House of Commons Hansard #5 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 from October 7 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment, as amended.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

9:55 a.m.

Richmond
B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Minister of State (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The throne speech was a balance between fiscal responsibility and social development. It outlined our commitment to balancing budgets and reducing debt. It also promised to reduce the health care waiting lists, investment in child care and cities. We are taking care of a lot of issues that have been raised by Canadians. At the same time, we are continuing to hold a tight control on the finances of the country.

I am very happy that there are specific gains for Richmond and British Columbia in the Speech from the Throne, with the provision of gas tax revenues through the new deal for Canada's cities. My constituents can rest assured that I will keep my eyes on the ball and work to ensure that Richmond and British Columbia are well represented in Parliament.

It is a great honour to speak today in response to the Speech from the Throne. It is a privilege to speak on behalf of my constituents from the beautiful city of Richmond. As Minister of State for Multiculturalism, I am particularly proud of the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne places a great deal of emphasis on this government's efforts to reach out to all Canadians. These efforts underscore our commitment to foster an inclusive society. The government is truly committed to multiculturalism.

The speech outlines seven principles that will guide the government's actions on behalf of Canadians. Among them are three that I would like to speak about.

The government will defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and be a steadfast advocate of inclusion. It will demand equality of opportunity so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians. It will pursue its objectives in a manner that recognizes Canada's diversity as a source of strength and innovation.

These principles lie at the centre of this government's approach to building a strong, innovative, resilient society, a society that is built on the contribution of all, regardless of background, race or ethnicity.

The government is determined to continue to defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion and a champion of the concept of shared citizenship. For Canadians, this means common core values such as pluralism, fairness, inclusion and respect for others, shared rights, supported by a strong legal framework, and a shared responsibility to contribute to the betterment of society.

All of this rests within the fundamental framework provided by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other laws targeted to guaranteeing equality. However, laws are not enough. The challenge is not to only adhere to the letter of these laws, but also to embody their spirit in every way we can.

The government opposes racism and the incitement of hatred, and will work to ensure the safety and dignity of all Canadians. In the months ahead I will put forward a series of significant measures to combat racism and to reinforce our multicultural values. Meeting this commitment is one of my top priorities.

As the Prime Minister pointed out in his response to the Speech from the Throne, we must be vigilant in this respect, otherwise the satisfaction with which we present ourselves to the world as a country of inclusion will erode.

Our goal is to ensure that there is a place for everyone in Canada, that all barriers to achieving full potentials are broken down. At the same time, all of us share an obligation to do what we can to contribute to the well-being of our society. With rights come responsibilities.

The second guiding principle I wish to elaborate on is the government's commitment to equality of opportunities so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians.

The government understands that the Canada of today is not the Canada of 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. Canada's strength in the years ahead will depend more than ever before on its ability to draw on the skills, talents and experiences of all of its citizens. In the Canada of today, almost 20% of us were born outside of Canada. In my riding of Richmond, almost 60% of residents are immigrants.

As we all know, at a time when Canada's need for skilled workers is on the rise, our system of recognizing foreign credentials, while improving, is still not where it should be.

As someone familiar with many newcomers to this country, I can say unequivocally that these efforts are critically important to ensuring strong families, strong communities and a strong economy.

The government is determined to address this issue in close collaboration with our provincial partners. I will be working very hard with my cabinet colleagues to advance this commitment.

The third guiding principle I wish to elaborate on is the government's recognition of Canada's diversity as a source of strength and innovation. When Canadians of diverse backgrounds are able to share their talents, perspectives and experiences, our economy benefits, our society benefits, and our families benefit. We all benefit.

I was struck earlier this week when Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella spoke eloquently of the possibilities that Canada offers. She told of her parent's journey, a journey that started in a displaced persons camp in Germany and in one generation ended in the Supreme Court of Canada.

As someone who came to Canada at the age of 17, I related to Justice Abella's comments in a personal way. I came here from Hong Kong as a teenager, obtained my education in this country, and was fortunate to find success in business.

Wishing to give back to my country that has given me so much, I became involved in politics. I was honoured and privileged to become the first Canadian of Chinese descent to be named to the Privy Council.

I am proud to be the Minister of State responsible for Multiculturalism, but I am prouder still to belong to a country that welcomed me as a newcomer, encouraged me as a professional engineer and an entrepreneur, and then allowed me to give back to society.

I am proud that 33 years ago Canada became the first country in the world to adopt an official multiculturalism policy, but I am prouder still that multiculturalism in Canada is much more than a policy. It is who we are, an inclusive, pluralistic country whose embrace of diversity is seen as a model for the world. The government is committed to moving Canada forward and creating an even better tomorrow for our children by drawing on the strengths that our diversity offers.

I invite all Canadians to join us in this worthy pursuit.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, once again, in the throne speech of this year and the throne speeches that I have heard over the last 11 years, agriculture, which is one of the most vital industries across this country, has been mentioned in about three words. Agriculture is probably one of the largest, if not the largest, employer of people due to its spinoff industries that affect all Canadians who rely on this industry.

Farmers deserve to make a good living out of their hard work. Canada leads the world in its ability to produce good products for food. I find it deplorable when it has been ignored to the degree that it has and only warrants three words in the throne speech. It has been the same in every throne speech I have heard. I should have played the tapes of a few of the throne speeches I have heard in the past because the government would not have to have bothered delivering this one because it is the same old stuff.

I wonder if the member realizes today that there will be scores of foreclosures in about one month's time when fall comes. Beef producers and other livestock producers rely on the fall market to make their required payments in order to keep their land. People will lose their land and their livelihood because of the government's inaction.

Do not tell me about the wonderful programs that have been introduced because from all the reports that I have received from Statistics Canada and Access to Information and so on, the average income received by people in my riding from government programs was $924 to this point in time. That hardly pays the power bill. It hardly pays the phone bill in a lot of cases.

Does the government not understand the seriousness of the situation in agriculture? Why has it not been addressed more strongly in the throne speech?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Time. Time. Question. Question.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, if that member would take the time to listen he would not try to defend the government's lack of lustre in helping the agriculture industry.

What is wrong with the government that it cannot get off its duff and help these people save their land, save the industry, and save jobs instead of all the rhetoric and gobbledegook that we have been hearing by members who want to interrupt?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the member opposite has been doing for the last few months. Our government has paid a lot of attention to the agricultural sector. Just on the BSE problem alone we have committed more than $1.5 billion to help the growers of this country.

Not only have we helped farmers but we have negotiated strongly with the Americans to open up the border. We are now in the process of restructuring our industry to provide more processing capacity so that we do not have to depend on the Americans for our meat processing.

My Province of British Columbia has been faced with the problem of avian flu and the government moved quickly to deal with the issue. The minister of agriculture at the time met with poultry farmers in British Columbia and provided support for them. They are now happy that we have dealt with the problem and we are moving on to a much stronger industry.

On behalf of my colleagues on this side of the House, I can say that the Government of Canada has made agriculture a very important sector for Canadians to enjoy.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As the House knows, there are ongoing discussions concerning the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, and in order to facilitate these discussions in the spirit of collaboration and consultation, I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, unless the House otherwise orders, the Chair shall not receive any further amendment to the proposed amendment to the motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Charlottetown
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first opportunity to address the House, I want to thank the voters from the historic city of Charlottetown for their continued confidence that they have shown in me.

Second, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate each and every member from both sides of the House who have been elected to serve Canadians in this 38th Parliament.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you on your election as the Speaker of the House. The fact that you were elected by acclamation speaks volumes of the esteem that the people here have for you.

I want to join with the previous speaker, with the many other speakers in the House, with the hundreds and hundreds of other Canadians, non-governmental organizations and other organizations from across this country, in embracing the direction laid out by the government in the recent Speech from the Throne.

Like many others, I am convinced that the needs and interests of Canadians are being recognized and addressed by the agenda laid out in this speech. It is my conviction that the Speech from the Throne and the subsequent reply made by the Prime Minister truly reflect the actions that Canadians want the government to take.

At the same time, we as parliamentarians are faced with an additional challenge. On June 28 the people of Canada decided upon a minority government. They want this government to work and I believe everyone in this assembly has an obligation to make that happen.

While our circumstances have changed here in the House, the priorities of Canadians remain the same: timely access to quality health care, support for families and caregivers, a growing and sustainable economy, and an improved quality of life across the country. Our government has listened to Canada and is following through on its promises.

I support and I associate myself with the general themes set out in the throne speech. I agree with the Prime Minister's assertion that the government is addressing the issues that matter most to each and every Canadian. There has already been very significant progress made in many of these issues.

Some have suggested, rather foolishly I suggest, that a minority government is a time to proceed with undue caution, to take a do nothing approach. I disagree with those assertions as do most Canadians. History has shown us time and time again that minority governments do work if we are all committed to making them work.

One example of the progress that has been made is the recent first ministers' accord in health. This historic deal which pledges $41 billion in incremental funding for improved health care services and access was made three months into the government's mandate. Already we have delivered upon our number one campaign priority.

No matter what happens in this House or outside the House, there are always going to be armchair quarterbacks out there saying that it could have been done differently. However, I agree with the great majority of Canadians that this was a tremendous deal. Premier Binns stated that it was a world class agreement made in the spirit of flexibility and partnership. It is now time for all of us to move together and improve our health care system to the benefit of all Canadians.

The government has also reaffirmed its commitment to municipalities, cities, towns and communities across the country with its new deal for Canada's cities and communities. By making available an increased portion of the gas tax over the next five years, the government is investing in much needed new infrastructure in urban and rural areas. This is important news and equally welcome in my home riding of Charlottetown, as it is in cities, towns and communities right across this country.

Ours is a vast and diverse country that imposes a lot of challenges on our towns and communities. The federal government has recognized this and is prepared to help our municipal counterparts in addressing some of these challenges.

The government is also committed to the best investment of all, and that is early childhood development. I support the government's objectives of creating a national system of early learning and child care to give Canadian children the best start possible. Such a program is also a smart investment in the economy, supporting working parents in setting their children on lifelong paths of achievement.

I also approve of the cooperative approach that the government is taking to establish this national system. By working with the territories and provinces, the government can fully develop a plan based upon the key principles of universality, accessibility and development. This is another way in which the government is moving forward with its collaborative approach to strengthen Canada's social foundations.

The government is also committed to strengthening Canada's diverse regional economies. This is, I feel, crucial to all Canadians with every region facing different and challenging circumstances.

I am pleased that the government has recognized the importance of regional economies to the strength and stability of Canada's economy as a whole. This is evident in the government's renewed commitment to progress and tools, such as the Atlantic innovation fund, which embrace the fundamentals of economic development.

I am also encouraged by the inclusion of new economy principles which will see improved access to modern infrastructure and communications technology.

Although there are a lot of programs and initiatives in the Speech from the Throne, I believe that the overarching focus has to be a strong and sustainable economy, an economy that has as its linchpins balanced budgets, fiscal prudence and sound and strong monetary and fiscal policies.

The government came to power in 1993 and I do not have the time nor the interest to go over the mess that we inherited. Through sound economic management the government has increased employment, decreased inflation, decreased interest rates, paid down the debt and created approximately three million new jobs.

What we have now is a generation of Canadians, some of whom are sitting on each side of the House, who have always thought that unemployment was between 7% and 8%. This generation thinks that interest rates have never gone above 6%. This generation thinks that the economy has always been this strong.

I want hon. members to know that I am not part of that generation. I have lived through periods of time where we have seen the results of a weak central government, a government that lost control of the fiscal and monetary levers that were available to it. I have seen interest rates in my previous occupation that hit 24%. I have seen the devastation that has done to Canadian families. What I am saying in a roundabout way is that we do not want another Brian Mulroney in the House.

In order to achieve its ambitious economic goals, the government, I submit and suggest, must plan strategically and in a straightforward manner.

The government's five part strategy is a solid foundation on which to build an economy that is both competitive and sustainable. Sustainable is also a challenge in areas such as environment and the natural resources.

In closing I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm my support for the agenda laid out in Tuesday's Speech from the Throne. I, like a great majority of Canadians, feel that the government has responded to the needs and interests of people across the country. Let me add my name to the many people and organizations who support the direction the government is taking.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment as the new Speaker in the House of Commons. I have heard many good things about you and I concur with what members opposite have said. Everyone must respect you a great deal to unanimously elect you to that seat once again.

I also congratulate all members of the House for their election and re-election.

I rise today on a very important question. As a new member of Parliament and as a former MLA in the province of Manitoba, I have had the experience of hearing a great deal of rhetoric. Today from members across the House, and on subsequent days prior to today, I hear and have heard over and over again the phrase “we have inherited a mess and we are working it out”.

In all due respect, we need to live in the year 2004. The fact is that this present government has been in government for over a decade. It is talking daily about the importance of dealing with real Canadian issues.

Last night I sat in the House and the other side was empty. We had many people on our side of the House listening to the very important dialogue and debate that was presented on the crisis that farmers are facing right now in Canada.

Could the hon. member across the way tell me why there was not more representation and more people in the House last night listening to that very important debate?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thought the presence or absence of members in the House was not an appropriate topic for discussion.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

The Speaker

Certainly, if it were specific members, that would be the problem. If the hon. member is saying there was a quorum here last night and barely a quorum, I do not think it is out of order to say that. I did not hear her suggest the presence of person A or person B was the issue. It was just general numbers. I do not think there is a particular problem.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member on her election. She complains of rhetoric. I, for one, cannot promise that she will not hear more rhetoric in this House.

The member talked about the fact that we live in 2004, and I guess it disturbs me a bit. I agree with her 100%, we are living in 2004. However we have to be cognizant of the mistakes that were made in the past. We have to be cognizant of the mistakes that the people who sat in this House made in the past. I have seen first-hand the problems that were caused, not so much for the people in the House but for Canadians, when we had a central government that allowed debt to get out of control, that allowed inflation to get out of control, that allowed interest rates to reach 24% and that allowed unemployment to reach 11.5%. I have seen the results of that first-hand, and it was more than our agricultural community that suffered in that regard.

In answer to the member's question, I want to repeat and associate some of the comments made by the previous speaker, that this government has shown, certainly over the last number of years, a very strong commitment to agriculture. It has worked very closely with the farmers and the farming organizations. There is the recent agricultural policy framework of $5.5 billion. In dealing with BSE, I think there has been $1.6 billion in incremental funding. It is the goal and objective of this government to continue to build a very strong agricultural community and industry right across the country from coast to coast.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to address the House today in response to the speech throne.

First, I would like to tell you I will be sharing my time with my new colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska.

I have examined among other things the section of the speech dealing with the environment, on pages 13 and 14. It is the only part of the speech I will comment on. The least I can say, after examining this section, is that the government lacks imagination. And not only that. It has also gone back to its old and what it considers legitimate ways of meddling slowly but relentlessly in provincial jurisdictions.

Here is an example I found on page 12:

The Government will work to get its own house in order. It will consolidate federal environmental assessments and will work with the provinces and territories toward aunified and more effective assessment process for Canada.

I would like to remind you that, in the past in Quebec, even under the Robert Bourassa government, this sort of approach was strictly forbidden, so that Ottawa would be prevented from invading provincial jurisdictions, more particularly as concerns environmental assessments.

I recall, among others, letters by Pierre Paradis, then Minister for the Environment. As early as 1990 he had written a number of letters to his colleague René de Cotret reminding him that the environmental assessment process Ottawa wanted to put in place was totally unacceptable.

Later, the Supreme Court ruled that environmental assessment came in part under federal jurisdiction. But in the following months, a report was released and a Supreme Court ruling handed down, namely in the Oldman case, reaffirming the jurisdiction of the federal government in the matter. The Quebec National Assembly unanimously denounced this attempt by the federal government to put in place a parallel environmental assessment process.

In March 1992, under the government of Robert Bourassa the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution that said:

That the National Assembly strongly disapproves of the federal government bill--an Act to establish a federal environmental assessment process--because it is contrary to the higher interest of Quebec, and opposes its passage by the federal government.

On March 18, 1992, the National Assembly, with the support of every party, opposed this first attempt by the federal government to encroach on an area of shared jurisdiction. The Court is not a uniquely federal institution; it too is shared.

We would have hoped not to go back to square one with this proposal by the federal government to put in place one assessment process. I recall that the Quebec government of the day, as well as the ensuing ones, including those of the Parti Quebecois, hesitated a long time before signing an environmental assessment harmonization agreement with Ottawa. The hesitation was precisely because we feared then that Ottawa might use it as an excuse to put in place not a parallel process, but one for the whole country.

In May 2004, the Charest government decided to sign the harmonization agreement. Today, only a few months later, we are told that there will be only one environmental assessment process. How can we accept Ottawa's will to have only one process when ours is working quite well? In Quebec, the BAPE is responsible for environmental assessments. It is a transparent and consultative process recognized by all in Canada. It is the envy of some provinces.

But now, we are told that a unified assessment system will be introduced, which will be controlled by Ottawa. That is why environmental groups, which are not used to endless constitutional disputes, reacted the same day the throne speech was read, saying, “Environmentalists foresee constitutional dispute”.

Why? Because, like them, we believe, as we did in the past in debating bills like Bill C-19, that such interference was unacceptable and distorted the transparency efforts made by the federal government at the time.

I hope that the government, which is looking for asymmetry, will respect the harmonization accord signed in May 2004 and revert to a process allowing Quebec to have its own rules. I can assure the government today that, as this throne speech suggests, it dares go ahead and introduce a bill to officially establish a unified assessment process for all of Canada , we on this side of House will never support such an initiative, because it is contrary to Quebec's proven approach.

A second point raised in the throne speech concerns the Kyoto protocol. The government appears to be reverting to the good old approach of consulting with the people. The Speech from the Throne states that the government plans to implement the Kyoto principles “in a way that produces long-term and enduring results”.

I do not understand. Why mention the obligation of producing enduring results when the the time by which Canada has to have reduced its greenhouse gases is clearly indicated in the Kyoto protocol?

