House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, my congratulations to the member on his re-election.

First, in relation to the word accountability that he used, one thing that we are all very proud of in this new health care accord that the provinces and the federal government have signed is that over and above the additional funding are the provisions for accountability and transparency. People across Canada will be able to see how the programs are being delivered and for situations such as his to be resolved.

I do not know the details of this particular situation. In the member's opening comments he said that we should be happy about the travel provisions that we receive. I can tell him that the three northern members of Parliament lobbied strong and hard to get those points across. I congratulate the member for bringing forth this point.

His last point referred to the local people raising funds. I also want to congratulate my constituents. They have a Festival of Trees every year in the City of Whitehorse. They raise tens of thousands of dollars from individuals and generous private sector donations. I congratulate all those people in Whitehorse who have donated so much for more modern equipment for the Whitehorse Hospital.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.


Yvon Lévesque Bloc Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment. I am glad that the member for the Yukon is satisfied with the benefits of the federal government in his riding.

We also live in the north and we have constituents that do not even have any roads. In terms of transportation costs, they pay $12,000 for a van, for example. That is about the price of a snowmobile or an all terrain vehicle, the only vehicles they can use there. They pay the same for a loaf of bread that we would pay for several loaves of bread. I wonder if there is any way to take some of the federal money for roads in Canada and use it to subsidize transportation. Why should a nation get preferential treatment just because it is in Canada's north and not Quebec's north?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:10 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, one of my colleagues would like me to say that it is a pity that after all the years of the PQ government there are no roads in there, but I would not say that myself because I like to be very positive.

I sympathize with the people in other parts of northern Canada as it relates to their remoteness, which I think was the point the member was making. He is probably correct that in some instances the northern parts of provinces like Quebec and other provinces may have some difficulties related to rural services. I would certainly encourage the three northern MPs to constantly make that point loud, hard and clear about the necessity of providing equal services as much as possible under reasonable circumstances.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:15 p.m.


David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment to the Chair. It is a great pleasure to be here with you.

I would also like to thank the electors of Victoria for returning me to the House of Commons or to the legislature of the Province of British Columbia for the sixth time in eight elections. The confidence of my fellow citizens of Victoria is extremely gratifying and I am very humbled by the support they have given me.

The Speech from the Throne is a general document that lists various objectives of the incoming administration. I had the advantage of listening to the speeches of the four party leaders yesterday. As one would expect their speeches were somewhat more substantive than the Speech from the Throne. With the House's indulgence, my comments today will be somewhat broader than strictly the Speech from the Throne itself.

First there was the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. It was with surprise that I heard the Leader of the Opposition propose the novel theory that the throne speech should somehow be a document including all political opinions represented by the four parties of the House and of course the opinion of the party that did not get people elected, the Green Party as well.

His position would be more understandable if he had attempted to obtain a role for himself or for some of his supporters in the executive of the government, but he did not, preferring quite correctly to remain Leader of the Opposition rather than become part of the administration.

In that role, he presented an amendment which is essentially a non-confidence motion. The amendment made by the Leader of the Opposition is thus quite proper and quite traditional. What is quite contrary to tradition and to common sense is the specious argument advanced that the Speech from the Throne is a document for all parties in the House to write. It is not. It is a speech for the administration to write giving a proposal regarding what the administration would like to accomplish before the next election. It is quite appropriate that the Speech from the Throne be written and delivered by the executive. I trust that the government will reject the opposition amendment.

The second notable feature of the speech from the Leader of the Opposition is that while he spoke of the need for the opposition to be considered a government in waiting, his speech lacked the intellectual consistency which would allow anyone listening to it to take that assertion seriously. However, I commend him for that because this is the first time in 11 years in the House that the official opposition has apparently understood the importance of that role.

More specifically, the bulk of the speech consisted of pleas for greater expenditure or transfers to provinces, municipalities, industries and of course to individuals, but concluded with proposals for tax cuts which combined with those spending proposals would inevitably mean expenditures in excess of revenue or as we know it, deficits. This of course is the policy of the neo-conservative republicans in the United States whose disregard for massive deficits is, in my opinion, one of the greatest threats to global economic stability and prosperity.

I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition continue in this line. There is a long way to go before the Leader of the Opposition can be considered a prime minister in waiting. He still appears to be infatuated with the US neo-conservative ideology and lacks an appreciation of Canadian mainstream political realism.

The first item in the Speech from the Throne is the economy and I applaud that. It was similar to the first item in the Prime Minister's speech and I applaud that too. The House will forgive me for reminding the campaign handlers, the advisors and speech writers of the Prime Minister, that when I and some other experienced Liberal MPs and Senators urged the leader's campaign team to stress the economic success of the Chrétien government, and of course the Prime Minister when he was finance minister, we were given very short shrift indeed.

It was only when the possibility of defeat became strong did they realize that Canada's successful economic performance did interest the Canadian people. Only then was the economy discussed and only then did the campaign regain some possibility of success, but better late than never. If I may judge by the speech given by the Governor General and by the Prime Minister yesterday and the day before, at least the lesson appears to have been well learned.

With respect to that speech, however, I would like to mention on the economic side that there was a reference to the deficit being reduced to 25% of GDP in 10 years' time. I certainly accept that as a long term goal, but I have heard the finance minister say time after time that there had to be two year rolling targets to keep the government's feet to the fire.

