Mr. Speaker, esteemed members of the House of Commons, it is a great privilege for me to speak in response to the throne speech which outlines the government's priorities for the first session of the 35th Parliament.
I would like to start by thanking my constituents of Simcoe North for entrusting me with the responsibility of representing their interests in Ottawa. I would also like to thank my wife, family and hundreds of volunteers without whose help I would not be here today.
Last October Canadians clearly told us that the policies of the former government and the way things are done in Ottawa had to change.
I am happy to see that the throne speech reflects the promises of renewal included in the electoral platform of the Liberal Party. As a member of this House, I will be happy to support these policies.
The 35th Parliament must do its utmost to restore confidence in the federal government among Canadians. Members of Parliament must be allowed a meaningful role in the development of public policy and legislation. During a recent election I campaigned on the slogan: "We need Simcoe North's voice in Ottawa, not Ottawa's voice in Simcoe North". I remain committed to that principle.
I am pleased that the government will take measures to enhance the credibility of Parliament but that is not enough. I believe that every member of Parliament must do whatever he or she can to restore confidence in the electorate and encourage their participation in the process. That is why I am seeking to create community advisory committees in my riding. These committees will provide me with advice and support on various issues of importance to my constituents.
Since the election I have met with a great number of individuals who represent small business, the agricultural sector, environmental groups, municipal councils as well as cultural organizations.
Their participation in these advisory committees will be crucial for me in delivering my message to Parliament from a generally grassroots perspective.
The government must address economic development and unemployment issues as soon as possible. By helping small and medium size businesses to obtain the capital they need to grow, by creating the youth service corps, by encouraging the development of a Canadian technology network and by rebuilding our infrastructure, Canada will be on the right track towards a vigorous economic recovery.
Simcoe North is the home of the Industrial Research and Development Institute whose physical plant will be built during the coming months. This organization will elevate Canada's technological expertise in tool, die and mould production to the highest standards in the world resulting in many spinoffs for the Canadian economy. IRDI embodies the partnership between
industry, academia and government called for in the speech from the throne.
We must be sure to continue to support our agricultural industry which is the backbone of the economy in many regions of Canada. Lately our farmers have had much to be concerned about with the recent proclamation of NAFTA and the changes that will occur as a result of the GATT. It is very important that the government continues to foster our agricultural industry using whatever tools it has at its disposal.
It is easy to realize that Canadians feel that they pay far too many taxes and that their money is being wasted at every level of government. The Auditor General's Report tabled in this House last week did not do anything to allay these concerns.
People hope that the new government will improve things; we must not let them down. They can already see that the government is trying to reduce overlap and duplication with the provinces and that we want to eliminate the GST.
But it is not enough to make a few changes here and there. Canadians expect a full review of the tax system and its inequities. Our government must ensure that, in the future, corporate and individual citizens, rich and poor alike, will all pay their fair share of taxes.
While Canadians demand substantial changes, they are also saying that they will not accept any watering down of our important social safety net, including medicare.
I am confident the government realizes we are facing a revenue crisis in this country, not a spending crisis.
It is evident that our country's fiscal difficulties can only be resolved by first addressing the unacceptably high level of unemployment in Canada so that the victims of the recession can contribute to our tax base. We need more people paying taxes, not people paying more taxes.
The government must also address important revenue drains such as capital gains exemptions, the family trust rules and tax loopholes associated with offshore affiliates of Canadian companies.
It is obvious that we must address the deficit but it must be done by augmenting revenues and eliminating wasteful spending, not cutting our social programs.
Canada's native population has been ignored for far too long and it is with a keen sense of excitement that I see the federal government begin its discussion on aboriginal self-government. The outcome of these discussions will be especially relevant to band members of the Chippewas of Beausoleil and the Rama First Nation, both of which are located in my riding.
Although most of my constituents speak English, there is a large francophone community whose language and culture continue to grow. I sincerely believe that if Quebec decides to leave Canada, the French language and culture outside Quebec could very well disappear. There are about 1 million francophones outside Quebec. Being one of them myself, I am proud to consider myself a Canadian and I am not afraid to say that all the regions of this country are well served by federalism. That is why I am asking the hon. members from the Bloc Quebecois not to abandon us.
Canadians want the government to get to work to make our country a better place. Our work must concentrate upon job creation and economic growth, not constitutional wrangling. We must reduce the deficit and debt.
It is true we have fewer resources with which to work but, as my hon. colleague from Madawaska-Victoria has said, a lean government does not have to be a mean government.
In conclusion, I pledge to represent my constituents and to work co-operatively with all members of the House to provide accountable and responsible government.