House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was going.


Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge spend some time on the freedom that members of Parliament should have in not only representing their constituencies, but in bringing forth legislation that might even change the course of government.

However I want to pose a question to the member to see if indeed that is where he is going.

On the government side right now, the member for Sarnia—Lambton; the previous speaker, the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge; and also the member for Malpeque, the former solicitor general, all have views on the gun control issue. In fact, they have built their reputations on telling everyone where they stand on the registry.

The previous speaker, the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, wants to scrap it. The member for Sarnia--Lambton wants to starve it so that it collapses. The former solicitor general from Malpeque wants to decriminalize it.

I would have to suggest that here is a chance for them to fulfill a good portion of the Speech from the Throne where they will not only re-engage citizens in Canada's political life, but they will also include significantly more free votes so that members can represent the views of their constituents as they see fit.

Is the member going to pursue and push these points on the agenda significantly and make it happen on that side?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:20 a.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member for Calgary Northeast has a very sincere and interesting perspective on a number of issues. We have attended many conferences together, particularly with the police community, on issues that are extremely important to the safety of Canadians.

I want to point out and be very clear on the record that I have never proposed the scrapping of the gun bill. In fact, I supported it and I continue to support it. Like any other member in the House, I am concerned about its cost.

However, as the hon. member knows, whether I am dealing with people from the Toronto police force or the Durham police force, which is part of my riding, I have on a number of occasions been befelled by this debate about the necessity of having some kind of understanding of what is behind the doors as the police respond to domestic disputes.

The hon. member knows, and was privy to the same information I was, that Bill C-68 has been effective in restricting the amount of ammunition that is available to gangs. Gang violence is certainly on an upswing, particularly with small arms.

I have absolute confidence in the minister responsible, the member for Mississauga East, who is doing a splendid job consulting with stakeholders who have hitherto not been involved in discussions in the past. She is doing exemplary work to get to the bottom of the concern to the point where I believe the hon. member ultimately will be able to support it.

As far as the democratic deficit and democratic concerns, I have always been free to vote my mind. As the hon. member knows, I have probably voted more times, and dare I say this, with some respect, against my own government than most members of the House of Commons. I have no trepidation with doing that now. The Prime Minister has signalled the wisdom of that approach, which is that we also have to represent our conscience and our constituents. This Prime Minister recognizes that and I am prepared to campaign on it.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:25 a.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my friend on his appointment. I know he has spoken out on a number of occasions about human rights, particularly about the human rights of Canadians overseas.

I want to ask him a very specific and brief question about a shocking episode that happened here in Canada: the search by a large number of RCMP officers of the home of journalist Juliet O'Neil. I think many Canadians were appalled at what happened in those circumstances. That flowed directly from Bill C-36, the government's so-called anti-terrorism legislation that was passed in the weeks after September 11. That member voted for that legislation.

Does he not recognize that the potential for very grave abuses of human rights, which we as New Democrats identified at that time by voting against the bill, has become a reality? Would he not agree that we should go back to the drawing board, scrap that legislation and come up with legislation that more carefully reflects the respect for human rights--

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. While the clock has run out I will allow a little time for a response. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:25 a.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, we need to balance the question of security in a modern age with individuals who are concerned, as the hon. member and all of us in the House of Commons are concerned, about civil rights.

The legislation under which Ms. O'Neil's belongings and other things were intruded upon not only deals Bill C-36 but previous legislation as well. We need to look at the legislation because it is clearly inconsistent with Canadian values. I want to look at it. I believe the House of Commons will do just that.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Prince George--Peace River and as the official opposition senior national defence critic to respond to the government's Speech from the Throne, though perhaps respond is not the appropriate word in this case.

If one is a beef producer, struggling on the verge of bankruptcy as many are; a sawmill worker watching his or her industry waste away; or a proudly serving member of the Canadian Forces, there is not much to respond to in this Liberal pre-election document. These Canadians must be wondering if their federal government has forgotten their very existence.

I know the residents in my riding are feeling increasingly alienated from Ottawa. Throughout the past year, while the government was on hold waiting to crown its new leader, the current Prime Minister, the country has been in the midst of two devastating crises in the beef and softwood lumber industries. Also, throughout the past year, impartial military experts, both here in Canada and abroad, have intensified their decade long pleas to the federal government to rescue our armed forces from the brink of collapse.

There was little evidence that these crises even existed in the speech delivered by the Governor General last week. Perhaps the Prime Minister ran out of room. After all, he had to leave space in the speech to insert the word “new” no less than 31 times.

This was all part of his attempt to distance himself from his predecessor, Jean Chrétien, and to convince Canadians to forget that, as a former finance minister, he was one of the most powerful individuals at the cabinet table through most of the past decade. He was an active participant in the policies, legislation and decisions implemented by the federal government. He was even the one signing the cheques.

It was somewhat surprising that the Prime Minister, in the few words that he afforded the Canadian Forces, had the audacity to boast that he would be replacing the 40 year old antique Sea King helicopters. It was his government that cancelled the original contract to replace the maritime helicopters a decade ago. It was his government that prevented a new contract from be awarded when political considerations repeatedly stalled the procurement process.

It took 10 years just to get the request for proposals to supply new helicopters issued. The contract has still not been awarded. Complete delivery of the fleet of 28 choppers is not expected to be phased-in until 2010, five years later than the Liberals predicted. I am more than a little puzzled as to why the Prime Minister would want to draw this failure to the attention of Canadians in his throne speech.

The only other military commitment contained in the speech is also not new. The purchase of 66 Stryker vehicles is a recycled Jean Chrétien announcement. There is nothing new there, yet the new Prime Minister has claimed it as his own. The Strykers have been a controversial purchase from the very beginning as the wheeled vehicles are questionable at best as a replacement for our aging Leopard tanks.

However, I want to focus on what really matters in the debate surrounding military helicopters, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, planes, ships or any other piece of military equipment. I feel the government and some Canadians sometimes overlook one critical part of the equation, the human element.

These machines and technology that we are discussing are the tools which are supposed to safeguard the lives of the men and women that we as a nation send into dangerous situations to serve, protect and keep the peace. These are men and women with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. These are people who accept the risks and sacrifices of their vocation and are still willing to get the job done on our behalf.

These are people like Private Nathan Smith, Private Richard Green, Corporal Ainsworth Dyer and Sergeant Marc Léger, who died when a U.S. bomb was mistakenly dropped on their location during a training exercise in Afghanistan in April 2002.

These are people like Sergeant Robert Short, a father of two children and Corporal Robbie Beerenfenger, a father of three, who made the ultimate sacrifice last October when their Iltis vehicle drove over a landmine; and Corporal Jamie Murphy, who died just last month in an attack by a suicide bomber.

When we are debating military equipment, we are ultimately defending the military personnel whose lives depend upon that equipment. I strongly suspect that the Liberal government has failed to connect that equipment with the people it asks to serve in unstable, wartorn conditions, far from home and loved ones.

Before he became Prime Minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard unequivocally promised to ensure that Canadian soldiers were equipped with the best possible equipment. That is what he said when he was aspiring to be Prime Minister. Now that he has the job, he is frantically backpedalling on this promise. Were he truly serious about getting our troops the tools and the backup they need to do their jobs, he would not be using a wide-ranging defence and security review as an excuse to further delay new military purchases or to boost troop levels.

These so-called reviews and studies are what the government uses to avoid making decisions or taking a stand on critical issues. Increasingly, the government solution to evading difficult questions from the opposition benches and reporters is to initiate a review, an inquiry, or an audit, and then refuse to answer any potentially embarrassing questions. It is what government members use to help them balance as they sit on the fence.

What will the Prime Minister do about the actions of CSIS in the Maher Arar case and the RCMP raids on the home and office of an Ottawa Citizen journalist? We will not know until the report from a public inquiry is issued after the election.

