House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague on the Liberal benches and I want to say that I am glad we were able to cooperate and come up with this better balanced budget.

I do take a little bit of umbrage with the member's comments, as well as those made previously by the parliamentary secretary, that these were items that were there and the Liberals are building on them. In fact, in terms of the February budget, there was nothing for education or for housing. We have been able to move the agenda and shift the government toward the priorities of Canadians.

On the question of corporate tax cuts, I think it is very important to remind the member that we are not talking about all tax cuts. We are not talking about the NDP's position on tax cuts. I can get into a long debate about that any time the hon. member wants. We are talking about this government's decision to suddenly insert into the February budget a $4.6 billion cost by reducing the corporate tax rate despite the Prime Minister saying in the last election that there would be no new tax cuts until programs had been restored and investments were made in key areas.

All we have done is make the Prime Minister keep his word. We have tried to keep the Liberals honest. We are fulfilling the very commitments that Canadians heard in the last election. We look forward to continuing to have this cooperation.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, it has been fascinating to listen to some of the comments, questions and answers, especially from the Conservatives opposite when they talked about their leader's flip-flop on this budget. What was very interesting was their talk about the $5 billion for day care, when they said that the CAW predicted it would be $6 billion and then said that the Liberals are wrong by 10 times our projection, or in other words, $5 billion is really going to cost $6 billion and we are 10 times out. And with that kind of math, people expect that party to run the government? It would be very interesting.

I want to pick up in my speech on where the parliamentary secretary started to set the groundwork for this budget, where it is coming in and why we are able to make this type of investment in Canadians, in their education, health care and environment, in agriculture, in equalization and in all the areas where we are able to invest. Of course that is because of the tremendous work we have done over the years to cut down the very large deficit we had, which has put us in the situation where we can make these types of investments.

That confidence of the financial sectors in Canada continues today. I want to quote from today's London Free Press . Sherry Cooper, chief economist for BMO Nesbitt Burns, is one of the key economists in Canada and said today:

--Canada has no recession in sight over the next few years and will be a growth leader among Group of Seven countries.

And next year, Canada will lead the pack, tied for first place with the United States, Cooper said.

"Unlike the U.S., Canada has not had an economic recession in 14 years and no recession is in sight for the remainder of the decade," Cooper said.

Next year, Canada will be neck-and-neck with the U.S. with a three-per-cent growth pace....

The Quebec economy is expected to grow at annual rates of 2.6 per cent this year and 2.9 per cent in 2006....

Growth in the developing world will provide strong support for commodity prices, driven by China's huge demand for pulp, cement, coal, iron ore, steel and aluminum.

"This will translate into higher prices. Quebec and Canada's top export to China is pulp--and prices there are likely to edge upward from already high levels," Cooper told Montreal-area business officials.

Cooper noted Canada will be the only country among the G7 industrial powers--which include the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Italy--to have current account and budget surpluses in the coming years.

This management of the economy is why it gives me great pride today to be able to express support for this budget that builds so strongly on supporting the priorities of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

In fact, I have been greatly anticipating today's debate, because I believe it will bring to light the shocking degree to which the priorities of the official opposition are out of step with those of Canadians.

After all, we are talking today about measures that reinforce and complement a budget that Canadians want to see passed as soon as possible.

They want to see it passed because it delivers on their priorities without compromising the extraordinary fiscal progress that has underpinned Canada's remarkable economic turnaround. They want it passed because it will create wealth, expand economic opportunities and strengthen our social foundations so that Canadians can share in the promise of our society. They want it passed because they are justifiably baffled by the daily dithering and flip-flopping as to where the official opposition actually stands with respect to this budget.

So without further ado, I would like to proceed with today's debate in the hope that the members of the official opposition will gain some insight into the importance of the issues at hand and maybe even come to some sort of conclusion they would be willing to share with the Canadian public about whether or not they support the measures in question.

As my colleagues have so eloquently explained, this bill provides increased support for a number of measures for which there is a great deal of public support, such as affordable housing construction and post-secondary education. However, I would like to dedicate my time today specifically to the provisions of this bill that provide for environmental initiatives such as public transit and the creation of a low income housing energy retrofit program.

As hon. members are no doubt aware, budget 2005 confirmed our commitment to transfer $5 billion to cities and communities. The bill before us today would provide $900 million for environmental initiatives, the bulk of which will be aimed at public transit in our cities and communities. It is money that can be used to invest in public transit systems that reduce pollution and gridlock and, in doing so, will help achieve our Kyoto targets and reduce the health care costs associated with pollution.

