Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to rise in my place as a new member for the riding of Brant and participate in this throne speech debate.
Before I make my comments in that regard, I would like to thank the people from the riding of Brant for electing me as their representative to this House. As well, I would like to recognize the contribution made to this House and to my riding by my predecessor, Mr. Derek Blackburn. I wish him well on his appointment to the Immigration Board and thank him for accepting that appointment prior to the call of the 1993 federal election. Certainly that is one political appointment that I will not argue with the previous government.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize you and congratulate you on your appointment to the Chair and on behalf of the people of Brant congratulate the Speaker for being elected as our presiding officer. I have every confidence in his ability to keep our House in order and I offer all my support and my co-operation in that regard.
There are a couple of things I would like to share with the House this morning. First of all, I would like everyone to know why I so strongly support the speech from the throne as it was presented to us by the Governor General on the opening of this historic 35th Parliament.
Second, I would like to offer to the government an idea. It is not a new idea, but it is one which, if implemented more broadly, would help us effect real change in government.
Why do I support so strongly the agenda that has been presented to us in the speech from the throne? In a word, it is because it is practical. The people of Brant are tired of smoke and mirrors. They want no nonsense. They want a common sense approach to the challenges that face us. What we find in the speech from the throne is just that.
Take, for example, the infrastructure program. It is a program that can be used by municipalities all across the country. My riding of Brant is a wonderful mix of rural and urban. Brantford and South Dumfries townships boast some of the most fertile and productive farm land in Ontario and they are dotted with beautiful historical villages like Glen Morris, Mount Pleasant, Harrisburg and the community in which my family has been for over six generations, the village of St. George.
We need road improvements to connect our rural residents with these villages and with our urban centres, the town of Paris and the city of Brantford. Paris is a wonderful town, located between the rivers Nith and Grand. It needs new sewers for their residential areas. On the other hand, the city of Brantford needs support to improve its landfill site, its water treatment facilities and its roads if it is going to compete for the economic development that we so sorely need. The infrastructure program makes sense. It is practical for the people in my riding and I believe members will find it is practical for the people in theirs.
When we look at the government's approach to small and medium sized business we see yet another set of practical strategies. In my riding we have historically depended on the manufacture of farm implements and farm equipment. Companies like Cockshutt, then White, Massey-Harris, then Massey-Ferguson, are the companies that employed the people of Brant.
Not very long ago the city of Brant boasted having 5,000 of the highest paying manufacturing jobs in North America. However, those jobs are all gone. Those companies are all closed and we, like many communities, are now trying to rebuild our economy. We know that it is small and medium sized businesses that are going to do that for us. My employers are very supportive of this government's understanding that they need better access to capital and less government red tape. They need support if we are to build local economic, industrial clusters.
As a final example of our government's practicality let us look at the approach to youth and youth employment. Again, two very practical programs have been suggested. The national apprenticeship program is one example. It is a very important strategy for us because we need to transfer our young people more effectively from school to the work place.
It might interest members to know that the city of Brantford, despite a population of over 100,000 people, does not have its own post-secondary educational institution. This is a real liability for us. It means that we do not have a history of lifelong learning. It means it is very difficult for us to attract new high tech investment.
When we think of the apprenticeship program we see some possibilities for partnerships to be forged between the private sector and government, perhaps in starting technological institutes that can help with apprenticeship training. Of course, we believe Brantford is a perfect place for such an institute.
We talk about the national youth services corps, an idea that received great support in my riding over the course of the campaign. There are a number of organizations in my riding that could provide opportunities for our young people. One of our great natural resources is the Grand River. It is a wide, slow moving river that comes right through the centre of my riding.
The Brant Waterways Committee, I am sure, has environmentally related jobs that would help our young people get that very important first work experience.
There is also a vibrant seniors community in my riding and the opportunity for inter-generational work, training and experiences exist. Our schools need young people to help younger people learn to read, write, do math and improve their computer skills.
When I read the speech from the throne I saw all kinds of opportunities for me as a member to go back to my riding and work with the people to make things better and to improve our local economy.
However, there is one idea that is not included in the speech from the throne and I would like to suggest it to the government for consideration. It is the idea of government decentralization; of taking certain government agencies, ministries and departments and moving them out of large urban centres like Ottawa and Toronto into smaller centres like those in my community.
The people of my riding are very supportive of this notion. In fact, we had been promised the relocation of the computer and telecommunications services department of the provincial government into our riding early in 1993. This made a lot of sense to us because Brantford is the telephone city. It is where Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance phone call between Brantford and Paris.
We were very excited about the possibility and expected this relocation to occur. Unfortunately, with the change in government, there was a decision made to cancel that program. With that cancellation came depression, not only economic but social, to my community.
Decentralization is an interesting idea. It is not new. However, it can help us meet a number of our priorities. It can help improve economic equality across the country. It can help improve the physical and social well-being of Canadians. It is a strategy that we can use as we look to streamline the public service and increase participatory democracy. It certainly would require us to make quantum leaps in the development and use of the electronic highway.
Whether the federal government chooses to utilize the strategy of decentralization by itself or in concert with the provincial governments, as we try to affect reduction in duplications of government servicing or in new and innovative ways by working with the private sector in out-sourcing models and concepts, I believe that government decentralization is an idea whose time has come. I would encourage all our ministers as they look at their departmental management to consider this strategy. If they find that they have opportunities, particularly in the area of telecommunications, agriculture, the environment and others, I hope they would think of the riding of Brant.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to share with the members of this House a little bit about the riding that I represent. I also appreciate the opportunity to share with them the reasons why I so strongly support the agenda that has been put before us in the speech from the throne.
I would ask them all to vote in favour of the motion that is on the floor, put there by my colleague, the member for Bruce-Grey, and seconded by my colleague, the member for Madawaska-Victoria.