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House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was care.

Topics

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comments. I understand the emotional aspect of her speech, particularly at the end. I think all of us in Canada can identify with these kinds of circumstances and we realize they are something we all have in common. However, I would like to ask the hon. member a question.

In her speech, which was very fine, she said the best country in the world in which to live and then went on to talk about Canada. I would certainly agree with her.

However, why does the member and her party, in light of that kind of statement which I believe we both find to be true, continue to attempt to break up the best country in the world? The words of the old proverb are true, united we stand, divided we fall.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, we, in Quebec, are misunderstood. I quoted the Prime Minister who said that Canada was “the best country in the world in which to live”. We, however, believe that Quebec is, not Canada. Sorry.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express to my hon. colleague from Longueuil that when it comes to issues such as the environment, suicide and pay equity she can be assured that I and my colleagues will assist her in any way we can in order to get the necessary funding and the help required in order to meet those needs.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague.

It is indeed comforting to know that we can count on our colleagues. The fact is that, to further any human cause, people have to work together.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was struck by the compassionate and passionate speech by the member for Longueuil.

I appreciate her comments about women. I think she would know that all of us in this House welcome members who are women. We made much in the last Parliament about there being more women representatives than in any previous Parliament. I am not sure whether that is true of the 36th, but I believe it is. I believe that the hon. member's party has been instrumental in improving that ratio.

I have no difficulty in acknowledging that Quebec has a culture. The member said that Quebec was its culture and it is what made a people but that somebody did not seem to recognize that. I would suggest that many of us recognize that. I certainly recognize it and I applaud it.

I wonder whether the member is not being a little hard on everyone else in that the premiers in Calgary indicated that the other provinces in this country believe there is a distinct culture and a unique character to Quebec.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague across the way.

I think he should have a word with his own colleagues. As far as pay equity is concerned at leat, if he really has the cause of women at heart, I think he should sit down with the minister—

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today speaking on the Speech from the Throne that this government gave to the country outlining the government's policies and the government's priorities leading into the next millennium.

The Speech from the Throne is a product of work done not only by the bureaucrats but also by members of Parliament, backbenchers and by members of the Liberal Party who have worked in little policy groups across this country bringing forward ideas and bringing forward priorities with which they feel the government should set its policies.

All governments that bring forward their priorities and policies in speeches from the throne do so within the fiscal framework that the country faces at any given time. When we first started as a government in 1993 our priorities were set by the fact that at that time we faced a $42 billion deficit. Anything we did, any ideas we could bring forward always had to be tempered by the fact that the government was spending $42 billion more than it was taking in.

That was one of the first priorities that our government in 1993 went after. I feel we succeeded. We succeeded in bringing that deficit down to a point where in 1998-99 there will no longer be any deficit.

Had I promised in 1993 that we would be able to do that, I do not think I would have believed it myself, but we have done it. Now we can move forward. We have a dividend and I believe our party and our policies over the next five years will be to help Canadians, the Canadians who have had to pay the price so that we could get that high deficit under control.

Indeed it is our responsibility now to move forward and to recognize that young Canadians, old Canadians, seniors, children, Canadians who have had to pay the price get some of the benefits from this dividend. That is what this Speech from the Throne tries to do.

As members know, unemployment has been one of the problems facing not only this government but governments around the world. Youth unemployment is certainly far too high. If we look at the numbers over the last three years, the economists say that we have created over a million jobs in our last mandate. I see that as a priority this time and it is a priority in the Speech from the Throne to do that.

I want to take not only my constituents who are listening but all Canadians through the Speech from the Throne. I encourage them all to pick up a copy—they can call their member of Parliament's office—and read the speech from the throne because it is what their government is going to be doing over the next five years. I think it is important that they read it for themselves rather than listen to our colleagues across the way who somewhat filter it.

I find it surprising that my colleagues on the other side of the House would be scared that Canadians would actually pick up the Speech from the Throne and read it. They should be proud of it because it sets out an agenda for the next millennium.

As I said, speeches from the throne are always set up by any government due to the fiscal situation. Certainly all Canadians recognize that the economy has turned around. The economy is starting to grow.

