House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition signed by residents from Puvirnituq, in Nunavik, and several other communities. The petitioners are asking Parliament to set up a public inquiry to shed light on the policy of sled dog killings in New Quebec.

During the fifties and the sixties, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Government of Canada killed all sled dogs in Nunavik, and the Inuit from Nunavik are asking for an inquiry into the matter.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have six petitions, each calling on the government to protect our children and take all necessary steps to ensure that all material which promotes or glorifies pedophilia or sado-masochistic activities involving children are outlawed. This petition has about 1,000 signatures in total.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition which calls on parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research rather than embryonic stem cell research.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present to the House a petition which contains 600 signatures from concerned constituents in my riding of Cambridge.

My constituents wish to bring to the attention of the House that a clear majority of Canadians condemn the creation and use of child pornography. They are disappointed and frustrated by a recent court decision related to child pornography. The petitioners call on parliament to take all necessary steps to protect our children by outlawing all materials that promote or glorify child pornography.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

If there are any, they will stand. I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary.

The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:05 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to begin debate on the Speech from the Throne, my first such occasion to do so.

As tradition has it, it is the responsibility of the leader of the official opposition to launch the debate in reply to the Speech from the Throne, just as it is the Governor General's duty to deliver it. This is a traditional duty I am honoured to fulfil.

For this honour I owe it once again to express my gratitude to members of the Canadian Reform-Conservative alliance from coast to coast as well as to the constituents of Calgary Southwest. My gratitude in these matters is tempered only by the understanding that Laureen and I have. So many who have given so much to send us here, both in our political lives and in our personal lives, are people we will now find ourselves too often removed from. For my family and me these have been times of tremendous change, but of course we are only a small part of the story.

Only a couple of years ago the western world was still discussing the peace dividend. How things have changed. Since September 11, 2001, we have become preoccupied with military conflict and rumours of war. Boundless speculation in the stock market and boundless optimism in the economy have been replaced by the bearish retreat and deep concern about future trends. Predictions of huge surpluses by the government have been overtaken by warnings about limited room to manoeuvre. Apparent satisfaction with the status quo politically and apparent stagnation in the Canadian political landscape have turned into some rapidly shifting ground.

What has been the Liberal response to all of these developments? It has been twofold: it has been the throne speech but it has also been the emergence of a Liberal leadership race. Let me comment on that first.

The appetite for political change we are seeing has been translated into a taste for leadership change within the Liberal Party as it has been within all parties. However with the Liberals it has been different. With the Liberals we were told that we would have no ordinary leadership debate, no ordinary leadership race, but we would have an answer to the so-called democratic deficit itself.

What has that answer been so far? To start with, when we left here we were told the Liberal Party would have a leadership review. What we have seen is the cancellation of that leadership review vote because party memberships could not be sold. The fix was in.

What we heard next were rumours of the probable cancellation of the leadership race itself so we could have for the first time in our political history a true coronation of the next Prime Minister of Canada. This office, in which power is so concentrated, could be decided without a vote by the people or even without a vote by the governing party.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some excited people over there. They want to have a debate within their own party.

The pattern of behaviour that we have seen in this instance is repeated throughout the Speech from the Throne itself. We heard grandiose rhetoric delivering little or even the opposite of what it promises. We heard communication strategies that talked around real issues, ignored previous failures, gave no details, no plans and no price tags. Why? The most obvious explanation is that yesterday's throne speech was not really about anything except two men: one desperate to leave a legacy and the other whose legacy will simply be leading, if only for a short period of time.

What is a legacy? The word is bandied about a lot here. Why does the government not have a legacy after nine years? Creating a real legacy was the reason my party was founded. It was not the lure of power nor the attraction of the spotlight. It was not to pad our resumes, reward our friends or settle the family score. It was to create something that will last, something that will offer tangible and enduring benefits to all Canadians. It was something that will leave our descendants better off and inspire them to attain greater success. That is what a legacy is. It is something that will last. To build one, one must borrow from the experience of the past, deal with the realities and real problems of today and focus on what we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

Those who are serious about building real legacies are not surprised by the so-called new realities that we face. We are prepared for the fact that the world is dangerous and that peace is always precarious. We know that we must spend on our priorities and that we cannot have everything we want. We are not fooled by empty slogans that mask naked ambition, and yes I do put the words democratic deficit in that category.

Real legacies are founded on values that work, values that have survived the rigorous tests of time, values that have been handed down from generation to generation, not values invented by communication strategists for the suppertime news. In other words, it is values that work, not values that just sound good.

What are our values? We say that taxes belong to the people from whom they were raised and that they are held in trust for the benefit of ordinary Canadians, not to build personal monuments for politicians.

We believe in creating real jobs by expanding the economy, rather than by enlarging the government. We believe that this is accomplished by selling products to customers, not by giving subsidies to contributors. We believe in helping the young, the old, the poor and the sick, not out of any superior moral insight, but because we may all be those things in our own time.

We believe in family and relationships. We know that those can never be replaced satisfactorily by institutions and programs. We believe in accountability and know that power should never be exercised without it.

Those are the values of our party. They do not appeal to the chattering classes or the empire builders. They are the values of the ordinary citizens who have joined us and built this party: workers, farmers, business people, public servants and students. From these ranks come the team that I am honoured to lead in this House today: long-standing members of Parliament with a reputation for moving our policies forward, sometimes even getting these fellows in the government to adopt a few things, such as eliminating the deficit and dealing with Quebec separatism to actually have a little bit of a legacy; former provincial cabinet ministers with a reputation and impressive records of accomplishment; and, of course, a vibrant core of the youngest, brightest and most energetic members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

The Liberal version of a legacy is reflected in this throne speech and all those that have preceded it. So-called Liberal values generally mean more money, more gigantic government programs and more grandiose schemes that will never, ever be achieved.

