House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

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Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

I use that term broadly speaking. The parliamentary secretary is there as a kind of coach as to how to vote. Take the coach away and let people think for themselves on committees. Take the coaches out. Take the parliamentary secretaries out of there and that would go a long way toward actually reforming Parliament.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Durham.

The Speech from the Throne is something of which we as a government can be very proud in terms of the direction in which it wants to move the country. Let me first put the speech in some perspective.

The Speech from the Throne is an opportunity for a government to set forth for Canadians a new vision and outline a new direction in which the government intends to take the country in the coming months and years. The Speech from the Throne certainly sets forth some interesting and new directions for the government and for the country.

One of the major themes that will challenge all members of the House, government and opposition, is the addressing of the democratic deficit. What does this mean? This will mean that Parliament will be both more accountable and more proactive in setting policy which responds to the needs of Canadians. Hopefully, and I underline hopefully, we can make it mean policy delivery that addresses the concerns of individual Canadians on the ground. It will take the goodwill of all parties and all sides of the House to ensure this comes about. There is an opportunity and we need to seize that opportunity. However, I worry that this opportunity could be lost by partisan politics. I will provide an example from the last Parliament.

The opposition always cried about free votes, but if we look at the record, the only place where there were free votes was on the government side because the opposition voted together to try to embarrass the government. Free votes are important, but they only mean something if everybody, as individuals, votes in a free vote and does not try to use it to embarrass the government. There is a great responsibility on us all, including us on the government side as well as members of other parties, in terms of seizing this opportunity.

New directions will challenge the status quo. This is critical if Canadians are to have confidence in the statements of the government. Making speeches, giving assurances and outlining commitments are relatively easy. The difficult part is in the implementation, in the acceptance by the opposition and by the media that to address the democratic deficit, the government and all stakeholders in the public policy process, including the bureaucracy, must be prepared to abandon conventional thinking in terms of where policy initiatives originate. We in this House have a chance to seize that opportunity.

I want to suggest the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as a place to start. Several times, in fact three times, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended that DFO at 200 Kent Street be decentralized. That would mean decentralizing some of the power. Yes, there are 1,000 people there and more in the outlying regions. That is true, but that really would mean changing the power structure itself.

I have suggested and the committee has suggested that maybe we need to decentralize that office and move at least one office west for Pacific fisheries and one office east for Atlantic fisheries. I would challenge the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to task the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to see how that kind of policy would be implemented. If the Prime Minister says that the House and committees will have more say than we already have on the record, that kind of a recommendation would be a good place to start.

The speech does much more than talk about the democratic deficit. It talks of key interests. To my constituents it is health care. On health care, the Speech from the Throne says that the government will support the health council in the development of information on which waiting time objectives can be set and by which Canadians can judge progress toward them.

The government will take the lead in establishing a strong and responsive public health system, starting with a new Canada public health agency. The government will appoint a new chief public health officer for Canada and undertake a much needed overhaul of federal health protection through a Canada health protection act. We will do that consistent with the Canada Health Act. I think that speaks to where Canadians want the government to go and we will do it.

Another key area for us in Atlantic Canada is the emphasis on regional and rural development. As a government, we have to be concerned about the future of rural Canada and give greater recognition to the reality of rural Canadians. For example, emphasizing rural issues is related to regional issues.

In Canada, only 20% of the population is rural. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 42% of the population resides in rural areas, and in Prince Edward Island, 55% are rural residents. We must ensure that the policies emerging recognize the resource based, seasonal nature of the economy in many of these communities.

While a document prepared by the Atlantic Liberal caucus, Rising Tides, was not referred to directly, I want to mention some of the key themes in the document. Perhaps more important, the Prime Minister, in his remarks just a few moments ago, did recognize the Rising Tides document and said “We must ensure that the hopes and dreams of Atlantic Canada, as reflected in the report Rising Tides, are realized.

That is the kind of message we want to see from the Prime Minister and from the Government of Canada.

Specifically, in terms of regional development, the government will assist in increasing economic activity through the use of advanced technology, pursue opportunities to develop energy resources and maximize the potential of our coastal and offshore areas. It is critical, in this pursuit, that we keep a focus on those industries which have been and remain the backbone of so many rural communities in Atlantic Canada, which are the fisheries and the agricultural industries. As such, development of resources, such as oil and gas, must always remain subject to the assurance of the sustainability of our fisheries.