What will the Prime Minister do about the issue of same sex marriages? We will not know until the Supreme Court responds to the additional legal question he just recently submitted to the court, a response that he knows cannot be possibly be completed until after the next election.

What is the Prime Minister's explanation for the $4 million discrepancy in federal funds that Canada Steamship Lines received when he was its owner? We will not know until the Auditor General responds to his request to check it out. And again, that will not be known until after the next election.

We are all well aware of the present scandal that has engulfed not only Parliament, not only this so-called new government, but indeed the entire nation where hundreds of millions of dollars were thrown away in Quebec on this sponsorship ad scandal. There will be another inquiry. It seems like there has been an inquiry a week ever since this Prime Minister took over.

Also included in the Auditor General's report was the question about the $100 million that the Liberal government decided upon within nine days of talking about it. After nine days Liberals spent $100 million on two luxury jets to transport the cabinet instead of allocating that money where it was needed which is to our armed forces.

What will the Prime Minister do to rebuild the Canadian Forces after his government slashed $20 billion in real cumulative dollars since 1993? We will not know until his defence and security review wraps up this fall, after the expected spring election.

Voters are being sent to the polls by the government without being told its position on critical federal legislation and policies, nor its explanation for questionable operations and funding allocations. The Liberals are betting on the fact that they will not have to answer for their actions until after they become comfortably situated in government for yet another term. This is a serious underestimation of the Canadian electorate.

Our troops have waited long enough for the government to figure out what it is doing. In fact, many say that it is already too late. Regular force personnel strength has fallen by about 30% over the past decade. Senior commanders have told the Prime MInister that they will not have any more personnel to spare. The 2,000 soldiers sent to Afghanistan and the ongoing commitment in Bosnia has left our army exhausted and depleted. Rotations home have been deferred and training delayed.

I want to make it clear that the men and women who serve in the Canadian Forces are not reluctant to do their jobs. On the contrary, in speaking to them, I have learned that our soldiers are more than eager for opportunities to put their skills and training to work in service of their country. That is what they signed up to do.

Yet, it is not an easy job and I would argue it is not made any easier by the government. Enforcing peace and security around the world in wartorn countries is physically and mentally demanding work. Our troops require time between missions to rebuild their strength and to constantly develop their skills through more training.

Canadian troops have been deployed on over 70 missions in the past 10 years, more than in the previous four decades combined. This burden is being carried out by fewer and fewer personnel, equipped with helicopters and medium transport aircraft that are 40 years old, 35-year-old logistical supply ships, 33-year-old destroyers, grounded Hercules transport aircraft and rusted out dune buggies for patrolling the desert badlands.

It came as somewhat of a surprise to our soldiers last week when they watched their new Prime Minister announce on national television that 500 troops would remain in Afghanistan after the current mission ends there in August of this year.

If he was serious about this commitment, the Prime Minister has failed to recognize the dire shortage of personnel and resources. If it was simply a flippant commitment made for the benefit of television, then the Prime Minister was being irresponsible and insensitive to our dedicated and overworked soldiers.

When the head of Canada's army retired after 39 years of service last May, he told us of his worries about the future. Lieutenant-General Mike Jeffrey said at that time:

I cannot help but have a growing sense of concern over the challenges that this nation faces and the army's ability--indeed, the Canadian Forces' ability--to meet them. The world has changed, and I'm not sure we're keeping pace. We are participating, there is no question of that. But are we really playing our part? Do we want to make a difference, or do we just want to ensure our flag is present? In the final analysis, our military is too small to allow Canada to play the kind of role it should on the world stage. The soldiers are paying the bills with their service, with their health and sometimes with their lives. Our military is as stressed as it has ever been and I fear that it will not be able to continue at this pace for much longer.

The man who replaced Lieutenant-General Jeffrey obviously had to be a bit more diplomatic at the time, but even he could not help point out how the government has let down the men and women of the forces. On the day he took over as new army chief, Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier stated:

Our soldiers do magnificent work; they do it without complaint and they give Canada great service. I'd like Canada to support them just a little bit better.

For 10 years the government has failed to produce a defence policy paper. In that time, the official opposition has completed two such documents. We compiled these comprehensive positions on national defence by listening to military officials, past and present, and experts on international security affairs around the world. The unanimous conclusion, no matter whom one asks, is that the Canadian Forces simply do not have enough personnel both in the regular force and in the reserves.

Last December Queen's University and the Conference of Defence Associations released the findings of its study entitled “Canada Without Armed Forces”. It was a thorough and impartial report. It was also very blunt about the state of the Canadian Forces. It stated:

Two essential components are specifically in danger today: there are simply not enough trained people, or the facilities and resources to train them, to ensure that the Canadian Forces will be operationally fit in the future. Second, major equipment is failing from age and use, and the plans to replace it are inadequate to the demand.

The study went further and concluded that:

The crisis caused by wilful disarmament is upon the nation and threatens the country's hard-won and honourable place in the international community of like-minded nations. Canada's increasingly unsure.

The Queen's University study concluded that the Canadian Forces regular personnel strength should be increased to 85,000. This reflects what the official opposition concluded in our own defence policy paper. We also advocated that the reserve force be increased to 60,000.

As for the men and women who currently serve, I am continually amazed at their dedication and motivation despite the lack of support they receive from this government, to whom morale appears to have little meaning.

Funding to put more troops in the field cannot be spared, but an internal study by the Department of National Defence itself found that its headquarters here in Ottawa was bloated with about 1,000 more bureaucrats than needed. That is half the number of soldiers currently serving in Kabul, Afghanistan. It is estimated that by cutting those 1,000 bureaucrats, NDHQ would save as much as $70 million, money that could and should be used for operations.

Aside from denying our troops the equipment they need to do their jobs, and additional personnel, the government consistently fails to give the men and women of the armed forces the respect they deserve. I will give the House two recent examples of this neglect.

When soldiers serving in Afghanistan asked to learn the results of medical and environmental air quality tests in Kabul last year, their request was refused. Senior officials in Ottawa dismissed their worries that the fecal-contaminated air could cause short term and long term health problems. Instead of taking their concerns seriously, senior brass suggested that sharing this vital health information with soldiers could launch another gulf war syndrome.

I would like to commend military ombudsman André Marin and the military's medical staff for overcoming the resistance of military commanders by insisting that troops in Afghanistan be privy to test results that had a direct bearing on their personal health.

It is in both the soldiers' and the military's best interests to investigate and share such medical information so that if medical problems arise in the future, factors such as air quality can be either included or excluded as the cause. Regardless, it should never have been an issue. Soldiers should have been immediately provided this information in order to reassure themselves and their families and loved ones about their long term health.

Like any other employer, the Canadian military cannot be permitted to deny information about health risks to its employees. Then again, this is not the only situation where the government has used its special status to disregard the health and safety of our soldiers and their families.

What happens when the government is both the employer and the landlord? We just need to ask the many men and women and families living in military housing units throughout the country. Let me say that not many members of the House would be willing to live in many of the private married quarters on Canadian Forces bases across the country.

Imagine paying rent for a house or an apartment that is so poorly insulated that a family's food freezes in the cupboards in the winter. Imagine the risk to children's health from black mould growing on the walls. Imagine the water smelling of sewage, which people must boil before drinking.

The Canadian Forces Housing Authority oversees military housing units on the government's behalf. With any other landlord, a renter would be protected from appalling living conditions under provincial landlord-tenant legislation, but the Government of Canada does not have to comply with such provincial housing laws. Instead, not only have personnel living on base had to endure these conditions, but they are now being hit with a $100 monthly rent increase each year.

The life of a soldier is no nine to five job. Most are on call 24 hours a day. Proximity to their base is critical. They must uproot their families every few years to wherever they are asked to serve. They are deployed for months at a time, leaving their spouses and their children behind. Often, the community on a military base is the only source of emotional and practical support for these families. The housing that is supposed to facilitate their lives is often a substandard health and safety hazard.

