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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.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I read the Speech from the Throne carefully. I listened to my knowledgeable colleagues opposite and I especially listened to the hon. member for Outremont who spoke to us this morning.

Not so long ago I was the president of the international mountain bike committee. I was also very active in international sports, the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Thanks to the member for Bourassa, we brought the World Anti-Doping Agency to Canada in 2000.

Nonetheless, I would like to point out that I read the Speech from the Throne carefully. After the performance of our athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, I had expected to hear more than one lousy sentence. There was almost no mention of how we were going to develop our elite athletes, those who represent Canada and Quebec at international competitions, or prepare the next generation.

Does the government intend to invest—and since I am talking to the Conservatives as well, will they support a major investment in sports to make our athletes representative on the world stage—

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the five minutes allotted to him are really up. The hon. member for Central Nova, with a brief reply.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question and congratulate him on his election.

The answer is a simple one. Investment in sport in Canada is absolutely necessary.

The results of the last Olympic games were evidence enough that our athletes are certainly in need of greater support. We spoke of that during the election campaign and we included that in our platform. I would suggest as well that another area, not to equate the two, is the Canadian military. I want to take a brief moment just to express concern over--

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. We have run out of time on the hon. member's speech and the five minute question and comment period. Is the hon. parliamentary secretary rising on a point of order?

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe that you will find unanimous consent to order that the debate on bovine spongiform encephalopathy to be held Thursday evening be interrupted, rather than terminated at midnight, and that it be resumed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 12 and concluded when no member rises to speak or at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, October 13, whichever is earlier.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

October 7th, 2004 / 10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to address the throne speech. Off the top, I want to thank the electors of the Medicine Hat constituency for sending me back here again. It is truly an honour to represent them. When I go home it is always so refreshing. These people are always so supportive of me, even at times when I probably do not deserve it. I really do appreciate that.

On a serious note, somebody once said that one thing which distinguishes people from my part of the world, and I will say this about Albertans in general, is that it does not matter what colour skin people have or what religion they are. If they want to work and contribute, they will be welcomed with open arms. On the other hand, if people complain and whine, no matter what colour their skin is, what religion they are or whatever, they will not be welcome. People want to move forward. They want a positive message and input. That is one of the great things about my riding and it is why it is always a pleasure to go home.

I want to say a few words about the throne speech from the perspective of the government's economic agenda. I want to argue that this document could have been so much stronger if the government had not acted as though it had a majority and if it had listened to Canadians. It did not receive the support of 63% of Canadians who voted for somebody else. It has been noted already that some of the other parties have been able to agree on things that should be in a document like this.

The three opposition party leaders talked about these things earlier in the fall and suggested the government should listen to opposition parties in a minority government because the opposition parties had something to offer that would strengthen a throne speech. It is disappointing that the government is behaving like it has always behaved: taking Parliament for granted and assuming that it will get the rubber stamp one more time for whatever it wants to do. That is so disappointing. It is as though it has learned nothing from the sponsorship mess and all the scandals that have plagued it. It has lost none of its arrogance and I find that very distressing. I think Canadians are at a point where they want to see some cooperation in this place and some give and take. Right now we are not seeing that. We are seeing my way or the highway from the government.

In the spirit of cooperation, we want to offer some things that we think will improve the throne speech. In particular, I want to talk about this from an economic perspective. When the government sets public policy it has a lot to do with the standard of living of Canadians, ensuring they are better off and more prosperous. That is what I and I know my colleagues on this side are concerned about.

I want to talk about two of the amendments that my leader made to the throne speech the other day. He moved an amendment that we have an independent parliamentary budgeting office so that we could give independent fiscal forecasting advice to the government. I want to underline why that is important. Over the last number of years the government has engaged in a practice where it makes forecasts that are wildly inaccurate. That means billions of dollars are hidden until the end of the year, which the public is really not aware exist. That means there is never a true debate about how to spend that money.

Since 1999-2000 there have been about $30 billion in surpluses where there was never a debate as to how that money should be spent. That is not to say that in some cases it did not get spent on things that are laudable, but in some cases it was spent on Challenger jets. Canadians deserve to have a debate about how that money should be spent. I think that is reasonable. That is what my party believes should be done. We think Canadians should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent.