On agriculture, the Speech from the Throne states clearly that the government will stand with farmers and ensure they “are not left to bear alone the consequences of circumstances beyond their control”. I applaud this statement, for while it directly refers to the current BSE crisis and the impact it has had on our domestic beef industry, the statement will be read by the farm community as a new commitment to stand with farmers who are suffering the consequences of unfair trading practices by our major competitors, such as the United States and the EU.

We as a government must stand behind our grain farmers, our supply management industry and all our agricultural industries in the face of these challenges that are before them in these times. This statement I believe will go a long way to reassuring the farm community.

Since time does not allow me to get into a lot of other points, I will close by re-emphasizing some points in the throne speech.

The throne speech does address the democratic deficit through parliamentary reform but, as I emphasized, dealing with the democratic deficit cannot be done by those on the government side alone. It requires the opposition to quit playing partisan games and get to dealing with the needs of the country and, when free votes are called, to actually have a free vote, not just on the government side.

We are ensuring that key social programs, such as health care, remain a priority. It said that in the throne speech. The government makes a further commitment to lifelong learning in the workplace. The speech talks about developing opportunities which will add greater value to our natural resources and maximize the potential of our coastal and offshore areas through the ocean action plan.

The throne speech pursues the development of new green technologies to address environmental concerns.

Finally, the throne speech provides direct support to Canada's municipalities to assist in preserving and rebuilding critical infrastructure.

It is an important document. It sets out the vision for the country. It does change the direction. We need to move forward in a more positive way for the sake of all Canadians and our nation as a whole.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member what he thinks about what has happened to Saint John, New Brunswick since the Liberals came into power 10 years ago.

We were building the ships for the navy. Now we buy new submarines, for heaven's sake, that will not even float. Over 4,000 people were working in that shipyard. Some of those men came to see me last week. They needed help to go to the United States to find work and had to leave their families back in Canada.

What does the hon. member think about his colleague who was head of the sugar caucus and we lost the sugar refinery? Another 500 workers were out of work.

What does he think about VIA Rail? When I was mayor I cut the ribbon on the brand new train station built by the federal government and it took the train away.

Saint John, New Brunswick has lost 30,000 people in 10 years. This has never happened before.

I want the hon. member to tell the House what he thinks should be done.

I heard the Prime Minister today say that he was going to do wonderful things for the Atlantic region. He was the finance minister for the last 10 years and he certainly did nothing whatsoever for the Atlantic region.

How is the hon. member going to get our 30,000 people back?

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member opposite did not hear the first part of my remarks about what a throne speech is all about. It is about looking ahead and, yes, recognizing that there are very serious difficulties at the Saint John shipyards with the loss of jobs as a result of the ridiculous subsidization by some of the other countries in the world.

The past regime of the government tried to deal with that problem. As a result, it is one of the reasons that I mentioned the report Rising Tides. The Rising Tides document recognizes the reality that there are some struggles in Atlantic Canada. It recognizes the reality of the problems of shipbuilding in Saint John. It recognizes that we need a shipbuilding policy for Canada, yes, but it also recognizes that we have to move ahead.

The document talks about using regional development to move us ahead, and the throne speech referred to that. I think that is important as we look forward to the future to put some meat on the bones and ensuring that Atlantic Canada has the same opportunities as have other Canadians in other areas of Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, speaking of Rising Tides, I do not know what happened to Catching the Wave. Before the 2000 election, the Liberals had a report called Catching the Wave. From 2000 to 2004, I think we lost the wave and now it is the Rising Tides. What is going to happen after Rising Tides?

It is nice to have all those nice words but I think Catching the Wave and Rising Tides went over the Atlantic and ended up in some other place. That is the problem we have had with this government for the last 10 years.

What happens to the farmers? The farmers are losing their jobs today. When we look at the foresters because of the softwood lumber situation, they are losing their shirts too.

We can look at the fishery and the way it was managed. Our colleague on the other side of the House will probably agree with me. He agreed that the management of the fishery was done wrongly and now today people are losing their shirts.

I have to agree with my colleague from Saint John when she talks about all the job losses. It is a shame when about three years ago one of my brothers, at 58 years of age, had to sell his house and try to find a job somewhere else. It is a shame when last year another one of my brothers at the age of 54 lost his house and had to go find work somewhere else in the country. That is what happens in Atlantic Canada.

