill 101 and those who cannot because the federal government refuses to recognize Bill 101.
    Is that not creating two classes of workers?
    Mr. Speaker, the following is an excerpt from the Bloc Québécois' website.

[English]

    Please note that this section is not a full translation of the Bloc Québécois Web site. In the weeks and months ahead, we will add the most important and most frequently consulted Bloc Québécois documents. Thank you for your understanding and enjoy the site.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Labour claims that the Bloc Québécois is spoiling for a fight when it demands equal treatment, in terms of language, for workers subject to the Quebec Labour Code and workers subject to the Canada Labour Code. Contrary to what the minister says, the Canada Labour Code can be amended. All that is lacking is the political will to do so.
    Will the minister acknowledge that the only problem is that the Conservatives lack the political will to respect French as the language of work in Quebec?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, our Prime Minister and our government have said clearly that the French language is one of our two official languages. We respect the French language and its importance to Quebec. That said, we are going to continue working in our area of jurisdiction, which is Canada, and in Canada, we promote both official languages.
    Mr. Speaker, in Quebec, the official language is French.
    The Minister of Labour claimed that French was already the language of work in the banks in his area. If this is so, what is preventing him from giving all workers in Quebec the same right as other people to work in French, by amending the Canada Labour Code so that Bill 101 also applies to workers in sectors under federal jurisdiction? Why not amend the Canada Labour Code to reflect what is already happening?
    Mr. Speaker, the truth is that Quebeckers have no problem working in their own language in Quebec. Bill 101, which was introduced by the Government of Quebec, is in effect. Our role is to enable all Canadian workers to work in both official languages.

Budget Statement

    Mr. Speaker, we know that the Conservatives are leading Canada down the wrong road. And now the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing has condemned this government, saying, “I am very disturbed by the housing situation in Canada.”
    The Prime Ministerdoes not have his priorities right. For example, we learned today that the government will present a mini-budget with large tax cuts for big business.
    Is the Prime Minister going to table a mini-budget, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, the budget will be presented in the spring, as is the usual practice for this House and this government.
    Furthermore, it is no secret that this government will cut taxes for all Canadian citizens.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we know that big corporate tax cuts are not going to fix the housing crisis, that is for sure. They are not going to repair the crumbling infrastructure of our cities, that is for sure. They are not going to close the prosperity gap that is affecting hard-working families or help anybody else.
    The fact is, with unprecedented surpluses, the Prime Minister should be investing in the needs of working families, not giving big corporations more tax cuts. They have enough already.
    Will the Prime Minister understand this basic proposition and start working for working families, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, what this government understands, unlike the NDP, is they do not want the government to spend Canada into oblivion. What they expect the government to do is use its surpluses to pay down debt, to invest in key programs and also to reduce taxes. We intend to pursue all those priorities.

Government Appointments

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked if five participants in the Conservative $1.2 million election scam were rewarded with federal jobs, but the list does not stop there.
    Neil Drabkin is now chief of staff to the public safety minister and Howard Bruce is now on the Transportation Appeal Tribunal. Both these men and the ministers who hired them were named in the election scam.
     Are Canadians supposed to believe that this is just a coincidence?
    Mr. Speaker, it is the same answer as before. There has been no change. We always follow the law. We have in the past and we will in the future.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is not the opinion of Elections Canada. These are serious matters. These men channelled $60,000 through the “in-and-out” scheme and were appointed to important posts.
    Andrew House, Conservative candidate in Halifax is currently the Director of communications for the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages. He will stand as a Conservative candidate again. The minister and her employee participated in the “in-and-out” scheme.
    Are we to believe that this is just another coincidence?

  (1430)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has her facts wrong. She has her conclusions wrong. We followed the law. We followed the election financing law. In fact, our practices are similar to those of other parties.
    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the abuse of our electoral system, the Prime Minister refuses to come clean.
    We know the key architect of this electoral laundromat is Mike Donison, the former executive director of the Conservative Party. Instead of being punished for his role in that scheme, Mr. Donison was rewarded with a job in the government House leader's office. He is being paid by the same taxpayers he is found to have tried to rip off.
    My question is very simple. Will Mr. Donison step aside until Elections Canada decides what punishment should be administered?
    Mr. Speaker, what is punishing is that the Liberals still have nothing to talk about, so I am left with the same answer. Our election financing activities are entirely legal. We look carefully at the act, we follow the act and we will do so in the future.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to be the only person who still believes that answer. The architect of this election scandal is none other than Mike Donison, former Executive Director of the Conservative Party. Rather than being punished for his involvement in the scandal, Mr. Donison was rewarded with a job in the minister's office which is being paid for by the very taxpayers he tried to dupe.
    The question is simple. Will the government act responsibly and remove Mr. Donison from his position until Elections Canada decides what his punishment will be?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the answer is the same. All our financing activities follow the law.
    However, it is interesting that the Liberal Party thought so much of its leader's stirring response, his alternate throne speech this weekend, that I have not heard a single question on it yet.

[Translation]

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for Status of Women made some mean comments when she was threatening and blackmailing women's groups.
    Michèle Asselin, the president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, is right to wonder whether the minister's intention is to muzzle women by threatening to take away financial support.
    Will the minister admit that her blackmailing is harmful and will she apologize to all women for her comments which, face it, were disparaging and insulting?
    Mr. Speaker, the right to criticize the policies of a government is fundamental to our democracy. Every person has the right to express their opinion. The government has a responsibility to set the record straight and defend its initiatives.
    The hon. member for Westmount is asking for an apology, but I think she is the one who should apologize for voting against our 2007 budget, when we granted additional funding for women.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for seniors in Quebec made comments similar to those by the minister responsible for the status of women when she said, “We give you money and you do nothing but complain.”
    Instead of chattering on about inappropriate comments, will the minister follow the Quebec minister's example and apologize to women?
    Mr. Speaker, it is the hon. Bloc member who should apologize. She knows full well that our government has an excellent record when it comes to women's rights. We have increased the budget for Status of Women Canada's programming by 42%. But the hon. Bloc member says nothing about that. The real difference between our government and the Bloc Québécois is that while we can increase the budget for women, the only thing the Bloc can do is increase the volume on the microphone.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of International Trade is currently negotiating free trade agreements with 28 countries. Canada has a trade deficit with these countries, in particular with South Korea.
    How can the minister rush into signing a free trade agreement while ignoring the study released by the CAW this morning, which shows that more than 30,000 jobs could be lost in Canada, including 8,000 in Quebec? Should saving these jobs not be a major concern for the minister?

  (1435)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the government is fully committed to free and open markets and to providing Canadian companies with access to foreign markets. Without free trade, the Canadian economy would be in much tougher shape than it is today.
    Yes, we are negotiating with Korea. No, we do not have a free trade agreement yet with Korea. I can assure the hon. member that the government would not enter into a free trade agreement with Korea or any other country unless there were substantial benefits to Canada.

[Translation]

Manufacturing Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the Governor of the Bank of Canada said that the Canadian dollar's climb is unjustified. He merely said what everyone knows: while Alberta is enjoying the oil and gas boom, the manufacturing industry in Quebec and Ontario is struggling.
    Of the 22 recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the government has implemented only one of them, and only partially.
    What is the minister waiting for to introduce refundable tax credits and loan guarantees, and to make significant federal investments in research and development? These are all measures that could help the manufacturing industry in a concrete way.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there is no question about it. The Canadian dollar is showing strength, in part reflecting the great strength of the Canadian economy. After 21 months of Conservative government, we have a very strong economy.
     We have the lowest unemployment rate in 33 years. We have the largest number of Canadians in the history of Canada working in Canada, both men and women. It is a strong economy.

Afghanistan

    Mr. Speaker, it is another day and another crisis of accountability for the ethically challenged government. Private U.S. security firms operating in combat zones have raised some very serious questions about whether or not NATO countries can be held accountable by local authorities if laws are broken.
    The government has signed a contract to pay Saladin Security in Afghanistan, but Canadians have no way of knowing who will be held responsible if something goes wrong. Why? Because the contract is being kept secret. When will the government stop its pattern of secrecy and table the contract?
    First, Mr. Speaker, clearly it is not a secret. The hon. member read about it in the paper today, so it is not a secret.
    As we have seen on a number of other occasions, private security firms have been used from time to time depending on the issue and on the type of training required. That is standard practice. It has happened under the previous government.
    We are very judicious when we enter into these contracts.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this government is prepared to commit our soldiers to combat missions until 2011, but it has to hire a mercenary company to protect our embassy in Kabul.
    One might wonder why the Conservative government is associated with Saladin Security, a company of mercenaries specifically known for certain clandestine operations. This is not clear.
    Why are the Conservatives interested in hiring mercenaries? Why can our soldiers not protect our embassy and its staff?
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is alleging facts that are simply not true.
    The reality is this: we have a contract system and we use it. We have followed all the procedures. We are following the same procedures in all embassies, both in that country and around the world.
    The hon. member for Bourassa is trying to distort reality. But the reality is simple: our government has standards and procedures that it follows for all embassies in all countries.

