Mr. Speaker, let me take this opportunity to join with many of my colleagues in congratulating you, Sir, on your election as Speaker. Let me assure you that I will always abide by the wisdom of your rulings and seek in speedy fashion to comply with your direction to me.
My next words are words of thanks to the voters of Bonavista—Trinity—Conception who have allowed me the privilege, and it is a real privilege for all of us to be here, of coming back to parliament having been absent from this very special place for the last five years.
There is no question that having the right and, more important, having the responsibility to speak and to participate in the debates in this place is one that few Canadians are given the opportunity to do. As the member of parliament for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception the second time around, I have a special awareness of what a great honour this is.
My duty today is to speak in support of the Speech from the Throne. I do so as Minister of Industry and as somebody who is tremendously excited to be in that role. The Prime Minister has asked me to take on these duties, and I am doing so with great enthusiasm. I say that because I reflect back on where Canada has come since the first time I sat in this place in 1980, nearly 21 years ago this month.
Our country has changed enormously in those 21 years. I remember the debates of the early 1980s in which we talked about the protection, enhancement and promotion of Canada primarily but not exclusively as a resource based economy. We talked about our capacity in the manufacturing area, primarily about our industrial might and muscle in southern Ontario. We talked about the structured arrangements under the auto pact which gave possibility or potential to that manufacturing might.
We talked about our position vis-à-vis our neighbour to the south as being that of a much smaller player, one-tenth the size. Indeed, the cliché was coined, shaped and nurtured back then that when the U.S. got the sniffles we got pneumonia.
How much has changed since 1980? We no longer think of our southern neighbour as a colossus that might inadvertently in the middle of the night roll over and lay waste to Canada and all of our aspirations. Rather, we see our neighbour to the south as a tremendous market of opportunity, as a place that we can penetrate successfully and compete with and win in on a fair playing field with the quality of our products.
Let those who come from the so-called old economy, such as our farmers, compete on a fair playing field. The farmers of Canada can compete and win in any marketplace in the world today.
A fair opportunity to compete is what is being asked for, whether it be our fishermen, our mining industry or our foresters. Soon we will be talking about softwood lumber and fair access for that product in the marketplace to the south.
What has changed in the last 20 or 21 years is the way in which Canada has become an innovative society. In that regard it is important to recognize the leadership that this country and the government has had from two individuals who I want to single out.
In particular, I pay tribute to the tremendous leadership of my predecessor as Minister of Industry, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has been very forward looking in the kind of stewardship he brought to the Department of Industry. I intend to continue with the road map that he has very much drafted.
I also recognize the vision and the leadership that the Prime Minister has brought to this agenda as well, because at the end of the day big change can only come with strong and visionary leadership.
What have we done? We have shifted our capability for wealth creation beyond our considerable natural resource sectors. Those remain important and will always be important. We have learned to create wealth from the power of our ideas, from the scope of our imagination, and purely from our will to win, by being better than most others in areas of the knowledge and information based economy.
How have we done that? We have done it by making substantial new investments in our people, a very important resource in the new economy. We have created a tax environment that makes Canada an attractive location for smart and skilled people to come to and stay in to give of their skills in creating wealth that can be exported all over the world. I refer to the tremendous work of the Minister of Finance in bringing forward a budget a few months ago that read and anticipated very well the state of play in the economy in North America.
We have today a debate about whether or not the downturn in the U.S. economy will be soft, hard, long lasting or short term, but whatever the circumstances at the end of the day, and we believe it will be managed and measured south of the border, whatever the state of play, Canada is tremendously well positioned to absorb, ride out and recover quickly from whatever adjustment we see south of the border.
That is not by accident, but by smart and good planning. In that regard the House owes as well a special recognition and a vote of thanks to the Minister of Finance for his stewardship of Canada's economy.
Exactly a month ago on January 1 Canadians received the first $17 billion down payment on a five year $100 billion tax cut. This is not some kind of theological tax cut, one that is driven out of some misplaced ideology. This is not money that is borrowed from our children. This is money that is surplus to our accounts because of solid stewardship of Canada's finances. It leaves dollars and cents in the pockets of Canadians who are able to use those dollars and cents to contribute to the health of the Canadian economy.
Beyond that tax cut for our citizens, 52% of which goes to Canadians making $60,000 a year or less, we have also positioned ourselves very well with cuts to the capital gains and with new treatment of the rollover of stock and stock options, which encourage investment in the country.
