House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was country.

Topics

Privilege

11 a.m.

Liberal

Jag Bhaduria Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege to make a brief statement regarding a letter I wrote in 1989 and other issues which have received widespread media attention in the last few days.

The letter was written at a low point in my life when I was under tremendous stress relating to my career and my family. The letter contained irresponsible statements which have been widely reported and need not be repeated in this House. My personal problems did not justify or excuse the insensitive words that I used and I deeply regret what I did.

Over three years ago I apologized in writing on more than two occasions to both the staff and the chair of the board of education for the city of Toronto. I had hoped that this sorry chapter of my life was over when I wrote the apologies in 1990.

However, I now believe that it is appropriate for me to apologize to the Prime Minister, to my caucus colleagues, and to all members of the House for any embarrassment these letters or any other statements or letters I may have made or written have caused.

More specifically, I wish to apologize to the people who live in the riding of Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville.

At this juncture I ask my colleagues in the House for their forgiveness. I hope they will allow me to prove that I can be a hard working, responsible and effective member of Parliament.

Once again I apologize to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all members of the House for the inexcusable acts which I most profoundly regret having done in 1989.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member. This is, as the House knows, a point of personal privilege. The House has heard the statement. It is not debatable and the record will show that he did make the statement and that it was accepted by the House.

The House resumed from January 21 consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his Speech at the opening of the session; and the amendment.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am pleased to advise hon. members that Telesat Canada has successfully transferred the cable parliamentary channel to the Anik E1 satellite. In consequence the televised proceedings of the House will again be available to cable companies across the country. It may however be a few days before all of the cable companies can get their systems up and operational, as we always are.

I am sure hon. members will wish to join me in thanking the staff at Telesat Canada and the cable parliamentary channel who worked during the weekend to rectify this problem.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, may I take this opportunity in my first speech in this 35th Parliament both to congratulate you as Deputy Speaker and to congratulate the Speaker of the House on his election. I look forward to a very fruitful working relationship. I know that both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker will bring great fairness and openness to this House. Again, I congratulate you and give you my sincere commitment to work with you so that we can productively work for the citizens of Canada. Again, congratulations.

I would also like to congratulate the other members who have been elected to the 35th Parliament. During the election Canadians said that they wanted to see us work together constructively for the future of this country. I know that will be the aim of all members. We owe it to ourselves, our constituents and to all

Canadians to deliver on this expectation. We must acknowledge when the government has done well and hold the government accountable when it has not kept its promises.

That is the elementary essence of our democratic system. I want to assure all Canadians that the New Democratic Party will be there both to work constructively and to ensure that the future of this country will be preserved. We will go forward into the 21st century with confidence and with a new vision.

As I said, I want to congratulate all members of the House on their election. In particular, I want to congratulate the right hon. member for Saint-Maurice, the Prime Minister of Canada. As we have an unprecedented number of new members it will be extremely important that we all work together.

Finally I want to thank the constituents of Yukon for their continued support. I pledge to honour that support with my representation in the House of Commons and in promoting the issues of northern Canada which are far too often overlooked.

I mentioned the challenges to us as members of this Parliament. First, the public elected us to find specific and practical solutions to the problems facing us as a nation.

Second, Canadians want to feel that their government has a vision, that it knows where we are going as a nation, and that it not only has a map but a destination, a vital sense of identity, a vision that brings us all together as Canadians.

The next couple of years will be absolutely crucial to the future of this country in defining who we are as a nation and where we will go as a nation. We have in this House one political party that says we cannot go forward together as a nation, one which would see us dismantle the country. I want to say in this speech today in response to the speech from the throne that the New Democratic Party is absolutely committed to the future of a united country that all Canadians want to be a part of and we will fight for that vision of this strong country.

Key to the future of our country, key to those of us who want to build the country not destroy it, is that we address the economic issues that face so many Canadians today, that we bring about not just words of hope to Canadians but a real vision and real hope. Without real jobs there can be no real hope.

