House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was going.

Topics

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-484, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (no interest payable on repayments of benefits or repayments of penalties).

Mr. Speaker, we are asking that no interest be payable on penalties.

In 2002, the government created a new act whereby, as of July 2002, people who incur penalties must pay interests on these penalties. We are asking for the removal of such interests. Indeed, how can people who lose their jobs and who do not have money pay interests on debts of $10,000 or $15,000? Therefore, we are asking that these interests be removed.

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

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

moved to introduce BillC-485, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (establishment of Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund).

Mr. Speaker, the ninth and last bill deals with the establishment of a trust fund. Its purpose is to replace the employment insurance account with a trust account. The trust fund would be credited with the contributions paid.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a last comment. The bills that you listed were not in the same order as those I had prepared and I am sorry for this. I could talk to the clerk to ensure that everything is in compliance with the comments that I made in the House of Commons.

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

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions this morning.

My first petition is from residents of British Columbia, including from my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas. The petition concerns the issue of the proposed space preservation treaty.

The petitioners are concerned about the termination of the ABM treaty in 2002. They also raise concerns about the use of nuclear tipped NMD missiles in this national missile defence system. They point out that a space preservation treaty would establish a permanent ban on space based weapons.

They therefore call upon Parliament to urge the government to immediately approve, sign and ratify the space preservation treaty and to immediately convene a treaty signing conference for the space preservation treaty.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition, which has also been signed by residents of my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas, is on the subject of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The petitioners note that same sex couples form loving and committed relationships that are presently denied the equal ability to celebrate those relationships through marriage in a number of Canadian jurisdictions. They point out that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equality to all Canadians.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation that would provide same sex couples with the equal right to marry.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Sarnia—Lambton
Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 11 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Québec.

I am pleased to speak today to the throne speech, to try to explain to Quebeckers and Canadians and the people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel how the Liberal government could have taken such a great opportunity and produced such an empty throne speech.

First, I will refer to the text of the throne speech. Then, I will talk about what was not in the throne speech. I want to use this document for three aspects that I, and doubtless all Quebeckers and Canadians, consider important, starting with health.

The last line of the sixth paragraph on page 6 of the Speech from the Throne reads:

These waiting times must be reduced.

I think that the public realizes along with me that this is a matter of will. This should be a goal that must be reached. The federal government has a great deal of money. This morning, another $7 billion surplus was announced. It is extremely important to understand that the government has decided to invest part, $2 billion, in the provinces. Everyone knows it, and I will just read the document, because it was repeated in the throne speech. There is still a $5 billion surplus, which is quite a lot. Out of $7 billion, $5 billion remains uncommitted. No doubt, the government wants to try to keep this for its own election campaign and the next budget, except that this is not really in the interests of Quebeckers and Canadians.

With regard to waiting times, the February 2 throne speech states, on the following page, first paragraph:

The Prime Minister announced on Friday that the Government of Canada hasdetermined that, without going into deficit, it will now be able to provide a further$2 billion health-care transfer to the provinces and territories this year.

Obviously, it had been announced. For those who do not remember, on January 30, the provincial premiers met with the Prime Minister of Canada. He announced that he would transfer the $2 billion already promised to them. The same $2 billion that Jean Chrétien had promised is now being promised all over again by the new Prime Minister. Surely he remembers. There are some things the new Prime Minister does not remember, but he does remember that Jean Chrétien, when he was prime minister, had promised $2 billion to the provinces. Obviously, this $2 billion is back in the picture; he announced it on January 30 and confirmed it in the throne speech. It is being recommended.

What is important is that he is in a position to provide this amount this year. Seeing this, several provincial premiers asked the government, “What? This $2 billion is not something you are going to transfer to us every year?” The answer is no; we can read it in the Speech from the Throne. It is only for this year.

How will it be possible for the provincial premiers, for hospital administrators, to reinvest in personnel if they finally get the money, but only for one year? What do they do? Do they hire employees, lay them off, give them a salary increase for just one year? That is the harsh reality for those who manage the CLSCs, hospitals, clinics and all these institutions. We cannot guarantee that the health care system will be more effective with an extra $2 billion for all of Canada. That makes $400 million for Quebec, which is a fine sum of money, but it is just for one year. We cannot plan for the long term.