There are other areas of solid investment that the Government of Canada announced in the throne speech. We have announced that Canada is not satisfied with being competitive in the area of research and development. Canada wants to leap ahead.
The government has committed to a doubling of R and D over the next 10 years. We want to move Canada to among the top five of the OECD in research and development. We understand that when we nurture and support our best minds, our scientists and centres of excellence all across the country, we nurture and support the kinds of ideas that ultimately are commercialized and bring ideas and services to the marketplace of the world. That has been a great success for the country.
It has been said before but it bears repeating: the Government of Canada is committed to 2,000 research chairs at Canadian institutions. Someone might ask what that means and how it compares with the status quo. Canada had 169 research chairs in all of our universities prior to the Prime Minister committing to 2,000 new chairs over five years, 400 more chairs a year for five years, built on a base of 169 to this point, all across Canada. We are reaching out to and supporting those who can build the new economy.
We have invested $160 million in Genome Canada. We have established the most generous R and D tax regime in the world today. I am speaking not just to our own citizens and corporations but to citizens around the world who are looking for stable, smart environments in which to invest in R and D in the country. For those who qualify for the full range of measures for R and D, it may cost no more than 35 cents on a dollar.
Canadians have heard repeatedly that the Internet means the death of distance. That is a well used and well worn phrase. It is one that entices and invites those who live in far flung locations in this broad and vast country to believe that they can participate on the Internet, that they can have access from a leisure, pleasure and business point of view to all of the opportunities of the Internet. However, it is not true.
The Internet of and by itself is not the death of distance. There is a new phrase to which we should pay attention. It is called the digital divide: the division between those who have access to high speed, affordable, reliable broadband service and those who do not. For those living in rural, remote, western, northern or Atlantic communities, merely getting online is not good enough.
The vision of the Government of Canada is this: getting online with a service that is fast, efficient, affordable and reliable, one that can handle the content available today on the web and that allows us to improve the quality of our lives or to market our goods, services and products over the Internet. The government has announced that Canada will seek to ensure that by 2004 every community will be online with high speed broadband service.
Not since a government committed to using bands of steel to pull the country together in some measure of equality of opportunity has a government been so committed to a public infrastructure project which ensures that when it comes to the new economy, no Canadian, no matter where she or he may live, is left behind. This too is part of our vision of participating in the new economy.
In short, Canada is an innovative country. Canada is a country of individuals whose commitment is second to none in regard to improving the quality of life of their fellow citizens and innovating in a way that improves the quality of life of citizens all over the world.
Part of our mission and our challenge in the months and years ahead is to tell the Canadian story, to re-brand the country. Part of it is to help those beyond our borders recognize that while we are proud to be associated with the vistas found on Prince Edward Island, on the prairies, in the Rockies, on the coastline of British Columbia or indeed on the magnificent coastline of Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, or with the pleasures of enjoying the ice sculptures in Ottawa at this time of year, or as my friend has just reminded me, with the wonderful new development of Toronto's Harbourfront, we also have to ensure that Canada is recognized for its tremendous technical ability as well.
That is why in March or April, with a special source of pride, Canadians will be watching with some fascination the hand off that occurs when the Canadarm aboard the shuttle spacecraft lifts out of the cargo bay. It is what we will call for the moment Canadarm 2. That instrument will move, shift and facilitate the construction of the space lab project.
Fifteen nations from all over the world will be collaborating to put men, equipment and technology in space to open new frontiers, but the hand off that occurs to make all of that possible is a Canadarm out of the shuttle storage container passing off to a Canadarm 2, which will be permanently based on that space lab and which will facilitate the construction, development, maintenance and operation of this incredible international project.
That is the measure and symbol of Canadian technology: one hand passing off to the next hand a new generation of expertise. That is the message we want to bring to the world. In short, the country has much of which we can be proud, and we intend to grow our capacity.
Let me close by saying that it is not by accident Canada became the first country in the world where every school is connected to the Internet. I remember the great debate between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in which Bob Dole said that his vision for the future was to try to recreate an America of his youth, of the fifties. That vision had some attractive concepts.
President Clinton said that his vision of the future, his bridge to the future, was to see that every school in America got online by 2000. I thought that was a fine declaration since Canada got there first. Forgive me if I point out that Newfoundland got there in 1995.
We can, we will and we must tap the power, the capacity and the imagination of all the young minds and of all the experienced researchers of this country to build a new economy, to compete, to improve our own quality of life, and to make our contribution to the quality of life of citizens all over the world.