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.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to highlight some of my thoughts on the government’s agenda outlined in the Speech from the Throne entitled, “Protecting Canada’s Future”.
It is indeed a distinct honour and privilege to have a seat in Canada’s Parliament. I am profoundly grateful for the confidence that has been placed in me by the citizens of Guelph, a city in which one could not be more proud to live. It is a tremendous opportunity and privilege to serve one’s own community in public office.
I want to take a moment to extend my appreciation to those individuals who devoted their time, resources and energy during my extensive 82 day election campaign. I am humbled by their contribution and inspired by their conviction.
My family has always been a source of love, guidance and support for me, and I am grateful for, and often feel undeserving of, their continued support. In particular, I want to thank my wife, Catherine, and our children, Olivia and Dominic, for their steadfast love and support as my young family continues along this journey into public life and public service.
In meeting my new colleagues from all parties, I am mindful that while we are divided geographically and politically, we are bound by a desire to serve the citizens of our constituencies and contribute to a better quality of life for those we are entrusted to represent. It is an ambitious goal, one that is essential for all of us to achieve in co-operation together.
I respect that Canadians want a Parliament that will work together to overcome the challenges that are on our doorstep. I have been successfully serving Guelph for 27 years as a lawyer, assisting people through the best and worst times of their lives. I have also had an opportunity to serve my community through many community boards and foundations. The people I have met and the organizations I have worked with along the way in Guelph have always had the foresight and commitment to face challenges, accept responsibility and plan a strategy to move towards a brighter future.
The people of Guelph and I are concerned about, even disapproving of, the Conservatives’ lack of vision. In response to calls for economic prudence, we saw the irresponsibly eliminate the $3 billion contingency fund. In less than three years the Conservative government has become the highest spending government in Canadian history, after squandering the $13 billion surplus left to them by the previous Liberal government.
The Conservative minority government increased federal spending by more than $40 billion a year and, despite all respected economists’ opinions to the contrary, cut its own vital source of revenue. In doing so, the Conservatives failed to stimulate meaningful economic growth and failed to be prepared for the slowdown they saw coming.
This economic crisis is an opportunity to embrace and invest in bold ideas and strategies that are going to translate into the jobs of tomorrow. I invite the Conservative government to take a look at Guelph for inspiration.
Maclean's magazine consistently rates the University of Guelph as Canada’s foremost research university. The university is dedicated to maintaining this reputation through its intensive research-based programs, such as making plastic from non-food agricultural products, plastic that becomes car parts or packaging. Imagine farmers around Guelph feeding cities and feeding raw materials to industry in Guelph and elsewhere. Imagine the benefit for the economy and for the environment.
Innovation is exciting and full of economic opportunity. We need to make more meaningful investments and create strategic partners with those engaged in innovation and research in order to contribute to the kind of growth that will have our economy thriving. Governments need to play a more meaningful role in sponsoring university research and helping turn that research into jobs in Guelph and throughout Canada. There is little doubt that investments in university research yield significant social and economic returns. For example, Canadian economist Fernand Martin estimates that the cumulative dynamic impact of universities’ contributions to the economy through research and development was at least $60 billion in 2007. We need to invest in talent, knowledge and innovation to continue to fully participate in today's competitive global and greening economy.
When I think about the next generation, a clean sustainable environment stands side by side with a prosperous economy. We have a responsibility to be mindful of our environment.
Again, I turn to Guelph for a stunning example of environmental sustainability. Last year, Guelph became a North American leader on energy management with its commitment to a 25-year community energy plan. Through the plan's challenging but realistic targets, Guelph could use less energy in 25 years than it does today, even with expected population growth of 53,000 people, and cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by nine tonnes per person. This will put Guelph among the top energy performers in the world, reduce our environmental footprint and make my riding one of the most competitive and attractive communities in which to invest.
Liberals have been saying it for years, and I repeat the message at the risk it falls on deaf ears: Sound environmental policy delivers economic prosperity.
We cannot talk about the economy of tomorrow without paying heed to Canada's struggling auto sector. Communities right across this great country were built on the back of a thriving automotive industry. Today, with the industry in crisis, we see communities rightfully distressed about the loss of the good jobs provided through automotive assembly and parts manufacturing plants and the hundreds of thousands of spinoff jobs, from office cleaners to accountants and restaurateurs, to mention a few. It will negatively affect even the charitable contributions made in our communities.
Government has a role to partner with the industry to enable this sector to survive its credit limitations and emerge an industry that is committed to transition to greener and more efficient technologies.
Guelph is an auto town. Canada is an auto country. I call on the government to send a clear message to the industry and Canadians that the Government of Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with our auto industry to protect Canadian jobs.
The people of Guelph are disappointed that the funding promised to Canada's cities and communities has been delayed. Sound infrastructure is the link between healthy cities, productivity and competitiveness. I implore the government to move forward with vital and more meaningful infrastructure investments to create jobs and address the infrastructure deficit.
It is simply unacceptable for Canada to have an infrastructure deficit that exceeds $123 billion at a time when we are depending on our cities and communities for business growth and development and jobs. Guelph needs more meaningful help to repair its infrastructure, invest in public transit and for affordable housing.
My friends across the floor have asked us for ideas. I invite my Conservative colleagues to meet with me in Guelph and talk to those in the child care and early learning profession. The experience of 35 other industrialized countries, more committed than the Conservative government to early learning and child care, tells us that early learning is designed to take an entire generation out of poverty and into prosperity, better prepare them for the knowledge based economy, help children be better adjusted and less likely to be involved in crime and allows their parents to return to work or pursue their education. The Conservatives' $100 a month has left Guelph's early childhood education and child care in crisis.
Our children deserve more. I would have thought that my Conservative peers would care more about our children.
I respect the choice that Canadians made on October 14. I look forward to working in opposition to hold the government to account for the commitments it has made.
We need a bold vision that will lead us to a larger, greener economy that will restore Canada's place in the global economy.
We live in a complex, demanding, diverse nation. We govern not only for today, but for tomorrow and beyond.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the Speech from the Throne on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Mississauga--Streetsville who I have the honour and privilege of representing in this House.
The throne speech seems to be a product of a government that has no strategy, no plan and no idea of what to do in these difficult economic times. Instead of creating a made in Canada strategy, we have a Conservative-made deficit, a direct result of its ideological cuts.
It is regrettable that the government is offering little leadership or comfort to the millions of Canadians who have seen their savings and their retirement funds evaporate, their jobs disappear and their futures turn bleak. Consumers and businesses alike have lost confidence and trust in the government, and for good reason. They have heard from the Conservatives during the election that running a deficit was something that goes against their core values. Today they are singing from a different tune. It is one of the greatest flip-flops in Canadian history. How can Canadians be expected to trust anything they say?
I was elected to this House by the voters to restore trust to Mississauga--Streetsville. I campaigned as someone who will represent their voices in Parliament, regardless of their race, religion, gender or even political affiliation, to the very best of my ability. I promised voters that I would not turn my back on them as their member of Parliament. The residents of Mississauga--Streetsville elected me to be their voice on matters that are of issue to them, unlike the government that offers a throne speech that is long on rhetoric and short on specifics.
Mississauga--Streetsville welcomes new Canadians from all around the world and helps them successfully integrate with those who have lived here for generations. It is a community that is tolerant, diverse and generous. It has a community spirit that brings out the best qualities in those who live there. With just over 130,000 residents, it is Canada's 12th most populous riding and it is located in the heart of Mississauga, which is Canada's 6th largest city. Mississauga serves as a beacon to the world, shedding light on how people of different races, religions and cultures can live, work and pray together in peace, prosperity and harmony.
Mississauga is also home to 59 of Canada's Fortune 500 companies and sees more people commuting daily into work than commuting out. It is recognized as one of the safest cities in Canada and enjoys a high quality of life, with excellent schools, parks and recreational facilities, and remains debt-free. That is through the sound fiscal management of Canada's most respected, competent and venerable politician who is celebrating her 30th year in office, Mayor Hazel McCallion.
This is a quick profile of my riding and the people who live there, the people I have come here to represent and whose quality of life and generosity of spirit are under threat by the inaction of the government.
Mayor McCallion and her Cities Now campaign has warned that the neglect of our cities will cost our country dearly. It is clear that the throne speech fails to address this issue and leaves our municipalities vulnerable during these challenging times.