Last fall, I helped initiate a petition campaign demanding that CFHA discontinue these exorbitant rent increases, at least until it had made significant repairs to its military housing units. So far this issue seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the government.

I know my time is short. I have more that I would like to say, but let me conclude by stating that this so-called new Prime Minister appears to be picking up where his predecessor left off when it comes to support of the Canadian Forces. He appears to be just continuing on, making our soldiers, their families and all Canadians pay the price for his government's lack of direction in national defence and foreign policy and its lack of support for the Canadian Forces.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Prince George—Peace River for his speech and for his good work on the defence file.

While our armed forces scrape by for real needs, other money flows generously under the table, seamlessly. There was $100 million ordered, politically, for Challenger jets, the procurement period for those Challenger jets to be in the order of some 30 days, while we are in something like a 25 to 30 year procurement period for replacement of Sea Kings. We have another $250 million of advertising ordered politically, and $100 million went for fees and commissions.

I would ask my colleague if he would agree that the general public is holding this widespread belief of many that the government exhibits a culture of corruption and neglect unprecedented in the past 50 years. I would also ask my hon. colleague if he thinks Canadians have a chance for this to change in the future with a Liberal government continuing.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would commend my colleague for all the work he has done, not only on defence files and in representing his constituents from Edmonton, but also the work he has done with our veterans. I believe that in a very real sense veterans have been abused by the Liberal government over these many years. I know that the member has worked diligently and very hard to try to raise the profile of some of the concerns of the veterans and their associations across the land.

Obviously this is a bit of a loaded question. We are heading into an election. As one would expect, things will become increasingly partisan not only in the chamber but out on the hustings across the land. Although this government is trying desperately to distance itself from its predecessor, the Jean Chrétien government, as I said in my speech, actually it is just picking up where the previous government left off.

The current Prime Minister cannot possibly manage to claim ownership of bringing the deficit under control and running surpluses, on the one hand, and yet claim to know absolutely nothing, supposedly, about all the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars that have been wasted under his signature as finance minister. This is absolutely ludicrous.

Either this man has been completely incompetent in his job as finance minister or he has been complicit and he knew what was going on but chose to keep silent about it. There can be no other explanation. It has to be one or the other. In either case, I would suggest that Canadians are going to think very seriously about giving such an individual another term at office, in the highest office, actually running the affairs of our nation.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:50 a.m.

Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge Ontario


Dan McTeague LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to allow any of those comments by the member for Prince George—Peace River to stand.

I understand the hon. member's interest in making and scoring partisan points here against the integrity of a man who has the absolute confidence of not only his party but of the vast majority of Canadians in this country, beyond doubt and beyond question. But I can tell the hon. member that when he suggests, as he does here, that somehow this man was responsible for writing the cheques, I am surprised the hon. member is not actually saying that he is responsible for sinking the Titanic . But that of course is the mentality of the Conservative Party as it morphs itself into yet another example of why it does not deserve the trust of Canadians.

Let there be no doubt about what the Prime Minister is doing and what this side of the government is doing. We have a serious problem. The Auditor General just a few minutes ago in the public accounts committee suggested that there is no way under the sun even a minister could have known what was going on. The situation was embedded very much in depth inside the departments. That must be bad news for the hon. member, who is looking to score some cheap political points.

I can assure the hon. member of one thing: I will be glad to debate him or any member on that side when it comes to the integrity of the members on this side, particularly the Prime Minister of this country, who has not only earned it but continues to sustain it in the minds of Canadians.

To the hon. member, very simply, a question to him: When are you going to stop the hyperbole and when are you going to start dealing with the facts? Do you support the initiatives of the independent commission?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Just on the chance that the tone might possibly become more animated and so on in the days and weeks ahead, we should always be mindful to make all our interventions through the Chair and not directly across the floor.

The hon. member for Prince George--Peace River.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did say, and I think this proves my point, that in the days and weeks ahead, as you just said, the House is going to become much more partisan and we are going to have to experience a lot of partisan sniping like that of the hon. member.

He made reference to the fact that pretty soon we will actually blame the Prime Minister for the sinking of the Titanic . I would suggest that was a good choice of words, because actually his government, with that Prime Minister as captain, is going to be going down with the Titanic before very much longer. He had better use the existing polls all he can, because I think he is going to see quite a dramatic change in the near future once this scandal really takes root with Canadians.

As for his question about supporting an inquiry, of course we support an inquiry, but I pointed out in my speech that it is not just coincidental that the inquiry after inquiry after inquiry that have been announced in the space of a couple of weeks by the so-called new Prime Minister are all going to culminate with the facts being known after the next election. All of those things are going to be election issues, despite the Prime Minister's best efforts to have it otherwise.

Finally, there is the fact he now states that even a minister could not know what was going on. More and more information is seeping out from over there about how this subject of the blatant misuse of tax dollars through this sponsorship program was discussed at the Liberal caucus years ago. Where was the Prime Minister then, when he was finance minister? Was he conveniently in the washroom every time this was discussed? That he pleads ignorance is beyond belief, and if it is true, then he is so ignorant he should not be running the country.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:55 a.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear that the hon. member is privy to our discussions in caucus, but I will ask the hon. member, if he is so convinced that we should have inquiries that should be given the opportunity to answer instantaneously, why then is he not supporting his own caucus members as they do their work on the public accounts committee? What is it about the inquiry that the hon. member is so concerned about that might do exactly the opposite of what the hon. member wants, and that is to use this as a political football in order to try to score a few political points?

The member talks about partisanship. He talks about the rhetoric in the House. I can assure the hon. member of one thing. The Canadian public wants to see some answers as to why this was done. If the hon. member sees that there are people who will ultimately be charged by this, or that ultimately there is an exoneration, a vindication, what will the hon. member then do then? Go back to another issue? It is clear to me that the hon. member cannot have it both ways.

We have done what the Canadian public expects us to do under the circumstances. No member of Parliament in this caucus, or I believe on that side, is responsible for this issue. It is possible that people well beyond the ambit of Parliament have done some awful things, but the question of accountability rests with the member of Parliament. Will the member of Parliament stop the political rhetoric and start dealing with some of the facts?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is just absolutely unbelievable. I will tell the hon. member, for the benefit of the House and those viewing this debate today at home, who is responsible: his government, his ministers. That is who is responsible.

In the 10 years I have been here, I have never seen this government or these ministers take responsibility. Is there such a thing as ministerial accountability? It went out long ago. It has never been part of the Liberal government and I can tell them that Canadians are getting sick and tired of it.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

11:55 a.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am thrilled to be able to rise today and make some comments on the throne speech.

I will begin by talking about aboriginal people in the north and end by talking about a number of other areas, which I was quite happy to see in the throne speech, until my time runs out.

Many exciting developments are happening in the north and aboriginal people are participating as full partners. There is no doubt in my mind that these trends are late. I am convinced that Canada's long term prosperity is linked with the continued growth of the northern economy. To ensure that this growth benefits all Canadians, northerners must continue to be involved.

Allow me to explain this by citing a few recent examples. Canada is now the third largest producer of diamonds, thanks to successful mining operations in the Northwest Territories. This success is made all the more important because of the strong partnership struck between first nations and the mining companies. As a result of these partnerships, the majority of projects, contractors and labourers are from nearby communities.

Similar partnerships have been struck across the north: to plan natural gas pipelines through the Mackenzie Valley and to the Alaska Highway; and to mine gold and diamonds in Nunavut. All these projects have the potential to generate substantial profits for investors and deliver significant benefits for aboriginal peoples in northern communities.

The collaborative approach adopted for these projects is a model for others and will certainly contribute to Canada's long term prosperity.

My belief is based on two concurrent facts. First, the natural resources of the north are vast and relatively untapped. Second, many aboriginal communities are eager to participate as partners in the development of these resources.