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the government's position against the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people is incomprehensible and an astonishing reversal of Liberal efforts to support the declaration.
    Like an astrologer, the Prime Minister claims to be guided by the North Star. Will he admit that on this issue he is indeed like the North Star: cold, unmovable, distant and not too bright?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, we know exactly what that member thinks about human rights for first nations.
     After 30 years of waiting for first nations to have human rights like anyone else, like the hon. member has, do we know what she said in committee when the Liberals delayed this bill in the last Parliament? She said that they have “waited 30 years, what difference does a number of months more make...”, six months, ten months, a year, I do not see what the difference is.
     The difference is that it is time first nations had human rights on reserve and we are going to deliver that to them.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Speaker, according to the Assembly of First Nations, overcrowding in first nations--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order. The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre has the floor. We do not want to have a yelling match. The hon. member has the floor and we will hear her question.
    The apology should come from over there, Mr. Speaker.
    According to the Assembly of First Nations, overcrowding in first nations homes is almost double the Canadian rate. Aboriginal peoples are living in homes without hot or even cold running water or flush toilets. Does the government not think it is a human rights issue?
    The government's approach to the UN declaration is the same as its approach to housing for aboriginal Canadians. It is meanspirited. Is this what the government thinks is a shining example for the world to follow?
    Mr. Speaker, I know what a shining example is to follow and that is to allow first nations to have the same rights as the member opposite who just raised that question. It is to have the same rights. In the last Parliament, we introduced legislation to do that. For 90 days that party over there held up that legislation and would not let it through.
     It is time for first nations to have human rights. It is time they were covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act. We expect that member and the rest of those people over there to support human rights for first nations. The time has come.

Anti-terrorism Act

    Mr. Speaker, today in the Senate the Minister of Justice will be introducing legislation to reinstate important anti-terrorism provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act.

[Translation]

    It is important that we have at our disposal all the tools we need to ensure the security of Canadians.

[English]

    Can the minister tell the House why he has chosen to introduce the bill in the Senate as opposed to this House?
    Mr. Speaker, the government is committed as part of its anti-terrorism strategy to reintroducing these two fundamental provisions to the Anti-terrorism Act. We may remember that these were the provisions turned down by the opposition last year, but we are committed to giving law enforcement agencies the tools they need to fight terrorism in this country.
    I know that the justice committee is going to be very busy this fall, so I think it is very appropriate that this be introduced in the Senate. The bottom line is that we will not give up the fight against terrorism in this country.

Security Certificates

    Mr. Speaker, eight months after security certificates were struck down by the Supreme Court, the Conservatives are taking another shot at it, but tinkering with a fundamentally flawed idea is not going to make it any better. If a person plots a terrorist attack in Canada, he or she should be tried, convicted, and jailed in Canada, not suddenly deported to another country.
    Why is the government choosing to fight terrorism with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and not the Criminal Code of Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, we are collectively astonished at the lack of understanding the member has just demonstrated. The Minister of Justice has been very clear about the ATA provisions. They have nothing to do with deportation.
    If she wants to try to readjust and make the question a little more direct, with common sense, maybe we could handle it. People are deported when they are deemed to be inadmissible to come into this country. We are certainly going to maintain that particular process.

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, security certificates are also a serious violation of our rights and freedoms. Yesterday the Conservatives tabled special advocate legislation, but the public safety committee heard extensive testimony earlier this year that the system has serious problems in places such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
    The minister knows this, so why is the minister proposing something that we already know does not work in other countries?
    Mr. Speaker, there is the issue of security certificates, which we dealt with yesterday, and there is the area of the provisions in the Anti-terrorism Act, which the Minister of Justice is dealing with today.
    The particular provisions we dealt with yesterday were at the request of the Supreme Court. We have followed those very carefully. We have drafted the legislation very carefully. It is not precisely as the information from other countries. As a matter of fact, we have looked at other countries to make sure that what we have done is going to meet the demands of the Supreme Court.
    We are also pleased that the Liberals have indicated, at least thus far, that they are going to support us on this.

Canada Elections Act

    Mr. Speaker, changes to the Canada Elections Act have resulted in more than one million rural Canadians losing the right to vote in the next election. Twenty-five per cent of voters in Newfoundland and Labrador, 30% in Saskatchewan, 30% in the Northwest Territories and a whopping 80% in Nunavut will lose their right to vote.
    What will the government do to fix this?
    Mr. Speaker, the question raised by the member is a legitimate and serious question. We are of course concerned. We want to ensure that everybody's right to vote is protected.
    I have had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. I am confident that, should we have an electoral event before we can correct it in another fashion, he is prepared to use his adaptation power to ensure that no Canadian loses the right to vote.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to accentuate the point. I thank the hon. minister for his response, but the government and indeed this Parliament have a responsibility to fix this. All Canadians have the right to vote. It is unacceptable to have such a large portion of the population unable to vote because of a glitch in the amended elections act.
    Rural Canadians do deserve better. This is a serious issue.
    Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of members of the House who may not be familiar with the situation, the issue is one of addresses that are post office boxes where there are no municipal addresses for individuals. In an effort to put through Bill C-31, all parties in this House supported amendments to tighten up the identification--
    An hon. member: No.
    Hon. Peter Van Loan: All parties but for the NDP, I should add. That is fair.
    They supported elements to ensure that we had integrity in the electoral process. This element was missed. I suspect that all parties will want to enthusiastically support efforts to correct this deficiency. In any event, we are confident that if there is an electoral event on the horizon no one will lose the right to vote.

Lumber Industry

    Mr. Speaker, we recently learned that Nova Scotia is poised to become the latest victim in the flawed softwood lumber agreement.
    It was bad enough that the Conservative government left $1 billion in the hands of the U.S. government and its lobbyists. It was bad enough that it negotiated higher duties and quotas for Canadian companies. Now it has become apparent that the forestry program initiated by any provincial government will be sued by the United States.
     Will the minister tell us whose side he is on and whose interest he represents?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should be congratulating the government for putting in place the softwood lumber agreement because what he is pointing to is the very protectionist group that repeatedly, for years and decades, brought actions under chapter 19 of NAFTA against the Canadian industry. Those allegations were always unfounded.
    The allegations that are being made today are unfounded but the softwood lumber agreement protects our industry against trade actions of that kind in addition to putting over $5 billion back in the pockets of Canadian companies.
    Mr. Speaker, we cannot trust the minister and we cannot trust the government. We have an industry in crisis and thousands of jobs on the line and the minister decided to leave $1 billion with the United States.
    In the absence of federal leadership, any provincial government that tries to work with the forestry industry has come to the harsh realization that it needs to vet its forestry policies with Washington.
    The minister has compromised our sovereignty. Why has he put the jobs of American lobbyists ahead of hard-working Canadians?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, a number of major forest companies out there today would probably be in bankruptcy were it not for the timely refund under the softwood lumber agreement.
    The provisions in the softwood lumber agreement are far better, far more flexible and protect Canadian forest policies much better than anything that party could have ever achieved.

[Translation]

Human Resources

    Mr. Speaker, unemployment is reaching record highs in the Nord-du-Québec region but the Breakwater mining company has applied to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for 47 permits in order to recruit workers abroad, although unemployed forestry workers are available.
    How can the minister justify issuing these 47 permits when the unemployment rate is so high and workers in the area are asking for nothing more than to be employed and receive the necessary training?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when we make judgments regarding temporary foreign worker permits, these judgments are made on the basis of labour market surveys. The fact is that in Quebec, up to July, 70,000 new jobs had been created.
    Thousands and thousands of jobs are available through the province. We are enjoying some of the most outstanding labour market growth in the history of the country, including in Quebec.
    I want to quote from an economist from the Laurentian Bank who said, “Not only is the quantity [of jobs] there, but the quality is there too”. He was referring to 70,000 jobs, mostly in hospitality, retail and construction, sending the jobless rate to a record low in July.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, seasonal workers in 21 regions of Canada will miss out on five weeks of employment insurance benefits if the government does nothing. In fact, the current pilot project will come to an end on December 9.
    In June 2006, the then Minister of Human Resources and Social Development granted an initial extension.
    Will the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development make this pilot project a permanent measure to help get seasonal workers out of the black hole they find themselves in year after year?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have great sympathy for people who are caught in situations like that where there is nothing but seasonal work. We are gripped with this issue but I want to point out to my friend that we are taking many steps to ensure workers have options, including the targeted initiative for older workers which is now underway in Quebec. There are nine different projects.
    On top of that, we have announced $3 billion in new initiatives to provide training across the country over the next five years. We are ensuring that people do have options to get back into the workforce.

