House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.


The House resumed at 1.25 p.m.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Resuming debate. The member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup may now continue.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, after this interruption that was quite beyond the House's control, I remind members that we are looking at Bill C-93 concerning certain measures in the budget.

Before the interruption, I was saying that this budget did not contain any real measures to combat unemployment, the major problem in Quebec and in Canada. I proposed several specific

solutions to turn the tide and promote employment in our various ridings.

The first was a plan to use the surplus in the UI fund not just to lower the deficit but to really create jobs, particularly in regions with a lot of seasonal employment. This would make it possible to diversify our regional economies.

For example, the number of weeks of work could be increased for forestry workers, as is done in our region, by processing forest products, in order to increase the number of full time jobs in the forestry industry in the future.

I also spoke about changing government policy on procurement, which has been sadly lacking in Quebec, among other places, in recent years. In 1994, Quebecers were short $1.3 billion compared to what they should have received, given their percentage of the population. That is 22,000 jobs for Quebec, or almost 300 jobs per riding. This would make all the difference between towns having trouble surmounting these difficulties and towns with an SMB that could win federal government contracts. This is a concrete way to do something about employment.

The other way to do something is to loosen the federal government's grip on transfer payments, to ensure the return of the $750 million in health cuts over two years in Quebec alone because of lost transfer payments. If it had really decided to make cuts in departmental operating budgets, this kind of cut could have been avoided and the money would be there for jobs. The provinces would not be stuck with the problems they are now facing.

There are also active measures under the infrastructures program. The federal government announced that it was divesting itself of ports and other infrastructures, that it was turning them over to the public, to interested groups. But when it does this, these facilities must be in an acceptable condition. Action must be taken rapidly. Market conditions are changing. Our economic stakeholders must, therefore, be able to take advantage of the best transportation infrastructures possible.

Shipping as well as road, rail and air transportation are all sectors in which prompt action must be taken. However, where ports are concerned, the federal government has already announced its intention of unloading them. Let it hand the money over to the communities concerned, so that they may take things over, as soon as possible, in order to breathe new life into these really important elements for job creation.

After Quebec became aware that it absolutely must assume responsibility for manpower, after 32 years of repeated demands-particularly in the past three years as the Bloc kept asking questions in the House in order to ensure that the money available for manpower was given to Quebec, which already had responsibility for education, which already possessed all of the tools necessary, and which was lacking only the necessary funds for these programs to be effective-it finally came to pass. In future, we will have to obtain the same type of responsibility for transportation.

We became aware in the past that, because the federal government was responsible for rail, air and maritime transportation, while the provinces were responsible for highways, there had never been any true connection between the governments in order to ensure effective intermodal transportation.

We have reached the point now where all means of transportation, and all infrastructures, must be brought in line with one another, so as to properly meet the new challenges of the North American markets created by the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Mexico and South America. This, then, is another step that must be taken.

Under the current system, it is certain that we will never obtain real jurisdiction, because the federal government has a sort of natural inclination to prevent such transfers. But at the very least we would need to obtain the same as for manpower, during the next mandate, so as to be able to act on the economic markets and to ensure that the economic strategy is consistent with a transportation strategy which takes all means of transportation into consideration.

I will give an example of this. A few years ago, the rail line linking Rivière-du-Loup with Edmundston was dismantled, with federal government authorization. Since that time, the highway system has been jammed with truck traffic. There is also increased economic activity between the maritimes and Quebec. Had there been only one government intervening in the two sectors, we would have realized that the solution lay not in making miserly savings by dismantling the railway system. What we needed was a more integrated approach which would have made it possible to put trailers on trains and move them by truck at the end of the line. There would have been economic choices, but they were not made.

Today we face a new reality. The federal government is responsible for this highway. It is part of the Trans-Canada highway. We proposed with the Liberal members a public-private partnership project, which would mean the early completion of repair work.

I think the federal government would do well in the next election to endorse public-private partnership projects and, as the Liberal and Bloc members of the Standing Committee on Transport recommended, pilot projects, with Highway 185 being an interesting example.