There is no mention of a long-term strategy in the Kyoto protocol. Canada must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6% between 2008 and 2012. Why was the government not able to incorporate its time constraints into the throne speech, stating instead some vague intentions for the long term?

It is clear that what this government has tried to do is to yield to the pressures of western Canada, whose greenhouse gas emissions increased by 30%, while Quebec managed to reduce its own emissions to 4% and Ontario had an 11% increase. The government was quick to give in to the representations made by western Canada, even though that region has a huge energy potential and has not really implemented a greenhouse gas reduction strategy, as Quebec did in the nineties. Had Canada developed a real strategy, we would be in a position to achieve the objectives of the Kyoto protocol.

There is another aspect of the constitutional plan regarding which the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs refused to answer my question yesterday. Considering that the provinces have a role to play in a cooperative process, how does the government explain the following statement on page 12 of the Speech from the Throne:

It will do so by refining and implementing an equitable national plan, in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and other stakeholders.

I remind the hon. member for Outremont, who has just arrived in this House, that, in the French version, they no longer refer to provinces, but to “administrations provinciales”. It is strange that, in the throne speech, there is no mention at all of an “administration fédérale”. Rather, they refer to the government, the federal government or Canada. However, they implicitly reduce the status of Quebec to that of a mere administration.

How can they do this? How can they present to us now, given this spirit of cooperation and the context of asymmetric federalism, a throne speech that reduces the provinces to mere administrations. This is totally unacceptable.

What is more, not only does this paragraph refer to provinces as mere “administrations”, but it makes no mention of a possible bilateral accord with Quebec for implementing the Kyoto protocol. There is not a single line on what is fundamental to us here in this House.

Indeed, in a sectoral strategy and approach, the federal government concludes agreements with the oil and petroleum industries, the basis of western Canada's economy. In a written agreement, they are told by the Prime Minister that they will be able to limit their reductions to 13%.

While the automobile sector is being told it will be exempt from the Kyoto protocol—the basis of Quebec's economy—nothing is being done for the manufacturing sector. No one is sitting down with Quebec to sign a bilateral accord. Quebec's environmental and economic interests are being compromised yet again. When you are the last one to negotiate, you are often forced to take whatever is left after the other provinces have had their say.

Their is no political will to sit down with Quebec to sign a bilateral accord, which we having been asking the federal government to do for three years now. Quebec's Minister of the Environment at the time, André Boisclair, had proposed this initiative to the federal government. The federal government is still having a hard time sitting down with the Government of Quebec. Rest assured, we will be vigilant in this matter—

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has run out. He might have an opportunity to continue during the period set aside for questions and comments.

The hon. member for Peterborough.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague. I noticed that he mentioned the Kyoto accord. I know of his great interest in that accord. As he knows, Russia has now signed on to the Kyoto accord, which is important first because it means the Kyoto accord is now legal, or whatever the expression is around the world, and second, because the largest polar nation has now signed on to it, which is very special for us in Canada.

He also knows that Canada signed on to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in the spring of the year. That also affects the north and the Arctic Ocean because it affects the way we treat our offshore areas, as well as, by the way, our involvement with fish on the high seas and so on.

I heard he was not satisfied and he thinks that Kyoto should be strengthened in Canada. I agree with him, but I wonder what he thinks about the fact that the vast majority of the proceeds of the Petro-Canada sale are to go to environmental technologies. Second, I wonder what he thinks about the renewed emphasis on the north in the Speech from the Throne, which I think ties in with both Kyoto and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am aware that the proceeds of the sale of Petro-Canada shares will go into something, but what, exactly? I would have liked the hon. member to go into a bit more detail.

They will go into the fine foundation that goes by the name of the Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology. The hon. member ought to keep in mind, however, that the Auditor General was extremely critical because the members of this Parliament do not know what happens to the money. That is the problem with foundations.

If the government had wanted to achieve short-term objectives—that being the fundamental issue, since Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20% since 1990—it would have taken the proceeds of this sale and put an environmental tax policy in place. This would have made it possible to achieve the objectives rapidly.

But no, they will take the money and put it into a nice foundation, where all sorts of research will be carried out, although solutions are right at hand. People wanting to buy a hybrid car are just waiting for the day this government gives a tax deduction or credit for its purchase. That is where the proceeds of the Petro-Canada sale could have gone.

We might have liked the wind power program to be expanded to bring it in line with the Americans' program. They have not ratified the Kyoto protocol, yet their program is more generous than the Canadian one.

So, although we are pleased with the sale, we would have liked to see the proceeds go directly into concrete measures that would enable us to achieve the Kyoto objectives rapidly.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member who has just spoken. He and I have come to know each other very well on the environment committee. I congratulate him on his re-election and I look forward to working with him in the future.

He and I will disagree on several things, of course, and first, on where Kyoto is going to go. He mentions that the EU has been pushing this. Obviously only three of those countries will achieve their targets. Russia has signed on, that is for sure, but Russia wants to get access to the WTO and to Europe, so it has been done for political reasons. It has nothing to do with the environment.

I wonder if the member does not agree that that technology and a whole new plan to really deal with climate change might be a much better way to go. Much of what he said in his answer to the last question says that he probably would agree.

That plan, of course, is centred around technology. He mentions wind energy, geothermal and biomass. All those things in fact will help us to achieve real targets and long term environmental solutions. Most important is the fact that it will allow the U.S., which is number one in CO

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production, China, which is number two, and India, which is number five, to sign on to this new program. Could the member elaborate on that, please?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member. What we need instead is a real policy that will enable us to meet the Kyoto goals.

There is international consensus. It is really a bit of a paradox; the United States has only just recognized that there is a link between human activity and global warming. Only a few weeks ago Mr. Bush's administration recognized this fact, while it is something we have known for at least 10 years. In my opinion, even if we make cosmetic changes, we are very far away from having the United States signing on to the Kyoto protocol.

There are times when we should follow the American example, in the wind energy sector, for instance, because, as I mentioned earlier, it is ahead of Canada's programs. When something important is going on elsewhere, it would be wise to learn some lessons from it.

I know that the hon. member is happy about it, but we cannot continue giving subsidies of $66 billion to the oil and gas industry, the economic base of western Canada, as we have since 1970. We must not forget that a large fund was created for this purpose, but that only $329 million has been invested in renewable energy. I am deeply convinced that we need to reverse this investment and put our money where it is needed to build a sustainable society. We must not continue to finance polluters. Not only is that contrary to the spirit of the Kyoto protocol, but it also risks preventing Canada from reaching its objective for the 2008-2012 period and the period following it.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I know it is a little early to call it 11 o'clock, but I do not want the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska to begin his remarks and be interrupted a few minutes later at 11.

Therefore, we will now proceed to statements by members.

Children of Beslan
Statements by Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, on September 28 I was pleased to join with teachers and students from St. Clare's Catholic School in my riding of Davenport to work together on a program to collect teddy bears for shipment to children in Beslan, Russia.

The tragedy that took place in Beslan filled all of us with shock and grief. I was pleased to be a part of this program to bring teddy bears to children who have gone through so much in the past few weeks.

The children of St. Clare's school worked with their teachers to collect teddy bears for children in the Russian town of Beslan following the events that took place several weeks ago. The children of St. Clare's, while not fully understanding the nature of events in Beslan, appreciated that their fellow students had experienced a terrible tragedy. They wanted to send these teddy bears as an expression of support to their fellow children in Russia.

The teddy bears were given to a Toronto based agency serving the Russian community to be transported to Russia and then distributed to children in Beslan. The children of St. Clare's--

Children of Beslan
Statements by Members

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry. The hon. member's time has expired. The hon. member for Palliser.

Agriculture
Statements by Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a tremendous sense of responsibility and hope for the constituents in my riding of Palliser.

First of all, I wish to thank the citizens of Palliser for the great honour they have bestowed upon me in voting for me to represent them in this House.

The BSE crisis impacts my constituency of Palliser as much as it does any area in this great country. The beef industry is a huge economic driver in my riding, and not just in the rural areas. The spinoff is definitely felt in Moose Jaw and Regina.

Producers have faced incredible stress since the border closed in 2003. This government has promised relief to those in the beef industry, but promises alone cannot sustain families in Moose Jaw, Mossbank, Caron, Avonlea, and communities throughout my riding of Palliser.

Today I call on the Liberal government to immediately deliver the cash it has promised to these families. The people of Palliser continue to have hope. They deserve a government that will act quickly to restore their confidence.

Mental Illness
Statements by Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, an unfortunate accident 14 years ago forced North Bay resident Dave Gallson, now the program director for the National Network for Mental Health, to face new realities, work through mental health issues and change his profession.

He created the BUILT Network: Building Up Individuals Through Learning and Teamwork. BUILT is a seven week program designed to assist people with mental health issues to overcome their employment barriers by enhancing their customer service skills.

BUILT Network is an innovative flagship program created and piloted in North Bay, Ontario. It is a project of the National Network for Mental Health and funded by Social Development Canada.

As we celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada, I would like to recognize Dave Gallson and his colleagues for developing a project that has such a positive impact on people's lives. Their hard work and dedication demonstrates once again that the people in northern Ontario have the ideas, skills and expertise that can be translated into meaningful community development activities across the country.

Labour Relations
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, as it has for six years now, National PEP Your Workplace Week, a creation of the Institute for Business Technology, will take place in early October.

The Government of Canada is one of the institute's major clients and consequently invests a considerable amount of money in training its employees to enable them to improve their personal efficiency and productivity, or PEP, in the workplace.

This same government could save a good deal of money, taxpayers' money, merely by showing some respect for its employees who are members of the Public Service Alliance. How so? By negotiating fair and reasonable conditions based on conciliation board reports from the various negotiating tables.

Negotiation is the best way to settle labour disputes and to better serve taxpayers. The result would be 130,000 employees who are motivated and “peppy” employees instead of depressed and on strike.

Paralympic Games
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I pay tribute to Kirby Cote, a swimmer from Winnipeg, on her impressive achievements at the recent Paralympic Games in Athens.

Ms. Cote is a 20 year old legally blind swimmer who trains in my riding of Winnipeg South Centre. Her determination and her commitment to her training and her sport are indeed an inspiration to us all.

Ms. Cote won a medal in every event she entered at the Athens Paralympics. She completed the games with five gold medals and two silver medals, a remarkable achievement indeed.

It was exciting to watch a young athlete from Winnipeg win the first gold medal of the games for Canada. Kirby started off the games with a gold medal performance in the 100 metre butterfly and she did so by clocking her personal best time and a Canadian record.

On behalf of all Manitobans and all Canadians, I would like to extend our congratulations to this outstanding athlete.

General Amherst High School
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the people for electing me as the first Conservative MP to serve the riding of Essex in 46 years.

As I rise today in my first official role in this chamber, I wish to commend the students of General Amherst High School for their outstanding contribution to the Canadian Cancer Society's walkathon held in their hometown of Amherstburg last week.

Seven hundred and fifty of 770 students participated in the walkathon. They raised over $72,000 in only five days of canvassing.

Truly noteworthy, however, is the spirit of service exemplified by these students.

As we embark on this new session of Parliament with all its uncertainties, my hope is that this stellar example of service by these leaders of tomorrow will inspire us, the leaders of today, to remember our call as MPs to humbly serve our constituents.

Tibetan Youth Day
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of the Tibetan Youth Congress's 35th anniversary of the Tibetan Youth Day. The celebration is being held at the historic Palais Royale in my riding on Sunday, October 10.

The Tibetan Youth Congress was founded in India on October 7, 1970, and the Dalai Lama delivered its inaugural address. It is a non-profit organization with over 76 branches around the world whose main purpose is to promote Tibet's culture, traditions and religion under the guidance of the Dalai Lama.

The Toronto chapter of the Tibetan Youth Congress was established in 2002 and has grown quickly as increasing numbers of Tibetan Canadians have made the historic neighbourhood of Parkdale their home.

I salute the organizers and participants of this year's Tibetan Youth Congress event and I am delighted to be joining them this Sunday.

Nobel Peace Prize
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who has been telling people for the past quarter-century that every time we plant a tree we plant a seed for peace, has just been announced as the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2004.

She is the twelfth woman to receive this honour since the inception of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, and the first African woman.

Kenyan's Deputy Minister of the Environment, Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977. Since its inception, this tree planting program has seen more than 30 million seeds for peace planted in Africa.

The purpose of this ecological project is to promote diversity, and it has created numerous jobs for women in decision-making positions while raising their position in society.

By growing trees for peace, she gives hope to humanity.

Algonquin College
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate Algonquin College in my riding on the official opening yesterday of its new transportation and technology centre.

For almost 40 years, Algonquin has trained skilled technicians in transportation. The new centre, with 31,500 square feet of space and the most up to date equipment, will expand the college's ability to train new technicians and to keep skills in this trade at the leading edge. This is important not only for the students but for an industry that is experiencing a shortage of skilled technicians.

I wish to extend congratulations to Algonquin and to its partners in industry, the province of Ontario and the sector councils. All have collaborated to bring this project to completion.

Agriculture
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to address the devastation felt by ranchers and farmers across Canada.

BSE has negatively affected farm and ranch families and has impacted all the towns and small businesses in my riding of Selkirk--Interlake. Producers have not been able to keep up with bill payments since the BSE crisis began and many face bankruptcy if prices do not rise.

I would like to pay tribute to those trying to improve the situation. I would like to thank the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association for its work on the BSE file. I would especially like to thank the board of directors of Rancher's Choice Beef Co-op, which has worked diligently to establish a new beef packing plant in Manitoba.

Finally, I would like to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for talking to agriculture lenders and urging them to have patience and understanding in this time of crisis on the farm.

Justice
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, on September 20 Salim Choueiri, a businessman and father, was convicted of obtaining the sexual services of minors on four occasions. The court imposed the lenient penalty of a six months suspended sentence, one year probation and a $500 fine.

Do the courts protect our children? The answer is sadly evident when we compare Choueiri's case to that of Chris Geoghegan's. Geoghegan was convicted of hitting Alberta Premier Ralph Klein in the face with a pie. Provincial Court Judge Terry Semenuk sentenced him to 30 days in jail, three months probation, 40 hours of community service and a $50 victim surcharge.

Had Geoghegan been given the choice, I am certain he would have been more inclined to choose the punishment granted to the child abuser over his own.

What kind of a society protects its children by giving a suspended sentence to a child abuser, yet gives jail time for throwing a pie?

This statement is the beginning of a series examining how courts are sentencing child abusers and pedophiles.

Elizabeth Weir
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, today New Democrats are celebrating the political career of an extraordinary woman. I would like to pay tribute to the fantastic contribution Elizabeth Weir has made to political life in New Brunswick and Canada.

Elizabeth Weir received her honours degree in sociology from the University of Waterloo and her law degree from the University of Western Ontario. In 1978 she was admitted to the Law Society of Upper Canada.

A former teacher at the University of New Brunswick, she went on to become the leader of the New Democratic Party in New Brunswick in 1988 and became the first woman to be chosen as leader of a political party in New Brunswick.

She was the first woman leader elected to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly and the first elected leader of the provincial New Democratic Party. She was first elected to the legislative assembly in 1991, and was re-elected in 1995, 1999 and 2003.

We are very pleased to see that, even though she decided it was time to pass on the torch as leader, she will continue to serve the people of her riding of Saint John Harbour.

Breast Cancer
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today for the first time in the 38th Parliament on an issue that has affected myself and my family very personally.

Breast cancer is an insidious disease that claims the lives of many thousands of women every year. It is estimated that 21,200 women will develop breast cancer this year and of those, 5,200 will succumb to it.

My sister, Doreen Buss, dedicated her life to teaching children. Her legacy lives on in two generations of residents of Trail, B.C. who benefited from her talent.

In my riding of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, women are given hope and research funds through the efforts of the Salituro family who organize the annual Pink Ribbon Ball, and to others, like Kathy Roberts, who dedicate their time to raising funds through fashion shows.

Finally I would like to pay special tribute to every Canadian woman who is now fighting, or has in the past fought, this disease. We will beat cancer.

World Congress Against the Death Penalty
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, from October 6 to 9, Montreal is hosting the 2nd annual World Congress Against the Death Penalty. The Bloc Quebecois wants to acknowledge the event and particularly to reiterate its full support for the abolishment of the death penalty.

This week, hundreds of people, activists, diplomats, academics, NGO officials, parliamentarians and celebrities descended on the city to debate strategies for encouraging more countries to remove the death penalty from their penal code. Numerous debates are on the program, as are artistic, cultural and educational events.

Even though the death penalty has been abolished in Canada since 1976, Amnesty International has made it clear that the global fight is far from over; it reported 1,146 executions in 2003.

The Bloc Quebecois wishes to add its voice to all the participants at the congress and calls upon the international community to say no to the death penalty.

We wish the congress much success and join with all those who oppose capital punishment.

Chicoutimi

Hmcs
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week a tragic story jumped off the front pages of the national newspapers and into my constituency office in Lindsay, Ontario.

Yesterday I learned that Peter Bryan, brother-in-law to my executive assistant, Jamie Schmale, and older brother to his wife, Julia Bryan, is aboard HMCS Chicoutimi as its executive officer. Like so many other families, the Bryans have been awaiting word ever since that Peter is safe.

Last evening we were relieved to hear that HMCS Chicoutimi is being towed back to port and that the worst of this catastrophe may be behind us. Unfortunately this will be scant relief to the family of Lieutenant Chris Saunders who lost his life while serving his country.

This week's tragedy reminds us of the dangerous work that our armed forces perform daily on our behalf.

It should also remind the government of its solemn responsibility to provide our men and women in the armed forces with both modern and safe equipment.

Internet Pharmacies
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, last month first ministers met and developed a 10-year health plan for which congratulations are in order. However, one important issue was not addressed and that is the problem of Internet pharmacies.