Air Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, under the American secure flight program, Canadian airlines will be required to provide personal information on passengers who are not even flying to the U.S. This violation of privacy is without precedents.
    Who would want this kind of information in the hands of the Bush administration?
    Why has the government done absolutely nothing to protect the rights of Canadians? Whatever happened to standing up for Canada?
    Let me remind the members of the House, Mr. Speaker, that this is a proposed new U.S. regulation. Our government has been working with the U.S. to minimize the impact on air travellers. So far, we have been able to ensure that almost 80% of flights will not be captured by the new U.S. law.

Fishing Industry

    Mr. Speaker, the fishing industry remains a very important aspect of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. The government is committed to protecting and enhancing Canadian fisheries, especially to ending foreign overfishing in international waters off the province of Newfoundland.
    Could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans update the House on how he has kept his promise to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and respond to the outrageous claim that NAFO reform would undermine Canada's sovereignty in our own waters?
    Mr. Speaker, all of us remember a very short time ago when Canadian Coast Guard boats were tied up at the wharves because they could not afford fuel when the foreign fleets were ravaging our fish stocks.
    That is no longer the case. Our boats are out on surveillance missions. We have no more foreign overfishing because we changed NAFO as we said we would.
    This year we cemented these changes in the new convention, the new convention that protects our stocks but protects our sovereignty now and forever.

  (1455)  

Automobile Industry

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to trade and the manufacturing crisis, the government is taking Canada in the wrong direction. The latest example is the unfair trade deal the government is signing with South Korea.
    Last year, Korea sold $1.7 billion in auto products to Canada. Canada sold a puny $11 million in trade to Korea; a breathtaking trade deficit the government only wants to make worse.
    When will the government put the brakes on a bad trade deal and start standing up for our manufacturing jobs once and for all?
    Mr. Speaker, I guess I will repeat the question back to the hon. member of the NDP. When will the NDP understand that trade is the lifeblood of the Canadian economy?
    We do not have a free trade agreement with Korea. We are negotiating with a number of countries. We are negotiating through the World Trade Organization. We are trying to level the playing field for Canadian exporters. We want Canada to be strong. We want to be a good exporter. Our jobs and our futures depend on those things and not on the kind of protectionism that the NDP is advocating.
    Mr. Speaker, in spite of that misinformation, the government is clearly going ahead with its so-called free trade deal with South Korea that is neither free nor fair.
    When will the Prime Minister honour his election promise, send the proposed agreement to a committee for a full debate and bring it before the House for a vote by parliamentarians or, better yet, when will he come to his senses and get rid of this trade deal that will only hurt Canadian manufacturing jobs?
    Mr. Speaker, when there is a free trade agreement, it will come before the House, be viewed by the House and voted on by the House. Therefore, I candidly do not know what the hon. member is talking about.

Canadian Wheat Board

    Mr. Speaker, respect for the law is a core fundamental Canadian principle and the Prime Minister has violated that principle.
    Last July, the government was found guilty by the federal court of attempting to illegally take farmers' marketing rights through the Canadian Wheat Board away.
    The previous minister was fired for having failed in the Prime Minister's mission to destroy the board. Worse, the Prime Minister's statements following the court decision shows absolute contempt for the court.
    Will the current minister just do what is right and abide by the federal court's decision?
    Mr. Speaker, we do have the right of appeal on that and we have announced that.
    I, for one, as a western Canadian farmer, cannot understand the unhealthy obsession of the former minister from Malpeque. I can pledge to the people of Malpeque that after the next election they will be rid of that one-trick pony.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, counterfeiting and piracy pose an ever-increasing threat to the growth of the knowledge economy and affect consumers and business in Canada and abroad.
    Could the Minister of International Trade say what the government is doing in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting on the international stage?
    Mr. Speaker, I am getting a lot of business today and I would like to thank the hon. member for Peterborough for his question. He is quite right. Intellectual property theft is a particularly pernicious form of piracy. It hurts creators and innovators. It puts consumers in danger and it supports organized crime.
     I am, therefore, pleased to announce today that Canada, along with Japan, the United States, the European Union and Switzerland are entering into negotiations to develop an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement that will be a model of intellectual property protection for the world.

[Translation]

Guaranteed Income Supplement

    Mr. Speaker, the throne speech does not address the issue of poverty, particularly that of the elderly. At present, recipients of the maximum guaranteed income supplement live in poverty with $13,600 per year, which is below the low-income threshold, a euphemism for the poverty line. Not only does the government have the means to help seniors by providing a decent pension, it has the obligation and the responsibility to do so.
    When will the government tackle the poverty of seniors and review the guaranteed income supplement in order to, among other things, improve this benefit substantially?

  (1500)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we are concerned about the plight of seniors and anyone who is struggling to get by and that is why we have moved to put in place a minister in charge of seniors, the hon. Marjorie LeBreton.
    We have also put in place a seniors' panel that will look at seniors' issues and make recommendations to the government. We also have an expert panel on older workers that will provide us with insights on how to help older workers so they can have enough income to allow them to get through their senior years.
    However, the one thing we will never do is cut $25 billion out of the social safety net like the Liberal government did.

[Translation]

Summer Career Placement Program

    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development stated that he made changes to the summer career placement program because he did not want American multinationals such as Wal-Mart benefiting from the program. He is right. Some Wal-Marts did take advantage of the program, but not in Quebec.
    Having denounced this state of affairs, can he explain the fact that at least one of the Wal-Marts that benefited from this program is located in his riding?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is precisely because large companies around the country got this kind of funding that we moved to end that sort of support.
    Our concern is to ensure that not for profits and the public sector benefit, and we want to ensure it is done in a transparent manner, which is why we put some conditions in place so that MPs could not unduly influence where that funding went.
    However, I can assure all members that the one thing we will never do is allow individuals to funnel money to their friends, which is what happened under the previous government. We will not do that.

Border Security

    Mr. Speaker, this government has learned nothing from the Maher Arar fiasco.
    Retired U.S. colonel, Ann Wright, and CodePink co-founder, Medea Benjamin, were blocked at Canada's border because they appeared on an FBI watch list. Their crime was peaceful protest, time-honoured civil disobedience, in opposition to the Iraqi war.
    Why is the Prime Minister hiding behind the FBI to ban respected U.S. citizens from entering our country?
    Mr. Speaker, in the exercise of our sovereign rights, we have very distinct guidelines in terms of who may come into the country and who may not. We exercise those vigorously for the protection and for the interests of Canada, and we will continue to do that.

[Translation]

Board of Internal Economy

    I have the honour to inform the House that Michael Ignatieff, the hon. member for the electoral district of Etobicoke—Lakeshore, has been appointed to the Board of Internal Economy to replace Lucienne Robillard, the hon. member for the electoral district of Westmount—Ville-Marie, for the purposes and under the provisions of the act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, Chapter 32, Statutes of Canada, 1997.

  (1505)  

[English]

Privilege

Alleged Leak of the Speech from the Throne  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. House leader for the official opposition on October 16, 2007, concerning disclosure to the media of details of the Speech from the Throne prior to its reading by Her Excellency the Governor General to both Houses of Parliament.

[Translation]

    I would like to thank the House Leader for the Official Opposition for bringing this matter to the attention of the House, as well as the hon. government House leader for his contribution on this question.

[English]

    The House leader for the official opposition, in raising the matter, pointed out that copies of the Speech from the Throne were made available to the media before Her Excellency read the speech in the Senate chamber. The government House leader also expressed his concern about this situation, which he described as troubling.

[Translation]

    I, too, view such matters seriously, as I know all honourable members do. The premature release of important documents, such as the Speech from the Throne or the Budget, runs contrary to our practices.

[English]

    In this particular situation, however, there seems to be some disagreement about the responsibility for this leak. I must add, too, that even if undisputed facts were provided in this specific case, the Chair can find no procedural authority for the claim that the premature disclosure of the Speech from the Throne constitutes a breach of the privileges of the members of this House.
    In reference to the secrecy of the budget, House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 753: “Speakers of the Canadian House have maintained that secrecy is a matter of parliamentary convention, rather than one of privilege”.
    I would suggest to the House that the same is true with regard to throne speeches. I therefore must rule that no breach of privilege has occurred in the present case.
    Once again, I would like to thank the hon. opposition House leader for going to the trouble of raising this matter.