In short, the budget we got in 1997 was along the same lines as those of previous years. The Minister of Finance tried to fight the deficit. He had some success, but the number one problem governments are facing today is not the fight against the deficit anymore, but unemployment and how to help people in the regions.

If we want results, we cannot wait another year. Canadians will have to react quickly and tell the government, during the election campaign, that they want corrections to be made, that they want a budget to implement such corrections as soon as Parliament returns after the election, so that, in one, two or three years, we will see

results because something will have been about unemployment and about using the potential of all Canadians.

I am thinking in particular of those who have no specialized training. We must make sure these workers have jobs. When I am told there are no jobs available and when I am asked what to do about it, I say that we must make money available, we must make the employment insurance surplus fund available to allow these workers to gain more experience and to accumulate more weeks of employment. For example, why not use the employment insurance fund to promote secondary or tertiary processing of forestry products?

As you know, our softwood lumber exports to the United States are subject to a quota. However, when that wood is processed and given added value, it is no longer subject to that quota. This means that more wood can then be exported to the United States. We could use the surplus in the employment insurance fund to implement concrete projects and hire people who do not necessarily have specialized training, but who have practical experience in the forestry industry.

In conclusion, the government will have to go back to the drawing board very quickly in order to deal with the number one problem: unemployment. Given its performance regarding the deficit, the government has no reason to brag. Canadians want action now.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member from the Bloc mentioned that the time for deficit control was over, that deficit control was no longer the issue.

With all due respect to the member, in starting my speech today I really feel that is a bit of an irresponsible attitude to take toward the deficit. At $19 billion, and maybe it will get down to $10 billion, it is a little muddled about where the figures actually are, what an irresponsible attitude.

It still adds $10 billion to the $600 billion that the federal government now owes. The way to get meaningful job creation is not to have that deficit balloon upwards. That could easily happen anyway if interest rates go up two or three percentage points. Our deficit could easily balloon right back over $20 billion or $25 billion per year.

We really must get that deficit under control first. We have to start running surpluses. Perhaps the hon. member who spoke before me and maybe many members of this House have had no direct business experience. However, speaking as a business person on behalf of my colleagues in Reform, many of whom are business people with business experience, the way to create jobs is to get taxation down.

When a business' taxes are lower, when its employees' taxes are lower, both the business and the employees have more disposable income. When the business has more disposable income it is easy to reinvest and to create new jobs, to expand, to advertise. That is how jobs are created.

In addition, when the employees have more disposable income because their taxes are lower, they spend money on furniture, on cars and vacations, extra treats that maybe they would not have had before. This stimulates growth in the economy. It causes businesses in turn to reinvest the money that they have. That means massive job creation and that is the way to job growth. It is not by having the government spend money to create short term jobs, as it did with the infrastructure boondoggle where the auditor general calculated that each job created cost us something like $75,000. What a terrible waste of taxpayer money.

We could have used that infrastructure money to help pay down the debt. Then we would be closer to tax reductions and meaningful jobs.

A colleague of mine from the Reform Party, the member for Yorkton-Melville, brought in a private member's bill recently, Bill C-361, in which he proposed that there should be a people's tax form. The bill was called the people's tax form act.

The member proposed that when people fill out their income tax, in the income tax envelope there should be a one page questionnaire inviting opinions about specific major programs.

I suspect that defenders of the status quo would find three objections to the people's tax form act. First, they would say that too few people would be willing to fill it out. Second, too many people would fill it out and create too much work. Third, citizens do not know what they are talking about and should keep their noses out of the government's business. I do not suppose we will ever really know what the citizens think. I am certain the government would not have supported the bill anyway.

In the experiment that was run by my colleague in his riding, the overwhelming results from the 500 people who returned the questionnaires were that the federal programs endorsed in one form or another were the ones that all four major parties in this House support. They are old age security, health care, justice, the RCMP, the Canada pension plan, debt reduction, veterans pensions, universities, natural resource development, environmental protection and practical research.