People living in the United States can buy prescription drugs in Canada over the Internet. I believe this practice is unethical. First, it can deplete Canadian prescription drug supplies. Also, patients receiving the medication have never seen a Canadian doctor nor pharmacist, thus increasing the chance of misdiagnosis.

Media reports inform us that one practitioner alone signed tens of thousands of these forms over a six-month period at a considerable profit.

Finally, there is no way of accurately preventing that medication being prescribed has not been counterfeited.

I ask the Minister of Health, along with his provincial counterparts at their meeting very shortly, to be seized of this issue and to take the necessary measures to stop it.

Victor Boudreau
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate the new provincial MLA for Shediac—Cap Pelé, Victor Boudreau.

Victor won a very important byelection in New Brunswick this week. The Liberal Party and its leader, Shawn Graham, prevailed despite the sustained efforts made by Conservative ministers and MLAs.

Victor Boudreau's strong victory shows that the people of Shediac--Cap Pelé recognize his energy, integrity and commitment to the citizens of this riding.

Victor will be an outstanding MLA and will represent Shediac--Cap Pelé in an exceptional way for many years. I congratulate Victor, his wife Michelle, and their daughters, Dominique and Gabrielle, as they begin their new life in provincial politics

Marriage
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court of Canada held its hearings this week on the government's reference on same sex marriage. The government argued in support of lesbian and gay marriage and the minister has said clearly there is no ambiguity, so why the reference?

It is time to quit stalling. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equality to all Canadians. Denying lesbian and gay couples the equal right to marry is a denial of our full human rights.

At this moment 82% of Canadians live in jurisdictions with equal marriage. I urge the government to respect the right of loving, committed lesbian and gay couples to celebrate our relationships in marriage.

It is time for the government to respect the charter and change the law. The Minister of Justice must demonstrate the courage of his convictions and table legislation immediately.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, HMCS Chicoutimi is now being towed to port.

Can the Prime Minister update the House on the health of the 54 submariners and conditions on board? When can we expect the submarine to return to port and what is the condition of the injured crewmen?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has just pointed out, the Chicoutimi is now being towed toward Scotland. We have been informed that although things on board are not very comfortable, all is well. I should also say that the two injured sailors in hospital are in stable condition. As the hon. member undoubtedly knows, one of them is in fairly serious condition.

I can also report that plans for returning Lieutenant Saunders' remains are being finalized. In accordance with his family's wishes, there will be a military funeral. We expect the body to arrive on Sunday.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the Prime Minister's updated information. My question is for the Minister of National Defence.

An internal review from his department of the submarine project noted that the purchase and reactivation was “wrongly” considered a “low risk”. It goes on to state that the risks associated with this procurement have been underestimated.

The government has known this for over a year and the alarm bells were ringing, yet the government ignored those warnings. What was done to mitigate the risks before the HMCS Chicoutimi was cleared to leave port for Canada and cross the north Atlantic unescorted?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, what was done, as the chief of maritime staff has told me, was that the ship was put through extremely rigorous tests in predeparture sea trials, both within the vicinity of the harbour and then longer trials where everything was checked, both with the British suppliers and with the naval staff on board.

This ship would not have left port if it had not been determined by a competent captain and by superior officers that it was fit to make the traverse across the Atlantic. It never would have left port in the first place if it had not been considered fit.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the HMCS Chicoutimi was not fit.

The litany of problems with the submarine project have been highlighted for years. A defence department memo notes that it would have been faster to build new ones. The recent problems of the Chicoutimi appear to have been class wide. The delays and additional expense have hurt naval operational capacity for years.

How did the government so badly underestimate these problems and costs associated with the submarine purchase? When will we see a full inquiry on all aspects of the purchase and repairs of these submarines in the House of Commons?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that there have been problems with these submarines, but we have always been advised by the naval staff that they are capable of managing these problems and that these were the best submarines they could get for the purposes they wanted them. We needed submarines. These are therefore what the navy wanted. This is what the navy is pursuing to make work for the capacity of our armed services.

If the defence committee or any other committee of the House chooses to investigate all circumstances around the purchases of these submarines, of course the government will cooperate completely with parliamentary committees, as we always do.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the last election the Prime Minister dismissed the need for substantial investment in defence. This ongoing attitude toward the military is seen in the mismanagement and underfunding of a range of defence capabilities. The most recent example is the sad state of our submarine fleet, which has unresolved fleet-wide problems.

Will the Minister of National Defence assure the House that until he knows that the electrical fire problem does not apply to all submarines, the safety of the crews will be paramount and the fleet will stay in port?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, in the first case, the premise of the question ignores entirely that since the Prime Minister came into office, he has committed to spending some $7 billion on improving the equipment to our armed services, updating some of the best equipment we could possibly have.

In its electoral platform, this party agreed for the first time that we are going to increase our forces by 5,000 regulars and 3,000 reservists, giving us greater capacity. In so far as whether these submarine fleets are put to sea, I rest my case and put my faith in the maritime command who are the professionals that make these decisions.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been indications that the oxygen canister system in the submarine fleet may be potentially unsafe and a possible source of fire.

Will the minister confirm that this is true? If so, was corrective action taken to ensure the oxygen system was modified to make it safe before HMCS Chicoutimi went to sea?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I could not speak to a specific system on board the ship. All I can tell the hon. member is what I said earlier. The captain of the ship, the experts of the naval staff and the British suppliers went through every piece of equipment on the ship on sea trials and on land. They worked with it and examined it minutely. And, no, any decision to put to sea was only made after it was confirmed that this ship was seaworthy and ready to go to sea.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec's minister for economic and regional development, Michel Audet, is asking the federal government to help Bombardier, which just announced the elimination of 1,400 jobs in Montreal.

Will the Prime Minister commit now to helping Bombardier by implementing a clear aerospace policy, as the Quebec government has requested, so that the company can develop the new aircraft that it needs and create jobs?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as was announced by the industry and international trade ministers, we intend not only to initiate a complete study, but to develop a strategy for the Canadian aerospace industry. This is a very fundamental industry in which Canada has had huge success, and it is our intention to maintain this level of success.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to maintain a level of success, we should definitely encourage exports.

Over the past three years, Canada has funded 41% of Bombardier's deliveries of regional aircraft, while during the same period, Brazil funded in excess of 80% of the deliveries of Embraer, which is Bombardier's direct competitor. The difference is obvious.

When will the federal government increase its funding for business exports to the level of our competition, a measure that would greatly help Bombardier, not only with its regional jets, but also with all its current and future products, since we must keep the future in mind?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we fully agree with the hon. leader of the Bloc Quebecois that the aerospace industry is very important to Canada. This is why, in the past, we have supported its exports and sales. We will continue to work with this key industry for our country.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, in June, as we know, the government announced a $500 million program to help the Ontario automotive industry. Of that amount, $200 million was allocated to GM and $100 million to Ford. As recently as September 27, the Minister of Transport was quoted as saying:

The aerospace industry is to Quebec what the automotive industry is to Ontario.

If that is so, what is keeping the federal government from now announcing an aerospace industry support policy similar to its program for the automotive industry?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I have been meeting with members of the aerospace industry in Canada. I have been meeting with the union leadership. I am having discussions with provincial governments. We are accelerating the development of an aerospace strategy for Canada that would include, of course, dealing with Bombardier issues, but it would be broader and it would extend to the aerospace industry across the country.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the key elements in aerospace research assistance at this time is the Technology Partnerships Canada program. There is no need to wait any longer, except that, unfortunately, the existing program is underfunded.

What is keeping the government from allocating a substantial increase in funding to this program, thereby enabling Bombardier to develop its new line of aircraft?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the technology partnership program is under review. It is part of an overall program review in the Government of Canada. We will ensure that the programs that are necessary to create a competitive aerospace industry are in fact in place.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister prepares to visit Russia, I would like to ask him about the comments of the Russian ambassador to Canada last week. The ambassador indicated that he opposed the missile defence plan. One reason he gave was that the plan would involve the weaponization of space and that he had been briefed by American officials accordingly.

The U.S. is clear on its plans. Russia is clear on the U.S.'s plans as well. The U.S.'s plans are clear for all to see.

Does the Prime Minister think that the Russian ambassador was telling the truth about George Bush's plans to weaponize space?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government has made it very clear that we are opposed to the weaponization of space. That is our position and I have made it very clear in discussions with the President, as I know the Minister of Foreign Affairs has with his counterparts and as we have through the defence channels as well. I have also been assured that the anti-ballistic missile system that is being put in place does not involve the weaponization of space.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the Prime Minister does not believe that the Russian ambassador is telling the truth. It is clear that he does not want to come clean on the relationship between missile defence and the weaponization of space despite all evidence to the contrary, coming from sources that are as credible as can be found. The weaponization of space is not the only reason to oppose missile defence.

Does the Prime Minister not believe that this new weapon system will cause a new arms race, cost billions and will not work? These are all good reasons to say no to George Bush. Why do we not--

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The right hon. Prime Minister.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is very important in terms of our relationship with any country that the record be very clear. I know that the hon. member did not mean to allege that the Russian ambassador was not telling the truth. I certainly am prepared to believe the Russian ambassador as I am prepared obviously to believe any ambassador when they state their country's position or what they understand to be the facts.

What I am saying is that Canada opposes the weaponization of space. The Americans have told us that the current anti-ballistic system that is under investigation does not involve the weaponization of space.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, through access to information recently, we received an urgent defect report pertaining to the Victoria class submarines which outlined a very dangerous situation involving the oxygen canisters and their potential to self-ignite and cause great damage to the submarine. This report, which was produced by DND, recommends to remove the cartridges locker from the motor room with a fitted approved flooding arrangement. It says that the current locker is unacceptable and that its situation is a class-wide issue.

Prior to setting to sea did the Chicoutimi have these--

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of National Defence.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak to any specific equipment on board the Chicoutimi . I can tell the hon. member that like himself I have visited the HMCS Windsor and I have seen the oxygen producing equipment to which he is referring to on that ship.

As I said earlier, the captain of this ship and the naval command were concerned about all the security aspects of the ship and would not have allowed it to put to sea if they had not been satisfied that all aspects of the equipment on the ship were secure and the personnel were in the best possible position in the security of this ship before it put to sea.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe the minister does not have an answer for that question.

The captain of the Victoria feared for his ship when he first reported this situation. This urgent report came out last October recommending these changes. I raised the issue of these cartridges in the House on March 9.

How can the minister not know about this safety issue which affects the lives of our sailors on our submarines?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the captain of the Chicoutimi himself raised security concerns prior to the ship leaving. The House can be assured that the reason he did that was that he assured himself that those security concerns were answered before his ship left port. That is why they are raised by these competent naval personnel.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, on February 18 of this year the Prime Minister told the House that the government was “quite prepared to have cabinet documents pertinent to the sponsorship inquiry released to the public accounts committee”. The Prime Minister failed to keep his word.

This week we learned that 10 million documents that were given to the Gomery inquiry were not given to the public accounts committee before the election. How can Canadians trust a Prime Minister who says one thing and fails to deliver on his word when it comes to accountability?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the government cooperated fully with the committee. It also set up an independent commission. The commission will investigate whatever it feels it has to investigate. It has the mandate to do that.

I invite my hon. colleague to be patient. Let the commission do its work, draw its conclusions and make its recommendations, after which the government will act.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about the Gomery inquiry, but the public accounts committee with which this the Prime Minister promised to cooperate.

One of the cabinet documents just released shows that the sponsorship program was not about national unity but about helping the Liberals get votes in Quebec. How can Canadians trust a Prime Minister who on the one hand was saying he was mad as hell, but on the other hand was busy as hell hiding the truth from Canadians?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the committee did not even want to make a report. We cooperated with the committee. The government established a commission minutes after the Auditor General's report was tabled in the House.

We invite the opposition to let the commission do its work, draw its conclusions, make its recommendations and the government will act on them.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the four submarines purchased by Canada making the headlines is nothing new. In 1988, the testing of the Upholder , the current HMCS Chicoutimi , revealed construction defects, and the matter was even debated in the British House of Commons in 1989.

Could the Minister of National Defence tell us if this was known to him before the four submarines were purchased?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Naturally, Mr. Speaker, everything having to do with these submarines was reviewed by the navy before recommending their purchase. It was well known that these were submarines already in service in Great Britain, and we wanted to purchase them because it was a good thing to do at the time.

So, this was done based on recommendations by the navy, which was perfectly aware of all aspects of these submarines, from every point of view.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, we also know that, 10 months ago, a report was produced by the Canadian army in connection with the four submarines, stating that they were fully operational. Clearly, they were not.

Given the present dramatic situation, does the Minister of National Defence not think it would be much wiser to include in his investigation not only HMCS Chicoutimi , but the other three submarines as well?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the investigation concerning HMCS Chicoutimi will have an impact on the other submarines. The Canadian Forces conduct investigations into any incident that occurs. In due course, they will take corrective action which will apply fleet-wide, to all the equipment involved.

That is how it should be. The security of our personnel is the primary concern of our military leaders, and that will not change.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the plan that has recently been announced regarding the RCMP's redeployment in Quebec is producing some odd results.

In order to better protect our border, police officers are being moved farther away from it. In order to better fight organized crime in the remote areas where it moved to escape the close surveillance given it in the big cities, police officers are being removed from those areas. The regional listening posts essential to effective policing have been removed.

Before making the same error that was made in 1997, when police officers were withdrawn from international airports and harbours, which had to be remedied in 2001, does the minister not think there should be a moratorium before—

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, there has been no reduction in strength of the RCMP in that division. Like other organizations, the RCMP regularly examines its programs to ensure the best possible use of its resources.

This is an operational matter for the RCMP. I remind the member opposite that this same review was done in the late 1990s in the province of Ontario.

This is a redeployment. There is no change in the number of RCMP in Quebec. This will make the force more efficient and more effective.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the number of police officers may be the same but they are not in the right places. This opinion is shared by elected officials at all levels of government and in all parties in this House.

It seems that the RCMP in Quebec is not up to full strength. Would it not be a good idea to have the new standing committee on national security examine this issue, and in the meantime, establish a moratorium?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, our study includes lengthy consultations with these partners in law enforcement, including the Sûreté du Québec, both internally and externally.

As with all other programs, the RCMP's requirements in Quebec will continue to be reviewed to ensure that its federal law enforcement mandate can be met.

I know that there are members on this side of the House who have brought this matter forward. It is an operational matter for the RCMP. As I said earlier, it increases the effectiveness and the efficiency of the RCMP in that province.

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister announced new guidelines for senior appointments to crown corporations, he pledged “This culture of change that we are bringing to Ottawa is not some exercise in political grandstanding”.

He said that positions would be advertised, a recruiting firm hired to screen applicants, and a parliamentary review before any appointment. Then along came the revenue minister with good buddy Gordon Feeney in tow and the rules were vaporized.

Why did the Prime Minister permit his new rules and his word to be so quickly broken?

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Feeney was appointed for one reason alone and that is his competence. He was judged to be competent by the board of directors of Canada Post in terms of both business acumen and a record of public service, for example, as chair of the public policy forum.

I acceded to that view that he was competent as did the cabinet. If opposition members, through a parliamentary committee, wish to interview him and have evidence of incompetence, let them come forward.

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect their Prime Minister to have something to say for himself when it appears that his word to them is no good. They cannot believe a leader would just cravenly hide behind another Liberal when he is caught red-handed breaking his word to them.

He promised genuine change, but then is quietly up to the same old Liberal cronyism. How can he betray his solemn promises to Canadians so badly? Let him speak.

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. President of the Treasury Board has the floor. Hon. members will want to hear his comments.

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is important to point out that the commitment the Prime Minister made was that all of his appointees would be examined by parliamentary committees to which the organization is assigned.

The minister has committed to do that. In fact, I would invite the member to go there and examine the candidate's qualifications. I will be interested to see what concerns the opposition has having done that. The appointment is not finalized until such time as that process has taken place.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the heritage minister said that her predecessor's speech at the Banff festival was about Banff. This is not the case. Not once in that speech did she even mention the festival. It is not the duty of the heritage minister to give a Liberal stump speech at Banff.

Will the Prime Minister force his party to pay back the $55,000 of taxpayers' dollars used on this trip?

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my opponent and my critic, and tell her that I really look forward to working with her.

Going back to Banff, as she knows, the Banff television festival is, like I said yesterday, one of the major if not the event of Canada in television and new media.

The minister, because she was still a minister even if it was election time, had to go there. She delivered a speech and talked about television, talked about Canadian content, and also talked about the importance of the CRTC. I am sure that all members will agree that--

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Durham.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Banff festival is not only Canada's festival, it is an international festival. That is why we are raising questions. It was not government business. It was a Liberal election stop.

Why does the minister's press release about Banff not appear on the heritage department website but only on the Liberal Party website? Can the minister explain that?

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the minister was in Banff to deliver a speech, like my critic said, at the most important television festival, not only in Canada but also international. Her presence was mandatory. Next year we will go to the Banff festival and deliver a speech saying to all that television and Canadian content, and the CRTC are imperative to promote Canadian culture.

I am sure that all members will agree.

Access to Information
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Recently the Information Commissioner tabled his annual report. In this new era of openness and transparency, what did he have to say about the government's record, especially in comparison to previous administrations?

Access to Information
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and welcome him to the House.

The Information Commissioner recognized the positive steps that the government has taken in matters of transparency and openness. In fact, he acknowledged that the government has overcome, as he put it, the secrecy addiction of previous governments.

As well, I want to note that the number of complaints relating to delays in matters of access decreased and less than 10% of access results resulted in complaints. Of those complaints investigated by the Information Commissioner, only 1% were not resolved to his satisfaction.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the Minister of National Defence has backed off the idea that there is no role for parliamentarians in reviewing the sub program because the other day he said it was strictly a matter for military inquiry.

I would ask the Prime Minister if he might also have a change of mind with respect to addressing the democratic deficit.