Speech from the Throne

[The Address]

[Translation]

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply

    The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.
    Resuming debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières has five minutes to finish her remarks. She has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, when we left off before question period, I was talking about one of the Bloc Québécois' suggestions, which was to implement a program of loans and loan guarantees to help fund investments in production equipment. During the lengthy softwood lumber crisis, the Bloc Québécois repeatedly asked the government to give loan guarantees. But the government never helped the softwood lumber companies. Today we can see the sad results.
    Since April 1, 2005, 21,000 workers who depended on forestry for their livelihood—including plant workers, forestry workers, machinists and truckers—have lost their jobs and 156 plants have closed. Our regions in Quebec have been very hard hit. It is unbelievable.
    During this time, many companies have not been able to invest the money they need to upgrade their machinery and perform on par with their competitors. The government must abandon its laissez-faire approach and help fund investments in production equipment.
    We are also suggesting numerous labour-related measures. For example, we are proposing that the government provide incentives for skilled workers to settle in the regions by offering, as the Government of Quebec does, a refundable tax credit of up to $8,000 to any young graduate who settles in a resource region and takes a job in this field. Another measure promotes job creation in resource regions and gives secondary and tertiary processing companies in these regions a tax credit equivalent to 30% of the increase in their payroll.
    Another measure promotes the development of SME manufacturers in resource regions by offering them a tax break equivalent to 50% of their income tax. It is essential that the government use tax measures to stimulate the creation and development of processing businesses in resource regions. Measures such as this would make it more attractive for skilled workers to settle in areas affected by the forestry crisis.
    The federal government must follow the example of the Government of Quebec and promote the labour market to these future workers. Populations are dwindling in our regions and urgent action is needed. Federal corporate income tax is twice as high as the Quebec tax rate and there is no such measure at the federal level. Support from Quebec cannot achieve the maximum effect until Ottawa adapts its taxation to the needs of the forestry industry.
    Yet, the government did not announce any specific tax measures in the throne speech. It simply repeats that tax cuts will solve everything. However, tax cuts for businesses that have no profits are completely useless. There is nothing concrete in the throne speech.
    As a final point, I would like to talk about research and development. Tax credits for research and development must be improved by transferring them into refundable tax credits, which would be beneficial for all companies that engage in research and development activities, including those that are not earning any profits, as I was saying earlier.
    The budget for the industrial research assistance program, or IRAP, must be increased significantly. IRAP is managed by the National Research Council Canada. It is receiving money, but not nearly enough. Through that program, Ottawa must invest in the development of new products, in order to later reap the benefits of the royalties when the product is put on the market.
    We must also ensure that the future Canadian wood fibre centre, a new federal research centre announced during the last budget, is established in a forestry region in Quebec.
    The government is responsible for stimulating the research and development of new products. Tax credits alone will not do it. There is not enough support for research and development within businesses. Quebec, in particular, is suffering.
    We believe it is important for the government to make a commitment and to invest, and we saw no indication of this in the throne speech. It must bring back a fund to diversify the forestry economy, to be managed by local players. However, it must also adapt federal taxation in order to stimulate job creation.

  (1510)  

    Mr. Speaker, today I will discuss my new responsibilities—
    Excuse me. I apologize for interrupting the honourable member for Ottawa—Vanier, but I did not see the honourable member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. Does she wish to deliver her speech now? Actually, it is the Bloc Québécois' turn. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot should therefore have the floor.
    Pardon me, but the honourable member for Ottawa—Vanier may continue. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot will have the floor after that.
    The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, I will focus on my new responsibilities as the official opposition's heritage and official languages critic.
    I will share my time with the member for Mississauga—Erindale.
    I believe that the Conservative government should offer a coherent vision of cultural life in Canada, a vision that does not neglect our cultural industries, our artistic institutions, our museums, our artists or our public broadcaster.

[English]

    The Conservatives did not do that. In the throne speech there was mention of finally acting on copyright, but there were no details as to content or timing. Legislation had been promised before June 2006 on this matter and then before Christmas 2006. Now, 18 months later, we may get this legislation.
    When the minister spoke yesterday, many were hoping to hear a few details on that and her thoughts on a number of other important dossiers in the matters of heritage. Yesterday there was not a word. There was not a word about our public broadcaster, not a word about reassuring Canadians as to whether or not the Reform dissenting opinion of the Lincoln report in 2003 still holds, which would have privatized CBC. There was not a word from the minister on that.
    There was not a word about a museums policy. There was not a word about the museums assistance program. The Canadian Museums Association had been given a commitment that a policy would be forthcoming before Christmas 2006. Christmas came and went and it did not get that policy. Yesterday there was not a word.
    The Prime Minister announced that the Government of Canada would finance the operational costs of the new human rights museum in Winnipeg, which is fine, but there is still a question mark as to whether or not the $22 million will be coming from an existing envelope or whether the envelope overall will be increased. My information is that it is from the existing envelope, therefore choking off the existing museums, so much so that they have to do fundraising, as has been reported, to make acquisitions. There was not a word about all of this.
    There was also not a word about increasing the museums assistance program. In the last election the Conservatives promised to actually increase the funding to small museums across the country. Lo and behold, what they did instead was the opposite. They reduced the museums assistance program. There was not a word about that.
    There was not a word about the exhibition transportation services for museums and galleries, which is very useful to the smaller galleries and museums. This will expire at the end of March 2008. There was not a word about that.
    There was not a word about the portrait gallery. Many people have been asking about that. What is the policy framework within which the government will be making the decision as to where the portrait gallery should be located?
    There was not a word about the television fund. Will it ever be A-based? Will it be indexed? What about funding for Telefilm and the National Film Board? Will they be increased? Will they be indexed? There was not a word.
    There was not a word about festivals. There was not a word about where the minister is vis-à-vis the CRTC and Canadian content and foreign ownership restrictions.
    Right now we have a situation where the government has, by executive fiat, which comes from the industry department and not from the heritage department, directed the CRTC essentially to let market forces dominate. Is the minister's silence consent as to this direction for Canadian cultural industries, Canadian television and film content? If it is, perhaps she should have said so yesterday.

[Translation]

    Canada's cultural and artistic communities have not been given enough information. They do not know what to expect from the Conservative government. This is not unlike what happened when the federal government copied the Liberal Party's promise during the last election campaign to double funding for the Council for the Arts. As it turns out, that is not at all what the government has done.
    The minister talked exclusively about official languages earlier, and that is fine, but she could have mentioned her other portfolio: Canadian Heritage.
    With respect to official languages, she congratulated herself on having signed service and education agreements with all of the provinces. I should hope so, because by the time the government came to power, those agreements had already been negotiated and confirmed. All she had to do was sign them. The Conservatives can go ahead and take all the credit, but they really should give credit where credit is due.
    The minister said that she met with the ministers responsible for la Francophonie a month ago. However, she failed to mention that these very ministers issued a press release demanding that the federal government renew the action plan that was introduced by its predecessor in 2003.
    Let us talk about this plan. This begs a fundamental question: does the Conservative government intend to renew the plan? It found all manner of ways to avoid this word, avoid this specific commitment. What the linguistic minority communities across the country are asking for, and what the ministers responsible for la Francophonie across the country asked for, is that the action plan be renewed. In the Speech from the Throne, there is not a single occurrence of the word “renewal”. The government has chosen its words carefully.
    The minister wanted to focus on the issue of official languages; we were hoping she would, because it is not clear. Would the plan be renewed for one year, two years, five years? It is not clear. How much money would be allocated? Not a word. Are we talking about broadening this action plan? A promise was made after many consultations with the communities. It was a matter of broadening the plan to incorporate programs for young people, women, seniors, culture and international issues. Not a word.
    She did not talk about the setbacks we have had under her government either; the cancellation of the court challenges program, for example. As for the Official Languages Secretariat, which was a branch of the Privy Council, the government decided to transfer it to Canadian Heritage, when we know full well that a secretariat located in a central agency has a lot more influence and a greater ability to take action.
    Were it not for the existence of this secretariat at the Privy Council when I was minister responsible for official languages, we would not have succeeded in getting language clauses in the early childhood agreements with every province. What did this government do? It relieved the Privy Council of its role in official languages and gave that role to Canadian Heritage. The communities are having a hard time getting their bearings. The minister could have said a few words about this, but she chose not to say a word.
    As for the new round of budget cuts just starting, which her department is subject to, would the action plan for official languages be protected from these cuts this time? Not a word.
    As for the Department of National Defence in this struggle to promote linguistic duality, and we totally agree that it is the role of the Government of Canada to ensure that the Official Languages Act is respected across the country, there is not a word. National Defence has given up and there is not a word on this from the government.
    Nor was anything said about one of the Prime Minister's first actions when he came to power, informing us that he intended to cancel all early childhood agreements—the very agreements that had been negotiated and that communities were celebrating from one end of the country to the other. It is a major setback for these communities. The minister did not say one word about this.
    There is not one word about the fact that, after they were elected, the Conservatives decided that the Commissioner of Official Languages, an officer of this House, would no longer report to the Prime Minister but would report to another minister. Previous governments had indicated the importance they attributed to the issue of linguistic duality and the official languages. They said that, in terms of the government, the Commissioner of Official Languages reported to the Prime Minister. In terms of his mandate, he obviously reports to the House of Commons, as he should.
    However, even more disturbing, there is not a word about Bill S-3. When in opposition, his government supported the bill, which dealt with the last amendments to the Official Languages Act made in November 2005, when everyone was celebrating.

