That, in response to Canadians’ desire to save Canada as a sovereign nation and strengthen our distinctive contribution in the world, this House calls upon the government to reflect in its budgetary policy the New Democratic Party 12-Point Plan to Save Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased on the NDP opposition day to introduce the motion which you have just read. As you were reading the motion my colleague sitting next to me, the NDP House leader and member for Winnipeg--Transcona, said some things are worth doing. What he was responding to was the motion which simply puts forward the proposition that Canada is worth saving and that as parliamentarians we need to get on with seriously addressing that question.
Today we are putting forward this motion in recognition of what we believe is a growing sentiment of Canadians: they desire to save Canada, they care passionately about the future of Canada as a sovereign nation and they want to see us strengthen our distinctive contribution in the world as well.
I intend to set out a 12 point plan that the NDP proposes which we would like to put on the table for debate. Not just debate here this morning within the Chamber but debate among Canadians about how we will reinforce Canada as a sovereign nation. I will outline what are some of the ways to do that.
The NDP does not pretend that it has the only program. We want to challenge members of the House and Canadians from coast to coast to coast to take up the project that ought to engage the passions, energies and attention of us all.
Before I outline the NDP proposal I want to say a few words about why my caucus chose today to devote our opposition day business to this topic. Over the last couple of weeks we saw an incredible outpouring by Canadians of what would be described by anyone looking on as a passionate display of enthusiasm and love for the country. Some will say that was just because Canadians love sports and were cheering our Olympic athletes to do their best.
It is true that Canadians love sports. Some may say they particularly love hockey, which is known as our national sport. When we won both the men's and women's world Olympic championships there was a lot of cheering and flag waving.
What we saw from Canadians over the last couple of weeks was something far more profound than that and far deeper than that. It was not just about nationalistic fervour in support of our Olympic athletes.
It unleashed in Canadians something they have been wanting to have reason to do for a very long time. They wanted to cheer not just for Canada's successes in the Olympics but for the Canada they love, a Canada that truly stands for something and has a unique contribution to make to the world. It is a set of values that they care deeply for and passionately want us to preserve. They want us to get on with building Canada based on those values.
I believe that the celebrations of the last couple of weeks in every village, town and community, whether anglophone, francophone or allophone, were very important, very special and very deep-seated. As parliamentarians, we must build and rebuild our commitment in order to reinforce special values and the Canadian sovereignty for the future.
That brings me briefly to the second reason why we chose to introduce this motion today and to launch a debate on what we need to do to save this country that we love so dearly.
Two weeks ago there was an op-ed article in the Toronto Star submitted by a new Canadian, someone who chose to come to this country, by the name of Charles Pascal. I would suggest that all members, in fact, I would like to see all Canadians read that article of February 5 because it puts a very important challenge to all of us. Mr. Pascal said:
I have been a proud Canadian citizen for well over half my years, but that pride of late is giving way to frustration. When I jumped over the 49th parallel to sign up to be part of this great experiment called Canada, I couldn't believe there was a country so committed to ensuring a balance between individual and community, between nation and enterprise.
But now, thirty years later, I am asking myself, why should we save Canada? It is hard to find one Canadian political leader who is asking, and answering, this query. The Canada I signed up for, the Canada that informs our nice press clippings around the world, is dying on the vine.
From where I sit, there seems to be too much political management and not enough leadership. I think it's time to put our leaders to the test regarding the Canada they say they want and how they plan to get there from here.
The Canada I fell in love with was one where an active respect for diversity trumped the more passive concept of tolerance, where what we owed each other as neighbours was expressed by our investment in universal health care and public education. I chose a place where peacekeeping was valued as a strong and significant role to play in the world. And of course I chose a Canada with Quebec as a key feature of the Canadian experiment.
When I first read the article I had a bit of a defensive reaction as did my New Democrat colleagues. We asked how this commentator, observer of Canadian political events, could say that no political leader or no political party was addressing the questions?
I quickly parked that defensive response. It is a challenge that each and every one of us in the House of Commons, all 301 members, must take seriously. Canadians want us to address the question of how to make Canada a better place, how to reinforce Canada's special contribution to the world each and every day, in each and every piece of legislation we pass and in each and every budgetary decision we make. That is the point of our motion today.