I say to the right hon. Prime Minister, if he is so convinced that there is no weaponization of space involved in the national missile defence program, why will he not allow members of his caucus to show that they are equally so convinced and allow them to vote on any decision taken by the Prime Minister?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker,--

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

I didn't ask you a question, I asked the Prime Minister.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

The Minister of National Defence has the floor.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the hon. member to please not go ballistic over this question.

Members have had an opportunity of debating the issue on several occasions in the House and the hon. member was there. I have shared my debating points with him. There are members in our caucus who have different points of view. The Prime Minister has encouraged an open debate over what is an issue of great importance.

The hon. member, also being a very experienced member of the House, knows full well that the ratification of international treaties is and must remain a prerogative of the government.

Shipbuilding Industry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.

He and the Liberal government should hang their heads in shame for allowing the B.C. Liberal government and the B.C. Ferry Corporation to tender a contract with a German company for three ferries worth over half a billion dollars.

For years in the House we have been asking for a comprehensive shipbuilding policy so that our workers in B.C., Quebec and Atlantic Canada could have access to those jobs. Our navy requires new ships along with our Coast Guard, as does our laker fleet and our ferries across the country. Those ships could be built right here in Canada.

When will the government institute the policy to put our workers back--

Shipbuilding Industry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Industry.

Shipbuilding Industry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, Industry Canada is in fact reviewing the shipbuilding industry. We are having discussions with representatives of the shipbuilding industry. We are having discussions with the union movement.

The B.C. Ferry Corporation and its emanations is an independent company as the member knows. The federal government does not have any place in directing a private company as to where it should be acquiring its ships, but we will be pursuing this as it goes forward.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the heritage minister waved an invitation accepted by her predecessor on January 7 to speak at the Banff television festival on June 13. She flew out on a government jet. With five months in advance of the event, would the Prime Minister's aide not have had plenty of time to book a commercial flight?

Can the government tell us why the Prime Minister's top aide spent $50,000 of taxpayers' money when a $354 WestJet ticket could have got her there just fine?

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the minister had to be there. I am repeating that this was an international and Canadian event. The minister's presence was compulsory.

Now, it was an electoral campaign. Does the member not think that the minister would have preferred to campaign in her own riding instead of going to Banff, and continuing her role as minister and assuming her ministerial responsibility? But she did so. Why? Because she was a professional.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, too professional--

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. There seem to be a lot more than one question being asked at the moment. The hon. member for Calgary Centre is the one who has the floor. It is his question that we are going to hear and answer, not all of the questions that are going back and forth at the moment.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question was not about whether or not it was an important event. Of course the Banff festival is an important event.

The question was about her flying out on a government jet. I understand that she is too professional to fly commercial with the rest of us and she would rather the splendid isolation of a luxury government jet at the cost of $50,000 as compared to a commercial flight for $354. That was the question.

Canadian Heritage
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, she had to be there. She flew in and out. It was not a vacation. It was dependent on the schedule of the festival. But again, it was an important festival. She had to be there and professionally she felt that it was important for her to be there, so she took the means to go.

Government Spending
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, on June 12 the Minister of Finance's director of parliamentary affairs took a trip to the minister's riding to “attend meetings with the minister”. This trip lasted 17 days and this individual returned to Ottawa on June 29, the day after the election.

Taxpayers paid over $2,800 for this trip including a food bill of almost $1,300. My question is for the Minister of Finance. Did this individual take part in any campaign related events during this trip?

Government Spending
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, during the course of the election campaign I ensured that all of my staff behaved completely in accordance with all of the rules.

Government Spending
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, for the moment let us forget about whether or not this may have been a violation of any election laws. Let us focus on the fact that the minister's staffer racked up a $2,800 bill in the minister's riding during an election campaign.

Does the Minister of Finance not agree that this looks an awful lot like a clear violation of election laws, or does the appearance of propriety not appeal to this minister?

Government Spending
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would be happy on any occasion to stack up my record for propriety with any member across the way.

Textile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Quebec there are nearly 40,000 jobs in the textile industry. With quotas to be removed in less than three months, the industry is threatened, especially by imports, and the government's action is ineffective. The rules of origin are ill-defined. The tariffs are mis-targeted.

Is the government waiting for the textile industry to disappear from Quebec's landscape before taking any properly targeted measures to save it and prevent having the few fabrics still produced here from being swept away by imports?

Textile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, obviously the government is very interested in the well-being of all Canadian businesses and industries in whatever sector they may be or in whatever region or province they may be.

In the previous Parliament we undertook certain steps to try to provide the appropriate action in relation to both the apparel sector and the textile sector and we continue to work very hard on that.

Some of these matters are, at the present time, before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.

Textile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, our industries have to deal with competitors that sometimes use the worst forms of exploitation, such as forced labour and child labour. Canada cannot work toward eradicating such practices, since it has not even ratified all the International Labour Organization conventions that ban them.

What is the government waiting for to propose ratification to the House of the ILO treaties banning forced labour and child labour and allowing freedom of association?

Textile Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, as we know, the Government of Canada, through its international labour organization, its membership, its unions and a number of other stakeholder parties, has done some great things around the world in making sure those labour standards, of which the member spoke, are adhered to.

Canada has taken a leadership position, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to ensure that Canadian labour standards are upheld not only in Canada but throughout the world.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two interesting quotes regarding the lack of a Kyoto plan.

First we have the new environment minister saying “We came out with a plan in 2002 , but this plan is not enough and it was not intended to be enough”.

We now have the recently fired environment minister saying “There is no argument that he hasn't got a plan. The plans have been there for a long time”.

Can the minister finally be honest with Canadians and tell them whether we have a plan or whether we do not have a plan?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, indeed we have a plan which we implemented in 2002.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

An hon. member

Is it a secret plan?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

No, it is a well known plan. Climate change is an issue that we learn about more and more. The more we learn about it, the more we need to refine the plan.

It was implemented and it is what the throne speech set out for the government to do.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

This week Amnesty International issued a scathing report highlighting Canada's glaring and obvious inaction over the past decade toward the fact that Canadian aboriginal women face a higher risk of violence than other women in our society. The report states “In every instance, Canadian authorities could and should have done more to” protect these women.

Why is the government failing to protect our aboriginal women from violence?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome my critic to the House. I know his extensive experience in these files will add much to our debates.

On the question of the Amnesty report, I can only go to the Aboriginal Women's Association here in Canada. I have been meeting with them prior to and since the meeting and since the report and we are working on plans right now to deal specifically with that.

Social Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising for the first time on behalf of the vibrant riding of Thornhill.

My question is for the Minister of Social Development. As Canadians very well heard in the throne speech, the idea of a national system of early learning and child care was prominently featured.

What is being done to move this very important file forward?

Social Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Ken Dryden Minister of Social Development

Mr. Speaker, like every member here, I feel privileged to be in the House.

The Speech from the Throne was very clear. The time is now to have a national child care system. It is part of our national expectation and our national understanding. It is a system Canadians want: one that has quality, one that is universal, one that has accessibility and one that has development.

I have talked with some of my--

Social Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign the Prime Minister promised to stop overfishing, even if it meant taking custodial management. Canada did not raise the issue at the recent NAFO meetings and the only mention in the throne speech is that government will enhance the enforcement of rules concerning straddling stocks. This means issuing more citations.

Why has the Prime Minister gone back on his commitment to Atlantic Canadians?

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, Canadian NAFO inspectors have made more than 130 boardings and inspections of ships this year. In fact, they found evidence that infractions have decreased as a result of these efforts. We also know that one-third less foreign boats are on the nose and tail this year. The fact is that our strategy is working.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has implemented the first part of the Conservative Party's platform on health care reform. In the region surrounding my riding of Cambridge more than 30,000 people are without family doctors.

Exactly when will the minister stop wasting the minds and talents of so many new Canadians and risking the lives of so many others and implement our accreditation process and put doctors on the ground in these communities.

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is pleased to be meeting next week with his colleagues from across the country to look at how to quickly implement the historic health accord that was reached by the Prime Minister and his colleagues a very short time ago.

Included in that accord are some very significant investments in the training of health professionals and speeding up the process of having the accreditations recognized by our system. We will get care for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people of the Gaspé, the Magdalen Islands and New Brunswick have spoken out in large numbers against the Bennett project at Belledune. As we know, the decision allowing Bennett to proceed with its project is currently being appealed by the federal environment minister.

What is the government's explanation for considering this project hazardous enough to justify a commission of inquiry while still allowing the company to operate the plant? Might it not make more sense to impose a moratorium on all operations pending the outcome of the appeal?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

Noon

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I have announced that there will be an appeal. I have asked my legal advisers to expedite proceedings. This being before the courts, I can make no further comment.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting estimates for the financial year ending March 31, 2005 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker of the House.

Main Estimates, 2004-05
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table on behalf of my colleagues part 3 of the estimates consisting of 89 departmental reports on plans and priorities.

These documents will be distributed to members at the standing committees to assist in their considerations of the spending authorities already sought in part 2 of the estimates.

Order in Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of Order in Council appointments made recently by the government.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-2, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Shipping Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

International Interests in Mobile Equipment (aircraft equipment) Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-4, An Act to implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Post-Secondary Education Savings Assistance Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-5, an act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-6, An Act to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Heritage Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce BillC-7, An Act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Financial Administration Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-9, An Act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-11, An Act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Quarantine Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger for the Minister of Health

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-12, An Act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-202, An Act to amend the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal Act (Book of Remembrance for peacekeepers).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my seconder, the member for Hamilton Centre, for assisting me in this.

Any of us who have had the opportunity and the very distinct pleasure of visiting the war memorial room in the Peace Tower have noticed that there are books commemorating our very brave and honoured war dead in various conflicts such as the Boer War, World War I, World War II, and Korea, as well as the merchant mariners.

Unfortunately, through no one's fault at all, we are missing one for our peacekeepers who have died in international missions throughout the world. I know this is a rather eerie time to be speaking to this, but it would be appropriate to honour their sacrifices. We should honour them and respect them in perpetuity by having their names recorded in a very special book in the war memorial room.

I encourage the new members of Parliament and all Canadians to take the time to visit the war memorial room. They will be very moved by the lists of names and the sacrifices that our brave men and women have made for their country throughout the years.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Address by President of the United States of Mexico
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among House leaders and I think that you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the House shall not sit on October 25, 2004;

That on the afternoon of October 25, 2004, the President of the United States of Mexico may address a meeting of the members of the Senate and of the House of Commons in the chamber of the House of Commons;

That such address and all customary introductory and related remarks shall be printed as an appendix to the House of Commons Debates for October 26, 2004, and form part of the records of this House; and

That the media recording and transmission of the said proceedings be authorized according to House of Commons guidelines.

Address by President of the United States of Mexico
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to present this motion?

Address by President of the United States of Mexico
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked by the hon. member for Peterborough to present this petition from his constituents.

The petitioners are supporters of kidney research who believe that research into the cure and care of kidney disease will help hundreds of thousands of Canadians. They ask Parliament to explicitly recognize kidney disease by naming one of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research the institute of kidney and urinary tract diseases.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.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; and of the amendment, as amended.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank your predecessor in the chair for having permitted me to give my maiden speech in its entirety so as not to be interrupted by question period. That makes it easier for me to break the ice uninterruptedly. I also thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for sharing his allotted time with me.

First, with your permission, I would like to say a few words of thanks to the people in the riding of Richmond—Arthabaska, who placed their trust in me on June 28. I have made a commitment to represent them proudly and diligently. I can state without boasting that several matters have already been settled and others are in progress. One of my priorities was to open offices in the three major centres of my constituency, which I did quickly.

Richmond—Arthabaska has nearly 98,000 inhabitants, working in fields as diverse as agriculture, business, health care, construction and mining. We also have major industries such as Cascades and Domtar.

Among the events that should not be missed are the Warwick cheese festival, Danville's festival of art in the streets, Victoriaville's new music festival, the Laurier Museum—a place that heard Laurier's voice ring out a number of times, la Poudrière de Windsor, the Asbestos mineralogy and historical museum and the cranberry interpretation centre at Saint-Louis-de-Blandford. These are only a few examples.

Now, of course, I am getting to the heart of the matter. First, I would like to say I am pleased with the adoption of the Bloc Quebecois amendment to the amendment to the throne speech by all parties in this House during the address in reply. Thus, thanks to the sensitivity of the Bloc Quebecois, which vigorously defends Quebec's interests, provincial jurisdictions will be thoroughly respected. I also hope that what some call financial pressures and Quebec calls the fiscal imbalance, will be alleviated.

Not just Quebec but all the provinces and all parties in this House, with the unfortunate exception of the Liberal Party recognize the existence of the fiscal imbalance and the need to correct it. The minority government, in its throne speech, has remembered its commitment to review equalization. Unfortunately, that will not be enough to solve the problem of Quebec's treasury.

While Ottawa accumulates $166 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Conference Board, which is certainly not a sovereignist organization, Quebec and the provinces are being forced to reduce their services. For example, in Quebec, the government has increased day care service fees by 40%. The $70 million investment over five years planned for school libraries has been put off indefinitely.

In my riding, the fiscal imbalance represents a shortfall of some $28 million every year until 2007-08. Imagine the positive impact of the annual injection of that much additional money on health and education.

The federal government has almost three weeks to do something about it. The time has come to take action. At the October 26 meeting between the provinces and the federal government, we expect nothing less than concrete solutions, such as sharing tax fields.

As usual, as I said from the start, the Speech from the Throne is full of wishful thinking. Right now, the majority of MPs in my region are members of the Bloc Quebecois. We recently created an Estrie—Centre-du-Québec caucus, which the member for Drummond is part of. We presented the priorities of our respective constituents at a press conference just before the current session of Parliament began.

One of our priorities was the necessity of an independent employment insurance fund. Imagine our disappointment —although I cannot say we were surprised—to see this very terse commitment in the throne speech that the “Government will continue to review the Employment Insurance program to ensure that it remains well-suited to the needs of Canada's workforce”. Note the very non-committal term “review”. So the unemployed, who have already seen $45 billion looted from their employment insurance fund, have again been shunted aside.

What about the anticipated improvements? What about the loosening up of the eligibility criteria? The government owes many people answers, among them the seasonal workers, the victims of the discriminatory 910-hour rule, who are often young, female or elderly, all of whom have been let down.

We also have concerns about the agricultural producers, concerns the federal government does not share. Protecting supply management system is not even touched upon in the speech.

Nor does it propose any additional support to the dairy producers affected by the mad cow crisis, although the recent federal announcements are patently inadequate. There is no direct assistance to compensate for plummeting cattle prices, nor any program of interest-free loans, yet this is what producers have been asking for.

Some $141 million is needed in Quebec, while the federal measures total a mere $15 million or so.

My paternal grandfather, after whom I am named, was a dairy farmer. My area of Quebec, Centre-du-Québec, is a major dairy farming area with over 1,500 dairy operations. They contribute more than 16% of Quebec's milk production. The mad cow crisis affects dairy producers in particular, as we know that 25% of their cows each year become cull cattle, whereas the federal program compensates them for no more than 16% of their herd.

There is not a word in the throne speech on this, just as there is nothing about the American missile defence shield. The Bloc Quebecois is vehemently opposed to Canadian participation in the shield. The federal government needs to consult parliamentarians so that they may vote before any decision is reached. Any involvement in the missile defence shield would be just one more slap in the face to the Quebec people, who refuse to be associated with anything to do with the militarization of space.

Seniors have also been forgotten in this speech. It talks about increasing the guaranteed income supplement but there is nothing about full retroactivity for the seniors who have been denied it. Let me salute my colleague, the member for Champlain, for his work. Thanks to him and the Bloc Quebecois, many Quebec seniors are now receiving the guaranteed income supplement.

It would have been appropriate to deal with the issue of increasing gasoline prices. Anybody who owns a car—and I believe the majority of people in the House do—has been aware of the problem. We may be able to afford to put gas in our car, but others, who need to travel for their work, are having a much harder time of it.

Giving the Competition Act more teeth and creating an agency to monitor petroleum prices, as the Bloc Quebecois has been advocating, would have been tangible signs of the government's willingness to help drivers, especially truck drivers, taxi drivers and all those who need machinery for their daily work.

Finally, the Speech from the Throne does not address the issue of parental leave. The federal government must stop procrastinating regarding the agreement in principle it has with Quebec, it must put an end to proceedings in the Supreme Court and transfer the over $700 million a year to Quebec without delay.

The federal government might think its throne speech was poorly received only by the opposition parties here in Ottawa. It should know that it was also very poorly received by all the parties in the Quebec National Assembly. There is a real consensus. The following comments appeared in Le Devoir on Thursday, October 7, yesterday:

“It's a big nothing.” That is what the Liberal minister Benoît Pelletier said. “Multiple encroachments,” said PQ member Daniel Turp. “Very clearly, the speech was in the tradition of Trudeau and Chrétien and their centralist views,” said ADQ leader Mario Dumont.

Quebec's distinctiveness is obvious, once again. Of course it will be fully manifest when Quebec becomes a country in its own right.

The federal government ignored the people's will in this arrogant throne speech. However, as we saw yesterday when the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to the amendment was passed, the government's arrogance has fortunately been tempered by its minority situation.

For our part , we will continue fighting against centralization and encroachments.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:20 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to welcome the new hon. member to this House. Like him, I come from a region that produces a lot of milk, although much less than his region does, but it is nevertheless an important industry. It is true that milk producers are going through hard times because of the lack of markets for cows, particularly exports, following the problems created by mad cow disease.

Like a number of our colleagues, the hon. member spoke about the issues on which the throne speech is silent. The hon. member is a newcomer here. Let us hope that he will have the opportunity to hear other Speeches from the Throne, preferable from our party. We should recognize that the throne speech presents the main objectives and priorities of the government.

We have to look at what is actually mentioned in the speech. It talks about issues such as the health accord, which is very important to all Canadians. That agreement got the full support of the Quebec government. It recognizes the specific problems and solutions in each province and region.

The speech also talks about community development and support, the transfer of funds to communities, and a review of the equalization program, something that has not been done in a long time, along with the allocation of a lot of new money.

