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House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was program.

Topics

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague on her speech. Also I want to commend her colleagues for their fine work on the Task Force on Women Entrepreneurs. This is a very fine piece of work. I was pleased that the Speech from the Throne echoed many of the recommendations of the task force.

Perhaps the member could comment on the fact that the Speech from the Throne suggests that it is going to be an extension of the multilateral framework for early learning and child care. That matter is very important for all small business people, for all entrepreneurs but particularly for women entrepreneurs.

The throne speech also mentioned the extension of the scope of programs currently available to small and medium size businesses to social enterprises. I think I understand what that means but I would be grateful if my colleague could explain that to us.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the multilateral framework regarding child care, this is part of our national children's agenda and also the importance that the national children's agenda places on early childhood development. Certainly in our last budget there were moneys specifically targeted for that multilateral framework.

As I said during my speech, it is important that we address this issue because the women who are self-employed are falling through the cracks when it comes to maternity leave, for example. That is why one of the recommendations of the task force was that this government as quickly as possible should consider extending maternity benefits to the self-employed.

We have also asked the government to look at other tax incentives such as the deductibility of child care as an expense for the purpose of producing income. We are looking at that altogether as a framework of what needs to be done to ensure that the children of all women, not just women who are in the workforce, but children of women who are working for themselves, are taken care of in the early childhood years.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I would ask the government House leader to be patient, since there are only two minutes left for questions and comments, following which he will have the floor.

The hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague opposite with a great deal of interest. If we are going to make this applicable, we have to take a look at Canadians whether they live north of the 60th parallel or on the 49th parallel.

In my area there are some huge ranches run by families. The partners in those businesses, sometimes the male and sometimes the female, but having said that, they too should be eligible for some type of care even if it is not possible geographically. If there is childcare, money or deductions for others who are geographically available, then there must be some levelling of the playing field for those women who are in business with their husbands in a large enterprise but who have been left out of the picture and always have been left out of the picture. That is grossly unfair and grossly wrong to many Canadians.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was one of the things that we actually looked at. I find myself agreeing with my colleague across the floor because it is unfair that the current EI system discriminates against family owned businesses, especially when the wife is a partner in that business. Although she perhaps pays into EI or she should be able to, she is not eligible to collect it just because of that. That was one of the issues our report identified.

The other issue my colleague opposite identified is the problems and challenges and barriers that rural women encounter are greater than the ones in the city. We need to work with those women to ensure that the programs are in place, either regionally or across Canada to ensure that those barriers are overcome.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

February 3rd, 2004 / 3:50 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties and I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That a take-note debate on bovine spongiform encephalopathy shall take place for four hours from the ordinary time of daily adjournment on February 4, 2004, provided that the provisions of Standing Order 53.1 shall apply mutatis mutandis to this debate.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

Some members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

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

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this throne speech, so carefully prepared for such a long time because the Prime Minister had ample opportunity, will not go down in history for its renewal or its vision or for its concrete initiatives, with the exception of one short sentence. Naturally, I am making a prediction, but I do not think I am wrong. This short sentence reads as follows:

Jurisdiction must be respected. But Canadians do not go about their daily livesworried about which jurisdiction does this or that.

This short sentence read slowly by the Governor General stated very clearly for the first time that the Liberal Government of Canada does not care at all about the Constitution. A constitution is the basic principles and rights that establish legal standards, particularly in a federation.

The federal Liberal government does not care, and yet, it claims to be a model of democracy and federalism, to the point of creating a “Canadians Corps” to spread the gospel about the “Canadian” federation. But this is good news for a country whose government has forgotten its history and cannot recall it without a certain unease.

This history, this Constitution, reminds us that Canada would never have existed if Lower Canada, called Quebec after the 1837-1838 insurrection, had not been crushed and forced to unite with Upper Canada. If the “French-Canadians”, in Lower Canada, with the English-Canadians who fought by their side in the insurrection, had not agreed to discuss a constitution of principles, rights and the respect for individual and collective rights, which were ultimately adopted by the assembly and introduced as legislation in London—had things been different, they would have been better—, there never would have been a country called Canada.

Even at this assembly joining eastern and western Canada, the proposal passed with a very small majority. I also remember that the Liberals of the day, called the nationalists, had asked for a referendum. Their request was not granted until they agreed to form, with the other colonies, the country that would become Canada.

The Constitution is a contract that allows the provinces, in a federation such as this, to have sovereign authority over areas of jurisdictions, while the federal government has sovereign authority over other areas of jurisdiction.