Then there are the ten most strongly opposed programs. The budget we brought in last year could have dealt with them and saved taxpayers a bundle of money. The ten most strongly opposed expenditures were all the fat little Liberal pet ponies: official bilingualism, subsidies for special interests, gun registration, for-

eign aid, multiculturalism, that National Film Board, subsidies for business, subsidies for sports, Indian affairs and the CBC.

There are themes that are noticeable here. People want to retain public security for those who cannot afford it themselves. We have an obligation to help those who need our assistance. They want government to encourage but not interfere in the marketplace.

Unfortunately we cannot seem to convince this government to take a more businesslike approach to the running of government. The policies of this government really do affect the average person on the street quite dramatically.

I received a letter last week from a constituent by the name of Ms. Munday: "I am a registered nurse, so every year I am charged GST on my registration fee and every year I have to waste time on the telephone getting through to the income tax office to send me a GST rebate form". She describes in detail the process, the hassles, the number of hours she wastes to have a form sent out to her which she needs every year. She has made a suggestion which I hope the Minister of National Revenue will hear. Surely the revenue collection department can get its act together well enough to send out the appropriate form with the tax forms it sends to her every year, knowing that she will need them.

I am sure the minister will act on that suggestion, but the underlying theme of the letter is that if we did not have the GST there would not be a need for this lady to fill out the form every year. The whole exercise of filling out the form to get the rebate is a waste of taxpayer money.

There are a number of people involved in creating the refund and their time is not being used productively. First the tax has to be collected. It has to be processed and banked. Then a form has to be sent off to this lady, after hours of negotiation on the telephone. Then she has to fill it out using her time. It has to be mailed and processed again. Then there has to be a print run on stationery paid for by the people. It goes back to her. It gets processed through her bank account and out of the government account again. It is a wasteful process and the amounts can be very small. I am sure in many cases the amounts are extremely small. It must be a tremendously unproductive and costly exercise.

There are places in the House of Commons where we could save a lot of money and cut the deficit significantly. For example, a couple of weeks ago I brought to the attention of the House an issue concerning the heritage committee. It was proposing to spend about $214,000 for a travel junket around the country to define Canadian culture. Defining Canadian culture? It is like trying to define what makes a cat a cat or what love is. What a ridiculous thing to be wasting money on.

The heritage committee was not very happy with me. I know that because the chairman circulated a memo with a copy of my speech and complained bitterly about me at the subsequent committee hearing. Of course he did not invite me to the hearing. I found out about it by accident when I read the transcript.

I am glad the election will interfere with the plans of that committee. It will save taxpayers about $214,000. I give notice to the committee that if it regenerates the plan after the election I will ensure it gets plenty of publicity.

In terms of whether the government takes any notice of taxpayers desire to get rid of some of the waste, I saw a very interesting article in a local newspaper. It appeared in the February 24 edition of the Vancouver Sun . It was about a gentleman who decided he had a problem with the finance minister. He discovered that the finance minister had an E-mail address. He promptly sent off an E-mail. He received a personal reply, in both official languages, with a ``thank you for taking the time''. It went on to say that this would be the only reply he would receive because of financial constraints.

He was particularly impressed with the E-mail, noting that he had sent it at 1800 hours Vancouver time, nine o'clock at night Ottawa time, and within five minutes of sending it he had received the reply. He thought "my goodness, we have a lot of very overworked public servants in Ottawa in the finance minister's office answering E-mail at five after nine at night".

He thought that a bit suspicious. Right away he sent another E-mail on a totally different topic and he received the same E-mail message five minutes later, in both official languages, thanking him once again for his opinion and saying that this was the only reply he would get because of financial constraints.

More than a tad suspicious, he sent a third message to the finance minister which consisted entirely of "fuzzy-wuzzy was a bear, fuzzy-wuzzy had no hair". Five minutes later, sure enough, he received the same answer again, in both official languages, saying that this was the only reply he would receive because of financial constraints.

This is a very good example of how taxpayers' money is being wasted on meaningless responses to concerned taxpayers. The government has no intention of taking their input seriously.

