House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Business of the House
Speech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Business of the House
Speech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

October 7th, 2004 / 10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to address the throne speech. Off the top, I want to thank the electors of the Medicine Hat constituency for sending me back here again. It is truly an honour to represent them. When I go home it is always so refreshing. These people are always so supportive of me, even at times when I probably do not deserve it. I really do appreciate that.

On a serious note, somebody once said that one thing which distinguishes people from my part of the world, and I will say this about Albertans in general, is that it does not matter what colour skin people have or what religion they are. If they want to work and contribute, they will be welcomed with open arms. On the other hand, if people complain and whine, no matter what colour their skin is, what religion they are or whatever, they will not be welcome. People want to move forward. They want a positive message and input. That is one of the great things about my riding and it is why it is always a pleasure to go home.

I want to say a few words about the throne speech from the perspective of the government's economic agenda. I want to argue that this document could have been so much stronger if the government had not acted as though it had a majority and if it had listened to Canadians. It did not receive the support of 63% of Canadians who voted for somebody else. It has been noted already that some of the other parties have been able to agree on things that should be in a document like this.

The three opposition party leaders talked about these things earlier in the fall and suggested the government should listen to opposition parties in a minority government because the opposition parties had something to offer that would strengthen a throne speech. It is disappointing that the government is behaving like it has always behaved: taking Parliament for granted and assuming that it will get the rubber stamp one more time for whatever it wants to do. That is so disappointing. It is as though it has learned nothing from the sponsorship mess and all the scandals that have plagued it. It has lost none of its arrogance and I find that very distressing. I think Canadians are at a point where they want to see some cooperation in this place and some give and take. Right now we are not seeing that. We are seeing my way or the highway from the government.

In the spirit of cooperation, we want to offer some things that we think will improve the throne speech. In particular, I want to talk about this from an economic perspective. When the government sets public policy it has a lot to do with the standard of living of Canadians, ensuring they are better off and more prosperous. That is what I and I know my colleagues on this side are concerned about.

I want to talk about two of the amendments that my leader made to the throne speech the other day. He moved an amendment that we have an independent parliamentary budgeting office so that we could give independent fiscal forecasting advice to the government. I want to underline why that is important. Over the last number of years the government has engaged in a practice where it makes forecasts that are wildly inaccurate. That means billions of dollars are hidden until the end of the year, which the public is really not aware exist. That means there is never a true debate about how to spend that money.

Since 1999-2000 there have been about $30 billion in surpluses where there was never a debate as to how that money should be spent. That is not to say that in some cases it did not get spent on things that are laudable, but in some cases it was spent on Challenger jets. Canadians deserve to have a debate about how that money should be spent. I think that is reasonable. That is what my party believes should be done. We think Canadians should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent.

We want to argue very strongly that this independent parliamentary budgeting office be established much in the same way that the Auditor General's office is established. It would be an independent body that would answer to Parliament and would not be part of the government. It would not be a situation where the government could manipulate the figures to its own ends. Independent officers of Parliament would make these determinations so that in the end the public, the markets and all concerned could have confidence in these numbers and know that this was not some great manipulation that was going on for the political benefit of the government.

Surely, in a modern democracy I do not think that is an unreasonable request. In fact it makes eminent sense. This is nothing new. It happens in other countries. It happens certainly to the south of us, our closest trading partner. We have the congressional budgeting office where political parties really cannot play political games with the numbers because they come from an independent body. That is what we want to see, and it is reasonable.

I know the government is sensitive to this criticism because, in response to our criticism to its accounting practises, it just appointed Tim O'Neill of the Bank of Montreal to study this issue. He is certainly a distinguished economist and someone who understands these things, but we do not need a study. We know there is a problem. We need some action right now because this is simply unacceptable.