The key to the success of Canada's diamond industry, for example, has been its example to partner with northerners. Diavik and BHP Billiton have adopted a stewardship approach that demonstrates tremendous respect for both the environment and for local communities. Diavik, for instance, signed an agreement with the Tli Cho, formerly known as the Dogrib first nation, before the company owned the Ekati mine. Today the majority of the mine's workforce is made up of northerners and nearly 50% are aboriginal.

The mine buys 70% of the goods and services it needs from suppliers based in the Northwest Territories. Tli Cho Logistics Inc., a company created by the first nation to provide services to Ekati, employs more than 106 band members.

The partnerships with diamond companies have also enabled first nations to realize other community goals. In the past four years, for instance, the number of Tli Cho people enrolled in post-secondary studies has increased sixfold. By playing an active role in the diamond industry, residents of aboriginal and northern communities can acquire the skills they need to develop their own businesses. This increase in business activity will enable communities to gain access to the resources needed to develop their economies. Other aboriginal and northern communities may be inspired to partner in other projects. As a result, the young people in the north can look forward to a more prosperous future.

The mining companies, of course, also benefit from these partnerships by tapping the knowledge of the people most familiar with the fragile environment of the north.

More than 2,000 people work at the two mines. Ekati and Diavik buy approximately $450 million worth of goods and services each year. Other activities, such as exploration and site preparation, pump millions of additional dollars into the north.

The economic effects of Canada's diamond industry are already being felt across the nation.

Diamonds are also responsible for creating thousands of jobs in the rest of Canada as the equipment manufacturers, food distributors, transportation and communication companies service this booming sector. From Vancouver to Halifax and from Windsor to Iqaluit, a wide range of enterprises now benefit from diamond mining.

Diamonds are only the beginning. To drive maximum value from these vast stores of natural wealth that lie in the ground and under the ocean, we must first tap the human resources in the north. With northerners fully engaged in the economy, Canada's prosperity will be enhanced.

Let us consider for a moment the potential impact of Canada's demographic projections. The aboriginal population in Canada is relatively young. Approximately half of Canada's aboriginal people are under the age of 25. The birth rate among aboriginal people is twice that of the general population.

With this growth comes opportunity: expanding markets for goods and services, fresh supplies of workers and entrepreneurs. Indeed, recent statistics indicate that aboriginal youth are much more likely than other young Canadians to start businesses. Today aboriginal people own more than 30,000 companies, and that number increases every day.

The key is to ensure that all projects are sustainable and that northerners benefit from them.

The Government of Canada has an important role to play in ensuring that the vast economic potential of the north is realized in a sustainable and inclusive way.

By negotiating land claim agreements, for instance, we help ensure that first nations and Inuit communities can access resources and develop their economies, and we create greater certainty for investment. Significant progress has been made on this front recently. In fact, most northern land claims have either been settled or are nearly complete.

In Yukon, eight first nations governments are in place. In the Northwest Territories a unique agreement was signed six months ago with the Tli Cho First Nation that combines a land claim settlement and a self-government agreement. All of these agreements help to create the certainty and clarity needed to attract business partners.

The Government of Canada can also ensure that northern and aboriginal communities plan, direct and participate in new developments.

A few years ago Nunavut acquired territorial status. In fact, we are now approaching the fifth anniversary of this exciting new territory. We are now working with the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporate, a land claim organization, in order to build the foundations that will enable the territorial government to assume greater responsibility.

Last year the responsibilities of land and resource management were transferred to the Yukon government, along with the capacity required to assume them. In the Northwest Territories, discussions on devolution are progressing steadily.

The government also plays an important role in the creation of infrastructure required for economic development, particularly in the north where there are few transportation links. On the Deh Cho bridge project, for example, a consortium of private and public groups has proposed to build the bridge and ensure year round access into Yellowknife.

Much preparatory work is being done before the project can go ahead: financial analyses, engineering studies, environmental assessments. The Government of Canada is proud to support some of the costs of this preparatory work.

Last year the government contributed $3.6 million toward the construction of 12 smaller bridges in the Mackenzie Valley. Once these bridges are complete the winter route between Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope will be open for up to 16 weeks a year.

In Yukon, Canada infrastructure funds were committed for the rebuilding of the remainder of the Alaska Highway.

The benefits of these construction projects are numerous. Northerners can look forward to increasing mobility, greater access to social services and a drop in the cost of living. For oil and gas companies, the bridges will make exploration less expensive, increasing the likelihood of new drilling activity.

The government's role is also to provide leadership and lend support to new projects and ideas. By funding preliminary engineering studies and research, for instance, we ensure that new projects can attract other private and public sector investors. Our efforts pave the way for others. Our involvement helps to foster the partnerships that produce positive results.

Any discussion of the future of the north is incomplete without describing projects that are expected to have great impact and generate large revenues: the proposed building of a pipeline through the Mackenzie Valley. That pipeline represents not only a huge project to the benefit of the north, but also the potential to open up the north to hydrocarbon exploration for 25 to 50 years. This will bring benefits to northern as well as southern Canada and contribute to the North American energy security.

Clearly, our chief goal must be to ensure that oil and gas resources are developed in an environmentally sound and socially sustainable manner. We must ensure that northerners are directly involved in every step of the way.

The Government of Canada is proud to have recently committed just under $11 million over five years to the Aboriginal Pipeline Group's plan to acquire up to one-third ownership of the project. With this money the group is attracting other investors.

Of course, much work remains to be done before any pipeline project can proceed. We must ensure that the appropriate regulatory regimes are in place, for instance, to minimize any potential harmful social and environment impacts.

We must acquire the scientific knowledge that will form a range of policies to plan, implement and monitor the project. We must also ensure that each of the communities that would be affected by the project has the capacity to realize the benefits.

We must ensure that pipeline projects adopt the same approach followed by other recent initiatives in the north. This approach is characterized by respect for local communities, for the environment and for the bottom line.

This approach features businesses and northern communities establishing honest, mutually beneficial relationships. Clearly, this approach will stimulate new levels of economic activity in the north and produce tremendous advantages for Canadians.

I also want to talk about the Alaska Highway pipeline, which is several times larger than the Mackenzie Valley but all the same conditions, partnerships, goals, objectives and environmental sensitivity apply. This would bring huge volumes of gas from the Arctic slope down through the Yukon and into British Columbia. It would provide huge increases in GDP, many opportunities for putting gas into or taking out of the pipeline in Canada, and a lot of benefits for northerners and a number of aboriginal groups along the highway route.

This morning I attended a session on frozen methane. Some statistics indicate that there is more frozen methane available than all other natural gas and hydrocarbon resources in the world put together. There is great potential for northern research and we are definitely increasing our emphasis on northern research. The best project in the world on frozen methane is occurring right in Canada's north.

Not long ago I met with the Mining Association of Canada which has unique proposals related to the extension of flowthrough shares, the expansion of the exploration tax credit and the fine-tuning of exploration costs. I certainly hope the Department of Finance looks at these seriously, given the emphasis on resource development in the throne speech, as it would be an excellent stimulus for exploration in the north of our resources, which is so important to our economy.

I will also be proposing for my riding a venture capital fund, which was proposed by the Federation of Labour. This fund would provide more venture capital for those people starting up businesses.

I was quite excited, as many people were, with the initiative in the throne speech that would allow patent drugs to get to places like Africa where there is an AIDS crisis. My constituents are also concerned about this and think this is good legislation. I have received an e-mail from Stephanie Starks which summarizes people's concerns and support for this. Ms. Starks is on the social justice committee of the Whitehorse United Church. I have had a number of constituents visit me on this issue. They are concerned that the legislation has provisions permitting the patent holders to block licences for generic manufacturers. They do not want that to occur. They are concerned that there is a limited list of pharmaceutical products; that there is a denial of benefit to some developing countries that are not WTO members; and that there is no provision for NGOs to procure generic medicine.

I hope as we go along with that bill we will look into those concerns to make sure the bill is as effective as possible in helping those who really need it.