Once again, in the Speech from the Throne, the federal government is saying it is just for one year. This was criticized by the premiers, but the Prime Minister never objected to it. He even said he would have to look at the country's financial situation annually to determine whether he could renew the $2 billion. I know perfectly well why he wants to do that. He wants to be able to make an announcement like Prime Minister Chrétien did. He announced the $2 billion two years ago, and announced it again when he finally authorized it. Then the new Prime Minister got in the act. Every year they will try to make a new announcement.

In the meantime, the provinces, the hospitals, the CLSCs are not sure they will get this money, making it impossible to plan for the long term. That is the harsh reality of the throne speech.

Now I wish to address the part of the throne speech regarding the mad cow crisis. The government promised, or tried to tell the farmers that it would help them.

The Speech from the Throne does not mention any actual dollar figure. Earlier we saw that there was $2 billion for health, but there is no new money for farmers. There is only one sentence, on page 18, in the second paragraph:

The Government is dedicated to Canada’s farm economy ... and to ensure that farmers are not left to bear alone the consequences of circumstances beyond their control.

It claims farmers will no longer be left to carry the burden alone. This is an admission that up until the Speech from the Throne, the Liberal Party left the farmers to fend for themselves. Now, they are being told they will no longer be left to their own devices, but they are not told how much money they will be given. How must these farmers, who are going through difficult times, feel?

Farmers from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, from my riding, and also from the ridings of my other colleagues from Quebec, are going through tough times. We are having problems. We are in a very precarious financial situation and not just in the cattle industry. In Quebec, the cull industry is also affected. It is very difficult for rural Quebec.

In the throne speech, we were entitled to expect some sizeable assistance with this problem, but all that it says is:

...and to ensure that farmersare not left to bear alone the consequences of circumstances beyond their control.

The government does not want to leave them to bear this alone, but of course no mention is made of any money to help them out. It will again say that it will try to convince the Americans or other countries to buy our product, but in the meantime cattle cost money to feed. This is what is happening. The farmers have less and less revenue, and it will not be long until we see a lot of operations going under. Once again, there is nothing in the speech outside of these vague statements of good intentions.

The third point concerns help for the municipalities. We are told that the government will waste no time in trying to help them. The eighth paragraph, on page 11 of the Speech from the Throne, reads as follows:

Therefore, the Government will work with provinces to share with municipalitiesa portion of gas tax revenues...

It says “will work with”, but there are no guarantees that it will.

The next paragraph reads:

This will take time and the agreement of other governments.

That is right, and that is what the Bloc Quebecois has been denouncing from the start. You cannot negotiate directly with the municipalities because they are the creatures of the provinces.

As the former head of the Union des municipalités, I know this to be true. It may not suit all municipal officials, but this country does have a constitution, after all. Not that I agree with it, but it does place the municipalities under provincial jurisdiction. The government has been making promises.

In recent months, the new prime minister has been doing the rounds of the cities, telling them he is going to give them money. Yet he knows very well that this is not under his jurisdiction. In the throne speech, he tells us he might, perhaps, share the fuel tax, but that will take agreements with other levels of government. This means there will be no money forthcoming.

The only thing the federal level can do concerns the famous goods and services tax. On this, of course, the speech says:

But the Governmentof Canada is prepared now... to act in its own jurisdiction byproviding all municipalities with full relief from the portion of the Goods andServices Tax they now pay.

What he says in the throne speech, and of course the Bloc Quebecois is pleased about this measure, is that the full GST credit will be given back to the cities, compared to only 57% until now. Over the next decade, this change will provide Canadian municipalities with new stable funding of about $7 billion.

The government figures that the rebate on the GST will be a form of funding for cities. This is partly true. The larger the city, the greater its expenses and the more money it will get. In the case of smaller municipalities and medium size cities, this involvement will be minimal. Still, $7 billion will be reinvested.

However, there is nothing in the throne speech on the gas tax and nothing either on the permanent infrastructure program that municipalities and small, medium and large cities in Quebec have been asking for. Once again, we will have to wait for the next budget.