We want to argue very strongly that this independent parliamentary budgeting office be established much in the same way that the Auditor General's office is established. It would be an independent body that would answer to Parliament and would not be part of the government. It would not be a situation where the government could manipulate the figures to its own ends. Independent officers of Parliament would make these determinations so that in the end the public, the markets and all concerned could have confidence in these numbers and know that this was not some great manipulation that was going on for the political benefit of the government.

Surely, in a modern democracy I do not think that is an unreasonable request. In fact it makes eminent sense. This is nothing new. It happens in other countries. It happens certainly to the south of us, our closest trading partner. We have the congressional budgeting office where political parties really cannot play political games with the numbers because they come from an independent body. That is what we want to see, and it is reasonable.

I know the government is sensitive to this criticism because, in response to our criticism to its accounting practises, it just appointed Tim O'Neill of the Bank of Montreal to study this issue. He is certainly a distinguished economist and someone who understands these things, but we do not need a study. We know there is a problem. We need some action right now because this is simply unacceptable.

This leads me to my second point. It has to do with the amendment we moved regarding providing tax relief to middle and low income Canadians. I mentioned a minute ago that we have not had a debate over how that $30 billion should have been spent over the last number of years. I want to argue that many Canadians would say that they should have a say in how their tax dollars are spent, especially when they see some of the messes that have occurred in this place. I think it is reasonable for them to ask who does a better job of minding the thousands of dollars they send every year in taxes. Would it be the Government of Canada or could they make better use of that money themselves, given what they have seen with the firearms registry, for instance? This was something that was supposed to cost $2 million. Now it is going to $1 billion and possibly to $2 billion. Who knows where it will end. There is also the sponsorship. We could go on and on. There are many of these abuses to which we could point.

If we are to agree on the principle that Canadians should have a say in how their money is spent, one of the issues on the table should be tax relief.

Consider the taxes that people in the low end of the income scale pay. They pay income tax, starting at a very low level compared to other countries. They pay provincial and federal income taxes. They pay a goods and services tax. They pay employment insurance taxes. They pay Canada pension plan tax. They pay capital gains taxes. They pay excise taxes. They pay property taxes. Of course, ultimately they pay corporate income taxes. They pay sales taxes. There are many taxes that people are burdened with today. On average in Canada 41% of all income we generate goes toward taxes. I think it is wrong when the government is running big surpluses to not include tax relief for people on the low end of the income scale as one of the options. It simply has to happen.

Often members on the government side like to talk about compassion and they often do. They think compassion is synonymous with how much one spends. I want to argue that sometimes compassion really means leaving some of that money in people's pockets in the first place. They know better than government how to raise their children. They know better than government what is important to them and what their priorities are. They can save that money a lot better than government can.

Let the record show that the Conservative Party of Canada, and probably some of the other parties in this place, understands that message and wants the government to be open to adopting this amendment or at least consider it.

I know my time is running out so I will be brief in wrapping up. When I read this throne speech what occurred to me was that this was a government that was content to rest on its laurels. I think Canadians want to see progress made when it comes to increasing their prosperity, helping people on the low end of the income scale and helping people who are unemployed today. The way to do that is to provide some incentive through lowering taxes. That is something that has been completely neglected and overlooked by the government in its 11 years in power. It is time to change that. It is time to start to be a little more progressive in its outlook.

To finish where I began, I want to say to all of them that this party wants to work with the government. We are offering some positive amendments that enhance the throne speech. We certainly are not undermining anything in the throne speech. I hope Liberals will be mindful of that as they consider how they vote in the next days and weeks to come.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has indicated in his remarks a number of contradictions. First, he has indicated that his party is in favour of lowering taxes for those who are less well off in society. For 10 years it advocated only tax cuts for the rich. Those of us on our side of the House remember the history of the Alliance party very well. We will leave that aside for a minute.

I want to ask him something on a substantial area. Why is the MP telling the House that he has moved an amendment to the throne speech, when he knows perfectly well that there is no such thing? The throne speech was read into the record. That is like saying that one is amending the Hansard of two days ago. It is a ridiculous proposition. He is not amending the throne speech. He has moved an amendment to the motion to congratulate Her Excellency for having read the throne speech.