The speech from the throne had many words about restoring hope. We heard other speeches from previous governments that did the same thing. What is needed now are real targets, real timetables to bring down the high rate of unemployment. We are told it officially stands at 11.2 per cent but there is surely not one person in this country who believes that is the actual and real number of unemployed in this country. We must address it realistically and we must always address it with the view that unemployment is not just simply an economic problem. It is a social issue as well and will have an effect on every Canadian in the very real future of this country.

Employment targets would give real teeth to the words that we heard in the speech from the throne and provide accountability for the government to the public on its performance. The government has given us no targets and I want to ask why. Unless we know where we are going, unless we can see if there is a real objective Canadians will very quickly lose their faith in this parliamentary process.

One only needs to look back at the last nine years and the devastation that was wrought on this country to know that it is not a continuation of the policies of the previous government that will make Canada a stronger nation. It is a change in those policies.

I must ask whether the speech from the throne shows that change, that clarity of vision. Let the government really indicate that it is prepared to take that change that is necessary. I have to say that in two crucial areas we see not a change but simply a government that is prepared to follow the failed policies of the previous government.

In some ways this government is on the road to failure before it begins but I want to mention two crucial areas. The first area is around the North American Free Trade Agreement. The governing party campaigned very strongly about real changes to NAFTA. It along with the New Democrats stood up and showed the devastation that the free trade agreement has done to Canada in the number of lost jobs. In fact what happened was that the government on January 1 did nothing to fundamentally change those sections of the North American Free Trade Agreement that work against Canada but went forward with the agreement, sadly saying that Canada is prepared to join the race to the bottom in the North American continent, not to work more strongly for workers' rights, not to work to improve trade agreements that would be truly in the interests of all workers in all countries that are partners in those trade agreements. Canada must improve its trade both in the Pacific Rim and in Latin America, but we must do so aggressively from our strength and not from our weakness. What this government has done in going forth with NAFTA is again to work from our weakness.

Monetary policy is certainly an extremely important ingredient in the future of a country and how its economy is determined. In the famous red book the government makes the following statement about Canada's previous government. It states: "The Conservative single-minded fight against inflation resulted in a deep recession, three years without growth, sky-rocketing un-

employment, a crisis in international payments and the highest combined set of government deficits in our history". I agree.

However, do we see a signal for real change in the government's appointment of the Governor of the Bank of Canada? I would say we do not. Sadly what I see in these two crucial areas in this era of globalization of markets and capital is that once monetary trade policy is determined, the economic direction of the country is determined. Sadly in these two crucial areas the government has chosen to follow its failed predecessor rather than to lead Canadians with a new vision.

Job creation is the number one problem in Canada today and yet major sections of the economy are not mentioned, agriculture and the resource sector for example. These industries account for 21 per cent of our gross national product and close to a million jobs in our economy.

The New Democrats' full employment plan included items such as the infrastructure proposal, and we support that, and investment funds to stimulate the growth of small and medium sized businesses. We agree on the need for research and development and the kind of new technologies that will bring us into the 21st century.

I want to particularly mention the government's reference in the throne speech to a youth corps. We will be looking very carefully at what the details of this will be because the tragedy of youth unemployment in this country is incalculable. We know the high rate of statistics but we have not calculated the social cost to the future of this country and we must do that.

I urge the government to very quickly move on youth unemployment, to develop the youth corps and give us the details because we must show the youth of this country that we who have been elected take their concerns and their future very seriously.

The hon. member for Calgary Southwest places his major emphasis on debt and the current deficit of this government. Let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, that there is absolutely no debate about whether debt and the deficit are serious problems to this country. As we reached the half trillion mark on the debt last week, there certainly can be no question that it must be a preoccupying part of our deliberations.

The debate therefore is not about whether it is a problem but how we address that problem. We must come to terms with a number of realities, the first being that unemployment is not free. We have to stop assuming that it is.

Last fall we saw the Department of Finance say that lost revenue and income support means that every unemployed worker costs government an estimated $17,500. That is simply the economic cost. It is not the social cost. We see that the department projected that deficit projections would not be met because of a shortfall of revenue, not because of overspending on programs. Simply capping expenditures is not the sole way to address the debt. Certainly efficient management is. Unless we can create employment and create growth we will never address the real serious debt in this country.

