House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was work.


Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has the floor and perhaps we could have a little order so we can hear his words.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

October 6th, 2004 / 3:55 p.m.


Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, occasionally I need to know if they are listening as well.

What we need at this point to avoid what has occurred in the past decade is an independent tripartite commission of business, labour and government to ensure that every dollar in EI contributions is used for the benefit of workers and not for the surpluses and scandals of the government.

We also know that the government has been wildly inaccurate in its forecasts and spending projections over the past five or six years. In recent budgets the Liberals have lowballed surplus numbers by an average of $6.5 billion per year. In the U.S. they do not have this kind of debate. There is a congressional budget office. People there, like here, may disagree on fiscal policy, but they should not have to guess if the numbers they are using are accurate.

We believe that an independent, non-partisan parliamentary budget office should produce forecasts of revenues and spending which are universally available and accepted by all parties and experts of all stripes. Such a body would ensure that the government is genuinely accountable for taxpayers' dollars and that we maintain fiscal discipline at the federal level.

Finally, in the last election Canadians clearly demonstrated that they did not approve of Liberal waste, mismanagement and corruption. It is frankly galling to us that a government that has dragged and is still dragging the country through the worst scandal in our history had not one word to say yesterday on integrity and accountability in government. It is as if nothing has happened at all, no sponsorship scandal, no police investigations, no judicial inquiry, no missing millions. It is business as usual for the Liberal government. However, it is our business, it is the business of the House and it is the business of the people.

We will remind the government at every turn that the money of Canadians is not the government's money to squander, to divert and to hide. What it did before the election, what it did during the election and what it has done since the election will be exposed by the official opposition because that is our job and responsibility.

In conclusion, let me return to where I began, which is to reiterate my party's commitment to ensure that this Parliament will serve Canadians effectively. We will support the government or other opposition parties every time we feel it is in the interests of the country that we do so. When we do not, we will oppose and we will offer concrete and constructive suggestions, conservative suggestions. But collaboration is a two way street and all opposition parties expect the government to be more forthcoming than it has been up to now.

I believe that even when a government holds a majority it is not relieved of its obligation to consult with the opposition, with the House and with the people on important matters. That obligation is surely even more imperative when a minority government situation exists. It is the government's obligation to craft a working majority to advance its agenda by taking into account the policies and priorities expressed by the three opposition parties in the House.

We all remember what happened in 1979 when Joe Clark decided to govern as if he had a majority when he did not. The Liberals then pulled out all the stops to defeat the Clark government after only six months. We have no plans or intentions at this time to use procedures or politics to interrupt the life of this Parliament, but ultimately the government's attitudes and actions will determine whether this Parliament will be able to serve Canadians effectively and give them the kind of government they expect and deserve.

The first thing the government must do is actively find common ground with the opposition parties to better serve the Canadian population. I have tried to do precisely that by discussing with my opposition colleagues certain measures that could greatly benefit the population.

It is in the spirit of collaboration and democratic reform that I will offer today some sensible and useful proposals to amend the motion that is before us. These amendments do not require the House or the government to swallow the Conservative election platform whole. They are reasonable, moderate proposals that reflect the viewpoints of several parties, and frankly, of the vast majority of Canadians. They are not inconsistent with the throne speech, the kind of amendments the government House leader said he would consider, but they do put some meat on the bare bones of the government's very vague promises.

I urge members of all parties represented in the House, including the governing Liberal Party, to support the amendment. Voting for the amendment does not imperil the support of the government, far from it. We may well disagree later on with many individual items in the throne speech, but I can assure the Prime Minister that if the amendment is adopted, I pledge that my supporters will then support the approval of the throne speech as a whole.

Therefore, I move:

That the motion to adopt the Speech from the Throne be amended by adding:

“And we urge Your Excellency's advisors, when implementing the details of their proposals,

to review the employment insurance program to ensure it remains well suited to the needs of Canada's workforce,

to reduce and improve the fairness of taxes,

to be unwavering in the application of fiscal discipline,

to examine the need and options for reform of our democratic institutions, including electoral reform,

and to rise above partisanship to address the public interest;

That Your Excellency's advisors consider the inclusion of the following:

  1. The establishment of an arm's length, but not privatized, tri-party commission to ensure employment insurance premiums are used only for workers' benefit;

  2. The reduction of taxes for low and modest income families;

  3. The creation of an independent parliamentary budget office to give regular advice on fiscal forecasts of the Government of Canada;

  4. The establishment of a non-partisan, independent citizens' assembly to examine changes to the electoral system, including proportional representation; and

  5. Measures to ensure that there be a vote in the House of Commons on any proposed continental missile defence treaty”.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

4:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

4:05 p.m.



Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, let me congratulate the member for Davenport and the member for Gatineau, the mover and the seconder of the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

I want to begin this afternoon by expressing my appreciation, on behalf of all Parliamentarians and indeed all Canadians, to those members who have not returned to the House with us. We thank them for their service to their constituents and to their country.

I want also to offer a special welcome to all the incoming members of Parliament, the strong new voices that will sound in this place. We have been entrusted by the people to serve them, to represent them, to debate here and vote on their behalf. I say to you today let us make them proud.

I consider it a tribute to the diverse, multicultural nature of Canada that 34 members who sit in this House were not born in this nation but chose Canada and came to live here from a total of 20 countries. Our Parliament is richer for their presence.

The work of the 38th Parliament has begun. The elected representatives of this great land have again gathered in this Chamber, where Lester Pearson announced the creation of medicare, where John Diefenbaker rose on Dominion Day to introduce the Bill of Rights, and where Tommy Douglas told us it was not too late to build a better world.

As we stand and speak here today, as we engage in this ceremony of renewal, we are adhering to a tradition older than our country itself. On this day, Parliament is at the centre of the national conversation and it must remain there.

The achievements we forge in this place and in our nation will not be those of one person or one party. We act here and speak on behalf of the people of Canada, almost 32 million strong. Our accomplishments, our triumphs and so too our failings will become part of the collective legacy of our time.

What are we as Canadians to pass on to those who one day will work where we do and live where we do? What kind of Canada will it be? Will we honour the sacrifices of the past by handing over an even better country for the future?

If the answer to that question is to be yes, and it must be yes, then we in this minority Parliament have a critical role to play in building a 21st century economy, in protecting and strengthening our social foundation and securing for Canada a role of pride and influence in the world.

I know a lot of people are wondering, in this Chamber and across the country, if we can make this Parliament work for Canadians; if we can make cooperation not just rhetoric but reality.

In the House, we feel strongly about our beliefs and we express them with vigour. This is a place of passion and partisanship. That will not change, nor should it.

However, in a minority Commons we all have a responsibility to make Parliament work for the people. We will fulfill that responsibility if we embrace and build on the democratic reforms initiated during the last session, and if we are prepared to allow the partisan to give way to progress.

The Governor General spoke yesterday to the values we share across this country. She also spoke to the government's commitment to uniting Canadians in common purpose and building a better future for all.

As we pursue these goals, let us understand that nothing we want to do in our country, nothing we want to help do in the world, can be accomplished if we allow ourselves once again to be caught up in the vicious circle of fiscal irresponsibility.

Keeping the budget in balance is about providing opportunity for Canadians. It is about government doing all it can to create the conditions for Canadians to prosper.

I am part of a generation that for decades borrowed against tomorrow to pay for the needs and desires of its day. For 27 consecutive years our national government was unwilling or unable to make ends meet. The result was an ever-rising national debt and an underachieving economy. For Canadians, it grew harder to find and keep a job, harder to afford a house, and more difficult to pay the bills.