This leads me to my second point. It has to do with the amendment we moved regarding providing tax relief to middle and low income Canadians. I mentioned a minute ago that we have not had a debate over how that $30 billion should have been spent over the last number of years. I want to argue that many Canadians would say that they should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent, especially when they see some of the messes that have occurred in this place. I think it is reasonable for them to ask who does a better job of minding the thousands of dollars they send every year in taxes. Would it be the Government of Canada or could they make better use of that money themselves, given what they have seen with the firearms registry, for instance? This was something that was supposed to cost $2 million. Now it is going to $1 billion and possibly to $2 billion. Who knows where it will end. There is also the sponsorship. We could go on and on. There are many of these abuses to which we could point.

If we are to agree on the principle that Canadians should have a say in how their money is spent, one of the issues on the table should be tax relief.

Consider the taxes that people in the low end of the income scale pay. They pay income tax, starting at a very low level compared to other countries. They pay provincial and federal income taxes. They pay a goods and services tax. They pay employment insurance taxes. They pay Canada pension plan tax. They pay capital gains taxes. They pay excise taxes. They pay property taxes. Of course, ultimately they pay corporate income taxes. They pay sales taxes. There are many taxes that people are burdened with today. On average in Canada 41% of all income we generate goes toward taxes. I think it is wrong when the government is running big surpluses to not include tax relief for people on the low end of the income scale as one of the options. It simply has to happen.

Often members on the government side like to talk about compassion and they often do. They think compassion is synonymous with how much one spends. I want to argue that sometimes compassion really means leaving some of that money in people's pockets in the first place. They know better than government how to raise their children. They know better than government what is important to them and what their priorities are. They can save that money a lot better than government can.

Let the record show that the Conservative Party of Canada, and probably some of the other parties in this place, understands that message and wants the government to be open to adopting this amendment or at least consider it.

I know my time is running out so I will be brief in wrapping up. When I read this throne speech what occurred to me was that this was a government that was content to rest on its laurels. I think Canadians want to see progress made when it comes to increasing their prosperity, helping people on the low end of the income scale and helping people who are unemployed today. The way to do that is to provide some incentive through lowering taxes. That is something that has been completely neglected and overlooked by the government in its 11 years in power. It is time to change that. It is time to start to be a little more progressive in its outlook.

To finish where I began, I want to say to all of them that this party wants to work with the government. We are offering some positive amendments that enhance the throne speech. We certainly are not undermining anything in the throne speech. I hope Liberals will be mindful of that as they consider how they vote in the next days and weeks to come.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has indicated in his remarks a number of contradictions. First, he has indicated that his party is in favour of lowering taxes for those who are less well off in society. For 10 years it advocated only tax cuts for the rich. Those of us on our side of the House remember the history of the Alliance party very well. We will leave that aside for a minute.

I want to ask him something on a substantial area. Why is the MP telling the House that he has moved an amendment to the throne speech, when he knows perfectly well that there is no such thing? The throne speech was read into the record. That is like saying that one is amending the Hansard of two days ago. It is a ridiculous proposition. He is not amending the throne speech. He has moved an amendment to the motion to congratulate Her Excellency for having read the throne speech.

Does he not know the difference? Does he not know there is no such thing as moving an amendment to the throne speech? No spinning in the House or outside of it will hide the truth that this is not the way Parliament works. The foremost procedural expert in the country is in the chair right now. While the Speaker obviously cannot make a speech about all this, I will invite my colleague across to just remind Canadians that the reality is somewhat different than what he has just pretended it is.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was kind of hoping for a substantive question from the hon. member, but instead we get this procedural rant. It is really unfortunate I suppose that the Speakers have already been chosen or maybe there are no more clerks' positions opened because otherwise the member could apply for one. He could work his way back down the feeding chain and go back to where he began as a busboy in the House.

However, the member is factually incorrect when he states that we have been proposing tax relief for people in the high end. During the election campaign that just passed, we actually proposed the biggest tax cuts in Canadian history for middle and low income Canadians. Unfortunately, the member across the way has gotten his facts wrong again.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak.