One of the problems in this country, and it has been a problem for some time and has been mentioned in this House over the last few hours, is the whole question of national unity. There are different approaches to the question of national unity and how the government should respond to the problem.

We listen to what our colleague from British Columbia in the other House has been saying about this country. One wonders, given her long history with the former Conservative government, why she would try to grab headlines at the expense of a nation. I find it very shameful.

I might as well at the same time remind our colleagues at the other end, the NDP, I also find it shameful that somebody would stand in this House and try to one up the Conservative Party, try to grab the stage on national unity in British Columbia at the expense of a country. It is not the way to do it. It is not the way to build a strong country.

I believe we set out in the Speech from the Throne the way to do it. We should co-operate. We should work with the premiers and the territorial leaders in bringing together those areas that can be worked on. We have seen the work done in Calgary by the premiers and the territorial leaders. We have seen this government go from province to province to province consulting on the best way to do it. That is right.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Boring.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

I get calls across the way that it may be boring. Well I do not think so. I do not think a long concerted effort to try to save this country is boring. I do not agree with the approach of the last government which was to build some national consensus through the media on a constitutional decision, roll the dice and that is the way to solve the problem.

I think this approach that we have taken in the Speech from the Throne is a serious approach. From what we have seen in recent polls taken in Quebec and in the co-operation shown across this country in areas such as child care and health care, this country can work. I do not think we need to make constitutional changes to make that work.

I support and continue to call on all members of this House to take this issue seriously and to work with their respective premiers or territorial leaders in making sure that the proposals put forward are understood and are a reflection of what Canadians want in a country.

One of the problems outlined in the Speech from the Throne, which is a serious problem, is the whole question of children and children living in poverty. We certainly need to put more effort into that.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Cut taxes.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Yes, we have balanced the budget. The hon. member says to cut taxes. I totally agree that is one of the best approaches we should have to this problem. But there are serious problems in this country that need to be addressed, that cannot be addressed by saying we can solve them just by reducing taxes. There are investments in our future, in our children that this government needs to make. It is important that the Reform Party recognizes that.

There are many children living in poverty. There is a role not only for private business but there is a role specifically for government to be involved in solving these problems. That is why we have decided in the Speech from the Throne to establish centres of excellence, why we have expanded the aboriginal head start program.

I know the hon. member across the way mentioned the fact that we mentioned aboriginals in the Speech from the Throne eight or ten times. They are an important aspect of this country I remind the hon. member. If his party would recognize that, we might have a better way of working together in this country.

The present minister of aboriginal affairs has done an exemplary job of working together with aboriginal communities in trying to solve some of the problems. There are enormous problems on reserves in this country and the Reform Party should recognize that rather than just trying to bring aboriginal communities and aboriginal peoples down.

On quality health care, the Speech from the Throne talks about the importance of health care in our society. We have indicated that now we have brought the economy under control and we are now going to have a dividend that a lot of this dividend will be put toward health care.

Because my allotted time is ending, I will wrap up, Mr. Speaker. I believe all Canadians should take a look at the Speech from the Throne. It is important for all Canadians to call their members of Parliament to get a copy to understand where the government is going and how we plan to take this country into the next millennium.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask the hon. member a question or two, or three, or four.

One thing I am really getting tired of is hearing all the warm fuzzy talk. Yes it is true the deficit has come down. That is really good. But the member nor anyone else on that side of the House ever mentions for a moment that they have just added over $100 billion to the national debt. Servicing that debt is now the hugest chunk of the pie that it takes to operate the business of this land. They brag about those kinds of things. They boast and boast, yet they never mention anything about that huge black cloud called the national debt.

The member talked about the aboriginal people. He made some comments about what the throne speech said about that. In 1993 in my riding the Stony reserve had programs in place that were doing good work for a lot of the aboriginal people. In 1997 those programs are gone. There is no help at all. They have just disappeared.

The hon. member is not talking about all the things that are disappearing. He is talking about all the warm fuzzy stuff that the government is doing.

I would suggest to the hon. member that if he is going to send out the throne speech to every Canadian throughout the land it might be a good idea. It could be the magic cure for insomnia.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the electoral system never ceases to amaze me.