However, this Constitution has been trashed repeatedly since the failure of the Meech Lake accord.

Even in Quebec, the Liberals under Jean Charest are having a hard time finding their place in this federalism, because federalism as studied through history and as developed by history no longer exists. The majority is speaking as one voice in Quebec, a nation that is different, as our leader pointed out earlier this morning. We are different, no better no worst, just different. We have the right to be different and we still believe that that right was enshrined in the Constitution when it was written.

The word “but” on which the Governor General put emphasis told Quebeckers, even those who still believe in Canada, “You live in a country where we form the majority, so you need to accept the fact that we will not recognize you as being different.”

A constitution is a contract. People do not look at their lease, their mortgage or their house contract on a daily basis. However, when major rights issues are raised, we are rather glad to have a document which we can bring to court, if need be.

Although we have a Liberal government, the country is now being led according to the philosophy of John A. Macdonald. I remember, and I hope other members remember as well, that John A. Macdonald wished for a unitary government, which he was never able to implement.

The throne speech is quite eloquent about what the government intends to do outside its jurisdictions, but remains strangely silent on several crucial problems it is having in its own jurisdictions. I would be remiss if I did not mention mad cow disease. In fact, we want to have an emergency debate on this issue tomorrow.

How is it that this issue is not addressed when there are so many cattle producers and people in the agri-food industry that have gone bankrupt or are on the brink of bankruptcy? The problem affects Quebec as well as western Canada. Not a word was said about softwood lumber, even if thousands of jobs, 20,000 to be exact, have been lost because of the crisis in this industry.

How is it that there was no mention of marine transportation? Was there not a reference in the red book to shipbuilding and was a committee not struck? Reference to the Quebec appeal court judgment, as significant as it is in relation to this government's intentions in connection with one of the major problems of the Quebec nation: its demographics. How could this not have been addressed? This question involves Quebec's ability to create a parental leave program which will really enable couples to have the family they desire.

Why no mention of dredging the St. Lawrence? This is a matter of concern to thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, millions of Quebeckers. In connection with this dredging, Senator Hillary Clinton begged Canada not to bow to the wishes of a number of major shipping companies, as well as the U.S. army.

Why was there no mention in the Speech from the Throne of women and children living in poverty, despite the numerous poor showings in UNDP reports? All of these are important questions, and there are others I have not touched on. There are, however, two major ones I wish to speak about.

This Speech from the Throne, claiming to support transparency, democracy and renewal, makes no mention of the missile defence shield. If there is one single issue of importance to the future of the people of Quebec, this is it. So why no reference to it? Do they want us to conclude it is encompassed by the term “security“? It is impossible. The missile defence shield is far too broad an issue.

Yet the Minister of National Defence sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld in which he stated as follows:

It is our intent to negotiate in the coming months a missile defence framework memorandum of understanding with the United States, with the objective of including Canada as a participant in the current U.S. missile defence program and expanding and enhancing information exchange.

Then, to be sure there was no misunderstanding, he went on:

We believe that our two nations should move on an expedited basis to amend the Norad agreement to take into account Norad's contribution to the missile defence mission.

They are working on the necessary political and financial arrangements.

This is extremely serious. The U.S. missile defence system is part of the comprehensive program of preemptive strike and new world domination strategy. The United States is acting as if it were an empire. From the very beginning, the missile defence system provides for the use of space for nuclear purposes.

This missile defence system will not guarantee security for Quebec and Canada, but it will surely reignite the arms race. For example, China is prepared to sign an international agreement to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction. Those who think that China will let the Americans build this missile defence system without doing anything about it are sadly mistaken.

The missile defence system is an extremely important issue. Quebeckers do not want such a system. Yet, the throne speech is totally silent on this.

There is also the issue of international assistance. I must say that I cringed when I read that Canada can do more than the other countries. As regards international assistance, Mr. Pearson, who, at one time, was the Deputy Minister of External Affairs, had recommended to the United Nations that such assistance be set at 0.7% of our GDP. If only Canada had done its share, the situation in developing countries would not be as bad as it is.

When the current Prime Minister was in charge of the finances, Canada was in sixth place; it was at 0.45% of the GDP. Last year it was 0.22%. This year it is 0.28% because the OECD took into account some $500 million for Africa. This will not be a recurrent expenditure. Next year, this money will be gone, and Canada will slip back down the list of donor countries to 19th out of 22.

I feel discouraged when I read that Canada can do more than its share. If we want the public to be involved in political projects, it should at the very least to be told the truth.

Truth is at the root of democracy, at the root of the trust that the Prime Minister says he wants to restore.

