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 speech.

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

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

October 7th, 2004 / 11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my distinguished and very competent colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

I would like to thank my constituents from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for giving me their trust for the fourth time with the largest majority I have received since 1993. I can assure them once again that they will not be disappointed in their choice. I will work hard to defend their interests.

Some things in the Speech from the Throne are surprising. My colleagues will have the opportunity to talk about other matters that are missing from or poorly presented in this speech. I will focus on two aspects. The first concerns the whole issue of financial pressures, commonly referred to as the fiscal imbalance on this side of the House. The second concerns the agricultural sector, which is also one of the major areas that was forgotten in the Speech from the Throne and one of the major sectors that has been neglected by the government for many years.

A first ministers' conference will be held shortly to address equalization and all federal transfers. It is quite surprising that just a few weeks before this conference there is no mention in the Speech from the Throne of this important issue, except for one line. It says that the federal government will present the most significant, most magnificent reform of the equalization program in 45 years.

My first point is this: equalization is one thing, but there is also the conference of October 26. I trust the Prime Minister is far better prepared than for the last first ministers' conference on health care. That time he was absolutely at a loss. He gave the impression of being totally disconcerted, with no idea of what he was talking about. I hope this time he will be well prepared.

During the election campaign he made a commitment—one he repeated two weeks ago—to open the first ministers' conference with two major subjects: equalization payments and the other fiscal transfers which are causing tax pressure on the provincial and Quebec governments. This is in large part due to the skyrocketing costs of health care and the growing needs in the area of education and social assistance.

Equalization is important, but if it is done according to the formula presented to us two weeks ago, nothing will be accomplished and it will be a mere travesty of the objectives and mission of an equalization program.

Two weeks ago, on the very first day of the premiers conference, the federal government presented an equalization payment amending formula: take the 2000-01 payments and index them. When the formula is not corrected from beginning to end, we end up with a situation where, for example, the Government of Quebec would end up over the next 10 years not get half of what it would normally would have obtained in equalization payments had the formula had been reshaped using correct and stringent parameters. There has been talk of reshaping the equalization payment system for 10 years now.

Two constants with two parameters keep coming up and there is provincial consensus on these. The first: provincial representation must be changed. Calculations to determine the per capita payment must be based on the ten provinces, not five. The other parameter is property tax. This has been volatile in recent years and as a result, for example, Quebec suddenly lost $2 billion in equalization payments.

Real property tax values must be used as the basis for the calculation. There is nothing complicated about that. Change two parameters and we have a lasting solution to the problem.

Second, the Prime Minister must fulfill his two commitments—the one he made during the election campaign and the one at the last conference—and deal with the fiscal pressures. I find it hard to understand why the Prime Minister and the members of his government are upset when we propose an amendment dealing with fiscal pressures and fiscal imbalance. The Prime Minister himself admitted, during the election campaign and two weeks ago, that the Quebec government and the provincial governments were under undue fiscal pressure and he said that he was prepared to work on this issue.

But the throne speech makes no mention of these fiscal pressures. The first ministers' conference is in three weeks. Are we justified in questioning the government's agenda? After all, this is what the throne speech is about: it presents the government's agenda.

If the Prime Minister is not able to anticipate that, under his agenda, he will have to meet the provincial premiers in three weeks to discuss fiscal pressures, then there is a problem. Something was overlooked. I do not know whether this is deliberate or if the Prime Minister is in the process of changing his mind.

There is only one way to deal with the fiscal imbalance in a thorough fashion. The tax fields of the federal, Quebec and provincial governments must be redefined.

In other words, we must transfer the additional taxing powers to the provincial governments and to the Quebec government so that they can fulfill their primary responsibility regarding health, front line services to citizens, education and income support for society's poorest.

It is easy to transfer tax points or, for example, to transfer GST revenues, as was pointed out by the Séguin commission. Here again, the government is not even open to discussing the issue. Imagine what it will be like when it comes to finding solutions.

But we are expecting the Prime Minister on October 26. So are the premiers of Quebec and the provinces. The federal government cannot accumulate surpluses unduly while the provinces have glaring needs in health, education and income support, which are all fundamental responsibilities enshrined in the Canadian Constitution.