The hon. member talks about the deficit. I can understand the hon. member's real concern because that was their policy. Their policy was to bring it under control and these spendthrift Liberals as they call us could never do it. Well we did it. We brought it under control. We made a commitment in the red book to make sure of that and because we now have a dividend we can turn some of that toward the national debt.

At the same time I cannot see how the hon. member cannot recognize that Canadians helped to pay so that we could get this deficit under control. They should be able to reap some of the benefits now that it is under control.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

If the hon. member would listen he would know that I specifically said it was in the red book. If the member would like a copy, I would be glad to send him over one.

We plan to take half that dividend and put it toward the debt. It makes common sense to do it that way, and not the whole lot.

I think Canadians deserve to get a little back for all their hard work in helping us to get the deficit under control.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech made by the hon. member opposite, and remember previous speeches of his. I know that, in his riding, there are tobacco producers, whose interests he tried to defend in the past.

I was critic on tobacco in the last Parliament. A promise was made just before the election campaign regarding the anti-tobacco legislation that did not find its way into the throne speech. We were told that the legislation would be amended as soon as possible with regard to international car races. The Prime Minister said so, but I have read nothing to that effect on the throne speech and, so far, the Minister of Health has not said a word about this commitment.

This is of serious concern to me, not so much for producers as for sport and cultural events. A recent study conducted in the Quebec City area shod that every dollar invested in the Quebec summer festival, for instance, generated $8 in tax revenues and so on for the federal government.

I would like to hear him on that. Will he made representations to the Minister of Health to have the legislation changed?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the hon. member was just making a point. He might want to address that in a question during question period to the Minister of Health.

He is right that in my area I represent about 90 percent of the tobacco growers in the country. I always make sure they are represented.

I know the Reform Party has never supported tobacco growers. I know it has a hard time recognizing that tobacco growers are legitimate formers with a legitimate right to farm.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak today in support of the government's Speech from the Throne.

Let me begin by saying that it is a pleasure to be back in the House on behalf of the people of Cambridge, Kitchener, Ayr and North Dumfries.

Before I go any further I would like to thank my family, my staff, Betty, Stan, Elizabete, Debbie and Stevie in the riding office, as well as all my supporters, all the people who were involved in the election campaign on June 2, 1997.

As I have said on many occasions, in my riding I am the servant of the people. My constituents are my priority and I promise never to lose sight of that.

On June 2 the people of Canada put their faith in the hands of the Liberal government for the second time in four years. The results on election night were a strong indication that Canadians have faith in the direction the government was taking them. They were pleased that we had won the war against the deficit, that the unemployment rate had dropped by over 2 percent and that 974,000 jobs were created by September 1997.

Canadians also expressed confidence in the government's commitment to the protection of social programs on June 2. The Speech from the Throne reaffirmed the commitment of the Liberal government to issues that matter to all Canadians: jobs, health care, safe streets and national unity.

As we enter the 21st century the government will begin to reinvest the fiscal dividends that will come from the elimination of the deficit. We will do so in a responsible manner by applying one half of any budgetary surplus to the social and economic needs of Canadians and the other half to tax reduction and the national debt.

We will not act in the wasteful manner that the opposition parties would have everyone believe. After all, why would we plunge the nation back into bankruptcy after we have worked so hard to free it from the deficit burden? It makes absolutely no sense.

Among the most important initiatives announced in the Speech from the Throne were those that focused on the youth of our nation. Our youth are the future of Canada, which is why the government is committed to the national child benefit system announced this past spring.

There are centres for excellence to advance our understanding of the needs of children, the millennium scholarship endowment fund to help students secure a post-secondary education, an extension of the internship program to give youth needed work experience, enhanced funding for student summer placement, and a Canada-wide mentorship program.

Social programs have always been a priority of the government. That is why in the area of health care the Minister of Health reconfirmed in his speech of this morning that the government was committed to health care.

In other efforts to protect our social programs the government has introduced an amendment to the Canada pension plan and the new seniors benefit to ensure the sustainability of Canada's pension plan system. I applaud this initiative.

Some members may remember that in 1994 I introduced a private member's bill that proposed numerous changes to the current pension system. More needs to be done. I am pleased to see that some of my recommendations have been incorporated in amendments introduced by the Minister of Finance, in particular the establishment of an agency that would operate at arm's length from the government to manage the pension fund.