Does he not know the difference? Does he not know there is no such thing as moving an amendment to the throne speech? No spinning in the House or outside of it will hide the truth that this is not the way Parliament works. The foremost procedural expert in the country is in the chair right now. While the Speaker obviously cannot make a speech about all this, I will invite my colleague across to just remind Canadians that the reality is somewhat different than what he has just pretended it is.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was kind of hoping for a substantive question from the hon. member, but instead we get this procedural rant. It is really unfortunate I suppose that the Speakers have already been chosen or maybe there are no more clerks' positions opened because otherwise the member could apply for one. He could work his way back down the feeding chain and go back to where he began as a busboy in the House.

However, the member is factually incorrect when he states that we have been proposing tax relief for people in the high end. During the election campaign that just passed, we actually proposed the biggest tax cuts in Canadian history for middle and low income Canadians. Unfortunately, the member across the way has gotten his facts wrong again.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak.

I do not share all of the opinions expressed by my colleague from Medicine Hat, nor do I subscribe to all the comments made by my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. I know my colleague from Medicine Hat well, from eight years together on the Standing Committee on Finance. Right from the start, we were on the same side in certain battles, particularly those for indexed tax tables and reduced tax rates for those with lower incomes. It is, therefore, inaccurate to say that my colleague has done nothing for the past ten years but defend tax cuts for the rich.

That is, however, what the Liberals have done for the past ten years: reduced taxes of all kinds for the richest members of society. One former finance minister even managed to obtain tax advantages for his shipping companies in Barbados. This also represents not a tax reduction for the less well off, but a tax reduction for the well off, his peers. So let them not try to preach to us on this.

I have a question for my colleague from Medicine Hat. I am very pleased that tax reductions for low- and middle-income people are still being promoted. But what is the explanation for the fact that, the whole time the present Prime Minister was finance minister, the government operating budget increased a mere 39% over the past five years, or close to 8% annually, whereas inflation increased an average of 1.9%? Can this government be described as a good manager?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, when we see those kinds of increases, it ensures that there is less and less money available for things that are very high priorities of Canadians, whether it is in the area of health care or education or ultimately even tax relief for people who truly do need it.

I invite my friends across the way to really examine Canada's record in terms of the exemption levels, for instance, for people on the low end of the income scale versus other countries. We truly are not doing a good job. Students or seniors who are still working end up paying EI premiums when they really cannot claim it. This is an atrocious problem. It does not reflect well on the country and it certainly does not indicate any kind of compassionate government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with another Liberal colleague.

As I take the floor for the first time in this 38th Parliament, I feel a real sense of gratitude towards the residents of Pierrefonds—Dollard. For the fourth time, they have given me the mandate to represent them in the House of Commons. It is with pride, but also humility, that I will fulfill this responsibility, and I will do so by listening attentively to their concerns and by striving to promote their best interests, here in the House and within the government.

Our country is currently going through a period of critical challenges and issues. This is why I am pleased to see that our government's determination to promote the betterment of Canadians was clearly stated in the recent throne speech.

As parliamentarians, we have a duty to make a concrete contribution to the implementation of the government's agenda, which seeks primarily to ensure that the Government of Canada is, more effectively than before, at the service of all Canadians. This is the number one responsibility for all of us and we should never forget it.

Because of the position I was honoured to occupy in recent years as chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the current state of the world is of special concern to me, as are our country's responsibilities and commitments on the international scene. From experience, I know that my worries are shared by a large and steadily growing number of Canadians.

We no longer live in separate compartments; everything that happens in the world affects us and concerns us. The diversity of our people, who come from and retain solid and longstanding ties with the four corners of the earth reminds us of that fact directly. The people of our country have a tangible interest in world affairs; it is obvious and we see it everywhere.

I often hear them talking about the kind of world they want to live in: a world founded on justice and tolerance; a world that promotes human dignity and respects human rights; a world of solidarity, that builds democracy and fosters economic, social and cultural progress.

In his recent address to the United Nations, the Prime Minister made it clear he understands what Canadians want, particularly when he insisted on the fact that the primary obligation of the international institutions is to our common humanity. He also said that governments have the duty to speak to the dignity and freedom of every human being on earth.