Does the hon. member whether he agrees that what is actually stated in the speech is in the best interests of all Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank the hon. member for his words of welcome. I hope that we will have the opportunity to have many discussions. The problem is, we do not know how long this government will last. The French version of the Speech from the Throne is 16 and a half pages long, which is not very long. It is full of wishful thinking, although some measures do seem interesting. However, in real terms, where is it headed?

I was talking about some of the problems dairy producers are experiencing. Yesterday in this House, we had an emergency debate until midnight on the mad cow crisis. We are still arguing and talking about it. The federal government implemented a program for dealing with the mad cow crisis, but Quebec is being penalized by it.

Dairy producers are the first to complain about it, and for good reason. There are many dairy producers in my region and I have talked to some of them. The Arthabaska RCM is the largest dairy producer in all of Quebec. The people there are dissatisfied with the program.

We would have liked to have seen concrete measures set out in the Speech from the Throne on a number of things. Health is a whole other matter. They emphasize the fact that there was an agreement, but I hope it was just the beginning. We still have glaring problems in the provinces when it comes to health.

The problem will be solved when the fiscal imbalance is resolved—maybe not definitively, but at least it will correct the situation in Quebec and the provinces.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by commending my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska on his fine speech. I have a question for him.

We gather that the federal government is not prepared to address the issue of mad cow disease. It is not putting pressure on the United States to try to resolve the problem with the sale of beef. Our farm producers are obviously under financial pressure.

I want to ask my colleague a question. Does he not get the impression that the government is trying to placate the Americans by investing in the missile shield instead of providing assistance directly to the farming industry through subsidies to cover the damages suffered by the farms?

That is the impression we are getting from the Liberal government. It is trying to redeem itself indirectly. Investing in the missile shield involves spending billions of dollars, while the government should simply have put in place a real program designed to help and compensate farmers for the losses incurred because of mad cow.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I share his concerns, as do by many of our fellow citizens in Quebec.

Federal government representatives have had several meetings with American authorities in an attempt to get the borders reopened. We saw what happened. We know that the Americans are busy with the upcoming election anyway. I have a feeling that American lobbies will prevent the presidential candidates from taking any action whatsoever on this issue.

Knowing this, the federal government should have taken the necessary steps to help our farm producers. We have seen how it handled the softwood lumber issue, where something similar happened. The Americans show a little openness once in a while, but not a whole lot, and immediately, the federal government is ready to jump into any type of negotiations.

Clearly, that is not the way to deal with the Americans, not at all. We saw what happened on that issue. I do not see why we would go down the same road with the mad cow crisis.

I hope that we do not get into some kind of trade-off between the missile shield and our problems. It is vital that we have an effective aid plan in this country for our farm producers.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:30 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Like all members who have spoken before me, I would like to welcome you, Mr. Speaker, to your new position. I wish you well. It is very encouraging, I am sure, for you to start in the position with the unanimous support of the House.

I am humbled and honoured to be standing here today representing the good people of southwest Nova Scotia. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the voters for their continued support and I stress that I will do my utmost to represent my constituents in this government.

I was listening to the member for Charlottetown this morning, who reminded me in different words that although we form a minority government, Canadians expect us to keep not the majority of our promises but all our promises, and that will be the challenge in working with the cooperation of everybody in the House to respond to the needs and desires of Canadians.

Before I go any further, let me say that I would like to join all other members of the House who have expressed their solidarity with the Saunders family, which has experienced a great loss. I think it will bring renewed meaning to us November 11 this year in regard to all the people who make sacrifices and take great risks so we can enjoy the privileges and freedoms we have in this country. The in-laws of Lieutenant Saunders are residents of my district. I am looking forward to having a chat with them as soon as possible. I sent them a note this morning, but understandably, they are with their daughter.

On another note, I would like to thank the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans for having responded so quickly and positively to concerns in my riding, where huge poaching operations have been operating under the guise of the aboriginal fisheries but where no aboriginals prosper. Only some organized commercial poachers are prospering. They are putting the whole economic base of that community at risk.

I met with some of the fishermen representatives on Saturday morning and I asked the Minister of Fisheries for some assistance. He dispatched senior officials to meet with the fishermen yesterday. They have come up with a joint plan on how to respond to make sure that this type of thing does not happen in the future. I know it will be a challenge. I thank the fishermen for their patience. They have been watching this situation all year and seeing the risk to their livelihoods. They have been so patient. I thank them very much.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to move Canada forward with the government's agenda. It is our responsibility to follow through on our commitments to Canadians. The throne speech speaks to the values and interests of the people of rural Nova Scotia and all Canadians. It reaffirms the government's commitment to strengthening the public health care system, encouraging regional economic development and addressing the issues that affect our rural communities.

The throne speech reiterates the government's commitment to address the number one issue of Canadians: health care. In cooperation with the provinces and territories, we identified the key challenges to effective and efficient public health care delivery and agreed on a 10 year action plan to strengthen our system.

Under the 10 year plan, Atlantic Canadians will receive an additional $2.5 billion in health funding from Ottawa, plus their respective shares of the $5.5 billion made available for the wait times reduction fund.

I am encouraged by the steps taken by the government to ensure openness and transparency in the decision making process. Hard-working Canadians deserve to know where and how their money is being spent.

I want to congratulate the Prime Minister, all premiers, all ministers of health, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of Finance and all who participated in those great discussions. We came up with a new term in those discussions in looking at how we would deal between the federal government and the provincial government. It was referred to as asymmetrical federalism. I have no major problem with asymmetrical federalism as long as it is not bipolar. There cannot be a differentiation in the way that our nation deals with one of its provinces. I think it is very important that we recognize the specific needs--and we will--of all regions.

I recognize the specific nature and needs of the Atlantic, the North, the West, Ontario and, yes, certainly Quebec. I also recognize that agreements and action plans reflecting this can be reached. We also need to perceive the strengths of each region, each province, each culture as strengths of the entire country and to use them as building blocks rather than go at one another.

Canadians elected this government on a promise to make health care--that is, publicly funded and universally available health care--a priority. I am pleased by the cooperation with our provincial counterparts on this important issue and with the commitment to preserve and strengthen this pillar of Canadian society.

I am very pleased to see that, in locations where francophones or anglophones are in a minority situation, services in the minority language are a priority, and there is willingness to work in conjunction with the provincial governments to make progress in this area.

I particularly want to congratulate the province of Nova Scotia for having advanced a bill in the legislature last week to institutionalize the provision of the francophone language throughout Nova Scotia, where the situation warrants. The provincial governments have done a good job in Nova Scotia over the last 30 years of doing that, and now it is institutionalizing it. I think that will be to the benefit of all Nova Scotians.

Communities have a unique set of interests, and I am encouraged by the government's emphasis on forging partnerships between all three levels of government to most effectively address these concerns. Moreover, by making available a portion of the federal gas tax, municipalities can make much needed investments in sustainable infrastructure.

The declared importance of regional development is good news for Atlantic Canada. With federal support, our local entrepreneurs and businesses get the edge they need to compete and be successful in our modern economy.

I am encouraged by the government's plan to ensure venture capital for new businesses. We are committed to targeting the fundamentals of economic development such as support for skills upgrading, research and development and modern infrastructure.

In West Nova many of our families are dependent upon the agricultural sector and resource based industries. Farmers, fishermen and those involved in seasonal employment have heard that the government will do its part to ensure the success of these important sectors.

We have an opportunity to grow our communities and to grow our economy. We need to take the good ideas of local Canadians and make them a reality.

I have one concern, and I raise it here with my colleagues. I hope we will have debate on it. It is on the disposal of public assets. The government is thinking of disposing of federal buildings and going with the private sector. On principle I am not opposed, but on experience I have not seen where that has worked well. If we own the buildings and use them for public good, where do we save money by selling them to the private sector and then leasing them back? We certainly lose flexibility, and the private sector will have to make a profit. I have a hard time seeing where the win is for Canadians. We might say the win is that the private sector can be more effective in managing. That can be true in certain instances. We have to make the improvements in-house to become more effective or do some contractual work.

I have not seen those great experiences, those great examples where divestiture of federal assets has been good. However, if the minister believes it is, he certainly should put the case forward if he can show to us that disposing of Aldershot or disposing of the agricultural research station in Kemptville could be positive. I have a hard time seeing it. I have not seen it in the case of the Port of Digby where it has been divested to a community organization from another community. It has not been maintained. It has not given service or security to the community. It has not even had discussions with the community, which there should be.

I have not seen it in the case of the Port of Yarmouth. That is a new one and it is a better deal. At least it is managed by a local community organization. However, where do we go for the assets? We need a new terminal and facilities that represent Canada? The ministers have tried to help me. The Minister of Transport is coming to Digby to work with the community and give assistance. He loves to meet with the community of Yarmouth. However, the basic underpinnings of those deals have not proven to be all that good.

We see the same thing with the Yarmouth airport. It is difficult to see how it will continue in the future, and it has created some animosity within the community. In my mind it is an important public asset that must be maintained. Sometimes it would be better for those public assets to be held in public hands.

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre would be another excellent idea. I am very pleased to welcome General Maurice Baril, who is now chairing the board of that organization that is seeking ways to make it more effective. However, the government has to look at what its commitment should be. I have received great support from the ministers, but now we have to turn that into money. We have to ensure that we have the commitments for the future and give the security to that organization. I am not sure that making it into a private entity was that valid or that good an idea. Maybe it should have been an agency of government, supported directly by government. It might have been the way to give security.

I see in our plans a lot of possibilities, and where we want to help peacekeeper training for Africa, there certainly is a role to play.

Before closing, I wish to recognize the family of Lieutenant Chris Saunders. With the utmost of respect, we pay tribute to Lieutenant Saunders for his courage and the ultimate sacrifice he made for the safety and security of his fellow Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:40 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park
Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate, being the reply to the Speech from the Throne.

As this is my first opportunity to rise in the House in the 38th Parliament, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people in my riding of Parkdale--High Park, which is located in the city of Toronto, for giving me the honour and the privilege of representing them in Parliament for a third term. As their member of Parliament, I vow to work with all of my colleagues in the House of Commons to address the challenges which we face today and which we will face in the future. As the Prime Minister said in his address to the reply to the Speech from the Throne:

...in a minority Commons, we all have a responsibility to make Parliament work for the people. And we will fulfill that responsibility--if we embrace and build on the democratic reforms initiated during the last session, if we are prepared to allow the partisan to give way to progress.

If I may, Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. We look forward to hearing your rulings in this session.

On Tuesday, October 5, 2004, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, opened up the 38th session of Parliament with the Speech from the Throne. With the main themes of cooperation and fiscal discipline, the Speech from the Throne was also a commitment to follow through on the key promises made during the election campaign.

The speech focused on the Prime Minister's key priorities: building a prosperous and sustainable 21st century economy; strengthening social foundations; and securing for Canada a place of pride and influence in the world. The program laid out in the Speech from the Throne will see positive change in a number of areas critical to Canadians by, for example: strengthening health care; increasing support for children, caregivers and seniors; and continuing to build on the new deal for Canada's cities and communities.

It is important to acknowledge that the Speech from the Throne reiterates the government's commitment to create a new deal for Canada's cities and communities. As part of this new deal, the government has committed to fostering the cultural life that makes our communities vibrant and creative. In fact the Speech from the Throne was unequivocal in this regard. It clearly stated the following:

What makes our communities vibrant and creative is the quality of their cultural life. The Government will foster cultural institutions and policies that aspire to excellence, reflect a diverse and multicultural society, respond to the new challenges of globalization and the digital economy, and promote diversity of views in cultural expression at home and abroad.

In his reply to the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister also spoke about our cities and communities as a place “where our cultural industries thrive”. I was especially delighted to see this specific reference to culture in the Speech from the Throne as a reaffirmation that culture continues to be part of our government's vision.

This is especially important to me, as the Prime Minister has given me the honour and privilege of appointing me as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. I would like to take this opportunity to also thank the Prime Minister for that appointment. I look forward to working with our new and very dynamic Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Prime Minister to ensure that the commitments made during the election are fulfilled, especially with respect to updating and amending our copyright laws, strengthening our major cultural institutions and increasing investment in the Canada Council.

Immediately after my appointment, I began holding consultations with members of Toronto's artistic and cultural organizations to determine what their organizations needed and what the federal government could do to help them achieve and maintain greatness in their respective fields. I want to find out how I can best champion their needs and how I can help to ensure that the federal government can best enhance the creative environment in which our artists and our creators flourish. I have always stated that I see these consultations as being complimentary to our government's cities and communities agendas, as a dynamic cultural sector is a key ingredient to making cities thrive.

Just recently the Federation of Canadian Municipalities made a significant declaration in support of meaningful, long term investments in the arts. At its September 10, 2004 board of directors meeting, a resolution, which was put forth jointly by representatives of the cities of Vancouver, North Vancouver and Canmore, Alberta, was passed strongly urging the federal government to renew the multi-year tomorrow starts today funding initiative. According to Erin Murphy, policy analyst for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, support for arts, culture and heritage is a major component of the FCM policy.

In addition, on September 23, 2004, in a speech kicking off Toronto's arts week, Toronto Mayor David Miller also spoke passionately of the cultural sector's importance. He noted that there were too many people who considered the arts to be a luxury or worse, an afterthought. He went on to say, “If we do not support the city's arts scene, we fundamentally damage the whole city”.

In the Speech from the Throne the government specifically has committed to ensuring that our cultural institutions and the cultural sector in general have the capability to compete and thrive in our constantly changing environment. What does that mean? I believe it means, first and foremost, updating key legislation such as the Copyright Act. Second, creating the conditions for our public institutions to foster diversity and make the transition to the digital world. Third, assisting cultural entrepreneurs and arts organizations to seize the opportunities offered by the Internet and globalization.

Canada will also continue to play a leadership role in the creation of a new international convention on cultural diversity which will establish clear rules that will enable countries to promote cultural diversity. This instrument arose out of a report of the cultural industry SAGIT back in 1999 when Sergio Marchi was the minister of international trade. It recommended that we move forward on such an instrument. I was chair of the Subcommittee on International Trade, Trade Disputes and Investments at that time. The year before that, then former minister of Canadian heritage, Sheila Copps, inaugurated the international network of cultural policy. It is great to finally see the work of the committee, SAGIT and previous minister finally come to fruition.

As an elected member of the UNESCO executive council, Canada will continue its leadership role to ensure that the goals of the convention are realized and that the convention is consistent with other international obligations.

I would like to point out that there are other references in the Speech from the Throne that will undoubtedly affect our artists and cultural institutions. While time does not permit me to highlight all of them, there are one or two which I would like to note.

The first is the government's commitment to continue to review the EI program to ensure that it remains well suited to the needs of Canada's workforce. I am currently working with the Minister of National Revenue and a member of the Canadian arts summit advocacy group to address the issue of the employment status of Canada's performing artists.

For the better part of a century, Canada's performing artists have provided services as independent contracts. This contractual relationship between producers, artists and governments stimulates a healthier cultural economy through a number of incentives. Unfortunately, this relationship has been eroded recently. In recent years Canada Revenue Agency auditors have increasingly challenged the independent contractor status of performing artists. This must be corrected as soon as possible because the implications for our artists and our arts organizations are huge.

I too would like to conclude with the words of our Prime Minister in his reply to the Speech from the Throne. He said:

On June 28, each of us earned the privilege of a seat in this chamber and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Canadians and the life of Canada. The message of the election is clear: Canadians want us to do better as a government. We have heard that message and we carry it with us. The demand going forward is equally clear: Our government and all parties must make this minority Parliament work for Canadians...The work of building an even better country begins today. Let’s get to it

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to learn all the rules here in the House, so please forgive me for any errors. I appreciate being given this opportunity to ask the member a question. I know that her passion for and commitment to the arts are quite strong, certainly in our caucus and of course across the country.

In the city of Toronto, where we both come from, there has been a great investment in cultural institutions. In fact, Toronto has seen a cultural renaissance, from the Royal Ontario Museum to the Art Gallery of Ontario. We also are going to get a new national ballet and an opera company. We are very excited about some of these government initiatives.

Would the member elaborate on some of those investments that the federal government is making in the arts, particularly in the city of Toronto?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Davenport on moving the motion and address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I was given that opportunity in 1997 by the prime minister at that time. It was an honour. I congratulate him on his speech.

The city of Toronto is now finally seeing some of the renaissance projects, as they are called, of the Canada-Ontario infrastructure works program, which is part of the federal government's infrastructure program. I am delighted to see that our minister, the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities, those two combined, and also for cities, is there to champion those continuous needs.

One of the programs brought in by the federal government in 2001 was the Tomorrow Starts Today program.The FCM recently put forward this program for renewal in its resolution. It is a program that looks through further investments into festivals, arts administration, sustainability, digitization and also infrastructure. It is a much smaller infrastructure pocket and it is for smaller projects. However, I have to say that this program has been so successful that across Canada it has helped communities build their cultural infrastructure and make the arts become alive and thrive.

The other thing we have to remember when we look at the arts is that not only are they essential to a vibrant community, but they also make communities safer. Let us look at our own city of Toronto and King Street. When the Mirvish family brought commercial theatre to the city of Toronto, it lit up the entire street. What has happened, as we all know, is that there are numerous restaurants, the street is always packed with people and a buzz is in the air. This is a way of making our city safer.

I see the same thing in the Dundas Street West area, which has undergone an incredible revitalization, again through moneys that were initially given by the federal government through Human Resources Development and the industrial revitalization programs. That area is now the home to art galleries and artists and the very successful Dundas Street West Junction Arts Festival, which is now in its 14th year. It just finished in September. It was terrific. Also, it attracted artists from all over the world.

I think there are many things that we can do for our cities and communities through the arts. I think it is important, as David Miller said, and actually as James Wolfensohn, the President of the World Bank, said, to say that we cannot look at art as a luxury. It is something too integral, too defining of who we are, and it is also essential to the vibrancy of our community.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear what my colleague had to say at the end of his speech. Having only a minute left, I will get to my question right away.