As I just mentioned, the bill would also dedicate a portion of the funding to support a new low income housing energy retrofit program that will benefit low income families and communities in a number of ways. First, these retrofits will greatly reduce the heating fuel requirements for thousands of low income Canadians across Canada. In doing so, it will leave these families with more disposable income that can be dedicated to other priorities.

At the same time, these retrofits will reduce emissions at the community level, again helping us reach our Kyoto targets and reducing the health costs associated with air pollution.

I know the Leader of the Opposition has characterized the bill as disgraceful, at least the week after he said that he was supporting it, so he clearly has not changed his mind about the importance of increased funding for the important public services provided by municipalities.

Where do other Canadians stand on this issue? Unlike the official opposition, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was unequivocal in its analysis. It said:

This money will go directly toward meeting the needs of communities: fixing our streets and bridges, upgrading water treatment plants, improving and expanding public transit, and providing much needed services to people. We applaud the Government for recognizing the challenges Canadian cities and communities face and for taking action to help us meet these challenges.

Canadians and their representatives in the government understand first and foremost that their quality of life is not a means to an end. It is an end in itself. Canadians also understand very clearly that the bill represents an opportunity to improve our quality of life that cannot and must not be passed by.

Because the bill is a bill that addresses some of the highest priorities of Canadians, priorities like affordable housing, post-secondary education, the environment and foreign aid, make no mistake that these are the priorities of Canadians. I therefore urge hon. members to vote in favour of the bill.

I would like to talk about a number of other areas related to the environment that we have been promoting because it has not been talked about in great detail in the debate and it certainly is one of the priorities for Canadians.

We have put forward innovative initiatives in cooperation with business, the environment sector and individual Canadians to deal with the critical challenges facing us related to greenhouse gases, smog and the environment. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in my riding in the north where we see dramatic effects already of greenhouse gases and global warming.

I was at a conference speaking to some of the many initiatives that Canada has already taken. We had already committed $3.5 billion to global warming and the environment before the budget was introduced. The member who spoke before me suggested that it was still a philosophy. I had to set him right and I invited him to come to the northern part of Canada where it has a much greater and quicker effect so that he could see where the ice roads were melting at the detriment of our economy. That is the only way to get major shipments into many areas of the north. He will see where ice bridges are coming in much later and leaving much earlier. He will see where some of our first nation administration buildings were collapsing or shifting and had to be rebuilt or moved because of the melting of the permafrost. He will see the changes in our species and the critical effects on species that some northerners who still live a traditional lifestyle depend on.

That is why it was so important in the budget and through other mechanisms to support the environment. We put forth a climate fund. The climate fund is not just a direction that we should do this, this and this. It is not a rules based, punitive type of action. It is a fund where people and organizations can come forward with creative solutions.

Many Canadian environmental organizations and businesses have been very creative and they came forward with ways to save energy and thus reduce greenhouse gases. Energy consumption, of course, is the biggest producer of greenhouse gases. This is very innovative approach and will be a key part of our plan.

Another section of the plan is the partnership fund. Some of the provinces have some very innovative ideas and they want to work in partnership with us. Under the partnership fund the provinces and the territories can come together with us and move forward on some mega projects that will help the environment.

Another major section of this strategy is the auto emissions agreement, a tremendous agreement that we spent years negotiating with the auto industry. California, which is the only other area in the world that has done anything major, its auto emissions strategy is now up for possible court challenges and may never come fully into play. However, in our system, because it is voluntary and has been agreed to, it will be a major assistance to reducing smog, increasing the health of Canadians, reducing greenhouse gases and improving our climate.

Because of the government's, and in particular the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment, very effective negotiations and partnership with industry, we have the large emitters regulations. As members know, the large final emitters produce the biggest chunk of greenhouse gases in Canada and the attendant smog that has an effect on the health of Canadians.

We have worked for years to understand them individually and to come up with the types of regulations that will not harm them but will, because of the increased energy efficiency, allow them, as some of them have already done, to become more effective and more productive. Some would have suggested, although not those in the official opposition, that we just have one size fits all. However, economically, that could force some of those companies out of business because some have different processes, different indices and different ways of creating greenhouse gases, some which can be controlled. That is why this is a very sophisticated, realistic and competitive part of our plan.

Another part of our plan, which, I have to admit, we have done a terrible job in this House of promoting, is the many energy efficiency programs that we already have in place.