There is something indecent about the fact that they hid these surpluses from us, year after year. Once again, the Conference Board is talking about a federal government surplus of $164 billion over the next 10 years, while the deficit for Quebec and the other provinces will be over $60 billion. Something is not working properly; the federal government has too much money for its responsibilities and there is not enough money for the basic responsibilities for services to the people, such as health and education.

This conference must be guided by four principles that are not found in the Speech from the Throne. These principles are: provincial autonomy with regard to constitutional responsibility; stability; predictable management of the funds they have on hand; and long-lasting arrangements. It must not happen that every two years someone has to come back and grovel on behalf of those who require services. The money does not belong to the federal government; it belongs to the citizens whose highest priority—and this was seen everywhere in the election polls—is to have that money invested in health, education and income support.

Unless it accomplishes this, we will consider the conference a failure.

Second, there is agriculture, the most important sector in my riding. It is an important economic motor for all rural regions in Quebec. The same is true in the rest of Canada. My honourable friend from the west was saying so just now.

For a number of years, the federal government has neglected farmers, so much so that if we compare the incomes of farm families now to those of the past 30 years, these are the lowest incomes for 30 years. The men and women who farm have been victims of an incredible depression, particularly in the last three years. Between mad cow disease and American subsidies, it has been incredible. Those subsidies represent at least 20 times what the federal government can provide to the producers of large-scale crops such as corn and wheat.

We cannot go on like this. Competition is not based on the quality of the products; it is based on the ability of governments to intervene with outrageous subsidies that contravene all the trading rules of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.

Five years ago the federal government cut the dairy subsidy by $6.03 a hectolitre. It provided $120 million to dairy farmers in Quebec. If the farmers still had this $120 million today, they could survive the mad cow crisis. But that is not what the federal government did.

As for the Quebec Artificial Breeding Centre, a vital part of the agricultural economy, it has been cornered a financially disastrous situation because of mad cow disease. Indeed, 75% of QABC products that used to go the United States no longer go there.

The federal government is abandoning the agricultural sector and cast doubt on the survival of the École de médecine vétérinaire de Saint-Hyacinthe, the only francophone school of veterinary medicine in North America. It is the only one that currently does not have full accreditation. The four others located elsewhere in Canada are fully accredited, but Saint-Hyacinthe is not. Why? Because the federal government did not do its job.

If that is what they call a government program then it is only normal that we reject it. However, it is abnormal for the government not to agree to work with us to improve its work program, to make this Parliament work.

The government has to understand that we are in a majority position, which is not easy to do. We are the majority, we have a majority predisposition and that can have a major impact. The Liberals still do not understand that they have a minority in this Parliament. It might be a good idea for them to cooperate rather than impose the Liberal party agenda, which was rejected by 62% of Canadians, a significant figure.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. But first, let me say that I thought he described the situation very well when he talked about a meaningless throne speech following the results of the election on June 28.

Since my colleague was previously the Bloc Quebecois critic for aboriginal affairs, I would like him to comment on the fact that not one word is to be found in the Throne speech on the appalling conditions in which Canada's native people live.

As we know, some initiatives launched in Quebec were successful, including the peace of the braves, an agreement reached with the Cree, and the common approach with the Innu. Unfortunately, as I have witnessed myself, despite the efforts made by the government and the people of Quebec, native people in Quebec are still encountering difficulties because the federal government is doing absolutely nothing to help these communities solve their problems. I would like to ask the hon. member to speak on this.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my illustrious colleague from Joliette for his most important question.

The two and one-half years during which I was responsible for aboriginal issues were a great revelation to me. I learned something new every day. The situation of Canada's aboriginal people is disastrous, and not far off third-world levels. Every throne speech makes reference to aboriginal problems. It looks good. In all throne speeches there is a paragraph about recognizing the first nations.

How then does it come about that the necessary actions are not taken? The first thing we should have seen in the throne speech, particularly after the battle we led against the governance bill, C-7, unwanted by every aboriginal nation across Canada, is that the government was planning on allocating additional resources to speed up negotiations on first nations self-government. This is the only way to enable the first nations to take charge of their own affairs, to have their own tax base, to make decisions on their own future, and to have full jurisdiction over that future.