I certainly hope that this target over 10 years will be fleshed out in the budget to be a target every year: a minimum $6 billion of debt reduction every year. If we do not do that, our children will face remarkable increases to expenditures for a wide variety of subjects, the so-called implicit deficit, as well as the explicit dollar deficit, and they will have great trouble handling future financial requirements. I hope we will see the return to the approach of the Minister of Finance, which was of course keeping the feet of the government to the fire and not having simply long term targets.

A second issue on the economy is the reference to in-house science and technology activity, which is in the seventh paragraph on page 4 of the Speech from the Throne. This is described as substantial and that word troubles me. At least in part, the part with which I am familiar, it is simply incorrect. The Canadian government's in-house science capacity in the areas with which I am familiar has substantially declined over the past 20 years. That is particularly true of ocean science and of Arctic science.

It is true that more is being done at Canadian universities through the foundation for innovation, one of Prime Minister Chrétien's most successful initiatives. However in-house government science, which was referred to, has declined and, in my mind, it has declined to disastrous levels. There are many things that university scientists will not do and which, therefore, must be done by the government. We simply will not be able to recruit and keep good scientific people if we continue to pare away at their budgets and, thus, at the work they are able to do.

Mr. Speaker, I follow the member for Yukon and would remind you that 2007-08 is the International Polar Year. Other nations will be expecting Canada, a leading member of the Arctic council and a leading polar nation, to be there and to be ready to do a large number of scientific tasks. If we do not now restore funding and dynamism to the excellent people we have working for us in this area, this country will simply be greatly embarrassed.

The western Pacific countries, the Koreans, the Chinese and the Japanese, are all expanding their activity dramatically. The European northern countries are doing the same and the European Union is following suit. They are all doing excellent work. I certainly discovered that when I visited Svalbard in the European Arctic last summer. The US also has a very extensive scientific activity, both in Antarctica and in the Arctic. The laggard on the scientific activity is Canada.

This is not just a science issue. While I applaud the Prime Minister for visiting the Arctic this past summer, I was concerned that his strong statements on sovereignty in that part of Canada was not followed up by a commitment for Canadian scientific research in the Arctic. Strong statements from the Prime Minister are of course important and welcome but they are no substitute for coherent policy approaches.

I am sure that Mr. Putin, the leader of another important Arctic power, will be listening with interest to what the Prime Minister will say in the next few days in Moscow. I believe he would pay even more attention if we were doing more and talking less.

On this last point I will add another concern, namely, the lack of coherence in our Coast Guard icebreaker fleet maintenance and procurement policy. As part of successive cost cutting programs, maintenance on our northern icebreakers is not optimal. They do not have the level of dry docking and refitting that is required to give them maximum reliability.

Surely, speaking as I do on the day after the tragic loss of life of a Canadian naval officer in a fire aboard a Canadian naval vessel, I do not have to stress the importance of keeping ships in first class condition. Even with the best of ships, in the best of conditions, accidents happen.

However they happen more frequently and the possibility of serious accident is greater when maintenance, which means dry docking on appropriate schedules and refitting, is not the best possible. Further, when ships are older other problems multiply. Over the last 35 years I have studied tanker traffic quite extensively and know the tanker area better than submarines or icebreakers. That said, the principle is the same. Ships are ships.

As icebreakers are used in the north in summer, and as they and not the military are the appropriate uniformed service of the Canadian government to show our determination to maintain sovereignty against whatever threats--

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Questions and comments? Seeing none, resuming debate.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:25 p.m.


Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election.

I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the citizens of Durham to reply to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, for sharing his time with me.

First I would like to extend my condolences to the family of Lieutenant Christopher Saunders and say that my thoughts and prayers, along with those of all Canadians, are with those sailors who are currently trapped at sea in the HMCS Chicoutimi . The men and women who serve this country deserve our support and sincere gratitude.

It is an honour and privilege to stand here today in our national Parliament on behalf of the people of Durham. As this is my first address in the chamber, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the people of Clarington, Scugog, Uxbridge and Durham region. They have bestowed upon me a great honour, but also a great responsibility. This is a responsibility that I take seriously and I would like to assure them that I will represent their interests to the best of my ability.

One hundred and twenty-seven years after the first Japanese immigrant came to Canada and 56 years after Japanese Canadians received the right to vote in 1948, I am proud that I am the first person of Japanese decent elected to the House.

In a parliamentary system, the throne speech is meant to serve as a document that defines the plans of the government and the directions and policies it will be using to guide it over the next session. I regret that today I stand to express my disappointment in the lack of a clear statement of vision and direction by the government.

I strongly believe that Canadians are tired of being ignored, their tax dollars wasted and promises never fulfilled. As part of this new opposition, we will demand action and accountability in programs and policies that recognize the goals and aspirations of all Canadians.

The amendments presented by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday will be of benefit to all Canadians and add much needed substance to vague government promises for democratic reform and accountability. These amendments, which I will support on behalf of my constituents, respond to their demands for better government, a demand they made last June 28.

The throne speech recycles the same promises that we have heard for the last decade but, again, no plans or commitment to move forward on the issues important to those in my riding.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:30 p.m.


Yvon Lévesque Bloc Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, there does not appear to be a quorum.

And the count having been taken:

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Chuck Strahl)

I do see 20 members in the House. Resuming debate.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 7th, 2004 / 12:30 p.m.


Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadians I speak to in my riding and across the country expect government to deliver on its promises. The citizens of Durham expect action on the gun registry, democratic reform, lower taxes and infrastructure dollars.

In my riding of Durham there are over 1,700 farms and many will not survive the void in the throne speech, a speech that offers little for the agricultural community at this time of crisis. Canadians, like Joe Schwarz, a dairy farmer from Bowmanville who is concerned about losing his livelihood and his business, the family farm that has been in operation for over 60 years.

The agricultural community in Durham and across Canada has been begging the government for some action, for a commitment to the farmers in this country. Farmers want ag dollars to go to those for whom it was intended and they need it now without extensive red tape and delay. They want an open border and markets for their cattle. This is a priority for farmers, producers and all those dependent on agriculture for their living. Let me assure hon. members that the farmers in my riding do not believe this is a priority for the government.

Agriculture is not the only concern of the people in Durham. They are also concerned about the future of health care in rural areas. The throne speech makes a great deal of reference to the recent health care accord, which I am sure will be covered by my colleague, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, but I would like to touch on concerns about rural health care.

Rural and community providers of health care are an important segment of the health care system. Providers, like Lakeridge Health in Durham, have made a valuable commitment to the continued provision of front line services available closer to home. These priorities continue to be important to the people in my riding and in Canada.

The maintenance of local hospitals, the shortage of family doctors willing to practise in rural centres, the recruitment of specialists and the long distances elderly people have to travel to access health care are of great concern to the people in my riding.

The health care accord is a positive step forward and it is my hope that part of the accountability measures will be to ensure that the health care needs of rural Canada are not forgotten.

The riding of Durham is a centre of rapid growth and potential. It has the people and ability needed to expand its industrial base and economic prosperity. This potential is greatly untapped due to its current, inadequate and deteriorating infrastructure. We need new roads, bridges, a regional transit system and commuter services. The government's commitment to a new deal for Canada's cities and communities must ensure that the potential of Durham can be realized.

As the heritage critic, I was of course disappointed to hear little mention of culture, heritage or broadcasting in the throne speech. The heritage ministry is responsible for a budget close to $1 billion a year and yet there is no clear direction in this document to indicate any priorities.

Our priorities would certainly be to ensure that the $9,000 grants given each year by this ministry are accountable, have measurable goals which are balanced and reflect the diverse makeup of our population in the arts and in our peoples.

Over the summer we saw that recent decisions of the CRTC are not meeting the demand for choice in broadcast programming that Canadians want. The CRTC and the Broadcasting Act of 1991 desperately need to be reviewed for this century.

Today, over 14 million Canadians use the cell phone, 14 million from only 2 million in 1994. Today, over 70 million households use the Internet. There were fewer than half a million back then. Satellite TV subscribers have grown from zero to over two million. The speed and scope of advancement in these areas will not decrease but will in fact accelerate over the next decade. The government needs to ensure that legislation and regulation are updated so we can move forward at a speed relevant to the changes in the communications environment.

In this throne speech the government stated, “Smart government includes a transparent and predictable regulatory system”. I believe the review of the CRTC and the Broadcasting Act is called for if the government means what it says.

In 2003 the government refused to support Canada's participation in the ITER program to be sited in my riding in Clarington, a project designed to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion energy for peaceful purposes and a project that would have significantly contributed to the global development of new technology and innovation as well as over 1,300 jobs in my riding.

In this new age technology and innovation is an important part of our economic prosperity. I know that in my riding many businesses and companies are poised to grow and become leaders in the new industrial basis based on exciting technology and innovation. I hope the government actually means to fulfill its latest promise to make communications, technology and innovation a priority.

In conclusion, the Canadians in my riding and the people across Canada want a government that delivers on its promises, that is accountable to its people, that is not afraid to be transparent and that clearly states what it intends to do. In other words, a government we can believe in. I believe it is time for the government to demonstrate that it is listening to all Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:35 p.m.


Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your appointment.

I am very honoured to have this opportunity to reply to the Speech from the Throne. To begin, I wish to acknowledge the kindness and patience that the House of Commons staff has shown in preparing this facility for my arrival. Your staff, Mr. Speaker, has been professional, courteous and accessible, and for that I commend them.

As members are aware, many physical modifications were required to accommodate me in this spot. I feel I need to inform the Speaker that the physical renovations are only temporary, as in the not too distant future I will be sitting on the other side of the House working with a new prime minister, the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps then I will run for the Speaker's position myself.

I wish to call the attention of the House to my personal health care assistant, Melissa. Melissa will be sitting on the floor of the House to help me perform my duties as a member of Parliament. Melissa is special in many ways and I wish to highlight two of them. First, she is the first unelected person in the history of Canada to sit full time on the floor of the House of Commons. Second, Melissa is a great example of today's health care professionals. To be a successful health care professional, one needs to be dedicated, hard-working, caring and, most important, able to empathize with one's clients. Melissa has these qualities. I know all Canadians appreciate the work that people like Melissa do. They are the unsung heroes in our society.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank the hon. leader of the official opposition for my appointment as senior health critic. It is my hope that I will fulfill this role as successfully as my predecessors have. That being said, I will begin.

As senior health care critic, I will focus my attention on the parts of the throne speech that deal with health care.