I was also delighted to notice in the throne speech that $3.5 billion will be allocated to help clean up federal contaminated sites. Not only is this money beneficial to the health of Canadians, but it will also create significant employment on the work involved in cleaning up these sites. It will help us to research modern technologies to do this, to use those technologies in Canada and to export them around the world.

I was also personally very excited to see in the throne speech the emphasis on health promotion. I think it applies to more than health. It is my philosophy, being in government, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We must work on preventing tragedies. We must work with people on their lifestyle and diet choices to prevent them from being in the health care system. This would save a lot of costs, both human and financial, down the road. I was also very excited to see the effort to reduce waiting times as a priority in the throne speech. A number of my constituents have approached me on that.

I was delighted with a number of initiatives relating to aboriginal people, which I will not have time to talk about but other members will cover them. The whole theme starts in childhood right through school age and beyond to train and provide the skills and opportunities to first nations people, aboriginal people. Through education they can develop the skills necessary to take part in today's workforce with a modern human resources strategy.

Because of my particular role in Parliament I was excited to see a reference to the northern strategy. The government has indicated how important that is for the economy of the north. I have touched on a number of areas that we could work on.

I was also very pleased to see a number of references to helping people with disabilities. Certainly in the spirit of liberalism, if we have a strong business sector we can create the revenues necessary for our society to help those most in need. Certainly people with disabilities fall within that. I was delighted to see tax measures that would help people with disabilities and their caregivers. We are going to employ more people with disabilities in the federal government and ensure that there are more education and training opportunities for them.

I was also very happy to see the whole cities agenda. The municipalities that have contacted are very excited about the GST rebate and the fact that the federal government is developing a relationship with cities to help them in the modern context with the struggles they face and the increasing responsibilities which they bear.

I have worked for a number of volunteer organizations. In fact I helped establish a volunteer bureau in the Yukon, so I was delighted to see support for the voluntary sector. It is an integral and essential part of Canadian society as it exists today.

I was delighted to see support for arts and culture. This is important for our identity as a people and our spirit. The cultural industries also provide significant input to the Canadian economy.

I was delighted to see support for women entrepreneurs as a priority. Also, there are a number of initiatives related to making student loans more accessible, especially to students with less resources.

I was also happy to see the reference to foreign credentials. Sometimes places in the north have trouble getting professionals. If obtaining Canadian credentials for people coming from overseas could be expedited, this would help the shortage in that area.

I was delighted with the emphasis on regaining Canada's place in the world in the foreign affairs agenda. Two things are of particular interest. The first was the emphasis on multilateralism. Most people would agree that Canadians by and large are very supportive of that way of dealing with world affairs. Some major scientists in the world recently had a conference. They suggested that the biggest threat to the world was communicable diseases and that strong multilateral institutions are needed to combat these types of diseases.

We are going to look at international institutions and the mechanisms they use to protect people when their own government is not protecting them. Perhaps we could prevent crises like the serious tragedy that occurred in Rwanda.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Yukon on his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I was very interested in his comments about what kind of development will be taking place in the north. We hear all kinds of discussion about pipelines and the like. I have family who work up in the Inuvik area and it is all to do with oil and gas. Certainly that will be the future of the great north. There will be a significant need for that kind of development to make sure that we can tap those great resources in the north.

My question will not be so much on the north. My question is directed to the parliamentary secretary. I am interested in his comments. The parliamentary secretary used the word “delighted” I do not know how many times, perhaps a couple of dozen times over things that he observed, read or agreed with in the Speech from the Throne. However, he did not mention anything about how delighted he was when it comes to the democratic deficit. It is the issue that seems to be on the minds of so many people when it comes to dealing with parliamentarians and the way we do business here, or the way we do not do business here.

I will refer to the Speech from the Throne in a couple of places. The first place is on page 4 at the top of the page. The Prime Minister made note of this when he gave his comments on the speech:

We must re-engage citizens in Canada's political life. And this has to begin in the place where it should mean the most--in Parliament--by making Parliament work better. That means reconnecting citizens with their Members of Parliament.

I am sure the member is aware of the incident which took place in Switzerland. The Swiss people presented their parliament with a referendum. They declared to their parliament that they wanted to see a real crackdown on pedophiles in their community. In other words, the Swiss wanted to lock them up and throw away the key. That came from the people. Parliament was very reluctant to deal with the matter in that fashion. However, it had to go along with the Swiss people given the fact that it was through a referendum.

I ask the parliamentary secretary, how strong will he fight for the people in this country to make sure that they have the same kind of an opportunity and protection in law for such initiatives as referenda or citizens' initiatives?

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker,I thank the member for his congratulations.

I am delighted the member has asked the question, because I can talk on a couple of points. I did not mention the democratic deficit in my speech because I actually talked about it at length yesterday. Therefore I did not repeat it.

Regarding the citizens' referendum, what I have done to fight for it in Canada is very interesting. In my previous life I was involved in rewriting the municipal act in the Yukon. We brought exactly that format into the municipal act in the Yukon, one of the places in Canada, and there are a couple of others, with all the controls. It is very complex legislation but it certainly performs quite well in that level of government.

Talking about the democratic deficit here, I can comment on the government's initiatives. I am quite excited at the proposals for addressing the democratic deficit and the results so far.

The three-line vote will allow far more votes by individual members. It is going to change the whole nature of Parliament. Ministers will have to sell their ideas to parliamentarians.

I certainly hope people on our side will not think that if we have a vote and a law is defeated, that it is a defeat for the government. I certainly would not consider it to be that. I would consider that a victory for democracy because if the proposed law was not good then we would defeat it in Parliament. I am very excited about that and I hope that all the opposition parties will vote in a similar spirit.

I do not want to take up all the time on this topic, but the other thing I am most excited about is the sending of most bills to committee before second reading, the ones that are going to be on one and two-line votes. If a bill goes to committee after second reading, the members on the committee really cannot touch the general nature of the bill, the whole intent, the general principles. When a bill is sent to committee before second reading, as was done with the assisted human reproduction bill, members of Parliament will have broad latitude in shaping that bill. Especially important is they are going to be able to select the committee chairs by secret ballot. The scrutiny of appointments is good as well.

I have one last thing to say on the democratic deficit and what has happened since this broad vision was made. I am very excited that the government is proceeding very seriously with this issue. People may not know this, but it was developed with our caucus. It was not just dropped on us. We had many meetings to put in ideas and as members can see, the government is serious.

Our first votes were two-line votes right near the beginning. I will be really excited to see how it works when we get into legislative votes. I will try to be accountable to the member to make sure that what we have promised is working as it should. I hope everyone works in that spirit and I hope this will be a much more interesting House for that reason.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:20 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Windsor West.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in reply to the Speech from the Throne. Whatever good there might have been in the throne speech, it seems to me that it has now all been obliterated by the events of the last few days and what has happened as a result of the Auditor General's report.

The Speech from the Throne is a speech whereby the government hopes, and maybe we hope collectively as a Parliament, to give people a sense of hope about the vision of the government and what we might look forward to. That is what a throne speech should be about. It seems to me that the scandal that has happened in the last few days and over the last number of months is shaking the very bedrock of Canadian democracy. It has clearly pointed at the Liberal government in terms of the horrific events that have taken place with the $100 million that has been shovelled out to front firms for the Liberal Party.

We are debating the throne speech, but I think we have to put it in the context of what is now taking place. It is particularly ironic given the proposals from the government for addressing the democratic deficit.

The throne speech was disappointing for us as New Democrats. We had hoped for a clear direction and vision that the new Prime Minister would articulate for Canadians in terms of fixing some of the serious problems that we have in this country. When we look at the throne speech and the commitments that were made around medicare, there is not a word about Roy Romanow, about home care or helping Canadians who are aging, facing difficulties, and need to have a national home care plan.