What the Prime Minister was expressing lies at the very heart of the most fundamental Canadian values, the values that individual Canadians fervently wish to see spread across the world. Our partisan affiliations in this House cannot prevent us from recognizing the predominance of such values among Canadians, and it is our duty to contribute to making them reality.

We can also recognize the urgent need to act, to give our best as a country and as individuals, to bring relief from the many cruel plagues and misfortunes that so many of our brothers and sisters in humanity have to suffer.

There are certainly some serious problems caused by phenomena related to the contingencies of our human condition, such as natural disasters and outbreaks of infectious diseases. In such situations, the actions of our country and its people of all backgrounds and all ages, are always characterized above all by an open heart, a quick and generous response. This trend must continue, with the same determination and compassion that brings honour to this country.

Then there are other scourges that arise out of the darker side of our own human nature. It is of the utmost urgency that we address these head on, with all the strength of conviction we are able to muster. For example, hate, whether based on ethnic, social or religious grounds, is what lies behind most of these terrible scourges which destroy lives and leave despair and fear in their wake in too many parts of this world.

It is true that eradicating hate is a mammoth undertaking in itself, but our country and its people are among those best suited to driving back the forces that propagate it.

Our civil society has never ceased to amaze me with its diversity, its wealth of experiences and solid accomplishments on the international scene.

When our people talk about helping others, it is not just empty words. Through our NGOs and the variety of associations working in favour of peace and tolerance in the world, our fellow citizens are providing tangible proof of the reality and depth of their convictions.

Many of these associations and NGOs, often with private sector backing, are focusing their attention on a theme very dear to my heart: tolerance and peace through education. Education, particularly in early childhood, is the primary means of tearing out the vile roots of hatred and consigning them to the garbage heap of history.

This requires a real battle around curriculum content and academic goals. We must promote a school system that fosters the development of human and civic values, for these are the seeds from which peace can best grow.

During the various consultations over which I have presided in recent years in the standing committee, I have been delighted to learn of a multitude of projects within our civil society with the specific goal of reaching out to school children in those areas of the world where hate and intolerance are most rampant.

In the Middle East for example, an extremely troubled region if ever there was one, some of those projects are either at the planning stages or under way. Young Israeli and Palestinian children learn at school about the virtues and benefits of peace and tolerance, of listening to one another and of understanding. These children are also given opportunities to meet and have dialogue with their counterparts in the other camp. This simple and unpretentious, yet concrete and creative approach is the best way to contribute to eliminating prejudice and eradicating hatred. The seeds of hope are being planted in order to reap the benefits of peace and tolerance in the future. This is something our country and many Canadians are in a position to make happen.

Now more than ever, as a government and also as parliamentarians, we must provide solid support to this type of initiative. At first glance these may seem like modest initiatives, but they will truly contribute to lasting peace in our world.

These initiatives also reflect the emergence of one-on-one diplomacy, whether it be Canadians and foreigners, or people from various camps who are too often the object of hate and division.

In conclusion, this is what leads me to believe that although Canada may not be a major world power, we certainly have a powerful potential for inspiring hope where there is despair, tolerance where there is hate and justice where human rights are being abused.

It is up to us to get on with the job, realize the extent of our potential and our international responsibilities, and give more tangible expression to the values that make our country what it is: a model for the nations of the world.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I being I congratulate you on becoming Deputy Speaker. It is a reflection of your contribution to the House of Commons that you are sitting there today.

I would first like to thank the constituents of Calgary East for sending me here for the third time, especially with a bigger majority than before, despite a campaign of lies by the Liberals. Nevertheless, the people of Calgary did not listen and they sent me back with a greater majority.

I want to ask the member, and I know in the last committee he was chairman of the--

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Will the member refrain from using that language in the House and the words he used in terms of the policies of the Liberals and what they have said? I would ask him to withdraw his remarks.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair was otherwise occupied at the time. The hon. member is very experienced and he knows that language must be judicious. I am sure he will watch his language and I urge him to do so.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, when I was on the foreign affairs committee, the member was the chair. Why does his party not respect Parliament? Let me explain my question. The government sent the same sex marriage question to the Supreme Court without bringing it here to the Parliament of Canada.

