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.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

October 8th, 2004 / 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?