Another important area this government must examine is our unfair tax system. The middle class is saddled with the largest share of the tax burden, while the wealthy and the large corporations can take advantage of legal loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Personal income tax now represents 48 per cent of federal revenue, and only 7 per cent of that revenue is contributed by large corporations. Tax expenditures like private family trusts, set up by Canada's richest families to shelter their money for a period of 21 years, should be eliminated. We should also eliminate budget items that allow deduction of expenses like business lunches and entertainment, estimated to cost one billion dollars in lost revenue annually.

There is no doubt that the GST has failed in its objective. We have said for some time that we must eliminate the GST, that it is an unfair and regressive tax. It is not enough, as the government is suggesting it is going to do, to simply review and hide the GST. It must eliminate it. We are witnessing a near tax revolt in this country with a new underground economy.

The government has signalled its intention to overhaul Canada's social security system. In essence, social security is a definition of who we are, how we treat each other and the values that we in this country support.

There is no doubt in my mind that the social security system must be looked at in light of the realities of today's society. One of those realities is that more women are in the work force and there is a greater need for child care than there has been in the past.

While there was much rhetoric in the red book on child care, it is absolutely missing from the throne speech. There is no mention of the necessity and importance of child care which I see not just as a social program but an economic program in developing our future economy.

I say to the Liberal Party that it is a great loss to Canadians if they do not follow through on a national child care program which is essential to the development of our economy.

In the proposed review of social security, it is suggested that there will be a process that takes place. I urge the government to listen not just to the academics or the business community but to

those who are affected and who have been victims of unemployment in our country.

Finally there are many things that I applaud such as the review of members' pensions and remuneration. I proposed that in February 1992. As well, I applaud the government saying that it would like a new relationship with aboriginal peoples. Such a partnership must be based not only on the right to inherent self-government but speedy settlement of land claims.

I urge the government to put into practice the rhetoric, the fine words that were said in the throne speech and bring forward as an early piece of legislation the Yukon land claims settlement and self-government legislation.

We face many challenges. We have the ability to make this the best country in the world in terms of equality and our economy.

I urge the government to remember that Canada is not just a great nation internally but that we have a great role internationally. We cannot forget the concept of common security. We cannot build our security on the insecurity of others. In fact, we must move forward to be a strong advocate in the international community as well as here at home.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Nic Leblanc Longueuil, QC

The hon. member for Yukon said earlier-and I felt somewhat under attack-that some members of this House want to destroy this country while others want to build it.

The point is that the federal system has been destroying this country for many years. It is not the members of this House but the federal system itself which is destroying the country through duplication of government programs and services. According to the Quebec government, this duplication costs between $2 billion and $3 billion a year. The inefficiency and inconsistency of these programs are very costly as well; the same can be said of contradictory legislation in many cases.

To those who maintain that we are here to destroy the country, I reply that our goal is to help build two countries, but two countries that will work well.

The question I would like to ask the hon. member for Yukon is this: As a member of this House, does she intend to favour and encourage small and medium sized businesses instead of trying to destroy them? It is in that sector that jobs are created.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, of course, during the election we proposed to set up programs for small and medium sized businesses because it is very important for the future of this country.

With regard to the statements on the future of this country, it is clear that there are problems with the federal system. That is why I supported the Charlottetown constitutional agreement. This agreement would have allowed us to make certain changes for all provinces and territories.

I would also like to repeat that the New Democratic Party fundamentally believes in the future of Canada, a Canada which includes Quebec.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Roger Simmons Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to say hello to my good friend and almost seatmate in the last Parliament, the member for Yukon. I listened with interest, as always, to what she had to say. I congratulate her on her election and on the vigour and dignity she demonstrated throughout the campaign.

I got the impression toward the end of her remarks that maybe she had run out of time. Could I give her the opportunity to be a little more specific on what she had in mind with respect to our international role?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind words. We were almost seatmates then. I had to give him a lot of coaching and I will continue to do that even though he is across on the other side of the House.

I would like to say a few words. As some people will know I have just returned from the east and had an opportunity to speak in India, Nepal and Thailand with business people, some political people and so on. One is really struck by the potential for Canada in trade relations in those areas and our ability as a non-super power to be a real force for peace and progress in those countries. We will be having a debate later this week on several aspects of peacekeeping and other similar issues.