I cannot help but make the connection with what was often the topic of discussion following the events of September 11, 2001. It was often said that we must fight terrorism, but if we do not root out the conditions, such as ongoing conflicts, injustices, poverty, hunger and disease, that create a breeding ground for terrorism, failing that, whatever claims they make about the openness of the world and opportunities available to Canada, they are not telling the truth or making the proposals the Prime Minister says he wants to make.

This is a very sad Speech from the Throne. The Prime Minister wanted to raise a lot of hopes. Unfortunately, all I see is a lot of general and generous ideas and very little to help Quebeckers and Canadians feel more secure.

The Prime Minister said he wanted Quebeckers to feel part of Canada, but I am sorry, this Speech from the Throne will not help.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Mercier has two minutes left. She can take a moment to get her voice back and then carry on with her speech.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Speaking about the importance of discussing the missile defence program, I started explaining earlier that Canada could not participate in it without harming the independent foreign policy it wants to conduct.

The position it took on the attack on Iraq helped Canada to partly regain its international reputation. In the current environment, participating in the missile defence program would make it lose this independence.

In fact, Ambassador Cellucci has made it very clear that Canada could have a different foreign policy but that it had to be complementary.

The prime minister says he wants Canada to regain its position. Regarding the decision that was made, I believe that the demonstrations and the mobilization of the Bloc Quebecois and the people of Quebec led Jean Chrétien to say no the war against Iraq.

Should Canada participate in the missile defence program, it will lose the benefit presently drawn from a foreign policy that is not hostile, since there is no question of being hostile to our American brothers. The American people are our friends and allies. The policy of the current American administration is an aggressive one. It is not consistent with what Canadian diplomacy and policy have been all about. It is certainly not what Quebeckers want.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I believe she explained quite well the underlying elements of the throne speech. I wish she would speak again on this point, because she may not have had enough time to describe the consequences, for the citizens of this country, of this government's direction with respect to American policies and our participation in the missile defence plan. We do not know the costs involved, but we know full well that huge investments will be required, that it will cost a fortune.

The Speech from the Throne refers to substantial reinvestments in defence and security. All those plans are clearly outlined in the throne speech. Reference is also made to more dredging in the St. Lawrence Seaway, which, for the Americans, is not only a question of transport but also a question of security.

As far as costs are concerned, what is proposed in the throne speech is absolutely gigantic, and the amounts will be spent at the expense of health, education or transfers to provinces, in fact, at the expense of all services.

I hope my colleague will expand on how the public will be affected by the directions outlined in the throne speech. I would like to quote a short excerpt from that speech to show to what extent the federal government has withdrawn from services, particularly in the regions.

At page 17, the Speech from the Throne states:

A Canada where the benefits of the 21st century economy are being reaped fromcoast to coast to coast... But government has an essential enabling role.

Do you know what that essential enabling role is? It is not to invest in the regions; it is a role of moderator. We will only be moderators. We will go and tell people, “Do the development yourselves”. It is written:

This will be achieved primarily through the efforts of Canadians themselves.

Therefore, the federal government continues to withdraw from all services and from the regions. I would like to hear my hon. colleague on that.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and his reminder. Both were extremely important.

The missile defence shield project of the U.S. administration will be very costly. I would simply point out that the technology is not up to par. Many experts have agreed that the costs would be huge. And as I said earlier, the missile defence shield will be useful not necessarily to protect the United States but rather, with all the billions of dollars invested in that project, to ensure the technological predominance of the U.S. military industry. That is quite obvious.

What would be the impact on Canada? What would be the nature of such an impact, if there is to be one? The offset could be quite harmful in terms of foreign policy.

However, I just want to add—and that is why the hon. member's question was so interesting—that several experts recently said that, where the relationship between Canada and the United States is concerned, if Canada thinks that by yielding on some of the U.S. security concerns it can score points on trade issues, such as softwood lumber or mad cow disease, it is wrong, because those decisions are not made by the same people. The U.S. administration, whether at the Pentagon or in the White House, is responsible, of course, for defence decisions. But it does not have a say on trade issues, which are more closely related to what is being done in Congress.

In the process, we have to be careful not to be conciliatory to the point of losing sight of the interests of our citizens, our democracy and the freedom enjoyed by all Quebeckers and Canadians, just in the hope of quickly coming to an agreement on some trade issues. That would be a huge, a terrible mistake.

I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to make these comments.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth. He is a colleague who has worked very hard on environmental issues and shares my concern about the north.

Canada is a northern nation. The huge expanse of the Arctic which makes up 50% of our country's land mass is an integral part of our national identity and a strategic component of our country's future.

