House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, in many situations such as this we now have a new minister. The new minister tries to sweep everything away. We have a former minister who is now an appointee and no longer a member of the government. We have the deputy minister who is now no longer the deputy minister. He has been appointed Governor of the Bank of Canada.

We have very clear evidence. The newspapers were writing in 2000 about how the federal government was taking its fight to court to audit spending at the centre. The government knew there were major problems in existence at that time. Yet we now have a further audit that demonstrates that even while it was doing that it was still flowing money to the foundation. The abuses were growing and not staying the same, not getting smaller. The abuses were getting bolder and bolder. The money that was being scammed was getting into larger and larger numbers.

All of that is a clear indicator to me that there is major corruption at work and is deep seated. It affects some elements of our bureaucracy. This suspicion was there in the early 1990s when I was in this portfolio and it is still there. It has not been fixed.

The signal the government is sending by not making anyone accountable unless they were actually caught with their hand in the cookie jar, on the take, is that we have a vested interest in preferring to bury these problems, more so than exposing them and cleaning up the accounts and the entire situation.

This is a sad story that the Canadian public deserves to know more about than they currently do.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must express some concern that the member seemed to be totally focusing--and that is a bit unfair because he did make some reference to the involvement of certain officials from the Department of Health--all of the blame, and again prejudging this case to some degree, on the aboriginal community and members of the first nations who were involved in the Fontaine centre.

He seemed to be downplaying and almost ignoring what appears to be some significant role in this scam, if that is in fact what it turns out to be, by federal officials at a fairly high level within the department. I am wondering if the member appreciates what he is doing in that regard.

Would the member agree with me that--not necessarily drawing a final conclusion because obviously this will result in some judicial decision making at some point--to characterize this as I think he has, is somewhat unfair when he points the finger entirely at the aboriginal community in not bringing in what appears to be some significant misdeeds by the public service?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is pretty selective hearing because I indeed plant this firmly at the feet of the federal government. It is the one that provided the funds. It is the one that was supposed to provide the checks and balances or ensure that it was there. It is the one that allowed corrupt federal officials to continue to operate with impugnity despite the fact there was an audit way back in 1997 that identified major problems. These people remained in place.

Certainly, there was an opportunity here for Perry Fontaine to do the most incredible things. If people were to read about it in Pulp Fiction , they would not believe it because the actions were so bold and so creative. The fact of the matter is that federal officials approved all of this because they were directly benefiting and that should never ever have happened.

There were all kinds of things done against Treasury Board guidelines, but nobody caught it because nobody chose to catch it. That is a sign that we have corruption within our federal bureaucracy. That is my main point. I do not think the member who asked me the question was really listening to me if he thought otherwise.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec


Lucienne Robillard LiberalMinister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

The government stated a clear vision for Canadians. This vision reflects how far our country has come over the past decade, while recognizing that a lot remains to be done to ensure that all Canadians from all walks of life and from all regions continue to enjoy prosperity, security and happiness.

Now that our basic macroeconomics parameters are firmly in place, the government feels that we should focus more on developing microeconomics, supporting small businesses, promoting entrepreneurship, building our research capability, reducing manpower shortages, strengthening our commercial infrastructure and developing our communities by investing in the social economy. In short, we must march forward and build a true economy for the 21st century.

As the Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, I want to take this opportunity to review a few initiatives that come under my portfolio and which are aimed at helping fulfill the government's vision.

First, I will look at what we are doing to create a positive business environment in Canada. We want to create a climate where the entrepreneurial spirit triumphs.

Second, I will focus on creating and using knowledge. Traditionally, we have talked about the importance of R and D, about investing in innovative ideas, but simply having good ideas is often not enough. We need to take knowledge and turn it into products and services that sell. In a 21st century economy, we should be talking about R and D and C, research and development but also commercialization.

Finally, I want to look at our country's single most important asset, our workforce, and the measures needed to nurture and sustain this critical competitive advantage.

By any objective criteria, the conditions for doing business in Canada are already favourable. Ask any entrepreneur and he or she will say that obstacles remain to efficient and effective commerce in our country. The Government of Canada has listened and is taking action.

In this context, we are creating a fiscal environment that is more beneficial to Canadian businesses. We continue to promote good governance, both in the public and private sectors. We also continue to look for ways to streamline our regulatory framework. We want to harmonize standards at the various levels of government and find ways to address the pressing concerns of businesses, such as the protection of privacy and intellectual property, and data security.

In order to achieve these objectives, we have created the external advisory committee on smart regulation. The creation of this committee shows the importance of this issue and is an important first step to meet the challenges that confront us. I should point out that the Prime Minister even appointed a parliamentary secretary responsible for monitoring the work of this external advisory committee on smart regulation.

Another area where we are concentrating efforts is removing barriers to internal trade and commerce in this country. This is surely an anachronism in an age where we are seeing national borders disappearing around the world in favour of regional cooperation.

I am pleased that the council of the federation has placed a special emphasis on issues such as internal trade, labour mobility, and harmonizing and streamlining regulations.

The Government of Canada is anxious to work with our provincial partners to improve our economic union. We need to continue to support programs aimed at small and medium sized entrepreneurs to give them the tools they need to compete effectively. This is particularly true for those individuals who are combining the entrepreneurial spirit with community consciousness. Men and women who look beyond the bottom line and recognize that giving back to the neighbourhood benefits us all.

We want to build a business climate that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship in this country; however, to succeed in the 21st century economy, we need to do more than just support traditional sectors. We need to identify and capitalize on new ideas and opportunities.

Some predict that we are on the brink of another industrial revolution, the era of nanotechnologies and biotechnologies. It must, however, also be the era of Canada.

This is why the Government of Canada has for the past few years been making major investments to renew its research base. We have invested in the universities and colleges, and other research institutes, and have encouraged the creation of centres of knowledge in communities everywhere across the country.

In fact, since 1997 the Government of Canada has invested more than $3 billion in research based in universities, colleges and institutes all over Canada, and this must continue.

It is not enough, however, to design and develop new technologies. We must get them out of the laboratories and commercialize them. We need to transform knowledge into products and services, thereby creating jobs and contributing to this country's progress.

In many respects, this will require a new way of thinking in our universities, colleges and research institutions. For too long the science faculties and the business schools have existed as two different worlds. We need to bridge the gap and bring our brightest young minds together with our most savvy entrepreneurs.

