Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague for Brandon—Souris and I will be splitting it equally.
There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed. A lot of people were waiting for this wonderful vision for the millennium and thought that was exactly what they were going to get. They thought that they would see things that would turn things around throughout Canada, from the east coast to the west coast. A lot of people were very disappointed after the throne speech came out.
We know that the good book says, “where there is no vision the people perish”. That has been the situation in Canada under the government because so many people are hurting. I thought there might be something there for the Atlantic region. I know the MPs from the Atlantic region were waiting for the throne speech because they thought there would be something there with regard to regional development. I heard one MP say that she was so pleased with the throne speech that she was going to dance in the streets. I have not found anyone else that wants to be her partner while she is dancing. She is going to dance all by herself. The lack of vision was truly sad.
The one good thing that came out of the throne speech was the infrastructure program. Having been a mayor, and many of us in the House of Commons were mayors before, I know how we fought for that infrastructure program. The government is saying it is going to continue the program. I have talked to the people from FCM and they are very pleased about that. I am also pleased about that.
However, we should have been back here September 1, not the middle of October. Let us look at what is happening with our airline service. We are not sure where it is going. In my city of Saint John, New Brunswick, we are not sure what is going to happen. If we do not have airline service then what happens to the economy? What happens to the people?
Let us take a look at the other issues, the immigration issue and the illegal immigrants coming into Canada. No one has dealt with that very serious situation. Let us take a look at the fishery.
I asked those questions today in the House. The fisheries is a serious situation and violence can and will occur unless the Prime Minister of Canada himself steps in. The Prime Minister has to go to the table. I had aboriginal people in my office at nine o'clock this morning. These are not people that live on the reserves, but the minister of fisheries has refused to meet with them. He and the Prime Minister have to meet and talk with them.
There was a great deal in the Speech from the Throne about children. I have two children of my own and two grandchildren and like everyone else I am very concerned about the future. I want to make sure there is a strong foundation for my two little grandchildren.
I feel very strongly about families. I feel very strongly that we have to help them. We have to make sure that there is a strong foundation to continue to build on and assist the family unit. It is very important that we reduce personal income tax. We should be putting money back into the pockets of those parents.
It is also very important that the transfer payments be increased so that we can have health care back where it should be. One would not believe the horror stories in my riding office that have happened through health care. We have lost in our part of Canada many of our specialists. They have gone to the United States. That is where they are at. We just lost another one. We cannot replace them. We cannot afford to pay them the same salary. It is a major concern. We have to reduce our massive national debt. I do not want our grandchildren to have to pay for it. I want us to work and do it right.
When I took over as mayor the city was in a very poor financial position, just like the country is in a very poor financial position, and I wanted to get us into a borrowing debt free position. I asked the commissioner of finance to give me three programs to look at to try to get us into a borrowing debt free position.
When he put those programs before me it just so happened that on my council I had a professor at the time. That professor said to me “Elsie, come here to the window”. I went to the window and I looked. He said “That little man down there sweeping the street works for us, Elsie. We have to make sure that man continues to work. We do not want to slash, burn and cut to the point that he has no way to feed his family”. We did it in a very responsible way. This has to happen again at the federal level.
I have waited, and I am sure a lot of people across the country were waiting, for something in the throne speech on defence, something in that speech to help merchant mariners so they are not back here on the Hill on a hunger strike again. If we do not resolve the compensation issue for merchant mariners they will be back up on the Hill by November 11 and they will be on another hunger strike.
Of those men who were here on a hunger strike, one of them has been in the hospital for two operations since he went back. If he comes here again we will be burying him from the steps of Parliament Hill. That has to be resolved and it has not been resolved. It is truly sad when we take a look at how the Liberals have cut the defence budget to the point that our troops that have to go to Croatia, Kosovo and East Timor do not have the equipment they should have.
This is the international year of seniors and seniors were never mentioned in the throne speech. What an insult for the seniors of Canada. They must have been hurt. I have looked at the cutbacks in programs that used to be there for them. They are no longer there and the seniors are having a difficult time.
The government needs to raise the basic income tax exemption to $10,000. This could eliminate a lot of people from the tax rolls, more than two million lower income workers. The solutions rest in the strengthening of the family unit with lower taxes, with better co-operation among Ottawa, the provinces, the territories and our communities. We have to look at the quality of life.
Since the government came into power in 1993 it has increased personal income taxes by 15%. In five years it did that. In five years a lot of middle income Canadians are worse off today than they have ever been. I know that myself. My daughter-in-law said to me “Mom, I find it hard these days to make ends meet”. I said “I know, dear, because you are paying more in taxes than ever before”. I have to say right now that things have to change, that things have to turn around.
It was a throne speech. It was supposed to be for all the people. However, there had better be a better vision than what was contained in that throne speech if we want to turn Canada around. If we want to do what is right for families, if we want to do what is right for all Canadians from coast to coast, there is a lot more that needs to be done.