We were caught in a trap of our own making, a vicious circle in which chronic deficits contributed to economic lethargy, which in turn contributed to even higher deficits and then to greater malaise. We could not let that stand and we did not let that stand.

Ten years ago we stamped an expiry date on the federal deficit. We said we would eliminate it and we did. As the budget returned to balance, as Canadians began to grow more secure in the finances of their nation, the economy too began to thrive. Today, interest rates are low. Inflation is low. The rate of unemployment is almost 40% lower than it was a decade ago.

Our growth and living standards are first among the countries of the G-7. Our job growth is the fastest among the countries of the G-7. Our budgetary surplus is alone among the countries of the G-7.

There is today a new confidence among Canadians. We are focused on possibility. We are ready to compete, to excel, to showcase what we have to offer.

The vicious circle has been shattered. Canadians now enjoy the benefits of the virtuous circle. Our balanced budget helps foster a strong economy, which in turn increases business and consumer confidence, which further fortifies our economic success.

The virtuous circle has enabled us to lower taxes in an equitable way and to invest in social programs. We will continue in this vein. But we must remember that the virtuous circle is not a birthright. To protect the collective future of Canadians, we will continue to budget a contingency reserve, a practice that has kept us out of deficit even as many other countries have returned. We will provide transparent, accountable management, treating every tax dollar with respect. And we will continue to bring down our national debt, to 25 % of our GDP within the next decade.

We will do this not to thrill the economists of the world but to ensure that future generations of Canadians have even greater freedom to make their own decisions.

To that same end, we will as a government work to ensure Canada and Canadians remain competitive in the global economy. We will help workers to upgrade their skills and provide small business with venture capital. We will make it easier for new immigrants to quickly find their way into the workforce. We will introduce the learning bond to better enable low income families to save for post-secondary education. We will continue our government's successful efforts to fund innovation and research and development so that Canada is at the cutting edge of new technologies.

For that reason, I am announcing today that the Government of Canada will mandate the Canadian Academies of Science. We seek to create a national alliance of leading scientific and engineering societies, one that will operate at arm's length from government and receive operational funding of $35 million over the next 10 years.

The new Academies of Science will be a source of expert advice on scientific aspects of important domestic and international issues, and will give our country a prestigious voice among the choir of international science groups.

Canada has had two speeches from the throne this year. It has had an election campaign. Canadians know what this government stands for and what we have pledged to accomplish for them: on health care, on aboriginal issues, on early learning and child care, on cities and communities, the environment, and the international stage. Our focus as a government now is exclusively on the work ahead.

We began in the summer by addressing the top priority of Canadians and working with the provinces and territories to secure a 10-year agreement for better health care. The accord will kickstart a reduction in waiting times for key medical procedures, such as heart and cancer care, hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and diagnostic imaging.

The accord also mandates robust reporting requirements, requirements that include science-based benchmarks and targets that will be made public, driving change, enhancing accountability to Canadians and shifting the focus to the needs of the patient.

It will improve access to health care professionals, launch the expansion of home care and pharmacare, and address the unique health needs of Aboriginal Canadians and the far north.

The health accord sets out common objectives, but recognizes the different needs and circumstances that exist among the provinces and territories. By recognizing these, by pursuing an asymmetrical approach, we find strength in our diversity.

This 10-year agreement will initiate tangible change. It was signed by all the first ministers. And it enjoys the support of health care stakeholders across the country.Over the next decade, the federal contribution to health care will increase by $41 billion. That is a lot of money, but we believe as a government that our investment must be sufficient to bolster medicare and bring real reform to the number one priority of the people who sent us to serve here.

Furthermore, I set out during the first ministers' meeting a proposal to address the concerns of premiers about the funding and the predictability of equalization on territorial formula financing, programs whose volatility make it difficult for the provinces and territories to plan and budget for health, education and other public priorities.

On October 26, I will meet with the first ministers to put in place some of the most meaningful reforms to equalization since it was introduced almost 50 years ago. These reforms will lead to improved public services for Canadians. In essence, what will happen is that the federal government will make the most of its sound management and fiscal health and will take on the challenge of assuming more risk in managing the country's swings in economic fortune.

Prior to our meeting on health care, the premiers and I sat down with aboriginal leaders and agreed to work together to develop a blueprint to improve the health status of aboriginals. The Government of Canada announced a new program, a new investment of $700 million, money that will be used for health protection, promotion, disease prevention and better health results for aboriginals.

Better health is just part of what is required to ensure that for aboriginal Canadians the future is more likely to be one of prosperity than poverty. Our government will continue to focus on the areas that will hold the most promise to improve living conditions: lifelong learning, better and more affordable housing, good jobs, clean water. We will continue to ensure step by step, day by day, that the gaps in life chances between aboriginals and other Canadians are reduced. We look forward to a second meeting of aboriginal leaders and first ministers to pursue agreement on a comprehensive agenda of action for the benefit of all aboriginal people.

During the election campaign, we talked to Canadians about the need for a new deal for our cities and communities, the places where we live, where we work and raise our families, where our cultural industries thrive, where new Canadians enrich our perspective, where national policies touch individual lives.

This is an issue that needed to be brought to the national table. Canada's communities, large and urban, small and rural, face very different challenges and require very different solutions. However, both are key if we are to achieve our social goals and ensure our economic competitiveness. Both are facing enormous financial pressures. They are having trouble finding the money they need to build good roads, to maintain clean parks, to provide better transit. They are struggling with the challenge of coming to grips with the need for affordable housing. Our government understands this and we are doing something about it.

Our new deal for cities and communities is about making the lives of Canadians better by making the places they live better. It began in our first budget with a rebate for municipalities on the GST, which translates into a federal investment in communities of some $7 billion over 10 years. It will continue this fall as we work with provinces, cities and communities on the mechanism and ramp-up for our transfer of a portion of the gas tax, which will mean an additional federal investment of $2 billion a year when fully implemented.

The GST rebate and the gas tax transfer amount to a permanent source of new revenue for municipalities. Our goal is to ensure these funds are predictable and reliable enough for every community, should they wish, to go to a financial market and use this ongoing federal contribution of new money to access funds more immediately. The choice and the freedom will be theirs.

We will also be working with the other orders of government on infrastructure and regional development. We are committed to strengthening our regional resource economies, to ensuring our resource sectors benefit from modern technologies, to building on our core strengths in agriculture, fishing and the range of our natural resources. Because we believe that Canada is strongest when all its parts are strong.

Let me speak here of a region of particular challenge and remarkable opportunity, our far north. As a young man I worked on a tug barge riding the Mackenzie River into the Beaufort Sea. Like anyone who spent time in the north, I was enthralled by the majesty of the land and by the very idea of its vastness. I touched the Beaufort again this summer while spending several days in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon. I spoke with the elders and I walked again out on the tundra. In Whitehorse I was presented with a gumball by an eight year old boy whose uncle had as a child presented a gumball to Pierre Trudeau. I did not know whether to turn it over to the National Archives or eat it. Let the record show I ate it, and I will declare it.

The north is a land of mystic grandeur, of mountains rising through the clouds, of valleys carved deep by glaciers, of icebergs shaped by wind and wave. It is also a part of the world that is on the ecological front lines, a fragile place where we can see the unsettling effects of pollution and global warming.

The modern north retains the echo of the ancient but it is still a place of great promise for the future. As a government, we will work with the territories, their governments and aboriginal groups to further develop the economy of the north. We will do so in a way that will sustain the environment and benefit the people.

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting science and research in the north, both on our own and in collaboration with our circumpolar partners. Let there be no doubt, we will protect Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic.