The state of our health care system is the top issue for Canadians. There was a health care summit last month to try to deal with our deteriorating health care system. The Prime Minister called last month's health conference “a fix for a generation”. I would like to take this opportunity to bring the Prime Minister and his caucus up to speed on the definition of a generation. The dictionary defines a generation as the average time from the birth of one generation to the birth of the next generation, about 30 years. Perhaps the Prime Minister could inform the House later as to which generation will get the fix that he has promised.

Obviously, the Prime Minister has fallen far short of the commitments he made during the campaign. When the Prime Minister cut $25 billion from the health care system in 1995, he gouged the health care system for at least a generation. Canadians cannot trust the government when it comes to health care. Essentially, after this deal the government still has not replaced the funding it took from the health care system in the first place. The government should stop the self-congratulations and reflect on the harm that it has caused the users of the health care system.

The Conservative Party supported the health care deal, in part because any deal is better than no deal. The people on the front lines, the patients and the health care professionals, need help and they need it now, but the health care deal is still fundamentally lacking on a plan of action for reform.

In typical government fashion there is no direction and no vision for the system. The health care deal has no specific concrete measures for accelerating reform and improved access. All this deal includes is funding to help the health care system begin a long and painful process of trying to fix the problem the government has caused.

During the election campaign, Canadians heard a lot about the increase in waiting times since the government took office. While I agree that waiting times are an important issue for Canadians and that the government has failed miserably in this area, it is not the sole issue on which one should form a basis for fixing the whole system. There are other important issues in health care that must be dealt with on the same priority level as waiting times, items such as a national catastrophic pharmacare program, training more family doctors and specialists, improvements in mental health and community care, and of course the throne speech makes no mention of the health care challenges our seniors face.

I am also disappointed to find out that there are literally no accountability mechanisms. Other than the reporting dates from the 2003 accord, which were pushed off well into the future, there are no assurances that the government will get a bang for its buck.

If the government were serious about reforming health care, it would not have walked away from the table without accountability measures. The Prime Minister did not need to invent these measures to hold the provinces accountable. These measures were in the previous accord of 2003. Instead we have a deal which throws out billions of dollars and no sign of where the money will go.

I wish to acknowledge my counterpart the Minister of Health. Soon after his appointment, the minister said that it was his priority to stem the tide of privatization. If there was ever an opportunity to do that the health summit was the place. However, the new health deal includes no measure to stem privatization. As the House will recall, a private for profit clinic opened its doors in Montreal during the first ministers' meeting. That is so much for stemming the tide of privatization.

The minister had another chance to tell Canadians how he would deal with the tide of privatization. It was in yesterday's throne speech. Lo and behold, privatized health care was not addressed in the speech.

This is an issue in which Canadians have a great deal of interest. The government cannot have it both ways: either it will allow innovative and efficient health care delivery or it plans to nationalize the entire health care system, family doctors included. On this issue like so many others, the government is hypocritical.

The throne speech also mentioned, “The needs of patients will drive change”. The needs of patients have not driven change in the past for the government. Why should Canadians expect it to do it now?

The government makes promises and breaks promises. All that is left is people who are worse off than when the government took power.

There is also a passing mention to affordable drugs. There is nothing in the new deal on health that will lessen the burden of prescription medications for Canadians. The government did agree to set up a committee to study the issue and report back. More committees will not help Canadians.

The Leader of the Opposition clearly outlined his plan for pharmacare during the campaign. It did not include round table discussion groups to study a problem. Our party is a party of action. Where the Liberals form committees and break their promises, our party fulfils commitments and we fill them in a timely manner.

A Conservative government would have protected Canadians from the financial hardships involving catastrophic drug costs because no person in Canada should lose their home to buy a prescription. This is part of the vision that the Leader of the Opposition has for Canada.

However, I offer my colleague best wishes in his new portfolio, and I would like to offer the minister some advice as he begins his tenure. I urge the minister to always keep the focus on the patient. Every person is unique. Empower Canadians so they can make the best health care decisions for themselves. If he does that, Canada will be a better place.

In closing, it is my privilege to recognize the great constituents of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia. My constituency is both rural and urban, includes portions of the city of Winnipeg and the rural municipality of Headingley. It includes the Winnipeg international airport, 17 Wing armed forces base and Air Command headquarters, the Canadian Mennonite University and a significant aerospace industry.

I note that the throne speech neglects to appropriately deal with the issues of transportation, justice, post-secondary education, agriculture, infrastructure renewal and many other important topics that are of keen interest to me and my constituents.

Time does not permit me to outline all the concerns my constituents have in regard to the throne speech. Rest assured I will be representing Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia and Headingley to Ottawa, not vice versa.

The success of the government will be to determine what each Canadian asks oneself come election time: Is Canada better off now or before the government took office? The overwhelming answer of Canadians and my constituents is, no. The throne speech provides little hope that things will be better in the future under this government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:45 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate our new colleague, the hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia. I want to congratulate him and, more importantly, to point out that he is sending a message of courage and hope to the whole community.

Recently, in August, during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, people witnessed true examples of courage, hope and tenacity. Through his presence among us, our colleague is setting the same example. In sports, athletes in all categories and from the whole community are welcome. By being present on the political scene, the hon. member is sending the same message.

This is why I wanted to make this comment, to congratulate the hon. member and to tell him that we are pleased to have him here.

