The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, one issue not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, in an area where serious recalibration is necessary, is with regard to the use of security certificates in Canada. We are seeing security certificates overturned and quashed by the courts.
The latest was on December 14 when Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada quashed the security certificate against Hassan Almrei. Mr. Almrei had been detained on an Immigration and Refugee Protection Act security certificate since 2001 as an alleged terrorism suspect.
The most recent certificate was issued in February 2008 signed by the and the then Minister of Public Safety, who is now the . That is eight years in jail, never having been charged, tried or convicted of a crime. It is still hard to believe that is possible in Canada.
Justice Mosley, in quashing the certificate against Mr. Almrei, noted that he “was not a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe has engaged in terrorism”. That is a very serious conclusion.
However, there is another aspect of Justice Mosley's decision that is also very serious. As part of the judgment, he also ruled that the and the former Minister of Public Safety were in violation of their duty of candour to the court, noting that they had failed to provide full information on the case to the court and that they did not fully review all the information available about the case when they signed the security certificate against Mr. Almrei in 2008.
This is extremely troubling given the extraordinary circumstances of security certificates which suspend the usual process of justice in Canada. The security certificate allows for the indefinite detention without charge, trial or conviction; it withholds evidence from the accused and his or her lawyer; and it prevents even the special advocates who do get to review all the evidence from communicating with the accused about specific details or allegations. It works in camera, in secret.
Given the extraordinary circumstances under which a security certificate is used, Judge Mosley points out that the government, CSIS and the ministers signing the security certificate must present all the evidence at their disposal, even that which is unfavourable to their case. He notes that in this case the certificate was:
--assembled with information that could only be construed as unfavourable to Almrei without any serious attempt to include information to the contrary, or to update their assessment.
The judge found the ministers in breach of their duty of candour to the court. It should be pointed out that he also, similarly, found CSIS to have breached its duties.
New Democrats have long held that the security certificate process should be repealed. We feared exactly what has taken place, that the process would not be used appropriately and that due diligence would not be done, that there would be an abuse of these extraordinary powers. The government must respond to this judgment and this situation. I happen to believe personally that this matter is so serious that both ministers should be removed from cabinet and the use of security certificates should be suspended given the failures of these ministers.
Recalibration was the word used by the government to describe the need for prorogation. Serious recalibration and serious accountability measures are needed especially in light of this abuse of the security certificate process.
The Speech from the Throne provided no recalibration. It was just more of the same. There is no coherent vision of how to protect or create jobs for Canadians. The government could have made choices to ensure all Canadians benefit in an economic recovery, but it chose not to.
There is no movement to stop the corporate tax giveaway that diverts billions from lifting seniors out of poverty or helping women and children. There will be $6 billion more given to profitable corporations, big banks and big oil companies, which is especially ironic when the banks are announcing record profits.
There is no tangible commitment on climate change. The government called climate change one of the most important challenges but offered no plan to address it, other than deregulating and speeding up tar sands development and ending the role of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
There is no new commitment to public transit. The government could have chosen to dedicate 1¢ per litre of the gas tax to public transit. There is no national housing program and no new affordable housing or homelessness commitment. There was silence on health care. There was nothing significant on child care. There was nothing on pay equity and there was no commitment to fair trade. Instead, the outrageous free trade deal with Colombia is the first thing that is back on the agenda.
Sadly, this is yet another disappointing agenda from the government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with my friend and colleague, the hon. member for , whose riding is second to none.
I would first and foremost like to congratulate our athletes for the superb job they did in Vancouver. The pride that we experienced as an entire country as we watched these superb men and women in their quest for excellence was truly humbling. We truly have reached a milestone, both through their achievements and as hosts of these winter games. That pride continues to grow as we watch our Paralympic athletes take on the world. We are all cheering them on as they strive for the top of the podium.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer a reply to the Speech from the Throne because I feel, as do a great number of Canadians and constituents in my riding of Davenport, that the government missed an opportunity to address issues that are important to Canadians, and by this I mean issues from housing to homelessness, public transit, child care, the environment, creating green jobs, the arts and seniors' concerns.
Most clearly, the Speech from the Throne demonstrated that the government's most recent prorogation was not about recalibrating its agenda but about missed opportunities. A Latin proverb states, “History repeats itself”, but opportunity does not.
While we were prorogued, a number of major international events took place and Canadians would have preferred that their parliamentarians had been here at work and dealing with these troubling times. On January 12, the people of Haiti were struck by a terrible earthquake where entire cities were destroyed and an already struggling society was once again set back. We all watched with undivided attention as the relief efforts unfolded. We have still not been able to understand the full extent of the devastation in Haiti before we took action.
The response of our soldiers and our workers was remarkable. Canadians stood together in unwavering resolve and opened their hearts, their homes and their wallets, all in an effort to contribute to the relief efforts. There are multiple challenges facing Haiti and I hope we can work with the Haitian government and the people to deal with these challenges.
I cannot help but think, however, that so much more might have been accomplished had parliamentarians been in Ottawa, working together regardless of party affiliation, to speed the process further or define more and better ways to help the aid make its way to Haiti.
One such measure might have been to send a major Canadian figure as an envoy to Haiti. We lost a valuable opportunity to send a champion on behalf of the country. We missed a great opportunity to find and use someone whose prestige would bring together both private and non-governmental organizations in an effort to make a real and lasting difference in the relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti.
Both the United States and Brazil, the other two countries leading the relief effort, appointed special envoys to Haiti to deal with the crisis. The United States called on the service of two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to direct those efforts. The decision was not a partisan one. It was a human one. Those two Americans, regardless of political stripe, fostered an effective and lasting partnership with the Haitian community.
Canada has a wealth of former statespeople who could have been called upon. Why did we not call upon former prime ministers, like Paul Martin, Jean Chrétien, Kim Campbell, Joe Clark or even Brian Mulroney, to fulfill this position for us?
On February 20, flood waters crashed through the Portuguese Islands of Madeira killing 42 people, injuring hundreds and causing billions of dollars worth of damage. This is another event that took place when we were prorogued.
I had the opportunity to speak with a number of members of the Portuguese Canadian community and express my deepest condolences. We lost the chance to express our deepest condolences as a nation from this venerable place and, moreover, there was no opportunity for us to discuss what we could do as international leaders to help in this time of need.
Unfortunately, tragedy also struck in Chile just before Parliament resumed. It was with truly heavy hearts that we watched a terrible force of nature destroy so many communities.
Last week I attended a vigil at Queen's Park in Toronto where members of the Chilean community were asking the government to also match, dollar for dollar, the contributions that have been made, as it did in Haiti for the relief efforts. I encourage the government to do so.
Canada is an international leader and, as an international leader, people around the world look to Canada in times of need for guidance and assistance. The Parliament of Canada is the foremost institution of our nation and when there is no one to answer, to lend support or to speak to the world, we lose our role as leaders.
In order to no longer miss these opportunities, our priority should be institutional reform. Parliament is a venerable institution. In this place, we have achieved so much, from universal health care to the Canada pension plan.