I do not share all of the opinions expressed by my colleague from Medicine Hat, nor do I subscribe to all the comments made by my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I know my colleague from Medicine Hat well, from eight years together on the Standing Committee on Finance. Right from the start, we were on the same side in certain battles, particularly those for indexed tax tables and reduced tax rates for those with lower incomes. It is, therefore, inaccurate to say that my colleague has done nothing for the past ten years but defend tax cuts for the rich.

That is, however, what the Liberals have done for the past ten years: reduced taxes of all kinds for the richest members of society. One former finance minister even managed to obtain tax advantages for his shipping companies in Barbados. This also represents not a tax reduction for the less well off, but a tax reduction for the well off, his peers. So let them not try to preach to us on this.

I have a question for my colleague from Medicine Hat. I am very pleased that tax reductions for low- and middle-income people are still being promoted. But what is the explanation for the fact that, the whole time the present Prime Minister was finance minister, the government operating budget increased a mere 39% over the past five years, or close to 8% annually, whereas inflation increased an average of 1.9%? Can this government be described as a good manager?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, when we see those kinds of increases, it ensures that there is less and less money available for things that are very high priorities of Canadians, whether it is in the area of health care or education or ultimately even tax relief for people who truly do need it.

I invite my friends across the way to really examine Canada's record in terms of the exemption levels, for instance, for people on the low end of the income scale versus other countries. We truly are not doing a good job. Students or seniors who are still working end up paying EI premiums when they really cannot claim it. This is an atrocious problem. It does not reflect well on the country and it certainly does not indicate any kind of compassionate government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with another Liberal colleague.

As I take the floor for the first time in this 38th Parliament, I feel a real sense of gratitude towards the residents of Pierrefonds—Dollard. For the fourth time, they have given me the mandate to represent them in the House of Commons. It is with pride, but also humility, that I will fulfill this responsibility, and I will do so by listening attentively to their concerns and by striving to promote their best interests, here in the House and within the government.

Our country is currently going through a period of critical challenges and issues. This is why I am pleased to see that our government's determination to promote the betterment of Canadians was clearly stated in the recent throne speech.

As parliamentarians, we have a duty to make a concrete contribution to the implementation of the government's agenda, which seeks primarily to ensure that the Government of Canada is, more effectively than before, at the service of all Canadians. This is the number one responsibility for all of us and we should never forget it.

Because of the position I was honoured to occupy in recent years as chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the current state of the world is of special concern to me, as are our country's responsibilities and commitments on the international scene. From experience, I know that my worries are shared by a large and steadily growing number of Canadians.

We no longer live in separate compartments; everything that happens in the world affects us and concerns us. The diversity of our people, who come from and retain solid and longstanding ties with the four corners of the earth reminds us of that fact directly. The people of our country have a tangible interest in world affairs; it is obvious and we see it everywhere.

I often hear them talking about the kind of world they want to live in: a world founded on justice and tolerance; a world that promotes human dignity and respects human rights; a world of solidarity, that builds democracy and fosters economic, social and cultural progress.

In his recent address to the United Nations, the Prime Minister made it clear he understands what Canadians want, particularly when he insisted on the fact that the primary obligation of the international institutions is to our common humanity. He also said that governments have the duty to speak to the dignity and freedom of every human being on earth.

What the Prime Minister was expressing lies at the very heart of the most fundamental Canadian values, the values that individual Canadians fervently wish to see spread across the world. Our partisan affiliations in this House cannot prevent us from recognizing the predominance of such values among Canadians, and it is our duty to contribute to making them reality.

We can also recognize the urgent need to act, to give our best as a country and as individuals, to bring relief from the many cruel plagues and misfortunes that so many of our brothers and sisters in humanity have to suffer.

There are certainly some serious problems caused by phenomena related to the contingencies of our human condition, such as natural disasters and outbreaks of infectious diseases. In such situations, the actions of our country and its people of all backgrounds and all ages, are always characterized above all by an open heart, a quick and generous response. This trend must continue, with the same determination and compassion that brings honour to this country.