We have heard from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that Canada's cities are weighed down by a collective infrastructure deficit of $123 billion annually. The city of Mississauga alone has an annual infrastructure deficit of $75 million simply to meet its needs. It has another $150 million worth of projects on the books that have been moved to its wish list. The municipal tax base is insufficient to fund these capital projects.
Even in my riding of Mississauga--Streetsville, services cannot meet the demand because the city has other priorities to address with limited dollars: subsidized housing, policing, social services, services for the elderly, the disabled, those with mental health issues, single parent families headed by the working poor, and I could go on. Suffice it to say that the government's minimal support of municipalities, which are in fact in the business of fixing potholes, feeding the homeless, giving our youth positive activities to grow and providing services to those in need, is an abandonment of all Canadians looking to their government for leadership. Given the current global economic challenges, such leadership has taken on the greatest urgency imaginable.
As is the case in much of the 905 region, the residents in my riding are forced to cope with the results of the government's failure to lead.
In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, Canada is the only country without a long-term national transit strategy. Our streets and highways are clogged through much of the workday. Gridlock is costing families precious time. The annual cost to greater Toronto area businesses and to our nation's economy is $2 billion in lost productivity, while vehicles spew carbon and other greenhouse gases into the air by the ton.
The need for a national transit strategy no doubt seems trifling to the government, but one does not need to be an economist to know that finding efficiencies in our economy is a key element to recovery at a time when the world's economies are failing.
The Canadian Urban Transit Association has estimated that $40 billion is required for public transit infrastructure in Canada between now and 2012. The funding would serve as a short-term investment in tens of thousands of jobs. These jobs would be created to build and maintain needed infrastructure that would provide capacity in , in the 905 area, and in other urban centres to move people and goods that our economy's health depends upon.
This is an economic stimulus that makes sense. Not implementing it would serve to keep our nation's economy lagging.
However, the government has shown its true worth in addressing these issues. The $52.5 million the government committed in March 2006 toward providing Mississauga's bus rapid transit system has yet to arrive. The provincial government has come forward with its $65 million contribution, and the City of Mississauga has come forward with its funding for the project. The empty promises and self-congratulatory news releases issued by the government at the time will not keep Mississauga moving. Canada cannot hope to succeed as long as the government continues to believe that photo opportunities are the equivalent of action. Unfortunately for all Canadians, the government shows no sign that it will ever think otherwise.
I am proud of the diversity of my riding, which adds richness and vibrancy to the community. More than 50% of the residents of were born abroad, emigrating from 60 different countries and speaking over 90 languages. New immigrants arrive highly skilled, highly educated and ready to work, yet many of these new Canadians face challenges on a daily basis that established Canadians do not. They require assistance to better integrate into the community through language training, affordable housing, reliable public transit and accessible health care.
We need to put a system in place whereby proper credentials from abroad are recognized. Such a system would ensure that we get people working. Rather than invest in newcomers, newcomers who are the skilled, professional workers this country needs to compete and to survive, this government has cut the funding that would help immigrants more quickly and more successfully become productive members of Canada's fabric.
My mother, Veronica Sawarna, emigrated from Poland, along with my father, Michael, who emigrated from the Ukraine. They came to Canada to establish a new life for themselves and their family. I understand what it is like to have parents who are new to this country, as many people in my riding are. The throne speech offers nothing to new Canadians who are key to the future success of this country.
I am a proud Canadian of Polish and Ukrainian heritage. My grandfather served in a Polish division of the French army. He was captured, survived a World War II work camp and was liberated by a Polish-speaking soldier from Philadelphia.
I am proud that my political mentor, Jesse Flis, from the riding of Parkdale--High Park, was also a Polish Canadian and worked hard to fight for awareness of issues affecting the Polish community.
I came to Ottawa to represent the people of with honour and integrity. I will work for what I dearly believe in. I want to fix what is wrong to make Canada a better country and to maintain and improve the quality of life for my constituents and for those dearest to my heart: Brian, my husband of almost 25 years; my sons Alexander and Jonathan; my daughter Natasha; my mother Veronica; and my mother-in-law Flora. I must vigorously hold the government accountable for its actions. I will offer solutions to the issues we face and work toward creating a better country.
The government's throne speech fails in many different ways and in some respects is a direct reflection on its authors. At a time when the world and Canadians are looking for leadership, they are seeing very little from the government.
It is no surprise that having spent the last years emulating George Bush in the U.S. and John Howard in Australia, the Conservatives are bereft of ideas. Their laissez-faire policies of trusting the markets have evaporated. Now it takes leadership, courage and boldness, and we have found them wanting.
At a time when Canadians seek the best in government, they are disappointed. This is exactly how both I and the constituents of Mississauga—Streetsville feel about the throne speech.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Burlington pointed out that this government has paid down $39 billion since we came to power in January 2006. That is a remarkable accomplishment.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to split my time today with the hon. member for .
It is with great pleasure that I am here today to speak to the throne speech, but first there is something I really need and want to do. It is to give acknowledgement and my sincerest appreciation to all who helped me in this last election and to all who have helped me throughout the last 15 years and the last six consecutive parliaments and allowed me to represent the great area of British Columbia known as the central interior Cariboo.
I currently represent the great riding of , as I have for the last three elections. That riding's geography includes everything from prairies to mountains to lakes to oceans. It is a pleasure to serve that great riding and the great people who live there. I want to say to all of them, and first of all to those constituents who supported me in such a great fashion, that I appreciate it. I think I received around 55.5% of the vote, which is small by Alberta standards but is certainly good for B.C.
For the first time in six elections, I ran what could be called a textbook riding. I actually had a great campaign manager. We had computers and volunteers all over the place. I decided that after all these years, maybe I had better try what they have been telling me for the last 15 years about how to run an election, and it actually worked very well.
I thank my campaign manager, Tom Newell. He is a great guy. He knows this business, and he is a good friend of mine. I thank my staff, who stayed in the constituency office serving the constituents throughout this whole election and made me look good at that level on a daily basis.
I want to thank all the Conservative candidates across the country, my colleagues who were elected and re-elected, and our national campaign team. I want to thank our for his leadership, his vision and his determination to serve this country, notwithstanding the fact that we were heading into some very troubling times brought on by external circumstances. I know the people of Canada re-elected our Prime Minister because they wanted someone with a firm hand on the rudder as we move our country through these most challenging economic times.
I want to thank my wife Annie, my constant companion. She was my scheduler. She kept me sane throughout the campaign. Most of all, she walked up to the podium with me on victory night for the speech. It was just great.
I am a lucky man to have a great riding like . Great people live in it. It is humbling to think that they have elected me this many times, and I appreciate it. They are number one.
In addressing our government's Speech from the Throne, I wear a number of hats. One is as the member of Parliament for the great riding of ; one is as the B.C. Conservative caucus chair; one is as chair of our Conservative national forestry caucus.
I have lived in the central interior, Prince George, for about 50 years. This area is primarily a forestry sector area. Living there has given me a broad range of perspective, particularly in the forestry industry.
The forestry industry is a key economic engine for communities in my riding of , for the province of British Columbia, and for the entire country.
Earlier this afternoon, I spoke briefly on how the government has responded to forestry workers and their families in these times of trouble.
It is important to note that even prior to the global economic instability that has now manifested, the forestry industry had already entered into some serious and challenging times. Rising energy costs, damage done by the ongoing seemingly never-ending softwood lumber dispute, which the previous Liberal government just simply could not handle and failed to address, and the devastating mountain pine beetle infestation particularly in B.C., have all created a perfect storm for the forestry industry.
I am so proud of our and our government because we understand that when a mill closes in a town, that closure affects every part of the community, and it has in my riding. Folks have had to rely on the measures that the government has put forward to help them somehow mitigate the economic pain.
That is why we have acted decisively. We have taken measures to help not only the forestry sector but all of Canada's traditional industries, and we will continue to assist these industries. We are taking measures aimed at marketing Canadian products abroad and helping businesses to innovate.
Not only did the government protect Canadian forestry jobs by getting the softwood lumber deal done but earlier this year we created the $1 billion community development trust to protect jobs and assist communities facing downturns. We worked hard with each province to identify priority areas for action. The community development trust has a lifespan of three years and right-minded communities across this country need it. We provided funding to fight the mountain pine beetle infestation.