Our party has asked that the give 10 days written notice and specific reasons should he intend to seek prorogation. This would give Parliament the opportunity to debate the merits of prorogation. We have also suggested that Parliament should not be prorogued within a year of a Speech from the Throne unless Parliament consents. Prorogation should not be a way to avoid scrutiny, so it cannot be used to escape a confidence motion or committee work.
We took an important step forward with yesterday's motion to require the to seek a resolution from Parliament to prorogue for more than seven days, I would ask that the Prime Minister also respect the will of this House.
The Speech from the Throne did not truly address the realities that seniors face today. While a seniors' day is welcome recognition of the contributions that our greatest generations have made for us, without the substance to make a significant difference, it does not amount to much more than another day. What is another day to low income seniors who spend over 55% of their income on food and shelter? When we take into account extra expenses, such as health care, clothing and transportation, times are becoming increasingly difficult for seniors. This becomes even more urgent when we consider that the percentage of Canadians over 65 years of age is expected to double in the coming 30 years.
Seniors in Canada are worried and, overwhelmingly, do not believe that their interests are being considered by the government. During a round table, one of the suggestions our caucus made was for the creation of a supplementary Canada pension plan that would enable Canadians to invest more for their retirement. Constituents in my riding of Davenport have told me that they support these measures, so I do not see why the government refused to act on this plan.
The Speech from the Throne also did not take jobs into account. Where are the green jobs? Green jobs are the jobs of the future. They are the single greatest and most sustainable way for us to make an investment in our future. Especially coming out of the recent economic crisis, we should, now more than ever, start preparing for the jobs we will need in the future, the way that countries across the world are already doing.
We see that countries, like Brazil, are ahead of the curve. They have emerged from the recession and are now emphasizing environmentally friendly public policies and job creations through hydroelectric development.
In my own riding of Davenport, the government has a perfect opportunity to take action in this regard for the much needed electrification and expansion of rail routes.
Our caucus developed a number of suggestions going forward to deal with job creations. We have acknowledged that there is a major problem when the youth unemployment rate is double that of the overall unemployment rate. Canadian youth are looking to us now to help them earn money for school and to get extra experience in the fields in which they are training, just as we will look to them soon as the leaders of our country and the captains of our industries.
Canadian entrepreneurs are looking to us to help foster innovation. If we can lend any assistance to these small businesses, we will be helping them to create the jobs that we will need in the future and we will be establishing a strong Canadian brand. We have identified the need and now we need to move forward and take action on this now, instead of waiting for it to become a larger problem in the future.
We must not miss the opportunity to continue to be a leader in the human rights field. Canada has a long and proud heritage of being a beacon around the world for the pursuit of human rights. While not mentioned in the throne speech, we need to renew our commitment to protect human rights at home, as well as in our approach to international relations. We cannot just say that we will stand up for what is right. We must demonstrate to the world that we are starting here at home.
Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne was full of spin and very light on substance. When the called on the Governor General to prorogue Parliament and give himself three months off, he claimed he needed time to recalibrate. Yet when we came back and heard Her Excellency deliver the speech, it was really full of rehashed ideas.
The speech lacked vision. Something that really stuck out in my mind was the lack of investment in the middle class and the fact there was really no plan for job creation. In fact, the government subsequently imposed a $13 billion job-killing payroll tax in the budget, which will have a devastating impact on all Canadians, particularly in my riding of .
In its reply to the Speech from the Throne, the Liberal Party has proposed an amendment to reflect our wish that Her Excellency not be burdened with future excessive requests for prorogation. I hope the government takes that into consideration.
I would like to give some context of how we got here. How did we arrive at a point where we have had four speeches from the throne in four years? While the government and wanted three months off to recalibrate, all we received when we returned was a potential change to O Canada and, fundamentally, the status quo.
Back in December 2009, the government was being rocked by the Afghan detainee controversy. It was really desperate to avoid accountability. When confronted with the serious allegations on the issue, the decided to do what he does best: He shut down Parliament. Again, in a crisis, he realized that he was in trouble, so he asked the Governor General to prorogue the House of Commons.
This was further validated by a remark made by his former chief of staff Tom Flanagan:
I think his problem is that the government's talking points really don't have much credibility. Everybody knows that Parliament was prorogued in order to shut down the Afghan inquiry, and the trouble is that the government doesn't want to explain why that was necessary.
There were rallies across the country against prorogation. Canadians, including angry constituents of mine and across the country, were coming out regardless of their political affiliation and signing petitions and engaging on the issue, trying to demonstrate clearly to the government that this was completely unacceptable.
I realized just a few days ago that the has a love for social media. He was on YouTube. I hope he also had an opportunity to visit a Facebook website that has over 220,000 individuals against prorogation and read the comments and thoughts on his actions when it comes to prorogation.
On January 25, when we were supposed to be in the House of Commons, my colleagues and I and the were here in Ottawa. We were doing what we should have been doing, that is, working on behalf of our constituents and Canadians. We organized well over 30 round tables, featuring a whole range of discussions on issues that matter to Canadians. This was done before and after the Olympics. We put forward concrete proposals and solutions before the Speech from the Throne and the budget to demonstrate that we were working and, more importantly, that we had concrete ideas to help advance the agenda for Canadians.
We recognize that we sit in a House of Commons with a minority government. In that situation, we would have thought the government would take upon itself the ideas we had presented and incorporate them into the budget and the Speech from the Throne. Unfortunately, it did not respect the will of the House, whose majority is comprised of opposition parties.
As I said before, we have had four speeches from the throne in four years. In my opinion, the root cause of this particular pattern is the fact the government really lacks accountability. It is running and hiding whenever it can. Sadly, it is an example of a pattern that Canadians are all too well aware of. I am going to cite some examples that will illustrate this point when it comes to accountability.
The government fired the nuclear whistleblower, Linda Keen, for her warnings about the Chalk River reactor. As president of a quasi-judicial organization who was doing her job to look out for the best interests of Canadians and to promote safety, she was fired for being critical and honest and upfront with the government.
The government also refused to renew the contract of the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner, Paul Kennedy, after he was critical of it. That is another example of another individual being refused or ultimately pushed aside. It also shut down the Military Police Complaints Commission before Richard Colvin was set to appear, and failed to renew the contract of the commissioner, Peter Tinsley.
Unfortunately, I also saw first hand that the government had a book, a dirty tricks manual, to grind parliamentary committee business to a halt. I saw this firsthand in my committee, when the government would play games to avoid accountability.
The government also withheld information from the elections commissioner, which necessitated a police raid on the Conservative Party headquarters.
It also refused to provide adequate funding for the independence of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is very clearly doing his job and, of course, time and time again his numbers have consistently refuted the government's numbers, and the budget officer has questioned the credibility of the government's numbers in accounting and forecasting. Again, the government has marginalized him and his office.
The government also attacked the public servant Richard Colvin for doing his public duty to truthfully respond to questions from Parliament.