Being a northern nation carries distinct responsibilities. These include respecting and responding to the needs of northerners, preserving northern ecosystems, safeguarding our sovereignty and taking leadership in circumpolar activities, particularly in areas of northern science and social development.

In the Speech from the Throne we heard that Canadians are uniquely positioned for the new global realities, open to the world, comfortable with the interdependence of nations, aware of our global responsibilities and that Canadians want to see Canada's place of pride and influence in the world restored.

Canada is the largest land mass in the circumpolar north, an area of increasing geopolitical significance. We have obligations that arise from our participation in circumpolar north institutions, for example, the Arctic Council.

We must as an important national priority recognize Canada's place as an arctic nation and act to enhance our leadership among other arctic nations. From both economic and political perspectives, the north has the potential to become a significant factor in world affairs.

Canada was once acknowledged to have a world class expertise in northern science and research. Unfortunately the last 10 years of downsizing of Canadian polar research capacity has led to an exodus of Canadian scientists from critical northern research fields at a time when many other nations are significantly expanding their arctic science operations, even in Canada.

We have made commitments to a number of international obligations such as the Kyoto protocol, the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the Stockholm convention and the Montreal protocol, all of which should be better informed by northern science. As well, active engagement in fulfilling these international commitments will enhance our sovereignty.

At the current rate of global warming, arctic sea ice will disappear in the summer allowing navigation through the Northwest Passage. A report written by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission indicates that as the Arctic Ocean thaws, the U.S. Navy will increase its surveillance of the area.

Given the United States' current sensitivities to security issues, it may come to view the Canadian north as a security gap. In addition, Canadian jurisdiction over the Northwest Passage is not accepted by the United States, the European Union and even, as some suggest, Japan.

As George Hobson, a former head of the Polar Continental Shelf Project with many decades of experience in the north has said, if we do not demonstrate our claim to our land, water or airspace in some manner, we will lose it. Conducting science in our northern lands is a peaceful way to underline our claim to sovereignty. We need to build a stronger sustained national presence in our north.

The Speech from the Throne outlines an important objective of the government to ensure that every region of the country has the opportunity to move forward socially and economically on a rising tide of progress. As we share opportunity, so too will we share prosperity.

Demographically the north is different from the rest of Canada. In Nunavut, 56% of the population is under 25 compared with 33% of the Canadian population as a whole. At its current growth rate, Nunavut's population will double in two decades. Unemployment rates are unacceptably high in many northern communities.

The settlement of aboriginal claims has paved the way for new developments in the energy and mineral industries. These opportunities are also being influenced by the availability of new technologies in the north. R and D activities include research on renewable energies and other things.

There is tremendous potential to increase indigenous and northern capacity for innovation, commercialization and job creation. The success of these emerging economic development opportunities rests on the creation of knowledge to better inform social and ecological impacts of economic development.

As Canadians know, resource extraction, global warming and contaminants pose significant threats to sustainability. A wide range of indicators shows that the northern environment is changing at an unprecedented rate. Sea cover is thinning and retreating, wild life habitation is shifting and shrinking, and the permafrost that supports communities and infrastructure is at risk of melting. Our understanding of many of the stressors responsible for these changes require ongoing and enhanced contributions from scientific and scholarly research.

Northern issues, most importantly, have a human face. We must not lose sight of how massive ecological change affects aboriginal peoples and other northerners. As my friend, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, president of the ICC, repeatedly says, for the Inuit, this is a cultural issue. Inuit wonder if their country's food is safe as contaminants work their way into northern ecosystems. As a result of climate change, hunters are less able to read sea ice as the ice is thinning and thaws are occurring earlier in the season.

In the words of the Prime Minister, Canadians deserve equality of opportunity. This means that the young people who are born and live in the north deserve to be educated in the north. We need to work with northern colleges and northern research institutes to ensure that a full array of educational opportunities is offered.

An important objective of the government is to support the aspirations of northerners and find northern solutions to northern challenges. Fundamental to achieving this objective is recognizing and respecting the link between public policy and science and research. A sound public policy process requires that as a tool, science and research play an integral role in identifying problems, setting priorities and implementing solutions. What is the condition of this very important tool? I am afraid to say that northern science and research as it currently exists in government is in a very sorry state. Canada has lost its place in the world by abdicating its scientific leadership in the north.

In many ways the government has acknowledged the unique nature and magnitude of change facing the north as reflected in the various departmental programs that address northern concerns. However, response to commitments and problems tends to be ad hoc and piecemeal. There is no coherent and coordinated strategy. Programs are fragmented across a dozen departments and agencies. Conflicting mandates often exist between and within these departments. Unbelievably, there is no one minister responsible.