The Liberal modus operandi has become all too predictable. First, identify a cause that trumps all else. Second, demonize anyone who questions the truth of this instant moral insight. Third, proclaim a scheme that would produce a great leap forward. Fourth, and most important, spend heaps of public money as a measure of concern. Finally, forget about looking at the results and move on to more great ventures.

These uncontrollable Liberal tendencies have become even more pronounced in the last few months as the Prime Minister and his chief rival have tried to up one another. The problems are being identified fast and furious. Concern is being expressed with great passion and poetry. The sky is dark with expensive quoted remedies, the environment, innovation, child poverty, municipalities infrastructure, international aid and aboriginal issues. We have heard it all before.

We really have heard it all before in throne speech after throne speech, budget after budget. My office made a tally of 145 previous throne speech promises, of which 79 have been broken, unfulfilled or forgotten. A success rate of 46% would be inept in any institution I have ever attended.

In this throne speech we have 58 new promises, no less than 29 of them recycled from previous throne speeches or previous government announcements.

Let me take a look at some of the great promises that have fallen by the wayside. We all will remember scrapping the GST in 1994 and replacing it in 1996. Today, if there is any talk at all, it is of increasing the rates. Infrastructure programs were addressed in 1994, 1999 and 2001.

In every single throne speech the government is preparing leading edge innovation strategies.

There have been repeated promises to defend Canadian trade. In 1996 the government would take on trade disputes. Today the trade disputes in agriculture and forestry are worse than ever.

In 1994 the government was going to end foreign overfishing. Those of us who travel to the east coast know that it is worst today than it has ever been. The government promised to revitalize fisheries on both coasts in 1996.

Enhanced law enforcement tools to fight terrorism was mentioned in the last throne speech.

One of my favourites is that the gun registry would cost less than $100 million and would end gun crimes. The ineffectiveness of the registry compares only to the inaccuracy of that particular cost estimate.

Regulatory reform was promised in 1994 and 1996. This year Industry Canada has launched a review to be finished in the year 2010, in other words, 16 years after the original promise was made.

In this particular throne speech we have a multitude of initiatives on aboriginal affairs. Let us not forget that we have had repeated promises in throne speech after throne speech, in fact it is the Prime Minister's career dating back to his early days as a cabinet minister, to deal with aboriginal problems, poverty and governance. The typical solution is to spend billions of dollars even though the billions we are already spending has too little accountability.

However what we lack, which is still the case on many reserves, is that we have no common standards of democratic accountability and the Office of the Auditor General does not apply. We have no common standards of financial or electoral accountability. We do not have the chief electoral officer supervising elections and, of course, aboriginal people continue to lack, by and large, property rights and are unable to have things like basic ownership of housing and the accumulation of wealth.

The difference between what we offer and what the Liberals stand for is clear and unmistakable: on the one hand, inflated Liberal rhetoric coupled with grandiose big government solutions versus our Canadian Alliance approach, which will be responsible, achievable plans based on practical values to deal with critical priorities.

This difference in approach is clearly illustrated in the throne speech delivered in this Parliament yesterday. I would like to briefly go over the various issues raised in the Speech from the Throne: Kyoto and the environment, the health care system, the policy on children and families, international affairs and defence, democratic reform, and financial and economic policy. we see the same thing happening in every one of these areas: pompous rhetoric, past failures, new programs, more money and grandiose plans that will never become reality.

By contrast, we will set out the priorities of the Canadian Alliance so that concrete measures can be taken regarding major priorities, along with a plan for economic growth.

Let me begin with the Kyoto energy accord. This is, if anything, the great shining example of what I am talking about, if not the centrepiece of the throne speech. This purports to be nothing less than a grandiose scheme to save the planet itself, but in the end the throne speech tells us more about the government's political strategy on Kyoto than anything about how it intends to implement it and the real cost to Canadians. After all, it is easier to demonize a single province than to explain to Canadians what the Kyoto accord is, how it will work or what it will cost.

Let me just address those matters quickly. What is the Kyoto accord? We understood it was to be about global warming but we do not even say that in the throne speech. We say instead that it is about something much vaguer called climate change. It deals with, not as most Canadians believe, air pollution or controlling smog, but with so-called greenhouse gases, in particular with emissions of CO

2

, carbon dioxide, the breath of life, the gas used in respiration of plants and animals.

I hear the member for Fundy—Royal yammering away back there. Maybe he should straighten out with his own leader what his position is on that accord. This party is opposed to that accord.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I know there is a lot of enthusiasm for the debate but we do have to be able to hear the person who has the floor and it happens to be the Leader of the Opposition at the moment. I would ask for a little order so that we can hear what he has to say.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am amused to see how an attack on the Tories is taken so hard by the Liberals. I guess they really are the same party after all.

By the time the Kyoto accord is fully implemented Canada will be required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. Eighty per cent of the cost of that will be borne by consumers, not producers. How? The government will not tell us. Apparently, according to press reports, it will not even tell its own senior cabinet ministers.

We do have some estimates. Canadian manufacturers and exporters estimate that the cost of gasoline may have to rise by up to 80%, going as high as $1.10 a litre. We are looking at 50% increases in the cost of heating and electricity in a typical Ontario home.

Will these kinds of sacrifices at least have some global environmental impact? The answer is no or, in all likelihood, no. Nations exempt from Kyoto's provisions or not ratifying it produce 80% of the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, the agreement sets up an international emission trading scheme that ensures that countries like Canada, which are required to cut emissions, actually subsidize emissions in countries with far worse environmental records. Therefore jobs and production will almost certainly move to those kinds of jurisdictions as global emissions increase.

