Mr. Speaker, yes, we have a Minister of Industry and allow me to offer my congratulations this morning.
I was very pleased that the Alliance Party member for Peace River expressed himself on the bill. We all heard him speak in support of the bill. It is really a housekeeping bill as he clearly stated. On our side we fully appreciate the fact that there is good co-operation on the bill. He referred, for example, to the BC Tel act, which was enacted in 1916. We certainly have to modernize things, and that is what we are trying to do.
He touched upon some of the most important issues. I will not go into the nitty-gritty, but through Bill S-26 we are trying not only to modernize but to create a level playing field so that telecommunications companies have an opportunity to compete, to remain strong and to grow. Not only will they offer excellent service but at the same time will create opportunities for Canadians locally and abroad.
I thank everyone for co-operating in moving the bill forward. It is also important to take this opportunity to talk about some issues with which we are faced today.
The member for Peace River touched upon some very important points. He talked about technology and how we had moved forward. I stand here proudly as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry to talk about our connecting Canadians program and our computers for schools program which put our country above every other nation. We are probably the most connected nation in the world, offering high speed Internet and low cost. As Canadians we feel very proud of it.
The member raised one very important issue. He talked about how we had better policy to deal with our international partners than we do within the provinces. He is right.
The federal government cannot simply stand and say it wants to do something. Provincial jurisdiction has to be respected. We have to work with our provincial partners. I know the member agrees; we have talked about it personally. I am sure he feels that by working together we will slowly, hopefully, overcome those barriers as quickly as possible for the good of each Canadian.
I will touch upon some of his points. He talked about companies and people moving. In a global economy, in the global village we live in, there is a lot of mobility. There is a great shortage of high tech people in Canada because it is one of the fastest growing industries.
Not too long ago I read an article in the local papers in which applications had been put out for lab technicians. About 80% of the individuals who applied were Canadians wanting to come back to Canada for several reasons: the fact that we have invested in research and development and that we have made some very positive steps in the last budget in how we treat, for example, our stock options in terms of capital gains, which the member for Peace River so eloquently touched upon.
We know what has clearly been addressed in the budget in terms of how we address options to motivate people to invest in our country. That has been happening in a very healthy way. Steps have been undertaken.
All statisticians and pundits out there, not us, have been saying that we are going to lead. We have been leading the G-7 in economic growth and in job creation. We were the first to balance our books and we were the first ones to show a surplus.
Just the other day I read in an article a comment made by Mr. Klein, the premier of Alberta. He is now basking in the surplus he has. He is now reinvesting it back into his province, and I am glad for that. He said Alberta did not want to go back to 1993 or 1994 when it had to make tough decisions. Now he is able to reinvest in his province and he is able to give out some bonuses, as did the premier of Ontario, for example. That is their prerogative.
It is important at this stage to talk about the tough decisions that we as a government had to make in 1993. We had a growing deficit after nine years of the Conservatives not being able to meet one of their budget targets. We had a growing debt that was out of control. Thanks to the Canadian people we carried out our commitment and balanced the books. We are lowering the debt consistently, and now we are in the same position as Mr. Klein, thank God, to reinvest in our country. Part of that reinvestment is looking at the high tech sector—