This initiative will give Canadians greater confidence in their pension system. Based on the research I have conducted in preparing my bill, it became apparent that CPP premiums would have to be increased if the pension system were to survive. That is one of the reasons the amendments before the House are calling for an increase in premiums. This is being done to ensure that our children will receive a pension under the CPP. I am confident we will be successful.

The throne speech also outlined the government's commitment to public safety. This area is a priority for me. I will continue to press the government to adopt stricter measures for the deportation of serious criminals who are not citizens of the country. I will do so by reintroducing the immigration enforcement improvement act, my private member's bill that died at committee when the House was dissolved in the spring.

Before I conclude I will touch on the issue of national unity. The government commitment to keeping the country united was quite clear in the throne speech. We must work to strengthen and unite the country by joining in the common purpose of keeping Canada one of the best places in the world in which to live.

I travelled recently to Asia and through most of Europe, and I can say this is absolutely the best country in the world. We have an excellent standard of living, a beautiful nation, warm and compassionate citizens, and a booming economy. We must do all we can to preserve that in the future.

Just recently ComDev, a company in my Cambridge riding, announced that it would be participating in a joint venture with an Ottawa company to establish a high tech research and development centre in Hull, Quebec. This new company, Spacebridge, will hire approximately 200 employees over the next four years.

In a recent CBC interview ComDev CEO, Val O'Donovan, indicated that he decided to venture into Hull when many others were leaving because “people who have good, exciting jobs are less likely to get involved with marching up and down whether it is labour, political or whatever kind of cause”.

We must not be afraid to reach out to our Quebec neighbours, and that is exactly what ComDev is doing. There is also another company from my riding that opened a plant in Quebec, Arriscraft.

I recently returned from Bosnia-Hercegovina where tensions still run deep. Its economy is in shambles. The one time beauty of the country has been destroyed. Coming home to Canada I realized yet again how truly lucky we are to live in such a wonderful nation.

I urge all Canadians to join me in doing whatever we can to preserve the best country and the best nation in the world.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to see you again.

I want to congratulate the member on his re-election. I am aware of his commitment to international causes. I was very aware of the congratulations he directed to the company in his riding, when it decided to do business in Hull. It gives me an opportunity to enlighten him from a slightly different perspective on his understanding of the Quebec problem.

Is the member aware and would he acknowledge that for at least 40 years there has been a succession of governments in Quebec, each more legitimate than the last, which has given rise to the process of constitutional review. Should the member take the trouble—if he ever has the time, the desire or the interest—he could no doubt come up with a list of the demands made by the various governments on language, fisheries or immigration. There are some thirty of them.

Would the hon. member be prepared to admit that, since Quebec is the only francophone province in this part of North America, for his government to consider all provinces equal would be absolutely suicidal, deadly and incompatible with the survival of Quebec?

Would he be prepared to rise in his place and say that, because Quebeckers are French speakers in North America, his government can no longer talk of homogeneity, because such talk would essentially put an end to any future for Quebec.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments and questions.

I am aware there are Quebeckers and Ontarians. I am aware there are anglophones and francophones in the province of Quebec. I know there are francophones in Ontario as well as in New Brunswick, and I treat them and respect them as Canadians.

I respect the French culture and language. I know that it is different from other cultures, but many other cultures make this country the best.

My cultural background is different from my colleagues, by my choice. I am contributing my culture to make this country better and stronger. I believe we can work together. We have challenges before us. We do not have problems, we have challenges. If we work together we can overcome those challenges.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think it was probably wise to let the Bloc member go first because I was a little animated. Now I am all cooled down and I can give a nice calm response to the speech.

I am getting so sick and tired of hearing the Liberals talk about their financial success. I thought of an analogy. I happen to be a motorcyclist. I am driving along and there is a big truck stopped in the middle of the lane in front of me. I am going at 100 kilometres and hour and I am still accelerating. Instead of going at 100 kilometres an hour as I approach this truck, I begin to speed up at a slower rate. In other words, I was going 50, 60, 70, 80 and now, instead of going 90 and 100 as I come to the truck, I only go up to 85, and then 90 and 95. That is what is happening with our debt.