Northern science and research lacks continuity and as a result suffers from an erosion of resources. As a consequence, government, industry and northern communities do not have the necessary capacity to address challenges and find solutions.

For example, the owner of a private sector firm sent me a letter. In it he said, “Years of environmental work done by the government in the Beaufort Sea, the Northwest Passage and other northern areas are in the process of being abandoned when their results are needed most urgently, leaving planners and decision makers without reliable answers to basic questions. Cutbacks have virtually eliminated opportunities for private sector firms in the field of ocean technology”.

I have met with members of the northern science research community both in the north and the south and have been repeatedly told that Canada has lost a generation of northern researchers.

The government must take immediate steps to reverse the decline in northern science and research by developing a comprehensive northern science research strategy that would provide coordination, efficiency and effectiveness to the programs that are currently delivered in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion.

We have received a signal from the government that recognizes this need. In the Speech from the Throne the government made a commitment to develop a northern strategy, ensuring that economic development is conducted in partnership with northerners and is based on stewardship of our most fragile northern ecosystems. Clearly this cannot happen without a focus on and an enhanced investment in northern science and research.

Another important signal that the government is serious is the appointments of the science adviser to the Prime Minister and a parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister for science and small business. Equally reassuring is the Prime Minister's personal commitment to ensure that top federal decision makers get the best possible scientific advice.

Today the Prime Minister told the House that Parliament must be a place where the voices of all Canada, all of its regions, are included. More specifically, he went on to say that we must ensure that the north has greater control of its destiny. The new governance realities of the north, the massive ecological change impacting northern ecosystems and northern peoples, emerging economic development opportunities and Canada's role as a leader in the circumpolar north demand that as a Parliament, as a government, we no longer delay in accepting this as a national responsibility.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging the work of my colleague from York North. Over the years in the House of Commons, she has had a focus on the environment, a passion and a sensitivity which all of us on all sides of the House celebrate.

Today she has pulled something out of the Speech from the Throne that I had not seen reported in any newspaper. It is the fact that our Prime Minister in the Speech from the Throne has made a commitment to northern science. Canada's commitment to the Arctic is going to be in the front window. I hope this will be the beginning of a journey that will make our Prime Minister a green Prime Minister.

I want to move from the Arctic to downtown Toronto. As everyone can imagine, over the last few months I have had some concerns about whether or not there was going to be sufficient commitment from the new Prime Minister, the leader of our party, around issues that concern the inner city, especially my inner city in downtown Toronto. I was delighted yesterday when we heard such a forceful commitment, a commitment of real gravity not just to the city of Toronto but to all municipalities throughout the country.

It is very rare in our city, which has become a little partisan lately, when one can pick up the Toronto Star which, as I have said in the House of Commons over the last year has essentially become an NDP paper, and read that the mayor of Toronto, David Miller, has said that this is a fantastic commitment, a great commitment. What I like about Mayor Miller is that he has taken the higher ground.

We all know that it is really easy to be partisan; it is a natural temptation. But every now and again there are special moments in the House when members from all parties on both sides come up with very solid work. In this particular case I think we would acknowledge that this commitment for cities is unprecedented.

One of the things that makes this so dramatic is that over the last 10 years, and it is not widely known, we as the Government of Canada spent approximately $22.5 billion in the greater Toronto area. A lot of people do not believe that. I have been working on this for the last two years and I am happy to report today that I finally have from the researchers a list that describes close to $16 billion of that $22.5 billion in the greater Toronto area. For anyone who may be listening to this, including opposition members, and would like to see the federal presence in the Toronto area, I would be happy to make this document available to them. It is quite an incredible story.

One of the problems we have had as a government is that we really have not been pushing our communication strategy strongly enough in telling the people in our city, and I am now speaking as a Toronto member, about the good work that all the various departments of government are executing in the greater Toronto area. The whole issue of communication is a real challenge. When we cannot get the message out clearly and succinctly, there are people out there who will take advantage of it. I want to deal with a very specific issue.

I have been campaigning in the House of Commons since 1988 around the whole important issue that every one of us in the House be sensitive and caring toward the small business men and women in the country. They essentially employ 80% of our nation. I do not think anyone would question that fact.

A few weeks ago there was a question by Jack Layton in terms of giving tax breaks to business. Let us imagine.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Four billion bucks, Dennis.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I hear the NDP saying $4 billion. This is the NDP philosophy on business, but it focuses on big business. It does not realize that in that envelope there were one million small businessmen and women. I wonder what the NDP has against small businessmen and women. Small business needs that kind of stimulus.