Not only that, but the defence minister recently said that he would not bring the issue of missile defence into the House of Commons, that the decision would be made by an executive decision.

Why does his government constantly ignore the will of Canadians as expressed to the Parliament of Canada?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also wish to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. I am thrilled to work with you.

To answer my colleague for Calgary East, I am disappointed. I made a speech but he asked me nothing about my speech. What is he doing? Did he not listen to the speech? I think it is much more important for him to listen to what we have to say.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Answer my question.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

I will answer the member's question by giving him some information because he does not seem to have the information.

The government wants to spend more than $70 million to help fight AIDS in the world. I think this is something very concrete. This is something that Parliament wants to do. This is something that Canadians want to hear about. This is one thing that the government is doing. It is very important to say that. There is malaria also.

Something else that is very important is the international scene and Africa. There are many conflicts in the world. What we want to do is have money so that the African union will work together to try to get some “les Casques bleus” there to try to help the native people of the world. This is what we want to do. This is my answer.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment.

I have been listening attentively to the remarks by the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, who has demonstrated his knowledge of politics and international affairs. I had a great deal of trouble understanding the meaning of his support or opinion regarding the Speech from the Throne. Perhaps I misunderstood or did not fully grasp what he was trying to say.

I would like, very humbly, if I may, to bring him back to the throne speech and ask him a question. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to reduce the financial pressures on the provinces and at the same time, I believe, to continue to completely respect provincial jurisdictions. Does he agree with the words of his leader, the Prime Minister? If I could just return to the throne speech and the amendment to the amendment we are discussing today, I would ask the hon. member for Pierrefonds—Dollard if he personally agrees that provincial jurisdictions should be respected and does he recognize that they are suffering financial pressures that should be alleviated? In other words, does he support the Bloc Quebecois's amendment to the amendment?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, of necessity, as I am a member from Quebec, I believe that we must respect matters of government responsibilities and provincial jurisdictions. I have no problem with that.

As for the second part of the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, it is very important that the government not abdicate its financial responsibilities. That is the crux of the matter. In my view, the federal government that has been elected, even though it is a minority government, must earn the public's respect, must go in the right direction, and have a balanced budget.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:10 a.m.

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

First, I would like to thank the residents of Ahuntsic for once more giving me the honour of representing them in the House of Commons. It has always been an honour.

I am pleased to rise today to tell the House about one element of the Speech from the Throne that is part of my responsibilities within this new government. I am referring to the importance of the social economy in Canada.

I will quote the Speech from the Throne:

The Government is determined to foster the social economy—the myriad not-for-profit activities and enterprises that harness civic and entrepreneurial energies for community benefit right across Canada. The Government will help to create the conditions for their success, including the business environment within which they work.

Social Development Canada was created to become the point of convergence for all social policies and programs for children, families, persons with disabilities, seniors and the volunteer sector.

I have always been one of those who believe that that the government has a role to play as an economic and social catalyst. I am also very much aware that the quality of life in Canada is greatly enhanced by the work of organizations in the volunteer and community sectors which, day after day, accomplish incredible things.

In our communities, they have contributed greatly to the quality of life of millions of Canadians. Their work reflects the values that we, on this side of the House, believe are truly Canadian.

We as politicians see this in our everyday lives while we tour our ridings. I wish, and on behalf of all members, I believe, to pay homage to all the volunteers and those compassionate and caring individuals who contribute so much to our society and to their fellow Canadians.

Canada's non-profit and charitable organizations, community groups and volunteers are important allies of our government in that they build strong and resilient communities. The volunteer sector organizations fill a need that is both real and growing.

In this country there are over 160,000 non-profit organizations and some 6.5 million Canadians who give their time to voluntary organizations. That adds up to more than a billion hours of work per year. Not only does this bear witness to the vitality of our communities, but it is also an important economic force that generates revenues of $14 billion a year.

These volunteer hours make it possible for the organizations to contribute to their community by serving meals to seniors, offering respite care to families in need and enabling our children to develop to their full potential through sports and cultural activities.

The social economy is an area in which the non-profit and charitable sectors excel. I want to thank the Prime Minister again for giving me that responsibility because I think it is going to be a great trial and, as we evolve in the next few months, we will see it having direct implications in terms of communities in this country.