I digress a bit, but another broken promise was clearly with respect to the upper House, the Senate. The government promised only to appoint elected senators, but we have seen in the past few weeks that recalibration was really about appointing a whole new set of senators.
The government promised never to raise taxes. On that I give the example of the EI payroll tax increase, which is a job killer. Furthermore, the government broke its promise on income trusts, and raised personal income taxes when it came to power.
Thus there is this consistent pattern of lack of accountability when it comes to the government. This is really the root cause of why we had the Speech from the Throne. As I said, it is the fourth one in four years.
I could go on with many other examples, but the government has a pathological aversion to accountability. It holds our institutions in contempt and tries systematically to undermine public authority, while increasing the power and control over an already over-centralized PMO. It is no wonder that it produced a Speech from the Throne that offers nothing for the middle class or on creating jobs.
What is missing from the Speech from the Throne? What elements are fundamentally missing that should have been included? Despite its extraordinary length, the speech contained no specific measures to create jobs or to help the middle class, as I said before. It had no specific investments for research and development and had nothing new on clean energy.
Of course, the government is going to continue to invest in clean energy, but it has cancelled our eco-energy program and has ensured that we are well behind other countries in terms of investments in this particular sector. In fact, China has invested far more in green technology and in creating green jobs than Canada.
There was nothing on pensions. Even though this is supposed to be a priority, the government said it wanted to consult Canadians. Again, it is punting the issue and dragging its feet.
However, we have put forward concrete proposals when it comes to pensions. We were very clear about our proposals in the letter we sent in advance of the budget and the Speech from the Throne. This is an issue that is a cause of concern to many Canadians. It comes up time and time again and it was missing from the Speech from the Throne.
There was nothing on culture. Can one imagine a Speech from the Throne with nothing in it on culture, and nothing on dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans?
The key issue for me is the fact the government should be dealing with the number one issue, the economy. Its $13 billion payroll tax is in sharp contrast to creating jobs. In fact, numerous independent sources, like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, have indicated that this particular measure will kill over 200,000 jobs.
I want to quote the National Post, which I think fundamentally summarizes my position on the Speech from the Throne. It stated that:
the [Prime Minister's] government used just 740 words last year to set the stage for its $56-billion deficit. Yesterday it needed more than 6,000 words to prepare us for the next stage. Yet we still have only the vaguest notion of what specific actions will be taken to get Canada's economy back in balance.
The Speech from the Throne is all about rhetoric, spin and gimmicks. The government is not accountable. I have listed a whole range of examples on that. Unfortunately, the government has done very little to help my constituents, the middle class and to create jobs.
Madam Speaker, talk about rhetoric. The hon. member stated in his address that his party held some round tables. While we out in our ridings consulting with Canadians, the Liberals were holding round tables because they were afraid to be back in their ridings.
Despite all these round tables, when the throne speech was brought forward by the and the budget, the Liberal Party did not even move a simple amendment to the budget, something that is standard around this place. The party brought nothing forward.
When the Liberals had an opportunity to have their issues or policies debated for a full day in the House, they spent the entire day talking about the fact that they actually had no ideas. They want us to stop advertising and they want us to stop consulting with their constituents because they have no ideas.
The Liberals have no ideas on the environment, the budget, on how to get Canadians back to work, creating jobs, job growth, protecting Canadians, national defence or natural resources.
The member was critical in his speech, but he did not provide one solution, one thing that the Liberals would do differently.
It is remarkable that after all this time in government, there has been one vote of non-confidence, which the government survived. We have had two minority governments now that have lasted longer than most other ones.
The member should be proud of—
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to the Speech from the Throne, delivered by Her Excellency the Governor General. I will be splitting my time with the member for .
The throne speech described t these times of both “great uncertainty and great optimism”. Where there are uncertainties, there are bound to be opportunities, which is also where optimism is often found.
The global financial crisis has no doubt dampened the spirits of our nation and left us in the dark for a while, but Canadians proved ourselves to be a people of strength and resilience, who remain true to our identity even in the midst of turbulence. Although the dark cloud of the global recession has not yet left us completely, Canadians know that we have weathered the storm very well and should be proud of our achievements thus far. Through it all, we have not forgotten some of the core values that make us Canadian. We continue to welcome newcomers on to Canadian soil and foster the growth of our next generation.
We are a country of immigrants. In the throne speech, the Governor General stated that, “To be Canadian is to show the world that people drawn from every nation can live in harmony”.
I believe Richmond is a great example of this. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a peace and harmony forum, where children and young adults sang and recited scriptures from the Bible, chapters from the Koran, quotes from Confucius and other great thinkers and verses from famous poets. This is the mosaic we proudly present to the world.
I represent a riding of this great diversity. Richmond is a beautiful city, where people from a wide spectrum of ethnic backgrounds live and work. Our country's diversity is one of our strengths. I cannot think of any other country in the world that is so accommodating and so generous to those who want to call this great nation of ours home. Thousands of people each year come to Canada to make a better life for themselves and their families.
The government certainly recognizes the importance of new immigrants to Canada. We are committed to a system that will provide the best opportunities for newcomers to succeed, while protecting the interest of all Canadian citizens. The pan-Canadian framework for the assessment and recognition of foreign credentials is part of the government's strategy to bring the best workforce in the world to the Canadian job market.
Since 2009, the government has committed over $50 million over two years through the Canada economic action plan to develop this framework. Going forward, the government will continue to work with the provinces and territories to strengthen recognition of foreign credentials through the framework to help internationally trained workers and professionals put their training and knowledge to work in Canada as soon as possible.
On the flip side, the government also recognizes the severity of unscrupulous immigration consultants and their negative impact on our immigration system. In March 2009, the hon. announced a public information campaign to combat immigration fraud and to warn the public against unscrupulous consultants.
Following a year of hard work, the hon. minister announced in February of this year that the government would launch a package to reform the regulation of immigration consultants, which will include severe penalties for those who commit fraud. Clearly, the government is on the right track in protecting the integrity of our immigration system and the welfare of all Canadians.
Canada's economic action plan is working. Job protection and creation are Canada's top priorities. That is why we have continued to weather the economic storm with Canada's economic action plan. This plan is working in Richmond. Tax dollars are being prudently invested in projects that will benefit the public, such as making people's commutes on Highway 99 quicker with the bus lane expansion, or ensuring people's water and sewage systems are maintained to the excellent standards in one of the cleanest urban watersheds in the country.
The people of Richmond and the neighbourhood will also continue to enjoy a better life resulting from other projects, such as improved community centres and swimming pools, the green pathway on the dike and the library of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University to name just a few. Besides the public sectors, industries and businesses are starting to hire. Jobs have been created and the numbers will keep growing.
I cannot refrain from talking about the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Games. Richmond was an Olympic host city and is the location of the Olympic Oval, a world-class long track speed skating venue. We have welcomed the world and boasted with the Canada Line. Our airport, the YVR, also world class, is the most accessible.