We have some of the leading scientists in the world related to different types of renewable energies and reducing energy efficiencies to our housing programs, to solar energy, to biodiesel, to ethanol and to wind energy. All these programs, including part of our $3.5 billion in investments, are in place and are moving along. They are being taken up at a faster rate by Canadians. They have been very successful and have removed thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas, even before this budget, which of course adds some huge increase and promotion to our effort.

Over and above all those existing programs, we are adding new renewable energy programs to enhance other renewable energies. As members know, we had already increased by four times our wind energy subsidy to enhance that but now we are also going to invest in other renewable energies in this new program.

Another area that we are looking at is Canadian carbon sinks. This is another opportunity waiting to happen, an opportunity to help Canada do its part in its leadership role. We will be having the world meeting in Montreal shortly. To increase that leadership role, there is potential with these carbon sinks.

Whether it is in agriculture and the methods of agriculture that will leave greenhouse gasses in the earth for a longer time just by improving our processes or whether it is in forestry where there is lots of innovative research, we have some of the leading researchers. Canadian government scientists are some of the leading scientists in the world and are respected around the world for some of the work they are doing in how to manage the forests and improve them as greenhouse gas sequestration.

How long can we manage the forests? How long can we keep the carbon there and how long can the forests provide economies for rural Canadians living near those areas?

A majority of first nations people live near the boreal forest. They can play an important part in managing that to improve their economies. Through the economic opportunities available through the sequestration of greenhouse gases, they can have revenues in times when it is hard to have revenues, especially in the very far north where the forests, on their own and unmanaged, are not overly productive.

We could look at ways of preserving forests and providing compensation to capture greenhouse gases as opposed to totally eliminating the forests, which sometimes takes hundreds of years to grow the farther north we go, and would not be economic from that perspective.

Another very dramatic contribution that we are making is to cut our emissions by one-third. For the Government of Canada to make a commitment like that to limit our greenhouse gases by one-third of what we now produce is a major commitment. Of course we cannot expect others to follow if we do not lead. We are asking far more of ourselves than of anyone else in the Kyoto plan.

The fact that we are asking of ourselves and of Canadians through the one tonne challenge is the reason we will have the moral authority to ask the rest of the world, the developing countries that have not yet gained as much from greenhouse gas emissions, such as China and India, to make huge contributions to them as developing countries in the first round. When we show our leadership then we will have the moral authority to ask them to come in on the second round with the major contributions that they can make.

It is not that we are not helping them already, as I am sure a few members of the House know. We are already dealing in clean coal technologies, another one of the areas in which we are performing a leadership function.

By helping China, which burns incredible amounts of coal and the greenhouse gases negatively affect Canadians, as they do everyone else in the world, with clean coal technologies to reduce it greenhouse gas reduction, helps us, and there is a lot more potential for that in the future.

With the investment in coal scrubbing, we can take out all the nitrous oxides, the sulphur dioxide and the mercury and we can sequester carbon dioxide, another project in which we are involved.

Another area where we have major investments of over $10 million is the sequestration of CO

2

in mining properties in Alberta where we produce oil and gas. I am sure some members of the opposition from that area of the country would be quite interested in these very successful projects that are providing leadership in the world. We take carbon dioxide and store it underground. It also helps the petroleum industry to extract more oil and gas from those areas.

In conclusion, over and above probably the best received budget in Canadian history, starting of course with the approval of the leader of the official opposition, I am also proud of the amendments we have made because they are all areas that are important to us.

Everyone will agree that we have invested in foreign aid, housing, education, environment and public transit in the past. In a minority government it is good that we have come to an agreement to accelerate these contributions, which are important to Canadians and important to us, a bit faster than we had expected. This was the task put upon us by the people of Canada when they asked us to join with at least one other party in putting together a budget. I am very proud to support the budget that is so well received in the public.

I call upon all the parties in the House to join me in supporting economic development, the poor, education, health care, foreign aid, and the cities of Canada and municipal infrastructure that will make Canada even more the best country in the world in which to live.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I realize my colleague from Wild Rose has an excellent question and I will defer to him.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had a difficult time following the last speech. There was one thing I did catch. It was consistent with the throne speech, very consistent with the budget speech and now consistent once again. The word “agriculture” was used for about one-tenth of a second or so. It was slightly mentioned.

This wonderful new budget agreement that the government has come into with the leadership of the NDP talks about a lot of wonderful things, but agriculture is not mentioned once again. It is the same old story, agriculture is never mentioned and never solved.

I have heard that $6 billion has gone to the farmers. I have news for those members. The money has not gone to the farmers. That is all a bunch of nonsense. These are big announcements that have been going on for a long time since I have been here. The money is not getting out to the farmers, or does this member not know how many people have gone broke and gone under and had to sell out because of the lack of funding? The funding just does not get out there.