What is the record of the government on all this? It is funny that the government, with all the yammering we are getting today about its commitment to Kyoto, which it promised before and was party to the negotiations that signed on to Kyoto in 1997, still has not ratified it. Ratification has been promised only now in this throne speech and still there is no implementation plan and no clear idea in the throne speech on how or when the implementation plan will come about.

However, it is more than just not having an implementation plan, it is not actually taking any measures to deal with the problem. Unlike the European countries that have ratified Kyoto, or the United States and Australia which have not, the federal government has taken virtually no initiative to deal with reductions in greenhouse gases.

What would we do as a political party? First, we believe that we must take the environment and these environmental problems seriously. Notwithstanding the uncertainty of the science, some of the concerns are real. God has given us stewardship of this planet as our sole resource. We must be concerned when large scale human activity results in large scale atmospheric change.

What we need to do is develop and proceed with a realistic plan to control some of these emissions and to further understand what the problems may be in the future. However we must control, not just greenhouse gases like CO

2

. We also must have a plan to reduce emissions of critical gases that contribute to pollution, smog and acid rain. We also must continue to develop and monitor the science of all this to understand what may or may not be happening in terms of global warming or in terms of other environmental problems.

Second, all these things must be done in a way that is consistent with the economic needs of ordinary people. That requires us to be consistent with the plans being developed by our provinces and our trading partners.

Let us take some areas where beyond merely controlling emissions, where the government should be dealing with the intersection of environmental and economic matters and is not. There are industries in the country, like farming with its drought problem this summer, and the fisheries problem that has been going on for years, where we have serious environmental difficulties and periodic disasters. The government should have practical plans to respond to these practical difficulties of real people.

As for the Kyoto accord, we will stand alone in the House, not just opposing ratification but urging blockage by the provinces and anyone else who is able to of implementing the accord and we will repeal the accord at the very first opportunity. In this I will be assisted by the members of Parliament for Red Deer and Athabasca, veteran members with a wealth of experience in these areas.

Let me turn to health care. What was proposed that we do about health care in the throne speech? Three things: nothing, nothing and nothing; just rhetoric. We have heard it all before. Appoint a commission and wait for it to report.

In 1997 we were promised better access to medically necessary drugs. In 1994 the government appointed the National Forum on Health to deal with the emerging crisis on health care. It reported in 1997 and no action was taken. We have the Kirby committee appointed by the government in the Senate. Now we have the Romanow commission and we are told we must wait for the Romanow commission to act.

While we are waiting month after month, year after year for these various commissions to report, we get endless speeches from the federal government about its role as the protector of health care and health care values. In the meantime, there is no plan. There is a long history of lack of cooperation and open periodic confrontation with the provinces and, of course, the elimination of the deficit in which the cutting of health care transfers was a major priority. In fact, instead of reducing the $16 billion the government spends on grants and contributions, the Prime Minister and the former minister of finance have slashed $6 billion annually from health care transfers to the provinces as part of the deficit reduction strategy.

Not surprisingly, these actions and 10 years of excessive rhetoric have resulted in the continual deterioration of our health care system. Today, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada ranks 18th in terms of access to MRIs, 17th in terms of access to CT scanners and 8th in terms of access to radiation machines. In terms of risk of death by breast cancer, for example, Canada ranks 6th among OECD countries.

According to the Fraser Institute, across Canada “The total waiting time is high, both historically and internationally. Compared to 1993, the waiting time in 2001-02 is 77% higher in this country”. The waiting time has increased in all but one of the past eight years. Canadians deserve better health care than that, much better.

There is all this talk going on and that is typical. As soon as I point out their deficiencies in health care, the Liberals attack the provinces. The provinces are the ones that are trying to run the system and increase spending on health care. There is no responsibility, no honesty and grandiose rhetoric.

Let me talk about our approach to health care and our values on health care because it is very important that when we talk about health care that our values are clear. In this political party, we represent ordinary people. the people we represent depend on this system. They have real concerns and these deficiencies are not a big federal-provincial game. They have real impacts.

My wife, Laureen, and I ran our own small businesses. We had to pay our own health care premiums. We had to purchase our own supplemental health care coverage, like most people in the country. We cannot afford to fly to clinics in the United States to get health care when things go wrong and we certainly cannot afford to get on Challenger jets to do it.

We do not need lectures from these guys about preserving the health care system. We understand the key value of this system. It is not the Canada Health Act. It is not the federal status in health care. The key is that necessary health care must be available to every Canadian regardless of ability to pay. This cannot be accomplished by delaying critical treatment by rationing and we cannot saddle ordinary people with enormous bills for catastrophic health problems.

To achieve these things, the federal government must work with the provinces and it must begin to act now. I would suggest that it begin by reversing the damage the government did to the health care debate and to the evolution of dealing with health care problems during the 2000 election campaign.

In that campaign the Liberals opposed provincial efforts to broaden health care delivery within publicly paid health systems by not just fighting plans for private facilities in various provinces but by demonizing the provinces pursuing these reforms. This was wrong.

A government monopoly is not the only way to deliver health care to Canadians. Monopolies in the public sector are just as objectionable as monopolies in the private sector. It should not matter who delivers health care, whether it is private, for profit, not for profit or public institutions, as long as Canadians have access to it regardless of their financial means.

We must become innovative in how we deliver care while holding fast to the principle of universal care regardless of ability to pay. The federal government must be absolutely clear on this point. It must remove any barriers, any chill to increase private capital investment plans that the provinces have for our health care system.

This is only a start in this caucus. Our member of Parliament from Yellowhead, a brand new member of Parliament with a long background in health care governance and in his local regional health authority, will have more to say about this in the next few weeks.