Does Catching the Wave or Rising Tides mean that those people will be able to come back home? Is that what the member means? It is not enough to just blow air, which is all we have been getting for the last 10 years.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will clarify a couple of points for the hon. member. This shows how the government, which is the Liberal Party, builds on what it has done before.

In 1995 we dealt with the deficit, which is why we were able to do some of the things since then that we have been able to do. In 1997 a group of us from Atlantic Canada got together to talk about how to put Atlantic Canada in a position where we would be taking a long term approach. We wanted to establish a plan where in 15 years Atlantic Canada would at least be equivalent to the rest of the country and it would not have to depend on EI and those kinds of programs. We wanted Atlantic Canadians to be able to seize their economic opportunities.

The first document we worked on was Catching the Wave. We built on that with Rising Tides. As a result, we can look at the increased R and D in the area: $500 million out of the Atlantic investment partnership that has come into Atlantic Canada as a result of our work as an Atlantic caucus.

The throne speech talks about building further on that through regional development programming, lifelong learning, giving greater opportunities to our students, assisting the agriculture and fisheries industry. That is vision and leadership. That is what we have in this Prime Minister and on this side of the House.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always delighted to share my time with the member for Malpeque who has great insight into the economy and the people of Atlantic Canada.

The people of Durham in my riding in southern Ontario are quite pleased with this throne speech. This is very much an innovative document that addresses change, and I do not say change just for change sake. The fact of the matter is our country is changing in some very fundamental ways. We have the demographics of the aging baby boomers and the fact that people are emulating more toward urban centres. This is causing a great deal of strain on municipalities.

I have three municipalities in my riding. Officials are constantly talking to me about the fact that the province has downloaded so much responsibility on them and yet have given them no resources. In some ways that is an outgrowth of our taxation system. I hope we can talk about how to finance municipalities more effectively and more efficiently. I hope we also can spend some time talking about our taxation system. Taxing people on their property values to support things like schools is in some ways very counterproductive. Older people living in their homes are often forced to leave them because the fair market value assessment and taxation on that is out of whack with their fixed incomes.

I was at a meeting last week with the mayor of one municipality who told me that the municipality could not carry on with the services it was expected to provide with the existing cash flow from the province. There is a recognition that the federal government must try to address this kind of issue in our communities.

People might not understand what is called the mush sector of taxation for the GST. Unlike ourselves who have to pay 7% tax, municipalities only pay 4%. They already have a rebate on the purchases they make for their operations, whether they be purchases of equipment or supplies. Municipalities have to pay a certain amount of GST, and that is currently 4%.

The throne speech talks about relinquishing that 4%. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister stood up earlier today and talked about the fact that this already had been rebated to municipalities.The throne speech is better than a budget speech in some ways because the government has actually started to act on it. Money will be flowing into our municipalities within the month. The municipalities of Durham are thankful that the federal government has recognized this. That it is very important.

We can sit down and argue with the provinces and have long protracted debates, but people think a very sinister part of our governmental system is that we never deal with these things. There is some concrete proof that this issue is being dealt with almost immediately.

I previously talked about demographics, and demographics are important to Durham. The Ontario Institute of Technology, which is Ontario's newest university, is in my riding. It is the only university that is expanding right now in the province of Ontario. Some debate is going on in the provincial legislature about that. Be that as it may, this is a great opportunity for the nucleus of about two million people who surround the Durham area. This area is related to General Motors and other kinds of manufacturing concerns, but there is a recognition that things are changing. There is a recognition that we have to get on with the new technologies that are important to Canada and that will make us a competitive country in the 21st century.

I was happy to see the document dealt with things like student loans. There is nothing else that bothers parents more today than understanding the importance of a knowledge based economy, but knowing that they cannot afford that post-secondary education for Sally or Sam. Even if Sally or Sam gets that education, they come out with such high debt, which can frustrate them in starting their career paths.

The question is how much are students willing to invest in their own knowledge base. More important, we as a nation have to recognize that our future depends on having a highly skilled labour force and a good knowledge based economy because clearly we are not going to compete with countries that have a huge labour base with a low knowledge based economy. Therefore, our role is to promote a more knowledge based economy.

The document talks about increasing the eligibility for student loans. There is recognition that a computer is a necessary piece of equipment. When I went to school, a pencil, a pen and maybe a ruler were necessary pieces of equipment. Today, it is necessary to have a computer. Therefore, the student loan application process will be expanded to include computers as an expenditure. That is very forward thinking. We need some similar reform in our taxation system to realize that computers turn over in one or two years rather than being amortized for depreciation purposes, sometimes indefinitely. These are some other things that we could talk about on another day.

