Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time this afternoon with my colleague, the hon. member for Perth—Middlesex. I begin by congratulating you on your appointment to the Chair. I know you will execute your duties fairly and in the best interest of the House. I assure you that you have my confidence as you carry out your duties.
It is with great humility that I rise today to give my first speech in the House of Commons. The people of Whitby—Ajax have bestowed upon me an unequalled honour in selecting me to be their voice in parliament as Canada moves from this millennium into the next. They have elected me to be part of an honest, responsible government and they demand that the future of the nation, the greatest place in the world in which to live, is assured.
I thank the voters of Whitby—Ajax for the trust they have shown in me and assure them that I will do my utmost to dignify their choice with tireless work, constant communication and faithful representation. I will not let them down.
Whitby—Ajax is a new riding carved from the eastern end of the proud former riding of Ontario. It is made up of all the town of Whitby including the heritage village of Brookland and the southern portion of the town of Ajax.
Ajax is a vibrant community located east of Pickering on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Named for the World War II warship HMS Ajax , the town is a living monument to the allied efforts during that time.
Streets are named for crew members. The town fountain is formed from part of the original ship's anchor. Each town council meeting is called to order by the original ship's bell. Anyone with an interest in modern history will find a rich and rewarding experience in Ajax and the surrounding area.
Moving east from Ajax along the shore of Lake Ontario is Whitby, Durham's business centre and the heart of the region. Like Ajax, Whitby has a waterfront trail that is the envy of the GTA.
Geographically Whitby is able to supply a large and affluent consumer market within a day's trucking of all of Ontario, two-thirds of the Canadian market and half the American market readily available.
Diversification has been a key ingredient in Whitby's strong industrial base. Over 275 businesses are located in the industrial zoned areas. Companies specializing in plastics, packaging, pharmaceuticals, steel, telecommunications and automotive components are part of the broad sector.
Family Kartways, North America's largest go-kart facility, and the renowned Cullen Gardens are just two of the many tourist draws. A growing dynamic community, I have been proud to make Whitby my home for the past 25 years.
While the residents of Whitby—Ajax elected me on June 2, they also gave a substantial vote of confidence to the government and its unequalled record of sound fiscal management. They acknowledge that there have been many challenges, but they appreciate that for the first time in 30 years the Government of Canada will not have to face a crushing deficit, a deficit that was systematically and rapidly destroying our ability to care for those who need help the most.
We understand that deficit reduction is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The efforts of the Liberal government have given us the ability to address the priorities of compassionate and responsible Canadians while living within our means.
I take a great deal of pride in knowing that it was my party that built the framework for this financial turnaround. I recognize that without the support and co-operation of individual Canadians we would not have been successful.
Having made these sacrifices, my constituents have told me that they want the government to stay the course. They warn that we must be mindful of the still excessive debt. They ask that we make strategic investments in key areas while maintaining prudent controls over spending to guarantee continued steady economic growth.
Just two weeks ago, the Governor of the Bank of Canada said “Canada is in better shape now than it has been for many years to face the economic challenges of the future”. He went on to say “Canada's recovery has the potential for a long period of sustained growth in output and employment with rising productivity and improving living standards”.
The Minister of Finance in his last budget reminded us that a government relieved of its deficit burden is not a government relieved of its obligations. It is a government able to exercise its obligations.
The throne speech speaks to those obligations. We have an obligation to build a stronger Canada. To this end, the government has committed to taking a very broad and consultative approach to promoting and strengthening our national unity. It is committed to forging a strong, progressive partnership for all stakeholders.
We see the most common yet most successful types of partnerships in our families. A family is made up of individuals with different hopes, different dreams, diverging opinions and conflicting ideas, but they remain united. They face challenges together and they help one another in times of need. The individuals grow from sharing the experiences of their brothers and sisters and the family grows and becomes stronger as a result. Never is the departure of a family member beneficial to the family or to the individual. Everyone loses.
It is in that context that I appeal to my hon. members across the way to stop their campaigns to destroy what has been and continues to be the most beautiful and most successful partnership in the world.
Canada may have had its rough spots and tough times, but I am willing to give everything I have to addressing the concerns of Canadians, whether they live in Quebec or British Columbia, and to preserving the country I love.
The next obligation of the government is the investment in our youth. Our children are our most precious resource. Quite literally they are the future of our country.
I am truly heartened by the government's announcement that it is increasing its contribution to the Canada child tax benefit by $850 million a year, with higher payments to families beginning July 1, 1998.
The throne speech states:
A country that has decided to invest in its children is a country confident of its future. A country that invests in children successfully will have a better future—. We must equip our children with the capacities they need to be ready to learn and to participate fully in society.
The throne speech also speaks to the need to create opportunities for youth. Youth unemployment continues to be a serious problem. All Canadians have a stake in meeting this challenge successfully.
The government continues to move forward on the issue. With the recently announced millennium scholarship fund we have demonstrated that the issue is a priority for the government. The fund will reward academic excellence and provide thousands of scholarships each year. It is my sincere hope students of knowledge based technologies will be the primary benefactors.
Any successful business operator or economic adviser will say that in order to succeed one should identify that which one does best and then do it better than anyone else. We have the opportunity to do this with our knowledge based industries. Canada can no longer compete in the unskilled manufacturing sector with the emerging economies around the world which offer low wages, relaxed labour standards and fewer environmental controls.
As Canadians we must focus our attention and resources on nurturing and developing industries in which we can compete and in fact do lead the world. I am specifically referring to the information and communication technology sectors, but the same holds true for any high tech areas that require a highly trained and highly paid workforce.
Our health care system is often considered as one of the key identifying characteristics of what it means to be Canadian. As I campaigned this spring one pressing concern was the preservation and acceptability of health care.
The federal Liberal government is firmly committed to a publicly administered comprehensive health care system that provides universal access to high quality care to Canadians everywhere. Access as contemplated by the Canada Health Act is important to all Canadians, especially women with children and seniors who are the majority users of our health services.
I am pleased the government's objectives are in the national pharmacare program, the maintenance of our HIV-AIDS strategy and the commitment to deal with the unique needs of our aboriginal communities.
I spent six years as a municipal councillor prior to my election to the House. I had the opportunity to work in a collaborative atmosphere with my council colleagues. Issues were addressed quickly and effectively with meaningful consultation among stakeholders. We faced obstacles together and we succeeded. Working together in the spirit of co-operation was the key to successfully finding solutions to the various challenges we encountered on a daily basis.
One example of partnership is the federal government's infrastructure program. As a result of the program the municipalities in my riding were able to complete infrastructure programs that would not have been possible without the assistance of federal and provincial governments.
Only last week I attended the official opening of the Garden Street grade separation in Whitby. This separation was required not only to ensure the safety of residents but to provide the arterial road upgrade needed to attract new industrial and commercial investment to the area, investment that will lead to the creation of long term meaningful jobs.
Working together in partnership with all levels of government is the only effective way to ensure the delivery of services to people within a sound economic framework. Partnerships work. The throne speech is about partnerships, partnerships with Canadian people.
I urge all members of the House to work together to fulfil their obligations as parliamentarians. Our obligation is to ensure the country we leave to our children is safe, prosperous, free and united.