Mr. Speaker, it is always difficult to follow the member for Saint John. I will try my best to liven it up, but as I said it is somewhat difficult to match that enthusiasm.
I am very pleased to be able to respond to the Speech from the Throne as presented by the new governor general. We all congratulate and welcome Adrienne Clarkson to her new post as governor general.
I am pleased to stand in this august House to represent my constituents of Brandon—Souris. I certainly thank them for giving me the opportunity to represent them. I assure them that I will do my best to represent them to the best of my capacity. I will certainly pass on their concerns to the government.
As one of the members of the government said, the throne speech was not supposed to have any substance to it but was supposed to show the vision of the government going into 21st century. By the way, the government succeeded in not having any substance in that speech, but it did not succeed very well in showing the vision of the government going into the 21st century.
My colleague from Saint John talked about a specific area that was neglected in the throne speech, that of housing. It is incumbent upon the government to see where Canadians want to be not only next year or five years from now but ten and fifteen years from now. Housing is only one cog in the wheel of what Canadians require for their well-being and livelihood. I will touch on a couple of others.
The Liberals succeeded in putting forward a very warm and fuzzy Speech from the Throne. They touched on some of the hot buttons, the points of issue Canadians feel very comfortable about. They touched on the environment. That is very good and very positive. The environment is very important to all of us as Canadians. We have to breathe air and drink water and make sure we have sustainability in our agriculture community so we have food to sustain us through the next decade and the next century.
They touched on health care but they talked about the research requirements in health care. They did not really talk about where health care would be going in the next 10, 15 or 20 years, or about what Canadians would like to see as their health care system unfolds into the 21st century. This is not something that we can say is status quo. We have to look to the future.
They talked about children and youth, a very important aspect of our society. The children we bring into this world and this country are obviously a resource and we have to look after them. Unfortunately they did not go far enough with respect to children and youth in our society.
The problem with Canadians today in listening to the throne speech is that they have a tendency not to believe governments any longer, in particular this government. The government has a history of perhaps saying things Canadians would like to hear but of perhaps not implementing them in the way Canadians feel they should be implemented.
I do not have to go very far. I simply have to look at the record. I have to look at the red book. I have to look at the scrapping of the GST which did not come to fruition. I have to talk about the free trade issue. They were going to rip up the agreement, which is one of the major reasons the budget is now balanced. It is the reason the Liberal government can now take credit for something that was put into place by a government that had vision, that could look 10 and 15 years down the road and say that what is right for Canadians now is a free trade agreement so that we are a partner in the globalized trading world of today. If it were a Liberal government that had to put that into place, we would still be hewers of wood and drawers of water.
The Liberals have not fulfilled any of their promises. Canadians today will be somewhat skeptical when they look at the throne speech that was presented two days ago.
The Liberals talk about taxes that will be reduced. Canadians do not believe them because right now taxes are taking a larger portion of their pay packets than what they did previous to 1993.
The Liberals talked about health care and they talked about the research components of health care. What they did not tell us is that by 2003, with the $11 billion put back in by the Liberal government over five years, we will be at the same level of support in health care that we were at in 1993. That is the wrong way to head into the new century. We are going backward, not forward. The Liberals hold it up as being a centrepiece of their platform. The fact is they do not know where they are heading with health care and Canadians are concerned about that.
I think Canadians wanted to have a good feeling as to where this government wanted to head in the future with respect to the retirement of our debt. Our debt did not come to us immediately. As a matter of fact it came to us over a number of years inclusive of the Liberal government and Mr. Trudeau and inclusive of other governments.
We have to put a plan together so that we can reduce that debt. It has to be a well thought out logical plan that extends a number of years into the next century. But there was none of that. What was in the throne speech was that yes, they will deal with it if they possibly can. That is not a plan.
The throne speech did not talk about an area that is very close and dear to my heart and my constituency of Brandon—Souris, which by the way I think reflects society in general, an urban rural area. We have people who are rich and poor. We have people who are young and old. My constituents wanted to hear something about agriculture. Not once was the word mentioned, with the exception of WTO and trade and agriculture put together.
Agriculture is the backbone of this country and always has been. I am frustrated and disappointed. We did not have to come up with the solutions. What we needed was the vision. A government member said “we do not deal with substance, we deal with vision”.
Where are we going with agriculture? There is no support. We are not supported against the Europeans and the Americans right now. All the government had to say is that philosophically agriculture is a very important component to this society, that it believes in a very strong, domestic supply of food for our country. That is all the government had to say. It had to say that the environment is very important and agriculture is an important part of the environment. It had to say that with the endangered species legislation the government talked about, it is important that we deal with agriculture and producers to make sure the endangered species legislation works. The government never said that. It never tied into it. That is vision and that is what is lacking in the throne speech.
That is where we had to head with vision and that is what I did not see.
We talk about the seniors. What about vision with respect to the baby boomers that are now among the seniors? Why do we not talk about retirement in 2010 or 2020? That is vision. This is a reactive government, not a proactive government. I would rather have had something in the throne speech that said there is a change in what is happening in society right now. A huge population is aging. We have to look at retirement. We have to look at government policies as to how those people plan for retirement. There was none of that. What was there? In the last budget the Liberals put into place they increased the CPP contributions by twice as much. That is their plan for retirement into the future. There is no vision. That was lacking in the throne speech.
A pet peeve and a soap box I like to get on is the world of work. Work is changing all around us. There is contract work. People are now doing work in their own homes. There are people who are part time employees, whether they want to be or not. That is the vision. The Liberals have to put a plan in place to accommodate those people in 2000, 2010 and 2020. I am disappointed. What we got were warm fuzzies with no substance. Yes, that is what the Liberals attempted to do and that is what they achieved.
First, we do not believe the Liberals will do anything that they said they would do. Second, it did not go far enough.
If this is the vision of this government, if this is the direction in which this government wants to take us after January 1, 2000, then I am very concerned. Our citizens are concerned.
I have to register my final complaint. It goes back to agriculture. For the government not to have said a word about it is absolutely disgusting. Canadians from coast to coast needed some assurances and confidence. They got nothing in the throne speech and I am very concerned about our direction in the next century.