  (1520)  

    Where are the plans that were to come out of the application of Bill S-3? Where is the regulatory framework? Where are the consultations that will result in the regulations? Where is the cabinet committee on official languages, the ad hoc committee that has not met, as far as I know, for 18 months? What is the minister doing about these matters?
    All I can do, as did the Commissioner for Official Languages in his first report, is criticize the Prime Minister and his government for not having backed up these lovely words with concrete action.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague on an excellent speech. I really do hope that members on the government side took note of his speech. I know the former defence minister has, because all of us in the House could learn quite a bit from the hon. member's speech. He brought to light some serious omissions in the Speech from the Throne, omissions that deal with culture, the very essence of the fabric that is Canada, the definition of its heart and soul.
    I want to ask my hon. colleague if he could expand on the repercussions of such omissions to Canadian society.

  (1525)  

    Mr. Speaker, I should first of all correct my hon. colleague in that I was never minister of defence. I had the honour of being associate minister of defence and my colleague, Mr. Graham, who is no longer in Parliament, had asked me to look into the official languages application in defence.
    The answer to the question is to be found in what others have said. When we look at the concerns expressed by ACTRA, by the Canadian Conference of the Arts and by la Fédération culturelle canadienne française following the Speech from the Throne, we see they have some grave concerns as to the absence of anything to deal with culture writ large, our cultural industries in the Speech from the Throne.
    Yes, they acknowledge there is mention of copyright legislation which we have been waiting now for 18 months, either in industry or in heritage, as my colleague over there from Edmonton knows. The absence of where the government wishes to take or not to take Canada's cultural concerns is very much something that frightens people. There are a number of signals that have emanated in the past, as I mentioned one, from the Reform Party in its dissenting opinion on the Clifford Lincoln report about the role of a public broadcaster, wishing for the privatization of CBC. That has never been denied by the current government.
    There are a number of concerns out there which the government had an opportunity to address in the Speech from the Throne and it chose not to. The question is still very valid: Is there something that the Conservatives do not wish to tell us? Perhaps in questions in the House or perhaps even better in committee, we can get some answers to these questions. They are fundamental to the well-being of Canadian identity in a continent where we are dominated by our neighbours from the south.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on what the hon. member opposite was talking about with respect to copyright legislation. As he said, it was mentioned in the throne speech, so it will be a priority for the government this fall going forward.
    He obviously knows that in a minority government situation like this it will require at least two parties if not more to come to a consensus on this issue. I am wondering perhaps if he would enlighten the House about some of the specifics that he and his party would like to see in such copyright legislation. Bill C-60 was introduced in the last session, but perhaps he could identify some of the specifics that he, as the critic, and his party would like to see in any such copyright legislation this fall.
    Mr. Speaker, by the very nature of a minority Parliament, it is for the government to consult first and foremost. The government should reach out not only to the opposition parties, but it should include the opposition parties and reach out in terms of what our expectations are. Before that, it should reach out to the industry, and not just the industry side of that, because there is industry and there is heritage. There has forever been a bit of a dichotomy in heritage.
    My colleague was not here during the last round of modernization of the Copyright Act which I think was Bill C-32 in the 35th Parliament. That is how far back it goes. It was complex and difficult. Compromises had to be worked out even in a majority Parliament. Imagine that.
    My hon. colleague's question regarding a minority Parliament is that much more relevant. At the base of it all to ensure success first and foremost are consultations that are respectful and that lead to perhaps compromised positions which everyone can live with. I assure him and his minister that we in the official opposition are quite prepared to play ball in that field.

[Translation]

    Order, please. Before the speech from the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier, I wanted to give the floor to another member, but she is not here. I would like to give the floor to the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for her maiden speech in the House. A member from the Liberal Party will then have the floor.

  (1530)  

    Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to once again thank the constituents in my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. They elected me on September 17 with a very clear mandate: defend their interests and demand that the government meet the five conditions of the Bloc Québécois.
    We are against the Speech from the Throne. We think it represents another missed opportunity for the Conservative government to meet the repeated demands of Quebec, for which the Bloc Québécois set out five conditions. In other cases, the Conservative government is refusing to respond to demands based on unanimous motions from the Quebec National Assembly.
    My colleagues who spoke earlier explained very well the reasons my party is against the Speech from the Throne. Nothing in this speech gives me a reason to tell my constituents in Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot that their demands have been met and this is what I am going to speak about.
    First, on the issue of Canada's current combat mission in Afghanistan, it is completely unacceptable for the government to extend the mission until 2011. More and more people are saying that resources that should be invested in humanitarian aid and reconstruction are being invested instead in combat forces and that rather than being considered as allies by the Afghans, our soldiers are making enemies of them. It is reported that poppy production has never been healthier in Afghanistan. This proves that the mission objectives have not been met.
    I am tempted to draw a parallel with the problems associated with marijuana production in my region. When a population is faced with the consequences of drug trafficking, there is only one way to fight the problem, and that is to involve the people, as the Bloc Québécois members have succeeded in doing in Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, with the help of law enforcement authorities. Have our soldiers in Afghanistan succeeded in making the Afghan people their allies? The answer is no.
    I personally know some of the soldiers from my region who are serving on this mission. I believe that they deserve our admiration because they are bravely risking their lives to defend the lives of others. But at the same time, at the very least, our soldiers need to feel that they are taking part in a mission that is really helping the Afghan people. That is why we must tell NATO now that the current mission will end in February 2009.
    Second, the Conservative government is proposing to limit federal spending power only for new shared-cost programs, with the right to opt out with “reasonable compensation”. This proposal calls to mind the proposed social union, which makes it unacceptable to Quebec for a number of reasons. I will mention only two.
    The first reason is simply that the government is not proposing to eliminate federal spending power, but limit it. Quebeckers agree that federal spending power must be eliminated. Quebec has been challenging that power for over half a century. Even after his government was elected, the Prime Minister repeatedly stated that he and his party would oppose federal spending power. Our party asked that the federal government promise to stop spending altogether in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. The throne speech does not come anywhere near that.
    The second reason is that the Conservative government claims that it is responding to our demands, but in reality, it is referring to non-existent spending.

