Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Guelph—Wellington.
It is an honour for me to speak today to show my confidence in the government and the programs set out in the Governor General's Speech from the Throne. I would like to offer my humble thanks to Her Excellency Madam Clarkson for the gracious speech which she addressed to both Houses of Parliament and to all Canadians.
There is much to talk about the millennium and what the next century holds. After hearing the Speech from the Throne I am certain we will enjoy a fruitful millennium, one which the Canada we know today will continue on its course of greatness in the next century and beyond, the Canada we know which looks after all citizens and creates a positive environment allowing them to maximize their potential as individuals and as collectivities.
I could go on for days describing the wonderful state in which we live, but I am here today to show my support for our government and its plans for the coming years, its plan that will lay the foundations for generations inhabiting this great land.
I see the Speech from the Throne as a symbol of the incredible progress we have made over the last six years. We have gone from inheriting a Canada where the future looked bleak to being well prepared for the challenges a new world brings us. It is by far one of the most promising and well thought out programs I have had the pleasure to be part of. I would like to commend the government on its foresight. We are honoured to be part of a plan that takes into consideration not only the needs of middle class Canadians, but also recognizes those Canadians who may be in a less fortunate position.
We see before us a government that is ready to commit to children and youth, to rebuilding communities, strengthening the environment, increasing disposable income through tax relief and improving our place in the world. We should be proud of our commitment to Canada and proud we are.
I am also greatly pleased that so much of what our program entails is going to directly benefit my home province of Prince Edward Island. Children are going to enter the millennium with a better education, better standard of living and a better future than has ever been seen in our history as a nation. New parents are going to have an edge over my generation. Mothers and fathers alike will be able to raise a family without having to worry about the future.
I remember a time not so long ago when the thought of raising a family in the 21st century concerned a lot of people. It concerned us because under the last government we were headed toward a society where families would have been ignored. Today we can look forward with hope.
We can be hopeful because we are taking steps to invest in the future. Children are the future of our nation. Without them our liberal democratic tradition will not continue. They represent our legacy.
This government will help parents spend more time caring for young children while ensuring that they have the resources to meet their children's needs. Our plan will do this by reducing income taxes for families, extending employment insurance parental leave benefits and adding an additional $1.7 billion a year to the national child benefit making it easier for low income families to break the cycle of poverty.
We must also invest in today's youth. They are acquiring knowledge and skills at an earlier age. They are at home in the wired world using tools that are rapidly changing the way we think. We are experiencing a technological revolution.
When I was younger we used to use our two feet to look for a job. We would pound on the doors. We would pound the pavement. Now our young adults can use the Internet to look for employment. They can also shop, trade stocks, say hello to a relative, all with the flick of a mouse. It has changed the way in which we work. These youth need to be given the tools to succeed under these conditions. Our plan will give Canadian youth an edge as the technological revolution continues so that we will surpass all other nations in the world when dealing with technology's challenges.
Our plan will help Canada's youth realize their potential as leaders. The government will help them learn about their country and its citizens, use their skills to help others and use their creativity to contribute to Canada's culture. This will be achieved by drawing on the expertise of young Canadians to help connect rural and urban communities to the information highway by hiring our youth to put in place additional Internet access sites for public use. This will increase the participation of rural Canadians on the Internet while giving our youth valuable work experience.
We will also give 100,000 young Canadians every year a chance to learn about another part of the country through exchanges Canada. This will solidify our youth as knowledgeable Canadians while increasing their awareness of regional issues. Clearly technology investment is a thoughtful investment for the future of a strong Canadian federation and a strong Canadian youth.
But all of this investment in youth, in family and children which I just spoke about is worthless if we do not have safe strong communities, communities that are free of crime, and a strong voluntary sector to tie them together.
Strong communities rely on the participation of all members. Our government is committed to strengthen this partnership with communities and the voluntary organizations which contribute to them. We will do this by developing a national accord with the voluntary sector to lay the foundation for stronger partnerships with voluntary organizations.
If I may take this a step further, our investment in communities is part and parcel of our long term economic and social well-being. Our investment in children and families is also a long term investment. We are however at a loss if we do not include the environment in our long term goal to enter the millennium with force.
A clean and healthy environment is central to our quality of life and as time progresses the demands that are made on mother nature will become even more severe. The government recognizes this and will continue to build partnerships at home and abroad which focus on sustainable development and improve the quality of the environment in our communities. We will set and enforce tough pollution standards, reduce greenhouse gases, clean up contaminated sites on federal lands and support innovative clean-up technologies.
Canada has always symbolized a nation that appreciates the environment. As we enter the 21st century we will continue this tradition of environmental preservation by extending Canada's national parks system.
The financial stability of Canadians is also very important as we enter a new century. Financial freedom allows Canadians to maximize their potential, gives them the freedom to grow and to put something back into the country. Having said this, I cannot stress how important it is that we receive tax relief. This is the best way to give our economy a kickstart and to give the children of the future a solid foundation on which to grow. We cannot just provide children with a positive learning environment; we must also give them the financial support in which to flourish. To give our families more disposable income so they can provide their children with the foundation to grow will certainly make Canada the place to be in the 21st century.
Just recently I sent out questionnaires to my constituents asking them what they thought we as a country could do to increase our standard of living. I also asked them how we could increase our productivity. Over 80% of the responses I have received so far demand that the tax burden be reduced. It is clear that we must give Canadians an incentive to build. I look forward to our government's response to the overwhelming demand that exists for tax relief.
In the Speech from the Throne Her Excellency the Governor General addressed tax relief issues. Our government will put more dollars in the hands of families with children. Our government will also continue to create a better environment for economic growth and enhanced productivity by reducing the debt burden, initiating more tax cuts and making strategic investments. The economic spinoff from a tax cut will add to the economy. People who have more money at their disposal will stimulate the demand for goods and in turn will create more jobs. It is a win-win situation.
I would like to join the millions of Canadians who have embraced our program. May we enjoy its benefits and grow as a nation as we enter the 21st century.
The Speech from the Throne is an ingenious formula for success. It contains measures that will strengthen elements of society so that as we enter the millennium we will be the best country in the world. Let me explain this.
Our families need a dynamic economy in which to raise their children. We are giving them this through tax relief. Our children need strong, safe communities in which to learn successfully. Our government is giving them this. To learn successfully children need a strong health care system and our government is giving them this. Each of these realms promotes individual development. Our plan promotes the maximization of individuals' potential, young and old. Once we achieve success in every realm of individual maximization our quality of life as Canadians will improve and in turn our place in the world will improve.
It is quite clear that we are responding positively to the daunting task of preparing Canada for the new millennium; and yes, we are prepared.