Mr. Speaker, I am amused to see how an attack on the Tories is taken so hard by the Liberals. I guess they really are the same party after all.
By the time the Kyoto accord is fully implemented Canada will be required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. Eighty per cent of the cost of that will be borne by consumers, not producers. How? The government will not tell us. Apparently, according to press reports, it will not even tell its own senior cabinet ministers.
We do have some estimates. Canadian manufacturers and exporters estimate that the cost of gasoline may have to rise by up to 80%, going as high as $1.10 a litre. We are looking at 50% increases in the cost of heating and electricity in a typical Ontario home.
Will these kinds of sacrifices at least have some global environmental impact? The answer is no or, in all likelihood, no. Nations exempt from Kyoto's provisions or not ratifying it produce 80% of the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Furthermore, the agreement sets up an international emission trading scheme that ensures that countries like Canada, which are required to cut emissions, actually subsidize emissions in countries with far worse environmental records. Therefore jobs and production will almost certainly move to those kinds of jurisdictions as global emissions increase.
What is the record of the government on all this? It is funny that the government, with all the yammering we are getting today about its commitment to Kyoto, which it promised before and was party to the negotiations that signed on to Kyoto in 1997, still has not ratified it. Ratification has been promised only now in this throne speech and still there is no implementation plan and no clear idea in the throne speech on how or when the implementation plan will come about.
However, it is more than just not having an implementation plan, it is not actually taking any measures to deal with the problem. Unlike the European countries that have ratified Kyoto, or the United States and Australia which have not, the federal government has taken virtually no initiative to deal with reductions in greenhouse gases.
What would we do as a political party? First, we believe that we must take the environment and these environmental problems seriously. Notwithstanding the uncertainty of the science, some of the concerns are real. God has given us stewardship of this planet as our sole resource. We must be concerned when large scale human activity results in large scale atmospheric change.
What we need to do is develop and proceed with a realistic plan to control some of these emissions and to further understand what the problems may be in the future. However we must control, not just greenhouse gases like CO
. We also must have a plan to reduce emissions of critical gases that contribute to pollution, smog and acid rain. We also must continue to develop and monitor the science of all this to understand what may or may not be happening in terms of global warming or in terms of other environmental problems.
Second, all these things must be done in a way that is consistent with the economic needs of ordinary people. That requires us to be consistent with the plans being developed by our provinces and our trading partners.
Let us take some areas where beyond merely controlling emissions, where the government should be dealing with the intersection of environmental and economic matters and is not. There are industries in the country, like farming with its drought problem this summer, and the fisheries problem that has been going on for years, where we have serious environmental difficulties and periodic disasters. The government should have practical plans to respond to these practical difficulties of real people.
As for the Kyoto accord, we will stand alone in the House, not just opposing ratification but urging blockage by the provinces and anyone else who is able to of implementing the accord and we will repeal the accord at the very first opportunity. In this I will be assisted by the members of Parliament for Red Deer and Athabasca, veteran members with a wealth of experience in these areas.
Let me turn to health care. What was proposed that we do about health care in the throne speech? Three things: nothing, nothing and nothing; just rhetoric. We have heard it all before. Appoint a commission and wait for it to report.
In 1997 we were promised better access to medically necessary drugs. In 1994 the government appointed the National Forum on Health to deal with the emerging crisis on health care. It reported in 1997 and no action was taken. We have the Kirby committee appointed by the government in the Senate. Now we have the Romanow commission and we are told we must wait for the Romanow commission to act.
While we are waiting month after month, year after year for these various commissions to report, we get endless speeches from the federal government about its role as the protector of health care and health care values. In the meantime, there is no plan. There is a long history of lack of cooperation and open periodic confrontation with the provinces and, of course, the elimination of the deficit in which the cutting of health care transfers was a major priority. In fact, instead of reducing the $16 billion the government spends on grants and contributions, the Prime Minister and the former minister of finance have slashed $6 billion annually from health care transfers to the provinces as part of the deficit reduction strategy.
