Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to make a few comments on the throne speech, the general orientation of the government and my own initiatives, those which I had the opportunity to present to the voters of Ottawa—Vanier in the last general election and which comprise the mandate I received from them.
First, I think it is appropriate to do as all my colleagues have done and thank the people of Ottawa—Vanier for the trust they have placed in me for the third time. This was the third election in the riding within six years. Two general elections and one byelection within six years is a pretty heavy task. In this connection, I believe I have a duty as well to thank all the people who provided me with active support in those three campaigns, the volunteers who play an essential part in the democratic process of this country.
This year we are making a special effort to spotlight volunteerism, and it is very important to keep in mind that democracy depends in large part on volunteers. Without the volunteers in all ridings of this country, in all parties, this country would not have the successful democracy that it enjoys. I wish to particularly thank those who helped me in this campaign.
As well, I take this opportunity to congratulate my adversaries in the last campaign. They were honourable people. All the candidates from all parties, including myself, whether they were major parties or those that were perhaps less well known, were honourable people with exemplary conduct. I was quite proud to be part of the process in Ottawa—Vanier.
In the past two weeks, I have had some difficult moments, personally. There were deaths everyone has heard about, because the events were very public and, in some cases, very controversial. In each instance, people I know were involved. This morning, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the contribution these people have made.
The first instance was a tragedy. It was the case of Catherine MacLean, who died suddenly as the result of a road accident, when she was struck by a car driven by a Russian diplomat. We must continue to press on this side of the House, as must all parties, for the recodification, if I can put it that way, of the Vienna convention on diplomatic immunity.
I have said it before, and I repeat it again. I doubt very much that the concept of diplomatic immunity was created to enable people to circumvent the law of host countries, as appears to be the case here. We heard there were other deplorable incidents, as the matter came up in the House this week. I therefore strongly urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Canada to seize the opportunities presented to them to update the Vienna convention, which is some 40 years old, to ensure the full effect of the law is felt, especially in the case of tragic events such as we have seen.
I would also like to extend my best wishes for a full recovery to Catherine Doré, who remains in hospital. She was with Ms. MacLean on that fateful Saturday afternoon walk.
Second, there was the funeral earlier this week of Carol Anne Letheren, president of the Canadian Olympic committee. I had occasion to work with her in the preparation of the file for the modernization of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. She was of great help to me on that project. She was a great lady. Again this was a life cut short, and it is a great tragedy. I express my deep regret to the members of her family.
A colleague of ours will be buried tomorrow in St. Boniface. David Iftody died in an unusual way, and again this was a life cut short. David was, dare I say it, a card game buddy. We had good times. He was also a parliamentary secretary when I was. We helped each other out. We supported each other. We had good arguments. It is an incredible tragedy that a man of that age in such fine form and good spirits, with much more to contribute, would disappear from us. I hope to be able to attend that funeral tomorrow to pay my respects to the members of his family.
The last person I want to mention is Mr. Charpentier. As we are speaking, his funeral is being held here in Ottawa. Mr. Charpentier died this week at the age of 103. His was a full, extraordinary life in the service of his country, his community and his fellow citizens.
I had the honour of supporting the efforts of Pierre Bergeron, the editor of the daily Le Droit , when the Assemblée parlementaire de la francophonie awarded the Ordre de la Pléiade to Mr. Charpentier, when he turned 100. The ceremony took place in the newsroom of Le Droit , for which Mr. Charpentier had worked.
I am anxious to read the book that a friend, François-Xavier Simard, is writing on Mr. Charpentier's life. It should be released in the coming year.
I am taking this opportunity to refer to the lives of these four people, whom I got to know, if only a little bit, but who nevertheless had an influence on my work here as a parliamentarian.
We have a renewed mandate based on a commitment called the red book, which was made available widely in print form and even more widely in electronic form during the last general election. I of course campaigned on it, as did all my colleagues on this side of the House, and all those candidates who did not succeed did present that option to the Canadian electorate.
That option has been retained as the one favoured for the future orientation of our country. This is the sixth day of debate on the Speech from the Throne, which was in great part a reflection of that campaign pledge. We have heard numerous comments. I will not go into detail on the major items of priority. As we all know, they deal with health, the necessity of innovation, lowering taxes and debt, education and early childhood development. There are many other items such as our environment and our parks. These have all been talked about. They are widely known.
I will highlight a few that have perhaps not been dealt with in the same detail. I will also highlight five actions that I presented to the electorate of Ottawa—Vanier which I think mesh quite well with what is in the Speech from the Throne and are of importance not only to the people in Ottawa—Vanier but to those within this region and in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.
The first of these is the need for a ring road and bridges crossing our river into western Quebec. This is important for a number of reasons.
Building a ring road around the national capital region is very important to ensure balanced economic development. We all know that the western part of our region is growing rapidly. Before long, the road network for Ottawa and the region will no longer be adequate because of that growth and will no longer meet the needs of the population.
There is only one main east-west highway, known as the Queensway. There is a need for a ring road, which would branch off from the Queensway west of Ottawa, continue south of Ottawa's international airport and reconnect with the provincial road system to the east of the city.