Our government launched the targeted initiative for older workers for those who are struggling through these economic times and may be facing layoffs. We have funding available to help them adapt to perhaps losing jobs that they have held for 25 or 30 years. It is really important.
I met with folks from the Forest Products Association of Canada along with a number of my colleagues last week. We spoke about the challenges facing the forestry sector and also about opportunities. With every challenge there comes an opportunity.
Earlier this year in the report that came out of the natural resources committee, FPAC and members of committee were able to identify opportunities. Perhaps that is why we had such a great report come out of that committee, and it was a unanimous report. We all recognized that while there were challenges, there were also opportunities. We need the government to put initiatives forward that would let us take advantage of those opportunities in the forestry sector.
Our government is looking to the future by investing in innovation; creating new market opportunities, such as the worldwide promotion of wood products from Canada; and cutting corporate taxes so that our mills can stay competitive. We brought in the accelerated capital cost allowance so mills can upgrade to new, environmentally-friendly technology.
As I said earlier, the Conservative government is providing support, support in the short-term, but we are also providing things that will fix the problem in the long-term. It is important that we do that.
As the said, a ready, fire and aim program is not what a Conservative government is all about. We are doing a number of incredible things that will help the forestry industry in Canada. All of these things are the reason why, in the last election, Canadians gave our party and our a huge mandate to govern in the way they wanted us to govern. They have confidence in us and that is why we are on this side of the House.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on my first occasion in my new role as public safety minister.
Having the opportunity to serve in that role is something for which I owe a great debt of thanks to the constituents of the riding of . It is a magnificent place, a horseshoe around that jewel of Ontario, Lake Simcoe, around its south end that so focuses our lives. There are beautiful communities in Innisfil, Bradford West Gwillimbury, King, East Gwillimbury, and of course my own home in Georgina.
Thanks to those constituents, I have had the opportunity now to serve in three Parliaments, in roles as leader of the government in the House of Commons, the unlikely role of minister for sport for a short period of time, and now as public safety minister.
The public safety role is a great role for someone who represents because citizens of York—Simcoe, my residents, are concerned about the kinds of issues that the public safety minister has to deal with. When a community is safe and its citizens have the opportunity to prosper, and they are secure socially, economically, culturally, they can flourish. Safety and safe communities are what come first to allow all those other things to happen.
That is why our government is taking steps to keep Canada safe. We wholeheartedly believe that safer communities will make for a stronger and better Canada. Through ongoing efforts in crime prevention, law enforcement and national security, we are tackling crime throughout Canada, whether it is youth crime, organized crime, gang violence or any other kind of criminal activity.
Like many other Canadians, I have been troubled during recent years by the rising problem of violent youth crime. This is also a particular concern to my constituents in . The increased evidence of youth criminal activity is something that troubles them all. It is something for which we need to have an effective response, and it is something that we committed to do in the last election, and it is an area on which we intend to act.
We have of course taken steps, as a government, already through the development of a national crime prevention strategy, but we also have a youth gang prevention approach. This includes funding to help divert youth from being involved in gang activity and criminal activity, particularly drug-related gang activity.
There are so many young people who represent such great promise for the future in communities all across Canada, young people who have choices to make when they are young, who are susceptible to the kinds of influences that can lead them down the wrong path. We need to provide supports that encourage young people in those situations to seek a more positive path, a role that will last them a lifetime, serving society in a positive way and serving their communities in a better way.
We will continue to do that. We will strengthen our efforts on youth crime prevention and gang diversion as we have done in previous governments. It is one of the priorities I am looking forward to as we hold out a helping hand to make sure that we do not just focus on punishing violent youth crime, which is important, but also on preventing those crimes from ever even occurring.
Organized crime is another area that continues to be a challenge in Canada. We have taken real action with things like our tackling violent crime bill in the previous Parliament, mandatory prison sentences for those who are committing offences with guns. However, there is still a lot to be done.
The other thing that is happening with organized crime is that it is changing, or society is changing it. Organized crime is taking advantage of the world of the Internet, the more complex society we live in to intrude into new areas, inventing new crimes that never even existed before, ones that require greater sophistication.
We need a response to those because that kind of criminal activity affects families, it affects businesses, it affects our citizens' possessions, their health, their bank accounts and their prosperity. We must develop effective responses. We tried to get a bill involving identity theft passed in the previous Parliament, to actually make some of those things crimes.
Unfortunately, we did not have the kind of co-operation from other parties to deal with them in that Parliament. We hope to move forward on that front and a range of other fronts to tackle organized crime and protect our citizens from these new sophisticated criminals they face.
We must not forget, however, that Canada is a country founded on many traditions. Our justice system is based on the rule of law. Our institutions are based on the principles of transparency and accountability. Canadians value their personal freedom and civil rights. That is why our government has committed to explaining how it intends to strike a balance between managing new national security threats and challenges on the one hand, while on the other hand, meeting the requirement for accountability and ensuring the protection of civil liberties.
National security is not limited to ensuring the physical well-being of Canadians. It also means securing our prosperity and preserving freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I therefore look forward to issuing a statement describing the government's approach to matters of national security for all Canadians.
In the portfolio of public safety, we have responsibilities for law enforcement, through the RCMP and other areas, for Canada’s national security, including through the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. We are also responsible for the prisons and the National Parole Board and all those associated elements that are important to protect our community and rehabilitate prisoners and ensure that our communities are kept safe from criminals.
The border represents another area of responsibility through the Canadian border service agencies and related matters and there is the whole question of emergency services and public safety related to national emergencies. When we look at all those, we can see that there are numerous issues that touch our lives in very real ways.
I talked about technology a bit with regard to organized crime. I expect we will see our government moving on the areas of Internet fraud and on areas where we need to take more decisive action where technology allows criminals to engage, for example, in the sexual exploitation of children. Right now, our law enforcement agencies do not have the tools they need to effectively protect Canadians and young people from those criminal threats. We will take action to try to address those issues so our law enforcement officers have the tools they need to combat crime and protect Canadians.
I also want to see further results in the area of our prisons and parole and how we deal with our criminals in that realm. Our first priority has always been to keep communities safe. We have been doing that as a government and we have been seeing improved outcomes in terms of reduced repeat offences from those released into the community and fewer premature releases. The system will probably never be perfect, but we see opportunities to improve it. One of the most important improvements we have to make is to continue to look for ways to protect and increase the rights of victims of crime. It is only fair that they have a say and an opportunity to participate in decisions that are made on that front.
We also have to ask ourselves if our prison system works as it should. There are populations that are overrepresented in the prison system compared with our broad population. We have to ask ourselves why we have those outcomes. I draw on the preponderance of individuals who face mental health challenges as an example. Why has this happened? What are the roots of that change? We have to recognize that it is a change. It is not something that has always been the case. It is a changing trend.
We also have to ask ourselves if our prison system provides the best support and opportunities to address those issues. That is an area where I want to see some real progress. These are complex challenges that are not easy to address. These are very difficult, complex social issues and we have to make some advances there.
We also need to see progress, and we have an opportunity, one that may be a good-news area for us, on the question of our borders and border security. In 2011 we face what the industry calls a real thickening of the border. The difficulty of a better transition of goods and people across that border is hurting our economy and the American economy. We have to find ways to facilitate the easy transport of goods and people while at the same time ensure that we protect the very vital, legitimate national security interests of Canada and our neighbours. I believe we have an opportunity with the new administration arriving in the United States to take action on that front and work out more balanced and reasonable approaches that will deliver real results.
We are going to work in all of these areas. We are going to work to do what we said we would do. We are going to work to make our communities safer. Tackling crime and ensuring our communities are safer are key priorities we committed in the 2006 election when we were first elected and again in this last election. I am proud to have the opportunity to work on delivering on those commitments to Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate. It is always quite interesting when individual members get up and make their comments. It is like one side sees everything rosy and the other sees everything the exact opposite. The reality is somewhere in between. People have to discuss this with politicians and decide what the difference is between the reality and a lot of comments that mislead Canadians to think differently.