As we look more broadly to the future, we understand that our success and our quality of life are increasingly tied to our relationship with our environment. The decisions we make now have profound implications for the future. For instance, we need to align our policies and incentives to advance Canada to a position of leadership in the fields of renewable energy, efficiency and conservation.

Environmental stewardship reflects a key element of our heritage. It is both a shared value and a fundamental imperative. For it is vital not only to our health and well-being but to our economy and our competitiveness. Vital to the ability of our cities to attract talent and investment.

That is why, for instance, the Kyoto accord on climate change, a treaty that is now more significant because of the Russian decision to ratify, is important for Canada.

And that is why we will devote a significant portion of the net proceeds from our sale of Petro-Canada, at least $1 billion, to support, develop and commercialize new environmental technologies, -technologies that will help not only Canada but other nations achieve a healthier environment.

During the campaign we spoke to Canadians of our plan to create a nationwide program of early learning and child care, a high quality system open and available to all, affordable, and geared to development. This represents a major initiative. It is going to take some time, but it is worth the effort and it is worth the investment because of the potential benefits, to our economy, yes, but most important, to the lives and the future of our youngest Canadians.

Let me say that one of the accomplishments of the Liberal government of which I am most proud is the introduction in 1997 of the Canada child tax benefit. That too was a program that started small, but look at how it has grown. Look at how it has made a difference in the lives of families and children. By the year 2007, the government's annual contribution through the credit will be more than $10 billion, money that directly helps the children who need it most.

Our plan for early learning and child care will follow that pattern. Once established, it will grow. It will help more families and it will teach more children.

Because the program will be focused on early learning and development, it will help children to be ready to learn when they start school. It will give them a tangible head start and set them on the path to lifelong achievement. Because the program will be open to all, it will level the playing field for children who are disadvantaged by birth or background.

Because the program will be affordable and of high quality, parents who choose to participate more fully in the paid workforce will be able to do so, with the comfort and the security of knowing that their children are in a nurturing, stimulating environment.

We are dedicated to working with our provincial and territorial partners to make this program a reality. We are dedicated because we believe that a strong Canada-wide program of early learning and care for our children is the single best investment that we can make in their future and in ours.

It is my belief that like those who were in this place at the creation of medicare, and who decades later look back with such pride at that defining moment in Canadian social policy, so too will members of this House recall the forging of this important social achievement.

The government cannot do everything, nor should it try. Let us understand that when we face challenges as a society we prevail because citizens in every part of the country take responsibility and take action.

We see this in the flourishing volunteer sector. In the expanding and exciting social economy where Canadians young and old are joining together in new forms of public enterprise to fight poverty and promote social responsibility.

It is in this spirit that we will work with the provinces, the territories and stakeholder groups to increase support for family caregivers – Canadian women and men of dedicated volunteerism, who have made the choice to care for aged relatives or adult relatives with disabilities.

And that is why we will increase payments to seniors under the Guaranteed Income Supplement—to reflect the fact that wages are growing at a rate greater than inflation, to ensure our least wealthy seniors are able to live better and with dignity.

In our current age, the changes to the world's economic security and political landscapes are increasingly seismic and global fault lines more unstable and more numerous. We see it in the headlines of our day and we feel the anxiety of a world on edge. As Canadians, we must be active beyond our borders to protect our values and our interests: security in the face of terrorism, the increasing threat of nuclear proliferation, and our trade relationships with the United States, with Mexico and throughout the world.

In all that we do it will be Canadian interests that will prevail, and that will be the case with ballistic missile defence. As we have said before, that is why we will have a debate in the House prior to a government decision.

We must also seek to advance the concerns of embattled peoples who seek freedom, stability, democracy and, above all, a better life. Canada has answered the call in the international fight against AIDS, leading the way in the efforts to combat the disease in the developing world. Canada has answered the call in Afghanistan. Canada has answered the call in Haiti. Brave members of our military and our police force are helping to secure the peace and build the institutions that are crucial to thriving states.

We as a government will expand Canada's ability to play this kind of essential role by increasing by 8,000 personnel the Canadian Forces and Reserves.

We will continue to urge the world to act collectively on the basis of our common humanity. Specifically, we will speak out for reform of the United Nations. We will speak out for the establishment of guidelines to enable the international community to intervene more swiftly and more effectively inside sovereign states that perpetrate or fail to stop massive human suffering such as the ongoing tragedy in Darfur.

During the late 1990s, at meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Canada took an important lead in working to reduce the debts of the world's poorest nations. Many of these are in Africa, and we will continue to help them.

At the G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Prime Minister Chrétien urged the world's richest governments to focus compassionately on the needs of Africa and its people. We will continue this work. We stand ready to build on both our commitment to Africa and our tradition of peacekeeping. For instance, I am proud to be able to tell the House that we are offering to train African military specialists in how best to secure and preserve the peace so that they can in turn build and train an effective homegrown force that is attuned to the cultural, the geographic and the historic realities of conflicts on that continent.

Quite simply, there are so many instruments of war in our world. Let Canada continue to be the instrument for peace.

Our priorities as a government serve our goals as a nation: prosperity, opportunity and security for the Canada of now, for the Canada to come. A system of early support so kids get the best possible start in life. Vibrant cities and communities that are great places to live. And better health care so Canadians have the confidence that the system will be there whenever and wherever they may need it.

These are the issues that today rank among the highest priorities of Canadians. And they fall within areas where the provinces and territories have frontline responsibilities and are accountable to their own citizens. As a government, we have no desire and no intention of infringing in these domains.

But neither do we believe that Canadians want the federal government to be absent on the issues that matter most to us collectively.

There is nothing we cannot achieve if we come together in common purpose, if a strong national government articulates and defends our shared interests and each of us rallies to national objectives.

When the first ministers met in Ottawa to discuss health care we found common ground in the needs and desires of Canadians. The people around that table stood up for medicare, stood up for our country, and signed their names to a deal for better health care, a deal for a decade.

When the Government of Canada brings together its 13 territorial and provincial partners, when it agrees with them on a 10 year plan that will mean shorter waiting times and improved access to health professionals, that is a testament to the strength of our federation.

Canada is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. True national leadership recognizes the diversity among our provinces and embraces it as an asset, a source of creativity and innovation. But at the same time, true national leadership is about naming a destination down the road and helping to forge the national will and the consensus to ensure that we get there together.

We see the importance of national will in the health deal. Because of our agreement, there will be greater accountability. Data on waiting times will be published. Benchmarks and targets will be set, marking progress and unlocking and unleashing ingenuity.

We see the importance of national will in defining Canada's place in the world. More than ever, our prosperity and security, the quality of life in our communities, and the strength of our families depend on our ability to access markets, to compete with determination and resourcefulness, to attract talent and investment, and to build multilateral approaches to peace, security, human rights and environmental stewardship.

We see the importance of national will in protecting the values that define and inspire us. Let us understand that within our charter of rights are enshrined our basic freedoms. We as a nation of minorities must never allow these fundamental rights to be compromised if we are to protect our national character and our individual freedoms.

Let us understand that the pride we take in our diversity, in our linguistic duality and our rich multicultural society, the satisfaction with which we present ourselves to the world as a country of inclusion, will ultimately erode and be lost if we are not vigilant, if we do not vigorously combat racism and exclusion, if we do not all together stare into the face of hate and declare, “That is not our Canada”.

In conclusion, let me say, on June 28, each of us earned the privilege of a seat in this chamber and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Canadians and the life of Canada. The message of the election is clear: Canadians want us to do better as a government. We have heard that message and we carry it with us. The demand going forward is equally clear: Our government and all parties must make this minority Parliament work for Canadians.