There is a frequent tendency to paint a bleak picture of our first nations, whereas 90% of these communities are administering their lands appropriately. They ought to be allowed to do so because it is their jurisdiction. They ought to be given the resources as well as compensation for the harm done by an Indian Act that is as bad as any apartheid regime the world has ever known.

But no, back they came again with the usual paternalistic approach, telling the aboriginal people what was good for them and how to do things. There we were with Bill C-7. My NDP colleague and I fought for 55 days and 55 evenings, some of them into the night, to get that bill rejected. Despite what we were told, this was just a second version of the Indian Act on top of the original one, which was terrible enough on its own.

The problems are so obvious: chronic under-employment, otherwise known as unemployment, a youth suicide rate double that of the rest of society, multiple addictions, housing problems. Some of the housing is not fit even for an animal to live in. I have had the opportunity to visit reserves in Quebec and in Canada, and the situation is shocking.

It is disgrace for a government not to have made the aboriginal issue a priority. Aboriginal people are promised the moon every five years or so. Such was the case with the report of the Erasmus-Dussault royal commission, which opened up incredible possibilities for them. In opposition to the Erasmus-Dussault report, they are presented with a bill no one wants. Enough time has been wasted on this issue. It is time to speed up negotiations. First, there has to be a recognition of first nations as nations, according to the UN definition, like any other nations of the world. In that sense, they have the right to self-determination and ought to be able to decide their future, as should Quebec's people.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, first let me congratulate you on your appointment. We look forward to great things from the Chair.

The member represents the party which is extremely concerned with the eroding of provincial controls. In the Speech from the Throne there is a statement which says that the government intends to give a portion of the gas tax to the municipalities. I always thought that municipalities came under provincial jurisdiction.

I would like the hon. member's observations. Is he aware of a deal with the provinces which would allow the federal government to deal with municipalities? What is meant by “a portion of the gas tax”? How thinly is it being spread or is it just another sham perpetrated by the government opposite?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

You can see dirty tricks the government plays to try to alleviate the disaster it has created over the past decade. It has starved the provinces, forcing them to tighten their belts to avoid running huge deficits. Some were successful, while other are on the verge on going into a deficit. Recently, we saw the situation of the Government of Ontario.

These are dirty tricks. All that has guided the federal government for the past 10 years is visibility. When you are swimming in surpluses—$10 billion annually on average these past three years—you end up spending left and right. Visibility is what is guiding this government's decisions.

There is a solution to this problem: redefine tax fields. If there is too much money in Ottawa given the mandates the federal government has to fulfill, there is too little in the provinces and in Quebec to meet the needs of the people. That is what has to be redefined. The last time this was done was in 1964, under Messrs. Pearson and Lesage, when tax points were transferred. Let us do it again.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to congratulate you on your appointment. As my colleagues before me have done, let me thank the voters in the riding of La Pointe-de-l'Île, the new name for the riding of Mercier. This new name reflects the geography and the history of this corner of East Montreal, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. It is a reminder that Montreal is an island the east point of which is inhabited by proud people whom I want to represent to the best of my ability.

It is with pride that I take my turn to speak to and in favour of the Bloc Québécois' amendment to the amendment. I would like to remind the House of what it is all about since this morning I heard comments that made me wonder if those who were taking about it had really heard or even read it. Here is the amendment, which is worded with respect:

“and we ask Your Excellency’s advisors to ensure that all measures brought forward to implement the Speech from the Throne, including those referred to above, fully respect the provinces’ areas of jurisdiction and that the financialpressures the provinces are suffering as a consequence of the fiscal imbalance be alleviated, as demanded by the Premier of Quebec.”

When we talk about respecting the provinces' areas of jurisdiction in the amendment to the amendment, we are referring to the Constitution. We talk about the financial pressures the provinces are suffering, the very same words the Prime Minister himself used. If pressed, he will eventually cough up the same answer. We are not asking for the total elimination of financial pressures. We are not that demanding; we ask only that they be alleviated.