I will now turn to the children's agenda. The children's agenda is another typical set of throne speech promises, a bunch of recycled promises from throne speeches in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

In a way this whole approach, the values behind this approach, is only the kind of agenda that the Liberals could advocate; institutions and programs with no focus at all on what children need most, and that is strong families.

The Canadian Alliance policy begins by recognizing that the family is the essential building block of a healthy society and that government legislation and programs must first of all nurture and respect its role. As Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain once said, “A strong country cannot be morally neutral about the family”.

One practical thing we can do to begin strengthening the family starts with tax reduction and tax reform, lowering the cost burdens that put so many pressures on the lives of ordinary people and to do this in an equitable manner.

First, we will continue to advocate in this party a universal child deduction for all families with children, a child deduction that does not discriminate between types of families or the choices families make for the care of their children. These choices need to be made by families themselves without implied financial penalties.

Second, we will continue to push for the concept of shared parenting when there is parental breakdown. This was proposed in the December 1998 report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access. It is still gathering dust contrary to the best interests of both parents and children.

Third, we will continue to advocate strongly concrete measures to protect children from the violent and the vile, which the government has not done. The age of consent for sexual activity should be raised and we must take stronger steps to fight child prostitution, child pornography and pedophilia.

In this regard of course the throne speech is vague. It does not deal with what specific measures the government may take. It instead hints, in our judgment, at excessive general control over child rearing.

For children and for all citizens, we will also continue to advocate a general philosophy of crime control and the punishment of crime; another area in which we have continued promises and little action or change.

In all of these matters we will have many people in the caucus who will contribute but we will be led I believe first and foremost by the member of Parliament for Provencher, an accomplished former provincial attorney general from the province of Manitoba.

I will turn now to international affairs and defence. What are the proposals in the throne speech? Absolutely nothing, except more study on defence needs and very little to say about the current Iraq conflict other than the government positions itself very carefully on both sides of the issue. On foreign aid the government is promising a doubling of foreign aid by 2010 with the focus on Africa.

What is the government's record on these things? The original Liberal red book 1993, followed by the government's 1994 defence white paper, promised to ensure an effective Canadian Forces and pledged to maintain an increased combat capability. More reforms were promised and more money was promised in throne speeches in 1997, 1999 and 2001.

The record is well documented. It is one of chronic underfunding and an increasing inability of our armed forces to protect territory or mount serious missions abroad. Instead the government is covering this by stretching multiple activities thinner and thinner around various places in the world. Of course, foreign aid in this period has also fallen relative to even what the last government did.

The neglect of our armed forces in particular has meant an increasing loss of relevance to our allies in Europe and the United States, but most of all the loss of Canada's ability to protect its sovereignty. Canadians see the irony of it, even if the Prime Minister does not, in blaming the United States and the west for world terrorism while at the same time starving our forces to such an extent that we have effectively turned over Canada's defence to our allies and to the Americans in particular.

All of this does reflect the values of the Liberal Party, not just a weak defence but a moral neutralism in international affairs, a tendency to see moral equivalency between the strong actions of our allies and those who would attack us. Our values are very different. They are values of strength and of a strong country. We will not just advocate a strong defence. We will pursue defence and foreign policies that give Canadians hard power, capabilities that allow us to support our friends and to aggressively advance our values in the world.

On foreign aid we will advocate that we follow the lead of other donor nations to reward developing countries that reform their institutions and market with increased assistance. Canada continues to underwrite too many countries that resist reform and have high levels of corruption. We will have, as I have said in many other areas, capable veteran MPs who will handle these portfolios for defence, such as our member of Parliament for Lakeland, a three-term veteran of this House, and in foreign affairs the member for Okanagan--Coquihalla, with a wide range of experience in a number of provincial government portfolios.

Let me turn to ethics and democratic reform. What are the proposals in this throne speech? We have two paragraphs on ethics and democratic reform, even less than the pathetic proposals that were tabled earlier in the spring. The record here is clear. On parliamentary reform the government promised more power to MPs and improved procedures in the House repeatedly in 1994, 1996 and 2001, but today it promises none whatsoever.

On ethics in the 1993 red book, we will never forget the Liberal Party promise for an independent ethics commissioner who would report to Parliament. Obviously in 1994 it broke that Parliament. The appointee we have today apparently spends his time writing question period responses for the Prime Minister to the numerous times his ethical behaviour comes into question.

We reached a low point in 2001 when the government, not just the Prime Minister but the member for LaSalle--Émard, the author of the red book, voted against the motion to adopt an ethics counsellor, a motion that was, word for word, taken straight from the 1993 red book.

In 1997 we had an ethics committee of this Parliament struck to report on a code of conduct. It did so. No action was taken. We remain one of the few developed democracies that have no clear rules of conflict for ministers and MPs and we are also the last jurisdiction in Canada to have them.

There is more to the government's record on this than those failures. The government has used closure and time allocation more frequently than any previous government. On campaign finance reform that it raised in the throne speech, it actually did bring in some measures in 2000 but not to control the relationships between politicians and their donors. Instead they were measures to control the free speech of private citizens and private organizations through the media.

We even have to look at the rules the Liberals have set out for this leadership race, this constant smoke and mirrors, a constant claim to be reforming, a constant claim to have disclosure. What do we actually have? In this Liberal leadership race one has to disclose everything except if one, like the current Minister of Finance, runs it through the riding association or decides to take the donations in pledges instead of cash. Now we have the setting up of a blind trust.

This is an interesting twist of a turn: putting donations into a blind trust. The purpose of a blind trust is to manage money after it has been received. A blind trust in no way prevents politicians from finding out who contributed to their campaigns in the first place.

Once again, it is grandiose plans and empty rhetoric.