The government has already signed an agreement with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada under which it was agreed to double research by 2010 and triple the rate of commercialization.

The National Research Council administers a successful industrial research assistance program to help small and medium sized businesses in developing and using new innovative technologies and processes.

Bringing the various parties together is an important forward step. We also will be instituting mechanisms to facilitate access to risk capital at all the life stages of new businesses, from start-up to maturity.

This brings me to my final point. We can have the best regulatory regimes and business climates at the most sophisticated research facilities, but without the right people with the right skills, our country will not rise to achieve its full potential. That is why the government will be looking for ways to provide Canadian workers with greater opportunities to upgrade their skills, improve their literacy and learn on the job.

The government wants to put an emphasis on developing initiatives to support entrepreneurs and particularly new Canadians who wish to become involved in business. Addressing this issue will be a priority in the days ahead and I look forward to working closely on this file with my parliamentary secretary, the member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale.

We will also be looking for ways to capitalize on the greater mobility of skilled workers around the world. We want to brand Canada as the destination of choice for the world's best and brightest. I believe our country should be an easy sell. We have a quality of life that is second to none. But of course, there are obstacles to overcome.

First and foremost, from a business point of view, is the question of accreditation. At a time when we face shortages in nursing, engineering and management, we cannot afford to have qualified immigrants not using their skills to the fullest. We need a pan-Canadian approach to foreign credential recognition and I know that my colleagues are working closely with their provincial counterparts to find solutions to that problem.

The Speech from the Throne sets out the main thrust of a mandate that is both clear and visionary for the Government of Canada. It is a mandate aimed a promoting a more vigorous economy, safer and healthier communities, and a fairer and more equitable society in which all Canadians may realize their aspirations and share in the national prosperity.

The challenges that await us are far more than a single government can do on its own. When we refer to an economy for the 21st century what we need is to mobilize the nation, mobilize companies in the private sector of course, whether big or small, mobilize the provinces and territories, the municipalities and even the volunteer and community sector, along with all Canadians who want to see our country continue to be admired throughout the world.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the throne speech, especially as it clearly recognizes what I have been saying for some time now, that social policy and economic policy are one and the same.

The main focus of the throne speech, strengthening Canada's social foundations, recognizes that investing in things such as universal health care, education, child care, affordable housing, training and skills, and safe communities is good for society and for our economy as well.

For the earlier part of our mandate we focused more on eliminating the national deficit and lowering the debt. We have also cut both individual and corporate taxes. We have restored full indexation of the personal income tax system and reduced personal income tax by an average of 15% annually.

In more recent years we had begun to increase investment in children, skills training, research and innovation, the environment, health care, crime prevention, affordable housing and infrastructure, although in this case we have been investing since 1994, totalling $12 billion. Now we are making a commitment to strengthen our commitment to the social deficit.

I am pleased to see the government's commitment to see that every Canadian has timely access to quality care, regardless of income or geography. As the Prime Minister said, care delayed cannot become care denied.

The government is transferring $2 billion to the provinces as promised, but additional funding alone will not improve health care. I believe that we must follow through, together with the provinces and territories, with health care reform, such as reform of primary care and dealing with home care and long term care.

In my riding of Beaches—East York we have a great example of quality, accessible, timely and sustainable primary care delivery through a community health care centre. The doctors are paid a salary. There are nurse practitioners to help and nutritionists to address healthy living. The doctors are on call 24/7, which keeps most cases from the hospital emergency rooms.

The new Canada public health agency that will ensure Canada is linked both nationally and globally in a network for disease control and emergency response is also welcome. I believe it should deal with public health promotion and preventive care as well.

Also, there is the appointment of a new chief public health officer for Canada, who will undertake a much needed overhaul of federal health protection through a Canada health protection act. This is welcome news.

I was proud to vote in favour of the ratification of the Kyoto accord. I am pleased to see the Government of Canada make a clear commitment to respect its commitment to the Kyoto accord on climate change.

The cleaning up of contaminated sites the government is responsible for by spending $3.5 billion and helping to remediate contaminated sites such as the tar ponds are well overdue. I am glad to see that.

As well the government is committing to clean air and clean water and will work with the provinces to achieve more stringent national guidelines on air and water quality. It will also start incorporating key indicators on clean water, clean air, and emissions reductions into its decision making.

It was important for me to see that the government is making a commitment to safe communities. Our current crime prevention program has benefited many communities across Canada. In Beaches—East York this program is helping address the root causes of crime by contributing $97,744 under the community mobilization program. Neighbourhood Link and East York-East Toronto Family Resources are the agencies delivering the programs.

There is a new deal for our cities that targets the infrastructure needed to support quality of life and sustainable growth, a new deal that delivers reliable, predictable and long term funding. These are statements we have all been working to hear. I know that the residents of my riding and of Toronto are happy to finally hear them.

The government has appointed Mr. Harcourt to help work out long term financial agreements, such as the sharing of a portion of gas revenues or other fiscal mechanisms which achieve the same goals, with the provinces, cities and federal government. The government has made an immediate down payment by providing all municipalities with full relief from the portion of the GST they now pay.

Current investments in infrastructure, urban transit, affordable housing, clean water and good roads will see funds committed.

During the last 10 years I worked very hard toward the eradication of child poverty and to deal with the urgent need of early learning and care for children. The child benefit has been increased to provide $3,240 for the first child in 2007. This means an annual support of over $10 billion by 2007.

In 2000 the government signed a historic accord with the provinces on the early childhood development initiative and committed $2.2 billion to that effect. The Beaches—East York early learning program is receiving $500,000, most of which is coming from the $2.2 billion.

The 2003 budget committed an additional $935 million over the next five years to address quality child care. The government's continued commitment to early learning and care is indeed good news because this will mean more quality child care and better starts for all our children.

Education is fundamental to the quality of life of all our citizens. By this I do not just mean formal education such as college and university, although accessibility to post-secondary education is a must. I am pleased to see that the government is also committing to skills training and working in partnership with union and sector councils.

In Beaches--East York the Government of Canada funds the neighbourhood link employment centre, the Gateway Café which helps youth at risk, the job squad for young people, and summer employment programs. These are programs that I worked hard to bring to the riding and I will continue to ensure their funding.