For me, the election campaign ended with a 24-hour sprint across Canada and back, a race to the finish that started in Halifax and ended in Montreal, with eight stops, two oceans, 10,000 kilometres and about 30 cups of coffee in between.

We started in the early morning. We crossed Nova Scotia by bus. We boarded our campaign plane and stopped in Gatineau. We touched down in Toronto and Winnipeg. As darkness fell, we went on to Vancouver. We had dinner at midnight.

As we flew back east, the plane was silent for the first time in 36 days. Yes, Mr. Speaker, even the media had finally succumbed. We arrived in a beautiful summer dawn in Montreal. I had a chance in the quiet hours of that morning to reflect on all I had seen and heard during the five weeks of the campaign, during my seven months as prime minister, during my 16 years as a member of Parliament.

And I remember thinking: What an incredible country this is. What a vast and diverse and magnificent land. And how privileged we all are to live here, to feel our bold national spirit, to contribute to our nation’s rise to excellence. That feeling never left me, not during the long night of election returns, not in the weeks that followed. That feeling has never left me.

Our goal in this Parliament, in all our pursuits, must be to ensure that future generations of Canadians have every reason to feel the same way about their country. To feel the way we do. To experience that surge of pride, that jolt of confidence, that intangible but unmistakable feeling that we are all part of something special.

The work of building an even better country begins today. Let us get to it.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

4:45 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the most recent federal election, Quebeckers chose once again to put their trust in the sovereignist members of the Bloc Quebecois to defend their interests in Ottawa for the fourth consecutive federal election. This is a mandate that was legitimately obtained. We have a mandate just like all the other members of Parliament who sit here.

Consequently, with its 54 members of Parliament, the Bloc Quebecois will continue to dog the federal government tirelessly so that it responds to the concerns of Quebeckers. This is the mandate that was given to us and this is the challenge that the Bloc Quebecois team intends to meet, with all the respect and the sense of responsibilities due Quebec electors, and with the most profound respect for Canadians.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that only sovereignty will allow Quebec to freely make all the collective choices that are appropriate for it. Because we are not proponents of the politics of the worst case scenario, which is the worst kind of politics, we will tackle the issues that affect Quebeckers one by one. We will do so with all the necessary openness, with rigour, with realism, by taking fully our responsibilities, without ever losing sight of one thing: at all times, the interests of Quebec will guide the Bloc Quebecois.

Let us fact facts. In its present form, the Speech from the Throne does not meet the needs of Quebeckers, in many respects.

I take employment insurance as one example. The government is merely promising to continue to review the employment insurance program. It has been examining, studying, investigating this for ages. Even with unanimous recommendations from House committees, the government has ignored what all parties were unanimous on. There has been no specific commitment to any move to improve the situation of seasonal workers, older workers, young people or women, and this has a terrible impact on all regions of Quebec, and of Canada as well.

In our opinion, an independent commission needs to be struck and given the mandate of determining contribution rates and administering the assets of the independent employment insurance fund in the best interests of contributors and recipients. There is nothing on this in the Speech from the Throne. It is high time that the government stopped stealing from the employment insurance fund.

There is no mention of the softwood lumber issue. Of course the government wants to see Canadian and American businesses have access to the American market, but that's it. Of course that is desirable; everyone wants it. The federal government ought to realize that an assistance plan for workers and businesses is required in the meantime. The American strategy is obvious: drag out the legal proceedings as long as possible, since they know the U.S. will lose. In so doing, they tell themselves, by the time they are finally defeated the victors will no longer be around.

We have to support our businesses by complying with the rules of the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. This can be done, but the government is not doing it. We have been waiting three years for Phase 2. We were told that it would be forthcoming when things became urgent. Well, the situation has now become extremely urgent.

There is not much on agriculture either. Here again, the government preaches access to markets but with no firm or clear commitment on protecting supply management. There is nothing concrete. The farmers of Quebec and of Canada are worried. There is nothing concrete in this Speech from the Throne.

There is no mention of the missile defence shield. Unless when the Prime Minister talked about the need to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Canada he meant that Canada needs to take part in the missile defence plan. If that is what he meant, then there is cause for concern.

The House needs to vote on this matter, not just talk about it. We are not in a Parliament where we just talk for the sake of it. A decision on this issue has to be made here, in this House, whether the government agrees or not. No issue is more important than war or peace or issues of national defence and foreign policy.

We have to be able to express our point of view on this, as they do in the British parliamentary system, and in Australia and New Zealand. This can be done here, by someone concerned about the democratic deficit. If it is just words, I understand why he does not mention it. I had hoped for more from this Prime Minister regarding the democratic deficit. Here is an opportunity for him to improve the situation on democratic debate.

Furthermore, the intentions of the Liberal government, as expressed in the Speech from the Throne—because we have to read what is written and not what is between the lines—once again undermines Quebec's ability to make its own decisions.

The federal government talks about cooperation. I have been hearing that since 1993 and even earlier, because I have been here since 1990. Yet in reality, the Liberals' centralist intentions remain. Encroachments on Quebec's jurisdictions have increased in this Speech from the Throne.

I am referring to the problem of the workforce. We have heard that the government intends to reinvest in occupational training, through a new workplace skills strategy.

I thought that the manpower issue had been settled in 1997 in an agreement with Quebec. I thought that when we were talking about training, it was part of either labour or education, both in Quebec's jurisdiction. But no, they are going to interfere in this area. That is encroachment.

Regarding day care, we have heard that they will handle the matter with a beautiful national program. I expected that they would say this issue is in the domain of the provinces and Quebec and that there would be a right to opt out without conditions and with full compensation. That is what would be offered to Quebec; that is what the people of Quebec wanted to hear. But no—that was not in the speech. There is another fine wall-to-wall, pan-Canadian program, with its pan-Canadian standards.

Within its own areas of jurisdiction, the federal government could have provided assistance to parents and day cares by making changes in taxation. Parents in Quebec lose $250 million a year because of the deductions for day care costs. It contrasts with the reduction in day care costs in Quebec. We have lowered the costs and we give more to Ottawa, and all the time we are losing money. It is that simple. It amounts to $250 million, which adds up to $1 billion in four years. That is a lot of money. They could have done something about this problem. It would have helped the day cares and the parents of Quebec.

As for the municipalities, they said it was important. Many people live there. We knew that. There are many problems. That is the urban condition; that is development. We all know that.

Having made this observation, they decided to meddle. It is as if Quebec said that because national defence is important, it would buy helicopters or submarines, which might help out the federal government. But the jurisdictions have been defined. Municipalities are not a federal responsibility.

I would have liked to read in the Speech from the Throne that the money would be provided to the provinces, to Quebec, which would decide for themselves the priorities and conditions and work with the municipalities, without needing big brother Ottawa , with its Ottawa knows best attitude. It is always the same.

It is the same in the environment sector. This time the government talks about a unified environmental assessment process. Yet, the BAPE has existed for 25 years in Quebec. The government tells us that it will present us with something. This will not be imposed to us, it will be proposed to us. There will be some money with the proposals. They will not be conditions, but if the provinces want this money, perhaps they could adopt this unique process, with full respect for jurisdictions, with full cooperation. We know it. I think the Prime Minister has some expertise in this sort of things.

Manpower training, day care, municipalities, environment, all these priorities have as a common denominator the fact that Ottawa wants to use its huge financial means—our money—in jurisdictions that are not federal.

There is another clear sign. Following the euphoric statement on September 15 on asymmetrical federalism, I thought that the government would talk about it in the Speech from the Throne, that it was the discovery of the century and that the problem had just been solved.