How would we handle campaign finance reform? We would handle it the way we generally run this party and the way I ran my leadership campaign. We would try to finance our campaigns from modest contributions from a broad range of voters, not a few contributions from people who receive government contracts. I would personally prefer to see contributions come only from individual voters. I would like to end union and corporate contributions and let union members, corporate directors and shareholders make their own decisions as to which political parties they contribute to.

It is perfectly appropriate to have limits in the amount of money politicians receive from private citizens and to end the loopholes that allow contributions to be funnelled through non-individuals. To the extent that the government would demand public funding, as there is already plenty of public funding for our political activities this funding should be tied to things like support to contributions, not simply blanket grants from the government or grants in response to our spending.

These rules need to be fair to new small parties and independents. Every time there are Canada Elections Act changes, we make it more difficult for people to organize new political activities. Importantly, because the government keeps shouting about this, the kind of reforms we propose would limit politicians in political parties. They would not limit private citizens. They would respect free speech. It is very different to control the contributions given to politicians than it is to control the ability of the citizenry to express their views through a free media in a free society. When those guys opposite are serious about democratic reform, they will actually understand the difference between the two things.

We also continue to favour broader democratic reform. In the House of Commons there should be more free votes beginning with free votes and votes on every item in private members' business. That will be a priority for us in this session.

The Senate should be selected from people who have been picked in free elections, beginning in the province of Alberta with Bert Brown, who received more votes in his Senate election than the Prime Minister received in his riding. We should have fixed election dates. We should have a system of direct democracy. That system of direct democracy should be put into effect so that the citizens of Canada can express their judgment on how to reform our outdated electoral system so we end the unrepresentative results that elections produce and end phenomena such as vote splitting.

Democratic reform has been a core of this political party for 15 years. Unlike the party opposite, we did not develop a temporary itch for democratic reform when we were seeking approval of backbenchers, or in a leadership struggle, or when we go to the voters every so often. It has been a constant theme of this party since 1987. Just recently our party reissued our “Building Trust” document. Reissued by our current House leader, the member of Parliament for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast, “Building Trust II” goes over our proposals for parliamentary and democratic reform in a wide range of areas.

I will just take a minute to acknowledge not only the contribution that the member will be making to this debate over the next few months, but to indicate how much we here, all of us on both sides, miss the MP for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast. I know he is watching in the hospital and we all wish him very well.

Let me turn at long last to the area where perhaps we are most different, finance and economic policies.

There is, however, probably no area in which the differences between the Liberal Party and the Canadian Alliance are more obvious than that of financial and economic policy. That is where the throne speech attains the peak of its grandiosity.

The government is passing itself off as one that is fiscally prudent and that plays a lead role as far as economic growth, productivity and innovation are concerned. These themes have been repeated regularly in all this government's throne speeches and all of its budgets since 1993. The reality is different, and disquieting.

For instance, over the past three years, under the direction of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, program expenditures have risen close to ten billion dollars annually, comparable to the worst excesses of the Trudeau government in the 1970s. The same thing is happening this year. The measures set out in the throne speech, in all areas, will mean billions of dollars of additional expenditures, although of course the price tag is not shown.

Finally, the budget process is so disorganized that there will be no budget for this entire year. There will be a full two years between budgets. This government's rhetoric has even redefined the word annual. It is not just a matter of budgets. I also want to talk about the economy in general.

Looking at the economy as a whole and not just the finances of this government, it will be seen that our productivity and our position continue to decline under this government, along with our dollar. We have, in fact, maintained our declining competitivity only because of our declining currency. The government has turned us into a cut rate wholesaler, one of those businesses that keeps on slashing prices in order to stay in business, thus devaluing everything that Canadians have built up.

The government speaks of its intention of making strategic investments in the economy, but its politicized infrastructure, its funding to businesses and the corruption scandals are indications of its inability to make the distinction between investing in a project of public interest and spending money on a private donor.

At any rate, it is on the wrong track. The most important thing the government can do for the economy is to create a neutral environment at the lowest possible cost to business. The government's priority should be, as it should have been in the past, reducing the tax burden, not raising the level of general expenditures.

The Canadian Alliance will reject any major spending initiative in all areas, with the exception of a few key areas such as national defence and health.

We will insist that our priority should not be to ramp up federal spending in federal programs and federal commitments across the board or to micromanage economic development. It should be to lower rates of personal and business taxation across the board. In fact we believe that our national goal should be to make Canada the number one jurisdiction in North America in taxes, ahead of the United States. As unrealistic as I admit this may sound, in the context of the Liberal government, it is achievable given that in the United States there are much higher expenditures per capita on major obligations such as defence, advanced education, infrastructure and yes, even public health care.

As late as the 1960s our standard of living was equal to or even above that of the Americans, at about the time the Prime Minister entered Parliament. Today it is more than one-third lower and falling. This is inexcusable.

We cannot be the biggest country on this continent, but there is no reason we cannot be the wealthiest. As we pursue this, we will be led in these matters of finance by our veteran member of Parliament for Peace River, our finance critic, and also by the member for Edmonton Southwest, our industry critic, one of the most promising newcomers we have in the House of Commons.

There seems to be a bit of a debate going on about whether or not we are larger than the United States. We have a larger land mass and we are all aware of that; we travel the country. However I will let the minister of heritage know that the United States economy is just a little bigger than ours. Her budget may be bigger than the minister of culture's in the United States. That is possible.

Let me conclude by noting that the next couple of years will be months of contrasting agendas and contrasting approaches for the future of the country. We welcome the debate.

Mr. Speaker, the Alliance team that I am honoured to lead stands before you and before the country, for united we are strong and most important, we are here to stay. The Liberals, whoever may lead them, are old and tired. More important, we will argue for two fundamentally different ways of creating a legacy for this country. The Liberals will try to build a legacy on shifting sands. Our party will try to build a real legacy on rock solid values.