I am also pleased to see that there is a real commitment to address the shameful way in which we have treated professional immigrants in this country, essentially marginalizing them to low paying jobs. Canada has the most highly skilled and educated taxi drivers and large numbers of doctors are being wasted even while there is a shortage of doctors. We made promises here before and I intend to hold the government's feet to the fire on the commitment in the Speech from the Throne to address the problem of foreign credentials.

Finally, I am pleased that the government has recognized the importance of the characteristic that most reflects who and what we are to ourselves and to the world, and that is our culture. Canada's artists and cultural organizations, including our multicultural arts, make us a distinct society and we must support and nurture it. Public broadcasting is fundamental to maintaining Canada's cultural sovereignty. I will continue to ensure that the government continues to provide sustainable funding.

This, I must say, is the Speech from the Throne that I have been waiting for.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it would be impossible to list in just 10 minutes all the concerns that have been raised by the Speech from the Throne.

But in the next 10 minutes—and I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Laurentides—I would like to concentrate my remarks on three subjects: health, government ethics and aboriginal affairs.

In the throne speech, the government has not mentioned any plan for additional funding for the future, nor any stability in the transfer payments to Quebec and the provinces for health financing. And yet health is the highest priority, not only in Quebec but in Canada as well.

The Minister of Finance, echoing the Prime Minister who said it through the throne speech, has repeatedly told us that public finances are tight. He can only honour a two-year-old promise that a one-time payment of $2 billion would be transferred—a promise his predecessor made. But for the rest, the public purse is too strained and he will not be able to free up any money.

This Prime Minister, once the minister of finance, still has the same tendency to hide the true picture of public finances from the people. This year there will be a surplus of at least $6 or $7 billion. The minister is going to great lengths to show us that it will be difficult, that there may be only $2 or $3 billion, but there will be $6 or $7 billion, and my estimate is conservative.

He already has $6 or $7 billion he could use to plan an additional transfer to the provinces to fulfil one of the recommendations in the report by Mr. Romanow, who is not a sovereignist, namely, that the federal government ought to increase its contribution from 16% to 25% of health costs.

The second suggestion we could make to the Minister of Finance is one he knows well, because he designed these measures. The large number of foundations he created while he was finance minister are completely ineffective. These foundations are still holding $7 billion. Why does the federal government not take back the billions of dollars lying dormant in those foundations in order to do something about people's real priorities, which are health and education?

Education was neglected, due to the systematic cuts initiated by the former finance minister, now Prime Minister. He is responsible for the health care crisis. He is also responsible for the precarious situation in education, because he slashed transfer payments to these two essential services.

Let us talk about ethics. The Minister of Finance repeated it following the throne speech: they want to redo or examine the tax system to see if it could be made more equitable, ensure equal treatment for all, and eliminate any tax loopholes. It is a disgrace.

It is disgraceful that this is what the government wants to do when we are now faced with the situation created by the former finance minister, now Prime Minister, with regard to a bill he introduced himself for the first time in 1996, Bill C-69, and a second time, through his parliamentary secretary in 1998. This bill, Bill C-28, granted Canada Steamship Lines International, headquartered in Barbados, undue benefits in terms of tax treatments and also protection from legal proceedings, for example, if it were in violation of environmental standards or minimum workings standards.

The throne speech refers to ethics, and we have before us a Prime Minister who himself initiated highly questionable legislation that is in his own interests and the interests of his company, to the tune of $100 million per year.

When I let the cat out of the bag in 1998, everyone was skeptical, so much so that, at one point, we wondered about the contents of Bill C-28. However, on verification, following numerous analyses, after getting outside experts to look at these analyses and debating with the former finance minister and the former prime minister, who protected him because he was unable to defend himself—he was unable to defend the indefensible—we realized that Bill C-28 was totally unacceptable.

It was almost like helping himself to the public purse, since the $100 million he has not paid in tax over the past five years is being paid by others. By those earning minimum wage. Families are suffering because of him. These families pay tax, but he does not.

Today, he is trying to defend the indefensible.

As for the ethics issue, I was listening to Mr. Jean Lapierre, who just joined the Liberal Party of Canada and said that the Bloc Quebecois was outdated. However, if the Bloc Quebecois is outdated, on the ethics level, the Liberal Party is in an advanced state of decomposition. This new Prime Minister has solved nothing.

Let us take the example of Gagliano, of the sponsorship contracts. He had promised that there would be a more serious inquiry. He did not mention this at all in the Speech from the Throne. Yet, this is a very serious issue. It is the very integrity of the government that is in question. And he, as the successor in this Liberal government, should be concerned about this. But he is not.

I think that the Prime Minister is missing a great opportunity to correct the ethics situation. And if he does not have the political will to do so, it means that he thinks ethics is not an important value.

We see this in the actions on Bill C-28. We also see this in the nonsense uttered by his Minister of Finance, who says that Bill C-28 did not affect CSL, while even the vice-president of CSL told us that changes were made since 1995 to international holdings, to comply with changes made to the Canadian Income Tax Act. And it was at the same time that this act was being framed, that the current Prime Minister, the then Minister of Finance, was framing the act.

Consequently, these changes were made especially for CSL International, to ensure that the current Prime Minister, the former finance minister and ship owner could save $100 million in taxes. These changes were also made so that he would be protected against Canadian environmental laws if he caused disasters with his ships in international waters. Moreover, these changes were made so that he could be protected against Canadian laws on minimal labour standards. Indeed, he hires Filipino workers for $10 a day.

If CSL International were not now deemed a foreign company because of Bill C-28, which he introduced in this House himself, he would be charged for his antisocial acts. He may claim to work for the less fortunate in society, but he is exploiting people through CSL International. Filipino workers paid $10 a day for working in atrocious conditions is not exactly helping the less fortunate. Do as I say, not as I do. My colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the Leader of the Bloc Quebecois, was right.

My third point concerns aboriginals. They must be sick of hearing in every Speech from the Throne how aboriginal children have health and substance abuse problems and how aboriginals have problems with governance, yet nothing is ever done to resolve the aboriginal issue. They must be sick of being studies in anthropology.

Indeed, they are fed up. While the Minister of Finance was part of cabinet, while he dithers about speeding up negotiations for self-government, aboriginal nations are dying. Aboriginal children are committing suicide. Aboriginal children have multiple addictions. Entire communities are living in conditions that are reprehensible for a country that is supposed to be one of the most advanced in the world. There is a limit on using aboriginals to make the throne speech look good.