It is extremely important that we not forget, as we deal with the very crucial issues in our country, we have a responsibility to those outside our shores. As I said in my remarks, when we think of what will make us a secure nation it is certainly not to build on the insecurity of others but to reach out in a spirit of co-operation to help other nations become self-sufficient in the way that is in their interest and ultimately in the interests of the world.

In that relation I would like to say that we talk a lot about the global economy, but we in Canada have a very important opportunity given our size and our past to be a real player in the development of international institutions which become more key as we move into this continuing global economy.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the leader of the NDP on her election and tell her that, like my fellow member from Longueuil, I was a little surprised by her remarks on Canadian unity.

If I remember correctly, Quebec said yes to Canada when it said no in the 1980 referendum. Quebec was told no by Canada when the 1982 Constitution was signed without it. But Quebec again said yes by electing the Bourassa government, and the government also said-

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that one of the main features of our democracy is the right to speak. I am surprised that the Liberal members opposite are trying to cut me off while I am exercising what seems to me to be the most basic democratic right.

Then we had the Meech Lake Accord and some members, one or two in the NDP, voted against it. The leader of the NDP was among them. When it was time to give Quebec a chance to enter the Canadian federation, when it was time to take a first step toward Quebec, she said no and today instead of engaging in a new historic debate, they prefer a prehistoric debate.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, while the member talks about a prehistoric debate I think he would want to talk about the Charlottetown accord which was the most recent constitutional discussion. It is pretty clear that the majority of Canadians certainly do not want to see us preoccupied in the House with constitutional matters only.

It is the responsibility of all members of the House to ensure the security of all Canadians, particularly in terms of economic security. I am surprised the member would want to use his question simply to deal with that matter when he sees the high rates of unemployment in Montreal and other parts of Quebec. I would like to see the member fighting here for his constituents, for better economic and social programs, as is being done by the New Democratic Party.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Hamilton East
Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, may I begin by congratulating you on your new post. We have all taken on different responsibilities in the House. As we in the opposition offered our full co-operation to the last government, I am sure I can expect the same kind of co-operation from opposition members in a few weeks to come.

Nonetheless I am thrilled to be here on the government side of the House. Some of us have come here as new members. Some of us have been around this place for some time, and some of us have spent a lot of years in opposition. I have spent precisely 13 and a half years in opposition, 4 years working as an assistant to a member in the opposition, for a total of about 17 years fighting against governments. Mr. Speaker, if you see from time to time that it takes a bit of time for me to make the transition please bear with me.

I cannot help but look around the House and see how things have changed in the last 25 years. Twenty-five years ago there was only one woman in Parliament. When I was first elected to this place in 1984 there were 26 women. Today that has more than doubled. Of course I was very happy to see my hon. friend, the member for Yukon, back with us. We have taken steps rather slowly but we are getting there. I have to feel particularly proud of the work and the support given by our Prime Minister to the arrival of more women in our caucus. In 1984 we were five. In 1988 we were 13. This year there are almost as many women in the Liberal caucus as there were in the whole of Parliament: 37 Liberal women. I can say, Mr. Speaker, that you are going to be hearing more and more from these very strong women in the days and weeks ahead.

I am proud that our Prime Minister led the charge, in fact to some public criticism, in ensuring that this particular Parliament was more representative of Canada as a whole. When I see my colleague, the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, my colleague for Bramalea-Gore-Malton and other colleagues in this place, it is clear this is one Parliament where we are beginning to reflect the real face of Canada. For that I think the governing party can take some credit.

As the Prime Minister said, all government policies are aimed at creating a just, fair, human, decent and prosperous country. Ultimately, the government is serving people and it is by making use of everyone's skills in this country and by giving all Canadians an opportunity to realize their full potential that we will succeed as a nation.

With 205 new members of Parliament reflecting a broad range of issues we have a chance to deal effectively with issues which affect all Canadian families. In this International Year of the Family we have a duty to deal with the issues that can help safeguard Canadian families and ensure that they are healthy, secure and prosperous.