We read the Speech from the Throne. We looked everywhere. We were prepared to talk about asymmetry. It was not there once. I know that some people in the Liberal Party are annoyed about this issue. There are documents in English Canada in which this concept is less popular. There is not one word on the subject. Yet, this was the evidence, as the Prime Minister told us, that it was the way to go in an area of jurisdiction that, let us not forget, belongs to Quebec.

As I said before, it is not so much asymmetrical federalism as asymmetrical meddling. However, the federal government has gone even further than that. It is no longer talking about asymmetry, especially in the area of health, where it now refers to the September 15 agreement in terms rather different from those it used the day after this historical find.

It is now talking about Canada-wide objectives and accountability. We are back to the same old “Ottawa knows best” approach, to meddling, centralization and Canada-wide standards. Asymmetry in areas of federal jurisdiction is not even an option.

I welcomed the health agreement when it was reached and I said I was happy about it. At the very least we should be able to do things in our own areas of jurisdiction, with our own money. It is a good thing when Quebec makes gains. But the fact is that Quebec is going nowhere when it is only treading water. The focus is more on protection and resistance than anything else.

For Quebec to go forward, we need asymmetry in federal jurisdictions, just what Jean Charest is asking for in areas like telecommunications, appointments to the Supreme Court and international relations for instance. These are areas where asymmetrical federalism is to be found. No need to be a partisan to recognize it. They make their own choices. They will defend them. In my mind, these are gains, and every time Quebec gains something, it is getting a step closer to becoming a country. This is how we see things.

When Lesage managed to patriate his programs, it was a good thing for Quebec. Sovereignty has not suffered a setback. Support for sovereignty jumped from 8% to 49% in the last referendum and 49% in the last federal election. When Lévesque signed the Cullen-Couture agreement, he did not turn into a federalist. He stood up for Quebec and made some gains. So much the better if an agreement was reached!

However, could we contemplate having the same kind of agreement in international relations, for example, with bilateral arrangements in areas where Quebec is involved in international forums? Could we agree on the doctrine put forward by Paul Gérin-Lajoie? That was a long time ago. It goes back to the 1960s. Paul Gérin-Lajoie told us then that Quebec had to be able to express its own views worldwide and to do so in all areas under its jurisdiction in Canada.

I would have liked to hear what the government had to say in this regard. Then we could talk about asymmetry.

As for parental leave, this is a fine program. We were told in May that a historic agreement had been reached. We often fool ourselves around here thinking that we make history. This is something different. We were told that a historic agreement had been reached. Everything was settled and things were going forward. However, there is nothing about it in this throne speech. On the subject of asymmetrical federalism, I would have thought that the federal government would agree that it came under the jurisdiction of Quebec. I would also have thought that it would have recognized that, with respect to Quebec social programs and policies, no appeal would be made to the Supreme Court . We settle all that, we give the money and we agree on this fantastic child care system that exists in Quebec. Its praises are sung everywhere, and it might be a good idea to recognize it.

There are other areas where we could use this concept of asymmetrical federalism, for example in the case of young offenders. In Quebec, we have a system for young offenders. Everybody agreed: the defence lawyers, the social workers, the police officers, the judges, everybody, all the political parties, all the stakeholders.

Here the law has been changed. The asymmetrical federalism could mean that even if the Criminal Code comes under federal jurisdiction, Quebec could be allowed to exercise its own jurisdiction, according to its own orientation, the one that best suits the province, in this area of federal jurisdiction. We are not saying that it is better that what is done elsewhere. We are simply saying that it is good for us.

We do not want to impose it on others, but neither do we want the opposite to happen. This is what we want and this is what asymmetrical federalism would be.

I am thinking of the antiscab legislation we have proposed three times here. The Liberals voted in favour the first time, when they were in opposition. Once in power, of course, they changed their minds, and not for the first time. We want to see this legislation extended to all of Canada. But, if the rest of the Canada does not want it, what would there be to prevent the federal government from saying that, even in areas of employment governed by the Canada Labour Code, there would be no recourse to strike breakers in Quebec, in order to speed up negotiations and reduce violence? What is there to prevent that? This would be true asymmetrical federalism. I saw nothing on that in the throne speech.

The same thing goes for the Kyoto protocol. In Quebec, we have made progress on environmental issues, while between 1970 and the present, Ottawa invested $72 billion in coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power. We in Quebec paid one-quarter of that. The $329 million for clean energies, we paid to Hydro-Québec on our own, one-quarter of what Ontario Hydro, which is nuclear-powered, cost. And now, we are supposed to pay for one-quarter of the harm done?

We want a bilateral agreement on the environment that will take into consideration what Quebec has already done. This is what we want. We do not want the federal government to impose on us the effects of policies that have had a disastrous impact on the environment and that, moreover, we helped fund. To get taken—to put it mildly—once is bad enough. We do not want to get taken a second time. This is not like the advertisement for milk.

The fact is that even if we were to settle all these issues, until we have the means to put in place our own policies in our own jurisdictions, a major democratic deficit will continue to exist, namely the fiscal imbalance. This is an issue that can no longer be ignored.

The Prime Minister told us “We are the model country that eliminated its deficit”. He should have said “We are the country that made others, namely its unemployed and the provinces, pay for the deficit”. This is what he should have said, because it is the truth.

But there is nothing in the throne speech on fiscal imbalance. They talk about equalization, but that is not enough. The government must go further. The next conference should not deal strictly with equalization. Moreover, the formula should be thoroughly reviewed.

Let me conclude by saying that a throne speech is a statement of intentions. It contains some intentions we will support and others we will oppose. But it happens that the government is not the only one with intentions. Some 70% of Canadians and Quebeckers voted against the Liberal Party and also expressed certain intentions. That should be taken into consideration.

When the Prime Minister tells us that he wants to work in a consensual way, if that means we should think the same way he does, this is not what we call a consensus. When he tells us we should rise above partisanship, if being non-partisan means being a Liberal, we will get nowhere. We should all work together. We are ready to do that. We are willing to take our responsibilities, but not at all costs.

Our amendment to the throne speech does not call for the whole speech to be discarded, something which has been done in the past. We simply want to amend it by including a number of realistic measures to meet the demands and needs of Canadians and Quebeckers. That is why I move an amendment to the amendment by the Conservative Party.

I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding after the word “treaty” the following:

“and we ask Your Excellency’s advisors to ensure that all measures brought forward to implement the Speech from the Throne, including those referred to above, fully respect the provinces’ areas of jurisdiction and that the financial pressures the provinces are suffering as a consequence of the fiscal imbalance be alleviated, as demanded by the Premier of Quebec.”

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Resuming debate on the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:10 p.m.


Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again I would like to congratulate you on your election. To other public servants, namely the members of the Public Service Alliance, I express my thanks and my solidarity.

I extend my congratulations to the Prime Minister, to the leader of the official opposition and to the leader of the Bloc Quebecois on their re-election.

I want to send a special thanks to our NDP caucus for its patience and tolerance while I was hanging out in the lobby these last many months. I want to thank, in particular, the member for Elmwood—Transcona. I hope one day to be as faithful a parliamentarian as he is and has been. I also want to thank the two leaders of mine who are joining us in the caucus, the members for Ottawa Centre and Halifax, who are examples of wisdom, intelligence, decency and service to us all.

I would like to take this opportunity to quote a man who is very special to me:

On this first opportunity I have to rise as a member of this House, I thought I should express my special appreciation to all those back home, on the shores of Montreal, who have given me the chance to serve in this Parliament.

My father spoke these words nearly 20 years ago, in 1985. I am proud to be his son. Like my father, I am proud to come from Quebec and proud to represent a riding located on the shores of a lake.