In connection with the sponsorship program, has the federal government not in actual fact done much harm to the image of all those organizations in our communities in need of money to help them with their projects?

In my area, for example, there are two festivals, one for sea shanties, the Fête des chants des marins, and the other an accordion festival, the Festival mondial de l'accordéon. These two events saw their funding cut from the sponsorship program although they had not done a single thing wrong. They needed that money. As the result of the federal government's behaviour, has the baby not ended up getting thrown out with the bath water in the administration of this program?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member will remember that it was actually in 2001 when this federal government invested $560 million into the arts and cultural sector, which allowed programs such as festivals to benefit from that. I would encourage the member to also encourage the government and vote with us to ensure that the Tomorrow Starts Today funding is renewed so those festivals that are in his community and his riding get the moneys they need.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Belinda Stronach Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.

It is with a great sense of honour that I rise to offer my response to the throne speech on behalf of the people of Newmarket—Aurora. I was born, raised and went to high school in either one of those communities. I chose to stay and make my living and raise my children there.

There is great history in that part of Ontario, going back over 200 years, and both communities share the challenge of embracing growth while maintaining the unique heritage of the area. More than 50% of the population has moved from somewhere else, making Newmarket and Aurora very dynamic communities.

These are some of the reasons why I am so proud and I am humbled that my fellow citizens of Newmarket—Aurora put their trust in me to represent them and to protect their interests.

I listened carefully to the throne speech last Tuesday afternoon and felt the excitement of hearing it for the first time in Parliament itself. But there was nothing that I had not heard before and in fact several times before, over many years, in various forms.

If the throne speech was supposed to be a showcase of new vision, this government is flying blind. Also, if someone has to keep repeating a promise, that means it is not getting done. Where I come from, both in my family and in my former work experience, this would suggest that there was never any serious intention of doing it anyway.

I will not take the precious time of the House discussing grand words and promises that have been largely abandoned over the past decade by different generations of this government.

The key test will come with the spending estimates that have been delivered this morning. Now we will get a glimpse of the government's real priorities, and I use the verb “glimpse” on purpose, because even the allocation of moneys does not mean that they will be spent well or spent at all.

On the question of trade, the throne speech covered familiar ground and offered no new ideas. Of course we need to find solutions to softwood and BSE and pursue multilateral trade talks on agriculture, but the throne speech lacked recognition of the critical importance of trade to this country. Trade is not about abstract numbers. It is about sustaining our quality of life. Trade is our lifeblood. Canada is still the country most dependent on trade among our G-8 counterparts.

When the Canada-U.S. border closed to Canadian cattle, beef and other ruminants in May 2003 because of one case of BSE, it was an example of the collapse of the trading system with our largest trading partner.

The losses and hardship to the industry have been devastating, but the throne speech provides no direction about a strategic approach on how to reconstruct the trading relationship to prevent these problems in the future. After losing more than $2 billion since the border slammed shut, individual Canadian cattlemen and farmers received an honourable mention in the throne speech.

It is the Conservative Party that has called for two separate nights of debate on BSE, which started last night and will continue on Tuesday.

The throne speech talks about rebuilding our relationship with the United States. My question is, why would a Canadian government ever have to use such language in a throne speech? The answer, of course, is that the very same government in its different generations had already damaged, harmed and whittled away at that relationship. Usually governments claim to have to fix the sins of their opponents, not their own past.

That relationship with the United States is of such bedrock importance to Canada that I cannot understand the way it is treated, even by members of the government party. The first step is to understand the way Americans think and act, not the way we would like them to think and act. We need a more sophisticated understanding of the volatile domestic politics of trade in the United States, not to agree with them but to better advance our own interests. It takes political leadership to set aside the politically convenient rhetoric of anti-Americanism.

The throne speech painted too rosy a picture of Canadian economic performance. Exports are down and the border problems continue to drive up costs to Canadian businesses and drive away investment in Canada. The Conference Board of Canada classified our productivity performance among all OECD countries as mediocre.

Canada is under future pressure from emerging markets like China and India. A recent U.S. report suggested that China might surpass Canada as the largest trading partner of the United States within five years. If this came to pass it would be a historic economic realignment, the full implications of which we could not predict.

The role of government in providing the right environment for Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to be the most competitive possible in a fierce global marketplace is at the centre of my interests and those of the Conservative Party. This environment includes tax structures and support for research and development, but more important, a fix for our education and training systems to ensure that we have the skilled and knowledgeable workforce the country needs to sustain our quality of life.

Ever mindful of federal and provincial jurisdictions and of the importance of quality health care, I believe that our post-secondary education system has long been neglected. It is the poor distant cousin of public policy, and we need to look at this. If we have to wait four throne speeches more to see significant progress on these issues, I am afraid the people of Newmarket--Aurora and the country will pay a huge price in the decline of our quality of life.

The reason I decided to enter public life was to do everything in my power to help sustain that quality of life, because the community where I live and this country have been good to me and good to my family.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1 p.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Newmarket--Aurora for being in the House. I presume this is her first speech.

She talked about relations with China and the growing Chinese economy. There has been some speculation recently that a state-owned enterprise of the People's Republic of China, China Minmetals, might propose a takeover of Noranda Inc.

As she has worked in the corporate sector, she will know about backward integration and supply chain management. Is this not an attempt by the People's Republic of China to secure a supply of metals and minerals, which may not be in the best interest of the people of Canada? I wonder if she would comment on the proposed merger of Noranda and China Minmetals.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Belinda Stronach Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is the role and responsibility of the opposition to ask the appropriate questions. Is the government doing its proper due diligence to satisfy the people of Canada that the appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that this state-owned entity, which may purchase Noranda and Falconbridge, will abide by the laws that govern this country? It is the responsibility of the government to do so.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the opening remarks of the member for Newmarket--Aurora.

She identified population growth in the region. Is it a concern of hers? What are her constituents telling her about this population growth?

Because she talked about trade, I have another question. In her view, what are the trade priorities?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Belinda Stronach Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the York region, Newmarket—Aurora, the population has grown immensely and along with that come a number of issues. Infrastructure problems are of great concern in our area. The people in my riding are waiting to see what the government will do. Will it follow through on its commitments to provide another GO transit line to the people of Newmarket—Aurora so they can commute into the city. The lineups are long and the times of the GO trains are inconvenient for people. We need to invest in infrastructure to ensure the transportation systems are there to meet the needs of the citizens.

Some of the other issues are public safety and crime. While the community of Newmarket—Aurora is safe at this moment, we need to take steps to ensure it stays that way. Surrounding this community we have problems of grow ops, of youth violence and gangs, and we need to address that going forward.

A third issue in the riding of Newmarket—Aurora would be to have an adequate health care system. People right now are waiting approximately a year for orthopedic surgery. I have had conversations with many health care practitioners who deliver these services and they are not so optimistic at this point in time that the recent introduction of more funds to the provinces will actually go to our local hospital to be able to shorten wait times and bring the resources that are needed to this growing community.

Those are some of the issues that I have head about, but a big overriding issue is the fact that people are just having a hard time making ends meet. During the election when I knocked on doors I heard that while accountability was the number one overriding issue, I also heard that people just cannot make ends meet any more. They are looking for tax relief so they have enough money in their pockets.

The hon. member also asked about trade priorities. Rebuilding our relationship with the United States should be our number one priority. It is our big customer. An important point to focus on within that is the border. We must have an efficient flow of goods to and from the border. The U.S. has said that security trumps trade. I believe we need to focus on ensuring that there is a zone of confidence, both from a security standpoint to protect the citizens of Canada and the U.S., but also from an economic standpoint.

Foreign direct investment is on the decline in Canada and there are a number of reasons for that. One of the reasons is that we have not been able provide that zone of confidence that there will be a border that is dependable. John Manley started the smart border initiative but there is much work to be done.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Newmarket—Aurora. Her constituents chose wisely when they sent her to this place. I should give her a little warning that every now and then an innocent person truly is sent to the House of Commons. It has happened here and we appreciate what she brings to the table.

The essence of our democratic system is that elected people travel from their constituencies to this chamber, represent the views of their constituents and then when they go back home they report progress on how we are doing on the things important to them.

As a matter of fact, in the lexicon of modern political labels there are interesting definitions. The modern definition of a Liberal is somebody who believes that the people should be the servant of the government, whereas a Conservative believes that the government should be the servant of the people.

Reflecting on and listening to the Speech from the Throne, it was very clear that the government fits into the category of Liberal, believing that the people should be its servants. It forgot that almost two-thirds of the electorate did not even vote for it.

As I travelled through my constituency, not just during the election but day to day, before and after, it was clear that the government missed some of the big items. There were words, as my colleague just mentioned, but no steps of action.

One of the main items I heard about was the devastating effect, in terms of trust and confidence in government, related to the horrific scandals and government waste when it comes to spending. It gets a notion in the speech but no steps of action.

We have proposed things like quarterly reports and results based auditing but none of that happens. We have proposed that high level public servants should have to produce expense reports when they have expenses, not receive a quarter of a million dollars a year in after tax dollars and not be accountable for it. None of that is being done by the government.

Everywhere I go in my constituency I hear concerns about the national debt that is waiting to be imposed and in fact is being imposed on the backs of our grandchildren. There is again a notion of it. It gets a minor nod of assent, but where is the legislation this session, as we have suggested, that would require government to take a percentage of the surplus and pay down debt? It is not there. The government wants to take a huge chunk of the surplus and spend it on its own programs, call it sponsorship, political slush funds or whatever. That is irresponsible and we will expose that this session.

There were no clear steps of action. My colleague just mentioned issues of trade. The softwood lumber dispute has devastated many provinces, especially in British Columbia and in my own constituency. I have sympathy when I read about the employees at Bombardier. I heard on the news that perhaps dozens could lose jobs. I hope that does not happen.

We should also remember the hundreds and thousands who have lost jobs in the province of British Columbia alone, let alone other provinces. There have been no clear steps of action to build the relationships necessary to overcome these trade disputes, especially when we win them at the world trade court. There is plenty to lever on that but nobody from the government is willing to apply the levers.

On the BSE debate, one cow has caused an industry to crater, not just in my constituency but around the country. Some of the largest ranches in Canada are in the Douglas Lake area. This has devastated them, just as the lack of action in the softwood lumber area has devastated towns like Merritt. There were no specific plans of action in the Speech from the Throne.

Infrastructure gets mentioned. Our party has brought forward proposals on how a percentage of the gas tax should go to municipalities. Where are the specifics? The mayors of not just large cities but small jurisdictions are left wondering. There are needs out there. We are not looking for mammoth concert halls to be built. In Penticton we would like a water line that takes water to the community of Naramata. It is being devastated with the pressure on infrastructure dollars.

Summerland has real water needs and all that happens is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans goes to Summerland threatening the town council with legal action because it is trying to deal with a water preservation problem. The people in Westbank and Westside are facing the same issues and there are no specific plans of action.

What about lowering the GST? Why does the government increase its take on citizens? Every time consumers pump gas into their cars the government increases its take by refusing to remove the GST which it promised over 10 years ago to scrap, abolish and kill. It is killing consumers but no words on it.

What about the democratic deficit? We are dealing with one of the major debates of our time, the definition of marriage. What has the government done? It has given it to a court to decide. That decision should be made here on behalf of our constituents at home, not outsourced to another group.

It is the same on missile defence, which is a huge issue in my constituency. There are people on both sides of the issue. What do we hear from this supposed democratic government that says it will reduce the democratic deficit? We have heard there will not even be parliamentary debate. There are a lot of issues around missile defence but no discussions.

We will not let the Liberals forget that two-thirds of the people did not vote for them and the things they are talking about in the throne speech are just words on issues related to criminal justice issues. These are big factors in my constituency.

Where is the plan to deal with the devastating problem related to the $2 billion gun registry disaster? There is no plan at all. The government allows the dollars to keep flowing to a failed program, dollars that could be going to health care or to putting police officers in communities, such as Kaleden or Okanagan Falls, which are having real difficulties with youth crime. We all want to see the power of prevention or rehabilitation working in these particular areas but we also need policing.

As their MPs, people have asked us very specifically to come to the House and present these issues and present solutions, as our leader has and as we have. They want us to go back to the constituency to report progress. I am heading back to my constituency this weekend but I will not be able to report much progress. I will report that we and our leader have put some things on the table and that we have put amendments to the Speech from the Throne that will lighten the load for people if we can get the government to agree, like lowering taxes and the issue around the huge slush fund in the employment insurance fund that is constantly skimmed off by the government.

We are putting those things on the table, but in terms of reporting progress, in terms of the people in Okanagan—Coquihalla having a sense that the government is their servant, I will not even try to sell that one because the government is not the servant of the people. The government wants people to serve it. This opposition, our leader and this party, will not allow that to happen. We are here to represent the people and we will report progress. We will report their words, but our actions will improve the life of all Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla talked about some innocent people being returned to the House, himself, perhaps, being one of them.

After one has been through a number of throne speeches they become somewhat repetitive and tend to be very general in their orientation. However maybe the member opposite did not read or did not listen to the throne speech. I noticed a number of things that he probably missed. I just thought I would mention some of them.

The first one has to do with the debt. He talked about how the government was not committed to paying down the debt. I will read out one sentence from the throne speech. It says that it will continue to pay down debt. Its objective is to reduce the debt to GDP ratio to 25% within 10 years. In fact the Government of Canada is well ahead of many of the other G-8 countries and one of the few to have surpluses on a sustained basis.

He talked about the deal for the cities. Our government has been very clear about the deal for the cities. We have already eliminated the GST for municipalities. In a city like Toronto, where I come from, that is about $50 million a year that can be devoted to fighting crime and to put into public infrastructure. That is only the start.

Our government has been absolutely crystal clear that we will devote some of the gas tax back to the municipalities. When it is fully ramped up, that will equate to about $2 billion a year. That is laid out in all the government policies and pronouncements that have been made to date.

Softwood lumber is another issue that the member raised. I know it is a very important issue in the Okanagan and indeed across Canada, but because of the great efforts of the government and the industry, we have been winning all the debates in the WTO and NAFTA and we will prevail. I am hoping we do not cut a deal. I am hoping that we stay on track with the legal fight and we get all that money returned to the lumber companies in Canada.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hope the time that you allot me to respond will be commensurate to the time it took to get the revision of the Speech from the Throne out.

I respect what the member is trying to do in terms of propping up a sagging government, but he has missed some issues. I will touch on them quickly.

He has perfectly portrayed the image of the government which expects the people to be its servant. He said that the government wants the people to get some relief every time they pump gasoline into their cars, their trucks or whatever it might be, that they take to work, that it is time to help people.

The member talked about the federal government no longer collecting GST from municipalities. Why would the government ever do that in the first place? Why would a government have a tax upon a tax? Now the member expects the people to rush forward and say, “Thank you, wonderful government. You are giving back some of the money you should not have taken from us in the first place”.

The member talked about the debt. In case any of our new colleagues are not aware of it, when people get to this place, instead of their constituents' dreams being the driving force, their heads fill up with their own dreams. The only problem is the government wants to finance its dreams with my constituents' money. That is why when there is a surplus there must be the fiscal discipline in place, a law that requires a certain amount of payment on the debt. It is called a mortgage and most Canadians are familiar with it.

The problem is that as election time approaches, the present government--and other governments I will say in a non-partisan way, as the Liberals are not the only guilty ones--but as election time approaches, the government kind of forgets that it has a mortgage. The government forgets that it is mortgaging our children's future.

That does not work for my constituents. They cannot go to their banker and say, “I know I have a mortgage. I have no money left over each month to pay the mortgage, but I want to take a holiday instead. If that is okay with you, I am not going to pay my house mortgage for six months”. That does not work in real life, but it works in the Disneyland world of the government and it is hurting our kids. I want my kids and my grandkids to be able to go to Disneyland without that debt on their backs.

There is nothing in the Speech from the Throne to address that issue with the legislation required for that.

On the softwood lumber issue, as I mentioned in my remarks, we continue to win on that issue at the world trade court. About three years ago, it was one of our members who warned the government. He said that the softwood lumber agreement was coming to an end and to please get down to Washington and start negotiating for true free trade on this. He said that if the government did not, we would get slapped with countervails. The government said that would never happen, that it would not happen at all. It did happen, unfortunately exactly as we said.

There is no plan in place. I did not hear any plan on what the government is going to do. The only attack the Liberals have to fix the softwood lumber issue is to attack Americans with the most ridiculous language, hurling insults across the border. We are talking about protecting Canadian sovereignty. We do not maintain good relations with our neighbours by hurling insults at them across the fence.

The softwood lumber issue should have been fixed. If the government had been ready and prepared to do it, it would have happened. It was not ready and it is still not ready.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

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

It is an honour to rise today to give thanks first and foremost to the residents of the riding of Ajax—Pickering for the incredible opportunity to stand and serve in this House. I was born in the riding of Ajax--Pickering. I have lived there my entire life. Coming here and representing them, being their voice in Ottawa is indeed a humbling and most amazing opportunity.

When I walk the halls of these buildings and when I stand here and most particularly when I stood at the back of the Senate chamber and listened to the Speech from the Throne, I am reminded of why I ran, why my constituents sent me here and of my passion for this nation.

The throne speech indeed speaks directly to much of what I feel is great about this nation and much of what we need to continue to do to keep our nation strong. It reaffirms the priorities that my constituents have and the priorities that Canadians in general have. I shall speak to some of these points not just in terms of what was committed, but also in terms of what has been done to date because much has been accomplished.

Few things are more near and dear to my constituents and all the constituents that we represent than health care. The fundamental principle is that when we walk into a hospital, the health care professionals first and foremost ask how can they help us, not how much money is in our pockets. Having a full public health system that treats all individuals equally is of critical importance.

The new health accord that was struck at the first ministers meeting puts $41 billion into health care over the next 10 years. There are key measures and insurances to hold the provinces to account for the money that we have allocated. This will ensure a long term public health care system that we can all be proud of.