Canada was witness to athletic excellence and Canadian athletes inspired us all with their determination and skill. The Canadian Paralympic curling team is skipped by Jim Armstrong, who is currently joined by another Richmond resident, Darryl Neighbour, on the team. Also, Richmond is the home of Rick Hansen and Alexa Loo.
However, we cannot rest on our accomplishments. We must continue to build our skills for future competitions. I am not only referring to athletic competitions, but the competition of other hands and minds.
Now I would like to comment on job creation and fostering the next generation of working Canadians. In the throne speech, Her Excellency aptly pointed out that, “The success of Canada’s economy depends on a skilled and educated workforce”. In order to be a world-class economy, we must be educated and trained. Being competitive in today's economy means having the skills and training to adapt to a dynamic global market.
The government believes in fostering an environment for our people to excel at home, and it is evident that we walk the talk. The government has never ceased to invest in the growth of our people through providing grants, tax credits, apprenticeships and support for training programs so Canadians can obtain the skills and training they need to achieve their goals and dreams. Under Canada's economic action plan, this government allotted $1.9 billion to enhance the availability of training, an investment made toward short and long-term skill training or upgrading for workers of all fields and expertise.
The government also recognizes the need to give young people a hand to help them smooth out the transition from the campus to the workplace. Especially in our recovering economy, this transition might not be easy for many young Canadians. According to Statistics Canada, the youth unemployment was 15.1%, the highest of any age group.
Young people have a tough time finding jobs to get themselves through school or sustain their livelihood after they are done with school because of the global recession. This government has set in place several programs to bridge the way for young Canadians to enter the job market.
To give an example, the existing career focus program provides wage subsidies of up to $15,000 to businesses and non-profit organizations to hire high school graduates. Another example is the $20 million two year targeted funding delivered through the Canada summer jobs program, an incentive for employers to hire summer students.
The games have amazingly united Canadians and fostered our national pride. What lies ahead is to continue to make Canada the best place in the world we all call home.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity that has been given to me by the by sharing her time with me. She is doing an outstanding job on behalf of this government. Her riding is in British Columbia but her travels with respect to multiculturalism have taken her across this country. For a member who was just elected a little over a year ago, she is doing an outstanding job for our government, and I applaud her for that.
The response to the throne speech which the gave on March 11 focused on what we need to do as a government and what this Parliament will focus on, with jobs and economic growth remaining our top priorities. In order to deliver on jobs and economic growth, three specific things were outlined in both the throne speech and in the Prime Minister's reply to the throne speech.
The first was tax reductions and enhanced EI benefits, which will provide direct support to Canadians. Let us not forget that the success of our long-term economic strategy is based on short-term stimulus funding. It is also based on tax reductions, both corporate and personal, to make us more competitive from a corporate and personal perspective. This will leave Canadians with more money in their pockets and the ability to spend that money as they wish.
Individuals who are unemployed, hopefully only for the short term, are going to see enhanced EI benefits. These enhanced benefits will provide direct support to Canadians right across this country.
The second thing the mentioned was infrastructure programs in partnership with the provinces, territories and municipalities across the country. Twelve thousand projects are under way. Those 12,0000 projects represent a direct investment in our communities, putting people to work and laying the foundation for prosperity.
From a local perspective I have to look no further than the Applied Health Institute at the Welland campus of Niagara College, which is in a riding not held by a member of our party. It is located in a riding held by a member of the New Democratic Party, a member who voted against the 2009 and 2010 budgets. The Applied Health Institute represents an investment of $20 million from the federal government, $20 million from the provincial government, and $20 million from Niagara College.
The , the and I were able to tour the institute earlier this year. We toured the construction sites. This institute is going to change the face of the college for years to come. It will change the face of the Niagara community just based on its long-term focus as a health institute.
At Brock University, construction is well under way of the bioresearch facility,110,000 square feet of research space, of incubator space. This will create the types of long-term jobs that will contribute to the success of the Niagara community.
The third thing the addressed was economic growth. We have to make sure that we regain our economic form within the G20 and the G7. Businesses are hiring again. Just last month 20,000 new jobs were created in this country. Close to 160,000 net new jobs have been created over the last eight months.
This speaks very well for the future of our strategy. This speaks very well for where the budget that was most recently introduced in the House is going to take us.
We are planning for recovery. We are planning to wind down our stimulus plan by March 31, 2011. Let us not forget the purpose of the two year stimulus funding. Our stimulus plan put $19 billion back into the Canadian economy. It was very specific. It was a short-term approach to make sure that people were getting back to work during the recession. However, to be responsible, we need to make sure that those projects are completed on time and on budget. We need to make sure that they lead us out of the stimulus funding program and back into a situation where we have not just recovered from an economic perspective, but that our finances are back in the black.
We also want to ensure that we are restraining federal spending. It is important to understand that as outlined in the throne speech, the 2010 budget is all about making sure that we have complete fiscal control of the federal budget and federal spending, but we are not going to do it in the way the previous government did in the 1990s.
We are not going to cut transfer payments on education. In fact, over the last five budgets, each and every year we have seen a federal government which has invested in education in this country.
We are not going to reduce transfer payments with respect to health care to the provinces and territories, as happened in the 1990s under the previous government. We believe the provinces have the responsibility for the delivery of health care and the federal government has the responsibility for ensuring that we help cover the costs.
There has been a lot of talk by the opposition and the government about pensions. We are not going to reduce pensions. We are going to make sure that the funds are there in order to cover the costs for the pensions that we are responsible for at the federal level.
Third and most important, we are going to focus on the continued growth of our economy. We need to build the jobs and the industries of the future. We recognize that to ensure long-term growth, the private sector needs to grow, and in order to grow, businesses need to make sure they are competitive. That is why by 2015 we will have the lowest corporate tax structure in the G7, which will make us that much more competitive. The corporate offices of Tim Hortons is just one example of companies that are coming back to Canada and have recognized that it is a wise and solid investment and a wise and solid business decision.
That is why we will continue to invest in infrastructure across this country, whether it be bridges, buildings, roads or sewers. Where our responsibilities are, in partnership with the provinces, territories and the municipalities, we will ensure that we are ready, that we are targeted for growth and understand the need for solid infrastructure. This is what individuals base their decisions upon with respect to their private lives in terms of where they are going to live and raise their children, where their families are going to grow. It is also an opportunity for corporations and businesses to understand that this is a country that is ready and willing, when it comes to infrastructure, to partner with them to grow their businesses in this country.
That is why we are creating the conditions for economic growth through lower taxes and a stable investment climate. We have the strongest banking system in the world. We have the strongest economy coming out of the recession. We are making the tough decisions to ensure that when the recovery is in full swing, Canada will be in first place, just as we were with respect to our gold medal total at the Olympics.
The also outlined three additional issues in his response to the throne speech.
First, we will ensure that Canada is the best place for families. We will support families and communities and keep our streets and our communities safe by continuing to get tough on criminals and to get tough on crime.
Second, we are going to ensure that from a national perspective, we will safeguard our national security. We will stand up for those who helped build Canada, because Canadians believe that sacrifice and hard work should be recognized. As we strive to create an even better future for our families and communities, our government will stand up for those who built and defended their communities and this country.