Then there are other scourges that arise out of the darker side of our own human nature. It is of the utmost urgency that we address these head on, with all the strength of conviction we are able to muster. For example, hate, whether based on ethnic, social or religious grounds, is what lies behind most of these terrible scourges which destroy lives and leave despair and fear in their wake in too many parts of this world.

It is true that eradicating hate is a mammoth undertaking in itself, but our country and its people are among those best suited to driving back the forces that propagate it.

Our civil society has never ceased to amaze me with its diversity, its wealth of experiences and solid accomplishments on the international scene.

When our people talk about helping others, it is not just empty words. Through our NGOs and the variety of associations working in favour of peace and tolerance in the world, our fellow citizens are providing tangible proof of the reality and depth of their convictions.

Many of these associations and NGOs, often with private sector backing, are focusing their attention on a theme very dear to my heart: tolerance and peace through education. Education, particularly in early childhood, is the primary means of tearing out the vile roots of hatred and consigning them to the garbage heap of history.

This requires a real battle around curriculum content and academic goals. We must promote a school system that fosters the development of human and civic values, for these are the seeds from which peace can best grow.

During the various consultations over which I have presided in recent years in the standing committee, I have been delighted to learn of a multitude of projects within our civil society with the specific goal of reaching out to school children in those areas of the world where hate and intolerance are most rampant.

In the Middle East for example, an extremely troubled region if ever there was one, some of those projects are either at the planning stages or under way. Young Israeli and Palestinian children learn at school about the virtues and benefits of peace and tolerance, of listening to one another and of understanding. These children are also given opportunities to meet and have dialogue with their counterparts in the other camp. This simple and unpretentious, yet concrete and creative approach is the best way to contribute to eliminating prejudice and eradicating hatred. The seeds of hope are being planted in order to reap the benefits of peace and tolerance in the future. This is something our country and many Canadians are in a position to make happen.

Now more than ever, as a government and also as parliamentarians, we must provide solid support to this type of initiative. At first glance these may seem like modest initiatives, but they will truly contribute to lasting peace in our world.

These initiatives also reflect the emergence of one-on-one diplomacy, whether it be Canadians and foreigners, or people from various camps who are too often the object of hate and division.

In conclusion, this is what leads me to believe that although Canada may not be a major world power, we certainly have a powerful potential for inspiring hope where there is despair, tolerance where there is hate and justice where human rights are being abused.

It is up to us to get on with the job, realize the extent of our potential and our international responsibilities, and give more tangible expression to the values that make our country what it is: a model for the nations of the world.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I being I congratulate you on becoming Deputy Speaker. It is a reflection of your contribution to the House of Commons that you are sitting there today.

I would first like to thank the constituents of Calgary East for sending me here for the third time, especially with a bigger majority than before, despite a campaign of lies by the Liberals. Nevertheless, the people of Calgary did not listen and they sent me back with a greater majority.

I want to ask the member, and I know in the last committee he was chairman of the--

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Will the member refrain from using that language in the House and the words he used in terms of the policies of the Liberals and what they have said? I would ask him to withdraw his remarks.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair was otherwise occupied at the time. The hon. member is very experienced and he knows that language must be judicious. I am sure he will watch his language and I urge him to do so.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, when I was on the foreign affairs committee, the member was the chair. Why does his party not respect Parliament? Let me explain my question. The government sent the same sex marriage question to the Supreme Court without bringing it here to the Parliament of Canada.

Not only that, but the defence minister recently said that he would not bring the issue of missile defence into the House of Commons, that the decision would be made by an executive decision.

Why does his government constantly ignore the will of Canadians as expressed to the Parliament of Canada?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. I am thrilled to work with you.

To answer my colleague for Calgary East, I am disappointed. I made a speech but he asked me nothing about my speech. What is he doing? Did he not listen to the speech? I think it is much more important for him to listen to what we have to say.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Answer my question.