The Speech from the Throne also addresses the issue that even with the student loan program there are people in low income families who cannot make it. They cannot pay those high tuition fees. That is not right. One thing a nation owes to its people is to educate them, to keep them well and in good health. We owe our people a good education, to give them the qualities and skills to go forward in the future. That should apply to everybody, whether they are wealthy or poor. They should have those opportunities.

The Speech from the Throne impressed the fact that within the first year a grant would be given to provide for tuition assistance directly related to tuition. As we know, education comes under provincial jurisdiction. The federal government is always trying to find ways to help those students without directly confronting provincial administrations. I think this recognizes that we have to do these things. Another aspect of the whole intent of the throne speech is to look for a new era of cooperation with the provinces.

The same thing really holds true of health care. We talked about reducing waiting lists. I think most of us know that those things are within the jurisdiction of the provinces well.

When I have meetings with my constituents, they do not care whether it is the federal government or the provinces that are responsible. They want somebody in an elected position to come forward and solve these problems. They know that their Aunt Martha has been waiting three or four months for open heart surgery, and that is not right. They are concerned about that. They want the federal government to take some leadership in this role.

It is clear that we have to get the consent and cooperation of the provinces to proceed on those issues. I am hopeful we will have an era of new cooperation rather than the confrontation we have had in the past. It seems that is happening, and I very much look forward to the new Prime Minister's objectives of attaining that.

Finally, what really has impressed me about the throne speech is it is a well knit document. I talked about the importance of a knowledge based economy. It would appear to me that it has a specific focus on research and development. It is a realization that Canada cannot be excellent in all fields of endeavour. In fact it is to find the fields of endeavour that Canada should pursue.

The throne speech talks about health sciences, biotechnology, environmental sciences and nanotechnologies, which is nuclear research. My riding also includes the newest nuclear reactor in Canada, the Darlington nuclear reactor. We are very concerned that this is another opportunity for the people of Durham to experience this new agenda of research. Canadians like to be all things to all people, but I think there is a recognition that we need to have a better focus.

There has been a lot of talk about our relationship with the United States. However, the world is changing rapidly in front of us, and the name China comes up constantly as an ultimate trading partner, as a great nation with which we have to get involved. I know these kinds of technology are very important to the developing area of China and Southeast Asia.

I can see all these issues coming together in a very specific agenda. It is a very refreshing agenda, and I look forward to supporting the government as we move this through the House.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned cooperation a great deal. I am old enough and have been around long enough to see a great deal of that cooperation disappear.

In the 1930s we created the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act which assisted farmers to build dugouts and dams. They would pay a portion to collect that valuable water for farming and livestock. There is now a waiting list of 200. All those farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, whose lands have dried up, are looking now at huge amounts of snow. While they are grateful for it, they want the runoff, but no dams and dugouts have been built for years.

Is that the kind of cooperation western farmers can expect from a government, a government that put only three lines for farming in the entire budget? The government has once again ignored the farmers of western Canada. I for one will not sit idly by and listen to any bragging about federal-provincial cooperation, because it has disappeared.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I actually farmed for eight years. I understand a little about the problems of farmers and I understand the program about which he is talking. I believe it was brought in by Alvin Hamilton, the minister of agriculture at the time. These were actually wonderful projects throughout the western provinces.

I am not even going to pretend to understand the argument about why these things have contracted. The reality is this is a big country and we have limited resources. We are talking about the past and I hope we can focus on a new era of cooperation.

However, the early 1990s was a very difficult time in government, whether it was federal government, the province of Saskatchewan or others. I can well remember the province of Saskatchewan being close to receivership. The reality is we have limited resources. Some of those resources had to change, and no question some people were hurt by it. Things they had before were pulled away from them.

We have all suffered to some extent, but that suffering is behind us. We should look at a new agenda. Wonderful things are happening in Saskatoon in biotechnology. These are things in which we are interested in investing. These are a part of Canada and it is a new era of cooperation in which this government will be very much a part.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one interesting part of the Speech from the Throne and one I often hear from Canadians is the question of accountability and integrity. The Prime Minister has spoken a great deal about those, everything from ethics to a number of different initiatives that he feels will improve the Canadian belief in democracy and ensure that Canadians are re-engaged.