Later on, two bridges would be built and this ring road could be completed in western Quebec. This would truly ensure balanced growth in our region, much of it probably centred within the bounds of this ring road. We could thus protect our agricultural heritage, something we must not neglect. In addition, we must make sure that the three airports in our region, the ones in Ottawa, Gatineau and Carp, are connected to this ring road.
All of this would help to get the huge trucks out of the downtown core in the nation's capital. I think that any self-respecting city in North America, Europe or wherever has this concept of a ring road to allow heavy truck traffic to bypass the downtown area, which is not the case now in Ottawa.
We must not forget the safety aspect. In recent years, a few trucks have spilled their cargoes on the highway that runs through the downtown core of the nation's capital. Fortunately, these cargoes were not hazardous and contained no toxic substances. One would really have to be irresponsible to think that there will be no accidents or ecological or other disasters that might pose a threat to the public in this region in the future. It is important that these hazardous goods be transported outside the downtown area, ideally on a ring road. That was my first point.
The second is the Rockcliffe military base.
The Rockcliffe airbase is a 330 acre parcel of land which is in the heart of the riding. It is a glorious location. There is an opportunity here for public good.
A few years ago the Department of National Defence declared it surplus to its needs. There has been an ongoing process of preparing it to be sold. I have indicated repeatedly, with the support of my community, that I am opposed to the disposal of that land for building a residential subdivision. We have an opportunity, because of the proximity of the Aviation Museum and the National Research Council which is contiguous to this piece of land, to create something of much more importance to the economic development of the east end of the city. That is one thing I wish to focus a lot of effort on during this mandate.
A third project which has been under some preparation by a number of groups, such as the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the Kingston economic development officers, is the cleanup of the Rideau River from one end to the other. It is a rather massive project and is one which will require co-operation among the Government of Canada, the government of Ontario and many of the municipalities along the Rideau system.
We all know the importance of clean water and having a water system that is alive. We know the importance of having ecological biodiversity, a safe water supply and an area that can also be used for recreational purposes.
The scope of the project is now pretty well established. Over the next number of years, I hope that we would see co-operation in a project, which could well take a decade but is of some importance and significance to eastern Ontario and the entire St. Lawrence and Ottawa River system.
Fourth, we have linguistic duality. Respect for that duality must begin here in the capital of Canada. I believe it is absolutely essential for this capital city to reflect the duality of Canada, and for it to officially recognize both English and French.
The municipal council will have the responsibility of determining how this will be done, but I trust that when application is made to the government of Ontario, when it is informed of the wishes of the people of this city, this being a local decision, it will agree to recognize the benefits of the use of both languages in this capital.
This recognition and respect of linguistic duality does not stop there. It must be present throughout the federal administration. I am most relieved to see that the government's intention was set out very explicitly in the Speech from the Throne. I hope to be able to contribute, through work in the House and in its committees, to the implementation of that desire to ensure that there will be a place for French everywhere in Canada and a place as well for English-speaking citizens everywhere in Canada.
This is an absolutely vital initiative, for it relates to the very essence of our country. It is fundamental and essential to the future of this country. Once again, let me say how relieved I am to see that the government intends to address this.
The other item I had mentioned flows totally into the government's initiatives in terms of research and development and innovation. I believe we must strive to foster a better scientific culture in the country. It is without doubt that we have various areas of science that will be impacting on society in a major way.
We are already seeing on a daily basis developments in the field of genetics. With all its potential and with all of its dark side, government must have the ability to establish a framework within which we can all feel comfortable, yet pursue knowledge and the positive use of that knowledge. That is just one field.
It is the same in the field of nanotechnology. Last year alone the American government put $500 million into the institute for nanotechnology. We have yet to really move on those lines. It is an incredibly important technology in all fields, not just medicine, and I sense that sometimes we lag in that.
The same thing can be said for artificial intelligence. I am not trying to be funny or anything, but there are accelerating developments in that field. It will have a significant impact on all of our lives in the way we conduct ourselves, in the way we interact, in the way we do business and perhaps in the way democracy works. Yet sometimes I sense that the population of Canada is not engaged in those fields and is not aware of the importance of what is coming at us. It behooves us all to try to foster a greater scientific culture and perhaps use some of the mechanisms of the House.
I had hoped at some point that we might see a full-fledged standing committee on science and technology. I would be encouraged if we started with a subcommittee of industry. However, in summary, the whole notion of the scientific culture and the importance of science and technology to our society cannot be underestimated.
Those are some of the elements I had hoped to work on. I put them forward to my electorate and I feel comfortable that I have a mandate to work on those.
I wish to point out that a provincial colleague, Brian Coburn, the member for the riding next door to me, was elevated to the cabinet of Ontario as minister of agriculture. I am very happy to see that because on some of these projects we will be working together on in great co-operation, the ring road in particular. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my friend Brian for his appointment yesterday to the Ontario cabinet.
With all of the commitments in the red book being put forward in the Speech from the Throne, with these additional ones and with the need to address the housing situation in our community, we have a lot of work to do in the next years. I pledge to my constituents, as I did on the Saturday morning of January 27, 2001 when I was sworn in front of 400 of them, that I will do the best I can to serve them faithfully. I thank them very much for this opportunity.