Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.
As in the last six years, Canada continues to be the UN's choice as the number one country in which to live.
This week's throne speech set out a strategy that will ensure we maintain our number one ranking. It signalled the government's plan to build on the quality of life for all Canadians.
In the years to come we will address the challenges of globalization and the demands placed on a knowledge based society. We have committed to bring down the personal income tax levels of Canadians and to invest in families and in children. The government has set out a plan that addresses our diversity and responds to our responsibilities as a global leader.
Today I will take some time to explore this throne speech and how it relates to my riding and the constituents of Kitchener Centre.
First I would like to review the government's record. Let me begin with unemployment rates. They are at their lowest level since 1990. I am pleased to report to this House that the Waterloo region has the lowest unemployment rate among municipal centres across the nation, a rate of 4.9%.
This Liberal government in partnership with the private sector has created the proper climate for job creation. As a result, we have seen the creation of 1.7 million jobs since we took office. We have consistently increased our investments in research and technology and we have supported small and medium size enterprises.
In my community Industry Canada has worked in partnership on the creation of the business enterprise centre which houses the Canada-Ontario Business Service Centre. This centre provides one stop shopping for entrepreneurs. Users of the centre have access to extensive and current information and tools which enable them to both succeed and grow.
The region of Waterloo is a microcosm of the changes that are happening across the nation. A generation ago no one could have envisaged a vibrant local economy that lacked the kind of family businesses such as Seagram's and Labatt's, nor could they have imagined the changes that we have seen at Schneider's meats, yet these changes have occurred.
Today in Kitchener we see an ever increasing number of small businesses starting up. Across the country over 80% of the new jobs created are by this sector and many are in the high tech area.
Waterloo region has seen incredible growth in the high tech sector. Our community has not only thrived but remained on the cutting edge of a competitive global economy.
This week's throne speech clearly indicates a strong commitment to building our economy through developing a skilled labour force and providing the necessary research dollars and tools for small emerging companies.
The Liberal government will ensure that skilled development keeps pace with the evolving industries and markets. This will be accomplished through the sectoral councils in close consultation with industry leaders. The government has once again acknowledged the importance of foreign investors in Canada.
For Canada's technology triangle this is good news. The CTT has been funded by the federal government to attract foreign investors to areas such as Kitchener. They are working and spreading the news about Canada. It is this type of organization with which we must encourage and foster relationships.
We must also support companies that will help us meet our environmental obligations under agreements such as the Kyoto protocol.
Recently I accompanied the Minister of Industry on a tour of GFI Control Systems where they demonstrated to us how their automobile conversion kits will help Canada meet its clean air responsibilities.
Our environment is also affected by our infrastructure. As a former regional and municipal representative I have witnessed the benefits of working in partnership on programs such as our national physical infrastructure.
In the throne speech we have indicated our will to continue to work with all levels of government and the private sector to achieve a five year plan for improving the infrastructure in both urban and rural areas across Canada. This will be a commitment that will be reached by the end of the year 2000.
Children and youth are the country's key to success in the 21st century. It is the responsibility of government and community, family, friends and teachers to open doors and encourage young people to seize their dreams.
I first entered politics to assure that the decisions of government were working in the best interests of my four children. During my 10 years as a member of parliament I have taken special interest in the youth of Kitchener. Through visits to classrooms and graduations, I have had the pleasure to meet the young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
I have been pleased to support organizations such as the KOR Gallery and art studio. This studio was created by another mother who wanted to see the greatest opportunities possible for her very talented son and other young artists in the Waterloo region. KOR Gallery has been supported by the federal government and has received half a million dollars throughout its years.
In the spring of this year the Prime Minister's task force on youth entrepreneurship spent a day in my community meeting with young entrepreneurs and visiting their businesses. The task force heard that our youth need support to gain access to funding and resources. We are responding to those requests.
Our goal is to give today's young generation of Canadians, no matter where they live, the tools and the opportunities for personal success in the knowledge economy. We will provide them with career information and access to work experience and learning. We will hire them to work on Internet projects. We will offer them the opportunity to apply their talents overseas through youth international internship programs.
The government is committed to enhancing the skills and opportunities of young Canadians. We will do this through partnerships with local organizations and the provincial and territorial governments.
For example, this past summer Kitchener was the proud host of the skills Canada competition. The event, in connection with two other competitions, received $800,000 from the youth employment strategy fund.
Skills Canada is an important project because it gives our youth the opportunity to compete with young people from around the world. The competition tested participants in over 40 trade, technological and other skill areas. I can think of no better way to encourage tomorrow's leaders. Our children and our families deserve a high standard of living. This will require, as never before, an adaptable, resilient population that is ready to learn throughout life.
It is clear that the foundation for such capacities is laid in the very early years of life. I firmly believe that the strength of our society will depend on the investments we make today as a nation in families and in children.
The government has committed to making a third significant investment in the national child benefit by the year 2002. We will put more dollars in the hands of families with children through further tax relief. We will lengthen and make more flexible employment insurance benefits for parental leave.
Now that the deficit is gone and the debt is in a permanent downward direction, we as a government have the opportunity to invest in the quality of life of Canadians. Canadians have said that health care, children, education and tax cuts are their priorities. We have been responding to these areas in the past years and we will continue to be committed to these issues.
This nation has a high quality of life. It is a nation of which we should be proud. It is a nation that others envy. Our Prime Minister has provided us with a strong direction and an unwavering commitment for unity.
The new millennium will be wonderful for all Canadians.
The new millennium will be a bright one for all Canadians.