The government will address issues in particular relating to women's health, breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease. The government will introduce a program for prenatal nutrition to help ensure that when babies are born they are born healthy. We will address the staggering problem of poverty among aboriginal children through a specific head start program. The Prime Minister intends to personally chair the new national forum on health.

We believe a strong national health care system is essential for the dignity of our country and for the dignity of every

individual Canadian. We will act to make our streets and our homes safe. We will act to protect Canadians from hatred and harassment.

The government will take these measures because it is only through these measures that every Canadian has a fair chance to play a role in restoring our country to economic health. Canadians want to see the health of our country restored, and that is the top objective of the new federal government.

As Minister of the Environment I have heard loud and clear that Canadians understand economic prosperity can and must flow from a healthy environment. Yes, Canadians want to see our fiscal deficit cut down and they want the job deficit wiped out, but they know that can only happen when we attack the environmental deficit.

I am firmly convinced that, with the support of my colleagues in the House, we will succeed in making environmental changes which we, as Canadians, must make. The leader of the Opposition was once the Minister of the Environment. He and I sometimes have different opinions on some issues, but we agree on the need to show leadership when it comes to the environment.

The leader of the Reform Party has already said during the election campaign that even when it comes to cutting costs he obviously believes the environmental budget is one that should be kept intact.

The hon. member for Yukon represents a region of Canada where good jobs depend on a healthy environment.

The leader of the New Democratic Party, the hon. member for Yukon, comes from a part of the country that obviously depends very much on environmental health.

The hon. member for Sherbrooke was also Minister of the Environment and he knows how important sustainable development is to Canada.

I have had a chance to meet a number of our new members. I was very pleased to hear the commitment that a great many of them had to environmental issues.

Regardless of our political views on other issues such as the Constitution, the environment really matters to everybody, because all Canadians want to leave their children a more healthy and prosperous country. As Canadians, we care about our lakes and rivers. Let us not forget the song "Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver".

We also care about our Rocky mountains, our Arctic region and about the air we breathe. We are adamant about leaving our children and grandchildren a cleaner environment. We know that good jobs and economic prosperity depend on a healthy environment. Guided by these principles, I am convinced that we will, in this Parliament, co-operate to ensure an improved environment and economy for our country.

We know that, for our country as well as for the whole planet, the environmental limits will soon be reached. Human activity has increased tenfold and the earth is less and less able to absorb the damage and to recover from it. In some cases, we have already gone the point of no return.

The environment is one of the basic features of our national identity. In some cases, this heritage is already in jeopardy.

The failure of the fisheries industry to be able to sustain itself is just one example of how environmental degradation can have serious and indeed devastating economic impacts. Literally tens of thousands of fishermen and fisherwomen have nothing left to fish because we have not been the guardians of this sustainable resource nationally and in particular internationally.

Sometimes we do not heed warnings.

For instance, for about a month it has been pretty frigid in this country, but nevertheless global warming is a very real threat. The same goes for the thinning of the ozone layer: skin cancer is on the rise, and even wildlife is threatened. Our beautiful lakes are being poisoned by toxic substances. Soil degradation and loss of biodiversity are also serious problems. The birds and the air we breathe have no passports, and that is why we all have a responsibility, whatever our political persuasion, to concentrate on finding solutions to these environmental problems. We are going through a crisis, but there is still hope. The answer is sustainable development.

We can aspire to a better life for ourselves and our children by understanding that sustainable development must provide a sound basis for Canada's long-term prosperity.

Individual Canadians have learned that lesson well. They are biking where they once would have driven. They are protecting wildlife habitat on their property and cutting down drastically on household garbage. Many businesses have switched to envi-

ronmentally friendly products and are reaping benefits. Our children regard blue boxes and composting as a fact of life.

Canadians expect the government and Parliament to do our part. That is why the Prime Minister made sustainable development a central theme of our election red book.

The Prime Minister, as members know, is a person who lives up to his commitments. He understands that environmental improvement and economic development go hand in hand. He believes that by making Canada a world environmental leader we will ensure prosperity for Canadians.

If we use our resources wisely, we will have resources for future generations. If we promote research and development and environmental technologies, we will create good long term jobs and protect ecosystems. If we make Canada a leader in green industries, we will create more products for Canadians to market throughout the world, products that can help clean up this world.