However, one thing really troubles me, and it really goes to the heart of democracy. The Speech from the Throne did not mention the debate about how we spend our resources. Whether one is a resident, a business or a group of citizens who contribute, we have to decide where we want to put our resources. As in our homes or businesses, we know we have a budget and we know we have choices and priorities.

What we continually see from the government is the mismanagement and an attempt at deception to shortchange Canadians from that debate by having surpluses emerge at the last moment.

We know what has been happening over the last couple of weeks. We have been hearing there is not enough money, that there is just over $2 billion. Then we hear that within the next couple of days we might actually find some more billions. This is from the same government which has been here for 10 years. All of a sudden it is going to come up with billions of dollars without any type of due process that allows Canadians to debate where those billions should go.

That deception should have ended with the throne speech. There should have been some accountable practices to say that this nation has a certain amount of resources. Let us choose together and debate in earnest how we want to spend our money.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact that we have had successive elections in this country and that Canadians have continued to elect our party tells me that they have made very serious choices about the results of how we have spent or not spent money.

The leader of the member's party, in a dissertation I read today, talks about how we should never reduce the deficit, that if we have a surplus we should spend it. This is absolutely irresponsible. This is the kind of irresponsible spending philosophy that the New Democratic Party has had since its inception. It is the very kind of thing that the people of Canada do not want today.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in today's debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Canadians should be suspicious of this government and of the Prime Minister. They should know that this Speech from the Throne is nothing more than a new Liberal red book. It is yet another misleading document.

This opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne is indeed a pleasure. It is, however, challenging when one looks at the litany of promises that have been made over the years by not only the Prime Minister himself but by his own government.

It was more than a little ironic that it did arrive on the Canadian political scene on Groundhog Day. It is very reminiscent of that Bill Murray movie where we kept seeing the same thing happen time and time again. The mythology that surrounds Groundhog Day itself is where the little animal comes out of its hole and looks for some sign of what is going to happen. Yet, as we know, in the case of Shubenacadie Sam and Wiarton Willie this year, like the throne speech, Canadians saw nothing. They saw lots of promise and lots of indication that there would be something substantial there, but nothing at all revealed.

Canadians need to question the intention of the Prime Minister. Was it really to set out a vision of a bold, new plan for the country or was it really just to bait them? Was it really simply to set out what this election plan might be all about and what was going to be promised, as we have seen promised now in three successive elections of what the Liberal government would do? What Canadians need to do most of all is connect those previous promises with the reality of what happened during this 10 years.

Then they have to look a little further as to who was the centrepiece, who was the number two minister in that government, the minister of finance, while those promises were being made.

I need not go into great detail about the red-faced red book reversals that we have seen on GST, free trade and the exorbitant promises that were made about what we would do or what we would see in terms of funding for our Canadian military. All of that is awash.

The Hansard s of this place are littered with those particular promises that were made and subsequently broken. The work of this government is there. The record has been laid bare before Canadians when one starts to scratch a bit below the surface of much of the rhetoric, the pontification, and pompous promises that were made in yesterday's throne speech.

The Prime Minister himself has spent much of his energies and much of his political career, often to the detriment of his own colleagues, advancing his own cause. The direction that the Prime Minister is about to embark on right now is about as predictable as perhaps some of the financial logs of his steamships.

What wasn't included in the throne speech is almost as telling as what was included. Nowhere did we see any mention whatsoever of the fisheries and the plight of fishers in this country today on all coasts and all bodies of water in between. There is nothing of the role of Canada's future participation, if there will be participation, in the missile defence program. There is no real commitment to clean up some of the indiscretions and massive waste of taxpayers' money that we saw under his guidance as finance minister.

There is no contrition or humility whatsoever about his own role in the record of the Liberal government and in all those offences. He was there. He was a part of those decisions sitting at the cabinet table. Some of those decisions, we now know, impacted directly on business holdings that he has in Canada.

The complete absence in the throne speech of the fishery is one of the most glaring omissions and is most offensive. The issue is not only of importance to the coastal communities on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, but it remains a huge priority for all Canadians. Every body of water, every stream, and every lake in this entire nation is affected by the lack of insight, the lack of foresight and the lack of having a fisheries plan.

Fishing communities throughout the country are in dire straits because of the mismanagement of the Liberal government in the last 10 years. The Prime Minister has forgotten that fisheries are not limited to any one region. Clearly, this is something that is impacting the resource sector across the country, as we have seen with agriculture, and our mining and forestry industry. These are the areas of the economy that most affect rural Canada.