That brings me to a thanks to the constituents of Toronto--Danforth for having bestowed in me their confidence to serve here in the House and to work with all members. I particularly want to single out one of those residents, the deputy leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontario, Marilyn Churley, who also sits with me as the representative for Toronto--Danforth in the Ontario Legislature.

I would like everyone to know a little bit about Toronto--Danforth. It is a community of enormous diversity. It holds one of the largest Chinese communities in Canada and indeed I have been blessed to have the support of the Chinese community in Toronto--Danforth on a very active basis.

[Member spoke in Chinese and Greek]

And of course we know the Danforth. We have heard of the taste of the Danforth. It is the centre of Greek culture, activity, music and food. I invite everyone to my riding to share in the magnificence that is the taste of the Danforth with another million aficionados of garlic and fine wine.

It is also the location of the South Asian community markets and businesses on east Gerrard where people talk to me about their families and about their desire to end discrimination including racial profiling in our society.

Finally, I would like to mention that it is the location of a very special church called the Metropolitan Community Church. It is a church wherein the first gay marriage was performed in Canada. I had the experience of being there and I am very proud to have been there. It is the home of the gay and lesbian community in many ways and it is one that speaks out on the issues of human rights.

Toronto--Danforth is very special for many reasons and Toronto itself, as my home city now of 30 years, is very special to me. I have a particular role to play as the lone member of the opposition from Toronto and I can assure members that I intend to take that role very seriously.

However, needless to say, the most important part of Toronto for me is my family. I particularly want to thank Olivia Chow, my wife, Mike and Sarah, my kids, and of course, my mother Doris Layton who is watching and I appreciate very much her support throughout.

Let me speak a little about the purpose of this Parliament and the circumstances in which we find ourselves in the House at this very moment and in the weeks to come. David Lewis, another distinguished parliamentarian and former NDP leader said in his maiden speech in 1962, “We have seen in the last few years that the Liberals have revealed themselves to be thoroughly unreliable”.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, we might say.

However, it was a minority parliament at the time, a parliament with Lester Pearson as Prime Minister. In Pearson's minority parliament, we created public pensions and public health. They would never have occurred with a majority. They would never have occurred without my party. We have 19 MPs here with the support of 2.1 million Canadians. We will not play chicken with historic opportunities to make positive change in this country.

If our party had played chicken in earlier minority governments, we would not have the health care program that we celebrate today. If our party had played chicken in the minority parliaments of the sixties, we would not have the national pension plan that we have today.

In a later minority parliament, often referenced as a good example of how minority parliaments can get progressive things done, from 1972-74, if our party had played chicken, we would not have had a national housing program that houses almost two million Canadians today.

We have an opportunity to create and build once again or we can play politics and let Canadians down. The ones we will be letting down are the families who are sitting at home wondering how they are going to provide for their children and how they are going to meet their needs for child care. The ones we will be letting down are the ones who are trying to breathe clean air and are wondering where they are going to be able to get clean water as they face yet again another boil water order. The ones we will be letting down if we play chicken and play politics instead of getting to work and seizing the opportunities are those who want to see our voting system changed and made more democratic. We have an historic opportunity to do so in this Parliament.

I have observed debates in this place under majority governments and I think that, like me, the public did not like what it saw. That is why we have a minority government now.

Let me be clear: I do not share the Prime Minister's values.

We do not draw our values from the same well as the Prime Minister suggested during the election campaign. He talks about rights, but he dodges on equal marriage for all. He promised to help cities, but he is the one who abolished the affordable housing program. He promised to bring in child care time and time again and did not. He promised to cut pollution and it is up significantly.

It seems that progressive ideas emerge from the Prime Minister and his team only when it suits them. We would like to change that. If he is serious about the environment, if he is serious about cities, and if he is serious about democracy and jobs, well then, we would like to help. If he is serious about child care, we will be there.

I would like to quote from the maiden speech made by the member for Halifax in 1997. She was referring to broken promises and said:

Women are the most vulnerable. It is no surprise that this government has abandoned women. The first 1993 red book promise broken was that of a national child care program. Canadian families and Canada's children are still waiting.

That was seven years ago. Seven years ago our party leader at the time had to bemoan a seven year broken promise. It is now 14 years. This leaves families in real trouble.

I was calling to get a taxi to go to the airport three days ago and the dispatcher said to me, “Mr. Layton, I hope you go up there and make them keep their promises”. I was not sure which promise he was going to pick. He was coming on quite strongly

He said that the Liberals promised a national child care program in 1993 and they broke their promise. On the basis of that promise his wife went out and took early childhood education to become trained to be a daycare worker. They decided to have a family in the expectation that there would be child care available and that her job would be as a child care worker.

I found it amazing to hear this guy speaking this way. He then said that his wife is now looking after their kids at home. She was unable to find a job. Without child care, at the cost that it is available, it was simply impossible for the family to function in any other way.

Broken promises attack the very foundation of what Canadians are looking for, which is some sense of hope. The member for Halifax was waiting seven years ago and we are still waiting.

I say to my fellow opposition leaders that our collective responsibility is to make this place work. We must choose our battles. We must choose the battles not over what the Prime Minister says, but by what he does. My party will do just that and we will always speak up for the people that we represent.

Let me say a word or two about the throne speech itself. Again, I am finding some inspiration from former leaders in their maiden speeches. If members do not mind, I would like to reach back to 1936 when Tommy Douglas was first present in this House prior to being Premier of Saskatchewan. Here is what he said about the Speech from the Throne at that time, “I would point out that the Speech from the Throne is notable, not so much for what it says but for what it fails to say”.

One wonders what Tommy would think about specifics for debt reduction being laid out with such specificity, but with no specifics for child care. The biggest spending priority that has been announced by the government in the throne speech, and again in the Prime Minister's reply today, is the reduction of debt.

Let us be absolutely clear about that. The reduction of debt is being put as the sine qua non of the government's fiscal strategy. This means that it will stand ahead of the environment, of people's basic needs, of affordable housing, just like we have seen for the last decade. Yet we have no specifics on something as important, grand, significant as a child care program.

Let us have some specifics on child care. For example, 3 million kids in Canada have mothers who work, but there are only 515,000 child care spaces in this country. There are fewer child care spaces in my city of Toronto today than there were in 1993. We are falling backwards under this government.

In St. John's it now costs $415 a month for child care per child. In Yellowknife it is $605. In Ottawa it is $750. There are no targets, no dates, no specificity on child care. This is not acceptable.

Tommy Douglas would also have had a few well chosen words about the Prime Minister's seeming desire to help George Bush launch the next arms race, without mentioning even once in the throne speech the so-called missile shield.

Let us hope that this omission means that the Prime Minister has converted to peaceful values and decided to say no to George Bush's star war.

Let us hope that the Prime Minister's values shift from the promotion of war and arms race to the values of peace.

My party wants to built a 21st century economy in Canada, one that is green, that is smart, that has child care, that invests in education and that puts investments into the economic engines of cities. I would like to speak briefly about these.

As members know, I have taken on the responsibility of being our party's energy and climate change critic. After four Liberal throne speeches, I simply do not believe the fifth. We have a commitment to climate change efforts, but time and again that promise has been broken, and I do not believe that it will be followed. We intend to bring forward proposals and I hope the government will take a look at implementing them.

In 1993 the Prime Minister's own red book promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. Instead we have received a report from the OECD saying that we are last among the industrial countries and that we have a massive increase of global warming emissions.

We are facing a global crisis. It is transforming the very planet on which we live. Species that we may or may not care about are losing their capacity to survive on the planet. Hundreds of millions of people will find their lands flooded and their ability to live with any kind of quality of life attacked. That means we have to take urgent and direct action. It is not enough to call for more talks and more discussions of possible plans down the road. I was part of those talks in the past. They led no where.