Also, we have the benefit of a Minister of Finance who is a strong environmentalist already on the record on these important issues. Personally, I am pleased that the Prime Minister asked the former minister of the environment of the province of Quebec, the member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis, to become my parliamentary secretary. The hon. member is a committed environmentalist who has a great understanding of the delicate balancing act between federal and provincial jurisdictions.

The Liberal caucus is full of talented and energetic members of Parliament. I have personally heard from more than four dozen Liberal members of Parliament who are interested in spearheading environmental issues on the local, national and international levels. We intend to move from words to action and to make Canada a model of environmental responsibility.

The Prime Minister has already done that with the infrastructure program which will be signed in Ontario today and which has already been signed in a number of provinces across the country.

This key initiative is a wonderful example of how we can create jobs and clean up the environment. Untreated municipal raw sewage is one of the main causes of water degradation in Canada. Now the federal government under the infrastructure program will assist provincial, regional and municipal authorities to finance new or renewed facilities for sewage and water.

What is more, we are ensuring that our investment lays a firm foundation for economic development and pollution prevention. We are doing this by insisting that municipalities receiving funds encourage water conservation and develop sound financial plans to keep that infrastructure in place.

It is with that same spirit that the government is pursuing the action plan for clean-up of the Fraser River, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

We ought to be a showcase for the world of economic growth in tandem with environmental enhancement.

I am pleased to inform you that we are about to sign phase two of our action plan for the St. Lawrence River, a vital part of our environmental heritage.

Sound environmental planning is not an impediment to jobs. It is a potential source of tens of thousands of new jobs.

Environmental technology is the fastest growing business sector in Canada today, growing this year at a rate of 15 per cent. We must tap the ingenuity and drive of Canada's workers. These are qualities that have made us one of the most successful trading nations in the world and they can make our country the world leader in sustainable development. Incredible.

At present Canada still imports 60 per cent of the environmental technology it needs. We plan to reverse the situation and make Canada a net exporter of eco technology and eco know-how. We plan to have the private sector seize this market advantage at home and internationally.

The government will help Canadians by directing 25 per cent of all new government funding for research and development to technologies that benefit the environment. We will consolidate incentive and support programs into a co-ordinated strategy to promote environmental industries.

That is why this week, the secretary of state for science and the parliamentary secretary for the environment will travel across the country from Halifax to Vancouver via Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton, to meet representatives from the various sectors and environmental groups and promote a joint development strategy for environmental industries.

Small and medium sized businesses in the environmental industry will benefit from improved access to funding assistance for capital investment. Canada Investment Funds will be created to help leading edge technology firms. The strategy for implementing an information highway and the creation of a technology network designed to improve the diffusion of innovation are essential elements of this two-pronged approach: job creation and environmental protection.

The government is aware that by targeting assistance to small and medium sized businesses that are active in the environmental sector today, we will create the jobs of tomorrow.

The government will also review the tax system and federal subsidies to identify barriers to sound environmental practice. We want to ensure that at the national level, government expenditures and taxes are used to promote social equity, protect the environment, conserve resources and develop new green industries in order to create future prosperity.

The government will promote energy efficiency which can quickly generate economic and environmental dividends. We must extract maximum value from the energy we consume. It makes sense, both economically and environmentally, to use our precious resources wisely.

We will also adopt an industrial policy to promote the value of our natural resources and the processing of these resources into finished goods that can be sold on international markets. Increasing jobs and prosperity without depleting our natural wealth and resources is a vital part of the Liberal national employment policy.

More and more environmental problems have a global dimension, and that is why we must work together. These problems cannot be solved without international co-operation, and that is why we will make sustainable development a key element of Canada's foreign policy.

The Prime Minister has already shown the way. He was the first political figure to ask for the inclusion of environmental guarantees in NAFTA. He realized that this was a unique opportunity to promote both economic prosperity and a healthy environment. His approach showed great vision.

Under the NAFTA the North American Commission for Environmental Co-operation will be located in Canada. To that end we are engaged in an open and transparent process to select the host city for the commission. We have commissioned an independent consultant to provide selection advice based upon objective criteria.