Not surprisingly, these actions and 10 years of excessive rhetoric have resulted in the continual deterioration of our health care system. Today, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada ranks 18th in terms of access to MRIs, 17th in terms of access to CT scanners and 8th in terms of access to radiation machines. In terms of risk of death by breast cancer, for example, Canada ranks 6th among OECD countries.
According to the Fraser Institute, across Canada “The total waiting time is high, both historically and internationally. Compared to 1993, the waiting time in 2001-02 is 77% higher in this country”. The waiting time has increased in all but one of the past eight years. Canadians deserve better health care than that, much better.
There is all this talk going on and that is typical. As soon as I point out their deficiencies in health care, the Liberals attack the provinces. The provinces are the ones that are trying to run the system and increase spending on health care. There is no responsibility, no honesty and grandiose rhetoric.
Let me talk about our approach to health care and our values on health care because it is very important that when we talk about health care that our values are clear. In this political party, we represent ordinary people. the people we represent depend on this system. They have real concerns and these deficiencies are not a big federal-provincial game. They have real impacts.
My wife, Laureen, and I ran our own small businesses. We had to pay our own health care premiums. We had to purchase our own supplemental health care coverage, like most people in the country. We cannot afford to fly to clinics in the United States to get health care when things go wrong and we certainly cannot afford to get on Challenger jets to do it.
We do not need lectures from these guys about preserving the health care system. We understand the key value of this system. It is not the Canada Health Act. It is not the federal status in health care. The key is that necessary health care must be available to every Canadian regardless of ability to pay. This cannot be accomplished by delaying critical treatment by rationing and we cannot saddle ordinary people with enormous bills for catastrophic health problems.
To achieve these things, the federal government must work with the provinces and it must begin to act now. I would suggest that it begin by reversing the damage the government did to the health care debate and to the evolution of dealing with health care problems during the 2000 election campaign.
In that campaign the Liberals opposed provincial efforts to broaden health care delivery within publicly paid health systems by not just fighting plans for private facilities in various provinces but by demonizing the provinces pursuing these reforms. This was wrong.
A government monopoly is not the only way to deliver health care to Canadians. Monopolies in the public sector are just as objectionable as monopolies in the private sector. It should not matter who delivers health care, whether it is private, for profit, not for profit or public institutions, as long as Canadians have access to it regardless of their financial means.
We must become innovative in how we deliver care while holding fast to the principle of universal care regardless of ability to pay. The federal government must be absolutely clear on this point. It must remove any barriers, any chill to increase private capital investment plans that the provinces have for our health care system.
This is only a start in this caucus. Our member of Parliament from Yellowhead, a brand new member of Parliament with a long background in health care governance and in his local regional health authority, will have more to say about this in the next few weeks.
I will now turn to the children's agenda. The children's agenda is another typical set of throne speech promises, a bunch of recycled promises from throne speeches in 1996, 1997 and 1999.
In a way this whole approach, the values behind this approach, is only the kind of agenda that the Liberals could advocate; institutions and programs with no focus at all on what children need most, and that is strong families.
The Canadian Alliance policy begins by recognizing that the family is the essential building block of a healthy society and that government legislation and programs must first of all nurture and respect its role. As Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain once said, “A strong country cannot be morally neutral about the family”.
One practical thing we can do to begin strengthening the family starts with tax reduction and tax reform, lowering the cost burdens that put so many pressures on the lives of ordinary people and to do this in an equitable manner.
First, we will continue to advocate in this party a universal child deduction for all families with children, a child deduction that does not discriminate between types of families or the choices families make for the care of their children. These choices need to be made by families themselves without implied financial penalties.
Second, we will continue to push for the concept of shared parenting when there is parental breakdown. This was proposed in the December 1998 report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access. It is still gathering dust contrary to the best interests of both parents and children.