Like us, he has listened carefully to the speeches made by members from the various parties. He also listened to the Prime Minister, who said that, under a minority government, we should display greater cooperation. This attitude can be seen in the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne by both Conservative and Bloc Quebecois members. Heaven knows that we rarely agree. However, there are times, when higher interests are at stake, where we can do so.

I wonder if the hon. member could share with us his impressions on the thrust of the speeches that he has heard from the government in reply to the throne speech and to our motion.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.


Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind comments. I feel very fortunate to be here to share this time with my colleagues, particularly at a critical time in our nation's history.

I have to say that I do not come from a family of money or power. I came here with grassroots support. I cannot think of any other country where someone in my situation could be elected to the federal House. For that, I would like to thank all Canadians.

To respond specifically to the hon. member's comments, yes, I think that in this minority government situation we need to cooperate. As we know, the Liberals did not get the majority of votes throughout the country. It is up to the opposition parties to hold the government to account. I think we will find common ground among the Bloc, the Conservatives and even the NDP, and hopefully the Liberals, to ensure that the interests of Canadians are fulfilled. That is our main obligation, putting aside party affiliation.

Having said that, I think the amendments that were presented would enhance the throne speech. The government obviously did not listen to or misheard what Canadians were telling it. The amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, along with that of the leader of the Bloc, would help improve the lot of Canadians, if the Liberals would go along with them.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think those who have heard this member speak detected not a disability, but an ability, and I congratulate him on his speech.

Let me say to the hon. member that in my view the measure of success of a country is not a measure of economic performance but rather a measure of the health and well-being of its people.

For example, the member talked about caregivers. It is an area that I know that the House has been seized with many times because of the difficulties with regard to provincial jurisdiction and the ability of the federal government to reach down to help.

I wonder if the member care to comment on how he feels we may use the jurisdictional tools we have to work collaboratively with our provincial counterparts to ensure that Canadians in need receive the caregiver services they require.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.


Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think on this we agree. A country should be judged on the way it treats its most vulnerable people.

We do have a contradiction in Canada. On the one hand, we save people from accidents like mine or from birth defects or illness or prolong their lives, but in many cases we do not provide the resources to allow these same individuals to lead meaningful and productive lives.

What I think we need to do first is educate the Canadian public about these challenges. As long as people feel that their tax dollars are being utilized for the benefit of their fellow Canadians, there will be a lot of support for these vulnerable people.

However, one of the challenges, with all due respect to the hon. member, is the strong feeling among the Canadian populace that this government is not utilizing taxpayers' dollars in the way that Canadians expect the moneys to be used.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

12:50 p.m.

Western Arctic Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew LiberalMinister of State (Northern Development)

First, Mr. Speaker, as a colleague I would like to congratulate you on your appointment. It speaks well for your ability to deal with everyone over the years you have been here. It is a very high calling, Sir.

I would also like to congratulate the previous speaker from Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia. I like to think of myself as a champion for persons with disabilities. This is a wonderful opportunity for all Canadians to see that anyone from anywhere in Canada can serve in this House and contribute as a member. This is a very wonderful and unique opportunity. I welcome and congratulate the member.

I am honoured to address the House today in response to the Speech from the Throne. I am sharing my time with my hon. colleague.

I would like to say also that I welcome the Prime Minister's commitment to northerners. As members can well imagine, when we heard his comments and felt his presence first-hand this summer during his visits to Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, we knew that the commitment from the Government of Canada was strong for our part of Canada.

Incidentally, I would like to take a moment to pay particular attention to the community of Tuktoyaktuk, which is currently struggling with the issue of four beloved members of their community who have been missing since September 23. We have been working fully with Mayor Jacobson and other leaders, including the MLA, in search and rescue efforts. We offer our heartfelt prayers to their families as we continue to assist them in whatever way we can.

As a Canadian northerner born in the Northwest Territories, having served as a member of Parliament for the last 16 years and as a member of cabinet for 11 years, I regard the Speech from the Throne's promise of a dedicated strategy for the north with great conviction. This commitment will undoubtedly provide the north with the ability to further exercise greater control over its destiny.

On Tuesday, northerners received a further commitment through the development of a dedicated strategy to meet their unique needs, one that I have been made responsible for in part in my new role at Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The strategy emphasizes sustainable development, protection of the north's environment, enhancing our sovereignty, and promoting the international cooperation of the circumpolar community.

Like all Canadians, we in the north want a strong, vibrant and growing economy. We want a fiscally prudent federal government that balances its books, pays down its debts and has a plan to build an even stronger globally competitive and sustainable economy.

We in the north, after all, are Canadians. We feel we can contribute given all the right conditions and opportunities. Reference made to a northern strategy speaks to my new role, as I indicated. I am pleased about the announcement and the opportunities. This coincides very directly with responsibilities given to me by the Prime Minister. I have been asked to focus my attention on some very real and hard-hitting issues and files that have been and are critical to the north. They are files I have been working on over the years since I came to Ottawa in 1988, along with many successive and current northern leaders, working and fighting hard for the right thing to do for the north.

I am often criticized for not taking enough credit for the things that happen in the north. It is simply not my style. I believe that what a person needs to do is work hard, work smart and try to do the right things, and everything else will fall into place. Sometimes that works, but sometimes it does not.

I am not much into going to every microphone and every press conference to get credit for everything. I believe credit has to be shared, because many hands have had a play in what has come about in the throne speech.