When the government proposes multiple missions with big government solutions, we will propose practical priorities and small government solutions.

When the government proposes raising spending, we will propose cutting taxes.

When the government proposes to damage the economy to implement the Kyoto accord, we will propose to strengthen the environment and save Canadian jobs.

When the government undermines the family, we will propose strengthening the family.

When the government uses governmental power to reward its friends, we will propose democratic reform to reward initiative.

When the government engages in the soft-powered talk of a neutral fence sitter, we will demand real capabilities that support our allies.

When the government proposes to buy votes in other words, we will propose to earn votes.

In short, when the Liberals act for the Liberals, we will act for Canadians. Therefore, I move that the motion be amended to add the following:

And this House regrets to inform Your Excellency that, once again, your advisors have recycled an empty vision, have resorted to grandiose rhetoric and intend to implement expensive programs at a time when Canadians are looking for practical solutions to the challenges we face, including lower taxes and debt, reducing government waste, promoting economic growth and jobs, reforming health care, protecting our sovereignty and strengthening the family.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, before I begin with my comments on the Speech from the Throne, I would like to pay tribute to the memory of our former colleague, Ron Duhamel, who died last night.

Ron was more than a colleague to me. He was a long time friend, and he was liked by everyone in the House of Commons. He had an extraordinary personality. He had an exceptional career in government as a public servant in Manitoba. He then decided to come here, to the House of Commons, where he represented the people of the riding of Saint-Boniface with great dignity and competence.

One of the great pleasures of my career was travelling abroad with him when he was the minister responsible for the Francophonie. He was a man, with his personality and his exceptional command of the French language—having been born and having lived in Manitoba—who represented the best of Canada with elegance and dignity, and the best of the French speaking population outside of Quebec.

I offer my condolences, and those of my wife, to his wife and children. They should be very proud of this great Canadian.

Mr. Speaker, my first words are to congratulate the mover and the seconder of the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. Both members delivered thoughtful speeches on issues of the day and both are a credit to this House.

I also want to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for his first major speech in the House in his new function. He clearly has all the makings of a good Leader of the Opposition for many, many years to come. I do not want to have a ninth one in the next 16 months. I want him to stay there.

A Speech from the Throne is an opportunity for the government to step back and take stock of where it is and set out the priorities for where it wants to go.

It is an opportunity for parliamentarians to discuss and debate the role and direction of the government. I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate. I am very happy that we had a Speech from the Throne because I wanted to give all of the members of Parliament, from all of the different parties, an opportunity to have a general debate where they can talk about the orientation of the policies and the direction of the country. That is why we have a Speech from the Throne once in a while, to give that opportunity to members of Parliament.

Time does not permit me to address everything that is in the throne speech. Indeed, the words of the speech and the actions for which we as a government are committed speak for themselves. Today, I want to highlight some of them and give a further explanation of our approach.

I have spent many, many years in this House, and a great many years both as a minister and as Prime Minister. I have never been concerned about a legacy. The legacy will be 41 years of hard work and doing my best. I have always been concerned about getting the job done, the job I was elected to do. The coming months will be no different. This is not about a legacy. This is about good government.

The throne speech is about implementing the platform that every member on this side of the House ran on in November 2000. Each and every one of us has an obligation to the people of Canada to implement our program. We have an obligation to govern and to govern well, and to govern every day we are in office. That is what we are elected for: this caucus, this government and this Prime Minister.

The agenda set out in the throne speech builds on what we have accomplished as a government since 1993: to create and share opportunities, to enhance the quality of life in our communities, and to promote our interests and values in the world. The priorities we have set out are indeed the enduring priorities of Canadians: the health of our people, the health of our environment, the health of our communities, the health of our economy, and the hopes of our children.

This has been a government committed not to the big bang or the big show, but to continuous and enduring improvements, minimizing divisiveness and maximizing results, focused on the problems and priorities of Canadians, focused on the future, and focused on the world. This continues to be our path..

Some of the opposition and many of the right wing commentators wrongly claim that we are simply big spenders; that I am a big spender. Well, I am such a big spender that I have led a government that has turned 30 years of continuous deficits into five balanced budgets in a row. We are on track for number six this year. It is the largest, uninterrupted string of balanced budgets in our history.

We are such big spenders that not so long ago more than 35¢ of every dollar went to service the debt. Today it is about 20¢ and dropping. We are such big spenders that we have paid down about $45 billion of debt. To the chagrin of the opposition we will continue to pay down the debt. We are such big spenders that our debt load has fallen from 72% of GDP to under 50% and it is continuing to fall.

We are such tax and spend Liberals that we have reduced personal and corporate income tax and employment insurance premiums by about $20 billion a year. These are the facts. It is a record we are proud of and that I am proud of. It is not a record that I intend to put in jeopardy.

But I am also proud of the fact that on this side of the House, we believe as much in a balanced approach as we do in a balanced budget. We believe that governments have a very important role to play in society. We believe in the need for collective investments in society. We believe not only in the need to eliminate fiscal deficits, but also in the need to fight against social deficits, environmental deficits and deficits in infrastructure. We can fight against these deficits, and that is what we are going to do.

I am proud of the responsible manner in which we have lowered taxes. In a manner that has allowed us to proceed with collective investment, while continuing to balance the budget at the same time. We now have a taxation system that is very competitive. Corporate income tax has dropped significantly. And we managed to do so without jeopardizing a balanced budget.

For example, the Americans no longer have a surplus. They are running a considerable deficit right now. They were forecasting a $300 billion surplus this year, and they will end up with a $200 billion deficit. We will not run up another deficit. Our approach will remain cautious and we will continue to invest in citizens.