The Speech from the Throne also made clear that Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will come to an end in 2011. The throne speech outlined that our efforts will focus on humanitarian aid and development.
Finally, we will strengthen a united Canada in a changing world. We will protect our unparalleled natural beauty. We will be asserting our sovereignty in the north. We will recognize our aboriginal heritage. We will stand up for what is right in this world.
The throne speech identified the importance of our economy, identified the importance of families in our country, and identified our country's role in this world. I am proud to say that the throne speech is a great foundation upon which this government is going to build over the next number of months and years.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
Today I am going to talk about a subject that is perhaps not immeasurably important, but that is still very important, since it concerns the government’s intention, as expressed in the Speech from the Throne, to abolish the firearms registry, at least for long guns.
This intention on the part of the government has mobilized a lot of people in my constituency. I have met with several crime prevention organizations, since this is one prevention tool that fits perfectly with Quebec’s philosophy on crime. The Conservative philosophy revolves exclusively around enforcement and punishment.
I have also met with women’s organizations. This is a question of very particular concern to them, because unfortunately, most victims of spousal violence are women.
I have met with the mayors and police chiefs in my riding. Everyone agreed that something had to be done to block the government’s intention of abolishing a tool that is widely used by police.
Then I went out to see the people in my riding. I spent time at a lot of metro stations. My urban constituency has eight metro stations, and you can meet a lot of people there. A petition was circulated that I have tabled in the House; 1,500 names were collected in a few days.
That figure has to be put in perspective: those names were collected in my riding alone, in a few days. That is huge; there was enormous enthusiasm. It was unbelievable; people were lining up in the metro stations to sign the petition. They clearly care about the firearms registry. This is a visceral issue in Quebec, because it came out of the terrible tragedy at the École Polytechnique.
I tabled the petition in the House on March 8, International Women’s Day. This is very much a question that concerns and affects women in particular. The firearms registry has been particularly useful in relation to spousal tragedies and murders committed with long guns, a factor that the Conservative government wants to dissociate itself from.
The other reason why women in Quebec, and feminist Quebeckers, are greatly concerned about preserving the firearms registry is of course the event that led to the registry: the terrible tragedy at the École Polytechnique de Montréal. That tragedy was the height of misogyny and cowardice; an individual who held women responsible for all his misfortunes and probably for his own mediocrity took the cowardly step of murdering 14 young women with a firearm.
Those women, in the flower of their youth, were murdered with a weapon that the Conservatives want to remove from the firearms registry: a Ruger Mini-14. This is adding insult to injury for all the women who made this the fight of their lives and who decided to take this tragic event and create something out of it.
The firearms registry is the legacy of the victims, the survivors and the families of the victims, who did battle to ensure that Canada, like most countries in the world, would have a firearms registry. We have to be honest when we come to this debate, and talk about the real numbers.
I am often surprised to see the adversaries—and the Conservatives in particular—send the debate right off the rails. It is sort of like a pirate hijacking a vessel. The Conservatives are acting like pirates by taking the debate hostage and saying any old thing and its opposite.
I offer as evidence the response we often hear from the Conservatives. They say that, in any case, most crimes, murders and homicides are not committed with long guns, but with handguns.
From a statistics standpoint, they are not entirely wrong. In 2007, 67% of homicides were committed with handguns as opposed to 17% with shotguns or hunting rifles. What they failed to say, however, was that in 1997, in the early days of the gun registry, the proportion was significantly different. Handguns were involved in 50% of murders, while shotguns or hunting rifles were involved in 39.9%—over twice as many.
Where the gun registry was most useful and had the greatest impact was in the case of shotguns and hunting rifles The figures show that it was with these weapons that the registry had the greatest impact. It had less impact in the case of handguns.
The government is proposing to eliminate the most useful and effective part of the registry, the one that has had the greatest effect in statistical terms.
They are constantly giving out false information and fear-mongering. This is like Halloween, but without the pumpkin. There is nothing funny about this. They are frightening hunters by telling them that they will be treated like criminals if they are caught in the woods without a registration certificate, will have a criminal record and will no longer be able to travel. That is totally ridiculous.
This is not at all the case. An individual carrying an unregistered weapon will have it confiscated and have a few days to get it back it by submitting a registration certificate. It is a little embarrassing, but there have to be consequences when people fail to respect the law. In any case, it is far less serious than when people forget their vehicle registration, which leads to a hefty fine.
We must cut the Conservatives off at the pass. They will not change their mind, because they are short-sighted on this matter. Two men can block their path and we must convince them to do so. They are the and the leader of the NDP.
And when I say Leader of the Opposition, I mean the leader of the Liberal Party. The Bloc Québécois voted unanimously against this bill. Last week, my colleague from asked the leader of the NDP a question. He tried to shake off the question like one would try to shake a dog off one's leg. That impresses no one. I am not comparing my colleague to a dog, of course. I am using that analogy to explain what the NDP and the Liberals think of this issue. I am sure that my colleagues understand.
These two leaders have to stop with their doublespeak, have the courage of their convictions and take measures to stop the Conservatives in their tracks.
I will finish by speaking about the importance of the gun registry. During my 10-minute speech, the registry was consulted by police nearly 70 times. They did not consult the registry because they had nothing better to do. They took the time to consult it nearly 70 times since my speech began because it is useful to them.
As parliamentarians, we have to trust the police, respect the memory of the victims at the École Polytechnique and all of those who have been abused since then, and establish a gun registry. We have to show political courage and vote against the government bill and the Speech from the Throne, which would get rid of the gun registry.
Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from for splitting his time with me. He is very generous.
The reason some members have risen on points of order today is that there is a fundamental problem. We seem to be discussing the menu after we have eaten the meal. We are discussing the Speech from the Throne today, but the budget has already been passed, in collaboration with the Liberal members who were careful not to vote.
I can never say it often enough: when it comes to a throne speech or a budget, the Bloc Québécois does its homework. Once again, it has done it. The Bloc held consultations to clearly identify the needs and aspirations of Quebeckers.
In both the throne speech and the budget, there are two groups that have been seriously overlooked: the overlooked poor and the overlooked rich. Some of the overlooked have specific needs, whether in terms of social housing or employment insurance—the people who are not entitled to it and the people whose benefits could be improved or who could have greater access to them. The overlooked also include older workers who have specific needs and seniors whose guaranteed income supplement puts them at or below the poverty line. A host of needs have not been met.
At the same time, some of the overlooked are wealthier. The government has overlooked the oil companies, which enjoy enormous exemptions and which should be making a greater social contribution. It has also overlooked the beneficiaries of tax havens. Billions of dollars are being allowed to go somewhere other than the economies of Canada and Quebec. Workers have also been overlooked, because they are not being taxed fairly.
Today, I hope to have time to address a few very specific issues. I would like to discuss the Canadian apparel and textile industries program, funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the community access program, broadband access technologies and telecommunications.