When we bring small business into the communication, the NDP gets a little fragile.

The reality is that 80% of the tax revenue that comes to the Government of Canada in the business envelope comes from small and medium sized businessmen and women. That is where the bulk of that tax credit goes.

I cannot believe for a second that the members of the NDP would not clarify that they support small businessmen and women in the country. If they do, then they would have to change the statements that are being made about the exact dollars that are going in, and that is the problem.

People take statements and they parse them. They look at a few big businesses and forget the million small businessmen and women. The NDP has made an art form of taking pieces of a specific announcement and sticking it on a group within our community. In this case, it says big business is benefiting.

Now that we have clarified that small businessmen and women are getting a huge benefit here, I want to go to big business.

I do not believe for a second that anyone in this place would try to curry favour with large businesses. However, at the same time, we must have a competitive economic environment in the country for those businesses that employ thousands of people and that are competing globally. There is absolutely no acknowledgement of this from the NDP. It says to take a tax break and just stick it on big business because that is where the media will get sucked in.

I have made the point about the NDP and its attitude toward small business, but I want to go back to the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne has identified commitments to our cities which most people in the media, including the NDP, have been surprised by. It has made a commitment to the environment that most people are shocked by. I personally believe that once the words in this Speech from the Throne go into deeds that we will be back here for a fourth time.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, where do I start with my friend from Toronto--Danforth? We only have five minutes.

However, he does say when the words are translated into action. Well, some of us remember another set of words that were authored by the now Prime Minister and it was called the red book.

We are still waiting for those words which were more than 10 years ago to be translated into action. Where is the affordable, accessible child care that was promised by this Prime Minister more than 10 years ago? Where is the affordable home care? Just this morning we learned of a study which was published that showed that nearly one in four Canadians suffer a serious complication after they are released from hospital. Why? Because there is no proper home care. This government and this Prime Minister promised that. Cry me a river about the poor suffering corporations that got their big tax increase.

I want to ask a specific question because I know the member would want his constituents of Toronto--Danforth to know where he stands on the issue of equal marriage rights for same sex couples. He ducked the vote on this issue and now he is in the House.

Does he or does he not support the position of his government which is that equal civil marriage rights should be extended to gay and lesbian couples?

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I knew this question was coming from the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

My views on this issue are well known. My stand has been stated. I have said that I support the traditional definition of marriage. That is a simple fact. The whole issue around intimacy and rights is being debated now. It is in front of the courts. We will continue to work on this issue and debate it. At this particular point in time my position has not changed.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a western MP I am extremely disappointed with yesterday's throne speech.

There was nothing in it that addressed the absolutely critical softwood lumber issue in British Columbia and in fact all of Canada. The BSE issue which has devastated the beef producing industry was not mentioned. Fisheries issues on either coast, including the huge issue of straddling stocks off the east coast of Canada, were not addressed in any meaningful way whatsoever.

There are regulatory roadblocks to our resource industries, especially in British Columbia, where we are trying to get the economy back up and running. We cannot get on with the oil and gas issue. Mining companies are trying to go into production with new properties and are running into horrendous red tape and problems with DFO and various other environmental problems. There is nothing for rural Canada.

Why did the government choose to ignore rural Canada in this quasi throne speech election document?

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find this really strange. On page 17 of the Speech from the Throne there is a special section entitled regional and rural development. It is close to a page and a half in length. The last paragraph, which is on page 18, states:

The Government is dedicated to Canada's farm economy and to taking the steps necessary to safeguard access to international markets and to ensure that farmers are not left to bear alone the consequences of circumstances beyond their control. It is also committed to fostering a technologically advanced agricultural sector with the supporting infrastructure of transportation and applied science to make the competitiveness of Canadian farmers and the safety of our food second to none in world markets.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a member of the greater Toronto area. I happen to be at the northern end. I think we are seeing a little similarity here with the focus on York North and the northern part of the GTA. There are a lot of farms in my riding. In fact, my hon. colleague himself has lived in my area and understands the concerns of York North.

My hon. colleague has been absolutely diligent and tenacious about looking for the moneys that have been spent in the GTA on behalf of the federal government. Could he elaborate on that?

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know that one of the painful tasks that we have as members of Parliament is finding out all of the Government of Canada activity that goes on in our communities. It has been a real painful task finding out where the $22.5 billion has gone in the greater Toronto area. Anyone who would like to know line by line where this money has gone can call my office.