As I have just said, we believe in a balanced approach. We do not believe in the simplistic approach of the Alliance Party and some business press when it comes to taxation. We on this side of the House agree that, like it or not, taxes are the price one pays to live in a civilized society.

Taxation revenues are what enable us as a society to share risk, to invest in health care, to provide for families in poverty, to improve the environment we share, to support education and learning, to promote rural development, to build a modern system of highways and urban infrastructure, and to help those in developing countries.

None of this can be done by the private sector alone. All of this requires government action. And we will act on these areas in the coming months.We have taken the approach of investing in priorities as, and only as, the fiscal situation permitted.

In general, we establish budget projections over a two- or three-year time zone and this is what we will continue to do. In some cases, however, where predictability is essential, we have legislated longer-term commitments.

For example, in past budgets we provided five years of predictable, stable CHST funding for health to allow the provinces time for proper planning. We provided a five-year legislated tax reduction plan to allow individuals and businesses to plan ahead. We also provided increases to the national child benefit over a five-year period to allow provinces to adjust their social programs accordingly. Going forward, this will remain our approach. We will maintain balanced budgets and fiscal prudence. In our next budget, we will again provide long-term funding for increases to the national child benefit.

Reform of health care following the Romanow commission will again require multi-year, predictable federal investment, and even the opposition said a minute ago that we should do that. Otherwise we will simply not get reform of the system. Ever since we balanced the budget we have increased our investment in health care. In September 2000 we agreed to put more money into the CHST and agreed on principles and directions for reform. We put in place strong mechanisms for accountability and reporting to Canadians. That plan was agreed to by the provinces and it is working.

I then appointed Roy Romanow to head a royal commission to make recommendations about long-term reform to our public health system. We expect his report next month. I will hold a first ministers meeting early next year to discuss Mr. Romanow's recommendations and to agree on a long-term plan to modernize medicare. Federal investment to support reform will be set out in the next budget and funded for a long enough period of time so there will be the required financial certainty to allow reforms to go ahead.

Good health is priceless, but good health care does have a price. New technologies, new drugs and new treatments have created much better health but also higher costs as the aging population increases demand and therefore costs. We will have to spend more and we will have to do it in a very responsible way.

The costs of health care are not rising because we have a public system. In the United States, the cost of private insurance premiums for employer-sponsored plans rose by 11% in 2001 and is projected to rise by another 13% this year. There, the sick and the poor often have to pay the highest premiums.

The issue is not whether we will pay more as a society for health. We will. It is about the type of society we want. I respect the view of the Leader of the Opposition but I disagree with him completely. Either we have a society where individuals assume risk without regard to their ability to pay, as in the United States, or we have a society where, through government, we spread risk and spend collectively because health is a fundamental human right.

Here on this side of the House we prefer the Canadian way, where costs are shared by the entire population through a public health care system. If our costs go up we will have to pay for them. I know that Canadians will be prepared to pay that cost, but we will do so collectively as a society.

There is one other area where investments by government must be planned for the longer term: that is infrastructure. A modern infrastructure is key to our economic and environmental objectives.

It is simply impossible, for example, to build a road or transit system in the period of time for which governments normally budget. Every provincial premier has urged me to make our infrastructure spending a long term program so they can plan their capital spending, so they can work with mayors on their urban planning, and so we can all do our environmental planning.

Our caucus has been extremely forceful on this issue. They have convinced cabinet and they have convinced me.

A comprehensive urban strategy for the 21st century requires everything from roads and transit, to affordable housing, to the information highway.

We will establish a long term, strategic infrastructure plan in time for the next budget. This will help us meet our social, economic and environmental objectives and help us address the challenge of climate change.

We must put Canada's families and children first. I referred earlier to the National Child Benefit. Even in tough fiscal times, this government worked with our provincial partners and the voluntary sector to put in place a new architecture for helping Canadian families and children; to lift children out of poverty and get families off welfare.

We have made progress. The National Child Benefit is probably the most significant new social program since medicare.

We have to build on it and increase it because too many children still live in poverty. We will begin immediate consultations with our partners so as to be ready in the next budget to put in place a long term investment plan to enable Canada to turn the corner on child poverty and break the cycle of poverty and dependency for Canadian families.

We will also implement targeted measures for families caring for children with severe disabilities. We will reform our family and criminal laws to ensure that the interests of children are paramount and that children are protected from exploitation and abuse. We will ensure that no Canadian is forced to give up their job or income to care for a family member that is gravely ill or dying.

Early in our mandate, I asked my Cabinet to find new and better ways to close the gap in life chances between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians and to turn the corner in this partnership. We will take important new steps in this direction with an ambitious legislative agenda to create new institutions and investments to build individual and community capacity: investments in children, education and health care; investments in social, cultural and economic development.

We have learned that partnership must start at home and that all departments must work as one if we are to be successful. We have also learned that there is no single recipe. No one size that fits all. Our approach will be unified and tailored to the diverse needs and aspirations of aboriginal people, and it will be in partnership.

We have also set out an ambitious environment agenda. Canadians understand that our health, our economy and the future of our children depend on the quality of our environment. We will intensify our work toward safe water and clean air. We will deliver on our commitments to protect Canada's wilderness areas, creating new national parks and marine conservation areas. We will clean up contaminated sites. We will implement the new Agricultural Policy Framework, with its important stewardship initiatives that are so vital, not only to rural Canada but to all Canadians.

Of course, the current preoccupation throughout the world is climate change. Scientists have sounded the warning. People around the world have responded. Governments in Canada's North have been among the world's leaders in building the consensus for action. We have no choice but to act. It is our moral responsibility and it is in our enduring interest.

