Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to respond to the Speech from the Throne.
I want to begin by talking about an issue that was absent from the throne speech. It is amazing that the government and the Prime Minister failed to address what I think is perhaps the greatest crisis facing Canada today: the beef issue. It is certainly a crisis of a national issue and one that affects western Canada.
The Prime Minister said that his mission was to address concerns in western Canada but the fact that he failed to address the issue of mad cow even once is such a failure on his part that it is inexcusable.
The fallout from this disease has made beef, feed and the slaughter of livestock a national crisis. The Liberals, frankly, have mishandled the issue since the first case was discovered in May 2003. The border remains closed. Confidence in the beef industry has been shaken, which is truly heartbreaking. Thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs and their way of life because the Liberals have overlooked this plight. The Liberals have overlooked the fact that the beef industry is the third largest contributor to our gross domestic product.
We must encourage the government and the agriculture minister to get active now to address the problem. We do not have months to address the problem. We have anywhere from 1 million to 3 million head of cattle in Canada that will be surplus if the border is not opened. The situation will be catastrophic if the government does not act.
I should point out that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest.
The second issue I wish to speak to is the Kyoto accord. In the throne speech the Prime Ministers says that he will go above and beyond Kyoto, whatever that means.
I want to give some background for people. In the summer of 1997, Canada and 160 other nations met in Japan and agreed to targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement that set out these targets and the options available to countries to achieve them is known as the Kyoto protocol. Canada's target is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by the period between 2008 and 2012, which, considering that our economy has grown since then, is about a 30% reduction from today's standards.
Five years later the government brought forward a motion in the House of Commons and ratified it in December 2002. What happened at the time is that members, on this side of the House especially, were demanding an implementation plan of how the government would reduce our emissions and possibly our production by 30%, especially when the Canadian manufacturers and exporters predicted that 450,000 jobs would be lost in Canada if we were to actually achieve those targets.
What did the Prime Minister do? When he was out of cabinet he criticized the then minister of the environment and said that the government had no implementation plan. It was at a Liberal leadership debate where he was debating the former finance minister and former deputy prime minister and said that the government had no implementation plan whatsoever, which was a direct criticism of the former minister of the environment.
What does the Prime Minister do when he assumes office? He reappoints the same Minister of the Environment who has done such a lousy job on this entire issue to the same position. Then the Prime Minister says that we will go above and beyond Kyoto. The government does not know how it will do it but it will say it because it thinks Canadians want to hear it.
The fact is that the government has no plan on Kyoto. It had better produce one because a lot of Canadian jobs are at risk if it does not produce one and it tries to achieve these targets.
We at the industry committee have asked two fundamental questions on this issue for months and we have not received a response. What questions have we asked? First: Who will measure the emission reductions or increases according to companies and industries? This is a basic question because different companies say they have reduced emissions by different amounts. The answer we get back is that the government does not know who will measure the emissions.
How will Canadians know if they have achieved targets if they do not know if they are actually meeting the emissions because we do not know who is actually going to measure them?
The second question is very important to many industries and companies. When the government signed Kyoto in 1997 a lot of companies, such as NOVA Chemicals in Alberta, took some fundamental steps in addressing and reducing their emissions. They got what they called low hanging fruit. They reduced their emissions as much as they could between 1997 and 2002. They are still waiting for an answer on whether they will get credit for reducing emissions based upon their good faith at that time. The government still has not said yes or no to giving the company credit for those early emissions. It is absolutely inexcusable.
The third area I want to touch upon is the whole issue of corporate welfare. I want to quote what the present Prime Minister said when he was finance minister in his famous budget speech of 1995. He said:
Across government, we are taking major action to substantially reduce subsidies to business. These subsidies do not create long lasting jobs. Nobody has made that case more strongly than business itself.
It is now clear that that statement means nothing because the government in fact has doled out billions and billions of dollars, particularly through Industry Canada and certain other agencies, in business subsidies. In fact, it does not apply even to the Prime Minister's own companies because as we know he received about $160 million in government grants.
I want to use the example of Technology Partnerships Canada which is run by Industry Canada. It is a perfect example of what is wrong with corporate welfare. Less than 2% of the money that has been loaned out since 1996 has been repaid. Therefore, of the $1.6 billion of hard earned taxpayer money given to various companies that the Liberals deemed fit, 2% has actually been paid back.
Industry Canada no longer keeps track of jobs created or jobs maintained through this program. It said that it was for job creation. Now it has even removed that from its website.
Our own calculations show that it costs Canadian taxpayers $625,000 to create one job under the program. That is absolutely amazing. It is impossible to tell whether this money is being spent on research and development or if it is just subsidizing certain activities within the various corporations.
The fact is that generation and development of new scientific knowledge is pivotal to the growth and prosperity of the Canadian economy. We in the Conservative Party are absolutely committed to that. We are committed to improving Canada's capacity to perform research but that does not mean getting involved in corporate welfare and giving money to companies across the country that are Liberal friendly.
I would also encourage the government to reassess its R and D tax credits. The member who spoke before us bragged about how much the government improved it. Almost everyone in the sector, and in small business across the country, say that it does not work, that is too regulatory and too administrative to even fill out the forms. They want to see it reformed.
The previous member spoke to the science agenda. In a sense I compliment the government a little on the appointment of Dr. Carty as the national science adviser. However I want to offer some comments. This is another example of the Liberal government taking a good idea and not implementing it fully.
It was at least five years ago that this party and in particular Preston Manning, a former leader, and the member for Kelowna who still sits in the House with us, called for a chief scientist. It is heartening to see that the idea has finally reached the government's benches, but our concern is that this person will again report to the Prime Minister. This is another example of the centralization of power in Canadian politics.
What should happen is what happens in the United States. The chief science adviser actually sits at the cabinet table as a full cabinet minister and is a very high profile person. Even better than that would be the example set in the United Kingdom where the chief science adviser has a full budget and reports to Parliament so that parliamentarians of all parties can access this person's information and ask him for advice on issues like Kyoto and so on. We should have a chief scientist in Canada who actually reports to Parliament.
I want to touch on one more science issue. Preston Manning wrote in the Globe recently about the difficulty of scientists across the country accessing government funding. They have to go to various sources. We should have one funnel where scientists and researchers can go to one government agency or one department to get approval for their big science project, such as the synchrotron in Saskatoon, and then have the government decide how to fund the particular project.
I want to finish up on the biggest issue in my riding over the past week or so, the sponsorship scandal. What is most disturbing to me today is the continuing pattern of absolute disregard and disrespect by the government for Canadian tax dollars.
I was listening to Rex Murphy on Cross Country Checkup yesterday. A lady from Calgary said it best when she said “This government simply does not treat our tax dollars as taxpayer funds in trust. They treat it as their own to do with as they see fit”.
That is fundamentally wrong, which is why we need a change in government.