Mr. Speaker, I will begin in the traditional manner by congratulating you on your position and assuring you of my respect and co-operation. I consider it a great privilege to have been chosen by the electors of Elk Island to serve them as their member of Parliament.
As most other speakers have done I will also express thanks to the many people who voted and worked to give me this honour. Especially I am grateful to my wife Betty and my family for their sacrifice, support and trust.
The Elk Island constituency lies immediately east of Edmonton in Alberta and is noted for the fact that it contains Elk Island Park, a national park operated by Parks Canada.
The constituency has approximately 85,000 residents. Many live on acreages and farms. Our people earn their living by working in our industrial and chemical plants, by farming, by operating numerous small businesses and by many other forms of endeavour which add to the economy and well being of the community and the country. In addition many work in the city of Edmonton.
I am very proud and thankful to be a Canadian. I remember as a youth hearing my immigrant parents, grandparents and their friends talk of the hardships and the lack of freedoms which caused them to look to this land for hope.
More recently our son Brent has been working as a volunteer in a relief agency in the countries of Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Bosnia and Croatia where he was helping to give aid to the tremendously disadvantaged because of war. We have been deeply touched by his first-hand accounts of children, young people, women and men who are starving or suffering intensely because of the inhumanity of selfish aggressive people. I am very grateful that in this country we govern ourselves with ballots and not with bullets.
It is in this context that I give my address today. While we have it so good, I am committed to doing my part to ensure that we do not lose our freedoms and privileges. I hope also that we will be able to continue to share our abundance and our help with many other unfortunate people in our hurting world.
It might sound as though I am complaining when I draw attention to the shortcomings of our past governments. I am very concerned that we run the risk of losing it all here in our wonderful Canada because of the mismanagement of government over the last 30 years.
It seems so obvious to me that the policies of the Liberals and the Conservatives of the past have taken us into the slavery of debt. I hope against hope that this new government will be able and will have the political will to begin to turn this around.
Just think there is no country in this world as blessed as ours. We have a wonderfully rich heritage of natural resources from fish to forest, from bounteous grain fields to plentiful energy in oil, gas and water, from beautiful scenery attracting tourists from all around the world to our wonderful land from Newfoundland to British Columbia to the far north.
I could go on and on. Add to that the enormous wealth we have in our people. We are all immigrants, even those who we proudly call our natives. Our first nations originally came here from a different part of the world. We have of course the French and the English, but we also have many others including the Scandinavians and the Orientals, the Europeans and the Africans. The list is endless. Over the years we have lived together in harmony and co-operation.
Mr. Speaker, you do not know how it hurts me to hear some who are working toward tearing up this country. If there is not room for all of us here in Canada, how can we expect the other nations of the world to stop warring with each other on this planet?
I would like to say to my friends sitting next to me how we wish they would change their minds about leaving Canada. How we wish that they would give it one more try. How we wish that they would stop saying Canada and Quebec and would start saying Quebec and the other provinces of Canada.
Will they consider doing what we have done in the west? For years and years we have paid much more into Confederation than we have received in dollars. For those same years we have been practising what many of us learned in Sunday school, that is to share and not be selfish, to give and not always to expect returns.
At the same time I must be honest. The patience of our position has on occasion been tested. We are looking forward seriously to the day when all the provinces will be able to better make it on their own and to decrease their dependence on others. It is very encouraging to see the generosity and benevolence of others too. We desire deeply that all Canadians and all provinces live together in peace and harmony as equal partners in Confederation.
That little diversion from the topic of debt was intentional. I thought that it would be a good idea to highlight our wonderful advantages, but let me now return to the topic of our burgeoning debt. How can it be that with this vast legacy of natural and human wealth our governments of the past have managed to dig us so deeply into debt? Is there any hope for the future?
The government is proposing in the throne speech to borrow more money in order to produce jobs. It will say it is not borrowing more, just spending money that it saved on the helicopters or other areas, but the fact is that there is still a huge deficit predicted for the next fiscal year. That means that we are doing what we are doing with borrowed money.
It is clear that the collective wisdom of the citizens of this great country is moving more and more toward a demand to live within our means. I wish I knew of a way to communicate this forcibly and convincingly to the point where the majority government opposite would actually change its fiscal policies to reflect this reality.
I was elected largely on the merit of the Reform Party's deficit and debt reduction commitment. In my constituency there were five voters who voted for Reform's plan of fiscal restraint for every two voters who chose the Liberal's plan of borrow more, spend more. Even in Ontario where the government received a rather overwhelming number of seats, almost one million individuals expressed themselves in their vote for fiscal restraint.
I would have been so pleased if we would have had at least a commitment from the government to set some realistic written goals and to cap spending. It is very doubtful if we will ever achieve a goal if we are not even willing to state it.
During the campaign a simple fact struck me forcibly. We have no mechanism actually to control spending. We have no means of ensuring that the wishes of our constituents, the taxpayers, are expressed and enforced in the workings of government. I appreciate the new openness of the government. It is breaking with precedent in actually having pre-decision debates on various issues including the budget.
However, we will not have true freedom of expression on behalf of the people we represent until we have true, free votes, even on the budget. This can only happen if we can agree that the defeat of a bill, even the budget, does not automatically mean the defeat of the government. There is no choice if we can only vote yes, even when we disagree.
I respectfully and forcefully request that the government allow all members on both sides of the House, the democratic representatives of the people who elected us, the freedom to send the budget back to the bureaucrats if it is not good enough. Let them fix it and not bring it back until the unencumbered majority of members of the House agree that we have reached a satisfactory decision.
I end my speech with a pledge not only to this House but to the people in Elk Island who elected me, the people of Canada who are looking to Parliament for leadership. I will do all I can to participate in bringing fiscal reality and responsibility to this place. I will exert all the influence I can in changing the way Parliament works so that it can become a better and more democratic place.
In the end I believe we will be a better country. We will not only have increased prosperity and well-being for ourselves, but we will also have the freedom and ability to do more for others.