Do you know how long it has been since the Erasmus-Dussault report was tabled? Almost 7 years. Contrary to the recommendation by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, there has been no acceleration in negotiations to make aboriginal communities independent, to respect their inherent right to self-government, to give them the tools they need to take charge of their own development, bearing in mind the fact that they are nations within the United Nations definition.

Seven years have been wasted with this government and time will continue to be wasted. The events at Kanesatake should be a wake-up call. To go to aboriginal communities and see the incredible poverty, unemployment rates of 80%, young aboriginals with no hope for the future; is this not a breeding ground for organized crime? That is what is happening.

As for events such as those that occurred at Kanesatake in 1990 and recently, there are hundreds of communities in danger of facing the same fate because the government is not thinking about speeding up negotiations for self-government and not thinking about resolving this issue once and for all.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, actually, I would like the hon. member to comment on the latest crisis at Kanesatake.

A chief, James Gabriel, decided to tighten up discipline in his territory, and he asked for assistance from the other first nations communities in Quebec. We saw how the situation turned out. We saw the Government of Quebec intervene and the terrible handling of the situation. The chief lost almost all his credibility as a result of the Quebec government's interventions.

Still, we did not see any intervention by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, although it is very familiar with the relations among the first nations. That is the hard reality of the throne speech. Many words are written but when the time comes to make decisions, the federal government is absent.

Many documents can be written about it. That is not a problem. When there is a crisis like the one at Kanesatake, what action should the federal government have taken? That is what I am asking the hon. member.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The federal government has indeed had nothing to say for over a week in connection with Kanesatake, although it is the prime fiduciary of Indians according to the old Indian Act.

What is worse is that it was there when James Gabriel and a large portion of the band council asked for help from the federal government to fight organized crime. Let no one say these are just suppositions. The Hells Angels are there and are trafficking in drugs and cigarettes, and in weapons as well. That has been going on since 1990.

Mr. Gabriel was given the help. In a document awarding the $900,000 to him to help fight organized crime, there was an acknowledgment of the urgency of action, the presence of organized crime, and the extraordinary nature of the situation at Kanesatake. Once he was given the money things took a turn for the worse and the government washed its hands of any responsibility, turned its back and walked out the door. That is how the federal government acted.

This is a totally irresponsible way of acting, particularly when the Government of Quebec, Mr. Chagnon in particular, had acted in a totallyresponsible manner, undermining the credibility of duly elected Grand Chief James Gabriel, saying he was the one who had made mistakes. It is easy to accuse others when such things happen. Negotiating with people associated with crime, and likely connected to those who torched Grand Chief Gabriel's house, is a serious matter.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to briefly raise with my hon. colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot the issue of ethics, but mostly of Bill C-69, which later became Bill C-28.

This is a matter of concern to me, because the throne speech mentions fairness, transparency, greater involvement for members of Parliament, and so on. Since the hon. member used to be the finance critic for our party, I would like him to confirm the following.

If memory serves me well, shipping companies were mentioned in an omnibus bill which was introduced, I believe, during the Easter break or something like that. And that is what they call transparency and fairness.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his question. Indeed, that bill was introduced twice.

The first time, in 1996, the finance minister introduced Bill C-69. The provision concerning international shipping was found at the very end of the 485 page bill, which died on the order paper when an election was called.

He tried again in 1998. He had his own parliamentary secretary introduce the same omnibus bill that contained, again at the very end, the same minor provision of about 20 lines or so. I thought he showed then a total lack of transparency in a premeditated way. In 1996, he had himself introduced this provision for the first time in Bill C-69. If he does not know what he is putting forward, that is a whole other issue.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:45 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for his comments.

I also want to salute the constituents of my riding of Laurentides and tell them that it is always a pleasure and an honour for me to represent them here in the House of Commons. As we know, there will soon be an election and there will be some changes in the ridings, but I wanted to salute the people in my current riding.

I have been sitting in this Parliament for over 10 years and I have seen more than my fair share of throne speeches, red books, government promises, budgets and committee reports. Again, one would have expected something much more interesting, something that would truly benefit ordinary people in their daily lives. But it is not the case with the throne speech.

It is very clear from the outset that there is absolutely nothing for workers. In a Speech from the Throne, one would expect to find some concrete measures to help workers.

There is nothing on employment insurance, there is no anti-scab legislation, and there is not even an attempt to try to find a solution for these people. In the Abitibi, Radio-Nord employees have already been on strike for 15 long months. These people no longer have an income and they are picketing in minus 40 degree Celsius temperatures, while their bosses are using scabs. This is in 2004. This still exists here, at the federal level, but it should not.

There is nothing in this speech for these people, or for seasonal workers whose situation is unbearable. There is nothing to provide much greater accessibility to employment insurance, even though we know that the employment insurance fund is generating huge surpluses. Yet, only four out of ten workers qualify for benefits. It does not make any sense to still find ourselves in this situation.

The surpluses that are generated should be given back to the workers who pay for an insurance and who should be able to collect benefits. But this is not the case right now. On the contrary, the poor are getting poorer.

The government has been dragging its heels on the issue of parental leave. We have been wanting to settle this matter as soon as possible. In Quebec, a decision was rendered in our favour. What did we hear today from the human resources minister? He told the House that he was keeping all of his options open, which means that he could appeal the decision. That is probably what he will be doing.

Again, we will not be treated fairly on the issue of parental leave. We will have to fight for years to come and go through some things we would rather avoid. We could find a way to settle the problem. We could sit together, negotiate and quickly come to an agreement. However, the government is making very clear its lack of desire to come to an agreement with Quebec. And that is unfortunate. It is sad that this whole issue was not mentioned in the throne speech. It is sad for the parents who have been asking for this for a very long time and who really need it.

There is not a single word in the throne speech about the missile defence shield, this megaproject that we hear so much about here and for which the Prime Minister is showing so much support that some Liberal members have asked to have a free vote on the issue. The Prime Minister turned down their request.

Even members of his own caucus are against the missile defence shield. We do not know how much it will cost and what it will do. Billions of dollars will be involved, and all we are going to do is agree to whatever the U.S. will say. If the government were to consult the people, to ask constituents what they think about a missile defence shield, it would get a very clear answer: a resounding no. We do not want it because we are not warriors. We do not want it because we do not know how much it will cost. We do not know what its environmental impact will be. We do not know either what other impact it could have. No studies have been carried out, so we are just rushing into this.