  (1535)  

    Indeed, the government wants to limit use of the federal spending power only in the case of shared cost programs. The fact is, most federal spending in areas of Quebec jurisdiction is not for shared cost programs, and there are fewer and fewer programs of this nature.
    What we have seen in recent months under the Conservative government have been transfers that are conditional on federal priorities and therefore constitute interference, pure and simple, such as the new Canadian Mental Health Commission or the cervical cancer vaccination program. The federal steamroller continues to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. Clearly, the recognition of Quebec as a nation within a united Canada has in no way changed the federal government's desire to interfere.
    Let us now discuss the Bloc Québécois' third condition, which involved specific measures to support the workers, businesses and regions suffering from the manufacturing crisis and the forestry crisis. With the help of people from the field, the Bloc Québécois had proposed some measures to modernize and revive the forest economy, thereby supporting the workers affected by the crisis.
    My colleagues have probably already mentioned this, but it is worth saying again: 21,000 of Quebec's forestry workers have lost their jobs since April 1, 2005, and no fewer than 156 mills have ceased operations. The rising Canadian dollar has not helped things at all.
    People sometimes forget that the crisis in the forestry industry can affect regions whose economies are not resource-based. For example, in my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, a heavy machinery manufacturer that supplied the forestry sector had to close its doors in 2006, forcing a lot of people to look for new jobs.
    The rising dollar also led to the closure of two pork processing plants in my riding. Once again, many jobs were lost.
    I am sure that my colleagues know just how hard it can be for a worker in his or her fifties to find another job, especially when several workers lose their jobs at the same time. We were hoping that the Conservative government would help these workers by creating an income support program for workers aged 55 to 64 who cannot be retrained and who were victims of massive layoffs, a program that would have helped them bridge the gap between employment insurance and their pension fund, as proposed by the Bloc Québécois.
    We were also hoping that the Conservative government would use this opportunity to restore everything the Liberals cut from the employment insurance program. This would have given most unemployed people the benefits they are due for having contributed, along with their employers, to a fund that belongs to them. After all, the Prime Minister, too, used to criticize the Liberal decision to dip into the employment insurance fund.
    Instead, we got nothing. Too bad for older workers and for forestry regions in dire straits. The Bloc Québécois thinks that is unacceptable.
    I would now like to address the Bloc Québécois' fourth condition: respecting Canada's commitments under the Kyoto accord by adopting a territorial approach that would recognize Quebec's compliance with the Kyoto targets.
    The throne speech contained no surprises in that regard. There was nothing in it that would be good for Quebec or for sustainable development in general. My colleagues have already said a lot about this, so I will just add that the Conservative government is still trying to fool the public by choosing intensity targets over real results.
    They have a lot of nerve, saying they want greenhouse gas emissions to increase at a slower rate.

  (1540)  

    The Bloc Québécois' fifth condition was that the government make a firm commitment to defending the supply-managed system for agriculture. We know how important this is to the producers of milk, poultry and eggs, products that supply a livelihood for many farm families in Quebec.
    In the throne speech, the Conservatives only mention the “government's strong support” for supply management. This is a very half-hearted statement especially when we think of the statements by the Minister of International Trade. At a time when the concept of food sovereignty is increasingly taking hold of citizens in Quebec and elsewhere in the world, it is unacceptable that the Canadian government is not taking responsibility for defending supply management.
    I could also have talked about the Conservative approach to justice, the creation of a single securities commission, proposals in the throne speech that run counter to the Quebec consensus or recognition of the primacy of the French language in Quebec, of which there is no mention in the throne speech, but I will stop there. I believe that there are enough reasons for us to vote against this throne speech.

[English]

    I am sure the House would want to join with me in congratulating the hon. member on her first speech in the House of Commons.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Abbotsford.
    Mr. Speaker, I by welcoming the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to this august chamber. I hope she has as much satisfaction in serving her constituency as I have had in my first 20 months in the House.
    As time goes by, she will notice there are many opinions floating around this chamber and, as she knows, opinions are, at the very heart, subjective. They are our own feelings about different issues. However, from time to time, all of us make statements that allege certain facts. She made one of those, and I think she may be incorrect and I want to challenge her on that.
    She had suggested that in Canada's role in Afghanistan, in trying to rebuild and reconstruct a fledgling democracy in Afghanistan, somehow Canada had failed to turn the Afghan people into allies of ours.
    In fact, a recent poll last week indicated that a huge majority of the Afghan people were not only very aware of the role Canada plays in Afghanistan, but in fact support Canada's role there and want our armed forces to remain engaged in providing security and protection to the people of Afghanistan.
    In light of that poll, which was done by a very prestigious Canadian polling organization, could she explain how she then would allege that the Afghan people were not allies of Canada? From my view, it is very clear—
    The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague opposite that Canadian soldiers presently in Afghanistan are on a combat mission. The Bloc Québécois believes that it is very important to advise NATO that we will withdraw from this mission in February 2009 at the latest.
    I find it difficult to understand that the throne speech talks about extending this mission without discussing it in committee. In addition, when I stated that we should be allies of the Afghan people, I believe that one of the things that they expect from Canada is that we be effectively involved in the reconstruction of their country.

  (1545)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on her first speech in the House and look forward to many more good speeches like that.
    I would like to ask the hon. member what she would like to see in the throne speech regarding the environment?
    As we know, the previous government had a green plan. The present government cut over 100 items. There was support for solar energy, wind energy, biodiesel, carbon sequestration, clean coal, cutting auto emissions and large final emitters. There were many projects. Some that the government cut were brought back, such as EnerGuide, but with less money and it is less effective.
    Does the hon. member think that the throne speech was adequate in relation to the environment, and if not, what would she have liked to have seen in the throne speech?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, by voting against the budget, the Bloc Québécois is opposing the measures announced.
    However, I would like to point out that the Liberals are currently helping the government remain in power and, at the same time, are supporting the unacceptable components of the proposals in the throne speech.
    The Bloc Québécois has stood up to denounce everything the Conservatives have failed to do with respect to the Kyoto protocol.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the throne speech today. This is actually a great opportunity to respond to what the Conservative government has outlined for Canadians.
    First, I do want to say that it is good to be back in the House of Commons. It is good to be back after so many Canadians have asked us: “Why was Parliament shut down for an additional month? Why were MPs not at their desks, in their offices, and in the chamber doing the work that Canadians expect them to do?”
    I will be honest, during the summer I spoke with many of my constituents. I went door to door. I met with them at events, at my office and they all asked me this question. I really did not have any convincing response. I could not explain to them why the Conservatives decided to prorogue Parliament and delay the return of Parliament for an additional month.
    If the Conservative government really wanted to do that, why did it not prorogue Parliament during the summer months? The House did not sit for over a month's time, so why did the government not prorogue Parliament during the summer months? No, the Conservatives wanted to delay Parliament. They wanted to lock out MPs from doing their work. They wanted to avoid answering questions about which Canadians expect to hear answers.
    Many pundits gave us an answer about why this Conservative government is good at playing political games. It wanted to stop questions. It wanted to avoid questions. It wanted to appear that it had this new agenda. It wanted to create some hype and that is what it is good at: playing political games and posturing. But nothing serious for Canadians. The Conservatives are running on fumes. They have run out of ideas.
    I would have expected the throne speech, after that delay, to come up with a new set of ideas, a new vision, an invigorated plan, and some kind of explanation for why the government prorogued Parliament. There was nothing. This was quite a disappointment. We would think that at least the throne speech would address the items that the Conservatives claimed were their priorities. We would think that at least they would have answered questions about their failed promises and their broken promises and unfulfilled promises. There was nothing.
    An hon. member: Which ones?
    Mr. Omar Alghabra: I am glad an hon. member asks me which ones. Let me begin.
    By the way, I did not expect him to address the in and out scheme from Elections Canada. I did not expect that. I understand why the Conservatives would avoid explaining that in the throne speech. Never mind, we will be asking these questions and the Conservatives will have to answer these questions, not just to us and to Elections Canada, but to Canadians who want to know the answer.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Omar Alghabra: I do not mean to get on the nerves of the Conservatives. I am just doing my job here. I hope they can sit down and listen, and answer these questions.
    Let us talk about the items that were priorities. The Conservatives falsely claim that they are the champions of accountability.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
    Mr. Omar Alghabra: Yes, that is right, falsely claim. I am glad they are applauding. What have they done so far? Where is the public appointment commissioner? They promised to appoint a public appointment commissioner. They have not appointed a public appointment commissioner.
    So far the government has appointed more than 2,000 people. Many of them are their friends and supporters. Where is the public appointment commissioner? What did they do the other day? They struck out the word “accountability” from their manuals. Is this what they talk about when they say accountability? Is this what they mean when they say “we are accountable to Canadians”. It is very transparent. This was the number one priority for the Conservatives. I would hate to see what they would do if it were not one of their priorities.
    We want a public appointment commissioner. We want to make sure that these appointments are held in check and the Conservatives are accountable to Canadians.
    Number two, they made a promise, and this is again one of their priorities, on health wait time guarantees. Where is that promise? Constituents in my riding are asking me and saying that health care needs support from the federal government. The federal Conservatives are absent. They said nothing about it in the throne speech. They have done nothing about it so far and they have failed Canadians.
    The Conservatives did not explain in the throne speech why they raised income taxes. Why did they not explain why they raised income taxes? They raised income taxes. They reversed decreases that the previous government had implemented in the fall of 2005. That is very shameful.