These Liberals do not like to talk about the debt. They only talk about the deficit because they are speeding up at a slower rate. It is annoying that they will not come clean with Canadians and say what they are really doing. I do not know how we can get them to smarten up and tell the truth to Canadians.

I want to say one more thing and then I will let the member respond.

They keep talking about spending, spending, spending. I wonder if any of them know how much surplus they need. They are bragging about bringing the deficit down from $40 billion to $20 billion, $17 billion, $15 billion, $10 billion or whatever it is. We need a surplus of $51 billion a year for 25 years to pay off the debt. That is how big the surplus has to be and these goons are talking about—

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Cambridge, a brief response, please.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will use an analogy also.

The difference between the Liberal philosophy and the commitment we made during the last election campaign and the Reform and other parties is this. They want to cut, cut, cut so fast that they would bleed the country to death.

The left side wants to spend, but we do not have it.

We made a commitment in the election campaign and we will keep that commitment. It has been approved by Canadians.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

It is a great honour and privilege for me to be here speaking to members today about the people of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia whom I am here to represent.

As I am sure is the case with everyone present, there were burning issues which compelled me to run for office and to take my place here. I will try to spell out some of those issues.

Before becoming a member of Parliament I made my living as an Atlantic playwright and film writer. I will become a cultural worker again when the time comes for me to leave here. Until that time I will use whatever communication skills I have to fight for the interests of the people of Dartmouth as their member of Parliament.

Dartmouth is a community of 70,000-plus souls on the Atlantic coast, which is now part of a larger amalgamated region including Halifax, Bedford, Sackville and surrounding regions. It is a community proud of its maritime traditions, its military contributions, its rich culture, its deep harbour and its 21 lakes.

The M'kmaq were the first people to come to its shores. My riding is also home to some of the oldest African-Canadian communities in Canada.

It is a community filled with hard working, straight ahead people who are proud of their contributions to Canadian society.

In the last four years the people of Dartmouth have been beaten up by the heavy handed cuts to the civil service in this country. Massive increases in unemployment, and they have been massive in Atlantic Canada, have left thousands of families affected.

No less an authority than the former premier of Nova Scotia in his speech to the Empire Club last winter said that 16 percent of all federal spending cuts had fallen on Nova Scotia, a province with about 3 percent of the country's population.

Marine biologists, scientists, librarians, teachers, health care workers, radio and film producers, thousands and thousands of important community strengthening jobs have disappeared in the interests of balancing the budget.

Every home I visited during the federal campaign has somehow been hurt by the cuts to the public sector. Is this progress? The workers of Dartmouth, and they are hard workers, have been rocked by another grim reality.

Thousands of civilians military workers have been affected by the government's policies to shove anything that moves into the private sector. Somehow the private sector is by definition more effective and more efficient.

Through a process called ASD, alternate service delivery, every function which now exists in the civilian military workforce is earmarked for privatization. Thousands of good paying, important community strengthening jobs again are being put on the chopping block and then put out to tender to the lowest bidder.

Presto, the jobs are reincarnated only with lower wages, no security and twice the workload. Since my election, dozens of civilian workers have approached me and asked that I fight for their rights for a decent salary, for job security in the face of privatization.

I am not sure whether Canadians are aware that the military of this country has made a decision to privatize all its functions. I do not know whether they know the same thing is happening in the national parks, their hospitals, their health care system.

Is this what Canadians want? Have we really thought about these things carefully? I do not believe so. Everywhere I look in my community I see people much poorer and more insecure than they were five years ago.

I see struggling families dealing with unemployment or waiting for the axe to fall. Is it not time that we started to talk about the sad state of work in this country?

In the Speech from the Throne we talked about the surplus which now exists in the treasury but we did not hear about how it was brought about. It was brought about by cutting the legs out from under the workers who were doing important jobs in their communities.

It was brought about by decimating longstanding meaningful community infrastructures which have given us pride and a sense of ourselves and where we come from.

I was at an event in my riding not long ago, the Dartmouth North community centre activity day. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. There were hundreds of children running around with face paint and hotdogs screaming with glee as they knocked someone off the chair into the dunk tank. It was a perfect picture.