I will add right away that I heard the member for Outremont say that they were not going to relinquish their responsibilities to the Premier of Quebec. After “as demanded by the Premier of Quebec”, we could add “and by all the other provincial and territorial premiers as well as a vast majority of Canadians”.

We wrote this amendment to the amendment so that it would be acceptable to the government. That is what we want. Our leader said yesterday that we do not want to practice the politics of the worst-case scenario. We could easily vent the anger we feel, especially after a series of speeches such as those we heard this morning. I am as fired up as I was during the election. We wanted the wording of the amendment to the amendment to be acceptable so that the areas of provincial jurisdiction would be recognized and the financial pressures alleviated. Is there anything more sensible than that?

If the hon. member for Outremont were sitting behind a microphone, I am sure he would come to a very obvious conclusion. Not one of the commentators from Quebec, including those from the English-language papers and media, thought the throne speech would be acceptable to Quebec and the Bloc Quebecois. No one thought the Bloc Quebecois could support the throne speech. That was made very clear and in no time at all.

To make this totally unacceptable document more palatable, the least we could do is find the amendment to the amendment to be in order and see it as a manifestation of our goodwill.

It should not come as a surprise really. Last February, in the throne speech, the Prime Minister said:

Jurisdiction must be respected. But Canadians do not go about their daily lives worried about which jurisdiction does this or that. They expect, rightly, that their governments will co-operate in common purpose for the common good, each working from its strength.

Unfortunately, from what we can see, the Prime Minister seems to be saying that jurisdictions are not all that important, as long as the provinces have some money to spend.

Interestingly, Mr. Pelletier, the Quebec Minister responsible for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairsand Native Affairs, who is a Liberal and a federalist, said:

To say that the distribution of powers is obsolete is to say that federalism is obsolete.

I know that Benoît Pelletier is a true hard-line federalist. He believes in the sovereignty of jurisdictions, including areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Repentigny on a point of order.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, while my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île is trying to express the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois about the throne speech, our colleague opposite is calling us traitors, is telling us to take our paycheque and go back to France. I cannot name the riding of this member because I think he is not sitting in his seat. If he is in his seat, he only has to name his riding.

In this House, the Prime Minister talked about cooperation and goodwill. I would like to have the member retract, apologize, stop calling us traitors and stop telling us, during the speech of the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, to return to another country.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can understand why my colleague from Repentigny is so sensitive. Perhaps such words as “get out of the country”, were used, which is unacceptable.

As for calling people traitors, it would mean that this applies to all separatists in Quebec, including the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, which had called the members of the Liberal Party in the House traitors. I would like him to comment on these unparliamentary words and tell us exactly the same thing, which is that he is sorry and that the word “traitor” is unacceptable, no matter which side of the House he is referring to.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I think we are getting into debate now. I did not hear the initial comments down at that end of the House. I would urge all members, obviously, to make whatever comments they need to in the questions and comments period that follows the debate and to keep the language and the decorum to that which we expect from experienced members.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, you have to agree that this kind of participation is stimulating. I have to tie this in with what I was saying. I was talking about the sovereign provincial jurisdictions. Let me repeat the statement of a Quebec minister: “To say that the distribution of powers is obsolete is to say that federalism is obsolete”.

I find unacceptable many things in this throne speech. One of them was not mentioned by other members, but I would like to deal with it. At the beginning of the throne speech, one can read, and I quote:

The Government’s actions on behalf of Canadians will be guided by these seven commitments:

--to promote the national interest by setting the nation’s objectives and building a consensus toward achieving them--

I have two points to make about this. First, Quebec is not only a province, but also a nation. It is not an ethnic group, but a nation in the real sense of the word.

I might add that I am proud we have in this Parliament, thanks to the Bloc Quebecois, but mainly thanks to him, the first African-born MP, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert. He has been elected by wise and intelligent voters.

Quebec is not only a province, but also a nation. A large part of what I have to say about Quebec could also be said about other provinces. If Quebec had waited for a national federal initiative to further its development, if it had waited for some federal consensus to develop, it would still be marching to the drum of the fifties.