This is my first opportunity in the 40th Parliament to thank my family, my husband, Sam, and all my constituents for their commitment to the political process. Again, if it were not for our families who were out supporting us, I am not sure how many of us would be back. We may have great volunteers and campaign workers, but it is the support from our families and the encouragement we get from them.
Aside from them are our wonderful constituents. The constituents of York West have shown me nothing other than love and respect. This was probably the best election campaign I have ever been through. The weather was wonderful and it was great to knock on doors. I think I knocked on just about every door in my riding of York West and I was received very well. This campaign was much easier than many of the other ones I experienced.
My staff do a great job all through the year. That is what makes a difference at election times. People appreciate the work they do for them. As we move forward in this 40th Parliament, my office staff and I are committed to continue to deliver the best level of service possible. We will clearly be there as we continue on in this Parliament.
It will be an honour to represent not just my riding, but many of the people in Toronto who are working on issues that are extremely important to all of us, to ensure that we work with the government. However, we will also hold its feet to the fire and demand accountability from it as we move forward.
This is the third Speech from the Throne we have had to endure from the Conservatives. It is very much the same kind of rhetoric we have heard in previous throne speeches. Canadians are not third time lucky as they face a very difficult economic reality.
I am sharing my time, Mr. Speaker, with my colleague from . I was very quick to get into the debate and almost forgot my colleague, and I would never want to do that.
These are difficult economic times and the Conservatives are going to have a difficult time dealing with this. It will require all of to work. The amendment to the throne speech, which the Liberals support, is a commitment that we will work with the government to try to find solutions. We will work in a cooperative manner so our Speaker does not have to rein us in and tell us that we have broken the orders. We will be respectful, as I know he wants us to be.
The laissez-faire, I do not care attitude that we have seen in the past couple of years from the government is clearly something that is very worrisome, particularly as we move forward and try to deal with the economic crisis that Canada is about to face. The numbers are very shocking. When the Conservatives were first elected, they inherited a $12 billion surplus. That is very different from the time when the Liberals were elected. We inherited a $43 billion deficit and had to make dramatic cuts.
The Conservatives had a $12 billion surplus to squander, and they clearly did that. If they had any idea we were running into an economic crisis and had they held on to that surplus, we would have had a cushion, which clearly we do not have now. Instead, in that two years they became the highest-spending administration in Canadian history. Anyone can look it up in the books and see the amount of money spent compared to previous years.
The title of Conservatives somehow gives the impression that they are careful. This government has the wrong title, as it did previously. The Liberals showed what the words restraint and good investment meant, and we managed to do all of that.
The Conservatives made the decision, as well, to leave no buffer, no room to manoeuvre, in the event of a financial crisis.
I must say that I do not think any of us thought we would end up in the economic downturn that we are currently facing, but the reality is that every seven or eight years there will be some sort of financial challenge. No one expected a meltdown but certainly a challenge comes after so many years and we must be prepared for that.
We had a $3 billion contingency reserve for a rainy day. The Conservatives, however, thought we would never need it so they spent it. Well, they spent it and now we have a rainy day. This downpour needs a lot of money but the money is not available because it has all been given away. The money could have been there to help Canadians create jobs. It could have been invested in the auto industry. It could have helped seniors. It could have looked after our pensions. All of that could have been done without having to go into deficit. Unfortunately, we are in a position now where we probably will go into deficit.
As a result, clearly by their poor management, Canada has entered the escalating economic crisis with one hand tied behinds its back. This is because, along with their gross mismanagement, the Conservatives increased their annual spending by $40 billion over three budgets and then spent a massive $20 billion in vote-buying schemes in the lead-up to the last election. Clearly, that was money thrown away because it did not work, it did not get them very many votes and they are still in a minority situation. Now, sadly, Canadians must see their country go into deficit because of the Conservatives' fiscal failures.
In this time of economic uncertainty, we absolutely do not need another election next month. The Liberals will be supporting the amended throne speech at the appropriate time and we will work with the government. Our amendment talked about us working together on issues and working collectively to deal with the economic crisis and we will do that.
The NDP can huff and puff and beat their chests but another $300 million for an unnecessary election in these economic times would be irresponsible. The Liberal Party will not be irresponsible. We will act, as appropriately, in our opposition and we will do our jobs. We will work with the government to point out areas where it can make investments, such as in the auto industry and the forestry industry, and in areas where people are hurting, where jobs are being lost and where we need to do more to help them.
We are calling on the government, though, to move beyond generalities and explain precisely how it will protect Canadians' jobs, their savings and their pensions in this current economic climate.
In the fiscal update tomorrow, it will be very interesting to see just where the government's priorities lie and whether it is prepared to do what is necessary to help the many people who are currently suffering out there. Frankly, we are not holding our breath because we do not know if the government has a plan and we do not believe it has one.
Rather than cutting the GST, one can imagine what that money could have done to support the many seniors out there who are struggling on a limited income. Instead of a $6 billion cut to the GST, the Conservatives should have put that money into the guaranteed income supplement plan, as the Liberals did many times by upping that and increasing it so that our seniors would have a better quality of life. That would have been a big help to them and it would have helped them through difficult times.
One of the things I would like to see the government work on in this session of Parliament is changes to the Canada pension plan survivor benefits. As many members will know, the Canada pension survivor benefits only cover 60% of a contributor's retirement pension. Therefore, if the surviving spouse or common-law partner is not receiving other CPP benefits, he or she gets 60%. Once someone has lost his or her spouse, the surviving spouse still has the same heating bill to pay and the same taxes to pay and they do not decrease just because a person loses a spouse. These things are plunging many seniors into poverty.
Many issues out there must be dealt with, such as social infrastructure, as well as the hard infrastructure. We need to invest in our cities but we need real investment. We need a real commitment, not just a lot of talk about doing all kinds of things. We need to look at where the money is actually being invested in infrastructure and in the other parts. We do not need to hear announcements and then never see the money delivered, which is what the government has done far too many times.
Mr. Speaker, as most of my colleagues have done, I would like to begin by thanking the people of my riding, whom I have had the honour of representing in the House of Commons since 1995. On October 14, the voters of Ottawa—Vanier gave me a sixth mandate and I am very grateful to them for this. I am also grateful to the hundreds of individuals who have been involved in the campaigns of candidates of all parties who were vying to represent the riding. The involvement of those several hundred people has contributed to a healthy democracy. I salute them for the sacrifice of their time, their energy and their funds to ensure that the democratic process is indeed operating properly.
During those 37 or 38 days of campaigning, we had the opportunity to debate national issues, of course, but also some local ones as well. Among them—issues which I will have the opportunity to defend during this 40th Parliament—is one in particular that I would like to mention now. I have in fact already presented petitions on it since the start of the session, the fifth one today. It concerns the possible construction of one or two new bridges in the national capital region. As a result, heavy truck traffic could be taken out of the downtown area of the national capital and directed toward established and developed communities. The solution put forward by the consultants or experts and chosen by the National Capital Commission (the NCC)—at least until proven otherwise—would prove disastrous because it would merely transfer the problem to long established and well developed communities. A far more attractive solution is available to the NCC and I hope that it will select a better solution guided by the wisdom of those advising it. We will have an opportunity to revisit this issue.
There was also much mention made of the behaviour of the members of the House of Commons. That is why, on the first day of this 40th parliament, I let my name stand on the list of candidates for the Chair. I felt that it was important to focus on the desire expressed by voters for better behaviour from us all. Naturally this is a responsibility we all share, including whoever is in the Speaker's chair. I am pleased that all candidates for that position, and all party leaders in their congratulations to the winner, repeated that same message and that our Speaker acknowledged that he himself bore part of the responsibility.
Finally, and we will have an opportunity to revisit this later, I raised the need to start the planning immediately of the events to celebrate the 150th birthday of our country in 2017. I know that we are moving into a period of downturn, of instability and of political difficulty, but a brighter future is coming and it is up to us to start planning right now for this great celebration of 150 years of Canadian federation. We will get back to this.
The throne speech has some good points, I have to admit, and some bad points—I hope the members opposite will acknowledge that—and it is also missing some things. There is no mention whatsoever of seniors or fighting poverty. The throne speech is also silent on Canada's linguistic duality, and I know, Madam Speaker, that you are sensitive to this. If the throne speech reflects a government's commitment, then associations across the country saw the government's lack of commitment on this issue.