There are a lot of children in North Dartmouth and I think 99 percent of them were there that day, but the lives of many of the Dartmouth children and families are far from perfect. In fact, 25 percent of child protection cases in Nova Scotia are in Dartmouth.

Why is that? Why are so many of our young people at risk? Instead of trusting wholly in the vision put forward by the business section of the Globe and Mail I sometimes seek out other sources such as the National Anti-Poverty Organization.

This is what it says about what is happening in this country. From the latest statistics I learned that an estimated 4.941 million, almost one Canadian in six, were living below the poverty line. About 40 percent of the people being served by Canada's food banks are children under the age of 18.

More than 25 percent of Canada's homeless are children and, despite cheerful words to the contrary in the Speech from the Throne, it is not getting any better.

The impact of the Canada health and social transfer is just starting to take effect like a slow release time bomb. The poor, the disabled, the children, the aged and the ill are all bearing the brunt of less money, less commitment to such things as public health, public education and the whole concept of community.

Where I come from there is an angry and demoralized group of crossing guards working for $5.50 an hour because the amalgamated city, which was supposed to be a money saver, has no money to pay them a decent wage. Imagine, the crossing guards, the people who are entrusted to protect our most precious loved ones, our children, are not being paid a living wage. Is that progress?

There are fewer police on the streets, fewer teachers in the classrooms and fewer nurses in the hospitals but there are a whole lot more people being pensioned off who still want to be working and contributing to their communities.

It is moribund and shameful to see the latest statistics on arts funding and realize that the only area of growth this year was in public broadcasting due to an increase in the area of severance pay. Is this progress? I would say not.

We are having a crisis of work in this country. We now have thousands of people in my community who are unemployed or underemployed and undervalued. We now have thousands of Nova Scotia university graduates carrying debtloads of up to $20,000 without any hope of getting work or if they do they are cobbling together a living on a string of minimum wage jobs. We have a crisis of work in this country.

There are desperate young people coming into my office who are being hounded by collection agencies to pay off their student loans. One young woman was fired from a good job and a job that she loved because she was being harassed by a loan agency that did not think she was coming up with the goods fast enough. Her employer let her go because he did not want to have to field phone calls from thugs any longer.

If I had the time and the genius of a playwright like Arthur Miller I would write a play about this incredible scenario. The theme of it would be right up there with “Death of a Salesman” in terms of human tragedy. Yet we are being told that the good times are back.

In the Speech from the Throne we hear that we have a surplus and the next big debate for us to concern ourselves with is how to spend it. Should we cut taxes here or there or should we drop a little into our programs? There is no talk whatsoever about the horrible human and social deficits which have been created in communities like mine by the policies of the government.

Perhaps that is not surprising. In the Speech from the Throne, as we all stood in the Senate Chamber listening to the governor general present the flowery words of the government, I was struck by the different realities within these walls and without.

There in the Senate Chamber there was no sense of need or desperation, no sense that so many people out there are stretched to the limit. This was a warm, rich and prosperous place, a place of plenty. At meetings we are supplied with tables filled with fruits and croissants, melons, grapes and strawberries. Raise your hand in the House of Commons and a page immediately brings you a glass of water.

My esteemed Metis colleague and seatmate from Saskatchewan said something with regard to the incredible discord that we see in the House of Commons on a daily basis. He suggested the whole structure of the place is wrong, that maybe we should be moving across to the Library of Parliament which is round. Perhaps we should all sit in a circle and try to move this group of warring factions into some unity. Perhaps we should use the methods of the First Nations people to try to fix the disunity of this country and this Parliament.

I would like to work with all members of the House of Commons to fix the deep and widening gaps in our society. I make that pledge. I offer this challenge to all of you. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on her maiden speech. It was very good. Congratulations and welcome to this place.

There are a couple of quick things I would like to ask the member. I toured her riding around the Dartmouth area and that is one of the prettiest places in Canada. She is very fortunate to be in such a place.

During my tour there I had conversations with a lot of people. I would like to know if the hon. member could disclose to me what the people in her riding are saying regarding the merging of the GST and the PST. Could she tell me what they are saying to her in regard to crime and the justice system? I talked to a number of people and I know what they told me. I would like to see how our stories match up.