For the first time ever in the history of the Canadian government the environmental record of the applicant cities will be taken into consideration in choosing the site of this important international institution.

Significantly for the first time in Canada's history, an environmental record is requested of each city that wishes to act as host to this international institution. At the Seattle summit, the Prime Minister invited all Pacific Rim countries to contribute to sustainable development.

It is in response to this invitation that foreign and Canadian environment ministers will meet in Vancouver next March with my colleague, the secretary of state responsible for Pacific affairs, to consider solutions to common concerns. The Prime Minister thinks that our trade partners must also become our environmental partners.

Mr. Speaker, permit me to congratulate the Prime Minister on his choice of the new ambassador for the environment, your predecessor, Mr. John Fraser, who had a reputation for cleaning up this House. It should serve as a model for how we can clean up the country. We will move in the spirit of John Fraser very quickly to proclaim the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. However, I want to assure you that we will do more than that. We intend to establish a concurrent process for amendments to strengthen that act as it is being introduced. Our goal is an assessment process that is comprehensive and effective.

Environmental assessment is not a stumbling block to be circumvented. It is a powerful tool to promote sound decision making to prevent environmental damage and to avoid costly mistakes.

At the request of the Prime Minister, I am also working personally to analyse the requests in the red book for an environmental auditor general and for an independent environmental assessment agency. If we as Parliament and government are going to encourage others to clean up their act we have to start by putting our own House in order.

At the Prime Minister's instruction, I am examining the most effective means of ensuring that our own practices are held to rigorous environmental scrutiny. We intend to work very co-operatively with provincial ministers.

I already had a very fruitful discussion with my counterpart from Quebec on several issues, including proposed harmonization measures.

We have already signed an administrative agreement with the province of Alberta to make sure when we get into the business of environmental regulation that we do it in a way that protects the environment and at the same time ensures that we use taxpayers' dollars wisely. That is the spirit in which we will, as Parliament, be reviewing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I know the parliamentary committee will be working very hard to hear the concerns of all Canadians and I welcome input from all sides of the House.

More and more Canadians take the environment into account in their daily decisions.

I draw confidence and hope from the positive changes that I have seen in my own community. Hamilton harbour is now a place where children can swim.

I will repeat it. Hamilton harbour was one of the worst places, but it is now a place where children can swim. I invite everyone to come and visit my riding in the spring to see for themselves how sustainable development can work.

People and wildlife are the beneficiaries. Canadians want to see co-operation between levels of government and political parties. We want to avoid possible overlap and duplication but we also want Parliament and the Government of Canada to start taking sustainable development seriously. It is an opportunity we can seize. We must keep the faith of Canadians. We can and we must make sustainable development not simply a concept but a way of life starting right here in Parliament so that we can show Canadians that as we speak so we do.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the Minister of the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister because she began her speech by saying that we need women. I do not know her personally, but I think that she is a woman of action. We need women like that. She is in authority; she is now the Prime Minister's right arm. Right now, she is probably the most influential woman in Canada.

I also listened closely to her speech. She mentioned a country with values of justice and fairness and so on. However, like me, she must admit that even though we have very good intentions, right now, unfortunately, the country is not fair and just.

The Deputy Prime Minister must know that at least one family in five in Canada lives below the poverty line. I am now on the first subject that I want to raise, which is also the poverty of Indians living on reserves and in the far north; in their case, not one in five but one in two families in the far north and on Indian reserves lives in poverty. These are very disturbing statistics. We must deal firmly with these issues. There is a lot of discrimination in Canada and I think that is an example. Shortly, I will be asking her to say just how her government intends to proceed on these matters.

I also come back to the environment because I know that it is a subject which particularly interests her. With respect to the environment, we also know that the food chain in the far north is deteriorating, and I think that is one of the few places where an environment which was protected by the very nature of things is deteriorating. My first question is this: can she state what her thinking is on how to deal with this poverty, out of concern for justice and equity, for Indians on reserves and in the far north?

Second, does she with her government intend to put forward specific issues and ways to deal with the deterioration of the food chain in the far north as such?