  (1550)  

    What is even more shameful is that the Conservatives claimed they were reducing taxes. They are misleading Canadians. They have raised income taxes. All Canadians need to do is look at their income tax return to see that the rates have been raised by .5% from 2005 to 2006. That is shameful.
    The Conservatives talk about having safer communities as one of their priorities. They promised to put 2,500 extra police officers on the streets, yet in the last two budgets there has been no fulfillment of that promise. My constituents are asking: if the Conservatives are really serious about crime, why are they not fulfilling that promise, why are they not reforming the judicial process? The Conservatives are just posturing. They are just misleading Canadians.
    Let us talk about another priority that the Conservatives had in the last campaign: early learning and childhood education. They promised the creation of 125,000 extra spaces. Where are these spaces? Not a single space has been created.
    There have been two budgets and it has been close to two years and they have not only not fulfilled their promise but they are not even talking about it in the throne speech. It is completely absent from the throne speech.
    In Mississauga, there are more than 2,000 kids on waiting lists for child care spaces. The government cares nothing about that and has done nothing about that.
    Let us talk about the environment. The Conservative government pretends to care about the environment, but what has it done so far? Nothing. It has cancelled Liberal programs, it has misled the public, it has misled the international community, and it has done nothing.
     Do members know what the Conservatives are all about? They are about pretend politics. I read a letter in The Globe and Mail the other day written by one Canadian who has them figured them out. He wrote that the Conservatives were all about pretend politics and that Canadians were going to pretend to vote for them in the next election.
    The Conservatives are all about rhetoric but no action. With regard to the environment, they failed Canadians and they failed the international community while everybody else knows that this is the number one challenge that our planet is facing.
    What have the Conservatives done about infrastructure spending? They have done nothing. Mississauga has already been promised by the Prime Minister an additional $80 million to help in the rapid bus transit project last March. The money has yet to come. Our provincial counterparts have made that pledge and the money is there.
    However, the federal government, because there was a risk of an election last spring, has yet to send the money. Many people in Mississauga are waiting for that money. We need infrastructure money. The City of Mississauga has been let down by the Conservative government. Do members know why? Because the Conservatives know they are at odds with the people of Mississauga. They do not care about the people of Mississauga. They do not listen to the needs of the people of Mississauga.
    What about immigration? There is not a single word in the throne speech about immigration. Everybody knows that immigration is essential to the success of the future of our country. What did the Conservatives do? They ignored it. They have been ignoring it for the last two years.
    They made a promise, by the way, in the last campaign about creating an assessment office for foreign credentials. What have they done? They broke that promise. They looked straight into the face of the Canadian public and said, “Sorry, we can't fulfill that promise”. Yet, in last election campaign, they exploited the angst and frustrations of many new Canadians and told them, “Don't worry. We're going to fix it for you. Vote us in.” And once they became the government, they have broken that promise shamelessly.
    Our economy is facing a huge labour shortage. What is the government doing about it? Nothing.
    Since I only have one minute left, let me get down to the point. Let me talk about how difficult it was to decide what to do about the throne speech. I explained quite clearly how the Conservative government has neglected the needs of Canadians. However, we have a priority. We have a responsibility to Canadians.

  (1555)  

    It is very tempting to bring the government down today, and I want to go to Canadians and ask them to kick the Conservative government out of office. However, we cannot act irresponsibly like the Conservatives. We have to be responsible, we have to be deliberate in our decision-making process and we have to be thoughtful. We cannot go on a whim of emotions and political posturing.
    Since the throne speech has nothing binding to Canadians, we will sit down and wait to see what the Conservatives will do. However, next time there is legislation that we feel is taking Canadians in the wrong direction, we will be sure to hold the government to account and ask Canadians to be the judge.
    I wish my colleagues all the best—
    Order, please. I thought that was a nice note, one side of the House wishing the other all the best.
     Questions and comments, the hon. member for Palliser.
    Mr. Speaker, that was quite a dissertation from my friend opposite. I found it ironic that he would be wishing everyone luck in their campaigns, as though there would be a campaign in the near future.
    Every member in the House knows that the Liberal Party exists only to wield power. That is all the Liberals care about. Everyone knows that if they thought they could win a general election tomorrow, I would be pounding in signs as we speak.
    The Liberal position on tax relief, like their stance on most issues, has been less than clear. In 1993 the Liberals promised to scrap the GST. That was in their famous red book. I challenge anyone here to find a red book today because they have burned them all. Now they are opposed to cutting the GST, which the government proposed in the Speech from the Throne. The Leader of the Opposition has even talked about raising the GST.
    Why will the Liberal Party not stand behind the government in our effort to lower this excessive and regressive tax?
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad my hon. colleague has raised the issue of the GST.
    First, the Liberals did not make a promise in the red book, as the hon. member said, but somebody did make a promise. When that promise was not fulfilled, Sheila Copps resigned.
    I call on the Prime Minister to resign for breaking the promise on income trusts and let Canadians make their decision.
    I call upon the Prime Minister to resign for breaking the promise on the foreign credential legislation.
    I call on the Prime Minister to resign for breaking the promise to Atlantic Canadians.
    I call on all government members to stand up for the promises you made—
    Order, please. Unfortunately, the member lapsed into the second person.
    The hon. member for Hamilton Centre on another question or comment.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Mississauga—Erindale for his excellent analysis of the throne speech. It is a shame that he will be unable to give effect to that by having members of his caucus stand up and vote the way they say they believe, but that is another matter.
    The issue I want to raise specifically with the hon. member is this. He mentioned a lack of any reference to new Canadians in the throne speech. In Hamilton we continue to have a huge problem with foreign trained professionals being unable to perform the work in the profession for which they are trained. There are far too many. This is not a caricature; this is reality. We have far too many PhDs driving cabs and delivering pizza. Not that it is not honourable work, but we have more important things for them to do.
    I would assume the member has similar problems in his community of Mississauga. Perhaps he would like to expand on why he believes, like I, that the government, whatever it is, needs to do a lot more in this area. If we truly want to build our economy and say to the world that Canada is open to having new people join us, then we need to find a way to ensure we are translating their professional skills into jobs in Canada where we need the service and they need the work.
    Could the hon. member talk about how it affects his constituents in Mississauga?

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, the issue a very important one, and I thank my hon. colleague for raising it.
    More than 50% of the people of Mississauga were born outside of Canada. Many of them have immigrated here particularly because of their amazing and incredible skills. We have attracted them to Canada so we can utilize those skills.
    However, as many economists tell us, we are missing out on much economic activity because we are unable to utilize those skills. We are missing out on $6 billion a year of economic activity.
    What did the Conservatives do in the last campaign? They exploited that frustration. They exploited that angst. They promised they would fix the problem quickly. What have they done? Nothing.
    I admit, it is a complex problem. I admit it requires provincial-federal cooperation with post-secondary education and with many government agencies. However, what have the Conservatives done about that? Nothing.
     The Conservatives could introduce initiatives that retrain these individuals. They could introduce initiatives in cooperation with assessment agencies or the regulating bodies to ensure they recruit individuals and upgrade or assess their credentials, but they have done nothing. They have created a kiosk that points fingers for individuals and tells them to speak to that individual or that agency. They have not fixed the problem and I am really sorry about that.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today. I will be splitting my time with the Minister of National Revenue. Like most Canadians, I like to share with the minister at least once a year when he assesses my taxes. I am sure he will look at my file a little differently now that I am sharing with him.
    I was really thrilled to be appointed by the Prime Minister to this role. It is a dream come true at some times. Other times it is more of a nightmare. There are a lot of thorny issues that percolate around the agricultural sector in our great country, Canada.
    This is an agricultural day on the Hill. A lot of groups are around the Hill advocating and lobbying and so on. I started out my day at about 7 o'clock this morning with a breakfast with fertilizer groups from across the country. We talked about their future and the role they play in agriculture. It was a great discussion of issues pertinent to them, and I look forward to my next meeting with them as well.
    Later today I will meet with the animal nutrition folks. They are working their way through a lot of the glitches that have arisen with respect to imported animal nutrition products and how we are going to come to grips with free and unfettered trade, but still ensuring that the food supply is safe and secure for our pets as well as people. We working toward that end.
    Tonight a lot of us will end up with the CAFTA group that is here. At the same time the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is putting on another function as well. There is never any lack of things going on in the agricultural files.
    There are a number of things I have been happy to pick up from my predecessor, now the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who did a fantastic job on this file. We have a saying in agricultural areas that I am basically harrowing the ground that he ploughed on a lot of these issues. I tried using that logic with a member of the media in Ottawa at one time and the person got it backward. The individual was harrowing before ploughing. Out in the real world we do it in the right order and a lot of it has to do with the environment and taking care of that in our charge.
    A number of things in the throne speech have been decried by the Liberals. A lot of that may be alligator tears and a bit of an impression that they never really measured up.
     There were a number of Liberal throne speeches. They prorogued a number of times and recessed and did all sorts of funny tricks. Most of their throne speeches ended up in the archives because nothing ever came out of them. I never found any mention of agriculture in any Liberal throne speeches. You have been here longer than I have, Mr. Speaker, and I would challenge you to try to remember back over the years any words of encouragement to the agricultural sector in a Liberal throne speech. I could not find any at all.
    Then I started to think that maybe the Liberals put it all into their budgets. Maybe that was when they kept their powder dry in the throne speeches and rather than over promise, they would deliver something in their budgets. I started checking those too and other than a trail of tears leading to the vault from Canadian taxpayers, I could not find mention of agriculture in their budgets either.
    There was a lot of neglect on the agricultural file over the 13 years the Liberals were in office. My colleague from Prince Edward Island, who is with us here today, is agreeing with me. He is nodding his head. Farmers on the emerald isle are telling him that as well. I am happy to have that support.
    I had a great trip out to Prince Edward Island a couple of weeks ago. The member of the agriculture committee from Prince Edward Island followed me around and re-announced my announcements a day later. That is the greatest form of flattery. He is agreeing with everything we are doing. I am certain we will see a lot of support from the member.
     I made a mistake in question period. I should have said the former minister, the agricultural brain child from Prince Edward Island. I want to apologize to the rest of the country for mistakenly calling him the minister. Everybody is going to have a late night trying to get to sleep after that one.
    A number of great initiatives have been announced in the throne speech that pertain to agriculture. There is mention about interprovincial trade barriers. We all know the cost and the cause of those types of things as we have these little kingdoms across the country. Some of the provinces, specifically British Columbia and Alberta, have come forward with an agreement called TILMA, which gets rid of that boundary when it comes to agricultural products especially. We hear some discussions are happening between Ontario and Quebec. It is all great news.
    We need free and unfettered trade among our provinces the same as we are seeking. My seatmate, the Minister of International Trade, was on his feet today a number of times. He talked about bilateral trade agreements, on which we are working. Those are requirements of a trading nation like our country, whether we get everything we are looking for at the WTO in Geneva this go around or not. We are still going to need bilateral trade agreements to build on that foundation or to take the place of that if a deal does not go through. It is not looking good at this point. There are a lot of different interests at play.

