House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, my passion toward this issue has not diminished. At that press conference the Prime Minister actually bragged about his experience as a young backbencher. He said that when he was a young MP, if a person showed creativity with constructive ideas and could garner support in the House, then he would be there. I am not going to let him forget it.

In the Speech from the Throne yesterday, he actually cited the member for Mississauga South on fetal alcohol syndrome. That is something that rarely happens. We should take his lead and give it a whirl.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, just briefly I want to confer to you our congratulations for assuming the chair. You bring a great dignity to the House. I have worked with you on committees and I know that you will fulfil your role more than adequately.

I know that the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, has spoken very passionately on this issue too—

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry, but I would like to remind the hon. member that time has elapsed for questions and comments. If he would like to continue the debate perhaps he could go behind the curtains.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, I hope the member from the Toronto area remains in his seat so we can continue the debate. We came into the House together in 1988 and share a lot of institutional memory.

Before I get into my remarks, Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. You are a great addition to the House and we welcome your presence.

I want to thank my constituents of New Brunswick Southwest as well for allowing me to represent them in the House of Commons. It is an honour and a privilege to do so. Like all of us, our commitment is to do our very best on the floor of the House. Hopefully I can do that today.

I thank my family, particularly my wife. As all members know, this business is tougher on families than it is on the members. There is no question that without them we could not be here. I want to thank my wife and my family for the sacrifices they have made.

In terms of throne speeches, there is nothing new in this one. Regardless of who forms the government, it is usually big on platitudes. The reality is we will have to see how committed the government is to carrying out some of what it has mentioned in the throne speech.

One of the things I want to focus on is the lack of consistency between red book one and two, and maybe to be determined red book three, in terms of what was promised and what was delivered. There was a wide gap there. Hopefully that gap will be closed in this next parliament with some co-operation from the government and members on this side of the House.

Let me remind the House that the election was called somewhat early. In fact, in a seven year period we had three elections. There was just a little over three and a half years between the 1997 election and the election last fall. I do not think there is any question that the Prime Minister was very calculating in terms of when that election was called. Giving him credit, he was smart enough to realize that the time was right and if he called an election when he did, he would most likely win it. In politics that is important. Winning is what it is all about in forming a government. Obviously, the Prime Minister's call was the right one in terms of winning office.

As our leader mentioned last night in his remarks to the Speech from the Throne, it is as much our fault as the government's fault. The government, to a degree without being too negative, did win the election by default. In a sense, there was not a strong enough alternative on this side of the House on which Canadians were comfortable enough to put their votes.

Luckily, some of us came over here and were elected to the House, hopefully to hold the government's feet to the fire in terms of what it said it will do and what we hope it will do. Sadly, Canadians could not see enough strength in one particular party to allow it to form the government. I hate to use this word because it sounds a little negative, but we are stuck with what we have. It is our job to try to make it a little bit better.

Let us go through some of the important issues that have been left simmering on the back burner by the government.

I was just reminded by the member from Nova Scotia, Madam Speaker, that I am splitting my time. I am sure I am going to get the big hook from the gentleman behind if I do not mention that. I think he is concerned because I am starting to ramble.

A number of issues were left over from the past election and I want to remind us of some of those. The immigration bill went through the process three times. In three elections an immigration bill was promised but nothing happened. It died on the order paper.

The species at risk legislation again died on the order paper and nothing happened. That was introduced three times but was never passed by the House.

The same thing occurred with the youth justice bill. It was a hotly debated issue in the last parliament and in the 1997 election, but again nothing happened. We are waiting for that legislation to come back. The financial services act died on the order paper. They are all very important.

There is the overhaul of the Employment Insurance Act. It died on the order paper just a few hours or days before the election was called. It was really important for those people who represented parts of the country that are not as blessed with a strong economy. We would like to see that introduced. I am told that it is going to be tabled in the House on Friday and we will be debating that very quickly. I hope the government is willing to listen and learn from its mistakes in how it handles people who are not as fortunate as we are in terms of employment opportunities and training. We are looking forward to that.

The government also, as was mentioned by the member from Winnipeg today, mishandled the rapid cost of home heating fuel and the rebate program that it introduced. It is doing it through the GST tax credit system. Obviously there are problems with that, Madam Speaker, because you or I could in fact receive the tax credit, but the ones who are actually paying the fuel bill cannot. It has created a real problem. It is neighbour against neighbour, family member against family member as to who is getting the credit and who is not. I do not think it was well thought out. It was well intentioned but it was brought in hastily without a lot of thought and without a lot of debate. It is one of those issues that could have come to the floor of the House of Commons and maybe some of the hitches and glitches could have been sorted out.