I have to say that the government did redeem itself somewhat last Friday, when it rejected a decision made by the CRTC in August. At the time, the CRTC did not grant any licences for French-language community radio in our region, but did grant two licences for English-language radio. I have already congratulated the , who made the decision to refer the matter back to the CRTC so that it could do its homework a bit better and take into account the Official Languages Act, as we amended it in 2005.
We will see what happens.
Among the good points in the throne speech, I would like to mention the move to recognize newcomers' foreign credentials, the reduction of interprovincial trade barriers—having been the only minister responsible for internal trade, I can say that there is much work to be done on this front, and I wish the government well—help for certain industries, investment in research, banning of bulk water exports and, naturally, the much stronger focus on food safety. I believe that all parties could support these measures.
There are also bad points. I must admit that I have a great deal of trepidation about the government's planned justice bill. We will see what it has in store for us. The government's environmental track record is not exactly outstanding, and some of us may have concerns about initiatives involving the private sector.
The throne speech focused mainly on the economy. I believe that the government has a duty to stimulate the economy, especially in anticipation of the recession that is on the horizon—if it is not already here—and the deficits that, sadly, will come far sooner than they might have, as my colleagues have said. Still, I believe we will need to go beyond this.
We will need to go beyond this need to stimulate the economy. We will have to at least look at the very structure of how we operate in terms of debt accumulation. Right now we and others around the world are dealing with the debt problem by adding more debt. At some point that whole house of cards is going to come crashing down.
We need to collectively engage in a debate about what growth is sustainable, what level of debt is sustainable and how we achieve savings. Right now, Canadians basically are not saving at all. The Vanier Institute, if I am correct, has determined that 131% of a family's disposable income is spent. If 131% of a family's disposable income is being spent annually just to keep the family's standard of living where it is on average in Canada, it means that family will keep on accumulating debt. That is not a sustainable position.
In the same way, the last time Canada faced a recession, in the early 1990s, Canadians were saving at a rate of about 10%. Today we are hardly saving at a rate of 1%.
How do we dig ourselves out of this hole? Governments will have to provide incentives, will have to provide encouragement and will have to show the way. That is the reason for the reluctance of going into deficit. It was a Liberal government that got us out of deficit in the 1990s and it was not an easy thing to do. We had better start planning an exit strategy right away as well. These are matters that have to be addressed.
There is another matter in the Speech from the Throne that is of great preoccupation locally. I will quote a very innocuous paragraph. It is in English on page 10. It states:
Fixing procurement will be a top priority. Simpler and streamlined processes will make it easier for businesses to provide products and services to the government and will deliver better results for Canadians.
I have to take exception to that. One area in particular is information technology procurement where there has been serious talk of bundling all contracts so that only large contracts would be given out, or perhaps one large contract, of $1 billion plus over a period ranging up to 20 years. If we did that, basically we would be freezing out 5,000 small and medium size enterprises in this area alone, let alone the rest of Canada. That is the wrong way. There has been no case made, or presented to this House at least, to justify this. I know it is the large corporations that are lobbying for this, obviously.
If the threshold to bid is $1 billion or more, then obviously the small companies will all be frozen out and I think our economy will suffer. It is very well known that it is small and medium size enterprises that are the backbone of our economy and we should be very careful about how we deal with them. That is one issue that I promise constituents I will be getting back to, because I think it is the wrong approach.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from . I would first like to congratulate you on your election as Deputy Speaker, as well as congratulate all new members who are sitting in this House for the first time. I too consider it a great honour to be a newly elected member.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents in Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing for placing their trust in me, and choosing me to represent them and defend their interests.
I should also take a moment to thank my husband, Keith, and my children, Mindy and Shawn, for supporting me throughout this journey that has led me to Parliament. I would be remiss if I did not also thank my mother, Simone Pitre, my six sisters and my brother, who never stopped encouraging me.
It is also important to recognize and thank the families of all MPs for their understanding and patience. There are often missed birthdays, anniversaries and other special days for the families of these members, and I want to go on record to indicate how much I appreciate their sacrifice.
During the election, when I travelled across , I was able to meet many of the people for whom I now work. In talking to them, I heard time and again that people are worried about their jobs and the high cost of living. They are worried about their pensions and about not being able to send their kids to school. As I listen to my colleagues speak, I can see that these are universal concerns. These are difficult economic times for all Canadians, my constituents included.
The people of are hard-working, and when they cannot work, they want to be treated fairly. They deserve an employment insurance program that works for them and is not just a cash cow for the government.
is a big riding, and members may be aware that there is not a lot of public transportation. Things that many Canadians take for granted, like the ability to get to work or to a doctor's appointment, can be a big deal for many of my constituents. They rely on automobiles to get around and are subjected to higher gas prices than those in major centres. This is not right. It is hardly fair. The people in my riding have noticed this and they have told me how they feel about it. I have raised it in the House already and I will continue to do so until there is fairness for northerners at the gas pumps. It is too vital a component in our economy to be ignored.
I will turn my attention to the throne speech and the reasons why I will join my New Democrat colleagues in opposing it. After the election and the many assurances from the , Canadians were looking for an effective action plan from the government, but they did not get it. Canadians are looking for hope, for economic security, and they are not receiving it. They are looking for leadership and a plan that will guide us through these tough times, and they are not finding it, not from this government anyway.
However, there is hope. New Democrats have come up with a plan that would keep people working and help those people who want to work find jobs. Our five point plan is designed to help people in all regions and occupations.
First, the government needs to create an economic stimulus package to help protect and create jobs. These are not just jobs in major centres. New Democrats feel the north requires the same opportunity through economic stimulation, if not more. I might add that an economic stimulus will have to flow through aboriginal communities as well.
Where is the money for training and education in these communities? If we want people to work, we have to help them develop the tools to work. We want to see the children in aboriginal communities receive an education on a level playing field when compared to the opportunities available for children in cities and towns across our country, and right now that just is not happening.
Instead, what we see from the government is zero dollars for the integration of technology in schools, zero dollars for school libraries, zero dollars for vocational training in secondary schools, zero dollars for extracurricular sports and recreation activities, and zero dollars for providing students with a diversified and stimulating curriculum such as studies in sports and art. That is a lot of zeroes.
There are consequence to this oversight as well. Because of all of those zeroes, first nations schools are unable to provide competitive salaries and working conditions. Band councils must choose between vital services, making agonizing choices and cutting elsewhere. Worst of all is the inability to provide young people with a quality education, the kind that every child in Canada has the right to expect.
I am proud to have been named my party's associate critic for aboriginal affairs, and I look forward to working with first nations and the member for to make sure the government comes to recognize the good work that can be done if it makes our first nations people the real priority.
We also have to make sure our forestry sector is working. New Democrats, especially those of us from northern Ontario, are worried that the government does not recognize the need to preserve our forestry sector. In northern Ontario, entire towns have been dealt severe blows when a mill closes. Some towns in my riding still have their mills going, but these towns are becoming something of a rarity, and that is just not right.
Second, we need to protect the pensions of those hard-working Canadians who built this country, those Canadians whose shoulders we stand on. We need to ensure that their pensions are protected and that they never again slip into debt and into poverty.
Elliot Lake is a prime example of what can be done with an aging community. Elliot Lake has reinvented itself as a retirement town. It is a place where retirees can go and enjoy their retirement. Many of these seniors move to Elliot Lake because they can take advantage of affordable housing. Retirees are now the economic engine that drives that community and it is largely thanks to pensions. However, Elliot Lake is dependent upon pensions that pay out. Where is the protection from the government for retirees and those who are still working and dreaming of their retirement? It is just not there.
Third, we need to immediately suspend the $7.3 billion corporate tax cuts scheduled to take effect in 2009. It seems ludicrous to give away billions more to profitable corporations while the rest of the economy suffers. Let us face it, the oil companies are not going to leave if we do not give them a few billion dollars in tax breaks. They are going to keep right on drilling. It is money we cannot afford to give away right now, not when we are heading toward deficit budgets.
Fourth, we want to see concrete steps taken to fight climate change. New Democrats see climate change as both a legitimate threat to our prosperity and a golden opportunity to reinvent our economy. By creating green collar jobs, we have the potential to help solve both our problems simultaneously: the economic crisis and the climate crisis. It is not difficult to imagine Canada being a leader on the world stage with our transformation to a green energy superpower.