I was proud to be appointed to the cities and communities caucus committee. As a former city councillor I know the plight of cities. I respect the incredible intervention of the federal government in an area that typically is not its jurisdiction, to help cities and communities, and to recognize that they are indeed the engines of our economy. If we do not assist them, issues such as transit and infrastructure will not be solved. If those problems are not solved, our economy cannot continue to prosper.

As a member of that committee, let me assure all members that the commitment we have made on the gas tax will be carried through, just as our down payment to cities in the form of a GST rebate was followed through on.

I heard a lot of talk a few moments ago from the member opposite about the economy and of needing to pay down the debt. We remain the only G-7 nation that is in the black. For seven consecutive years we have paid down our debt. For seven consecutive years we have ensured that the monster of the deficit that plagued us for years has been killed.

Let us look at the state of our economy. I can only imagine sitting in this House 11 years ago with the state that Canada was in. At that point in time Canada was at the bottom of the G-7. Prior to the Liberal government coming into power we had an unemployment rate that exceeded 14%, interest rates that exceeded 12%. The Wall Street Journal mocked us, saying we were an honorary member of the third world.

Imagine if someone had stood up then and said that in 11 years' time our nation would be at the top of the G-7, that we would be in a position where we would have eliminated our deficit, where our unemployment rate would be at 7.2%, where our employment rate would exceed that of the United States. We have generated three million net new jobs. The federal tax on families is down 27%, for individuals, 21%. The CPP which I was told as a young person never to expect, that it would not be there for me, is now guaranteed for the next 75 years.

Despite blackouts, despite SARS, we now lead the G-7 across almost every single category. That is a remarkable achievement and not something that should be so easily brushed aside.

The opposition deals in utopia; everything must be absolutely perfect. The government has taken us from the bottom of the heap to the absolute top.

When we look at what we must do to continue forward, the throne speech talks about the course we must stay on. What the opposition calls padding, we call security. We make sure that we exceed our estimates, yet we are mocked. Imagine being mocked for not only meeting but exceeding what was promised. That is something we take exceptional pride in. When we make estimates, we make sure we not only hit them but that we exceed them.

When we continue forward we will not allow the beast of deficit to come again. Some suggest that we should spend to the brink, that we should make promises to the last cent that we have, but we will not do that. We will not allow the economy to be put into peril by that kind of dangerous activity. We will continue to review expenditures.

I was recently named to the public accounts committee. As a member of that committee I will be honoured to take part in ensuring that we continue to be as efficient as we can be, that we allocate government resources to the areas where we must spend, that we take away from the low priority areas and put resources into the high priority areas so that we have the money to achieve the things we need to achieve.

We will continue to invest in research and development. What the official opposition has often called corporate welfare we call an investment in our future. We will make sure that we continue to lead. In my riding there is a company, Messier Dowty, that receives grants to ensure that we are leaders in aerospace. We will keep the high paying jobs here. We will keep the research and development in this country. We will leverage it on things like the Beacon project at General Motors. We will make sure we are at the table and are part of that project to leverage $200 million of investment by the federal government for over $2 billion of worth to our economy.

I was exceptionally pleased to see in the throne speech the focus that was placed on the environment and on sustainability. The remarkably executed first offering of Petro-Canada will give us much needed dollars to put toward new sources of energy and new ways of conducting business. It recognizes the responsibility we have in service to our people. It also acknowledges, by saying that we must adopt the Kyoto accord, that each and everyone of us as members of Parliament and individual constituents has a responsibility to the Kyoto accord to make sure that we keep our air clean and that we are not looking out our windows through a dense haze of fog and smog.

I wish to address unity. The throne speech talked eloquently about the need for us to come together, to come together as members of different parties and to come together as a nation. We obviously know there is a threat particularly from one party. This nation that we love is built upon diversity, upon our differences, upon using our differences to strong effect, upon not pitting region against region, but putting region for region, and there is a party in the House that would tear apart that great experiment. It would rip apart that which we hold so dear so that its leader could become premier.

We must make sure that this noble idea of Canada, this place where people from all different ethnic cultural and linguistic backgrounds come together in one place for one cause is not destroyed. We are Canada's champions. I intend to be Canada's champion.

I love Quebec, I love Ontario, I love the Atlantic region, I love the North, I love the West. We all share the same interests.

As we are one, we must act as one. That is our challenge and it is something I intend to defend.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I remember when I was young, and full of fire and vigour. I would like to welcome this young new member to the House and congratulate him for speaking in the manner that he did. He means what he says or he would not talk that way. I applaud him for that.

However, he did say some things that are a little puzzling to me. I have been in this great country for many years. I love it and want to stay here forever. I spent 25 years as a teacher in a secondary school and 15 years or so as a principal. I watched many students graduate from secondary school and go on to post-secondary education.

Some very strange things happened over that period of time. Many of my ex-students keep in touch with me through meetings or during reunions or whatever. I am shocked at the number of young people who have received their education in this country but now reside and work in the United States of America. I cannot believe the number who have left this country and gone south.

I had a major heart attack in 1991. Two fine doctors at a Calgary hospital treated me and pulled me through that major problem. In 2000 I had a bit of a flare-up when I was south of the border in Kalispell, Montana. Lo and behold those same two doctors who had treated me had moved from Calgary to Kalispell to take up residence and work there. We are losing many talented young people.

The government lacks vision. For 11 years in a row I have been listening to a continual type of throne speech that could have been played back from 1993. It was the same thing. This lack of vision is sending our young people out of this country. I would like the young member to respond to that.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for both his question and his kind words. I have two comments to make.

Canada is now the best country among the G-7. However, this does not mean that we cannot get better because we can. We do live in a different world. Many Americans work in Canada while some Canadians work in the United States. The reality is that 42% of our economy is driven by exports.

Our relations with the rest of the world are critical. We do need Canadians to work abroad for different companies. We need to ensure that we have strong trading relationships because that builds a strong economy. It works both ways.

Not so long ago I myself came out of university. All of my colleagues have been able to find employment in Canada and are doing exceptionally well as a result of their hard work and as a result of this country providing them with the opportunity to do well.

There are problems in health care. Our party recognized those problems in a way that I think was historic. We recognized that the problems were such that we needed to put aside our jurisdictional differences and not talk about under whose jurisdiction health care was but about our common problem. At the first ministers' meeting we sat down as levels of government from different parties and came to an agreement as to what was best for Canadians. That set us on the right course to continue our positive path.

In terms of continuity and that is how I will refer to throne speeches. There is a need in throne speech after throne speech to continue the government's priorities, to continue to state its vision, to continue to embrace it, to continue to envision a nation that has a strong health care system, to continue to envision a nation that is unified, and to continue to say that cities and communities are important. I hope that we say this in every throne speech hence, not just once, but in every one. It is my hope to be here for many to come.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that you recognized that my riding is no longer Elk Island but now Edmonton--Sherwood Park.

I would like to congratulate the member for having been elected although I will admit that secretly I was cheering for our guy. However, he arrived here and he is clearly articulate. It was wonderful to hear his speech.

I would like to challenge the member in the area of low balling the budget on estimated revenue. It is as if I were to enter a high jump contest and bragged that I would jump six inches and then exceeded that by jumping eight. That is wonderful. How much money could we have applied to debt reduction had we not had continual waste in things such as ad scam, the billion dollar gun registry, and the boondoggle? The gun registry was terribly mismanaged and more money could have been put down on the debt.

I hope the member helps the government straighten out some of those problems.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, while others talk about the need for debt reduction, we have done it. We have not only eliminated our deficit, but we have brought down our debt year after year. Each of those seven years that we paid down debt we have led the G-7 in average standard of living. There is a direction correlation.

While we have listened to the Conservative government that came before us talk and talk about getting rid of the deficit, let alone the debt, every year it went the other way. If we are to be known for something, I would much rather be known for exceeding my commitments and my promises than underdelivering them. I would much rather be known for delivering on my words than merely speaking them. I am tremendously proud of the government's record in this regard.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise in the House today to speak for the first time as a member of Parliament.

I do so with some sense of Bell family history in that two of my relatives also served in this House. Thomas Bell, born in 1863 in Saint John, New Brunswick, served and was re-elected twice as a Conservative member of Parliament for Saint John--Albert from 1926 to 1935. His son, Thomas Miller Bell, born in 1923 also in Saint John, served as Progressive Conservative member for Saint John--Albert from 1953 to 1974, being re-elected seven times. He was also leader of the official opposition from 1973 to 1974. I would like to take this moment to recognize their many years of dedication and service in this House.

Before I comment on the plan that has been laid out by our government for Parliament and for Canada, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment to the honoured position that you hold and for which I am growing in admiration daily.

First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents, the people of North Vancouver, for giving me the honour of representing and serving them in the Government of Canada. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to speak out on issues of importance to them, to work to bring higher prominence to western issues in the House of Commons, and to contribute to effective governance for all of Canada.

My riding of North Vancouver is known for its natural beauty and the active lifestyle afforded by its mountains, rivers and oceans. We are also known for outstanding tourism opportunities such as Grouse Mountain and the world famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. We have a vibrant, world class film industry anchored by Lions Gate Studios. We have two vital national economic engines in the form of our north shore port of Vancouver facilities and railway facilities. We also have the cultural heritage of the Coast Salish first nation people represented by the Squamish or Skhopnish first nation, and the Tsleil-Waututh Burrard first nation.

The 2010 winter Olympic games are only five and half years away, and while Canada and British Columbia will be hosting the world, North Vancouver will provide both the backdrop and the bridge between Vancouver and Whistler. I intend to help our community take advantage of the focus and attention of the Olympics to work to ensure that the lifestyle environment and the economy of the North Vancouver riding are preserved, protected and re-energized as part of our involvement in these Olympic games.

From the North Vancouver perspective, the Speech from the Throne provides an impressive blueprint for addressing many of the needs of my constituents. I believe the health of Canadians is and should be our primary responsibility, and I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, and the premiers of Canada for their recent agreement to commit to a funding agreement that is needed to address some of the key issues facing our health care system. Reduction of wait lists, enhanced home care, and improved catastrophic drug coverage will all have beneficial effects on the health of Canadians, particularly with our aging population.

The growth in the number of seniors in our communities is one of the primary challenges facing our society. Our government's proposal for a renewed new horizons for seniors program will encourage seniors to maintain healthy, active lifestyles and to continue their involvement in our communities.

The population of North Vancouver includes senior citizens from a wide range of socio-economic levels, and commitments in the throne speech toward an increase to the guaranteed income supplement will have incremental but profound impacts on the quality of life of our seniors.

My constituency is also home to a large contingent of young families, and the need for increased quality, available child care has long been an issue. With the vast majority of parents in both single and dual parent households now working in full time jobs, the Canadian lifestyle has dictated that it is time for our governments to take a more active role in child care support. I am proud that our government, through this throne speech, has made a commitment to begin to fund the hard work involved, ensuring that these families have affordable access to quality child care.

I made mention earlier of the film industry that is located in North Vancouver which employs over 5,000 residents in my riding. This industry contributes over $1 billion a year in British Columbia and over $100 million a year to the north shore alone. We must all take reasonable steps to ensure this vibrant industry continues to grow and prosper in the face of increased protectionism from the United States and from competition from Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

I also mentioned the importance of the Port of Vancouver which is the second busiest port in North America and the busiest in Canada in shipping Canadian exports around the world, and as the major western gateway to Canada for imports. We must ensure federal policies support the growth and health of our port systems in Canada. Maintaining a healthy road and rail network to serve our ports is essential if we are to compete effectively with American ports.

Tourism is also of vital importance to British Columbia and to my riding. I believe we must take all possible steps to ensure we will benefit to the maximum from the 2010 Olympics. The location of a national tourism centre in British Columbia would be one important part of this direction.

We must recognize the valuable contribution that the aboriginal people make in our community, both to the cultural and to the mosaic of our community. The programs outlined are giving a greater focus toward the needs of aboriginals, and the rights and recognition of the role that aboriginal people play in Canada are extremely important.

I am very excited about the direction taken for the new deal for cities. Many members know that I have served for over 30 years locally in my community, 14 of those years as mayor, some 9 years as a councillor, and 7 years on school boards in North Vancouver. I have also served as the vice-chair of the GVRD and on the board of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

The direction that is now being taken in this throne speech toward reinforcing the role of cities is critically important and has been long awaited. The role of the gas tax is something that has been sought by mayors across Canada, and I am working with the provinces and with the mayors and municipalities. It will be important for our government to very quickly implement the program that we have talked about. The need for sustainable financing for municipalities goes without saying.

I have many new Canadians in my municipality, a large number from Iran. One of the issues that they have told me that is of concern is the recognition of foreign credentials and the streamlining of immigration and the access to members of their family to be able to visit Canada. I will be supporting those as we move ahead.

I would also like to briefly touch on the need for the steps that we can take to assist in the establishment and encouragement of new programs for affordable housing for both young and elderly people across Canada and in my riding as well.

Based on the years of experience that I have had in local government, I am very excited about being here in the House. The last week has been one of growth for me and I have a greater appreciation for the role that those who have gone before me have played. I look forward to working with my associates on both sides of the House toward good government for all of Canada.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Souris--Moose Mountain.

I rise as a new member of this honourable House and in so doing, allow me to say that it is a great honour for me to be here, to stand here on the floor of the House of Commons as the advocate, the spokesman, and the voice of the fine citizens of Calgary Centre-North.

This throne speech purports to offer Canadians lives of dignity characterized by cultural expression, vibrant communities and dynamic economic opportunities. Heady stuff, but not so for aboriginal Canadians because the throne speech for them speaks of another darker, more sombre Canada. For these Canadians the future is one of poverty, despair, lives overshadowed by fetal alcohol syndrome, teen suicide, chronic disease, and government failure to provide education or basic infrastructure.

Those are the government's words from the Speech from the Throne. Independent observers, such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and, more recently, Amnesty International, are even less generous in what they have to say.

In what must surely be one of the saddest chapters in modern throne speeches, the government offers only a confession. There is no plan. There are no specifics. There is no compassion. There is no vision.

As it is written in stone, at the entrance to this hallowed building, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, and so it shall be with our young aboriginal people in their communities unless and until the government, or more likely a future Conservative government, has the courage to address these problems.

The government is so bereft of ideas that it dares to present a throne speech which acknowledges intolerable consequences and yawning gaps. In response, it vaguely offers to meet to talk about it, and only then to set measurable goals, as though we were discussing statistical information rather than the lives of our children, for aboriginal children are our children. They are Canadian children.

There is a growing consensus on what must be done.

First, there is a need for accountability in the money that is spent. The Government of Canada will expend almost $10 billion on aboriginal programs and services in this fiscal year, yet it does so without any legislative framework for the expenditure on social services, education or health. Stated simply, there are no laws in place governing these expenditures, no laws defining what services or what standards of service aboriginal Canadians are supposed to receive. Perhaps most important, there is no way for Canadians, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, to find out how much of that money is making its way through to aboriginal Canadians themselves.

Second, the Indian Act must be replaced. It must be replaced by a modern statute providing for aboriginal self-government. Everyone agrees that the country requires an orderly devolution of full legal and democratic responsibility to aboriginal Canadians. This must happen within the context of our federal state and with full consultation with aboriginal Canadians.

It must be obvious, even to this directionless Liberal government, that it is in the process of destroying the lives of Canada's Aboriginals who have been stuck in an outdated system of governance for more than a hundred years.

Aboriginal Canadians, like other Canadians, are entitled to a governance framework which ensures stability, certainty, safety, respect for the rule of law and which allows first nations themselves to address issues such as the availability of on-reserve private property ownership.

Thirdly, Canada's Aboriginals are entitled to a system in which public funds are managed transparently and accurately. How much of the $10 billion really goes to the people who need it most?

Fourth, the government lacks the vision to propound a legislative framework for the settlement of comprehensive claims for the development of self-government agreements and the overarching resolution of specific claims, all in a way which would respect the rights of aboriginal Canadians while simultaneously ensuring constitutional harmony so that this nation is governable.

Pathetically, after 12 years of Liberal government, the speech contains only a telling admission of failure, that for many their water is unsanitary, their communities are not safe and their children, who for all of us are the repository of our hopes and dreams, live in despair.

In a democracy governed by the rule of law, there is no place to hide, and so it is for the aging and decaying regime that has penned the throne speech. The Liberal government has had the past 11 years to pursue meaningful institutional and legal reform with a view to improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians. I say unequivocally that it has failed and someday it shall bear the harsh judgment of history.

It is not just the 2004 throne speech. The 1993 Liberal red book chronicles the aboriginal frustrations of 11 years ago: unemployment, health problems, poor housing, unequal educational opportunity, unsafe drinking water. In the time since the Liberals have retreated on every difficult issue.

I have reviewed the throne speeches of these ensuing 11 years. Placed in the saddened context of teenage aboriginal suicide, they are a stunning indictment of vapid promises. In 1994 there was a promise to forge a new partnership with aboriginal people. In 1996 there was a promise to incorporate aboriginal aspirations. In 1997 there were promises to develop partnerships to build strong communities. In 1999 there was a promise to build stronger partnerships. In 2001 there was a promise to share the Canadian way with aboriginal Canadians and a commitment not to be deterred by the length of the journey of the obstacles. In 2002 there was a promise to close the life gap. In February 2004 there was a promise to start to turn the corner on the shameful circumstances on reserves. Finally in October 2004, again after 10 years, there was a new promise of partnership. In the intervening 10 years there has been no significant institutional change, no significant legislative change, no self-government legislation, no accountability legislation and no governance legislation.

What we do have is the consequences of 10 years of failure: more bad water; continued educational gaps; infrastructure shortage; and sadly, more fetal alcohol syndrome and teenage suicides.