I will conclude by pointing out what is not in this speech. Of course, there is nothing in the throne speech to help the unemployed or to improve the employment insurance program. The Bloc Quebecois had asked that this program be improved for seasonal workers. It asked that the two week waiting period, which the unemployed see as a penalty when they must apply for benefits, be abolished. But there is no mention of eliminating this two week waiting period and there is nothing to improve the EI program.

Once again, as regards transportation issues—I am the Bloc Quebecois critic on transportation—there is absolutely nothing on the building of new highways. There is nothing on highway 50 in the Outaouais and Basses Laurentides region, in my riding. There is absolutely nothing to get the airline industry back on its feet. This means that there is nothing to help Mirabel airport where, again, 500 jobs were lost because ADM decided to pay tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to Air Transat to move its operations to Dorval.

Again, Quebeckers should be very suspicious of this throne speech which, as far as I am concerned, is an empty shell when it comes to their best interests.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

February 12th, 2004 / 10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague from the Bloc. I do not agree with everything he said. However, in terms of the farmers, as the member for Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound I am quite concerned about the farming community, the towns, the tractor suppliers and the banking people. Obviously, the farmers are stressed.

The Government of Canada has spent $.5 billion and I know it has another $120 million for the cull calf operation.

The thing that frustrates me is why the packers and other people in the community take most of the money that should be going to the farmers? When we had the floods, people were selling firewood and generators at obscene rates. The whole Canadian community put pressure on those people and forced them to drop the price and loan the generators.

I do not know why the packers can take so much money when it is needed by poor farmers. Sometimes government, even with all the mechanisms it has, does not deliver the money to the people who need it the most.

Does the hon. member have suggestions on the ways and means to get the money to the poorest farmers, the ones who need it the most?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. The fact remains that it is the Liberal government, his government, that has the means to use the Competition Act to ensure that the money goes to the right people and to fine those who take advantage of the situation.

It is a choice the government made. However, that is not what was written in the Speech from the Throne. I will read to my colleague—in the English version, it is on page 18—what the government decided in the throne speech for farmers. Earlier, I gave you the figure for the municipalities, which is $7 billion. For health and the provinces the figure is $2 billion.

Yet, there is absolutely nothing in the Speech from the Throne in terms of an aid package for farmers. All it says is, and I quote:

The Government is dedicated... to [ensuring] that farmers are not left to bear alone the consequences of circumstances beyond their control.

If the government is saying it will no longer leave the farmers to fend for themselves, then it is admitting that it has ignored them. In other words, up until the throne speech, on February 2, the government ignored the farmers.

Now, how can we find a solution? In my opinion, even if we were to use the Competition Act right now, it would be too late. An aid package is needed to get these farmers out of trouble.

As we speak, they have animals to feed. That is reality. When animals cannot be sold, it costs money, because they do have to be fed. Of course, it is not enough to use the Competition Act alone and try to prosecute. I am not saying that we should not do so, though.

Yes, let us fight the processors and those who take advantage of the system to exploit farmers. I have no problem with that. But while we wait, farmers need our help; they are grappling with very serious problems, like feeding their animals. That takes money. And when there is no more money, that is when the situation gets very tough for a business.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member, would he agree that a cash injection would indeed be the solution? How would he ensure that it got to the farm gate instead of in the hands of the wrong people?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, you know that, in times of crisis, we must trust in individuals, in the men and women who manage their businesses.

These people often join together in associations. I know that one association in Quebec is the Union des producteurs agricoles. I have complete confidence in this group, which is capable of directly negotiating the amount to be paid and the way in which the government should transfer this money to farmers.

I assume that, in each province, there are producers' associations that could take charge. Some associations are thought to resemble unions, but in fact are private companies. They are not unions of the sort that we find in other kinds of businesses. These are my contributions and, obviously, I believe that we could—with each representative farmers' association—very quickly negotiate direct transfers to ensure that the money goes straight to the producers, who need it so much to feed their animals.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this throne speech debate today. I want to point out a few contradictions in the Speech from the Throne. It states that the federal government wants to stop encroaching on the provinces and start respecting jurisdictions. So, there seems to be a great deal more compassion in this throne speech compared to previous ones.

I want to read the first paragraph containing the key principles of the throne speech.

We want a Canada with strong social foundations, where people are treated withdignity, where they are given a hand when needed, where no one is left behind.

