Madam Speaker, I am very pleased and honoured to have an opportunity to speak to this supply day motion, this debate that has been brought forward by the Alliance. I think it is very timely. Coming from the rural riding of Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, I am very pleased to say that I empathize greatly with the sense of frustration that many people are feeling in the rural parts of Canada.
I come from a riding where a great number of people still make their living in the fishery and they still make their living by getting up early every day and going to work in fields and in forests. These very same people in the riding I represent and in ridings across the country are feeling a sense of abandonment, in many cases a sense of hopelessness in pursuing their way of life in rural Canada, because of policies that the government has introduced and pursued.
The motion itself speaks of calling on the government to “cease and desist its sustained...political attacks on the lives and livelihoods of rural Canadians”. I would disagree with the motion only insofar as I do not think that this attack is intentional. I think it is a byproduct of rural Canada being ignored. I do not think it registers on the political radar screen of the government, for simple, terrible political reasons.
The concentration of the population of the country is increasingly being found in the urban centres. The last demographic surveys from Statistics Canada indicated that Canadians are headed in droves to big cities: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. That is fine. That is the freedom of mobility. Yet they are being forced to do so because of lack of employment, lack of opportunities and lack of attention from the federal government.
The Liberals have been in office for almost 10 years. They have been in power for almost a decade to the detriment of rural Canada. I want to acknowledge that the parliamentary secretary comes from an rural area himself and has very clearly demonstrated a concern about this issue. I commend him for that. I commend him for taking the issue and trying to bring it forward, yet I cannot help but be disappointed with some of the political rhetoric that already we have heard in this debate. We will hear more of it. We will hear it from all sides. It will not help to address the fundamental problems and the challenges that rural Canadians are continually faced with.
The Progressive Conservative Party has consistently spoken out for rural Canada in this parliament and in previous parliaments. We have brought in policies that were aimed at infrastructure and aimed at helping rural Canadians. The Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island is a perfect example. It was aimed at helping transport goods to market. We helped bring in policies and took initiatives to get shipbuilding projects, like the frigates in Saint John. We helped bring in policies that allowed parts of rural Canada to access undersea resources the same way that underground resources are accessed in the west.
The hon. members opposite do not like to acknowledge that. They do not let truth get in the way when we are talking about issues such as this, but the record is there. It speaks for itself.
I want to take some time to talk about some of the specific issues that are challenging young people, people from families that have lived in rural Canada for generations. In the three counties I represent, Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough, there are severe problems facing industries like the fisheries: Little Dover, Ecum Secum, River John and Merigomish, places where for centuries people have lived and worked and existed by virtue of relying on natural resources. It is not just fisheries. Clearly forestry and farming complete that three pronged pillar that has kept the country growing.
Let us not forget that the country was built out of rural Canada. The origins of the country completely sprung up from rural Canada and the hard work, sweat and strain of people, our ancestors, who recognized that they had to be productive, they had to be innovative and they had to work hard to build the country. They are still there. The ancestors of those original settlers are still very much engaged in that exercise. It is that passion, that difference in culture, I would suggest, that is sometimes what is challenging for the government. It has lost touch with that pioneering, frontiering attitude that exists in the rural parts of Canada.
We have to ask ourselves some basic questions when examining the government's performance. The questions are simple: Is our health care system getting better? Do we feel we are making more money now and keeping more of it? Do we feel the country is being more productive?