I received a call a few minutes ago from a lady who said she had received her CAIS money after many dollars were spent getting accountants to help her. It was $322.19. She had been waiting since 2003.

These NDP members are talking about a $1.5 billion injection into education. Are they gullible enough to believe that it will actually happen? The government has not kept its word on anything. They make these big, flowery announcements and they do not pan out. It is time that Canadians woke up.

On the topic of this babysitting stuff or national day care, I would like this member to know that I have several communities in my riding with probably a population of 200 people. We have thousands and thousands of rural people who do not have access to day care anywhere. However, they will be expected to pay for it. They will be expected to fork over the taxes so the big city people can have their day cares. They receive no help in return for staying home with their children. There is no reward for that. They get taxed more than the people who go out and work.

It is becoming an absolutely one sided farce. I am really tired of it. I have said hardly anything in the last few days on this. I am getting tired of hearing these wonderful things this government is doing when it has failed. The government has failed the people in my riding. Every farmer can tell the government that it has failed dismally.

I do not know why in the world this outfit over there would shine up with the NDP that wants to throw more money around like crazy and not even mention once again agriculture, the people who are hurting on our land. When will the government wake up and start doing what is right for the people of Canada?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I spent about 20 minutes explaining what the government is doing that is right for the people of Canada. However, I always enjoy the member opposite. I know he is very committed to his work and very passionate, and he says what is on his mind.

In fact, I am delighted that he made the point that I have been trying to make for the last few weeks in the House concerning the consistency of this budget and the throne speech and our platform. In our platform and in our throne speech we talked about help for seniors.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. The hon. member has the floor. We would like to hear his answer.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as I was trying to say, I am delighted that the member has reinforced the point I was trying to make through the budget debates over the last few months. We have been consistent with our platform and with the throne speech. We followed right through with the budget. We have kept our promises which is what Canadians want. We kept our promise to support seniors, wind energy, day care and education. We kept our promise to have the biggest environmental budget in history.

Related to agriculture, imagine the party opposite running the country when two of its members have just said that there was not a cent toward agriculture. Well, where were they several weeks ago when we announced $1 billion? If $1 billion is nothing to them, if they cannot keep track of that from two weeks ago, how could they possibly run the country?

What is embarrassing is that they support the budget and then the next week they do not support it and force us into an agreement with another party and now they are complaining. What do the people who supported the Conservatives in Calgary think when their member has forced us to make this deal with the NDP? What do their constituents think when they flip-flop and cause us to make this deal? As a matter of fact, I am proud of this deal.

What do the people of their ridings think about the fact that they have never asked any questions over the last few months? In fact, their finance critic was asked to resign yesterday. When have they asked any questions about anything of our ministers? It would be fascinating if the press did a tally of how many times our ministers have been asked about government departments over the last few weeks.

I know we are not allowed to comment on who is here and who is not, but in question period there are empty seats over there because our ministers have not been asked about health care, the poor, agriculture, education, foreign aid, and all the issues that are important to Canadians. If we are not being held accountable, how could they provide a government?

When they talk about transparency, why are they not allowed to talk about what their constituents are saying? They were all told not to speak about what their constituents said about the election. Why are the members for Newmarket—Aurora or Central Nova not been heard from in the last few days? We would like to hear from all the Conservatives. There are actually two or three progressive ones there, unfortunately for us. It would be great to hear what they had to say.

The saddest result of all this, as everyone knows by looking at the polls, is that an upcoming election would increase the strength of the separatist movement in Canada. The fact that any members in the House would put their party, to get a few more seats, above the interests of Canada to set an environment where the conditions would be ripe for a referendum is a very sad position for that party and for Canadians. It would lead to potential difficulties in unity in this country and an expensive election that no one wants. Canadians have told us that and yet the other side will not take that leadership just as it would not on Iraq.

When I asked their leader why the party that was based on grassroots Reform Alliance and used to listen to their constituents did not listen to them when it came to the war on Iraq, he said, “We need to have leadership. We cannot listen to constituents”. They are doing that again by forcing an election which will cost $250 million. They want to waste that. The polls show it will be another minority government which would waste another $250 million. That is what is concerning Canadians.

I would therefore encourage both parties in the opposition to support this budget, probably the most popular budget in history, that helps Canadians in so many ways, helps the economy, the poor and the sick, education and first nations people. If I am asked another question, I will get into the embarrassing record of the opposition on helping first nations people. We are attempting to make progress in this budget and with the aboriginal round table.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take the member up on it. This morning we had a motion on a report on aboriginal cultural affairs. I was very concerned that the opposition did not want to put up people to debate the issues in the report nor to ask questions related to the report. I would simply ask the hon. member, could he make a comment on that and how important cultural matters are to the first nations?