These words are completely meaningless. The throne speech provides no evidence that the government has any intention of giving the provinces the employment insurance fund surplus; there was even an attempt to reduce access to benefits. This is not in the throne speech. With regard to parental leave, if the government had wanted to, it would have complied with the Quebec Court of Appeal's recent ruling and given the money, and it would have stated its intentions regarding parental leave.

The same is true for the CHST. There was no mention that CHST payments should be returned to expected funding levels. Money was invested in health, but everyone is well aware that this is not enough. The $2 billion invested in health through the CHST was a shortfall.

The same is true for the fiscal imbalance. The government did not want to address this issue, and it is common knowledge that, if the federal government has more money in its coffers, it is because its power to levy taxes has increased over the years.

Nor have we seen any commitment from the government to the artists in areas over which it has jurisdiction. It could, for instance, have decided, in connection with artists, to allow forward averaging of income so as to enable them to pass less tax. As we are well aware, artists have good years and lean years. Most of them are self-employed. There is nothing to cover this in the Employment Insurance Act. It could have provided some degree of flexibility as to the arrangements provinces might make. We see no clear intentions from the government in this area.

We can also see the contrast between Canadian values and Quebec values. We are aware that the value of the Quebec people has been again denied in the throne speech. I will read what it says on the first page.

We have our Canadian values and we can bring them into the international spherein a humanitarian and effective way.

What distinguishes Canada receives a lot of attention, but what distinguishes Quebec is ignored. The aboriginal culture is recognized, as we in Quebec recognize it, but we would also like to see Quebec, with its internationally renowned artists, recognized for its differences. Those differences are denied in the throne speech, where Quebec does not exist except perhaps as a manifestation of Canadian regional diversity. We got lost in this great value of multiculturalism and diversity under one flag.

I would, however, like to draw attention to certain things in Quebec that differentiate us from what is done in the rest of Canada. For instance, the TV viewing statistics. Francophone Quebeckers are very faithful to their programs and their TV personalities; 90% of the programs they watch originate in Quebec. This differs totally from the situation outside Quebec. Canadians in the rest of the country are less likely to watch local productions and more likely to watch foreign programs. The figures speak for themselves here.

The audience share for Canadian programs on English-language television in Canada, not counting Quebec, is 26%, while foreign programs capture 74%. That is a well-known fact. I sit on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

We are well aware that 74% of the programs watched by Canadians, outside Quebec, are foreign programs. They are almost entirely American programs. To a lesser extent, we watch them, too. Still, 62% of the programming watched in Quebec consists of programs produced in Quebec. As for foreign programming, to Quebeckers that does not mean just American programs, but programs coming from Europe or broadcast on specialty channels. We can see there is a difference in behaviour.

It is the same thing for commitment to the Kyoto protocol. This is yet another difference. In contrast to other regions, Quebec, because of its environmental practices, has been in the forefront of the struggle to get the federal government to ratify the Kyoto accord.

As early as 1992, Quebec had ratified by decree the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. That is why Quebec hopes that the federal government will ratify Kyoto as soon as possible and guarantee that the Kyoto protocol will be implemented equitably and with due respect for the jurisdictions of each province.

In the Speech from the Throne, however, we find an encroachment upon Quebec's jurisdiction with respect to water and air quality. Moreover, the government indicates no intention to attack the problem of climate change at its source: oil and coal. We can see that there is no will to enshrine the principle of polluter-pays in the implementation of the Kyoto protocol. We know that it would have been frustrating for certain Canadian provinces.

Similarly, with respect to the Young Offenders Act, Quebec stands out. We all remember the epic battle in the House regarding changes in the federal legislation, then called the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The repressive approach in this bill was soundly criticized by everyone in Quebec who works in that area.

The Quebec approach to young offenders was far more focussed on rehabilitation. Bringing young teens, barely 14 years of age, before an adult court, contrary to the system that had been put in place, runs contrary to any desire to help them reintegrate into society later on, once they have of course served some kind of sentence.

We know our way of doing things in Quebec has had good results. The youth crime rate is the lowest in Canada, and the number of diversions before the youth courts is twice as low as the Canadian average. Once again, the government paid no heed to the difference in Quebec.