Let us start by talking about the Canadian apparel and textile industries program, formerly called CANtex. A company in my constituency has had an opportunity to become better known, as we can read in Les Affaires for the week of March 13 to 19. In spite of the situation that has prevailed in the apparel and textile industry for years, FilSpec has succeeded.
When I first came to the House, we were well aware that industry was having major and fundamental problems that had to be addressed. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives were up to the job. We will recall that in the case of apparel and textiles, there was talk at the time of loan guarantees. There was talk, just as there had been talk about research and development and investing more money in CANtex. Fortunately, at least a little money was invested. When I say “a little”, that is putting it mildly.
An analysis of the budget and the 2009-10 estimates spending reveals that the government's contribution under the Canadian apparel and textile industries program was $4.513 million. Members will say that that is not much and indeed it is very little. At the time, we called for an increase in the amount, but the government did not do its job. We are now faced with the events in the apparel and textile industry. Endless job losses have hit ridings such as mine and that of my colleague from .
The government would do extremely well to provide sufficient funding again.
I will speak briefly about the comments in the journal Les Affaires between March 13 and 19, 2010, which I mentioned earlier. It stated that competition from emerging countries in the textiles sector was threatening the survival of FilSpec. The result is that this firm specialized in the production of high-tech yarns for very specific applications. The survival of these so-called soft industries depends on innovation and thus on research and development to establish a very specific niche. Even though they may not have huge production, they have a niche with an international clientele.
Unfortunately, at certain times, the Canadian dollar increased hugely, creating export problems. Programs such as CANtex helped businesses export as well.
To demonstrate the capabilities of the firm, the author asked whether they could one day create a material that, like Harry Potter's magic cape, would make its wearer invisible. The president, Ronald Audet, did not say no. Moreover, his firm has almost met this challenge, because, for the Canadian army, the plant developed a yarn that goes into the manufacture of clothing that cannot be detected by infrared light. There are also antimicrobial yarns for the health sector and flame retardant yarns for firefighters. The plant is located in Sherbrooke and specializes in high-tech yarns.
I will end my reference to the journal, but I wanted to point out the importance of innovation. The government says that research and development is everything and that the future belongs to innovation, but it does not put its money where its mouth is.
Nothing is created, nothing is lost. It is a simple equation. World exports equal world imports. That is an absolute. So eventually, when there is a level playing field, the only thing that will set economies apart is not the exploitation of badly paid workers abroad or the exploitation of the environment or the social fabric of other countries, but innovation.
The government invests in certain sectors, but it invests more or less in other vital sectors. The manufacturing industry is a source of jobs that must not be abandoned, because the best hope of creating jobs is in high-tech and innovative manufacturers.
I recall that not so long ago—in 2009—my colleague from asked a question regarding CANtex in the House. He said it was important to continue the program to enable the textile industry to become more competitive and develop its markets. Unfortunately, the Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec) responded rather vaguely, providing absolutely no reassurance for the members of the industry that includes FilSpec.
In terms of innovation, the government is trying to eliminate the paper burden as much as possible. So it is asking the public to use the Internet. Unfortunately, to all intents and purposes, no mention is made of the community access program. It will therefore likely be eliminated. Yet we need it. Even the government, in its aim to reduce the paper burden, should keep it because all departments are asking us to work with the Internet and download forms from it.
More money must also go into making access to broadband even more—
Madam Speaker, I will share my time with my friend, the member for .
I am delighted to address the House today in reply to the Speech from the Throne. This being the first opportunity I have had to address the House in this third session, I want to start by thanking the people of for giving me the tremendous honour to serve them here and at home as their member of Parliament.
It has been over four years since I was first elected and there is not a week that goes by that I do not marvel at the generosity and perseverance of the people in my riding. Their stories and their history, their aspirations and their struggles, it makes me want to get up every day really early and go to work for them.
There are many that I could mention, but by way of example I think of a constituent in the township of Ramara who is devoted to expanding political discourse in our country, a man by the name of Ken Szijarto. He is a man with a young family who expects, in fact demands, only the very best from his elected officials who represent him and why should he not? On controlling spending, on accountability, on keeping taxes in check, people like Ken hold our feet to the fire each and every day. Where would we be without constituents like him?
Another constituent of mine lost his leg in a motorcycle accident just a few years ago and once he realized that he had to get on with his life and get over this hurdle, he overcame his disability and he started running. In just three years he set three world records and can run the marathon in just a hair over three hours. We welcomed Rick Ball as he brought the Paralympic torch on stage here on Parliament Hill just a few weeks ago to start the Olympic torch relay last month.
The francophone community in Lafontaine, Penetanguishene and the township of Tiny has set an example, inspired me and supported me as I learned French over the past few years.
In January and February I took the opportunity to hold a series of town hall meetings on the budget of course, but also on other topics of a federal nature. I want to thank the people who took the time to come and share their concerns and questions with me. I would also like to thank Ms. Danielle Prince, the history and politics teacher at Midland Secondary School for actually assigning her grade 12 politics class to attend one of my town hall meetings. Those meetings gave me a closer sense of what my constituents expect as we tackle this post-recession period.
In a nutshell, what I heard was that the tax burden has little or no room to grow, that Canada's pension system must be dependable, that investments in education and innovation will usher in prosperity for ourselves and the next generation, and that people want to wear their Canadian pride on their sleeve. They want to be proud of Canada's place in the world.
None of this, I am sure, comes as any surprise to us parliamentarians, but it is refreshing to see unfiltered optimism and thoughtful suggestions show the way forward.
I take my cue from the people of . By the way, Simcoe North is smack dab in central Ontario right on the bottom end of Georgian Bay and with Lake Simcoe on the eastern side.
Our region, like most regions in Canada, is seeing higher employment rates and is optimistic about the future.
The Speech from the Throne highlighted how important and urgent it is for us to complete our economic action plan.
We are starting to climb our way back up after falling at the end of 2008. Our government's measures over the past year have paved the way to a stronger economy.
Employment has been on an upward track since July, gaining 159,000 jobs. Manufacturing sales, as I previously mentioned, the backbone of Ontario's economy, rose 2.4% just in January, the fifth consecutive month for gains and the highest level since November 2008.
Labour productivity grew 1.4% in the last quarter of 2009, the first increase since the third quarter of 2008 and the highest quarterly increase since 1998. The Conference Board of Canada has reported that our stimulus plan helped preserve or create about 70,000 jobs in Ontario last year and will create another 40,000 this year.
The measures we are taking in our jobs and growth budget will move to further that economic success. Along with the commitment to completing the economic action plan in its second year, the Speech from the Throne ushers in a plan to return to a balanced budget.
Canadians know and accept that the deficit budget was necessary, but they are just as convinced that we must return to balance in a reasonably short time. They know this from their own experience, in their household and in their business. Borrowing temporarily for an unexpected financial pressure is acceptable provided we get back on track as the financial urgency eases. Our government is following the same course.
By maintaining the courage of its convictions in the years to come, Canada will emerge from the worst recession since the second world war as strong as all the other developed countries in the world. And we will do so without increasing taxes and without cutting transfers for education, health or pensions.