There is not a word about prescription drugs and the fact that medicare's fastest growing expense comes from prescriptions. We have this increasing stranglehold by big pharmaceutical companies that are close to the Liberal government. Instead, we got an already promised $2 billion one time funding that is doing nothing more than helping to starve the system while privatizing it at the same time. I know that very well coming from British Columbia where Gordon Campbell, the junior partner of these federal Liberals, is carrying out his privatizing plan.

Let us look at the environment, another key concern of Canadians. It is unbelievable. The only connection to the environment in the throne speech was a commitment from the government to recycle its old promises, for example, repeating its 10-year-old promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

There was no mention of mandatory GMO labelling. I receive hundreds of e-mails from people about this very simple thing, this basic right to information of what is included in the food that we buy. There is no mention of labelling of GMOs, something that the government could easily have addressed.

There was a lot of hype about a so-called new vision and new deal for Canadian cities and local communities. The reality is that each year the infrastructure deficit in this country grows by $2 billion. What has the government promised? It is about $700 million.

Many municipalities and mayors gave a favourable response, but is that a surprise to any of us? When people have been in the desert for so long waiting for anything to come their way, it seems to me anything they can grab they will be thankful for, but if we look at the real commitments for our cities they absolutely pale in relation to what the problems are. The fact is that over the next 10 years the government will spend $3 billion less on cities than has been spent on corporate tax cuts in the last three years. That puts into context the commitment that was made.

What about housing? I am the housing spokesperson for the federal New Democrats. Many of us have worked very hard to put affordable housing back on the political agenda. It is really hard to put into words the sense of anger and despair that I have and that I know is shared by millions of Canadians when we watch programs such as we saw last night on CBC that looked at homelessness across the country.

This is a wealthy country. Why is it that we still have destitute people on the streets? Why is it that we still have people who have lived for years in emergency shelters? It is because of decisions that have been made by the government. These are often passed off as individual failings, but they result from a failure of public policy.

I felt a great sense of anger when I heard that $100 million went to some phony companies and about the scandal we have been dealing with in the last few days. That $100 million would have built 4,000 new affordable housing units for Canadians who are desperately in need of housing.

To add insult to injury, the minister who was responsible for the so-called national housing framework agreement, Alfonso Gagliano, is the same guy who is now complicit in this whole scandal of shovelling money out to Liberal-friendly firms. What an outrage. Here we see the real sharp contrast of what is taking place in this country. The government is taking care of its corporate friends and its Liberal pals while Canadians are out on the street homeless with no place to go.

Let us look at education for a moment. The throne speech stated:

Investing in people will be Canada’s most important economic investment.

I agree with that. It sounds like a good thing. The throne speech went on to say:

The Government’s goal is to ensure that a lack of financial resources will not be allowed to deny, to those with the motivation and capacity, the opportunity to learn and aspire to excellence in pursuing a skilled trade, a community college diploma, or university degree.

I agree with that too. However, what solution was offered? We have heard that loan limits will be increased in recognition of the rising costs of education. What an insult to students. The national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students had it right. He said:

Prime Minister Paul Martin's proposal to increase student loan limits is a blueprint for increasing student debt.

Every time loan limits increase, universities and colleges simply hike fees, plunging students into even deeper debt. This is equivalent to a tuition fee increase.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, thousands of students hit the streets on February 4, as they did across the country, in a national day of action to protest the government's pathetic response to post-secondary education and its failure to recognize that the real problem in lack of accessibility and rising tuition is the massive retreat of public funding that has been engineered by the federal government over the last decade. That is where the blame lies. Simply raising the loan limit for students is quite an outrageous and insulting thing to do.

What about the greatest deficit that exists in our country, the social deficit? This is something that I am concerned about, and it is something that is a real priority in my riding of Vancouver East.

The president of the Canadian Council on Social Development recently wrote an article pointing out that:

...the latest census figures that came out in 2001 really end the arguments. They point to a society in which income disparity is growing, not falling: to stubbornly stagnant poverty rates; to an entrenching have-not new immigrant class that is faring far worse than previous generations of new Canadians; to continuing Third World living standards among First Nations people; to increasing homelessness; to still significantly lower income levels for women and ethnic minorities.

He raised the question of whether the Prime Minister would tackle the social deficit with as much gusto, energy and commitment as he has tackled the deficit when he was finance minister? In reality, $100 billion went to corporations but no money went toward the social deficit. Today in British Columbia 125 organizations are rallying to stop the arbitrary time limit on welfare that was caused by the government. These are only some of the issues that should have been addressed in the throne speech.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and speak about the Speech from the Throne.

I want to put some context into why we are doing this. My colleague noted that we had a situation where the government released a Speech from the Throne thinking that it would be a way of building Canada or a way of moving us forward. We know all sides of the House would expect that we could have a good debate about the ideas and about the things that we would see in the upcoming year. What has happened is that a series of other events have overtaken that and put a cloud over the government.

What I did in terms of preparing for today was to think about the last year in terms of the last Speech from the Throne which was called “The Canada We Want”. In it the government set forward a series of action items that it considered a priority at that time such as Kyoto. The government mentioned smart borders in terms of our relationship with the United States and abroad, and a number of other initiatives related to municipalities and funding.

Today the government is the same. We have not had an election. We should be looking at what has happened over the last year to see the advancement of our country, not only in terms of ourselves in our communities but as a nation abroad. It is very disappointing. That is what we need to do when we are reflecting upon this government and its Speech from the Throne that has very vague platitudes about actions that later on translate into decisions at budget time.

The government's action on Kyoto over the last year has been abysmal. Canadians have seen nothing. There has been nothing for consumers who want to purchase environmentally friendly products and services, nothing in terms of businesses that are repeatedly coming to members of Parliament from all sides saying that they have good ideas and they want to invest in a better and brighter Canada, but do not have the ability to do so.

This is important to note because this Speech from the Throne abandons that.

The throne speech talked a little bit about municipalities in terms of the GST. If we go back a year, the previous Speech from the Throne set aside money for an infrastructure fund. Grand plans were talked about for an infrastructure fund. The government was patting itself on the back about how much it would make a difference for municipalities.

I simply ask Canadians, have they seen any federal money in their ridings, their neighbourhoods, on their streets that have actually improved their infrastructure? It has not happened. Quite literally, when we broke down the numbers, it equated to approximately $50,000 per municipality in terms of infrastructure funds. It is outrageous. We are talking about a sidewalk that we might be able to install in a community or repair a small part of a road, or fill some potholes. It was $50,000 per municipality. This is not acceptable.

We now come to this Speech from the Throne and we get the GST for municipalities, that they should not have been paying for in the first place. They already had a partial rebate on the GST. Therefore, it is not a full 7% that the municipalities would get back.

I know municipalities across Ontario and in other parts of the country are going through their budget deliberations right now. That money that they are getting from the GST will not be enough to counterbalance the downloading that has happened from the federal government and other levels of government. It is an insidious way of trying to say that the government is doing something by not taking something from the municipalities and then making them say they should be thankful for that.

It is difficult in terms of accepting this Speech from the Throne's discussion points on the actual sharing of the gas tax. It is quite simple for the government. If it wants to participate in building this country instead of providing money to tax cuts or shelters or having environmental fines be tax deductible, it could use those resources and direct them straight to municipalities as the previous throne speech did.

The federal government does not have to negotiate with provincial and municipal governments because it knows the result. The result will be bogged down endlessly and Canadians will not see improvements on their streets.

That is what people should be thinking about for the next year, going into the next election: infrastructure projects. How many construction signs are up? How many bidding contracts go out for municipalities? How many more waste water treatment plants are upgraded or improved? We should compare that to the platitudes that are espoused in this document.