The 2004 throne speech is correct because there is sham in all of this. I have travelled the length and the breadth of the country. I have seen the face of aboriginal poverty. I have seen the face of aboriginal despair, the despondency of fetal alcohol syndrome and of teenage suicide. I am unashamed to say, as a citizen of Canada, that I have wept in the face of the poverty I have seen on first nations.

I say today that we can do better. Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, deserve better.

We can and must do better for all Canadians, Aboriginal or not.

They deserve more than this throne speech has offered. They deserve vision, they deserve purpose, they deserve hope and they deserve a government which has the courage to effect change. Without that, that which makes this country what it is, we shall surely perish.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have just heard a remarkable speech in the House today. These are things that we have been hearing about for a long time. The member for Calgary Centre-North just went through a litany of broken Liberal promises, which really had to move everyone in the House.

I am not familiar with all the issues of which the member spoke, but it seems to me that these are things that we have heard time and time again. We have heard solutions proposed for the past 10 years in the House. What is the reason for the delay? Why can they not carry on with these issues?

I know the hon. member is an acknowledged expert in the country on aboriginal issues, particularly aboriginal self-government. What is the delay? Why can we not get on with these things?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to respond to the experienced member from Calgary Centre.

The throne speech contains a remarkable statement that is offered to us in the context of Canada's role in the world and what we have to offer as a nation. It states:

In so many of the world's trouble spots, establishing order is only the first step. Poverty, despair and violence are usually rooted in failed institutions of basic governance and rule of law.

If in the throne speech the government can see with clarity that is the situation in the world, why does it lack the judgment, the decency and the compassion to realize that we are dealing with the same problems of institutional failure in Canada? That is the source of the despair and the despondency. If that applies elsewhere in the world, why can we not apply the same Canadian sense of imagination to the problems of our first people right here?

I referred in my comments to Amnesty International. I am not the only one who feels this way. This was not in the throne speech. This is what Amnesty International had to say in a report that was issued this week:

The Committee is greatly concerned at the gross disparity between Aboriginal people and the majority of Canadians with respect to the enjoyment of Covenant rights. There has been little or no progress in the alleviation of social and economic deprivation among Aboriginal people. In particular, the Committee is deeply concerned at the shortage of adequate housing, the endemic mass unemployment and the high rate of suicide, especially among youth, in the Aboriginal communities. Another concern is the failure to provide safe and adequate drinking water to Aboriginal communities on reserves.

These problems are well chronicled. They are problems that commenced with institutional failure of a governance system that was initiated more than 100 years ago in the form of the Indian Act and that has undergone some change, but paltry change, in the time since. Aboriginal Canadians do not have control of their own affairs. The Indian Act, if there is to be progress in this country, must be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the full devolution of authority so that aboriginal Canadians in concert with government can work to solve these problems.

The government, this aging regime, in throne speech after throne speech has spoken of these issues, has offered vapid, vacant promises and yet, at the end of a period of 11 years of governance, aboriginal Canadians are no better off in this country than they were, by its own admission, 12 years ago. It is a failure of governance and it will be cured only when there is a government in place which has the courage to act, to step forward, to take the initiative, to work together in partnership with aboriginal Canadians and develop governance structures which will present a bright future for aboriginal Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is also my first time speaking in the House. I would like to thank my constituents, the people from Souris--Moose Mountain, for their trust and confidence in me, and I thank the many volunteers for their hard work. I would like to thank my wife and family for being part of the process that brought me here. Parliament is quite an institution, and I am certainly proud to be here.

I knew some of the members. I knew the hon. member for Wascana. He and I went through law school in 1971-73. I was curious as to what he might be doing in the House. Not very much, I find after being here for a week, and that incrementally.

It is an honour to be here. I can say I am heartened that one of the issues of the throne speech will deal with equalization payments, because my province of Saskatchewan has been very much affected by the formula that was changed in the 1980s and 1990s. For every dollar of oil we produce in Saskatchewan, we lose $1.08 or more in equalization payments. It is time for that to change.

I am heartened to see that the government also will be dealing with work skills and apprenticeship programs and literacy programs, but more important than that is the creation of jobs. We need to have the jobs that will require the skills, which will take some tax reduction, not only for large business but for small business, and also for individuals, to ensure that we have the climate for the creation of the jobs we need in this country.

The government boasts about its labour management abilities; it talks about working in collaboration with labour. Yet this week we saw evidence of the fact that the government was not prepared to negotiate with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and it put everything on hold because it was politically expedient to do so. It was not until there was pressure put upon the government by third parties and by our party and myself as critic that it decided to go back to the table as it should have. The government says one thing, but it does another. If this government respects employees it should not be garnering large surpluses in the EI account and using them for purposes for which they are not intended. Those accounts and that surplus must go for employees.

I am also encouraged that the government has made shelter and housing a high priority and is addressing homelessness. Home and shelter are very important to every individual. The manner in which these goals are attained is very important. We must have adequate housing with the least investment. We must have affordable rental accommodations. We must encourage the market by the building of further rental accommodation and utility shelters.

We must address the plight of our aboriginal people in this area and, in particular, provide education and skills training. Yesterday I met with the White Bear aboriginal leaders. I am encouraged with what I have seen in the initiative they intend to take. They simply need to be freed up to do it, as my colleague just before me suggested in his speech.

The main issue I wish to address relates to the constituency of Souris--Moose Mountain, which is largely comprised of grain farmers and cattle farmers. I have been in the business for some 30 years in that constituency and I have not seen as great a challenge as these farmers are facing at this time. The circumstances are dire. They are actually at the crossroads of existence. They may or may not exist in the condition that we know them. The situation is so dire and the time is so short that if there is no action taken now it may change forever.

In spite of all of that, in spite of the fact that they are the backbone of our communities and if they are shut down our communities are shut down, we find that the Prime Minister has not had the courtesy to address that issue in the budget speech except incidentally by saying that agriculture is a significant industry.

It is one thing to make a promise. It is another thing to break a promise. It is one thing to talk about something, but this government has not even talked about agriculture when it is facing the greatest crisis it has ever faced in the history of our country.

As someone who comes from western Canada, I find it appalling that there was barely a reference to the farmers of Saskatchewan and no plan as to what will happen: no plan, no vision, not even an inkling of what the government is going to do.

Not only will people perish without a vision, as my learned colleague said, but our farmers will perish if there is no vision, and this government is devoid of vision. We need bold vision. We need bold steps that must be taken now. Our party will see to it that we will continue to press the government until it sees the picture and does something about it.

The Prime Minister has made a few flybys in Saskatchewan. In fact, he dropped into the Regina-Wascana area, but he could not possibly have attended at the various farms in Saskatchewan for he would have seen the frustration, and in fact the desperation, of some farmers. If he had seen that, there would be some programs directed specifically to meet that situation.

I am not talking about $800 million or $1.6 million. I am talking about an investment of billions. Our finance minister has said, previous to the various announcements of the billions of dollars, that there was no money to be found and there was no wiggle room, yet the government came up with billions of dollars. We are having a national catastrophe on the prairies and there is not even a mention of a plan that would take care of the situation.

It is easy to understand that western alienation continues to grow. From my Estevan constituency, from my Weyburn constituency, in my Ottawa office and personally, I have received calls time and time again in the last number of weeks in respect to the situation farmers find themselves in, and particularly with the CAIS program. Some of them have expected dollars and have been told they are receiving very little. Some have said they will be receiving nothing. These farmers have bills to pay. They have fuel bills and fertilizer bills and there is no money.

The programs for farmers require the help of accountants and lawyers. It is time we made the programs simple enough such that farmers can figure them out at their kitchen tables and understand what they will be receiving at the end of the day.

Saskatchewan farmers have suffered poor yields, frost and grasshoppers. They have suffered not only in that area but also in the political realm, with the BSE border closing and with low commodity prices, and the government has done nothing. People on the farm maintain two jobs and they do not maintain two jobs because they want to work more than 12 hours a day. They do it because they have to.

I recently received a letter from the Rural Municipality of Benson No. 35. It portrays what all of the RMs in my constituency are concerned with. At a meeting they held, they discussed the crisis facing agriculture “due to the failure of the federal and [provincial] government[s] to properly address the BSE outbreak and the low income of grain farmers”. They said the agricultural crisis facing producers today “requires immediate action on behalf of [both] government[s] if agriculture is to remain a viable way of life in the province and this country”.

In the middle of all of that, there was nothing in the throne speech.

The crisis facing agriculture producers is not limited to livestock producers but extends to grain farmers as well. With the elimination of grain transportation subsidies by the federal government, there was a direct impact on grain farmers due to the dramatic rise in costs for transporting their commodities to the market. Furthermore, they have continued to be hit with low commodity prices as well as frost.

I have here the grain ticket of a farmer, in the amount of $719. After deducting cleaning charges, elevation and handling charges, Canadian Wheat Board freight charge, trucking premium and weighing and inspection, the net cheque is $270. The rest is taken up by one cost or another, and the government is not concerned that the farmers are not earning enough to pay their costs of operation.

The administrator of the RM says in closing that council urges both the federal government and the provincial government to “step up to the plate and assist agriculture producers before it's too late”.

I think they have capsulized what is important. The window of time is short. It is time for the government to act now. It has failed in the throne speech to indicate what it is going to do. It is important that it do so.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, permit me, first, to express my warmest thanks to the people of Verchères—Les Patriotes. This is now the fourth time my fellow citizens have sent me here to represent them in this House. It is a great honour and a great privilege to be able to do this work on their behalf. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

I would also like to salute and congratulate all my colleagues in this House who were elected or re-elected. I would like to take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate you on your appointment as well.

I will, of course, be discussing the throne speech, which is before us today. First, I would like to note that I shall be sharing my time with my colleague and seatmate, the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

I would like to begin by saying that we are, of course, in favour of the amendment put forward by the Conservative Party of Canada. We support this amendment for a number of reasons.

The Speech from the Throne does not mention the one apparently revolutionary concept that was added to the landscape of federal-provincial relations at the first ministers conference on health, that of asymmetrical federalism. I think this is significant. As we know, there has been a certain amount of infighting among the Liberals and curiously the concept of asymmetrical federalism has been completely left out of the throne speech.

I think this just shows that this concept has not been unanimously received among Liberals or outside Quebec. So they return to a centralizing type of federalism—perhaps we could, in the words of Robert Bourassa, call it dominating—since the throne speech is full of references to interference in provincial jurisdictions.

If it were true asymmetrical federalism, they would not be talking about federalism where the federal government allows itself to interfere, to a greater or lesser degree, in provincial jurisdictions; they would speak of federalism that allows the provinces to interfere in the federal government's jurisdictions. We are far from that.

It would be more appropriately described as a concept of asymmetrical interference. In some cases, the federal government ventures deep into areas of provincial jurisdiction, while in others, where the provinces are a little more vigilant, it treads somewhat more lightly and discreetly.

Interference is showing through in this throne speech. The government is interfering in education and job training with the proposed workplace skills strategy. This is on page 3 of the English version of the Speech from the Throne. The government is interfering in health with a plan that holds all governments to account. Despite the fact that the Government of Quebec apparently opted out of that part of the first ministers accord, the throne speech says that all governments are accountable. That is what asymmetrical federalism Liberal-style is all about. We find this on page 7 of the English version of the Speech from the Throne.

The federal government is interfering in municipal affairs with the new deal for cities and communities that it is planning to enter into with governments within the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. That is on page 10 of the English version of the speech. Basically, there is interference at every step in this speech.

We are in favour of this amendment because it sets out the limits within which the measures proposed in the Speech from the Throne may be implemented, that is the limits imposed by the Canadian Constitution, which recognizes the exclusive jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces, particularly in health and education.

We also support the amendment to the Speech from the Throne put forward by the Conservative Party for another reason: this amendment is designed to ensure that parliamentarians will be consulted on the fundamental issue of whether or not Canada should participate in the missile shield program.

Independent of the intrinsic value of such a project—some would say this is absolutely extraordinary, while others will say it is unrealistic to think that anything workable could ever come of it—it is a very dangerous project, given the possibility of ending up with no control over weapons in space.

To repeat, independent of the intrinsic value of the project, I think it would be a perfectly normal thing, before Canada gets committed to something that is likely to have repercussions for our children and grandchildren, for the duly elected representatives of the population to be allowed to have their say. I hope that, when the time comes to vote on the amendment, my colleague from Gatineau will repeat what she has already said elsewhere on the obligation parliamentarians ought to have in this connection.

We will, of course, be in agreement with the amendment by the Conservative Party of Canada as amended by the Bloc Quebecois, which now also refers to fiscal imbalance, or what some call tax pressures. The terminology has changed sides now, with the other side using the expression tax pressures. Now it needs to be integrated into the throne speech. Very well.

The federal government collects more tax money than it needs to meet its responsibilities, while the provinces' have far fewer financial resources with which to meet far broader responsibilities.

It is time to correct this fiscal imbalance.The Conference Board predicts that within the next 10 years, the federal government will accumulate a surplus of some $166 billion, because of the imbalance, while most of the provinces will run deficits and accordingly increase their debt. This has to be corrected. We hope that the conference on October 26 will lead to a long-term solution to this fundamental problem of fiscal imbalance.

The real success of the last first ministers' conference will be measured in terms of the success of the October 26 conference. If the federal government pays the provinces for health with one hand, but takes the money away with the other through equalization, we are no further ahead. The problem remains and nothing is resolved. We are therefore waiting for the results of the October 26 conference in order to truly judge the success of the latest conference.

I would also like to say that we consider the wording of the Speech from the Throne unacceptable in many other ways. First, like many Liberal of the throne speeches we have heard over the past few years, this one is full of wishful thinking and hollow words. For example, on page 13 of the French version it says:

It will engage stakeholders in developing comprehensive approaches to encourage increased production and use of clean, renewable energy--

This is just empty rhetoric on the part of a government that has eliminated a relatively small annual subsidy of $7.2 million for research on nuclear fusion in Canada. Canada was contributing less than 1% of the investments in research on nuclear fusion, but was reaping 100% of the technological benefits. Alas, in its great wisdom, the government decided to forget the investments of some $100 million made over the past decade in nuclear fusion. It decided to eliminate its almost symbolic subsidy of $7.2 million, which was bringing in more money in tax revenues than it cost the government. In so doing, it put an end to the operations of Tokamak, in Varennes, which was Canada's only nuclear fusion reactor. This means that when nuclear fusion finally becomes a reality, in some thirty years, Canada will be a net consumer of a technology that it will have helped develop.

I will conclude my remarks with one last point. The speech also includes the following statement on the same page:

In 2005, the Government will bring forward the next generation of its Great Lakes and St. Lawrence programs, underscoring its commitment to protect and preserve these internationally significant shared ecosystems.

The same government that abolished the shoreline protection program is now telling us that it intends to protect the fragile ecosystems of the St. Lawrence. Again, this is empty rhetoric.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise after my colleague; he demonstrated quite well how much the Speech from the Throne needed the Bloc Québécois amendment, which was unanimously passed by the House last night. I do hope that it will be modified also by the Conservative Party's amendment, which will be put to the vote on October 18. A number of elements in this amendment have been outlined. I would like to draw my colleague's attention to some of them and ask him what he thinks about them

Is it not true that the creation of an independent Parliamentary Budget Office, which will provide regular fiscal forecasts to the government, is the result of the election debate, which very clearly showed that for the past 10 years the Liberal government has been deliberately and systematically underestimating its revenues to such a degree that we are now sitting on surpluses out of proportion to our needs?

A lot of necessary spending was also thus cut, as in the area of employment insurance, for example. Does this amendment not set out a situation which should be reflected in the Speech from the Throne, and on the basis of which we would expect the government to agree to inclorporate this part of the Conservatives' amendment, as the other parties are doing, so that the throne speech much more accurately reflects the reality with which Parliament will have to work in the months and years to come?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I think it is very pertinent. When this government first came to office in 1993, it was careful to eliminate the few parliamentary financial controls that existed, perhaps in order to be sure it was able to do what it later did in the sponsorship scandal and to prevent parliamentarians from having any real power to ensure the proper management of public funds, in the best interests of the people.

Yes, I believe there are no parliamentary controls. The controls we have now do not permit us to get to the bottom of things. Simply having a minister and his flock of senior bureaucrats appear before a committee for an hour or an hour and a half is not the way to get to the bottom of things in an examination of parliamentary appropriations.

Yes, we must reintroduce much more formal mechanisms to provide constant oversight on government spending in order to avoid the kind of loss of control we have seen with this government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I find something odd in what the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes has said.

He speaks about the fiscal disequilibrium. He probably knows but is not prepared to share with the House some of the facts. If we look at the provinces collectively, they actually collect more revenues than the federal government. If we look at the debt loads, the federal government has a larger debt load than the provinces. We only have to look back to September 16.

At this time, the Prime Minister and the provincial first ministers have reached agreement on a ten-year plan for consolidating health care, by virtue of which the provinces and territories will receive $41.3 billion over a period of 10 years.

When members of that party talk about fiscal disequilibrium, it seems to me that they are missing the point. They are not familiar with the numbers or they are just stirring the pot for political purposes.

I wonder if the member would comment on the fact that the revenue streams for the provinces exceed that of the federal government and the debt load of the federal government exceeds that of the provinces. How can he see that as fiscal disequilibrium?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, with great respect for my hon. colleague, I would say he is comparing apples and oranges. There is absolutely no direct link between the tax revenues of all the provinces, taken as a whole, and the revenues of the federal government. If there were only three provinces, provincial tax revenues would, of course, be much lower than those of the federal government.

He is trying to compare the taxes raised by one government with those raised by 13 governments. It is very clear that the tax revenues of 13 governments, taken together, are greater than those of one single government. Still, the financial obligations of these 13 governments are infinitely greater than that of the federal government.

When the hon. member speaks of the federal government's debt, which is larger than the debts of all provincial and territorial governments taken together, let me simply remind the House that this is the unfortunate legacy of previous Liberal governments.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

2:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 2:30 p.m., pursuant to the order made on Tuesday, October 5, this House stands adjourned until Tuesday, October 12, at 2 p.m.

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)