I have another letter that was sent to me by a constituent who had written to the Prime Minister. This constituent received an answer from the Prime Minister's office dated March 27, 1997. This concerns input into the budget process. It reads:

Dear Mr. Campbell:

On behalf of the Prime Minister, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence of March 16 regarding.

Yours sincerely, Jill Bowerman, Special Assistant.

They forgot to even put in the topic. It just ends.

This is probably another example of nobody having read the input or could care less about the input from this person. He was sending suggestions about the budget process and received a standard form letter where the person answering even forgot to plug in the topic.

If there was a little bit more direct democracy in our system the people in this place would care a bit more about taking notice of the input they got on bills like this budget bill that is before the House. They would be concerned that the people would have power, if there was more direct democracy, to change the laws.

I will give an example. An article appeared in the Financial Post of Wednesday, April 9 about California's affirmation action ban being upheld. Members may know about the controversial proposition 209, which was put forward in California a few months ago to get rid of the affirmative action programs in California. They had distorted, with discriminatory practices, the job marketplace in California showing preference to specific groups not based on their skills but because they could fit into certain boxes. It so outraged the people of California when they could see the unfair distortions that were created by these programs that they started proposition 209. They were successful in overturning this politically correct legislation that had been introduced by their politically correct legislators. On a court challenge, the result of that proposition was upheld.

What a wonderful victory for taxpayers when they can take their legislators to task in that way and get rid of legislation which they see as improper that has been foisted on them because legislators think they know what is best for them.

The pressure for change to give more meaningful input to bills like this is building all around the world. There was an article in the Hill Times a week ago headed ``polls show that Britons have a clear desire to radically change Parliament and the voting process''. It is quite an interesting article and is very easy to obtain here on the Hill. I would recommend to all members to get a hold of it.

The article mentions that the British show a readiness for radical change in their system of government. Keep in mind that they are way ahead of us anyway. They permit free voting in the House of Commons. It is a commonly observed process for members to be voting on opposite sides. Yet they are still showing a desire to see even more change and more input into the process.

Specifically there is a strong and accelerating dissatisfaction with Parliament and the parliamentary system, but interestingly enough not with the local MPs. People feel that the local MPs listen to their concerns and perhaps even take them to Parliament. Much as happens in this place, the concerns can be expressed here but they end up falling into a big black hole and disappear.

Every day we present petitions, sometimes tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of names. I remember just after we came to this House after the election of 1993, Reform proposed that we have one day a month where we debate the major petitions so that we could get the government's position on these things. Our idea was defeated.

These petitions still, to this day, get presented and then just go down to the vault in the basement. I do not know if any member has been down there to see the petitions that are stored from the turn of the century. Can anyone imagine the millions of names that are down there on petitions asking for things and the government has never taken any notice? There really is no democratic part to the process. It really is a great shame.

Because of the lack of democracy, we get the type of examples I gave where letters remain unanswered, E-mails are answered with meaningless text and we get government dispensing money without requesting permission from the taxpayers.

The premier of Alberta has introduced legislation to make it necessary for the government to get permission from taxpayers to increase tax rates. What a wonderful sign that we are actually starting to get some improvements in the democratic process. What a radical idea, that taxpayers might actually be able to tell the government not to increase taxes. I congratulate the premier for doing that. I also congratulate the Ontario premier for seriously considering the introduction of meaningful initiative and referendum legislation to give the people the power to direct the government in the way it spends their money.

There are certainly plenty of things we could do with direction here in spending taxpayers' money. The government has handed out vast sums of money to Bombardier. I have a letter from another constituent, Mr. Currie, that is dated March 27. It is actually addressed to the member for Waterloo. My constituent says: "On March 21 in reply to a question from the member for North Vancouver regarding Bombardier's apparent use of a federal grant of $97 million to increase its reported profit by $93 million-"

Bombardier reported a profit of $93 million last year but it received a federal grant for $97 million so it is very easy to see where its bottom line came from. I asked a question of the member for Waterloo about that. The member replied that it was a perfect example of a critical investment in research and development and that it was money we would get back with interest.