I challenge all members to address the questions that have been set out in that very provocative article. That is not the only person asking these questions. The questions that have been put to us, that we must take seriously, are in a way both brutal and unsettling. I can only assume they were meant to be brutal and unsettling.
I hope that in response to our putting that challenge to all members, particularly government members, there will not be the sound of a shrug from 168 shoulders from the government benches opposite.
We all know that on September 11 the horrible terrorist atrocities that occurred in the United States shook the world. They certainly shook Canadians. In addressing the question of Canada's role in the world and our commitments to ourselves as well as people around the world we have failed to respond to the true call for leadership. We have reacted, we made it clear that we abhor terrorism, and yes the Canadian government leaped to respond to become part of a military offensive in Afghanistan.
However, as the events unfolded and the government made decision after decision, building on a record of far too many years of decisions that eroded the very sense of what Canada is all about, Canadians have slowly begun to say we could and must do better than this. This is why we have a federal government.
Canadians have moved from a sense of frustration and disappointment. In talking with people there is a strong sense of exasperation. They ask: what good is government anyway if it is so systematically eroding the things that we as Canadians care about?
That is not the whole story. I took the article from the Toronto Star and sent it to a number of people. I asked them what they thought after I outlined the 12 point program which is our response to the question of why save Canada and how we can do it.
I will share a small number of excerpts from some of the responses to the question from people and also some of the commentary in the public domain where people are genuinely and earnestly trying to address the question.
I will briefly address our program, the program put forward by the NDP to improve Canada, reinforce our values, our place and our position in the world.
First and foremost, enhance Canada's environment, including a national implementation plan for reducing greenhouse gases, and before the end of 2002 ratify the Kyoto accord. If we cannot protect our environment, then there is no future, and that is not hysteria. That is a fact.
Second, strengthen the role of aboriginal, Metis and Inuit people in the Canadian family. Let us never forget that the first people, the first nations of this country, continue to occupy a second and third class status in the Canadian family. If we are not up to the challenge of tackling that problem, then we do not deserve to exist as a parliament.
Third, reaffirm Canada's international peacekeeping role and rehabilitate Canada's reputation as respected internationalists. The government has squandered away that reputation, but it is not the reputation that we are concerned about so much as the fact that we are neutering ourselves, we are eroding our very credibility as a true internationalist in a world that cries out for international co-operation and international solutions.
Fourth, the federal government must be again an equal financial participant in public and non-profit services in the areas of health and post-secondary education.
We have built something very precious in the country and it is under severe strain. It is a system of public services, health and education foremost among them, which held in them the promise of what it truly meant to be a Canadian. No matter where we lived, no matter what our financial circumstances we could depend upon these vital services. They have been a critical part of the Canadian dream and the Canadian reality that has been slipping away because of government decisions.
Fifth, we must develop a comprehensive strategy to eradicate child poverty.
It is a national disgrace of monumental proportions. The government came to power on a promise to eliminate child poverty. Every member of parliament stood in their place and voted to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. I will not dwell on the disgraceful record of the failure of the government to seize this challenge. However let me remind all members that poverty during this period has remained at 18% among children. Let us compare this to Sweden, as an example. When parliament voted in 1989 to eradicate child poverty, Sweden's child poverty was 19%. Today it is at 2%. Why? Because its government understood that it was the programs, the services and the economic and social policies it adopted that were the means of eradicating child poverty.
Sixth, we must make sure that all commercial agreements provide protection mechanism for labour standards, human rights and the environment.
I am very briefly going to summarize the remaining elements of our 12 point program.
Seventh, enable primary producers and Canadian farm families to compete with foreign subsidies and reject continental energy and water policies that endanger Canadian control over our natural resources.
Eighth, strengthen Canadian communities, large and small by reversing the deterioration of our municipalities with stable funding and strategic infrastructure investments.
Ninth, celebrate immigration as a cornerstone of Canada, restoring respect for diversity and humanity in our immigration practices.
Tenth, reaffirm fair taxes, sound monetary policy and full employment as critical tools for accomplishing our collective economic and--