Mr. Speaker, I think you will need to keep the name of my riding in mind in future. Having not used it for a long time, it is perfectly understandable that you have lost sight of it, but I think you will remember it in future.
I am very pleased to be able to speak within this debate on the address in response to the Speech from the Throne, which was delivered on Monday afternoon. I have heard a number of these speeches since coming here, but this was really the one I had the greatest hope for, and unfortunately the one that has been the greatest disappointment to me. I was expecting a throne speech with some perspective for Canada's future, one in which we would see what future policies would be, how we could move forward in the 21st century with as much harmony as possible and how we could solve the problems facing us.
I must admit, however, that of all the throne speeches we have had to date, this is the weakest I have ever had occasion to read.
I would like to begin with several points that, on first reading, strike me as positive. It is, however, very obvious that we will have to wait for the concrete measures arising out of the fine words we heard when the speech was read. One of these points is ratification of the Kyoto protocol.
The Prime Minister has promised that a resolution would tabled in the House. We will have a debate on the Kyoto protocol, and it appears that we will be able to vote on this resolution, to honour the commitments we made regarding the Kyoto accord. However, since the beginning of the session, we have already noticed that this issue seems to be creating problems within cabinet itself. So, even though we view this as a rather positive step, we have concerns: what will the apparent dissension in cabinet lead to?
Considering the Minister of Health's election results, the province she lives in and the position of the government in her province, whose premier said he is even prepared to separate from Canada if the Kyoto protocol is implemented, I can understand why she is trying her best, first to save her seat, second to ensure that her province does not separate, and third to play for time on the Kyoto accord. This is the first thing.
Another concern about Kyoto is the fact that the protocol will be implemented over a 10-year period. We wonder to what extent all the efforts that have been made by Quebec, for example, over the past 10 years will be taken into consideration when the time comes to define everyone's share of the burden. We will also have to see to what extent we will truly be able to allocate the necessary funds to fully implement Kyoto. Will the Prime Minister's successor decide to change things and postpone its implementation? These are some of the questions that we have, even though we believe the ratification of the Kyoto protocol is a very good idea.
There is a second point that I found interesting in the announcements made by the Prime Minister, particularly in the speech that he delivered the day after the Speech from the Throne. He said he would double Canada's aid to developing and poor countries, particularly in Africa. As such, this is good news. However, there is a catch.
The pledge that we made was to invest 0.7% of our GDP. Even if we were to double the amount invested this year, we would still be very far from the real commitment that we made.
We would still be at less than half of what we promised, to invest 0.7% of GDP. Even by doubling the current levels, we would still not catch up to the 1993 levels of aid to developing countries. Ours is a country that is rich, that wants to do so much and that wants to share. Even the Prime Minister said that he felt there could be a link between terrorism and poverty; and if this link can be established, then it seems to me that we should invest more in poor countries in order to help them help themselves.
There was also an announcement that there would be a review of our policies on defence and international affairs. What was strange about the announcement, about the way it was expressed in the Speech from the Throne, is that it would have been preferable to hear that we would first establish our policy in foreign affairs, and then decide what to do for defence.
If we establish defence policy first and foreign policy second, it is like putting the horse before the cart. I think that the government should first decide on our foreign policy before dealing with defence and military policy.
This is obvious to us every day, as we read what forces members tell us; as an army, we do not look well equipped. We do not have enough men. We do not have enough money. We do not have enough weapons, and we do not have enough equipment. It would therefore be extremely difficult to think that we could do something with our army if we had to establish our defence policy ahead of our foreign policy. I think it would be wiser to do the opposite and then see, looking at our needs at home and the needs of poorer nations. The army can wait, because I do not think that we are going to make the world a better place by fighting wars.
Of course, the constructive measures announced in this throne speech include some to raise aboriginals' standard of living. Once again, this is very disappointing, because it is taken almost word for word from the 2001 throne speech.
The final good piece of news is that we are apparently going to be asked to consider decriminalizing pot. This will probably be quite an interesting discussion. It is legislation that would probably reassure many people, given the pointlessness of criminalizing something that is extremely important for some and insignificant for others. It would help ease the backlog of court cases.
Now let us take a look at the troubling aspects of the throne speech. Once again, I am referring to all the jurisdictional intrusion that is in store for us. From the beginning, the government of the member for Saint-Maurice has persistently intruded whenever possible, and it would seem on purpose sometimes, into provincial jurisdictions.
Sometimes it would seem that it deliberately intrudes into areas of provincial jurisdiction, so that it can then turn around and hold federal-provincial conferences, try to settle the differences, and have a policy of confrontation rather than a true policy of partnership. Although the speech contains the term partnership, it is easily seen that this is just a word, and not a concept that is truly part of the profound philosophy of the person who leads the government. His is an attitude of belligerency, of picking fights, looking for confrontation, rather than one of looking for any real partnership. This is rather a pity, because he could have, after all this time as Prime Minister, finished his political career on a rather positive note.
Once again, we have a prime minister who will be remembered, as was his mentor, as someone who wanted to put Quebec in its place, who has succeeded in impoverishing his home province even further, leaving it in a worse situation than it was when he took over.
Another aspect totally ignored by the throne speech is the famous fiscal imbalance. Mr. Dion does have, I acknowledge, much knowledge in certain areas of his speciality, that is political science.