Spending restraint must be part of the plan, and it is. Our government will trim the cost of government by $17.6 billion over the coming five years and end the stimulus spending as planned.
However, being competent managers of the public dollars to which we are entrusted is not the only purpose we serve. Slaying the deficit, balancing the budget and resuming regular payments toward the national debt in the not too distant future are not an end in themselves. They are the way forward for a stronger Canada.
Just as we are proud of what we have accomplished, we also realize there is much more to do. The Speech from the Throne outlines the kind of Canada we aspire to have, a Canada that is building the jobs and industries of tomorrow, mustering the best minds, technologies and resources to create jobs, growth and opportunity, bolstering our science and technology strategy to take full advantage of a digital economy and opening up new markets for our producers, manufacturers and service providers and strengthening trade with our biggest trading partner, the United States. We are improving the way we do business for our energy, mineral and power producers, while protecting our environment, and finding new and better ways for our agriculture, fisheries and forestry producers to build their businesses, invest and succeed in the best economy in the world.
It is a Canada putting families first by protecting the health and safety of our foods and consumer products, preventing accidents that harm our children and youth and ensuring the safety and security of our neighbourhoods by strengthening the laws and the sentencing of criminality.
It is a Canada, as the speech remarks, whose people are rooted in their history and institutions. Our history includes our indigenous people, the first people of this land.
I have the great honour to serve on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I have had the opportunity to listen carefully to the hopes and struggles of Canada's aboriginal people. The Canada we envision through the throne speech recognizes the contribution of aboriginal people in building the country we inhabit together. Young aboriginal people in Canada particularly, who number proportionately larger than their non-aboriginal counterparts, will be a great source of inspiration and prosperity for their families and communities in the years to come.
We have a lot to be proud of, how, after shouldering the toughest economic downturn since World War II, we are coming to grips with Canada emerging stronger than when we went in. We should celebrate that, of course, but we must consider what that means in human terms.
In my riding, it means people are going back to work. It means college enrolment is up 30%. We are seeing people with a tremendous degree of optimism buoyed only by the tremendous show of national pride we saw from our athletes, visitors and fans at the Olympics and Paralympic Games in Whistler and Vancouver.
This rekindled civic spirit, the hope and optimism about Canada also lays down a marker for what Canadians expect their governments. Almost to a person, they are quite willing and able to do the heavy lifting in their own lives and occupations, but they sure want to know that we here in Parliament have their backs and are working just as hard beside them.
I am pleased to support the Speech from the Throne. We are laying the course in the right manner. I encourage all members to support it when we have the opportunity to indicate our support.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be in the House today. I sincerely believe that the Speech from the Throne and budget 2010 are mindful of Quebec, as they are of all the other provinces and all the territories in this great country.
The Speech from the Throne lays out the government’s broad priorities—priorities that are faithful to Canadian values and that focus on what is most important to Canadians.
The budget sends a clear message: Canada has returned to economic growth following the deepest recession since the 1930s. This budget aims to contribute to this recovery and sustain Canada’s economic advantage. To do that, the budget contains measures in three broad areas. I am going to review them, because it is useful to reiterate them.
First, under year 2 of Canada’s economic action plan, the budget provides for federal stimulus measures totalling $19 billion, complemented by $6 billion from provinces, territories, municipalities and other partners.
Second, the budget invests in a limited number of new, targeted initiatives to create jobs and stimulate economic growth for tomorrow. The budget is based on innovation and makes Canada a destination of choice for businesses wanting to make new investments. This will all have tangible effects on Canada as a whole, including Quebec.
Third, budget 2010 provides for a three-point plan that will bring Canada’s finances back to balance after the economic recovery.
The priorities of this government focus not only on every province and every territory, but on every Canadian. This is particularly true when it comes to the environment, in areas that are of concern to Canadians, like water pollution, protecting wildlife and plant life, and, of course, climate change.
The government’s position on the environment is very clear: we are going to find a balance between economic priorities and environmental priorities. We are going to be proactive in our stewardship of our spectacular natural treasures, and we will preserve them so we can pass them down to future generations.
Budget 2010 provides for over $190 million in new measures to support a cleaner, more sustainable environment and to continue to achieve Canada’s climate change objectives.
Among those measures are the following.
A $100 million investment over four years to support clean energy generation in Canada’s forestry sector, through the next generation renewable power initiative. This investment will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by developing, marketing and implementing new clean energy technologies in the forestry sector, including biofuels, renewable electrical power and chemicals from forest biomass.
Eligibility for accelerated capital cost allowance for clean energy generation equipment will be expanded to include heat recovery equipment and distribution equipment.
Sixteen million dollars over two years to continue to implement the government’s action plan to protect the Great Lakes by cleaning up areas where the environment has suffered the most degradation.
Thirty-eight million dollars over two years for Canada’s invasive alien species strategy to reduce the risk of invasive animal and plant species flourishing in Canada.
Up to $11.4 million over two years to deliver meteorological services and navigation services in the north, to meet Canada’s commitments to the International Maritime Organization.
Height million dollars over two years to support community-based environmental monitoring, reporting and data collection in the north.
Also, $18.4 million over two years for the preparation of the government's annual reports on key environmental indicators, such as air and water cleanliness and greenhouse gas emissions.
These new resources build on the sustained investment that began with Canada's economic action plan to make our economy more viable and strengthen Canada's position as a clean energy superpower. This investment includes the following.
One billion dollars over five years for the clean energy fund. This fund supports research and development for clean energy systems and demonstration projects, including carbon capture and storage initiatives.
One billion dollars over five years for the green infrastructure fund. This fund is intended to support priorities such as the production and transportation of sustainable energy and carbon transmission and storage infrastructure.
Three hundred and eighty million dollars allocated exclusively to the ecoenergy retrofit—homes program, which encourages Canadians to make their homes more energy efficient.
In 2009, the government also allocated $1 billion over three years to the pulp and paper green transformation program. This program provides incentives for pulp and paper mills to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and become leaders in the production of renewable energy from biomass.
We understand very well that the growing exploitation of our resources requires us to make more enlightened environmental choices than ever before. We are therefore committed to take effective international measures to fight climate change.
The Copenhagen agreement was a big step forward. It laid the groundwork needed to get all the major greenhouse gas emitters to act to reduce their emissions.
The agreement represents a turning point for Canada and for all the other countries committed to implementing it effectively. It is the first detailed global agreement on climate change. It is the first global agreement under which the principal greenhouse gas emitting countries quantified their commitment to reduce their emissions. They include the United States, China and India.
We have to work to turn these political commitments into a binding treaty. This will be the focus of the negotiations this year. To advance these negotiations, Canada will pursue its active and constructive dialogue with its national, continental and international partners.
As stated in the throne speech, we will also honour the financial commitments we made under the agreement. Canada will release funds to help developing economies reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change. Canada's is holding talks with our international partners to establish the level of contribution per country.