Many people are unfamiliar with this concept of social economy enterprises. The social economy is everywhere. People only have to look around their neighbourhoods: it may be the day care centre, the housing co-op, seniors' support services or a local community economic development organization.

The term “social economy” may be new but it is simply a variation and a continuation of what social, non-profit enterprises already do, such as, for instance, the trade union movement or the cooperative movement in this country. Simply put, it is people working together to solve challenges that confront us in our communities. It is people empowerment, in a way, and community based community action.

Moreover, social economy enterprises operate like businesses. They produce goods and services to generate revenues but manage their operations on a not for profit basis by reinvesting all revenues to achieve a social purpose rather than generate a profit for their shareholders.

For example, AMRAC, an organization from my own riding of Ahuntsic, refurbishes and builds new furniture and employs and trains people who are having difficulty finding work. The organization has two storefronts, one for the furniture it sells to the general public and one that provides household items at prices that are affordable to individuals and families with low incomes. The revenues generated are then reinvested in training programs for the unemployed and in equipment.

This example demonstrates what can be accomplished when community networks get built, when people who care come together to do something about the challenges they see in their communities. There are numerous examples of this all across the country. They come up with new ways to solve long-standing problems. Social enterprises have great potential to provide a flexible and relatively sustainable means for achieving a range of community goals.

Social economy enterprises are not always small. For example, the Cirque du Soleil began as a small business and is now internationally known. It is still active in the social economy, however, through activities such as the Tohu in my colleague's riding.

In Canada there are nearly 10,000 social enterprises and agencies that employ some 100,000 people and whose yearly sales amount to approximately $20 billion, which is an average of $2 million.

The government is determined to foster the social economy. In our budget commitments of 2004 we identified three priority areas for the social economy: capacity building, financing and research.

The funding is allocated as follows. There is $100 million over five years in support of financial initiatives that will increase lending to social economy enterprises. With that money, they can also then leverage funds from the private sector. This whole endeavour requires that there be a partnership between the three levels of government and the private sector. The funding also includes $17 million over two years for a pilot project for strategic planning and capacity building of community economic development organizations and $15 million over five years to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in support of community based research on the social economy. These programs are just down payments, as I have always said since we started back in January toward building a foundation for Canada's social economy.

As stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will also introduce a new not for profit corporations act that will aim to reduce the regulatory burden on the not for profit sector, improve financial accountability, clarify the roles and responsibilities of directors and officers, and enhance and protect the rights of members.

We must also identify and share the strategies that work best and work with others to develop a longer term framework for the social economy, which will guide our future efforts in building strong, vibrant and sustainable communities. For that reason, I established a national round table to which I have invited the main stakeholders from the volunteer sector, such as, for example, the United Way, and also from the private sector, VanCity from B.C., the cooperative movement, the trade union movement, and le Chantier de l'économie sociale, to name just a few, to advise me and federal government ministers on moving forward on these commitments.

In conclusion, since today's debate is on the Bloc Quebecois's amendment to the amendment, I would like to emphasize that in my opinion, which is shared by most of the Liberal members from Quebec, it is a way of asking for a blank cheque from the government.

The Prime Minister will hold a meeting with the provincial premiers. I believe that will be the forum for a serious discussion on the subject of the country's finances. This government has never abdicated its responsibilities.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Ahuntsic for her comment.

I would like to start by thanking the voters of Laval who have given me the opportunity to represent them here and to defend their interests. I have to say that I came here full of good faith, planning to do my job in good faith and to make room for the interests we may have in common despite that fact that we are sovereignists. We do not deny that we are, and never have. We are sovereignists and that is our agenda. I do, however, have a great deal of difficulty reconciling this desire to cooperate with this government's very arrogant and scornful attitude.

Laval is the city in Quebec where life expectancy is the longest. Women live to be 82.2 years old, and men, 78.3 years old. Laval is home to more than 40,000 citizens over 65, 38% of whom are 75 years old and over. Social economy, cooperation, that is all fine and well, and I am familiar with both. However, additional measures are needed to protect and help our seniors.

I would ask my colleague whether her government also plans, when it talks about improving the guaranteed income supplement program, to provide retroactivity for those eligible.