Saying that is really ignoring history. As to the Quebec social model, I know many provinces would like to implement it. There is a growing recognition of that in day care. This model was developed by the grassroots, the same way the healthcare model was developed in Saskatchewan many years ago. Our model was developed because we used our skills, intelligence, expertise and leadership to achieve our goal of protecting our national interest.

It is utterly unacceptable that the only type of leadership being suggested is a leadership that does not take into consideration the fact that Quebec has its own goals and means. It is not true that, outside a national consensus, particularly in matters of provincial jurisdiction, but also in other matters, there is no redemption.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

11:55 a.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time. Congratulations on your new role. I am sure you will do an excellent job based on your past performance.

I, too, would like to thank my constituents for re-electing me. All members know that with every decision we make and every position we take some of our constituents would disagree. It is a very difficult role in that respect. Those constituents of mine who have been on the other side of various debates have been exceedingly generous with me and I certainly appreciate their support every time I return to the riding.

I want to talk about the north but before I do, I would like to make a quick point on the national data. It is great to be able to go on the record now to show that we are the only party that is committed to reducing the national debt which is a very significant debt.

In the debate so far the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition has explained how rich the federal government is and how we have so much more money than we should have. The Bloc has commented constantly in this debate and previous debates on these large surpluses. The leader of the NDP is on record as being opposed to debt reduction.

This party in the throne speech has made it quite clear that we are continuing on the path of slow but steady reduction of the debt. Canadians appreciate that we are reducing the taxes and what people in Quebec will have to pay to pay off the interest on the national debt; we should get rid of it as soon as possible.

The Bloc subamendment calls upon the government to fully respect provincial jurisdiction and alleviate the financial pressures on the provinces caused by fiscal imbalance as demanded by the premier of Quebec. I can say, as my colleagues have said, that we are not going to abdicate our responsibilities in the fair sharing of our resources across the country.

We recognize that all governments face financial pressures, some more than others, in this great nation. That is why the Prime Minister will be meeting with his provincial counterparts to conclude the most fundamental reform of the equalization program in history later this month.

The Bloc subamendment would commit the government to an open-ended call on government finances. That is a fundamental issue which the government cannot support.

I want to spend most of my time talking about the north and how tremendous the throne speech has been for the people north of 60 in this country.

During the throne speech I was sitting in the gallery in front of a professor of Canadian studies from the University of Alaska. She said to me after the speech, “Did you write that speech? Your constituents are going to be elated”. I certainly agree with her on the great effort that was made in the throne speech to recognize the north. Although it has a very small population, it is very unique and beautiful and is an important part of the country.

Most throne speeches do not talk about particular regions or areas because most of the provisions, many of which will benefit my constituents, are national in scope. The throne speech made two very significant references to the north which is very exciting for the people in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The first reference in the throne speech states:

A region of particular challenge and opportunity is Canada's North--a vast area of unique cultural and ecological significance. The Government will develop, in cooperation with territorial partners, Aboriginal people and other northern residents, the first-ever comprehensive strategy for the North. This northern strategy will foster sustainable economic and human development; protect the northern environment and Canada's sovereignty and security; and promote cooperation with the international circumpolar community.

That is a huge agenda for the north, when we talk about the economy, the environment and international cooperation. One I am particularly proud of and which I have been working on for a number of years is the commitment to protecting northern sovereignty.

The other reference in the throne speech relates to health care:

The Plan addresses the unique challenges facing the delivery of health care services in Canada's North, including the costs of medical transportation, and encourages innovative delivery of services to rural Canada.

This recognizes one of the major problems in the north for health care, which is the distance. In a place like Quebec City a person can get in an ambulance and be at a hospital in a few minutes. In the north one might have to get into a plane and spend $10,000 or $20,000 to get to the nearest hospital that can perform major surgery. It is tremendous for our constituents in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to have recognized those tremendous obstacles we face in providing health care similar to that which the people in the south have.

There are a number of references in the throne speech to other initiatives that are national in basis and on which my constituents have approached me a number of times. I am very excited to see those in the throne speech, too.