Three days later, on March 24, Bombardier announced it was moving its production of the Sea-Doo water craft to Benton, Illinois. After receiving $97 million from the federal government, it promptly closed down a plant and put 165 employees out of work. Adding 165 people to Canada's unemployment roll hardly seems like an investment we will get back with interest. The $97 million might have been better spent on transfers to the provinces to offset their increasing health care costs.

That raises an interesting point because the Liberals claim to be the only party-I have seen it in advertisements-that can be trusted to preserve quality universal health care. The fact is the Liberals have cut more than $7 billion from transfers to the provinces in support of health care and social programs.

During the 1993 election campaign, in response to public input, Reform's zero in three plan to balance the budget specifically exempted health care transfers and transfers in support of higher education from any cuts. It was in the plan because people had told us that those two items were their highest priorities. The Liberals have cut $7 billion from those transfers and have pretended they have not done anything. Reform's fresh start program for the 1997 election campaign states that we will restore $4 billion of the $7 billion that has been cut by the Liberals.

The Liberals also claim in some of their election campaign material that they have cleaned up federal finances and dramatically reduced the deficit. The fact is the Liberals have actually added $100 billion to the debt in the last three and a half years. That means taxpayers are paying about $8 billion more in interest payments than they were when the Liberals took office.

Reductions in the deficit have not come from cuts to federal spending, not to the government's special departments. Only $5 billion has been cut out of its $160 billion budget for federal departmental spending. The bulk of the reductions have come almost exclusively from huge cuts in transfers to the provinces, enormous increases in taxes and user fees and good luck in the form of lower interest rates.

Sitting on the opposite side of the House is a member who comes from the banking industry. He knows very well the effects that increasing interest rates have on the amounts people pay for their mortgages. He is probably also well aware of the amount of Canada's debt that is in short term securities, two to three year periods or less. He knows that we are constantly rolling over that debt, that if these interests rates shoot up three, four or five points, that debt will be renewed at increasingly difficult payment levels. The country could quite easily slip into a terrible crisis if interest rates jump dramatically, especially if it is necessary to defend the rather failing dollar we have right at the moment.

I can see that the other side of the House is getting a little bit antsy and that members would probably like to ask me a few questions which I always welcome.

I will wind up by saying that if we want to get this country back on track and create jobs, we have to get taxes down, spending under control and begin paying off Canada's $600 billion debt.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to this bill.

I want to address a couple of matters about government spending that need to be said. Each night as we grow closer to an election I watch the government throwing out its usual dollars to encourage people to vote for them.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Not me.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.


Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the Liberals says "not me". He may be the only one who says that.

I wonder just how Liberal members feel when in fact they are borrowing this money from other countries and selling it to the very taxpayers that are footing the bill for interest.

It is really alarming that we are overspending this year by some $19 billion-that is nineteen thousand million dollars-and yet the government believes that it can spend about $6.5 billion thus far just before an election. Why not take that money, try to write down the deficit or even pay down some of the debt? What is this preoccupation before an election of a government to think that people are standing there with their hands out waiting for money?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I know the member has just started his speech for today but as it is almost 2 p.m., I wonder if we could go to statements by members and he will have the floor when we come back.

Banff National Park
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Judy Bethel Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Alberta welcomes the world to experience Canada's magnificent, majestic Banff National Park, confident that its future will be protected and enhanced by the Banff management plan.

The plan will be the basis for all decision making in the park for the next 10 to 15 years and will ensure the legacy continues into the 21st century.

In particular, the heritage tourism initiative will enrich the experience of all who visit. Parks Canada, the town of Banff and the tourism industry are developing a heritage tourism strategy that centres around the park's natural, cultural and historical resources. This strategy supports a common code of ethics for the local tourism industry and its partners. It promotes the orientation,

training and accreditation for employees in tourism related jobs, and it focuses on heritage tourism activities.

An annual round table, an open public forum to review the progress and to account for the action gives all Canadians an opportunity to be part of ensuring a sustainable future for Canada's national park.

In conclusion, the new Banff-

Bell Science Fair
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec finals of the Bell super science fair was held this past weekend at Collège Jean-de-Bréboeuf in Montreal.