  (1605)  

    Our main trade negotiator, a fellow named Steve Verheul, has done yeoman service. I have a lot of time for Steve as do most farming operations across the country. He has done a tremendous service for Canadian agriculture in carrying that message and that load to the round tables at Geneva. Steve deserves our respect and certainly a bigger pay cheque than we could ever give him.
    He does that job. He is the greatest cheerleader for Saskatchewan agriculture, Ontario agriculture, the Maritimes agriculture and Quebec agriculture. Every form of agriculture in the country is being represented equally and robustly by Mr. Verheul at those tables as we could ever imagine. I just cannot comment enough on the great job he has done.
    There are a lot of other things in the throne speech. We reiterate our movement toward free and unfettered trade in the world. We are very close in negotiating some of the trade deals. Some of them we have signed.
    I started to check back in history. I wanted to compare our action with what the Liberals did over 13 years and I could not find one action. The member who spoke before me went on and on about what is not in and what is in and how they would do a better job. I guess if we want to compare report cards, that is what the next election will be all about, whenever it comes.
    I am happy doing my job. If it comes to pounding campaign signs tomorrow, next spring or next fall or October 2009, when we have actually stipulated the date, I am happy to do that.
    However, I am here and I want to govern. I have enjoyed working with my provincial counterparts, teeing off on the great work that the former minister did in Whistler last June, moving forward with “Growing Forward”, getting past that old CAIS program, which even the Liberals have said we should have done earlier. We campaigned and made a promise on that. We are following through on this and we are replacing it.
    We are coming forward with user friendly products. They are bankable, they are predictable and they are the best of which we can work.
    We have had two rounds of discussions with the farm groups. We are looking forward to a third round. I had a conference call with my provincial counterparts last week. I am looking forward to a face to face meeting in mid-November to carry on with the great work the farm lobby has done in building this new generation of products.
    Of course we cannot back stop everything we would like to. There are trade rules that curtail us in certain ways. However, we have been very innovative and appreciative of what the farmers have gone through sector by sector.
    Talking about innovation, I came to this job with one concrete principle, having been a former producer. My one and only concrete principle is farmers first. Without a robust farm gate, a vibrant farm gate, none of the rest of my portfolio or a lot of other portfolios make any difference at all.
    We are about ensuring that farmers can do what they do best, which is to plant those seeds, raise those livestocks, grow the vineyards, the orchards and so on, which make this great diverse agricultural sector.
    I have stayed with that bedrock principle. I have had great discussions with some of the processing sector, which is also facing some anomalies at this point with the dollar rising as quickly as it has and as dramatically as it has. A lot of that speaks to the robust Canadian economy as a whole. Our American counterparts are slipping a little and they are our major trading partners. Some 85% of what we trade goes back and forth across the border on a daily basis.
    We are all about free and unfettered trade, but it is easier to get a piece of steak into Montana than it is to get it from Lloydminster into Alberta. That is how crazy that interprovincial trade stuff is.
    We are looking at a lot of those issues, working with our provincial counterparts, building a stronger economy around the farm gate. In the statement my parliamentary secretary made today in the House, his S. O. 31, he talked about the contribution of agriculture to the GDP of our great country. The third largest contributor, some 8% of our GDP, comes right out of that farm gate. If we do not stop and think about the great work the men and women in the farm families are doing across the country every time we sit down to a great meal or a great snack, then we are missing the boat.
    There has been a disconnect over the years between the gate to plate analogy. I remember years ago being raised on the farm. There was not a Sunday that I can remember that the aunts, uncles and cousins did not come out from Saskatoon or the cities they lived in and enjoyed a great chicken or beef supper, or a trip to the pasture to check on the cows. Of course we had the good old wiener roast down there.
    I do not remember ever losing that disconnect. They were all born in farm families, moved to the city to carry on with a career, but they never lost that analogy. They always came back and remembered that foundation, that anchor, which was what Canada was all about.
    I have had a tremendous opportunity to look at the future of agriculture. In my mind it is all about science and technology and it is all about innovation.

  (1610)  

    I made a comment at the biotech summit a couple of weeks ago. I said that when my grandfather was homesteading, his hands were on the plow and he dressed accordingly. Today, the pioneers for agriculture are wearing lab coats. That has dramatically changed over the last 100 years. Over the next 10 years, I think we will see a paradigm shift in agriculture as we start to look at bigger and better things for our farmers and our farm gate.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the presentation given by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, in which he spoke in general terms about his activities within the department. However, I did not hear any convincing arguments concerning the throne speech itself.
    As a Bloc Québécois member, I would like to discuss an issue that, I believe, is crucial. Now that Parliament as a whole has recognized Quebec as a nation, I think the government missed out on a good opportunity to make certain gestures after such a fine declaration. This is important to all Canadians, but most of all, to Quebeckers.
    I would like to discuss more specifically the federal spending power. For the past 50 years or so, this federal spending power has been denounced in Quebec, by both the Liberal Party in power and the Parti Québécois. The Séguin report, whose author was a Liberal, recommends that, and I quote:
    Quebec vigorously reiterate its traditional stance concerning the absence of a constitutional basis for “federal spending power” since this “power” does not respect the division of powers stipulated in the Constitution.
    This is merely one element I could mention. Building on the recent recognition of the Quebec nation, the throne speech timidly proposes limiting use of the federal spending power, but only in shared cost programs. Shared cost programs are practically non-existent. Here in this House, the government tends to adopt programs that interfere in provincial jurisdictions, such as the mental heath program and the cervical cancer program. Both of these programs involve political interference in the area of health care, which falls under provincial jurisdiction.

  (1615)  

    I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but we have to give the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board time to respond.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to what the member opposite was mumbling on about. It would have been a lot easier for him to read the throne speech without his Bloc blinders on. He did end up in health funding.
    The member should know that we have replaced the funding that the Liberals clawed out of the health accord and the social transfers. We have replaced that to the provinces with a 3% escalator. It is principally based and it is based on population.
    The member also mentioned the mental health and colon cancer announcements that were made. From the best of my recollection, analyzing the media and talking to people across this great country, those types of projects were very well received in Canada and Quebec. Therefore, I am not exactly sure what it is he is complaining about.
    We are doing more for the people on the ground than any federal government has ever done. We are doing it from a minority government position, which is exceptionally hard when people are predisposed to breaking up the country as opposed to making it stronger.