You only have to talk to U.S. congressmen and senators to see how extremely divided they themselves are on this issue.

In fact, they believe it is unnecessary, because it would cost a fortune, and because it is not true that it would stop terrorism. A missile defence shield is not going to stop terrorism. Terrorists will continue to hijack planes and infiltrate countries they wish to inflict damage on. So, it is not the solution.

Once again, it is being done in secret, behind our backs and behind closed doors, and they are trying to get away with something. This matter should be dealt with in an open and informed manner. This is not what is happening right now.

I hope that we will be able to stand up to the Americans. This is extremely important. We cannot do everything they want. We must evaluate this according to our criteria, our abilities and what Canada and Quebec really want. If this work is not done here, there will be huge battles in Parliament. There will be a public uprising. There is nothing about this in the throne speech.

I know that I do not have much time because 10 minutes is quite short. However, I want to consider the following. The throne speech mentions the provinces. It says:

Jurisdiction must be respected. But Canadians do not go about their daily lives—

I really like the “but”, because it opens the door to anything. It continues:

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

Once again, they want to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction. Once again, they want to tell us what we must do.

In terms of municipalities, there have been squabbles about the millennium scholarships for years. There was committee after committee. It never worked and yet, once again, they are talking about student loans, when Quebec has a loan and scholarship program that is very equitable for our students.

They are encroaching on our jurisdiction, our municipalities. In fact, municipalities are a provincial responsibility. I cannot read it all because there is not enough time, but if people read it, they will see that the government is interfering when it comes to municipalities.

In terms of health, the throne speech states:

The government will also appoint a new Chief Public Health Officer for Canada—and undertake a much-needed overhaul of federal health protection through aCanada Health Protection Act.

As far as I know, health comes totally under provincial jurisdiction, and the government will again create another position and another committee to tell us what we should do in our own province.

It is not true that problems in the health system are the same all across Canada and in Quebec. We can be responsible and manage our own problems. Give us the money, and do not worry, we will do the job. We do not need someone to tell us what to do in our own province. We are perfectly capable of managing our own affairs.

This document sounds like a wish list. I have seen that many times before. There is also a reference to parliamentary reform. This is unbelievable. I cannot tell you how many recommendations I have made in committee in 10 years.

For example, the report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities contained 17 unanimous recommendations. All political parties were in agreement. The committee passed on these 17 unanimous recommendations to the minister, hoping that she would look at them. That was a year and a half, or two years ago. None of them was accepted. This is just a simple example, but it is an important one.

And now we are being told that changes will be made to the way Parliament works and that it will make everything better. The government should start by following up on the reports that have already been tabled, and then we will see.

I must say that some extraordinary work has been done here in the House of Commons. This is why I would have liked to see the work of parliamentarians and the recommendations from committees reflected in the Speech from the Throne, but this is not what we see here.

As far as I am concerned, the Speech from the Throne is just another speech, like many others, that will produce no results. Promises are made, but they never lead anywhere.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question. The Speech from the Throne is over 20 pages long, but I found on page 12 a short sentence that simply says:

And the Government will help communities to help themselves.

I will give my colleague from Laurentides an example that she and my friend from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, who is here with me, know very well. I am referring to the Mirabel Airport, which is a good example of the support the federal government is providing.

In 1985, 74 Liberal members of Parliament, including Jean Lapierre, were from Quebec. The fact that he is coming back makes me smile. He was part of the 74 Quebec Liberal members who did not have enough backbone to make sure the original plan was followed. Dorval was to be shut down and all flights were to be transferred to Mirabel, which was an airport built for the future. Even in 2004, Dorval is still among the Canadian airports with the lowest occupancy rates. Why is it so? Because the Liberal government has never been able to make timely decisions.

That is my point. They are trying to tell us that they will come and help the communities. I have seen the problem; I have heard what the citizens had to say. For Mirabel, it meant moving more than 3,000 people, the largest population displacement since the deportation of the Acadians. Some 100,000 acres of land were expropriated and people were displaced for what we have today, which is an empty hotel, an empty administrative centre and an air terminal that will be empty come November.

I am therefore asking my colleague what she thinks of the development of communities program put forward by the Liberal party.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I am also directly affected by the Mirabel issue, since my riding is next to that of the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

These are fights we have waged in the House of Commons. I remember being part of a regional coalition fighting for the Mirabel airport. My colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles will remember that. This is one of the nicest airports in the world, but it has been underutilized; Dorval was the preferred airport. A horrendous amount of money was put into this airport. And they still want to invest more millions of dollars there, because they are having problems with it, as my colleague knows.

Lives have been broken. We have an infrastructure that will soon become obsolete if we do not use it. That fact is being ignored. This is what the Liberal government is all about. It does not take at heart the interests of Quebeckers. It is just mismanaging their affairs. Of course, it is investing money in the Toronto airport, which it wants to establish as a transportation hub. That is the way it works.

We are here to stand for our constituents, advance issues and fight for the Mirabel airport. During the election campaign, you can bet you will hear about Mirabel. We will have to keep fighting for the interests of the people in our regions. We have to reopen this airport, restore its value, and make it operational, so that flights may eventually be transferred from Dorval to Mirabel.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raised many interesting points in her speech. I would like to ask her a question.

She spoke a great deal about workers' rights and about the absence in the Speech from the Throne of paying deference to workers' rights. I would like to ask her a question on one aspect of that.

Is the hon. member aware that the current Income Tax Act allows businesses to deduct the fine for a workplace safety and health accident from their income tax as a business expense? Would the member comment on whether she thinks it is fair that breaking the law and injuring workers on the job should be tax deductible and that the government should forgo revenue from that?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will respond briefly. My colleague is totally right, this double standard is unacceptable.

It is also unacceptable that workers under the Canada Labour Code are so behind compared to Quebec workers. In Quebec, we have a labour code that is much more advanced than the Canada Labour Code. We are bringing forth amendments and changes to try to improve the Canada Labour Code, but this House does not want to listen.