Business of the HouseSpeech from the Throne

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and address the throne speech.

I wish to thank the constituents of Medicine Hat for putting their faith in me again. We are starting a new session of Parliament. I would like to acknowledge the faith my constituents have placed in me over the years. It is a pleasure to represent them and stand up for them. My constituents are great people. It is a privilege and an honour to be their representative in the House of Commons.

The first thing that came to mind when I listened to the Speech from the Throne and then read through it later was that it reminded me of one of those ads for a furniture store where it is stated, “Buy now and pay later”. In this case it will be, “Buy now and pay sometime perhaps in June”.

The government is delivering a throne speech with very few numbers attached, but all kinds of promises. The idea is to convince Canadians that the government will fulfill this wonderful shopping list of ideas. However, the government is not telling Canadians what the cost will be. The cost will be very substantial in a number of ways.

What I will do today is run through a number of the different commitments that the government is making in the throne speech and then talk a little bit about each one of them. It is important to address some of the specific commitments the government is making, especially when we have a new Prime Minister and a new cabinet who are endeavouring to fulfill these commitments.

I will start on page 3 of the Speech from the Throne. There the government talks about changing the way things work in Ottawa. In the document, the first very line of that section says:

The path to achievement begins with making sure that Canadians believe their government, so that they can believe in government.

We all agree with that. We want Canadians to believe their government. To some degree we want them to believe in government. We do not want them to place all their faith in government. We all know that government too often lets people down. Rather obviously, some things are the sorts of things that we should rely on our family and ourselves to achieve.

Having said that, generally speaking and those caveats attached, we all agree with that statement. However, I want to argue that the government is doing a terrible job already of fulfilling that commitment. The path to achievement begins with making sure that Canadians believe their government.

Today in the House of Commons, during question period, my colleague and I from Edmonton Southwest, and my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, asked questions about how transparent the government is and how forthcoming it is with details surrounding the Prime Minister's own company and its dealings with the government over the past 10 years.

We pointed out that the government had been far less than forthcoming when it came to giving information about contracts and grants that the company had received from the government. We pointed out that it had been about a year and a half before we received a remotely accurately picture of the actual amount of business that the company, CSL, had done with the Government of Canada over the last 10 years.

The initial figure was $137,000. It took roughly 18 months to get the real figure. The real figure is $161 million. However, even that is not the total picture. There is more to it than that. We pointed that out in question period. We pointed to the fact that there was a discrepancy between the figures that the government House leader had given us and what we had found ourselves respecting at least one contract. I think there were 528 contracts. We found one right away with a $20,000 discrepancy. That caused us to question again this commitment that we find in the throne speech.

We then noted that in the letter that the House leader had prepared for my colleague from Edmonton Southwest that it did not actually include numbers, for instance, from the Canadian Wheat Board. It claimed that the Canadian Wheat Board said that it wanted to protect its competitive advantage and did not want to release all the numbers.

I argue that when the Prime Minister prepares a throne speech saying that transparency has to be paramount, then the concerns of the Canadian Wheat Board come second, because the public's right to know has to be supreme. In this case we are protecting the Canadian Wheat Board, and that is a whole other issue that I would like to talk about, but we cannot get into today. We just do not have time.

Right away, I think the government is failing its own standards that it set on page 3 of the throne speech. It is not producing all the information. In fact we will have more to say about this in the next number of days in the House of Commons.

I want to address another issue that is raised shortly thereafter, on page 4 of the throne speech, where the government talks about an action plan for democratic reform.

The government is already failing its own standards when it comes to the issue of democratic reform because very recently the Prime Minister talked about the fact that he would refuse to acknowledge that the people of Alberta had chosen elected senators. He basically stated that he refused to put them into the Senate, and he came up with some reason.

My point is that the Prime Minister has talked at length about the democratic deficit. The most important democratic deficit to the people of Alberta right now is to ensure that their democratically elected senators find their way into the Senate, ultimately. The Prime Minister has said that he will not respect that.

When it comes to dealing with his very first test to fulfill the so-called democratic deficit he has talked about, he has failed his own standard. He is refusing to do what he should do in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of Albertans who have voted for these people to go into the Senate of Canada. Two were chosen by the people of Alberta, and in a couple of days, we will have two Alberta vacancies in the Senate, but the Prime Minister refuses to address them.

I want to go on. There are so many issues we could talk about, but I have limited time.

One of the issues I am concerned about is that on page 5 of the throne speech the Prime Minister talks about an independent ethics commissioner reporting to Parliament and an ethics officer for the Senate. We know that when he talks about an independent ethics commissioner, he is not talking about the same sort of independent officer that we have in the Auditor General.

