Madam Speaker, I must inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Davenport.
My congratulations, to begin with, Madam Speaker, for achieving this position. In my opinion, your obvious good will and calm nature will bring you the total cooperation of all members on both sides of the floor.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the voters of Lac-Saint-Louis for reaffirming their confidence in me.
I would like to thank the citizens of my riding for choosing me once again to represent them in Ottawa, to be their voice in the nation's capital.
I would also like to congratulate my colleagues, those who are taking seats in this House for the first time and those who are returning to this House. I would like to congratulate my colleagues from all parties. We have all shared the rigours of campaigning and I believe that a mutual respect flows from this fact, from this shared experience and from this shared commitment to Canada. Campaigning is fast becoming a habit for all of us here. I must admit that campaigning is a habit that I enjoy more and more, though many citizens are understandably growing weary of and saturated by several federal campaigns in rapid succession, interspersed, of course, with elections in other jurisdictions.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed last fall the opportunity to meet my constituents on a more frequent basis and in the more intense manner that is an election campaign. I enjoyed sharing their ideas at train stations, at shopping malls, at their doorsteps and in public gatherings and debates. I enjoyed their passion for the issues, domestic and international, that make the voters of Lac-Saint-Louis some of the most informed and engaged voters in the country.
The distinguishing feature of my riding, apart from the fact that it is surrounded on three sides by water, sitting as it does on one of the continent's greatest waterways, the St. Lawrence River, is the fact that my fellow citizens are known for their adherence to principle. This has always, in my memory, been the hallmark of the voters of Lac-Saint-Louis. They adhere to their principles, regardless of the direction of the prevailing political winds. The voters of Lac-Saint-Louis cannot be pushed off their principles by political fads or by slick and powerful political machines and their communications strategies.
I would like to turn to the throne speech. I listened intently to the throne speech, like the rest of my colleagues. There are some good ideas in the throne speech and there are ideas that may not be obviously those that my party and other members of the opposition would have put in a throne speech. Regardless, the throne speech, at this point, is mere words. What remains to be seen is whether those words are put into action.
There are two qualities that are required of a government or that are sought by the people of their government during difficult times: first, the government must be trusted by the electorate; and second, the government must be able to address short-term problems while simultaneously moving toward long-term solutions to longer-term challenges.
I am sorry to say that I feel the government has a dubious record on both counts, a record that leaves room to doubt its ability to lead Canada through these challenging times and its ability to put the words of a throne speech into action.
Let us look at the meaning of trust. What does trust mean? I believe there are two components to trust. One is transparency and the other is competence. In terms of transparency, the question is: Can the people put their faith in the government's pronouncements? That is very important to the people's trust in the government.
When it comes to competence, what we mean when we are speaking about trust is where it is assumed that the government has the best and most honest intentions and keeps its word, does the government repeatedly make the best and wisest decisions? Because a government that does not keep its word, if it is not effective, if it bungles, if it makes mistakes, or if it is incompetent, leaves the people, in some ways, no better off.
Let us look at transparency, first. I am not at all certain the government has earned the trust of Canadians by dealing honestly and sincerely with Canadians over the past three years. Does the government keep its word? Does the government follow-through on the direction to which it has publicly committed? Does the government engage in sleight of hand, pretending to do one thing but doing another? Does the government prefer window dressing to solid content?
Let us briefly examine the previous Conservative government's record.
On fixed election dates, the government committed to them, but it reneged on that commitment.
On income trusts, the government promised not to tax them, but it reneged on that commitment.
On capital gains taxation, the government promised positive reforms of taxation of capital gains in the 2006 campaign. That promise, like the promise to create more child care spaces, simply evaporated.
On infrastructure, the government promised to renew our infrastructure. Yet, it has been dragging its feet. I believe one of the reasons it is doing that is that it does not want to add to the deficit because that would be politically embarrassing. It does not want to add to the deficit that the chief Parliamentary Budget Officer said flows from the policies of the government. It would rather put off spending to save political face. It would rather let our infrastructure crumble than lose political face. It would rather keep people unemployed than lose political face.
On patient wait times, the previous government promised to reduce them before just giving up on even trying to fulfill that promise.
On climate change, three years ago the government promised regulations to help fight greenhouse gas emissions, but we have not yet seen a single published regulation.
On senate appointments, the government said it would elect senators. The first thing it did in 2006 was appoint a senator. The people responded by not electing that Senator to this Parliament. Now we know that the government and the Senate is setting up the board. It is setting up the Senate and in fact it is setting up Canadians to appoint 19 senators without election. It will argue, of course, that the Senate is dysfunctional and that it has to act.
Let us look at the second component of trust: competence. Some will argue that it does not really matter if a government is sincere or intellectually honest as long as it is competent and effective. As a matter of fact during the election campaign, in going door to door, I ran across many decent people who said that they did not like the government and they did not believe it, but its members seem to be clever and smart. They seem to be foxy and I suppose that counts for something. Maybe they can accomplish something by being clever and foxy. It is a little sad when we think about it, that good, decent people, after three years of Conservative government rule, have decreased their expectations about political honesty to such a level.
Here again the government has scored low on the measure of trust that is competence. Earlier this week, the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) absolved the government of responsibility for the upcoming federal deficit by stating that the government could not foresee the current global recession. This begs the question, why did the government therefore eliminate the financial cushion the previous Liberal government had inserted into past budgets? That is what the cushion was for; it was for unforeseen problems. The Conservatives cannot have it both ways. If they did not foresee, why did they not plan for the worst in case it happened? That is an issue of competence.
There was a line in the budget inspired by my private member's bill, Bill C-228, that says the government will implement legislation to prevent transfers of water out of basins. It remains to be seen if the government will follow-through on that, but it can count on the fact that I will certainly be pushing the government to act as quickly as possible.