I introduced anti-scab legislation and a vote was held. We came very close to succeeding. You can be assured that I will continue to defend legislation that supports workers. I will continue to work with the colleagues who support me and we will try once again to make this government move forward, which is so difficult to do.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before we continue with the debate, so there is no surprise, I would like to inform the House that there has been a change in the rotation of speakers. There has been a trade between the government party and the official opposition. The rotation would normally have required that the floor be given to the government member. I will give it to the official opposition member. Consequently, two rotations will then be necessary on the government side.

So, with the new rotation exchange having been agreed to between the two parties, I will now give the floor to the member for Blackstrap.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for St. John's West.

The throne speech; been there, done that. That is what it was. Canadians want to move on. We were told that the throne speech marks the start of a new government, a new agenda, a new way of working. This is still the Liberal Party and this throne speech could have been copied from any other similar speeches over the last 10 years.

Just to tell members how the throne speech played at home, this letter to the editor on the throne speech, written by Christopher Twa of Saskatoon, was in our local StarPhoenix . It states:

Citizens have obligation to demand accountability

Like many others, I was always comfortable in forecasting political events from a barstool or from the moderate recline of my favourite armchair.

However, I had never seen a throne speech before Monday. It always seemed a great non-event; brave assertions written exclusively to be discarded later.

I watched the usher hammer on the door, MPs exchange handshakes and sly winks in a bizarre courtship and three-quarters of the Governor General's speech before I turned the TV off because of boredom.

Later that evening, as I watched Americans beg for accountability, I felt the first twinge of guilt. While many in Canada are content to dub the U.S. an oppressive regime, we do little to hold our own government answerable for its actions.

Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson had spoken of the need to make politics more engaging just before I turned the TV off. She is right. Perhaps it is us rather than the politicians who need to become proactive.

If we remain mute or only vaguely grumble on every issue, should we not expect our voted representatives to stumble blindly? Accountability only works if we show concern. We are as responsible as the politicians for our nation's well-being.

That is what I would like to talk about today.

We have the same Liberal government with the same members in a new seating arrangement who have tried to rule Canada for the past 10 years. Let us not pretend that this is a new government with a new agenda.

As a proud westerner I am very concerned that even though the new Prime Minister has promised to work toward less western alienation, this Speech from the Throne has left us out in the cold once again.

It continues the Liberal legacy of disregard for a major and essential part of Canada, our bread basket. Farmers are wondering why they have once again been ignored. Little in this speech gives reassurance or concrete assistance to our ailing farms, our hardworking farmers and producers across Canada.

In the vagueness of the speech, the government is supposedly dedicated to Canada's farm economy, but there was absolutely nothing that tells us how or that gives the farmers the hope that they were searching for.

Our agriculture and food sector is the third largest employer of Canadians and one of the country's top five industries. It accounts for more than 8% of the Canadian gross domestic product. Recognition of this importance is nowhere to be seen in the throne Speech.

In the last few years our farmers have been crushed by extraneous circumstances, such as mad cow, drought and floods.

In revealing his vision in the throne speech, the Prime Minister showed his complete lack of understanding of the BSE crisis and his lack of compassion for our farmers, specifically our beef farmers.

Canadians are suffering from coast to coast in every region and province. It has been absolutely devastating. Last night we had speakers on the BSE debate. We had speakers from Vancouver, from Peace River, from Quebec and from Ontario. Every province and every region has been affected.

When I go to my home city stories like this are in the newspaper. The lack of news coverage does not mean the BSE crisis is over. Yesterday's paper reads:

Saskatchewan's feedlot industry is in a rapid decline as producers face the biggest disaster of the nine-month mad cow ordeal, some in the cattle business warned Tuesday.

“I think that we're in the 11th hour of a catastrophe, there's no question”....

“The market deteriorates every day and there's no light at the end of the tunnel to speak of”....

“The feedlot industry is in huge trouble. They're getting to the point where they have no margins left for operating lines and they can't buy cattle.”

The head of the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association warned Monday that Canada's feeder industry could collapse in as little as six weeks if nothing changes for the better.

--the problem is “monumental.”

“Most of us don't have the ability to speculate anymore--we've lost enough equity that either ourselves, our own management ability, or our bankers are telling us no more speculation.

“We've lost all our equity, our collateral.”

They say that the desperation among ranchers is very clear. “They're just grasping at the last straw, trying to buy some time and hope beyond hope this border issue gets resolved.”

The headlines “BSE costs total $3 billion in Canada”, was ignored in Monday's throne speech.

The situation has reached emergency proportions and the Prime Minister, I believe, has to treat it as an emergency. As many of my colleagues said last night in debate, this does warrant an emergency level. I think the Prime Minister would do that if he had a real connection to the agriculture sector or if he had any real sense of the severity of the situation.

Federal alienation in western provinces has become a real problem.

It was interesting to read in one of the papers this week “West says it has got the cold shoulder”. The paper had interviewed Robert Roach, the senior policy analyst for the Calgary based think tank, the Canada West Foundation. He was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying that the government should have made a commitment to structural change to give westerners a voice at the federal level. Options, according to Mr. Roach, include reforming the Senate and recruiting senior bureaucrats for the west, even if they do not speak French. As he said, “Bilingualism needs to be counterbalanced by something else, because it's a very practical barrier to westerners”.

Western alienation can be overcome with awareness that all the western provinces are as valuable as the eastern ones. The people living in the west require the same services, financial assistance and respect that those in the east have long been receiving.

The GST relief offered to our municipalities is welcome, but the GST was set up to reduce a debt. Even though the Liberals had wanted to scrap this tax altogether, it is now being used as a cash injection. Also, as many of our communities in Saskatchewan and in Canada are not considered cities, they too will receive a significant piece of the pie.

I am in support of the idea of including municipalities but have grave concerns about how the government plans to include all the provinces in this arrangement. The government could vacate an amount allowing the provincial governments to give to the municipalities a percentage of the gas tax.

My concern is that this money will not be flagged for infrastructure. We need some details on how this money will be spread out. The $7 billion over 10 years, the GST rebate to cities that is mentioned in the throne speech, is really just 10% of the money that Ottawa collects.

The government keeps making these promises with regard to the constituents in my riding. Many of them have written or phoned my office asking for some real results. My constituents, relating to their own experience, are telling me that employment insurance is not working. They are telling me that there are not enough staff to handle peak times, which is often in the fall. They are complaining that it takes too long to start receiving their benefits. If they had a surplus of cash they probably would not have applied for EI in the first place.

The students in my riding who attend university and other post-secondary institutions are really concerned about the process of applying for student loans.