For the information of the House, the Auditor General is selected through the Treasury Board by a committee that contains, for instance, chartered accountants, CGAs and auditors of Canada. They get together and select someone from among the possible candidates, and ultimately that person is appointed to become the Auditor General of Canada. That happened the last time around, and the person is an officer of Parliament.

The Prime Minister is talking about someone he would ultimately choose, and I cannot accept that. That is too much like the system as it is today.

Even the Prime Minister obviously does not have faith in the ethics counsellor today or else he would not be proposing the change the system. The very same ethics counsellor, by the way, has whitewashed scandal after scandal on the government side, and there have been dozens in the last 10 years that I have been here. I cannot count them all, but they are well known to Canadians who have seen this place in action.

That ethics counsellor is not acceptable. We do not want the same system, but with a different name for the independent ethics commissioner. Again we feel that the government is failing to meet its own standards that it lays out in the throne speech.

Here is one that really sticks in my craw. This is the respect for the tax dollars reference in the throne speech. Now this really boils me, Mr. Speaker.

The Prime Minister has made a point of saying that the government will not scrap the firearms registry. The government will review it to find ways to make it more efficient. We know that government members will sit on this committee and they have already said they would prefer to see it scrapped. However, the finance minister has ruled out the one thing that would get rid of the inefficiency of the firearms system, which is to scrap it . By its very nature, it is bureaucratic. It is a money sucking hole, by its very nature. We have to get rid of it.

Already we have wasted a billion on this. In 1994, when we asked the justice minister about it, it was going to cost $2 million. I have a videotape of myself asking a question of Allan Rock, the justice minister at the time. It had been pointed out that some experts at the time were saying that the firearms registry could cost $500 million or perhaps even a billion. Allan Rock, the justice minister, said that there was no way that would happen. They were forecasting $2 million. It is now headed for $1 billion, the Auditor General says it could go to $2 billion and the government will not do the one thing that will get rid of that huge expenditure and waste. How committed are the Liberals to respecting tax dollars? Clearly they are not committed to it.

For those people who say that it is a way to protect us from crime, I say if they do not believe me then they should listen to people like the chief of police in the City of Toronto, Julian Fantino, who used to be a believer in the firearms registry. He used to buy into it. He now says that it is a waste of money and that money could be used to put cops on the beat in Toronto to stop the gun crime there. That is where that money should go. It could go to 100 things that would be more useful than pouring it into a large bureaucracy that basically registers the shotguns of duck hunters across Canada. What a complete waste. Again, the government fails to meet its own standards.

There are so many things we could talk about. I know I will not get through the document, but I turn to page 6, where the heading is “Strengthening Canada's Social Foundations”. In the second line of the second paragraph it states:

It means removing barriers to opportunity.It means building on the fundamental fairness of Canadians. Because ourenormous good fortune demands nothing less.

Right away I note that one of the ways the government again fails to meet its own standard is that it is the protector of one of the most fundamental injustices that it could possibly defend. It defends the fact that in Canada today a two-income family pays less tax than a one-income family making the same amount of money. We are talking about social programs.

One of the best social programs is a strong family. What if people make the decision to stay home with their children and make a financial sacrifice? Then they discover that their income is taxed at a higher rate as a single-income family than a two-income family making the same income. How is that fair? How does that help families? How does it repair the social fabric of the nation? It does not.

I would argue that if the government wanted to change something to really help Canada's social infrastructure, it would change that one thing so single-income families making that kind of sacrifice would not be penalized for it. If they are not rewarded, at least they would not be penalized for it. I argue again that the government is not meeting its own standards when it comes to the issue of being fair to Canadians.

I also want to argue that when it comes to social programs, I think the best social program of all is a good job. If people have good jobs, they do not have to rely on social programs. They do not have to rely on employment insurance and all those things. Sometimes it is necessary and that safety net must be there. We must always have a safety net for people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, but if the economy does not move at anywhere near capacity, we will never produce the types of jobs to help Canadians.

This year the economy in Canada will grow about 1.6%, which is frankly pathetic. I know there were issues over the course of the year. We had the SARS problem and we have had BSE. If our economy had been more robust in the beginning and if we had put in place all those policies that would ensure that Canada was truly a magnet for investment, then we would have rebounded much more quickly. We would have produced many more jobs in the first place and we would have recaptured those jobs much more quickly after we had gone through the problems with SARS and BSE and some of the other problems, such as on the east coast with the fishery.