It is important to note another issue in regard to the Speech from the Throne. Despite the fact that there has been a literal cry for help from municipalities, from business people and from auto workers for a Canadian national auto policy, we have not even seen a single statement on that. This is critical, because we have witnessed over this last year a series of very difficult situations for the auto industry and we still have nothing. Not only that, the government is not even discussing with the United States what it is going to do in terms of challenging the fact that the U.S. governments are actually stealing Canadian jobs by funding plants. Of the last 18 plants that have been created in North America, only one has come to Canada because there has been massive government subsidization on the U.S. side from a trade agreement that our government agreed to, yet does not challenge--and there is a dispute panel available for that at NAFTA--nor does the government say that at least we are going to create a national auto policy. That is dangerous.

The fact of the matter is that we have 98 Liberals in Ontario, with the auto industry one in six, and they could not get a single notation of the auto industry at a critical time in this nation's history. We are seeing some great technological evolution in the automobile. The key for the future of the automobile is going to be what comes out of the tailpipe for our environmental concerns, but more important for our consumers and our citizens at the end of the day is to have jobs producing these new vehicles, and quite frankly that simply is not happening.

We have these new technologies that will be rolled out, and what will happen is that the United States basically will be stealing or providing subsidies to make sure that they get them. That is what happened recently with DaimlerChrysler and its new hybrid engine that is going to Michigan. It got massive subsidies and now it has a brand new plant manufacturing a hybrid engine, which we do not have in our community or here in Canada.

I also want to talk about a specific issue, because it is important that people can at least associate some of the issues of the Speech from the Throne with their own communities. In Windsor, Ontario, we have been struggling to get the government to act on government funds committed by the former prime minister for border infrastructure improvements, with the province of Ontario, funds of $300 million. More than one year later we have not seen a single penny, despite the fact that the community literally has cried for help.

On top of that, and this is actually a scandal of national proportions, we have a municipality here that is being offered $300 million, or could be eligible if there were actually a plan for which they could apply, for infrastructure funds, but the plan has been so corrupt and so flawed that they have actually hired an environmental lawyer to the tune of $1.5 million in a war chest to fight the government's plan.

In fact, another municipality, the town of LaSalle, has done the same thing. They have hired an environmental lawyer to fight this government. How incredible is that, when we have a lower level of government, a municipality, having to reach out to the taxpayers to fight the senior level of government's implementation of their own dollars? It is absolutely obscene. It is scandalous. It has to change.

We have simple items of consensus. I want to boil this down so people across Canada understand this. One of the roadways we have to cross is called Huron Church Road. There are approximately 10 lanes, with approximately 40,000 vehicles, many of them tens of thousands of trucks, that travel this corridor per day. We have schools, churches, business and homes there. In getting to one of the schools, Assumption College, a very historic one in Canada, people cannot get across the actual streets safely. We have had tragedy after tragedy.

Despite that, we cannot get a pedestrian crosswalk. The absolute cost of this, the total, is $1.5 million. We cannot get it. The Prime Minister's company can get $10 million in government grants, but we cannot get $1.5 million to get students safely to school. Tragically, last month a mother was killed taking her children to school. How many more deaths have to happen before the government actually translates some of these things that are in the throne speech to real things that change Canadians' lives? The government is accountable.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:40 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first of all would like to acknowledge the new member of Parliament from Windsor, Ontario, and wish him well in his journey here in this very special place.

I am very familiar with that road area he is talking about near Assumption College High School in Windsor. I think it would be very important to clarify to the people listening to the debate that the Government of Canada does not have the responsibility to do crosswalks. This is essentially generated from the municipality. If this were a pure responsibility of the Department of Transport and no other jurisdiction were involved, then I think he would have a point and we would be happy to take it up with the Department of Transport. I wish he would clarify that matter, because in all my experience I have never seen a situation where the national government was involved in pedestrian walkways.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Hence, Mr. Speaker, this is the way the federal government has been able to escape responsibility.

We should look at Huron Church Road. In our municipality, the 400 series highway, the 401, ends before the bridge crossing by about six kilometres. The government stopped the 401 and hung the municipality out to dry for the rest of the infrastructure. Because that is a connecting link highway, it is the provincial government that the hon. member supports which has jurisdiction on that. It has to be done in conjunction.

Second, the City of Windsor could actually get infrastructure funds if the government would actually fund municipal infrastructure that applied to this and not starve out the city. I want to read a comment here, because people do not care who is responsible; they want the funds to happen. If governments can make other things happen, they can do this:

My children attend Assumption high school. I fear every day that they may not make it across Huron Church Rd. One of their friends has become an orphan this year because a truck ran over their mother. It is irresponsible for the government to continue to ignore a problem they know puts children at risk every day, when they can decide immediate to rectify the situation. No excuse/ reason will justify the continued negligence of the government on this issue!

We cannot expect the taxpayers of the City of Windsor to pay tens of millions of dollars to put in pedestrian crosswalks for an international truck policy. By allowing us to go into NAFTA and not putting any money into infrastructure for cities to deal with this, it is federal trade policy that created the problem. It is not the citizens of Windsor who should have to pay for international truck traffic because of federal trade policy. They should not be hung out to dry anymore.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his intervention on the Speech from the Throne. I would like him to also note that there are a lot of other things that were missed from the speech as well, not only on auto policy, not only on those workers who are unemployed and do not know where they are going because the federal government has not taken action.

In my constituency, the farmers, the ranchers and the young families are coming into my office to say they are about to lose everything. This BSE issue, with the agriculture crisis that has gone on for years now, is about to ruin them. They literally break into tears. When we have a young 30 year old guy in front of us in tears, we can see how critical this really is.

We have to remember that the government did not include that in its throne speech, just as it did not include the auto industry. It did not include anything about those young farmers. I would like the member to reiterate what was missed in that throne speech.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question, because I think it is especially important to denote the age group he identified. Whether people are in the auto industry, the cattle industry or the farming industry, the age of 30 gives us a good example of some of the problems that we currently have with this government. Literally, we have students graduating and people coming out of school with huge debts. At the same time, they are trying to have families and get started in business.

What the Speech from the Throne did not do was provide hope and opportunity for those people who are starting employment later and who are having challenges in industry outside of their capabilities because of government policy. That is one of the important things a Speech from the Throne should drive to: it actually should have hope for all.

Similar to that is the lack of mention of seniors in the Speech from the Throne. There was one mention of seniors, the people who built this country. It is not acceptable.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:50 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would get me the details on that pedestrian walkway in Windsor, I would give him an undertaking that we would work with Infrastructure Canada and the transport department and do our best to fix it, ASAP.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:50 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the offer. I will do that.

Unfortunately, this has been the way his members opposite have been running this in the past.

Maybe the member can help.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

12:50 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to take part in the debate on the throne speech. As we know, the objectives of the Government of Canada are very clear.

We want a Canada, and that includes the regions, with strong social foundations, where people are treated with dignity, where they are given a hand when needed and where no one is left behind. We want a country for Canadians. But we also want these vast regions of the country, and the individuals, families and communities that live in them, to have the tools they need to find local solutions to local problems.

We want a strong economy for the 21st century, with well-paying and meaningful work; ready at the forefront of the next big technological revolution; and built on a solid national foundation.

To this end, the Government of Canada is committed to a new deal for Canada’s municipalities, always in cooperation with the provinces, and this deal includes our large region of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.

Our region covers an area of some 802,000 square kilometres and has a population of about 100,000. The distance from the south to the north, is 2,000 kilometres. Ours is a vast Nordic and semi-urban region.

The Speech from the Throne talks about health issues. We already know that some projects are truly based on cooperation. We also know that a pilot project is currently underway in Val d'Or, in the Vallée de l'Or. The purpose of the project is to help address the shortage of doctors, because we know this shortage is a problem in remote areas.

Nonetheless, we know that the institutions, the committees set up in northern hospitals in Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, have found solutions. They are going to put together a multidisciplinary team of health professionals. This team will be responsible for monitoring the health of patients who require special care.

The Val-d'Or project is consistent with Quebec's desire to create an integrated services network, along the lines of hospital mergers, and always in cooperation with the Government of Canada.

