Mr. Speaker, first allow me to echo the sentiments of my colleagues who have risen before me in this House and congratulate you on your appointment.
This new government faces a great number of daunting tasks, not the least of which is how to give Canadians a reason to believe in the dedication, perseverance and sound ethical judgment of their elected leaders.
Each of us was sent to this House because our constituents believe that we are the men and women most firmly committed to their concerns, their needs and their demands. However, we are more than our individual selves and we are more than our collective individual voices. We were elected to represent in this Parliament the collective voice of our constituents reconciling their competing and at times conflicting visions with the others.
The aim of Canada's House of Commons is not to serve the selfish and parochial interests of any one person or province to the detriment of others. It is to advance the well-being and prosperity of the whole country and therefore of all Canadians.
We were elected on this side of the House to fulfil the Liberal vision which was clearly articulated in our election platform, the red book "Creating Opportunity".
Everyday in my riding of Winnipeg North I talk with honest, hard working people eager to put their faith in hard working and honest politicians. For five solid years, from 1988 when I was first elected until last fall's election, I had fear.
I had a fear that 1.6 million Canadians, the unemployed in this country would remain jobless. I had a fear that the poor, particularly children, would continue to depend on social assistance. I had a fear that the sick, the elderly and all Canadians for that matter would continue to face the consequence of a threatened medicare system and the uncertainty that goes with it. I had a fear that the minorities, be it due to race, colour or creed and the disabled would continue to face unfair treatment and discrimination in the workplace.
I had a fear that the infrastructure of cities and municipalities would continue to decay without help from the federal government. I had a fear that the safety and security of persons and property would continue to be in peril. I had a fear that honesty and integrity in government would never be restored. I had a fear that Canada would close its doors to immigrants.
Last but not least I had a fear that Canada my adopted country and home to some 27 million Canadians was on the brink of national collapse. However, I had always hoped that my fears would not come to pass.
Now I am certain that there is much hope for this great nation. I have hope because this government has already taken significant strides to enhance its integrity by rejecting many of the unessential privileges parliamentarians had exercised for so many years during their tenures as public servants.
I have hope because each political party represented in this House has already voiced its commitment to seeking consultation from the public on a wide range of issues of great national importance.
I have hope because the finance minister has already made good on this commitment by talking to people across the country in an effort to formulate a federal budget that is both sensible and sensitive. I am confident that the minister will continue in the short number of days remaining before budget day to consult with all Canadians from all walks of life.
We must never let ourselves forget that each time we make fiscal decisions here in Ottawa we may be affecting the wallets and pocketbooks and the day to day budgets of individual citizens in ridings like yours and mine.
I have hope because this government promptly cancelled the questionable deal that was to lead to the privatization of portions of Toronto's Pearson airport.
I have hope because this government does not believe in allowing its leader to jet around in a $53 million VIP aircraft or a Porsche while many Canadians scramble to make both ends meet.
I have hope because this government has already put its infrastructure program into motion.
The moves we have made in the short time that has elapsed since the Liberals came to government have given me great hope. However, what assures me that we are on the road to recovery are our plans for the immediate future. It is our policies, ideals and blueprints for the years to come.
I am assured because we are committed to helping and supporting small and medium sized businesses that will create long term jobs in the country. I am assured because our plan to get youth working again will be realistic because we will be creating the youth corps service and national apprenticeship program. I am assured because this is a government that understands the importance of investing in people.
All Canadians use their work to varying degrees to define who they are. When they are not working their self esteem suffers, their relationships suffer and their dignity suffers.
I am assured that our health care system is now to remain as universal and free for all. I am assured because the speech from the throne reaffirmed our commitment and the plan to have a national forum on health care is underway. In fact, the plan to establish a centre of excellence for women's health and a prenatal program across the country is underway.
It was not long ago that in a moment of great anger I stood up in this House on behalf of one of my constituents and questioned whether the previous government had any heart at all. Today I am proud to stand before you. I am assured that this is a government with plenty of heart.
We are speaking for the first time in a long time the language of those we represent. In short our ideals are backed by plausible and realistic means of implementation.
We are also keenly aware that it is self-defeating to focus only on any one issue before us. The issue of the economy, social policies and the environment and many more are all interrelated and interdependent.
Mr. Speaker, I know you share with me the desire to see this Parliament mark a turning point in our great nation's history. I began by indicating the daunting task we all know the government has to face.
I mentioned the fears that plagued me during my first five years as a member of this House. Given those fears how is it possible for me to feel the hope and assurance I now feel after just a short period of time in government?
I have seen what we have accomplished so far. I know that we will follow through on our promises and thereby resolve the fears of Canadians. Give them jobs, reform and stabilize our institutions and in the end control the deficit.
Citizens will continue to demonstrate the kind of support that sent 177 Liberals to this House in October 1993. I hope that the people of Winnipeg North and Canadians everywhere sense that great changes are afoot.
The next four years will reveal a new kind of government, a new kind of leadership and a new Canada that is united, strong and prosperous and working for all Canadians today and preparing Canada for the 21st century.