Our desire to harmonize our climate change policy with that of the United States goes well beyond greenhouse gas reduction targets. We must continue to push for a process that would coordinate our respective regulations. Close collaboration has thus far led to excellent progress in the automobile, marine, aviation and biofuel sectors. However, we still have more work to do.
Our approach to climate change is based on rigorous science. As we are all aware, this year is the International Year of Biodiversity, which is a fitting opportunity to reflect on our rich natural heritage and our duty to protect it. It would be remiss of me not to mention it. Canada is a leader on the international stage when it comes to biodiversity. We were the first industrialized country to ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
Our government has invested significantly in biodiversity. From Darkwoods in British Columbia to the ecosystem in the greater Nahanni area of the Northwest Territories to Deep Cove, Nova Scotia and many other places in Canada, the government has taken measures to protect more than 100 million hectares of land—almost 10% of Canada's land mass—and 3 million hectares of ocean.
We have dedicated $275 million over five years to measures related to species at risk. We have also invested $225 million in conservation programs for natural areas. This investment played an important role in acquiring 122,000 hectares to protect the habitat of 79 species at risk. We invested $5 million in working with provincial and federal partners in order to find a solution to the issue of invasive alien species that are threatening the native fauna and flora.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
l am honoured to stand today to pay tribute to the people of Etobicoke North and to respond to the Speech from the Throne, the speech to provide the government's vision for the country, to set out its broad goals and directions and the programs it will undertake to accomplish those goals.
The speech should rejoice in Canada's history, build on our country's great spirit, our core values, what we stand for and why we exist, reaffirm our timeless purpose, passed from generation to generation, and should set the course for a greater future.
The speech should create opportunities for families: the opportunity for a first-class education; an excellent health care system when people need it most; the chance to get a fulfilling job; and the ability to contribute. It should provide care for society's most vulnerable: our children; those who suffer from brain disease, such as ALS, MS or dementia; and our aboriginal citizens. We must commit to closing the gap in a generation.
Governing means creating opportunities for every Canadian and not merely administrating. Where is the government's fierce resolve to do whatever it takes to dream of the future Canadians want and deserve, while addressing the tough decisions we face about our growing deficit, our warming climate and the future of our health care system, all of which will have an impact on future generations?
Where is the understanding that in building Canada's future, tackling climate change for example, there will not be one single defining action, one technological fix or one miracle moment? Rather, real action will require relentless steps in one direction: energy efficiency, transportation changes, personal responsibility and building greater momentum.
I would like to mention a case to highlight vision and catalytic policy to stimulate progress. For the next few minutes I will highlight the vision of His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who is transforming education and modernizing the business environment to become one of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world. Before I continue, I appreciate the differences in our society and our economy but it is the vision we must learn from.
When the kingdom was established in 1932, education was available to very few people, mostly the children of wealthy families living in the major cities. Today, however, there are 25,000 schools, 11 universities, with an astonishing 22 more currently being built. Female students make up a little over half of the nearly five million Saudi school and university students.
Most recently in 2009, over 3,000 dignitaries from around the world attended the official inauguration of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST. It came with an endowment of $10 billion and aims to be one of the world's great institutions of research, with partnerships with 27 universities, including Caltech, Harvard and Stanford in the United States, and Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College in the United Kingdom.
Government ministries, private companies, investors and the Saudi public all repeat the mantra of the 10x10 vision. Consequently, Saudi Arabia has shown significant improvements in the World Bank's Doing Business rankings over the last five years, leaping from 67th position in 2004 to 38th in 2006, 16th in 2007 and to 13th in 2009, ahead of advanced economies such as France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland.
The kingdom's exception performance and membership in the World Trade Organization has been driven by the vision of His Majesty.
In 2006, the Global Competitiveness Forum, an annual meeting of top business leaders, international political leaders and selected intellectuals and journalists, was founded. It is the premier event on the road to the World Economic Forum's Davos meeting.
The kingdom has actively encouraged domestic and foreign investment in the country, created new ministries and the National Competitiveness Centre, established the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority and privatized companies.
Canada must dream and dream big. In the past, Canadians built a country-wide railway system, they fought in World War I and World War II and they travelled to space. And remember the Allies gave 2% of GDP to rebuild Europe.
We have to negotiate for our children who are not here. We have to accept moral responsibility. With every tough decision, we must ask if this is something our children would be proud of.
As someone who taught at a business school, I understand that we must slay our country's biggest deficit in history, $56 billion. We must confront this brutal fact while retaining unwavering faith that we will prevail in the end.
However we cannot do it by destroying what makes us Canadian and in some cases uniquely Canadian. Let me take health care for example. Worldwide, we are now seeing major movement between public and private financing. Countries with a public financing scheme are trying to discover what the private sector might have to offer. Countries with the private sector, like Australia and the U.S., are looking to the public sector for advantages.
Today Canadian health care is at a crossroads. We must fix the system that served us so well for many years. We cannot let it slip away.
Thankfully, making improvements does not necessarily require higher spending. If we look at hospital costs across 10 OECD countries, we see wide variations. If unit costs could be reduced to the level of the best performers, average costs could potentially be reduced between 5% and 48%.
Opportunities for cost reduction include more emphasis on preventive medicine and the social determinants of health, such as early detection visits and mammograms. We know that diseases are cheaper to treat if they are caught earlier.
There are opportunities for better coordination. Problems can happen throughout health systems but most particularly at the barrier between primary, specialist, acute and long-term care. This is recognizing of course that we have a federal-provincial system.
There are opportunities to reduce drug spending. For OECD countries, drug spending is annually increasing at 5.7%, outstripping growth for other types of health care and GDP.
While we work to meet this challenge, a tectonic shift is taking place in medicine. For the average patient the movement is subtle, but ultimately it will affect the entire landscape of health care.
Genomics will allow tomorrow's physician to predict in utero or at birth what major diseases a person is likely to develop. Vaccines will be created specifically to treat an individual person's cancer. Stem cells will be used to regenerate a specific tissue lost to disease or trauma. I have seen heart cells beat in a petri dish. They will be used to repair the heart after a heart attack.
I know stem cells are scary for some people, but they have to understand that stem cells can be taken from adults. As an adult I can choose to take adult stem cells from my hip bone.
Medical information will be digitized and instantly available. Medicine will become safer.
I left a job I loved to run for elected office because I believed and still believe today that it is the job of government to make life better for Canadians today and to have a dream to build for a better tomorrow.
What I wanted to see in the throne speech was real vision for the future. It was not there. I wanted acknowledgement of our immense challenges, our aging baby-boomers entering their high demand period for health care, a recognized problem worldwide.
Today one in three, or ten million, Canadians will be affected by neurological or psychiatric disorder or injury at some point in their lives. Brain disorders and injuries will become a leading cause of disease in the next 20 years.
I want to see our current challenges and our future challenges laid out frankly and honestly with a plan to take action in the short term and in the long term.
Most of all I wanted to see promise, building hope for a better future by taking the right steps now. That means not only reducing the deficit, but building the social safety net now and in the future, as this side of the House was able to do in the 1990s.