The same thing goes for parental leave. In Quebec parental leave was far more flexible, taking into account the realities of families, fathers and mothers in Quebec, who needed to be able to take parental leave through the social assistance system.

What we are seeing is a terrible thing. The throne speech has denied Quebec's cultural difference. I might add that it has also denied some of the commitments the government ought to have made with respect to culture. It is not that we want the government to look after culture, but there are certain laws that need to govern certain areas of culture in Quebec.

There is nothing about whether the government intends to make a decision about lifting the foreign ownership restrictions and barriers. This is an important issue for the entire cultural industry in Quebec and Canada, but especially Quebec. People mobilized and appeared before the committee to talk about this legislation. Where is the government's commitment to culture?

The same thing is true too with regard to copyright. There is no consistency. Quebec's Union des artistes reacted to the Speech from the Throne. It is wondering and asking where the government's commitment to improving the living and working conditions of artists is.

There is nothing on employment insurance and nothing on income averaging for artists. This is what Quebec's artists are asking for. They are calling upon the government to make a firm commitment to restoring the promised funding to the Canadian Television Fund and continue to support production in all cultural sectors. They continue to ask that the government not authorize the lifting of restrictions on foreign ownership, as I mentioned earlier.

In her report, concerning areas of provincial jurisdiction where the government should have taken action, the Auditor General even commented on how its maintenance of historic sites and handling of publications and archival records. This sector is in danger; the situation is catastrophic. This is a federal responsibility. What did the government do? It did nothing. It did not invest the necessary funds to restore historic sites and parks. The archives are also in a pitiful state. The collective memory of the people of Quebec and Canada may lose archives forever.

I think the government continued to take money to the detriment of the provinces and did not make good choices. The jury is out with regard to its results in its own areas of jurisdiction.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Speech From The Throne

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak in response to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge.

I am very supportive of this Speech from the Throne. It gives great direction to Canadians, great direction from the government. Why are we now in a position where we can make these substantial new investments and take these new directions? It is because of the hard work of Canadians over the past 10 years. We have put ourselves in a situation where we have control of our finances. The government can govern, can look forward, and can create partnerships with communities because we have the resources, and we have the confidence that we will have the resources in the future.

We have been reducing our debt to the extent that the first $3 billion in new funding was from reduced payments abroad on debt servicing charges. With continued fiscal prudence--and I am confident we will have that under this government--we will be able to improve that even further.

We are talking about a new era of achievement and we are talking about communities. I am pleased that we have stopped using the word “cities” because too often we were hearing about the agenda of cities. My colleagues on this side of the House have made sure to remind the Prime Minister and his ministers that we must talk about communities. We need strong communities in this country and strong communities will give us a strong country.

Rural areas are not asking for charity. They want proper investment and proper support. We want to release the potential that we have everywhere in this country. I know my friends across the way often speak of western alienation. Down home we do also. It is West Nova alienation. In my riding, which is a three hour drive away from an urban centre, we often feel that we are under-represented in the bureaucracy and in the affairs of government. We want to ensure that we are full partners.

In Nova Scotia rural areas contribute 70% of the wealth of the province, including the resource sectors and other sectors that are in the rural areas. So it is right that we have those proper investments and those proper supports to release further potential from those areas, as in all rural areas and small communities across the country.

West Nova, which I am very pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to represent, is a microcosm of this nation. We have people from many cultures. We have native people, English people, French people, les Acadiens. We have people who have immigrated from all over the world and their descendants live in that riding. Our industries are wide and varied, from agriculture, forestry, fishing, the military, high technology, tourism, educational institutions, manufacturing and others. All of these face challenges and all of these have opportunities. I look forward to continue working with members of Parliament and with members of the government to help improve the situation.

Agriculture has received a lot of attention lately. It might be difficult for people from other parts of the country to realize the importance that agriculture has in Nova Scotia, but it is important. It is important in my riding and it maintains a lot of small communities and family businesses. It keeps them in place; however, they face significant challenges such as BSE, pork prices, and I will mention a few others later.

West Nova is the site of the first European settlement in North America. Next year, we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Port-Royal. We invite all Canadians, the Speaker of the House and all hon. members to travel to West Nova this summer to attend the Congrès mondial acadien, which will be a happy reunion. The celebrations surrounding the 400th anniversary will go on all summer.