We need a commitment. We need a real effort. We need a government with real integrity and the throne speech needs to have substance.

The government must re-examine and redefine our agriculture sector, our aboriginal issues, our health care system and our cities. It needs to give Canadians real dollars, real effort and real integrity. It has to be a country defined by its citizens, not by the government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the document presented this week, the throne speech, which will be a Liberal re-election pamphlet. However, if one had listened to what was said without analyzing the document thoroughly, one might say that there was a lot of stuff contained in the speech. When we do analyze it we find a lot of fluff and very little substance.

I have many items I would like to talk about but I am limited to 10 minutes so I will refer to some very general topics, one being health care.

Recently we saw the premiers all gathered together and being given a gift of $2 billion for health care by the Prime Minister. This seems to be a new initiative but it is not. It was promised back in the 2003 budget and talked about for years before that. Everybody has said that it will give a boost to health care when, at the same time they are suffering at the provincial levels because of cuts of $25 billion, over 12 times the amount they were given, cuts by the same minister.

What is in the throne speech to help our seniors, the people who have served us so well and are left with so little? What is in the throne speech to benefit one senior in the country?

I mentioned the other day to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that the fisheries had not even been mentioned. He said that the speech talked about the ocean and the Oceans Act and that they were going to do such wonderful work with the Oceans Act.

Let me say how interested the government is in the Oceans Act. In British Columbia we have an organization called the aquatic management board. Following the principles of the Ocean Act, this group is the only organization authorized under the Oceans Act. The government trumpets that the board as an organization is progressive thinking and engages the Oceans Act to the fullest.

How much does it appreciate the organization? The government announced a three year funding pilot project for the aquatic management board. The first year the board received a lump sum of $240,000. This year, year two, it received the first two quarterly payments of $60,000 each. However it has not received one single cent since August.

The board is now operating on a skeleton budget. Many of the board members are so committed that they are volunteering their time because they realize how important it is. Unfortunately, the minister does not.

DFO is saying, by the way, that the money has been approved but that it has been held up in the department by administrative errors. I did not believe that until in recent days we saw how really incompetent some of our accountants apparently are when they get mixed up between figures of $137,000 and $161 million. If they make mistakes like that I can easily understand why there may be some clerical delays within departments.

In the few moments I have left I want to concentrate on one part of the speech, the part that deals with post-secondary students. We have this great commitment from the government to address the concerns of the post-secondary students.

For a couple of years now some of us have been saying to anyone who would listen, “we must make post-secondary education affordable”. It is not affordable today unless students have a lot of money or access to money through their parents. Some people might also say that students can borrow or get student loans. We realize that a student loan today does not cut it, for two reasons. First, if students are forced to borrow the maximum they are left with a horrendous debt and, in most cases, the student loan program does not provide enough to cover the costs of education.

If students live near the university where they can walk to school, go home for lunch or dinner, live at home and avoid the extra cost of apartments, travel, food, furniture, then, yes, a student loan will cover the cost of their tuition and books. I know some of the pages here realize full well what I am saying.

If students do not live near the university and incur these extra expenses, they will find that the extra costs above and beyond tuition really double, in fact in may cases more than double, the total cost of their education.

Where are they going to get the money to fill that gap? They can work in the summer if they can find employment. In the rural areas it is extremely hard to find work, and six or eight weeks work just will not cut it.

If their parents have the money, well and good. They will cough up anywhere I would suggest from $3,000 to $10,000 a year, and I can show receipts to prove it, to cover the cost of their child's education. If they do not have the money and the student does not have access to it, the student has two options: go for a few months, live on Kraft dinner and then drop out when the money runs out; or not go at all, which is the most sorrowful thing. Unfortunately too many of our young people have to choose the second option.

The government has said that it will address it. It stated that loan limits would be increased. The government will let them borrow more money and instead of coming out owing $50,000, students can now borrow $70,000 and get their education. Of course when our students come out with big debt loads, they head south of the border where the big money is.

Family income thresholds will be raised to improve access for middle income families. What does that mean? It means that students again will be able to borrow more money.

The third thing the government will do is measures will be taken to improve loan terms for part time students. If one is a part time student, one can get a bigger loan.

Finally, the government will provide a new grant for low income students to cover a portion of the tuition for the first year of post-secondary education. What does that really mean, a portion of the tuition for the first year? If we look at the cost of a four, five or six year program and lump in travel, apartments or residence, clothing furniture and of course the cost of the student's books on top of the tuition, we can appreciate the cost and the burden for young people. We are going to look at part of the tuition, just the tuition, which is a minuscule amount of the overall cost in the first year.

Therefore, we will suck them in and we will say that post-secondary is available. They can go in and do their first year and part of their tuition will be covered. Then they will get in there and find the only way they can stay is borrow to the hilt.

This is turning more people away. I am not advocating free education, although we would all like to see it. I had a major conference this summer with a lot of Newfoundland students. They like other students yesterday were out protesting the treatment by the government and the horrendous costs of education.

Let us make education available. Let us make sure that every young person in the country with the ability to get an education has that opportunity, whether it be in college or in university. Let us adjust our funding so it becomes affordable and students have a reasonable loan to pay back, and no matter what part of the country or what the socio-economic status they can receive an education. For the rest of their lives they will contribute to the country rather than take away.

Let us hope the government wakes up. Let us hope that we will invest in our greatest resources, the young people of the country.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:20 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know we have asked this question of a number of different members. However, I will ask the question of this member because of his long involvement and knowledge of the fisheries on the east coast.

In the throne speech there is a statement on page 17 which seems to suggest that the government is looking at lifting the moratorium against drilling and exploring for gas and oil off the west coast. I know the member for St. John's West is particularly knowledgeable of the impact that just the exploration for oil has had on some of the fisheries in the Maritimes area.

Could the member indicate what his position is and what his commentary might be with regard to the proposed lifting of the moratorium?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will gladly give the member my opinion.

First, it is pretty interesting to note that the NDP keep asking the question on a day when David Suzuki and others of his foundation are in the galleries. We understand what its agenda is, and there is an election coming up.

There are certain sensitive areas in our ocean which should be protected. Which areas should be protected is a decision that should be made by both governments. The federal government controls anything beyond the shoreline, and I question that for several reasons. Provincial governments should have major input into that. We have to benefit from our resources.