Let us get going on these issues. It is possible to find solutions. I had a considerable amount to do with the wind turbine on Toronto's waterfront, as did others. I commend the mover of the motion on the Speech from the Throne for his help on that project, but it took six years to get up one turbine.

How long does it take to make change in the country? Surely it cannot take that long.

Let me quote another leader, J.S. Woodsworth, in 1922, on the matter of communities, cities and investment. He said, “As a taxpayer I objected decidedly in my own little municipality to paying out taxes and receiving nothing whatsoever for those taxes”.

What can one say about the commitment to cities and communities in the throne speech? It is pathetic. I stood on the stage with the Prime Minister when he made a promise to municipalities and said there would be 5¢ per litre of the gas tax. Why can the number 5¢ per litre not make its way into the throne speech? Is there something so distasteful about a promise that it cannot be repeated?

What is going on? We see a rapid retraction of commitment on this issue and it is not something that we intend to accept. Instead, we hear about a portion of the fuel tax being phased in. These are the words of someone who frankly does not intend to follow through on a commitment once the election is over.

Also, there is no separate infrastructure program. It will now be folded into the gas tax, I guess. There is no dedicated fund for public transit so we will have more smog and gridlock. That is something to which we can look forward. The infrastructure deficit is growing by $10 million a day and yet the Prime Minister chooses to spend $11 million a day on debt reduction. There is the priority. That is the value wellspring that is being utilized.

Let me turn to the words of the member for Ottawa Centre. He gave a maiden speech in 1968, which is instructive. He said, “serious deficiencies which still remain about which the government gives almost no indication of seriously concerning itself. One, the abysmal lack of affordable housing“. We saw in a minority parliament a national affordable housing program that took us somewhere, that housed hundreds of thousands of Canadians. As soon as the majority Liberal government came into power, it eliminated the whole program and homelessness began to grow across the land with terrifying consequences.

I would like to close on a more positive note by mentioning that the last words in the Speech from the Throne called for a democratic renewal, including the electoral process. We welcome this initiative. We intend to work very hard to achieve the concept of a citizens' assembly and ultimately a referendum so we can fix this place, so we can see that the democratic politics that Canadians want to see in full operation are able to function and clean up Parliament as we know it, clean up the process that we have seen, the scandals and the corruption, and represent the voices of Canadians.

We are ready to work. We are ready to go. Let us end the games of chicken and the politics and get on with the job.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.


Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question, specifically in respect to the national child care framework being proposed by the government. I noted the member mentioned statistics, that there were working mothers with 3 million children and that there were approximately 500,000 daycare spaces, which left about 2.5 million government approved daycare spaces that needed to be created.

My specific concern is that my riding is primarily a rural riding. I would like to use the quote from J.S. Woodsworth of 1922. As he said, is this just a program where one group funds it but gets none of the benefits? That is what many rural Canadians feel about the national daycare program, which creates spaces in large cities but gives none of the benefits to rural Canadians.

There are many examples of that kind of disparity. I know the member rode his bicycle to work. In rural Canada, where work is sometimes 30 to 40 miles away on a gravel road, it is a tough thing to do.

However, I want to focus just on the child care. How do we help rural Canadians with those specific needs?

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.


Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, our critic in this field has just finished a cross-country tour, getting right down to work on the question of child care. In fact, he visited small rural communities and represents that type of northern Ontario region himself. He found that smaller communities right across the country had an enormous interest in a child care strategy.

The tragedy of this is that women, who primarily bear the burden of looking after children, are unable to work and make the contributions they might like to make, and unable to have the choices that they wish their families had. They were counting on the promises to be delivered. I think we have waited long enough.

The good news is that we have a minority Parliament, the kind of Parliament that produced our health care program, something put together by the New Democratic Party government, the CCF government in Saskatchewan. The fact that we have a pension plan emerged from a minority Parliament right here in the House. In fact, the principles of asymmetrical federalism were recognized at the time. It shows that it is possible to put together a strategy to address Canadians' needs no matter in what community or province they might happen to live, whether it's a large or small community.

We have the capacity as Canadians, if we work together, to address these issues and solve these problems. The question is, will we actually take the opportunity we have to realize these opportunities or will we squander it in a game of chicken.

I have looked at the amendments that have been proposed, for example. They are very interesting amendments. Of course the fundamental question is not whether the amendments contain good ideas. In fact, some of them are ideas that we discussed. The question is will the government fall on the vote. It has nothing to do with the content of the words. Any words whatsoever could have been composed. This is the political gamesmanship that is underway.

I argue that what we need to do is get to work. The other parties are playing a game of brinkmanship. It is like people speeding up their cars heading toward each other to see who will blink first. I say to the other party leaders, in whose hands these questions reside, that they should not to get into a blinking game. They should open their eyes to what Canadians want to see done. They want to see us get to work. They do not want to see the shenanigans and the politics that we see unfolding here.

We look forward to having an opportunity to vote on these issues in a forum that will actually make a difference, a vote in the House of Commons on missile defence. I would like to quote the words we just heard from the Prime Minister. He said “In all that we do, it will be Canadian interests that will prevail, and that will be the case with ballistic missile defence”.

Not one page later he said “There are so many instruments of war in our world. Let Canada continue to be an instrument of peace”.

Let us start by saying no to the weaponization of space and the spending of money on missiles on the North American continent.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member and all members throughout the House will agree that investing in our children is one of the most important investments we can make, which is why I am so proud of what we have achieved: the child tax benefit, the child care expense deduction, maternity and parental leave extension to a full year.

I know the finance committee was instrumental in other changes. I think there was a committee chaired by Nick Discepola on caring for our children. These are the principles with which we deal.

In that vein, the member will know that in this place we are seized with a demand from the electorate to govern and to act in a responsible fashion. I think everyone will agree with that. However when the member talks about breaking promises I think we also have to recognize that we have to be clear, concise and correct in our facts.

In 1993 the undertaking of the government in the red book was to create 150,000 new child care spaces once 3% growth of GDP was achieved and asked for matching funding from the provinces. The member will know that the provinces refused to participate and unfortunately we could not go forward. However in this throne speech the government's commitment is to move forward with these child care spaces even if the provincial governments refuse to participate. That is the difference.

This is not a broken promise from 1993. I hope the member will acknowledge that and help us to move forward and make sure the provinces participate so we can get more child care spaces in Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.


Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the condition of 3% growth in GDP was achieved within three years of the promise. We have had almost 10 years. This project could have been on the go but it did not happen.

The old line about matching funds is the oldest trick in the book. First one says that one has a great idea and claims credit for it. This is the strategy of the Liberal Party. The Liberals say that they have a wonderful idea but that they have to ask the provinces to pay part of the costs. Then they ensure cynically that they never have the capacity to meet that obligation and then do it by cutting huge amounts of transfers from the federal government to the provinces.

I must say that it was a brilliant strategy, if one is a cynic. It was a brilliant strategy because it allowed the Prime Minister to claim the status of hero when it came to deficit reduction simply by transferring the deficit to the provinces which, some enthusiastically, others reluctantly and some resisting, transferred that deficit on to the municipalities, or worse, directly on the shoulders of individual Canadians whose poverty levels went up, whose student debt went up, whose homelessness went up and whose illness went up.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.


Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it clear right from the beginning that we are not in a minority Parliament. I have heard this expression used here. It is not the Parliament that is in a minority situation, but rather the government. This is quite different. It is important to understand the difference and I am not sure that the members really understand what it means.