Let us come back to our great region. We are talking mainly about regional and rural development. The Government therefore remains committed to supporting economic development through the regional agencies where the focus must be on strengthening the sinews of an economy for the 21st century, building on indigenous strength.

The government will develop a northern strategy, ensuring that economic development related to energy and mining is brought on stream in partnership with people in the know, in other words by forming associations with the provincial governments.

In November 2003, I wrote to the Minister of Natural Resources, who responded today, telling me that with respect to the Prospector's Association or the Quebec Mineral Exploration Association, its president, Pierre Bérubé, has made several interventions in the past few months to discuss mineral exploration. That is an example of how the government can find solutions in cooperation with people in the know.

However, we should look at the Speech from the Throne, which says we must work in partnership with northern Canadians. Agreements should be entered into by Quebec and Canada, like the ones that existed several years ago, which were made for the long term; these were five-year agreements.Cooperation with the provinces should be sought in order to be able to move forward with specific mining projects.

In northern Ontario, FedNor, the Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario, is collaborating very well with the people of the area to find solutions. That is what we want for Quebec. We have CED, Canada Economic Development, but that includes the big urban centres. We know that these large urban centres receive nearly 75% of the money available for regional development. We do not want to be a part of it.

In my riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, the paramount issue is communications. The people are talking about telecommunications and technology. But there is a problem in these vast regions, in the matter of broadband and the Internet. We know that, in smaller communities, the government is spending millions—so it has announced—but we must find a consensus.

We are seeing something else as well. There is the issue of licence renewal for Radio Nord Communications. The unionized employees have been on strike for over a year. Radio Nord has been closed since then. The union is demanding separate newscasts, better separation between radio and television, and adequate staffing covering the whole territory.

We know that the CRTC is responsible. When people come to talk to us in our region, they always say, “It is up to you, the government, to fix this”. But, in telecommunications, the CRTC makes the decisions, at arm's length from the government. The only thing we can do is to speak, as I am doing now, to pass the message along.

We know that the CRTC is very aware of what is going on in the House of Commons. It is important that the CRTC demand that the minimum number of minutes produced locally each week be increased. This is what business people in remote regions, and not just the union, want.

But let us get back to another issue that is really important in our vast region of 802,000 square kilometres. Ours is the largest federal electoral district in the ten provinces of Canada. I represent the only riding located north of the 60th parallel. It includes northern communities called northern villages, where the Inuit are currently living.

We are talking primarily about aboriginal and Inuit people. We know that we want to fully share our country's prosperity, but we also know that, as a whole, aboriginal people, be it the Cree, the Naskapi, the Algonquin or the Inuit, contribute to the economy. Everything that gets to their communities comes from the south, which means that people in the south also contribute to the economy. Some might say that the Inuit do not pay taxes, but that is not true. The Inuit from Nunavik pay taxes like all of us, like all the members of this House. They pay school taxes, federal and provincial income tax, and they contribute to the economy.

There are problems in that vast region of ours. We know that, in the Chapais-Chibougamau area, people really want to be involved in the mining and forestry sectors. The problem that we are currently experiencing with the United States regarding our softwood lumber is slowing down the economy. Currently, we may have fewer layoffs in our region because companies do not want to shut down. They want to put people to work and so on.

Even though our government says in the throne speech that we will be involved in the mining and forestry sectors, a long term solution must be found regarding softwood lumber and agriculture. The United States has been trying to get at us for 50 years through our softwood lumber. They have imposed a tax and anti-dumping duties. Still, in our regions, whether it is Val-d'Or, Senneterre, Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Matagami, Chapais-Chibougamau or James Bay, the forestry sector is really important.

When we take a close look at what is going on with agriculture in a northern region such as Abitibi-Témiscamingue, we realize that there is a national crisis. It happened in western Canada, but the situation back home is really serious. I often ask my government to create programs that do not have a set duration, but rather an indeterminate one. This national crisis could last two or three years. The government is aware of what is going on in other countries.

The throne speech says that the government will work to foster a technologically advanced agricultural sector and find solutions to ensure the survival of farmers. Therefore, I am telling the government that a permanent program is needed, not one with a specific end date; for example, saying that it will end December 31 this year, and then start all over again. As always, action must be taken in collaboration with the provinces.

Currently, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the situation with regard to farming and the mad cow crisis is not the same as in southern Quebec. We know what is happening. I was talking with Alain Richard, the President of the UPA, who said that the issues are not the same. The governments of Canada and Quebec have done everything possible to ensure it is the best program. That is what we want. We know this is a national crisis. It is going to last two or three years.

An agreement regarding the James Bay Cree was signed on November 11, 1975. The government should respect the James Bay agreement. The great chief, Dr. Ted Moses, and all the chiefs of Cree communities along James Bay have been making demands for several months now, particularly with regard to housing.

In these communities, housing is critical. Even nowadays, in Cree communities in James Bay and Inuit communities in Nunavik, 15 to 18 people can share a two-bedroom house. Approximately 5 or 6 kids will share one room. The throne speech said that housing solutions must be found, and not just in the major urban centres. We need to think about housing in aboriginal communities, both Inuit and non-Inuit.

You know how it works. Everything comes from the south: wood, windows and all manner of other things. In other words, the aboriginal people and the Inuit are part of this economy along with the people in the south.

As far as Nunavik is concerned, in that huge riding, fishing is an issue. Fishing, shrimp fishing in particular, is a means of survival for the Inuit of Nunavik. We know there are quotas. In the north, there are beluga quotas. The Inuit have a limit of 14 per community, but would like that number to be 20. We know there is overhunting. However, I think the government should increase the quotas for the communities in Nunavik, because if they are too low, people are just going to hunt on the sly. I would rather see them hunt in the open, with improved quotas.

In the throne speech, the Government of Canada stated the intention to seek solutions for all the aboriginal communities in my riding.

Now, to go back to the mining sector, since we are talking about local problems. This is an opportunity to speak about what is going on in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, James Bay and Nunavik. People will say that is far away.

Mining is important there. It takes seven years to get a mine up and running. There is a problem in Matagami at this time, one to which the people are trying to find a solution. They know that one of the mines is about to close. Mines are closing all over Canada. If the ore is exhausted, then a new mine must be found.

The people at the Noranda mine already have a project called Espérance, but they are waiting for the price of copper or zinc to go up enough before they start up. The workers in that region are really far—approximately 250 kilometres away—from any big city in the south. A way must be found for Noranda to get this project under way in order to ensure the people of long term employment.

The throne speech contains many wishes, but we know nothing will be fixed right away. A budget is needed. The government, through the Minister of Finance, can put a program in place at any point in the year, as far as mining operations are concerned.

In conclusion, it is really important to find solutions for remote areas. If we look at the issue of primary resources, in the forest industry, 68% of our primary resource in softwood lumber is processed in major urban centres. It is transported over 500 kilometres to the south. In its Speech from the Throne, the government supports us with respect to secondary and tertiary processing.

It is not easy for a promoter who wants to bring a project to the table. We need to find new ways of handing the financing. The Business Development Bank of Canada can help with loans, and also with the softwood lumber crisis. People are talking. There is $2 billion in an account at the border. The United States said, in an agreement in principle, that it is prepared to reimburse 52%. If it is prepared to say we will get 52% back, I am all for it. Let them free that money up and return it for Canadian industries to use. As much as $1 billion could be made available for the industries to use.

In the end, with respect to the softwood lumber crisis, I would still prefer action, a specific judgment, a legal result so that we can win in the long run. Nonetheless, in the meantime, if they want to repay 52% of the money that has already been paid out, they could return it to Canadian forest companies. We are talking about $1 billion that is sitting somewhere. It could help the forest companies. Many of them do not lay off anyone. The employees continue to work at the expense of profits.

In the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister of Canada clearly said we would move forward and find new approaches. Together, we will be able to find solutions. It will not be easy, but we must work together in cooperation with all the political parties, for the future of our young people in particular.