Again, we will be facing the native fishing issue in Atlantic Canada, which was a huge issue. In the last couple of years there has been no leadership on the part of the fisheries minister. Hopefully the minister responsible for the native issues in Canada along with the fisheries minister can do something to resolve that issue.

The old gun registration issue is an example of the government pitting rural Canada against urban Canada. It is an another issue that will rear its ugly head in the House.

This morning I spoke to a member from Prince Edward Island, which is going through a crisis in what we call the potato war. It is an issue that has been devastating to the potato farmers in Prince Edward Island. It is reminiscent of the potato virus of the 1990s that affected New Brunswick. We are learning that no matter when a community gets into trouble or a commodity resurrects its ugly head in the country, we are all affected. None of us take any joy in that.

Although I represent a good part of the potato belt in New Brunswick, there will be negative affects on us because of that. It is simply because of some very strong heavy-handed practices by the United States in an attempt to keep our product out. It will come up with any issue at any time if it fits its needs. It does not want to play by rules set down by international trade or in trade agreements. When it is in its best interest to put the wood to us it will sometimes do it.

That leads me into what might be happening in regard to the United States. There is no question that its economy is in difficulty. That is going to spill over into Canada. It already has. How bad will it get and how will the government respond? Hopefully it will and some of the debates on what we can do to cushion the blow or make it better for Canadians will come to the floor of the House of Commons.

Our leader spoke last night of the spirit of co-operation for the reform of parliament. It should not always be adversarial in terms of what we can do as individual members of parliament to work together to solve problems.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Madam Speaker, congratulations to you on your appointment to the chair. I am absolutely confident that you will do a great job.

I have a comment that arises from the hon. member's remarks relating to the federal government's fuel rebate program. First, the government should be applauded for moving quickly to come forward with a program that will cost $1.4 billion. There will be rebates going to over eight million Canadians.

However, there is no doubt that there have been complaints coming in. Perhaps the program is not as perfect as it could be. One of the problems we hear has to do with people who were not eligible for the GST rebate in the last tax year but certain things have happened since. Some people are telling me that they have gone through a separation, or lost their job or have a reduced income for some reason. However, at this point they are not eligible for the GST rebate, therefore they do not get the fuel rebate. That is a problem.

I spoke to the finance minister and he is sensitive to this. I know the government is looking at the issue. Perhaps there is a way to make the program better. There is pain out there and I just hope the government can fine tune the fuel rebate program.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, I will take the member's comments in the generosity in which they were given. I agree that the rebate was good. What I am saying is that it could probably have been fine tuned. However, we do not hesitate to congratulate the government on what it is doing. It is unfortunate that those types of difficulties are out there.

I wanted to make a point with regard to disparity in the country and the inability of some Canadians to pay their heating bills because of unemployment, the rising cost of fuel or living on fixed income. It is interesting that the member for Fredericton, my neighbouring community, is talking about the federal government making a promise two years ago to lift the cap on equalization payments.

He said in yesterday's Saint John Telegraph Journal that the promise to lift equalization payments came after the ceiling on the Canada health and social transfer was removed but argued that generally benefits the wealthier provinces with its per capita formula for distributing federal funds.

He said he had no trouble telling us that Atlantic MPs will be working on the interests of Atlantic Canadians. That means acting on a political commitment that was made with the specific intention of bringing more equity to the country. He said there were provinces in one part of Canada struggling to maintain health services and provinces in other parts of the country that were rebating its citizens with their good fortune.

I do not have to identify those provinces. We all know them. That is the disparity that I am talking about within Canada. The federal government needs to recognize that those provinces need help to maintain the services we have come to expect as Canadians.

What it boils down to is a bigger, broader sense of a generous Canada. We are hoping that the finance minister will act on that. I fully support the member for Fredericton in his comments and his commitment to see that promise fulfilled. We are hoping that the finance minister will do that.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. It is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. While I am on my feet I would like to take a moment to thank the citizens and constituents of the riding of South Shore for putting their trust in me to represent them in the Parliament of Canada.

The throne speech provides an excellent opportunity for the government of the day to set out its vision for Canada and the steps it will take to achieve its objectives. We did not hear much from the government. It does not live up to the ideal of a government that has a vision for the 21st century. We heard the same story in its last throne speech. There were no changes, no bold new ideas or initiatives.

In his reply yesterday, the hon. member for Calgary Centre observed that the Speech from the Throne had little information or depth, denoting the government's lack of plans for the country. There was little discussion of issues of importance such as the need for parliamentary reform or financial direction in the form of a budget. Instead there were no new ideas put forth, simply regurgitation of previous issues that were not given the priority they deserved, or they would have been passed in the previous parliament.