There are the internal trade barriers and in particular, there are some related to transport with the province of British Columbia which my constituents have raised with me. I am delighted that we are going to renew our efforts to make sure that we have as much free trade as possible within this great federation.

I think people across Canada are excited about the item on reduction of wait times. Certainly it was raised before by my constituents.

Seniors are very excited about bringing back the new horizons program. The aboriginal health transition fund and the reference to FAS also are very welcome in my riding. Issues related to aboriginal health have been raised with me and I am delighted to see that in the throne speech.

The three different programs to be extended for homeless people will once again be very well received by the people working in the social area in my riding. All those three programs were well used in the past and were very popular. People will be happy that the SCPI program, the affordable housing initiative and the RRAP have been extended.

There are hundreds of voluntary organizations in the Yukon. People will be very happy that there is continued support and recognition of how important the volunteer sector is to Canada.

The young people are very interested in the Canada Corps. One of the issues in the throne speech related to the environment has also been raised by my constituents. It is the legislation to ensure the ecological integrity of national parks. I know that the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society will be quite happy that that is in the throne speech.

Yet another initiative to help post-secondary students, the learning bond, will be well received. I was approached by post-secondary students before. I could not imagine that anyone would argue with the tax cuts for those people caring for the aged and disabled.

Some in the opposition accuse us that the throne speech is the same as previous initiatives, in essence that we are helping the same problem or the same people again. On that count, I plead guilty.

If the extension of three successful programs related to affordable housing to help the poor is the same, then I plead guilty.

If it means that adding to the many student programs we have had for post-secondary students, including the largest scholarship program in history with the learning bond for poor families is repetition, then I plead guilty.

If it means including yet another initiative, the new act for voluntary non-profit corporations is a repeat of assistance to the voluntary sector, then I plead guilty.

If it means making further commitments to Kyoto over and above the $3 billion and many programs that we have already put in place to reduce emissions and have cleaner air is repetition, then I plead guilty.

If it means more attention to the precious and unique area of northern Canada, 40% of Canada's geographical land mass, over and above the tremendous financial contributions made in the last budget, then I plead guilty.

If it means over and above the great strides the Prime Minister made in his short time in the first Parliament restructuring government, increasing Indian affairs funding to help aboriginal people and adding more programs to help aboriginal people, then I plead guilty.

If it means adding more tax breaks to the biggest tax break in Canadian history, a $100 billion this time for tax breaks for the disabled and the poor, then I plead guilty.

That is the type of Canada that I believe in. Future Liberal governments will continue to provide initiatives to help the poor, secondary students, and heath care. For that type of repetition, I plead guilty. I would be proud to go into another election based on that.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new position.

It is good to hear that we have one more guilty Liberal on the other side. I want to ask him a specific question. I have a situation in my riding regarding health care. He talked a little bit about northern health care and the fact that many of his people have to rely on planes and those kinds of things to receive health care. He should probably be thankful for that because in one section of my riding people are not even going to be able to have that level of health care themselves.

This summer the provincial government, taking federal money and putting into health care, decided it would shut down a number of the health care centres in my riding and remove ambulance services in other areas. One of the areas involved affects communities along the border. This is an area that involves Val Marie, which has Grasslands National Park near it, the communities of Bracken, Climax, Frontier and Claydon. All told it is an area of about 2,500 square miles.

The government has basically decided that it is going to shut down the only health care facility in the area. The local people have desperately tried to do something to maintain their health care. They went to the provincial government. The provincial government refused to negotiate with them. My constituents have actually appealed to the new Minister of Health. They have not had a response from him.

Instead, my constituents decided they would do something themselves to preserve their health care. In this small rural area these folks have now raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the public health care facility open.

We have talked in this place a number of times about two tier health care. We see it showing its face in Saskatchewan. We have an area where health care is being denied to people. These are rural folks, farmers, some manufacturers, and business people. Some of the rural municipal governments are involved in raising money for their own health care facility.

I would ask the member, why is there no accountability in rural areas for health care? Why is it that in health region number one, the birthplace of medicare, people are now having to raise private money to keep their public health care facilities open?