Fifth, we need to bring in meaningful democratic reform and a more open, accountable and co-operative minority government. There is currently a democratic deficit in our country with millions of Canadians feeling left out of our electoral process. One only has to look at the dismal rate of voter participation to recognize that there is a problem. It is a trend that grows from election to election. Canadians are weary of our current electoral model and with the behaviour of those whom they elect to represent them in this very House.
The New Democrats are eager to work with other parliamentarians so that the House can work meaningfully. We want to ensure that Parliament works for all Canadians, and we are therefore determined to work with the other parties and propose a program that has a good chance of helping Canadians avoid the worst of this difficult economic situation. We want to offer Canadians the hope that better days lie ahead and that they do not have to worry about their pensions or their jobs, about health care or the environment. They want to believe that they can count on us to defend their interests, the interests of ordinary taxpayers, rather than those of shareholders.
The people of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing can count on me. I will be tireless in my efforts to voice their concerns in this House, as well as the concerns of the millions of working families who voted for the NDP. In these uncertain times, middle class and working families can rest assured that our team will make their interests our priority. That is why the people of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing voted for change, and I will not disappoint them.
I could think of no better gift, on this my 50th birthday, than for the government to adopt the five points that New Democrats are proposing. That would be a gift for all of Canada.
Madam Speaker, let me begin my response to the Speech from the Throne by wishing the hon. member who just spoke a very happy birthday. I request that she save some of her birthday cake for when I am finished.
I would also like to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment. I would like to congratulate all the members on their election to the House. I would like to thank my wife, Clile, and sons, Jose, Kevin and Carlos, for working tirelessly on the election campaign to ensure that it was successful. I would like to thank my campaign staff and all the many volunteers and especially my predecessor, Bill Blaikie, the former dean of the House, who dragged me out at six in morning to plant gate at various locations, including Revenue Canada and the CN shops.
I would especially like to thank the people of for placing their trust in me.
Parliament has shrunk the speaking times with respect to the throne speech debate. I reviewed Bill Blaikie's speech from 30 years ago and he referenced that he had 30 minutes. In Manitoba in the last 23 years that I was a member of the Manitoba house we had 40 minute speeches; we have since reduced them to 20 minutes. Therefore, it is going to be very difficult to cover all of the subject matter in only 10 minutes. With that in mind, I have decided to stick with three topics, some issues that I have not heard mentioned by some of the other members at this point that I am aware of.
We enter this House at a time of huge upheaval on a worldwide basis with the economy perhaps in the worst shape it has been since the 1930 Depression. Governments have learned a lot since that time. They know that by injecting massive spending at the appropriate times they can help ease the pain and perhaps even get us through a recession.
There are several ways to deal with the issue. The United States issued cheques, but that really does not work. People simply take that immediate money and buy products that are made in China and it really does not help the economy here that much. I favour an infrastructure approach. I know one can make arguments about it not being immediate enough, but I think that is the way to go. It is investment that benefits Canadians for years to come.
In fact, the balancing of the budget exercise for the last decade, which I was highly supportive of in Manitoba and nationally, has in a way meant delayed infrastructure spending. We have a huge supply of infrastructure catch-up to do and it could not happen at a better time.
In Manitoba we have developed 5,000 megawatts of clean hydroelectric power, which is about one-half of our potential. We export most of it to the United States market because that is where the transmission lines run. They do not run east and west; they run north and south, just like the oil pipelines up to this point in our history. We could develop over the next few years another 5,000 megawatts, or 50% of our total capacity, if the federal government would support an east-west power grid or a hydro superhighway to bring the power east to Ontario and west to Alberta.
On July 3, 2007 the endorsed the plan. In fact he announced a $586 million payment to Ontario as part of the $1.5 billion Canada ecotrust fund. We need the Prime Minister to make this project happen so we can build the energy equivalent to the intercontinental railway that was built in the 1800s to tie this country east and west.
I know that members on the government side from Manitoba are highly supportive of this idea and I wish them well in convincing the to take a strong leadership role in developing this east-west power grid.
We can then build in Manitoba the hydro projects and send the power to Ontario so that Ontario can close its coal plants by the target date of 2014. The coal plants have a capacity of about 6,500 megawatts and therefore, Manitoba is in a strong position to help people in Ontario close those plants.
Instead, what appears to be happening, if we read between the lines of the throne speech, and not even between the lines but right in the throne speech, is that Ontario may be developing nuclear plants. The throne speech on page 11 states that 90% of Canada’s electricity needs will be provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal or wind power by 2020.
Why does the government call nuclear energy clean? Nuclear creates radioactive waste that stays deadly for a million years and it has to be transported and stored. I want to know how clean that can possibly be.
To achieve the government goal, we will need between 8 and 14 new 120 megawatt nuclear reactors. Where will these be built? It could take years to get approvals. I can see local residents rising up in protest wherever these plants are proposed.
Unlike the federal Conservatives in Canada, president-elect Obama is tying investment in clean energy to the creation of millions of jobs. He has set a goal of putting one million domestically built plug-in hybrids on the road and has put an emphasis on the need for energy efficiency and, along with electrification of transportation, hopes to get the U.S. off imported oil. President-elect Obama has also said he wants to expand and upgrade the United States' electrical grid so it can move renewable energy to areas of the country where it is needed.
This is the Obama version of the east-west power grid that I just discussed. When will this power grid be built? When will the take a leadership role on this file? I look forward to seeing some action from the in the next few months.
Page 12 of the throne speech refers to increasing incentives for energy-saving home retrofits. Manitoba Hydro has had the power smart residential loan program for many years, which since 1999 has achieved an estimated 374 megawatts in electrical savings. Participation levels are now over 50,000 people. New retrofit loans hit 40,000 recently. The result is $145 million invested in our homes. Manitoba Hydro is the largest electricity exporter in Canada. Its 2008 annual report shows $625 million in export sales to the U.S.
I am highly recommending another infrastructure project which directly affects my riding of Elmwood--Transcona. The city of Winnipeg is trying to close the Disraeli bridges, which are a major thoroughfare from my constituency to the downtown area. This closure would be one year and four months long. The residents are suitably outraged that the mayor and council would do this and not listen to the 5,000-plus people who have signed petitions for the addition of a new separate, two lane span to this structure which should be built for approximately $50 million, according to the rapid transit report of the city of Winnipeg, with costs shared by the three levels of government, which by the way would be about $17 million for each of the levels of government. This new extra two lane span would be built as soon as possible. Then the existing four lane span would be closed and would be rehabilitated. The city would not be shutting down an area where 100,000 people would be affected. In spite of the traffic chaos this closure will cause, the mayor has charged ahead and refuses to ask the provincial or federal governments for financial help to prevent the complete closure.
I have received an excellent response on this file from the premier of Manitoba, the , who knows the area very well and has represented part of that area provincially, the and my colleague, the member for , whose riding borders mine and will be equally affected by the closure. We have the support of Daryl Reid, the MLA for Transcona, Bonnie Mitchelson, the MLA for River East, and Bidhu Jha, the MLA for Radisson. In addition, we have the support of city councillors Russ Wyatt from Transcona, Jeff Browaty from North Kildonan and Lillian Thomas from Elmwood--East Kildonan, who have all done an excellent job of pushing this issue at city hall.
I call upon all of my colleagues to come together to support a proposal for the federal government and the province of Manitoba to offer the city a share of the money needed to construct the extra two lanes.
The announced a $70 million contribution in June as part of a three way cost share with the city of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan to construct a Saskatoon bridge which is six lanes and will only carry 20,000 cars a day. The current Disraeli, with only four lanes, carries 42,000 cars a day.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the hon. member for .
It is a great honour and privilege for me to be standing in this place once again representing the wonderful riding of . I want to take a moment to thank the people of my riding for their continued confidence in me and especially the volunteers who put in many hours to achieve the success that we had. I am aware of the tremendous support and the tremendous responsibility that has once again been bestowed upon me.