The north faces unique challenges in the delivery of health care services, including the cost of medical transportation. Non-insured health benefits, the cost of transportation in the north and remote regions, as well as the whole issue of dentists and dental care for aboriginal people and northerners have long been some of my issues.

The north has unique challenges as I indicated. One of things that is encouraging is the innovative delivery of health services to the rural communities and the acquisition and retention of medical professionals. There is much that goes into this.

I have been asked to take a lead on aboriginal health issues in my new role within this department. This would also include important issues such as FASD, an issue I previously worked on in my role as secretary of state for children and youth. One of my colleagues in the House wrote a book on it and was very dedicated to this issue.

I have also been tasked with dealing with the issue of territorial formula financing. The 2004 10-year plan will mean an additional $120 million over the next decade for the north in health care transfers through the reform of territorial formula financing, plus its share of the wait time reductions. I look forward to the first ministers meeting scheduled here in Ottawa on October 26 addressing that.

The speech unequivocally sets out the government's support of the north on this fundamental issue, one on which I have worked very intently with my cabinet colleagues. I will also be working along with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on resource revenue sharing. This is particularly critical in that much resource development is taking place in the north, exploration, diamonds and the development of the whole mining industry, as well as oil and gas.

The other part is devolution, northern economic development, northern science. This will encompass work on international polar year 2007-08, climate change, contaminated sites, circumpolar issues and international initiatives. This is all for the sake of those people who have questions about what my job entails. It is quite comprehensive.

Devolution and the sharing of resource revenues from non-renewable resource development is among the highest priorities for members of the aboriginal summit in the region and the government of the Northwest Territories. We have a tripartite process on devolution. It includes the federal government, the territorial government and the aboriginal governments. It is very complicated. It has a number of issues that have to be resolved. There is much negotiating going on. It is a huge priority for all northerners.

While negotiations toward an agreement in principle are underway, there are major challenges to overcome prior to the completion of an agreement in principle on devolution. It is imperative that the final agreement on devolution be a tripartite agreement among those said groups.

Land claims and self-government negotiations in the Northwest Territories are progressing well, with significant agreements finalized and negotiations continuing with a number of regions and communities. We have three settled comprehensive claims with the Inuvialuit, the Gwich'in and Sahtu, and one settled treaty land entitlement claim with Salt River first nations.

The Tlicho agreement is due to be reintroduced in the House this session. The Beaufort Delta self-government agreement in principle for Gwich'in and Inuvialuit aboriginal self-government and public self-government for the Beaufort Delta region was signed in April 2003.

The Deline self-government agreement in principle was signed August 23. The community of Tulita recently signed a framework agreement on its community self-government negotiations.

In the Deh Cho region an interim resource development agreement was signed on April 17, 2003 and interim land withdrawals were approved through cabinet in August 2003. Discussions are now focused on an agreement in principle, while negotiations are ongoing with the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Denesuline on boundary issues. The NWT Metis nation and Akaitcho Treaty 8 are also in negotiation.

Burgeoning with development, the world continues to watch the north intently and witness the promise of prosperity through a Mackenzie Valley pipeline and resource development.

I eagerly look forward to continuing my work this session, working extremely hard shoulder to shoulder with my federal and northern colleagues so that northerners from the many themes and areas mentioned will be able to achieve the goals that they intend to achieve.

Our government intends to review the employment insurance system so that it is responsive to the needs of Canada's workforce, including seasonal workers such as those in the north. We also have the issue of the freshwater fishing industry in the north, which offers stable employment for many aboriginal and non-aboriginal northerners.

These are all the efforts that we have in the north.

Canada entered into an economic union agreement on trapping. This agreement has expired and northerners and all of the various proponents and stakeholders are trying to find a way to resolve this.

We have completed two training programs in the north. One is on mine training for $14 million and the other one is for $10 million.

We have made much progress in the north. We are happy to be able to play a major part in Canada's economy.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat puzzled by the comments of the Minister of State for Northern Development. I looked at the Projected Order of Business and it says “Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne (resuming debate on the subamendment of the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and on the amendment of the hon. member for Calgary Southwest)”.

If I may, I will put my question to the minister, based on today's debate. She will rise this evening, at 6:30 p.m., to vote, probably against the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to the amendment, after hearing the other speeches—not hers—made by members of her party.

I wonder if the minister could tell us the reasons why she disagrees with the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, in this instance, as a Canadian from the north, I agree with the things that promote and expand on the ideals and values of the country as a whole. I do not just promote northern interests as a member of Parliament. I do not believe that only various corners and regions of the country are important; the whole of the country is important. It is important that we are all Canadians and we all participate. That is what my speech was about.

I promote the idea that we all have something to contribute but that we all belong. We are all different but we still believe in equality. We are all Canadians. That is my belief and that is the way in which I conduct myself in the House.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I will put the same question again to the hon. member.

This evening, at 6:30 p.m., she will probably vote against the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois. I would like to know why.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, as you can see, ideologically we differ and therein lies the dilemma. The member will never understand that I am a fervent believer in the country as a whole and that everything I do as a member of Parliament speaks to that, and everything I do as a member of the Privy Council speaks to that.