Third, we will continue to advocate strongly concrete measures to protect children from the violent and the vile, which the government has not done. The age of consent for sexual activity should be raised and we must take stronger steps to fight child prostitution, child pornography and pedophilia.
In this regard of course the throne speech is vague. It does not deal with what specific measures the government may take. It instead hints, in our judgment, at excessive general control over child rearing.
For children and for all citizens, we will also continue to advocate a general philosophy of crime control and the punishment of crime; another area in which we have continued promises and little action or change.
In all of these matters we will have many people in the caucus who will contribute but we will be led I believe first and foremost by the member of Parliament for Provencher, an accomplished former provincial attorney general from the province of Manitoba.
I will turn now to international affairs and defence. What are the proposals in the throne speech? Absolutely nothing, except more study on defence needs and very little to say about the current Iraq conflict other than the government positions itself very carefully on both sides of the issue. On foreign aid the government is promising a doubling of foreign aid by 2010 with the focus on Africa.
What is the government's record on these things? The original Liberal red book 1993, followed by the government's 1994 defence white paper, promised to ensure an effective Canadian Forces and pledged to maintain an increased combat capability. More reforms were promised and more money was promised in throne speeches in 1997, 1999 and 2001.
The record is well documented. It is one of chronic underfunding and an increasing inability of our armed forces to protect territory or mount serious missions abroad. Instead the government is covering this by stretching multiple activities thinner and thinner around various places in the world. Of course, foreign aid in this period has also fallen relative to even what the last government did.
The neglect of our armed forces in particular has meant an increasing loss of relevance to our allies in Europe and the United States, but most of all the loss of Canada's ability to protect its sovereignty. Canadians see the irony of it, even if the Prime Minister does not, in blaming the United States and the west for world terrorism while at the same time starving our forces to such an extent that we have effectively turned over Canada's defence to our allies and to the Americans in particular.
All of this does reflect the values of the Liberal Party, not just a weak defence but a moral neutralism in international affairs, a tendency to see moral equivalency between the strong actions of our allies and those who would attack us. Our values are very different. They are values of strength and of a strong country. We will not just advocate a strong defence. We will pursue defence and foreign policies that give Canadians hard power, capabilities that allow us to support our friends and to aggressively advance our values in the world.
On foreign aid we will advocate that we follow the lead of other donor nations to reward developing countries that reform their institutions and market with increased assistance. Canada continues to underwrite too many countries that resist reform and have high levels of corruption. We will have, as I have said in many other areas, capable veteran MPs who will handle these portfolios for defence, such as our member of Parliament for Lakeland, a three-term veteran of this House, and in foreign affairs the member for Okanagan--Coquihalla, with a wide range of experience in a number of provincial government portfolios.
Let me turn to ethics and democratic reform. What are the proposals in this throne speech? We have two paragraphs on ethics and democratic reform, even less than the pathetic proposals that were tabled earlier in the spring. The record here is clear. On parliamentary reform the government promised more power to MPs and improved procedures in the House repeatedly in 1994, 1996 and 2001, but today it promises none whatsoever.
On ethics in the 1993 red book, we will never forget the Liberal Party promise for an independent ethics commissioner who would report to Parliament. Obviously in 1994 it broke that Parliament. The appointee we have today apparently spends his time writing question period responses for the Prime Minister to the numerous times his ethical behaviour comes into question.
We reached a low point in 2001 when the government, not just the Prime Minister but the member for LaSalle--Émard, the author of the red book, voted against the motion to adopt an ethics counsellor, a motion that was, word for word, taken straight from the 1993 red book.
In 1997 we had an ethics committee of this Parliament struck to report on a code of conduct. It did so. No action was taken. We remain one of the few developed democracies that have no clear rules of conflict for ministers and MPs and we are also the last jurisdiction in Canada to have them.