In my riding, we can study and understand rural Canada like nowhere else. Words that define the riding include: history, agriculture, manufacturing, industry, culture, security, trade, natural resources, forestry and economic development. History would include such large scale and well-known assets as the Rideau Canal, which is a world heritage site, and Fort Wellington with its own unique story. Just down the road near Kingston is Fort Henry.
Each community in has its own significant historical assets as well, far too many to list. Our agricultural community includes everything from supply managed products, such as chicken, eggs, dairy, to those outside supply management, such as corn, vegetables and beef. Our manufacturing, industrial, forestry and natural resources sectors, although hard hit by global change, as in many other ridings in Canada, are still important employers and producers.
Just last week I attended an important event for a new industrial plant that accepted its first shipment of raw material and will soon have its grand opening. Over the past number of years, I have been pleased to work with and support the UNESCO recognized Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve that is bringing new value and interest to my riding and to those in the surrounding areas. This is all part of the beautiful Thousand Islands.
Despite its relatively small population compared to its size, boasts an expanding and vibrant arts and cultural community that attracts people from a wide area to visit and to work in the riding.
People in my riding are concerned with trade and with security. Much of the manufacturing that takes place produces goods that are shipped outside of Canada. Trade and expansion of trading partners is vital to the continued success of those industries. I have two border crossings in my riding that lead to the urban concentrations of our largest trading partner, the United States. As well as trade, the residents of my riding use these bridges to visit friends and often relatives on the other side of the border. Security and open borders are important to .
Finally, especially in these times of economic change, the riding relies on continued sustainable, innovative economic development and this development has been supported in the past by the federal government through the work of the Community Futures Development Corporations and by FedNor.
The final ingredients in the riding are the ones that make it a truly unique and remarkable place, the families who live, work and choose to raise their families there, the seniors who choose to live out their golden years in our paradise and the communities that they all foster by being part of the area.
It is because of the support and responsibility that these families, these seniors and these communities have given me, the support and responsibility that I spoke of a few minutes ago, that I was so pleased to hear in the Speech from the Throne delivered by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean just last week. It spoke to the lives, the hopes and the aspirations of the people in my riding of .
In my limited time, I want to touch on some of the elements of the throne speech that my constituents support. During the summer and during the campaign, I explained to my constituents that our government had taken early and substantial action to prepare for the current economic problems because we saw it coming. From lower taxes to incentives for manufacturers, to protection for farmers, to increased trade, to reducing the national debt, there are a number of areas where our government has acted and acted well in advance of this fall's economic meltdown.
The Speech from the Throne pledged to work internationally to reform the global finance system and to work with our allies and trading partners to re-examine and renew the rules that support the global financial system, and they are welcome news indeed.
I know the residents of would like to see Canada share our financial rules with the rest of the world so that the situation can be avoided in the future.
Over the past few weeks, I have been receiving emails and letters from constituents who are concerned about Canada going into deficit. They want a guarantee that large continued deficits such as we have seen in the past are not on the table as a viable option. They are heartened to note that the government has paid down some $37 billion on the national debt, which gives us the lowest debt to GDP levels in the G-7.
Contrary to what we hear sometimes in this House, folks in my riding are not concerned that the government is no longer racking up $12 billion surpluses. They know that surplus is merely excess taxation. It is not free money for the government to play with. They know that our government has given these large surpluses back to Canadians in the form of tax reductions and needed services.
They will also be pleased to see that our government is continuing our examination of every government program and expenditure to ensure that we are receiving value for our money and we are spending on programs that make sense for Canadians.
is like many other ridings in the industrial heartland of Canada in that it has participated in the restructuring of the manufacturing industries. This could be devastating news except for our government's commitment to retraining and helping older workers and younger workers gain the skills they need to move on in the workforce, a commitment that is once again restated in the Speech from the Throne.
The speech also reiterates our government's commitment to the skilled trades with encouragement for workers and employees. We have already taken steps to assist them with tax breaks and we will be taking more in the near future, as we promised during the election campaign.
This past spring and summer, we saw an unprecedented rise in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel, followed by a spectacular fall.
is a rural riding. It is almost impossible to live without a vehicle because public transportation does not exist as it does in large urban areas. Hundreds of people travel every day to get to their jobs. Goods have to be moved from place to place within the riding but they have to arrive in the riding by truck. Many other people work in the transportation industry. In an emergency, we do not talk about being blocks away from a hospital or a fire hall, we talk about kilometres, even travelling to another community.
In short, the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel affects the day-to-day lives of the residents of and they have no other options. That is why the residents of Leeds—Grenville rejected a carbon tax and why the residents of Leeds—Grenville will always reject a carbon tax. Their daily lives rely on gasoline, diesel and other energy.
Residents of are also concerned about energy. They want our energy sources to be secure and they want to be able to budget for their energy use. They want their government to help secure our energy.
The residents of my riding are also concerned about the environment. They do what they can to reduce the amount of energy they use because it is the right thing to do, but there is only so much that they can do on their own. They will be pleased to see that our renewed commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada continues. They will be pleased to know that we will work on their behalf to find ways to tackle climate change both institutionally and by finding ways that they can participate and do their part without causing them grave economic distress.
What others do not do, the folks in my riding expect the governments and authorities will take steps to ensure that they can move forward in a positive way. They seem to be happy with what is in the throne speech. Our government has, from the beginning, vowed to keep our country safe by strengthening the sentences in the justice system for serious criminal offences, and I am pleased to see that this was once again restated in the throne speech.
I would continue in much greater detail with my words today but I wanted to express something of the background of my riding, which I think I have been able to do that, and of the people who live and work there and explain why, as hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, they and I are supporting the Speech from the Throne.
Madam Speaker, I am extremely honoured to rise in the House today to speak to the government's Speech from the Throne.
First, please indulge me for a moment while I take this opportunity to thank my family for all their support during this past election, my wife, Carol Ann, and my three daughters, Kari, Taryl, Shelby, and their significant others for providing unwavering support and encouragement.
I want to thank my campaign team, volunteers, the donors and the riding association executive for all the tremendous work and effort they put into the recent campaign.
Most important, I have to recognize and support the constituents of Prince Edward—Hastings and thank them for reaffirming their trust in me to serve as their representative in Ottawa.
Today, when I look across the House, and during QP, I congratulate all the returning members of Parliament and the new MPs. I look forward to participating with each and every one of them as we hopefully put aside our partisan interests and focus on the real priorities that matter to Canadians.
We recognize it is the economy right now, both globally and nationally, and it is a justifiable worry for all Canadians. Our government has demonstrated its readiness by outlining a five-pronged approach for ensuring Canada's economic security, including the reforming of global finance, sound budgeting practices, ensuring jobs for families, expanding free trade and investment and implementing measures to make government more effective.
The Canadian government is providing leadership in the international financial system by proactively putting in place sound practices that have protected Canadians from the worst of the current global economic crisis. The government has done much in the last few years to create solid fiscal fundamentals by introducing responsible budget and implementing significant debt repayment and tax cuts that have helped the average consumer and kept the Canadian buoyant amid troubled international waters.
Going forward, we are and continue to work with the G-20 leaders to re-examine the rules and institutions that underpin the entire global financial system. Our government has stated its intention to also work internally with the provinces to put in place the common securities regulatory.
As the member of Parliament for Prince Edward—Hastings, I am proud and honoured to represent what I believe to be one of the most beautiful ridings in southern Ontario, and there are many. It is an extremely diverse area though for those who have had the opportunity to travel through. We encompass the rural towns of North Hastings, the urban growth of the city of Belleville, the proud home of the Mohawk First Nations people to the rich fertile farmlands of Prince Edward County, or the county as everybody who is there affectionately calls it.
Within the area there exists a microcosm of Canada representing urban development, manufacturing, small business, industry, farming, tourism and first nations.
I will focus on a few of the priorities outlined in the throne speech and the benefits to ridings like mine and others as we go forward building on our last mandate.
I and the government realize that the economy is not an isolated entity based simply on numbers and figures. The economy is based on a real priority, and that is people. As presented in the throne speech, the government continues to commit itself to helping Canadian families, the communities and businesses that employ them.
I have and continue to believe that education is the key to the success of individuals, their families and their communities. The government has recognized this by proposing a new consolidated Canada student grant program to take effect in the fall of 2009. I am also pleased to see that our government is working to ensure aboriginal people have access to the same educational opportunities as other Canadians.
