Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Waterloo—Wellington.
It is a pleasure for me to participate in the debate. If there was any message that I wanted to convey in response to the throne speech that we heard from the Prime Minister through the Governor General last week it is that the throne speech is solid, balanced and responsible.
Let me outline why I believe that those three very positive words explain the great value and substance of our latest throne speech, a throne speech that shall be the foundation for the months and years between now and the next election. I know I will be proud to contest the next election based on the record of the government, not only since the year 2000 but in fact from the year 1993.
Why is it a solid throne speech? Why is the opposition somewhat blind in failing to recognize the value and vision contained in that speech? The fundamental premise of the speech is on health, the physical health of people. We look forward to the report by the hon. Roy Romanow next month. He will be reporting on behalf of the national Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada which he has undertaken at the behest of the Prime Minister. It will be the most thorough, modern, up to date and current report on the state of public health care in Canada and will certainly provide a strong signal to the government on what should be done, not only federally but provincially and territorially, to make sure that our citizens get the health care they deserve.
When I use the word solid to describe the throne speech that also refers to the health of our communities, be they rural communities or major cities and all sizes of communities in between. I represent a rural riding in northern Ontario, the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin, with some 60 communities ranging in size from a few hundred citizens up to 12,000 or 13,000. That would be the largest community in my riding. We do not see our large cities in Canada as the enemy. They in fact are our partners. It is not a matter of the cities versus rural Canada. It is a matter of the cities and rural Canada working together to make the country strong.
The throne speech recognizes the value of all communities, large and small, to the economic strength of our nation. The announcement of a 10 year program for infrastructure investment is an example of the government's recognition that our future lies, on one hand, in our citizens, but, just as important, in the communities wherein those citizens live.
The throne speech is solid also because it talks about health of the environment. Several bills will be reintroduced, such as species at risk and others, that will deal with the environment. However I would like to point out that the government's commitment to the Kyoto accord is a real commitment. I look forward to the debate in the House of Commons on the Kyoto accord. I look forward to a vote in this place hopefully before the end of the year where the House of Commons will endorse the government's plan and intention to ratify the Kyoto greenhouse gas accord.
Our citizens expect nothing less than that we do the right thing, not only for ourselves and the planet in this day but for our children and grandchildren who will inherit this planet from us.
We cannot pick up and leave. We obviously have to live here. It behooves us to manage this beautiful planet for the benefit of all, not just our own wealthy nation but for poor nations as well.
This solid throne speech talks about the health of the economy. Some of the national media and certainly the opposition, before the throne speech was read, were suggesting that the Prime Minister, for his legacy, would undertake some huge, wild and careless spending. The proof is that is not the case. Just as he has managed the government properly, appropriately, and fiscally in a sound fashion since 1993, that continues. This is not the throne speech of a big spender. This is the throne speech of somebody who says “I have been here for 41 years and I plan to leave this place and the country the message that responsible management of the federal government finances is really what makes it easier for future governments to continue to deliver quality services and appropriate services to the public”.
During the fall 2000 election, I as a candidate, my party seeking re-election and the Prime Minister promised to continue with a balanced approach to our economy. It was balanced on the one side, in terms of debt and deficit, that we must in each year seek a balanced and surplus budget to pay down the nation's debt. It was a debt that was far too huge when we were elected and is still far too large for our country's good fiscal health but certainly a debt that is in decline relative to our GDP.
I recall that our federal debt was something in excess of 70% of GDP when we were first elected in 1993. The members do not have to believe my comments. The comments and reports of other nations in the OECD indicate that the ratio of our debt to GDP has now plummeted to below 50% and is dropping. This is a good thing for our economy. It will ensure that we are not competing with the private sector for loan dollars.
We have had five balanced budgets in a row. I believe and I am very confident that we will have another one ahead of us. With the continued support of the public, who have shared in the exercise of making sure the deficit has been slain, who understand and trust our approach regarding the finances of the country, we hope to have another opportunity in a couple of years to continue that solid approach.
When I said that the throne speech in total was solid, it was with regard to the health of our future, most particularly the future of our children. It will ensure that they have hope for jobs when they are ready for jobs, that they have hope for a good education, either college or university, that they have hope that the environment is a healthy one for them, and that they can raise their children in a place that we all can be proud of.
The throne speech also talks about the health of the planet, not just environmentally but also politically. We are facing some very challenging times right now, as we all know. I really believe the Prime Minister has led us wisely when he counselled his fellow world leaders, particularly the U.S. president when he told him to walk carefully through this difficult time and to use the resources and leadership of the United Nations as a means to find the path through this difficult time. Although the UN, I agree, is not a perfect place, at the very least a community of nations is better equipped to find a way through this difficult time than any single nation, or two or three nations.
I will conclude by saying that the throne speech is a solid, balanced and responsible approach to governing the country.