We have come a long way. I have been in the House for 16 years. I was on the committee for Meech Lake. I was on the committee for Charlottetown. I was on the Beaudoin-Dobbie committee. I was also on the committee for New Brunswick resolutions. I sat through all of that. I know all of the debates on devolution, on devolved responsibility. I know all of the issues regarding that.

We have come a long way. We devolved labour market responsibility. We devolved many responsibilities. It is not as if we are ignoring any part of the country. However, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to be fiscally responsible for the whole country. We have to govern the country as a government. We do not govern as separate territories and separate provinces or regions.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to tell us on what we will be voting this evening, at 6:30 p.m., and what is the Bloc Quebecois' amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:05 p.m.


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, we will have to do better than that. I can read it because I have it here, but I choose not to. It would be a waste of words. Instead, I can say to the member opposite that we have very different views.

I am a first Canadian. I am an aboriginal person. Aboriginals were here first. We welcome people at contact. I want everyone to know that I am proud to be a Canadian. When I go places around the world, people know I am aboriginal, but they also know I am a Canadian and a contributing member. I have sat in the House to serve this country and to serve its people, not to serve just the north, even though that is my priority. As a privy councillor I have to be fair. I have to reach out to all parts of this country, to all people in this country. That has been my role, that has been my opportunity and I believe that is what I have done.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:10 p.m.


Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

I want to thank my colleague for her contribution. Of course, she did not fall for the tricks of the Bloc Quebecois. Her approach is very sensible.

I would like her to speak as an aboriginal Canadian. Since she has also worked extensively with children, I would like her to remind this House, for the benefit of those who are watching us, how the throne speech is important for children and for aboriginal health.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:10 p.m.


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, in my new responsibility as Minister of State for Northern Development, one of the issues I am dealing with is the health of aboriginal Canadians.

There is a $700 million contribution for a transition fund which will help with issues such as suicide. It will help with FASD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which affects many children. There are a lot of issues that affect children and their health. There is the whole issue of diabetes, which is almost in a crisis in some regions of Canada. The issue of suicides by young people is in clusters across this country. It is endemic in some communities and has to be dealt with. That is what it is all about.

We are also looking at a child care program. Quebec is very socially progressive. It has some very good social policies. Those are to be emulated, worked with, admired and respected and we do that as well.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:10 p.m.


Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to rise and make my first speech in the House of Commons. I would like to say from the outset how honoured I am to represent the people of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. I would like to thank my constituents for the confidence they have placed in me as their member of Parliament.

Let me first add a voice of sympathy to those of our party leaders yesterday in offering condolences to the family of Lieutenant Saunders on his tragic passing.

As a member who represents a constituency with a large military population, I know the sacrifices and dedication of our military personnel and their families. This is truly a sad day for us all.

My riding has been represented over the years by individuals from many political parties including Michael Forrestall who served from 1963 to 1988 as a Progressive Conservative member, followed by my good friend Ron MacDonald, who many members here would remember fondly.

I would also like to recognize and pay tribute to Wendy Lill, my predecessor as member of Parliament for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. I can speak honestly in saying that Wendy was a tireless advocate for the people of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and Canada, and her efforts to help those in need is a standard that we can all be proud of.

I would like to take a few moments to speak about my riding and my community. Dartmouth is referred to as the city of lakes. It was founded in 1750 and is one of the most historic communities in Canada. I am glad that the member from Kingston is not with us today, and I know I will get some grief from my hon. colleague from Kings Hants, and without intending any offence to other members from perhaps Montreal or Kingston, Dartmouth can legitimately claim to be the birthplace of hockey as so ably chronicled by my friend Martin Jones in his book

Hockey's Home: Halifax-Dartmouth--The Origin of Canada's Game.

Likewise, the famous Starr manufacturing plant was world renowned as the largest manufacturer of ice skates, selling 11 million skates between 1863 and 1939.

The Shubenacadie Canal played a key role in creating trade links with the world by helping to sell hockey sticks produced by the Mi'kmag first nation. The Shubenacadie Canal was a marvel in innovation for its time and truly worthy of historic site designation.

Our hockey tradition continues today as Cole Harbour happens to be the home of Sidney Crosby, Canada's greatest young hockey player. My community respects and honours its great history and I intend to do so as its member of Parliament.

Dartmouth's recent history has been marked by leaders of all political stripes like Joseph Zatman, Rollie Thornhill, Danny Brownlow, Jim Smith and my father, John Savage. These leaders put people above politics and worked to make our corner of the world a better place. Their example will be my inspiration.

I am here today to speak to the throne speech and to congratulate the government and in particular our Prime Minister for outlining a vision for us, a vision that speaks to sound fiscal management and the need for government to play a significant role in social policy and to social economy.

Our quality of life, the ability to create good jobs, and to support and enhance social programs relies on our ability as a country to compete in the global economy. The people of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour will be pleased to hear our government's commitment to cities. Whether it be our commitment to affordable housing or to urban infrastructure, we can build on the over $12 billion invested by the Government of Canada to communities since 1994. I am happy to hear that the government will continue to work with the provinces to share a portion of the gas tax revenue.

I was pleased to hear that the government will continue to promote trade and investment to secure more opportunities and markets for Canadian goods and particularly in my case, Atlantic Canadian goods. Companies like Acadian Sea Plants is an example of the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Atlantic Canada. With an office in Dartmouth and plants throughout western Nova Scotia, it has marketed sea plants to the world. ACOA is an example of regional development that works with companies and organizations to improve the lives of our citizens.