We are also working hard to respond to the needs of farmers. We know that a state of severe economic hardship exists in the livestock, the cattle and the hog sectors and changes are being made to the agricultural act. I believe they are sincerely going to help relieve the situation. The government is implementing its new growing forward programs aimed at building agriculture for the future to support Canada's farmers and the agricultural sector.
A thriving business environment is also integral to our continued success, not only in Prince Edward—Hastings but in the whole country.
Through “Advantage Canada”, our economic plan and recent budgets, we have made significant progress toward creating a business environment aimed at promoting long-term investment, innovation and job creation across all sectors of the Canadian economy. Our government has already cut taxes to lower costs for businesses, to help them compete and create jobs. By 2012-13 the Government of Canada will have provided more than $9 billion in tax relief to the manufacturing sector.
In the riding of , owners of small businesses and people in the tourism business in Prince Edward county have benefited greatly from the reduction of the GST.
Through our government's unprecedented building Canada plan, we are providing long term stable and predictable funding to meet infrastructure needs across Canada, realizing that modernized infrastructure contributes to a stronger economy as well as a cleaner environment.
In alone gas tax rebates have totalled approximately $15 million. These are funds that are helping to meet the infrastructure requirements of municipalities across this riding and across the country.
Canada's prosperity depends not just on meeting the challenges of today, but more important, on building the dynamic economy that will create opportunities and better jobs for Canadians in the future.
Our government has stated that it will work with industry to apply the best Canadian scientific and technological expertise to create innovative business solutions.
We have already seen a prime example of our government's commitment in my riding with the biopharmaceutical company, Bioniche Life Sciences. Bioniche received federal funding over the years, including $15 million in repayable funding loans to help develop a breakthrough vaccine for cattle. It will help reduce the proliferation of a dangerous strain of e.Coli.
As a long-time former business owner, I am very aware of how cost effective business practices are an imperative key to success. I am proud to say that our government understands that and is committed to incorporating modern business practices that focus less on process and more on results while keeping government spending prioritized and under control. Canadian taxpayers deserve nothing less.
Canadian taxpayers also deserve to see the future of our true north protected. Our government is committed to the Arctic and is strengthening Canada's sovereignty and protecting our environmental heritage while taking action to address the unique challenges and opportunities we face there through our integrated northern strategy plan.
This is an issue close to my heart, and in June 2008 I introduced a private member's bill designed to further protect the Canadian sovereignty of the Arctic. The motion asked that the water passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans be simply renamed the Canadian Northwest Passage. This term clearly acknowledges our historic and our sovereign heritage.
The government understands that Canada's economic prosperity cannot be sustained without a healthy environment, just as environmental progress cannot be achieved without a healthy economy. The government has committed to reducing Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and is working with the provinces and our international partners to implement realistic and achievable goals toward that end.
One of the benefits of a secured economic future is our opportunity to become homeowners and to have affordable housing. Our government wants to ensure that. Working through CMHC, we have committed to purchasing up to $75 billion in insured mortgage pools by the end of the fiscal year.
I certainly remember when Carol Ann and I built our first home. I know it is an exciting time for young couples, and I am pleased to see that our government is committed to helping Canadians realize their dreams can become a reality.
Our government is supporting many Canadians with housing needs and is fulfilling its commitment to helping those seeking to break free of the cycle of homelessness and poverty, and 505 projects across Canada received funding in the amount of $150 million under the government's homeless partnering strategy. In over $2 million were awarded to contributing partners.
Canadians need to be assured that they are safe in their homes and their communities. We will take tough action against crime and work with our partners. The safety and security of Canadians is of utmost priority and, as such, we will continue moving forward on our tackling crime agenda.
As a member of the legislative committee for the Tackling Violent Crimes Act, I was able to see first-hand the government's commitment to the safety of Canadians. Safety also means national security and our security ultimately depends on the respect for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
We are rebuilding our Canadian Forces. We owe it to our military men and women to make sure they are using effective and up-to-date equipment.
I look forward to working with all members as we strengthen our position and ensure that we as Canadians emerge as a stronger and more united people than before.
Madam Speaker, I have the honour of sharing my time with the member for .
I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to speak now. Naturally, I would like to take a moment to thank the people of Chambly—Borduas, who elected me for the third time by a margin of over 21,000 votes. I wanted to point that out because they did not just vote for me; they expressed their confidence in the Bloc Québécois, its work here, and the priorities we champion every time we rise in the House of Commons. I would like to reassure my constituents, who placed their confidence in me, that I will work hard on their behalf, just as I promised.
Recent comments made by two of our Conservative colleagues suggest that the throne speech is out of touch with what is going on in most ridings, including their own. My Conservative colleague's most recent remarks reveal that their ridings have the same problems as ours. Yet the throne speech did not acknowledge those needs.
Two-thirds of the members from Quebec belong to the Bloc. Clearly, Quebec voters wanted nothing to do with the Conservatives' proposals. Yet the Conservatives resuscitated those very proposals in the throne speech even though 78% of Quebeckers rejected them. In addition to the 49 Bloc members I mentioned, there are also 14 Liberal members and one New Democrat. The Conservative Party has lost a member. If this were a football game—these being the playoffs—the score is now 65 to 10. That is what I call a thrashing.
Quebeckers gave the Conservatives such a thrashing because they wanted nothing to do with the Conservatives' proposals. Yet those very proposals are in the throne speech. The Conservatives continue to make cuts to culture. For Quebec, this represents 314,000 jobs, 16,000 in my own riding. They continue to want to impose a repressive young offenders law. Quebec already has a specific law to prevent crime. They continue to want to create a single federal securities commission. They do not even mention the word “Kyoto”. They continue to want to reduce Quebec's weight within the Canadian federation. They promise to interfere further in Quebec's jurisdictions, such as health and education. There is nothing about the fiscal imbalance. Part of the fiscal imbalance was corrected thanks to the Bloc's efforts in this House, but there is still a long way to go. They continue to want to support nuclear energy and unbridled military spending.
All that is in the throne speech, even though Quebec roundly rejected the Conservatives' proposals. What the Conservatives propose for the rest of Canada is their own business. They have a majority elsewhere. But they did not understand Quebeckers' message at all.
We want to be positive. We are going to tell them that if they did not understand, we will come back again with realistic measures designed to work for the regions represented by all the members here. The Conservatives have even strongly encouraged us to give them suggestions. The Bloc has therefore proposed ways of addressing this economic crisis.
We believe it is time to act, and we have the means to act—
Thank you, Madam Speaker. So, the government has, in fact, over $27 billion in leeway, and $23 billion of that could be allocated to the economic crisis, and the other $4 billion—plus several hundred million—to set up a secure reserve fund.
Where would this money come from? First of all, there is the whole business of tax havens. Then there is the business of the oil companies and the privileged treatment they get, as well as savings in the costs of operating the governmental machinery—but with no layoffs.
I will remind hon. members that Ottawa's financial assets, from March 31, 2008 to this point in time, are $176 billion.
In a nutshell, our plan calls for immediate measures with no cost to the budget, measures for business but also for individuals, as I have said a little earlier.
Now, for the surplus. There is a $3.8 billion surplus in 2008-09. A $1 billion deficit is forecast for 2009-10, and a $4.4 billion surplus for 2010-11. This is worth pointing out so that people know just where we stand at the moment.
The surpluses are spread over three years, and the breathing room which once was $16.9 billion—essentially, $17 billion—has decreased to $7 billion, a reduction of $9.7 billion. That is basically $10 billion over the past three years, in part because that the government reduced the GST. The government voluntarily reduced its revenues. We have to start from there.
Bureaucratic expenses could be reduced by almost $7 billion. These expenses reached $74 billion given the increases over the past nine years. The additional rules would also have to be applied more stringently over two years.
When it comes to tax havens, we must again look at the tax situation of the oil companies. There is $6 billion for the next two years. And, as I said earlier, government assets provide significant breathing room in this, as well.
I will stop there, although we could delve even further into the details. If the government had done its homework as it should have, it would have also invested in what I would call the social safety net for the people who are the hardest hit by this crisis, particularly the unemployed—both those currently unemployed and those who will be in the future. And so, we are asking the government to seriously evaluate and analyze the proposal that we have put forward.