There is more to the government's record on this than those failures. The government has used closure and time allocation more frequently than any previous government. On campaign finance reform that it raised in the throne speech, it actually did bring in some measures in 2000 but not to control the relationships between politicians and their donors. Instead they were measures to control the free speech of private citizens and private organizations through the media.
We even have to look at the rules the Liberals have set out for this leadership race, this constant smoke and mirrors, a constant claim to be reforming, a constant claim to have disclosure. What do we actually have? In this Liberal leadership race one has to disclose everything except if one, like the current Minister of Finance, runs it through the riding association or decides to take the donations in pledges instead of cash. Now we have the setting up of a blind trust.
This is an interesting twist of a turn: putting donations into a blind trust. The purpose of a blind trust is to manage money after it has been received. A blind trust in no way prevents politicians from finding out who contributed to their campaigns in the first place.
Once again, it is grandiose plans and empty rhetoric.
How would we handle campaign finance reform? We would handle it the way we generally run this party and the way I ran my leadership campaign. We would try to finance our campaigns from modest contributions from a broad range of voters, not a few contributions from people who receive government contracts. I would personally prefer to see contributions come only from individual voters. I would like to end union and corporate contributions and let union members, corporate directors and shareholders make their own decisions as to which political parties they contribute to.
It is perfectly appropriate to have limits in the amount of money politicians receive from private citizens and to end the loopholes that allow contributions to be funnelled through non-individuals. To the extent that the government would demand public funding, as there is already plenty of public funding for our political activities this funding should be tied to things like support to contributions, not simply blanket grants from the government or grants in response to our spending.
These rules need to be fair to new small parties and independents. Every time there are Canada Elections Act changes, we make it more difficult for people to organize new political activities. Importantly, because the government keeps shouting about this, the kind of reforms we propose would limit politicians in political parties. They would not limit private citizens. They would respect free speech. It is very different to control the contributions given to politicians than it is to control the ability of the citizenry to express their views through a free media in a free society. When those guys opposite are serious about democratic reform, they will actually understand the difference between the two things.
We also continue to favour broader democratic reform. In the House of Commons there should be more free votes beginning with free votes and votes on every item in private members' business. That will be a priority for us in this session.
The Senate should be selected from people who have been picked in free elections, beginning in the province of Alberta with Bert Brown, who received more votes in his Senate election than the Prime Minister received in his riding. We should have fixed election dates. We should have a system of direct democracy. That system of direct democracy should be put into effect so that the citizens of Canada can express their judgment on how to reform our outdated electoral system so we end the unrepresentative results that elections produce and end phenomena such as vote splitting.
Democratic reform has been a core of this political party for 15 years. Unlike the party opposite, we did not develop a temporary itch for democratic reform when we were seeking approval of backbenchers, or in a leadership struggle, or when we go to the voters every so often. It has been a constant theme of this party since 1987. Just recently our party reissued our “Building Trust” document. Reissued by our current House leader, the member of Parliament for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast, “Building Trust II” goes over our proposals for parliamentary and democratic reform in a wide range of areas.
I will just take a minute to acknowledge not only the contribution that the member will be making to this debate over the next few months, but to indicate how much we here, all of us on both sides, miss the MP for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast. I know he is watching in the hospital and we all wish him very well.
Let me turn at long last to the area where perhaps we are most different, finance and economic policies.
There is, however, probably no area in which the differences between the Liberal Party and the Canadian Alliance are more obvious than that of financial and economic policy. That is where the throne speech attains the peak of its grandiosity.
The government is passing itself off as one that is fiscally prudent and that plays a lead role as far as economic growth, productivity and innovation are concerned. These themes have been repeated regularly in all this government's throne speeches and all of its budgets since 1993. The reality is different, and disquieting.
For instance, over the past three years, under the direction of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, program expenditures have risen close to ten billion dollars annually, comparable to the worst excesses of the Trudeau government in the 1970s. The same thing is happening this year. The measures set out in the throne speech, in all areas, will mean billions of dollars of additional expenditures, although of course the price tag is not shown.