While there was much emphasis placed on a new deal for cities, which I would suggest is really coming out of a decade of a raw deal for cities, there was very little mention of a strategy, an approach, or a compassionate word to encourage our rural communities.

Clearly, the Prime Minister's own offshore investments in shipping also betray the fact that there have been a lot of environmental violations by his own company. In fact, one of the most recent criminal prosecutions involved a CSL ship off the coast of Atlantic Canada.

In light of that, I would suggest to look a little deeper and ask the question, why should Canadians accept the word of the Prime Minister now? Why trust him this time? There has been a long record of indiscretions, words given, and promises made and little delivered.

In light of recent events, I also found it startling that there was no mention whatsoever of civil liberties. The reference comes in the wake of what surely has to be of great concern to Canadians today in the home invasion of a reporter here in Ottawa as a result of an article written last November. Yet there was this lengthy lag time before any action was taken whatsoever, and no connection as yet that reflects on this fear of there being a national security breach. I find that most disturbing.

The government has really relegated to the backbenches of the speech itself any connection to what I would consider to be one of the most serious violations of the freedom of the press in this country's history.

At a time when terrorism certainly remains a world threat, the government is deliberately diverting attention away from its plan on how it will co-operate with international efforts, North American efforts, to secure our borders and coastal communities. This is clearly a sleight of hand.

We need to remember that it was this government that disbanded the ports police. In fact, it put the safety of all Canadians at risk. We are a coastal country. The government disbanded the ports police, a specialized police force that was tasked specifically with the training, the expansive knowledge and authority to enforce the Criminal Code and the Customs and Immigrations Act, and to stand guard on our Canadian coastal waters.

This is underscored as well by the declining Canadian navy, the lack of ability we have now to patrol our waters. Dare I mention the cancellation of the Sea King helicopter program, which has again left, not only the coastal communities, but the country itself at risk in terms of not solely the protection of our citizens, but those in the waters off the coast of Canada and the perils that can clearly result from the challenges that lie on the open waters.

There was reference made already today in the throne speech by my colleague from Saint John and the deputy leader of the Conservative Party about the submarines and the money that will be entailed in upgrading these submarines to make them operational. There was the deception in initially saying what great savings and great benefit would come to Canada with the purchase of these submarines, knowing that the Australians and other countries had looked at these submarines.

The British themselves found them wanting. Why could we not, as has been suggested, have built those submarines in Saint John? Why could we not, as part of a national shipbuilding program, have embarked upon a plan that would have employed Canadians and used Canadian technology as we have seen in the past, when a Conservative government granted those programs to Saint John to build navy frigates? We were to see the component parts built in Langley and Abbotsford for helicopters that were to be purchased, the EH-101, which, if we take the partisanship and the political football away from the Liberal government, no doubt will be purchased. Those were the best for the money and the best purchase. The long term benefits of development, research and technology was to be done right here in Canada.

It is obvious that much of what has happened under this particular finance minister, now Prime Minister of the government, is being whitewashed. It is being put aside.

The Liberals are trying to purge the memories of Canadians of the record of failing to deliver on what was promised in the past. Budget cuts and the restricted mandate that have been given to some of our policing forces in the country today have also jeopardized our national security.

Canadians are left to wonder why they should accept the man now responsible for the delivery of Canada's first throne speech from this supposedly new government that contained no less than 30 odd references to new. Why would they accept this as anything more than a pre-election, pre-planned bag of tricks and bag of promises once again?

For 10 years the current Prime Minister has held the most powerful and influential portfolio in the government. He was called upon to serve the country in a manner fitting to this great nation and to use sound fiscal policy that would benefit Canadians.

Yet when one examines some of those decisions and some of that use of money that I have referenced already, such as the cancellation of the helicopter programs, I cannot rise in this chamber and talk about fiscal management without referencing the massive distortion of the truth as well as the waste of money surrounding the long gun registration. There has been an outcry from Canadians, from the police and from those individuals who recognize the one simple truth: that no matter how much money and resources and energy are put into this boondoggle, criminals are not going to register their guns. It is simply not going to happen.

And so it is perpetuated, just as we have seen with the helicopters. It is a simultaneous face-saving and rear-end covering exercise that is going on in this country. The decisions that have been made are highly questionable. When one puts that in the context of the pronouncements made yesterday in the throne speech, one really has to wonder why Canadians would accept the word of this Prime Minister and this government.