Let us not forget that our economy has also resulted in seven consecutive budget surpluses and has made Canada the envy of the G-8 nations. This allows us to invest in the critical need for a national child care strategy.

Health care continues to be an area of concern to Canadians. I believe that the recent health agreement signed by the provinces and the federal government speaks to the vitality of our country and our ability to work together on an issue that need not and should not be a political issue but rather a value that we cherish.

We must ensure that all Canadians have access to universal health care. I believe the leadership of the Prime Minister at the recent first ministers' conference proved that he would go the extra mile to put people ahead of politics.

The new health agreement will have a positive impact on the people in Dartmouth--Cole Harbour and for all Nova Scotians. Our Conservative Premier, Dr. John Hamm, applauded the efforts of the Prime Minister when he said:

From a Nova Scotia perspective this was the most successful First Ministers meeting I have attended in more than five years as Premier.

I want to now focus briefly on two issues that are of personal interest to me and I believe national interest as well. As health care takes an increasingly large share of our government spending, we as a nation would do well to remember that a great deal of care, in fact a great deal of health, takes place far from the hospital rooms. The sustainability of our cherished health care system will increasingly rely on our ability to safeguard the health of Canadians before they get sick and our ability to allow people to recover from illness in their own homes.

Let me tell the House about health promotion Nova Scotia style. A recent study conducted by Dr. Sally Walker and Dr. Ronald Colman, on behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Nova Scotia, indicated that increased physical activity would save the province of Nova Scotia millions of dollars. In my municipality alone, the inactive lifestyles of individuals costs the taxpayer more than $23 million. Some 200 residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality die prematurely each year because of physical inactivity.

I come from Atlantic Canada where we have the highest incidences of chronic disease. Poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, high levels of smoking and stress lead to intolerably high levels of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes which some people consider epidemic.

We need to understand the importance of a national wellness strategy that must include governments, medical professionals and non-profit organizations. It should include teachers. It should include us all.

This Speech from the Throne lays that groundwork. We need to empower Canadians to improve their own health, but we must recognize that poverty and a lack of education are the root cause of much ill health and not all Canadians have equal access to better health. A coordinated national approach that eliminates the barriers to systemic poor health and encourages individuals to improve their own health and promotes the benefits of healthier lifestyles would be the single best investment we could make in our health care system.

A national wellness strategy must incorporate all partners to encourage the use of public transit and to encourage governments to improve the physical design of workplaces so that people can choose to walk or take a bike.

I was delighted to campaign in June of this year as a Liberal under the leadership of our Prime Minister. One of the great issues that we addressed in our campaign was the key and growing issue of caregivers. Millions of Canadians provide care to loved ones. This has two advantages: for the loved ones it provides more comfort and dignity, and it reduces the burden on our health delivery system.

People who provide care to loved ones in their hour of need carry a heavy burden. There is a large emotional and physical toll that should not be compounded by financial stress. Families that struggle to make ends meet because of their full time dedication to a sick child, an injured adult or the elderly deserve our attention and our support.

In April this year I had the honour of speaking to the Family Caregivers' Association of Nova Scotia, following in the path of the member for Halifax who spoke last year. I spoke of my own experience as a caregiver to my parents while they were dying last year. Being from a large, close family made this difficult experience perhaps much less trying than for many others. The heroes in my case, aside from my parents who showed the same dignity in dying that they did in living, were my sisters, Brigit and Shelagh, who both left their jobs in Toronto, moved into the family home in Dartmouth and provided full time care to my parents from Christmas until their passing six weeks apart in April and May.

While it was a difficult time for our family, it was also a very special time as we came together and shared the amazingly graceful experience of helping our parents to prepare for death. Most important for all of us, they died at home surrounded by family and in familiar surroundings. I speak of my own experience, not because it is particularly significant, but because thousands of Canadians every year would prefer to die at home but simply cannot afford to do so and nor can their caregivers.

Our government has taken steps in concert with the provinces to address the role of caregivers. We have committed $1 billion over five years and I am proud that we will double the caregiver tax credit to $10,000. This tax credit will go a long way in helping families. There is more to do and we will do it.

Our health care system is perhaps the most important Canadian value we share as citizens. Let us invest in keeping Canadians healthy and increasing their dignity when they are sick.

In conclusion, I suspect that all members have fond memories of their first day on parliament hill as an MP. To me that day was July 8 of this year. It was a beautiful clear day in Ottawa. The buildings seemed even more grand than usual. The halls seemed to echo with the voices of leaders past. These grounds have a way of ensuring that one understands the great honour of representing one's community here in Parliament. It comes with a corresponding duty and commitment to serve the best interests of one's constituents.

This Speech from the Throne honours that commitment to the people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. I am proud to stand here today to indicate to the House my support for the work of the government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

1:20 p.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure all members of the House join me in congratulating the member on his first address, as well as continuing the wonderful tradition of his father who had served in public life over many years.

The member addressed issues related to health and, most appropriately, his own experience with respect to caregiving. In fact, we heard a previous member from the opposite side talk on the same theme. I would like to invite the member to address themes throughout the throne speech that have been extremely important to Atlantic Canada, such as regional development.

Would the member like to take a few moments to elaborate on how the throne speech focuses on regional development and any further initiatives that he would like to see that would benefit Atlantic Canada?