Some specific activities will take place on set dates. I will be pleased to indicate those dates of interest to hon. members. They should come to my riding to sample good food, meet with people, exchange views and, above all, spend their money.

The people of West Nova are entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are self-reliant. They like to take matters into their own hands and meet their challenges.

There are areas like Cornwallis, which is a fantastic story, a community that was almost wholly dependent upon the military training base. That base was closed because of budget restrictions and program review. We lost that facility. The community created an economic development agency and worked with the assistance of the federal government of the day to give it new life. Currently there are more jobs at that base than there were when the military was there. The jobs are in manufacturing, high technology and education.

There is the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, which unfortunately is having some challenges now which it should not be, and that is why we talk sometimes about the alienation of rural areas. There are bureaucrats who would like to see that centre moved to Ottawa. The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre is in western Nova Scotia because of the hard work of my predecessor, Harry Verran, in working with the community to make sure that all the potential was released from that area. People from all over the world get excellent training in a very relaxed and good atmosphere and then return to work all over the world. I want to thank the current Minister of National Defence, as well as his predecessor, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for their support for the Pearson centre, in terms of funding and their continued work to ensure its presence in West Nova.

Yarmouth a few short years ago, about 10 years ago, lost the two major employers. We lost a cotton mill that had been there for over 100 years. We lost a tin mine that had been generating 40% of the tax revenue in the municipality where I used to be the administrator. The community created an agency, locally based and working as in Cornwallis with the municipalities, with the provincial and federal governments and with the local entrepreneurs. The old cotton mill has become an industrial mall and there now are more jobs than there were at the time, or just about as many. There has been a rebirth in Yarmouth.

Those are two great examples for all Canadians of releasing the potential of rural Nova Scotia. Those two communities could have been abandoned, saying that it was the natural course of action, but they refused to do that and now they are keeping young people in those communities and encouraging people to move in. There is lots more work to do in those communities and all others in my riding. The communities will meet those challenges, given the support of the federal and provincial governments.

There was a small grain operation which bought feed and grain in the Annapolis Valley and that moved away. Local farmers created a cooperative approximately five years ago with a little bit of assistance from the federal and provincial governments. They now are financially stable, helping to create a market for those small operations, providing feed for the ranchers or farmers who need it. It is a very good example of a community working with the proper assistance.

I keep repeating that. It is very important that we have agencies like Western Economic Diversification, FedNor, CED in Quebec, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. It is important that they be on the ground, that they be present, that they understand what the potential is in those communities.

We have further work to do with those organizations. We can use as a base the “Rising Tides” document prepared by the Atlantic caucus of the Liberal Party to improve those agencies, give them a little more flexibility and give them the proper resources. Great work has been done but there is much more potential.

The regional development agencies in those rural communities, such as Western Valley Development Authority and the South West Shore Development Authority, have done fantastic work in accessing and bringing together all the resources necessary to maximize the potential.

While they are rural areas, these people as I mentioned are very entrepreneurial. They make sure that they take advantage of all the technologies that are out there. There are companies like King's Produce and den Haan's Greenhouses. There is AF Theriault & Son, a boat shop started by a woman and family operated, one of the 10 largest in the country, using new materials such as carbon fibre and preparing those.

They have challenges. For those small and medium size operations to submit tenders to the federal government is very difficult because of the rules in our tendering process and the bonding requirements, so I think we can work further.

BioVision is a new company that started in the Annapolis Valley. It wants to take wood byproducts with cellulose and create ethanol and all the derivatives that can be used by others in manufacturing everywhere where petroleum products are used now.

They need some assistance. The rules need to recognize that they exist. It is very difficult for those who are not in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa or Halifax to have access to government officials.

I am halfway through what I wanted to cover and I realize that I am running out of time. I want to congratulate the government for the Speech from the Throne, for the directions it is putting forward, for the assistance to communities and highways in my province. It is very important that we have the proper highway infrastructure. It is important that the port of Digby be returned to the community and that we maintain the airport.

I look forward to working very closely with all members of Parliament and ministers to ensure that the resources are brought there. This framing document from which we will get the budget and from which we will get the process is a great initiative and gives great direction to all Canadian communities.