The member for Calgary Centre was clear about the need for a reform of parliament and the need for the issue to be discussed and debated on the floor of the House. If there has ever been a time when we needed parliamentary reform, it is obviously now.

I am wearing a copper pin made from the copper roofing that came off the roofs of the parliament buildings when they were replaced.

As every person in the House realizes, the Parliament Buildings burnt down in 1916 and were rebuilt in 1922. The copper was actually replaced in the roof because in one instance the library was leaking and was contaminating some of the books in the basement. What the government chose to do at that time was to replace the roof and keep up the infrastructure of the building.

Sadly, that has been the caretaker attitude of the government. It is willing to fix the roof to keep it from leaking, and it is willing to keep up the basic maintenance of infrastructure and the physical structure but it is not willing to do anything about the nuts and bolts of parliament. It is also not willing to do anything about the job that we are elected to do here, which is to govern the country and bring about responsible and reasonable reform when it is required.

There have been changes and chances to modernize the system. The government recognized that by fixing the roof. However, why is the government waiting before it makes similar changes to replace, restore and change outdated parliamentary procedures? It is not rocket science.

There are issues that should have been discussed and debated in the throne speech. I would like to raise an issue that the member for Toronto—Danforth raised regarding food security. He spoke as an urban member and I certainly appreciate that. However, I would like to return a question to the member as a rural member of parliament and as a member of parliament who has some knowledge and some understanding of what goes on in rural Canada and the need for the government, and hopefully the member for Toronto—Danforth, to pursue initiatives that can help rural Canadians live on a par with urban Canadians.

The member spoke specifically about the need for safe food and safe water. I do not think there is any member of parliament who would disagree with that. I wonder if the urban member of parliament for Toronto—Danforth really understands what he is talking about.

If we are going to have safe food and safe water then the government has to stop downloading the costs on to the people who produce safe food and who we quite often depend upon to enforce regulations and put safeguards in place to protect our water supplies. I am talking about the farmers.

For years this government has continued to download the costs of running the Canada Food Inspection Agency on to the people who produce the food instead of downloading those costs on to the people who consume the food. If we want safe food and safe water then all Canadians have to pay for it, not just the farmers who grow the food. This is a much larger issue than that.

The hon. member went on to talk about the fiasco and the lack of action that the government has taken on the potato wart in P.E.I., which my hon. colleague from New Brunswick spoke about earlier. We have neighbours to the south who for years have used phytosanitary trade restrictions as a non-tariff trade barrier. The government should not be surprised by that. It has been several weeks since the potato wart was discovered in P.E.I. and there has been no plan of action from the government of the day.

It is totally unacceptable that seven or eight weeks after potato wart was found in P.E.I. that there is no plan in place. There is a vague promise that the government is going to do something. The member for Malpeque was quoted in the paper as saying that the government was going to do something. However, that is not good enough. That is absolutely intolerable.

There is nothing in the throne speech about fisheries. The same government was willing to give $500 million to integrate first nations into the fishery and has done nothing to ensure that integration takes place. The government is willing to spend $500 million on an issue and not follow it up. It is never going to be looked at again. The book will never be opened. It will be set down on a desk and the page will never be turned again.

We cannot continue to govern the country in such a manner. We need a long term commitment to our fisheries, to fisheries training and to stock replenishment.

There is absolutely nothing on the government's agenda except that it gave a bit of money, I believe it was $12 million, to the wild salmon in the inner Bay of Fundy. That is not good enough. We have recently realized through new DNA testing that the inner Bay of Fundy salmon stocks are one of three distinct salmon species in the world. We have the B.C. stock; the North Atlantic stock, which is most of Canada and Europe; and the inner Bay of Fundy stock, a separate species of salmon.

Gratitude and platitude from the government are not enough to save this endangered species. It is not enough to save the fisheries or to help agriculture or to begin to understand the diverse issues affecting ordinary Canadians.

I will return for a moment to some very important resource sector issues. The Americans continually and at every opportunity use the phytosanitary certificate as a non-tariff trade barrier. It is something we are used to. Those of us in the agriculture sector and in the forestry sector are used to that. We expect it, plan for it and lobby against it, but the government has turned a deaf ear to our cry.

Members of the government do not seem to understand the importance of our agriculture sector. They certainly have no comprehension whatsoever of the importance of our forestry sector.

Last week, the premier of Yukon, Pat Duncan, was in Ottawa lobbying the federal government on a serious issue that is arising in Alaska. It looks as if the new president in the U.S. and his new interior secretary are willing to open up the national Arctic wildlife refuge in Alaska to oil drilling.