Finally, the budget process is so disorganized that there will be no budget for this entire year. There will be a full two years between budgets. This government's rhetoric has even redefined the word annual. It is not just a matter of budgets. I also want to talk about the economy in general.
Looking at the economy as a whole and not just the finances of this government, it will be seen that our productivity and our position continue to decline under this government, along with our dollar. We have, in fact, maintained our declining competitivity only because of our declining currency. The government has turned us into a cut rate wholesaler, one of those businesses that keeps on slashing prices in order to stay in business, thus devaluing everything that Canadians have built up.
The government speaks of its intention of making strategic investments in the economy, but its politicized infrastructure, its funding to businesses and the corruption scandals are indications of its inability to make the distinction between investing in a project of public interest and spending money on a private donor.
At any rate, it is on the wrong track. The most important thing the government can do for the economy is to create a neutral environment at the lowest possible cost to business. The government's priority should be, as it should have been in the past, reducing the tax burden, not raising the level of general expenditures.
The Canadian Alliance will reject any major spending initiative in all areas, with the exception of a few key areas such as national defence and health.
We will insist that our priority should not be to ramp up federal spending in federal programs and federal commitments across the board or to micromanage economic development. It should be to lower rates of personal and business taxation across the board. In fact we believe that our national goal should be to make Canada the number one jurisdiction in North America in taxes, ahead of the United States. As unrealistic as I admit this may sound, in the context of the Liberal government, it is achievable given that in the United States there are much higher expenditures per capita on major obligations such as defence, advanced education, infrastructure and yes, even public health care.
As late as the 1960s our standard of living was equal to or even above that of the Americans, at about the time the Prime Minister entered Parliament. Today it is more than one-third lower and falling. This is inexcusable.
We cannot be the biggest country on this continent, but there is no reason we cannot be the wealthiest. As we pursue this, we will be led in these matters of finance by our veteran member of Parliament for Peace River, our finance critic, and also by the member for Edmonton Southwest, our industry critic, one of the most promising newcomers we have in the House of Commons.
There seems to be a bit of a debate going on about whether or not we are larger than the United States. We have a larger land mass and we are all aware of that; we travel the country. However I will let the minister of heritage know that the United States economy is just a little bigger than ours. Her budget may be bigger than the minister of culture's in the United States. That is possible.
Let me conclude by noting that the next couple of years will be months of contrasting agendas and contrasting approaches for the future of the country. We welcome the debate.
Mr. Speaker, the Alliance team that I am honoured to lead stands before you and before the country, for united we are strong and most important, we are here to stay. The Liberals, whoever may lead them, are old and tired. More important, we will argue for two fundamentally different ways of creating a legacy for this country. The Liberals will try to build a legacy on shifting sands. Our party will try to build a real legacy on rock solid values.
When the government proposes multiple missions with big government solutions, we will propose practical priorities and small government solutions.
When the government proposes raising spending, we will propose cutting taxes.
When the government proposes to damage the economy to implement the Kyoto accord, we will propose to strengthen the environment and save Canadian jobs.
When the government undermines the family, we will propose strengthening the family.
When the government uses governmental power to reward its friends, we will propose democratic reform to reward initiative.
When the government engages in the soft-powered talk of a neutral fence sitter, we will demand real capabilities that support our allies.
When the government proposes to buy votes in other words, we will propose to earn votes.
In short, when the Liberals act for the Liberals, we will act for Canadians. Therefore, I move that the motion be amended to add the following:
And this House regrets to inform Your Excellency that, once again, your advisors have recycled an empty vision, have resorted to grandiose rhetoric and intend to implement expensive programs at a time when Canadians are looking for practical solutions to the challenges we face, including lower taxes and debt, reducing government waste, promoting economic growth and jobs, reforming health care, protecting our sovereignty and strengthening the family.