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 federal.

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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

October 8th, 2004 / 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.