If the U.S. builds a pipeline to that refuge, it will cut off the migration of the porcupine caribou herd which migrates from Alaska to Canada and from Canada to Alaska. The hon. member for Toronto—Danforth said he was willing to discuss important issues of the day with the Prime Minister. That is an issue he should be discussing with the Prime Minister, to get it on the agenda when the Prime Minister meets with the American president next week.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member just told us that the government had patched up leaks and that it was better at patching up leaks than at repairing structures.

I would like to know if he agrees with me that not only does the government not repair structures, it tries to break them.

One simply has to look at the inaugural speech to see how, rather than dealing with issues that come under its own jurisdiction, this government is constantly trying to break up existing structures and to create trouble by infringing on provincial jurisdictions, including those of Quebec.

I would like to know if the hon. member agrees with me.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank the new member of parliament for his question and certainly welcome him to the House. I appreciate the question, although I am not the expert on all issues that occur between the federal government and the provinces.

There are many issues for which we have striven as a party and have raised in this place. The government can work in conjunction with the provinces, whether it be the province of Quebec, Nova Scotia or Alberta. The government tends not to do that. It tends to go off on its own tangents, to have its own agenda and to satisfy its own agenda of simply getting re-elected. It is not anything about what is good for Canada or the provinces.

If the government really wanted to do something for the province of Quebec or the provinces of western Canada or eastern Canada, all it would have to do is to work in a concentrated effort to strike down interprovincial trade barriers which affect business and opportunities in Quebec and eastern Canada.

I would personally like to see as a member of parliament the government taking a more proactive, responsible and reasonable attitude toward all the provinces and working in conjunction with them for the betterment of all.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, the previous speaker outlined a whole host of shortcomings in the Speech from the Throne. Would he agree with me that one of the most horrendous oversights in the Speech from the Throne is the complete omission or the lack of any comment whatsoever on one of the most pressing issues facing Canadians: the spiralling cost of home heating fuel, gasoline, diesel fuel and the completely unregulated way the free market seems to be gouging Canadian consumers in this regard?

We have had phone calls from northern Manitoba where people are now paying more to heat their homes than they pay for their mortgage, at $900 and $1,000 a month. In the province of Alberta where they completely deregulated natural gas supply, the price of natural gas is going up 125%.

There has been absolutely no comment from the federal government on how it might intervene to bring some sense of order to the whole distribution and production of this precious natural resource. Would the hon. member like to comment on that glaring oversight in the Speech from the Throne?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, without question the increasing cost in energy is spiralling out of control. Again we see a government that is not willing to deal with the issue.

The hon. member mentioned specifically home heating fuel. I do not know of a single issue, beyond a year ago when the federal government was somehow thinking it would put money into professional hockey, where I received as many phone calls on a single government initiative. We are looking at a government initiative that I think was meant to help Canadians but like most projects the government supports, it was not thought through.

The government said it would give people who receive the GST rebate a $125 fuel rebate. It did not take into consideration students in university who do not pay for fuel. It did not take into consideration widows who live alone, have a home to heat and get $125 and a couple living next door who gets $250.

It is just patently unfair. It did not take into consideration that the cost of natural gas in Manitoba has gone up by slightly more than one-third. It did not take into consideration the advice we gave the government prior to the election on the price of gas.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg South Centre. I congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. It will be a very interesting experience for you. I also congratulate the new Speaker on his election.

I will focus in on one particular part of the Speech from the Throne, the second paragraph on page 5. I want to take a look at one part of the sentence which states that the Government of Canada will help Canada's agricultural sector move beyond crisis management.

I was very happy to hear that, because that is the tool box. I have been watching with interest the Prime Minister. I heard about some of the tools yesterday and the fact that he will be aggressively going after the new President of the United States to get subsidies reduced.

Before I go into the harm of subsidies on the family farm across Canada, I would like people to understand and my urban colleagues to listen because I believe we are talking about the issue of food sovereignty. We have other sovereignty issues within Canada, but the most important one that we have to look at is food sovereignty.

The average age of a farmer in Canada today is 57. Members of the next generation coming up behind take a look at how hard it is to make a living on a farm today and ask why the heck they would want to do that. They are taking a look at other occupations and other vocations that they will educate themselves for to make a living.

My first question would be who will replace us. I am a farmer and I am 50. I am just below the average, but who will replace us? Who will grow the food for the next generation?

On February 6, average Canadians will have made enough money to pay their grocery bill for the year. Thirty-seven days into the year and average Canadians have made enough money to pay their grocery bill.

What is the farmer's component of that when he has paid for everything that he has done? On January 9, nine days into the year, and he has been paid for all his work.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

That is a shame.