Among the many young men and women winners at this event, I would like to congratulate Catherine Martel and Hélène Hallé of Polyvalente Charles-Gravel in Chicoutimi for their project on polygraphy called "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".

This accomplishment will send them on to Lyon, France to participate in the science fair at this year's Entretiens Jacques-Cartier .

My best wishes for good luck to the school administrators, the teachers supervising the team, Catherine and Hélène.

Their victory will surely benefit their entire school. I am proud to have been involved in education myself for over 30 years.

Congratulations to Catherine and Hélène and to everyone at Charles-Gravel.

Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Joe McGuire Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, one of our most cherished values is volunteerism. Every day our citizens freely and selflessly offer a helping hand to those in need.

Today I would like to say a few words about the work of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, a great Canadian story that seldom gets told.

Since it began operations in 1978 auxiliary members have participated with risks to their own lives in upwards of 28,000 incidents, 24 per cent of all marine search and rescue incidents annually, and 200 lives on average are saved each year.

Working closely with the Canadian Coast Guard and made up mostly of fishermen and recreational boaters, the auxiliary 3,400 members and their 1,300 vessels are an invaluable part of our marine search and rescue network.

The auxiliary's work also extends to prevention activities as members dedicate their time to conduct demonstrations of marine safety equipment, give lectures on boating safety, conduct courtesy examinations of pleasure craft and fishing vessels, and participate in boat shows.

These unsung heroes of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary deserve all the support the government and the Canadian public can give them.

Earth Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, first celebrated in 1970, Earth Day highlights the link between our behaviour and the health of the planet.

In Canada over 3,000 events are planned, including the planting of seedlings and the cleaning of streams and rivers. Community groups and schools are staging events on the protection of nature, conservation of our natural resources, reduction of air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, protection of our drinking water, importance of recycling, energy efficiency and conservation of energy.

Earth Day is a day for all Canadians to celebrate together with citizens in 100 other countries doing exactly the same.

British Columbia
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week Statistics Canada released the numbers from the 1996 census and revealed what British Columbians have known all along, that B.C. is home of the biggest population boom in Canada. B.C. grew by 13.5 per cent between 1991 and 1996.

In 1951 the first census that included all 10 provinces showed that B.C. had only 8.3 per cent of Canada's population. Today it has 12.9 per cent. Another indicator of B.C.'s growth is a comparison with the second largest province, Quebec. In 1951 B.C. had 25 per cent of Quebec's population. Today it has 52 per cent.

Despite these numbers B.C. gets only one-third of the amount of federal dollars that Quebec receives for each immigrant. It gets only 28 per cent of the money that Quebec got from the government's infrastructure fund.

It is time for Ottawa to realize that Canada is changing and to start acting like it is 1997, not 1951.

Statements By Members

April 22nd, 1997 / 2 p.m.


Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, Devco has just sold the Donkin mine site to a private company without tender for the princely sum of $1 so that the private company could undertake engineering studies about the feasibility of operating the mine as a private venture in the future.

Devco employees want answers about this blatant pre-election ploy. Does it signal that the privatization of Devco is in the works? When the new mine is up and running will experienced miners at Devco be forced to leave behind their seniority and pensions and start from scratch with the new private company?

If private interests think that Donkin is worth developing, why did Devco not commission the engineering studies rather than giving the mine away?

Cape Bretoners whose livelihoods are most directly affected have been left out in the cold. Shame on the 32 Liberal MPs from Atlantic Canada for treating the miners of Cape Breton with such arrogance.

Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the green rug of the House of Commons symbolizes the village green where people gathered in the early days of parliament to bring their concerns to the speaker. This was a parliament with only the walls and carpet of nature.

We are all members of the earth community and even though we now sit in a building of stone, mortar and glass, we must remember our connection to the earth. Human activity is threatening the basic fundamentals of life on our planet. This can no longer be ignored. As parliamentarians we must legislate as if all life on this planet matters.

As we remember those early meetings on the village green, we are connected not only to the beginning of our parliamentary tradition but to the earth itself. This is an important lesson we can never forget. It is our past, our present and our future.