In his speech, the member for Toronto—Danforth said that he wanted to accelerate change. I have a question for him. Would the best way to accelerate change not be to support the amendment presented by the Conservative Party and the subamendment presented by the Bloc Quebecois, dealing with subjects that the member himself and his party have put forward, such as proportional representation, employment insurance, the jurisdictional issue and the missile defence shield? Will he turn into the minority liberal government's puppet or will he assume his responsibilities as an elected member of this House and ensure the adoption of a report produced by the whole House? This is what we want to know from this party.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.


Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is up to the Prime Minister to determine what is a confidence issue. In such a case, by voting for these amendments, we are in fact putting an end to the work that we wanted to do. Elections will have to be called or something even worse could happen.

What I mean is that we support the proposals in these amendments when they refer to something real, when they represent something that can produce results. However, what we are seeing here are merely political games, schoolyard games. We want no take part in them.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.



Paddy Torsney Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Beaches--East York.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today in response to the throne speech and in particular to highlight our commitment in a rapidly changing world.

Canadians want a government that while recognizing the importance of sound economic management, ensures there is a continued commitment to stable communities, a sustainable environment, a solid agenda for families, a strong health care system, a commitment to our founding peoples and an opportunity to enable us to take our place in the world. The citizens of Burlington share these priorities.

The measures related to families, which were outlined in the throne speech, are all-encompassing for our youngest citizens to our seniors, for those who need care and for those who deliver it. The government will meet its commitment to the development of early learning and child care based on principles arrived at by parents and child care experts: quality, universality, accessibility and development.

Caregivers for our seniors and people with disabilities will benefit from improved tax-based support. The throne speech commits to increasing the guaranteed income supplement and a renewed new horizons program, measures that are important to Burlington's vibrant and sizeable seniors community.

Burlington's citizens are interested in the agenda outlined in the throne speech for Canada's place and influence in the world. As Kofi Annan said right here, Canadians want to know that they are contributing to those countries that need them. Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA, and many organizations across this country are making a difference in the world.

Through CIDA, Canadians support social and economic development programs in partner countries through governments, non-governmental organizations and institutions, community groups, businesses and through international bodies, such as UNICEF and the World Bank. CIDA support takes many forms: financial contributions; technical support such as information skills or equipment; support for human rights; environmental sustainability; and more effective aid programs. Support is based on the needs and priorities of our developing country partners.

The 2004 budget provided supplementary estimates of $248 million for foreign aid in 2005-06. This 8% increase is a significant step toward meeting Canada's commitment to double its development assistance by 2010. This substantial increase will help CIDA plan long term interventions and make our assistance more efficient.

CIDA is investing in sectors where we know that Canada can have a lasting impact. We are committed to sharing our expertise and experience with developing countries in areas such as education and health, including the fight against HIV and AIDS, private sector development and good governance. Canada has responded to the HIV-AIDS pandemic with a generous financial commitment, a comprehensive coordinated approach to our programming and strong strategic leadership.

We are stepping up our efforts and taking a smart approach to fighting the spread of the virus, working to prevent more infections while helping those already infected live longer and better lives. As well, we are helping to build capacity in developing countries to deal better with this pandemic.

We are investing in education on sexual and reproductive health rights, on finding a vaccine, on providing care and treatment to those affected and infected by the virus and strengthening the health systems and human resources.

Reversing and halting the spread of HIV-AIDS is also about strong strategic leadership. Earlier this year the House passed groundbreaking legislation to allow the export of lower cost medications to developing countries.

In another important area, making business work for the poor is a way to improve people's lives across the globe. By fostering opportunity through local private enterprise supported by effective, efficient and transparent indigenous democratic institutions, we can help to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of developing countries. Canadian businesses are helping develop that support.

Economic growth as much as progress in social and environmental sectors is critical to development. Canada is fully committed to implementing the recommendations of the UN Commission on the Private Sector and Development, a commission our Prime Minister co-chaired.

While CIDA's work supports long term development efforts, Canada stands ready to respond to humanitarian crises with rapid, strategic and coordinated assistance.

In the wake of hurricane Ivan and tropical storm Jeanne, the government announced immediate aid for hard hit countries. Canadians provide humanitarian assistance for Haiti and other affected Caribbean countries.

In response to the grave humanitarian crises in the Sudan, Canada has adopted a comprehensive approach: protection for those affected by the conflict, assistance to alleviate suffering, and support for peace building efforts. We are providing relief to internally displaced persons and strongly urging the Sudanese government officials to meet their responsibilities to protect civilians.

We have increased our humanitarian aid for Darfur by $10.8 million, bringing Canada's total contribution to the Sudan to more than $37 million since October 2003. International development helps people help themselves. Our goal is to facilitate people in developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty for the long term.

There are many Burlington residents whose efforts distinguish them in this field. For instance, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, founded in 1962 and headquartered in Burlington, works to improve lives in 27 countries throughout the world through community development, relief and education. They are involved with some 100,000 families and communities in the most troubled places. Many citizens across Canada support their activities by working on projects and donating funds each week to the collection plate.

Through CUMIS, Burlington residents support an incredible international cooperative movement that makes a difference, especially through offering micro credit initiatives that support small business development.

Careforce International located in Burlington focuses on social, educational and medical needs. Burlington residents have worked on some of its projects in Burkina Faso and other places.

IDEA Burlington provides social justice education programs for our community for faith groups and schools. Its members network with other organizations and facilitate selected national and international campaigns for peace and social justice.

Burlington residents work through initiatives like CESO in communities in South America, Africa and the emerging nations of the eastern bloc. Our residents have assisted in elections for emerging democracies as observers and training election officials.

Each spring in our community we have the most incredible effort at Clarksdale Public School. The teachers and parent volunteers organize a Clarksdale world tour. Students explore different parts of the world. They set up booths and they discuss issues of importance, such as our initiative to ban landmines. They prepare food. They talk about the clothing and art.

In a world where 11 million children under the age of five die every year from preventable diseases, and nearly one billion people do not have access to safe water, Canada and Canadians as individuals, through non-governmental organizations, universities, professional associations, cooperatives, religious institutions and their own companies, are doing their part.

Canadians have a role to play in the world, a very important role. CIDA is one important vehicle to ensure that Canadians and their government work to create better conditions for citizens around the world, so they can build better lives for themselves, for their families and their communities.

Together, we can build a better world.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:50 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have just heard another member of Parliament saying she was proud of the throne speech. She has the right to be proud, but it is the reasons why she is proud that I am questioning.

She talked among other things about the guaranteed income supplement for seniors, saying that the government would improve the supplement. That is the first thing that she mentioned to show us how proud she was. As a matter of fact, I am extremely disappointed for the same reason, and not for the improvement of the supplement.

Is she aware that the government has been robbing the poorest seniors for years? Indeed, it has collected $3.2 billion by taking this money away from the most disadvantaged seniors. It is now in the government coffers, along with the $45 billion or $50 billion from employment insurance.

We are asking, together with seniors, that they be reimbursed for this theft. We know that, if seniors did not receive what is rightfully theirs, it is because they were not informed enough. Indeed, the government has been mean-spirited about the way that it must inform vulnerable people in our society.

I know some seniors and older couples. Just yesterday I met a couple who had been robbed of $180,000. When they were 88 years old, this man and woman realized they had never received what they were owed. The retroactive payment is for 11 months. It can be proven that these people were not informed and that is why they were not given what they were owed.

I would applaud this measure if, in addition to increasing the supplement, the government said it was prepared to pay back money that had been stolen. There are people still living who continue to be in a difficult financial situation and who are owed money.

I know of a couple who at age 70 realized that they had been robbed of $4,000 a year for the past five years. They were paid back.