We are working hard with Canadian provinces and industries to develop an approach that will work for everyone. We will call for a fair contribution from every sector of society. We will have to reward innovators, invest in new technologies and be more efficient and productive. We can reduce the costs and maximize the opportunities. Citizens and consumers are ready to adjust their behaviour.

Obviously, it will not be easy. We are grappling with very difficult issues but I have no doubt that, working together, we will do it. We will have a strategy in place that allows us to meet our obligations by 2012 and by the end of this year, we will bring forward a resolution to Parliament on the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

Clearly, all our objectives require a strong economy. Let me repeat what I have said so often. We will maintain our unwavering commitment to balanced budgets, disciplined spending, debt reduction and declining ratio of debt to GDP, and fair and competitive taxes. We will continue our commitment to reallocate spending from low priorities, from what works less well to what works best. This has been our approach and this will be our approach.

We will continue to amend our regulatory policies and practices to serve the public good and to promote innovation and a more favourable climate for investment and growth. We will continue to reduce the administrative burden on businesses. We will work with the private sector to bolster investor confidence. We will continue to work with small and medium size industries that are such an important source of job creation.

We will continue to build on our investment in research and development and in skills and learning. We will re-orient our labour market programs so that Canadians are ready for the future. We will support graduate studies and the indirect cost of university research. I will be participating in November in the National Summit on Innovation and Learning so that we can work, sector by sector, to help make Canada a magnet for talent and investment.

I want to emphasize the importance of integrity in public life. When I look around the House, on all sides, I know that none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes but our mistakes are made in good faith, not in bad faith. No one is here to enrich themselves, but we must all recognize the importance of perception.

To meet the very legitimate concerns of Canadians, the government will introduce, this month, legislation on lobbyists, on a code of conduct for parliamentarians and on the role and responsibilities of the ethics counsellor. Next month we will introduce comprehensive election and political party finance reform. I hope all members will work in a non-partisan way to quickly pass the best possible bills. Canadians will settle for nothing less.

I heard the Leader of the Opposition a minute ago talking about his own conception of that. I think everyone who advertises politically should tell us who is paying for it, including the National Citizens' Coalition.

I do not need the publicity that they are giving to me these days. I travel in Ottawa and elsewhere and there are big billboards of me. They do not have to tell the people I am there. I am not running anymore. They should not waste their money.

What we want to know is the role of the National Rifle Association from the United States. We do not know. We have to know because the Leader of the Opposition did not want to reveal anything in the House of Commons on his campaign. In our party everything is revealed and will be revealed because that is the way we operate. I want to know what the Leader of the Opposition will tell us about who paid for his campaign to replace a better man that was the former leader. We want to know who paid for that.

I hope all members will work in a non-partisan way to quickly pass the best possible bills. Canadians will settle for nothing less.

In these unsettled times, Canadians share the global concern about terrorism, about weapons of mass destruction and about war in any part of the world. We have a special role to play because of the nature of our country, a country that has welcomed immigrants from everywhere, a country that is being steadily enriched by aboriginal people, the first nations, the Inuits and the Metis, a country that has proven that pluralism works. And so we will continue to promote the values of democracy, peace and freedom, human rights and the rule of law.

I am a great believer in a multilateral approach to dealing with international issues. The United Nations can be a great force for good in the world. It is in all our interests to use the power of international institutions in this complex world. Collective action, whenever possible, produces greater long term results than unilateral action. It is the best way to deal with states that support terrorism or that attempt to develop weapons of mass destruction. And deal with them we must. We must deal collectively and directly with those who threaten our peace and security.

To that end, before the end of our mandate, the government will be setting out a long term direction on international and defence policies to reflect our values and interests and to ensure that our military is able to meet the demands that we place upon it.

We must also work collectively and aggressively to close the gap between the rich and poor nations. I am proud of Canada's leadership in helping to build a consensus to support the new partnership for African development to help Africans lift themselves out of poverty into a brighter future. This is a long road and our partnership must be enduring. That is why we are committed to doubling our international assistance by 2010 and allocate half of it to Africa.

Trade and investment have been keys to the prosperity we enjoy. We are working very hard to prepare for the next round of multilateral trade negotiations. We are also working to resolve issues such as softwood lumber.

However we must also make trade and investment work for the developing world. That is why we are opening our markets to the least developed countries. That is one of the reasons we will continue to press rich countries to eliminate their agricultural subsidies. It is completely unacceptable that we, the rich countries, give $50 billion American in foreign aid and yet spend $350 billion on subsidies to farmers to eliminate competition. I know Canadian farmers are good, productive and not afraid of competition, but how can they compete with the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Americans and the Europeans are giving to their farmers?

I have said that to everybody on every occasion I have had. We are about to win it. I feel at this moment that there is a break coming in Europe. If it does happen it will open up markets for the poor nations that would like to develop, such as Africa which has regressed over the last 10 years. If we give Africans access to their agricultural products they will progress again and they will buy goods and services from us. It is a win-win situation and our farmers will be able to compete.

I have been enormously privileged to serve this country and this House for as long as I have. During my time in this place, one of the most important pieces of legislation was the Official Languages Act. I am pleased to announce that our government will lay out an action plan to re-energize our official languages policy.

In the coming months I intend to spend a lot of time with young Canadians. When I travel across Canada I will talk to a new generation about the importance of public life. I will discuss with them the role of public service and how they can participate and lead in the future. I will talk about the nature of Canada. I will reflect on the importance of having two official languages and an obligation to promote them,and I will reflect on the benefits of a multicultural society and of how we created harmony in diversity. I will have the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned but always on how to make this an even better country.

We are a confident people and a proud nation. We can shape our own destiny. We can choose the Canada we want, knowing who we are and knowing where we are going together.

We have a lot of work to do. Let us roll up our sleeves and get on with it.