Keep in mind that there are sensitive areas like breeding grounds for fish, special coral regions, feeding grounds, areas that contain plants that provide oxygen, plants that provide food to the biomass that swims in the area and food fish which feed other larger species. There are many reasons why certain selected areas should be protected, like the breeding grounds for the northern cod which have been raped because the draggers swoop in and grab the fish that congregate there to breed. However, the areas would have to be determined.

I do not agree with the wholesale opening up of all the areas. Nor do I agree with protecting every part of the ocean as some would like to do. We have to reap the resources for the benefit of the people. However, we have to use common sense and provide our people with the means to use the resources for their benefit while ensuring we protect the resources and provide an environment in which they can continue to prosper and grow. Can they go hand in hand? Yes, they can if we do it properly.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague for his knowledge of oceans and fisheries and my other colleague for bringing forth the issue of oceans, which was hardly mentioned in the throne speech.

My hon. colleague just introduced his private member's bill on the subject of custodial management over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, those parts of our continental shelf that extend beyond the 200 mile limit. We have great problems with enforcement issues there with NAFO. We also have a lack of resources to enforce the violations of our fishery which are taking place by international fishers. No money was mentioned for our fisheries, and some 600 workers may be laid off. I hope they are not the frontline people.

Could the member comment on the funding for oceans and fisheries?

Could he also comment of the government's commitment on funding for our military, which received mention on only 9 lines in the throne speech? Most of those lines were taken up with the great discovery by the government that the military needed helicopters after cancelling the contract 10 years ago which cost $500 million for zero helicopters.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, if the member wants me to comment fully on these questions, we would be here for at least a week because there is so much information. The government's record on either of these areas is horrendous.

There is not one aspect of the military that does not need funding. The government's attention to our military has been atrocious. My colleague mentioned the helicopter issue. Ten years ago the prime minister said that he was going to cancel this expensive contract. People thought it was a lot of money when billions of dollars were mentioned. When people are hit with high figures, without proper analysis and explanation, they will agree until they have time to size up what it is all about.

The same prime minister at the same time said that we did not need free trade. The Liberals campaigned against it and won an election. The Liberals said that they would abolish the GST. The budget that the Prime Minister, formerly the finance minister, brags about today was created by income from the GST, from the benefits of free trade, as well as from a third Liberal policy of cutting and slashing social programs.

This cutting and slashing has led to a decrease in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Our stocks are being raped because of improper surveillance. There are no frontline people to act as wardens on our rivers because they have been cut each year. Our Coast Guard has been decimated, and I could go on and on.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before proceeding with the debate, I wish to inform the House that there is an error in the text of government business No. 2 as printed in today's notice paper. A revised copy of the notice paper is available at the table. I certainly regret any inconvenience this may have caused hon. members.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:30 p.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies Québec


Yvon Charbonneau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Emergency Preparedness)

Mr. Speaker, last evening, when I set out the main thrust of the Speech from the Throne delivered Monday by the Governor General, along with a summary of the government's action plan, on which the Prime Minister had spoken the day before, the 400 people present in this assembly of which I am a member warmly applauded this clear and dynamic speech.

They had a number of reasons to be pleased with the speech. They were pleased to hear the Prime Minister, via the throne speech, affirm and confirm in the most convincing way our desire to build a Canada on solid social foundations, where people will be treated with respect and no one will be left out. They were happy to hear this objective mentioned, particularly as the number one priority.

We have been hearing a lot from the opposition parties about the new Prime MInister and his policy direction, which they claim to know. There is no point in seeking to find that direction in all sorts of allegations and statements that are meaningless. It must be looked for where it really is, that is in the top priority of the throne speech: building a country on solid social foundations.

The second priority mentioned by the Prime Minister is to have a strong and open economy to help us meet the challenges of the 21st century and take advantage of meaningful jobs.

That economy will also allow us to remain or become leaders in such areas as information technology and biotechnologies, where we are already well established, and in as yet lesser known areas such as nanotechnologies, with great promise for the future, as well as in an area very close to my heart, and I think the hearts of the people of Canada and Quebec: the development of environmental technologies, ecotechnologies.

The Prime Minister made himself very clear about these aspects, these pillars which will ensure that the Canadian economy in all regions will be strong, healthy, competitive and productive in the years to come.

Third in our priorities and goals—and people around me were quite proud to hear this—is our commitment to give Canada, our country, a role and influence in the international community. We will be proud because our country will have an independent voice, like it did in the talks about the war against Iraq.

Inquiries have been launched in the United States and in Great Britain into the role played by intelligence services. We do not have this kind of problem here.

Canada wants to have an independent voice. The public is proud of the direction taken by our country last year. That is what they tell us whenever they get a chance.

We will also be proud to see more and more forward looking initiatives in Canada, and leading edge projects in international cooperation. These projects promote Canadian values internationally.

I want to thank for its attention the audience I had in my riding of Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies last night. Approximately half were members of our party, but the others had no political allegiance. We had people from the provincial and municipal level, from school boards, volunteer agencies, ethnic communities, and economic agencies. These people had no political allegiance, but were interested in knowing what was going on politically at the federal level and what the government had to say in the speech.

These people were very happy to hear the throne speech, whatever their political allegiance. We did not ask them about that. We know that about half of them were Liberal Party members. We did not ask questions or give a test at the door in order to find out the political affiliation of the other half. These people came because they were interested in what was happening, what was going on and what our main thrust was going to be. Therefore, people were happy to see that the throne speech and the Prime Minister's speech provided a fresh impetus and a new vision.

They greatly appreciated this new vision, a vision of partnerships to be created or developed, partnerships with the provinces and the municipalities. Here in the House there are some who do not like it when we talk about partnerships with the municipalities and the provinces. These people are not happy unless everyone is fighting all the time. We are also talking about partnerships with business and new partnerships with organizations in the social economy. That is something new; that is a refreshing change. There also are partnerships with our American neighbour, based on mutual respect, reciprocity and transparency.

These people were happy to hear about this government's commitments to ethics, transparency and accountability. They were also happy to see that we would be working together as members of Parliament in order to take on more responsibilities and work in an atmosphere that will be more stimulating for our ideas and our work here, and that will enable us and those of our opposition colleagues who would like to take part in this reform and renewal, to get things moving.

Obviously not everyone is ready for that and in that frame of mind. Some are ready and some are less ready.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.