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I was never so shocked as I was yesterday in the House when Her Majesty's loyal opposition actually proposed in a member's statement that they would help first nations people after all the times they have voted against land claims agreements. Nothing has changed. We added money to the budget to help aboriginal people and we are making progress, but that party voted against that, and those members speak against it in their speeches.

This morning one of their members talked about our quiet member for Nunavut who was speaking up for the rural aboriginal people in northern Canada and who actually went against our party on a motion. They said this was procedural wrangling.

They originally supported and now are voting against our budget that has money for health care for aboriginal people, lifelong learning, housing, economic opportunities and land claims. The opposition has the absolute nerve to suggest, after all these attacks on the progress for aboriginal--

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar.

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1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the very exciting and prominent new member of the House of Commons, the member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove.

In my four minutes I would like to refer to a Toronto story. I know the Toronto Star is hardly a bastion of conservatism, but it has an article that says, “PM's spending spree smacks of desperation”. It certainly does, but it also should strike fear into the hearts of anyone who understands fundamental money management.

We are talking about $1.25 billion a day for the last three weeks that has been committed by the government opposite in contravention of the most fundamental principles of money management, without due regard for the process of evaluation, and without a plan. The Liberals are so desperate for ideas over there that they have gone to the NDP for help. It is pathetic. If Canadians wanted an NDP budget, they would have elected more than 19 members of Parliament for that party. They did not.

An article in the Globe and Mail today was entitled “Liberal spending blitz hits $19.5 billion”. It said:

Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond said he believes the Liberals are obliged to table an economic update to tell Canadians how all this new spending fits in the fiscal plan.

It went on:

To tell you the truth, I would think everybody's sort of lost track.

The fact of the matter is that the government is desperate. It is corrupt. It is indecent and dangerous. It is selling this country's fiscal future down the river as it will do anything to cling to power. It is trying to cover up a vote buying scandal with another vote buying scandal. It is trying to buy its way out of trouble. One thing is absolutely for certain, Canadians are on to it. Canadians understand what got the Liberal Party into this mess and Canadians are not interested in being bought by their own money.

Here is another comment from another article today. This is interesting. This is from Michael Murphy, senior vice-president of policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. He said:

The government has clearly made a decision to spend its way to the next election. They've now basically said: “To heck with that budget, here's new stuff”.

It's back to the future for the Liberals. This is what got us into the massive deficit financing of the past, the whole principle of concentrating benefits, making promise after promise regardless of the legitimacy of the spending or regardless and disrespectful of a plan of any kind.

They threw it around in a one and a half page bill that the NDP members sold themselves out for. We knew that the NDP members would prostitute themselves, but they did it cheaply in this case because this is a one and a half page bill with no commitments on the part of the government other than to do orders in council in broad general categories.

For example, the Liberals claimed to care about aboriginal housing. They are going to address aboriginal housing, but without a plan, how can they possibly do that?

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2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 2 o'clock we will now proceed with statements by members.

Asian Heritage Month
Statements By Members

May 10th, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, May marks Asian Heritage Month, an occasion for Canadians across the country to reflect on the contributions of people of Asian heritage to the building of Canada.

Asian Heritage Month was first celebrated in Toronto in 1993, followed by celebrations in many cities across Canada. In December 2001 the government officially recognized the month of May as Asian Heritage Month. In schools, community centres and workplaces Canadians are invited and encouraged to improve their understanding and appreciation of the often neglected yet important contributions Asian Canadians have made to our country.

As elected representatives, we should take pride in the accomplishments of all the diverse citizens of this remarkable country.

Sutton Fair
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, August 4 to 7 will herald the 150th Sutton Fair. The fair's historical roots as an agricultural exhibition of animals, crops and handicrafts continues today, but the Sutton Fair is much more now, offering midway flash, entertainment, contests, shopping and food, the Sutton Fair ambassador contest and the Georgina Idol talent competition. Today there is something for everyone, young and old, city or country, resident, cottager or visitor.

In the 1800s members of Parliament Conservative Richard Tyrwhitt and Liberal William Mulock displayed their animals at the fair. Even Prime Minister Mackenzie King, although he was twice rejected by local voters as MP, came to open the fair as prime minister in 1925. It is an event not to be missed.

This August I hope to see everyone at the fair.