In addition to the loss of life and the loss of money that have resulted from some of these decisions, after 10 years of being in government the Prime Minister is now asking people to simply take him at his word. The previous decisions that he made--and that his government made--as part of the caucus and the cabinet have left another sector of the country reeling. I am referring here, of course, to students in this country. Although there was great pomp and ceremony surrounding the commitment to students, one again has to look at the actual facts here. For many students, student debt now is equivalent to a mortgage, the difference being that after graduation they have no house, not to mention a car to get to work if they can find a job.

At St. FX University, which was recognized as the number one undergraduate university in the country, I deal regularly with students. I spoke as recently as two days ago with a father whose daughter has now embarked on another program. She is being chased by debt collectors because of missing a single payment on her student debt, which was turned over to a collection agency. This is the reality of what is happening to many students.

Many students are faced with the fact that they have to leave the country in order to get employment in their chosen field. Almost the entire graduating class of nurses in some undergraduate programs such as St. FX's is leaving the country to find work, yet there is a shortage of nurses in the country. It is perverse when we look at the facts and the promises and the failure to deliver.

Opposition members of Parliament in both the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance Party have put forward previous attempts to address the situation of student debt. The current Prime Minister in his previous incarnation voted against the ability of students to write off some of that student debt when they stayed and paid taxes in this country. Now, while he waxes eloquent in platitudes such as “investing in people...Canada's most important economic investment”, we see the facts unfolding. Students are still suffering, feeling the effects of crushing accumulated student debt.

I also could not help but laugh when I saw the reference that children are in fact Canada's future. What a vacuous, inane statement to put in the throne speech. If that is the case, why have we seen children in this country still living in abject poverty? Why have we seen children who are in school still unable to access things like the breakfast program that is provided by the province of New Brunswick?

All of this leads to some of the bigger economic decisions about transfer payments. While much was made of the promised and re-promised $2 billion that was going to be allotted to the provincial governments to divvy up for health care, what is not told and is not spoken about is the clawback in transfer payments. The net loss to most provinces will actually leave them with a lower operating budget for the coming fiscal year.

Again health care, education and infrastructure take the hit while the government continues to laud its Prime Minister for such sound fiscal management for the country and while the downloading and the trickle-down effect continues, an effect that is felt not only by the provinces and municipalities but clearly by the individuals who should be in receipt of programs and infrastructure that meet their needs and allow them to prosper, get to work and do the important things that do generate growth in the country's economy.

The stories I hear from my own riding on these big issues are echoed across the country. While not every specific example in different communities is the same, the plot is the same. The students, the children, the people of this country, are burdened with much of the debt we see in Canada today.

There have been numerous studies done by very eminent individuals and those with economic prowess and know-how, like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. They have pointed out that Canadian productivity continues to lag behind that of the United States by about 16% and that our own standard of living in Canada is 15% lower than that of our North American counterparts in the United States. Canada's tax system remains significantly less competitive than that of the Americans. That study went on to talk about how the government has now abandoned all pretence of spending discipline and about how fiscal program spending has jumped by more than 30% in the past four fiscal years, part of which was shepherded through Parliament by the current Prime Minister.

The last budget that we saw in this country, last February, launched a new scattergun of spending commitments. The Prime Minister at that time, coupled with the able assistance of the recently retired John Manley, talked about the theme of getting back to providing Canadians with more access to their own money. What it really should have been deemed as was a “return to spender” approach.

Now, I would suggest, we are seeing much of the same approach outlined in this throne speech, the difference being that there will be no follow-up. There will be no hard cash. This is very much a “cheque is in the mail” type of approach, but there is one step that has to happen first. The Liberal government has to be re-elected, of course, and that is where this official opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada, intends to be very diligent in proposing to the country alternatives that make good sense, alternatives that will affect people's backyards and back pockets, giving them access to their own hard-earned money to make those spending decisions for themselves. I know it is an often repeated and trite truism, but I dare say that Canadians know how to spend their money better than the government does, and they will generate the wealth. They will generate the activity and the productivity in their communities, in the cities, towns and small rural areas throughout Canada.

Here is where the answer lies when it comes to the issue of democratic deficit. Again I would suggest, not to sound too flippant, that there is really a credibility deficit in hearing the Prime Minister talk about how he is going to rejuvenate and renew the democracy of this place and throughout this country. This is a Prime Minister who was part of the government that used closure on debate in the chamber of the House of Commons more than 80 times, going far beyond any previous administration. This is a Prime Minister who as finance minister himself invoked the use of closure no less than 13 times.

We know, as I referenced already, that he had his hand all over the initial 1993 red book, but let us look a little deeper at his own record. He stood up and opposed numerous attempts, including an attempt by this opposition party, to have an independent ethics counsellor reporting directly to members of Parliament. The words were taken directly from the 1993 red book. Those words were served up in such a way that there was no denying them and no room for anyone to suggest that this was simply an attempt by the opposition to put one over on the government. These were simply words offered back, saying, “Agree to your own commitment. Embrace what you promised to do over 10 years ago”. The Prime Minister voted against it.

There is ample factual evidence to suggest that there is no credibility whatsoever when we hear about empowering the opposition--

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

What about Orchard?

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

I hear some chirping coming from a potato eater from the other side. I remember this same member standing up as the former solicitor general and telling Canadians that they did not provide any evidence to the Americans on the Arar case. We know that to be a complete whopper. Actually that has been proven to be completely untrue, so I take no lessons on credibility from the member opposite.

Time and time again we have seen the bait go out. It is the old bait and switch: “Here is what we are offering today. Elect us and we will do whatever we please”. I think that Canadians' patience is waning. They have seen this ruse perpetrated on them now for over a decade. We have seen the evolution of a parliamentarian in the Prime Minister himself, who promised on so many occasions that he was going to do such grandiose things as get rid of the GST. In fact, I have a quote here from an article penned just over a year ago that talks about this pre-election prime minister, this pre-election member of Parliament, who is now in a position to actually do something, to actually implement the changes he talked about before he was empowered and anointed.

Before he even became a member of the government, in 1990 during his leadership bid, he promised, “I think (the GST) is an incredibly stupid, inept tax. I would promise to get rid of it. In the first six months of a Liberal government, I'd abolish the damn thing”. Those were his words. The member for LaSalle—Émard, the current Prime Minister, said those words.

The Prime Minister has informed us time and time again of his 101 priorities. He has talked about how his government is going to implement this visionary, forward looking agenda for the country and yet there is little evidence to back up that suggestion. Here is what this is really about. I refer back to the groundhog theme. What we Canadians are going to see will be like those groundhogs scurrying out of their holes. They will come out and Canadians will get six more weeks of electioneering, six more weeks of vacuous promises that mean nothing and are not worth the paper they are written on. We are going to see very little except an attempt, as we have seen before, to delay, to deny, to distract and to draw Canadians' attention away from the fact that this Prime Minister has been there for 10 years, has a lot of ink on his hands, has a lot to answer for and really is interested in nothing more than perpetuating power for him and his Liberal government.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

1:45 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to speak to my friend from Antigonish, who has just made a statement with respect to the Speech from the Throne. I am a little amazed that he would speak in those terms inasmuch as he is from Atlantic Canada. If in fact there were to be that kind of criticism on the Speech from the Throne, one would think that perhaps he was from some other section of Canada inasmuch as the Prime Minister, just a few short hours ago, mentioned Atlantic Canada in three specific areas with what he proposed to do with this government and how it would assist Atlantic Canada.

Let me be more specific and let me ask my friend from Antigonish what he would prefer us to do today. He said there were just promises, no commitments. Let me ask about the commitment that was made just an hour or so ago in this House: that as of yesterday every community in this country is going to take a benefit from not having to pay the GST. That happened yesterday. Every community in this country, as of now, is no longer required to pay GST.

My friend over here, also from Atlantic Canada, has indicated that perhaps the colleague sitting next to the member would not want Saint John to be a recipient of that money that is going into her treasury in the very city of which she used to be mayor. How about an area like Halifax, which is an immediate recipient of additional funds that it did not have on January 31? This is a firm commitment of the government to assist communities in this country and everyone should be absolutely totally onside and completely proud of that single move.

We have also made a commitment to reduce lines and for diagnostic care in health care. It goes without saying that this is part of the commission, that this is part of our undertaking. That is something we will do.

We have also said in the Speech from the Throne that we protect rights. We have appointed a royal commission to protect the rights of the individuals in this country.

With respect to the democratic deficit, tomorrow members will see that our colleague from Sarnia will make some statements within this House as to how we will be addressing the democratic deficit.

So let me say to my friends across, particularly those from Atlantic Canada, “Go back home this weekend and tell your mayors and your reeves and your citizens that you do not want the GST rebate”.