This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was land.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, in effect the onus is still on the Crown to prove that it has a repeat offender, more or less. In most cases that money is not found with a repeat offender. This is somebody who is sent out with little or no record. There will be a big problem resulting from that.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

September 27th, 2005 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider transferring the land currently leased by the Queensway-Carleton Hospital from the National Capital Commission to the Hospital at a cost of one dollar.

Mr. Speaker, it is often that we rise in this House to discuss matters of important national character. Today I have the distinguished pleasure of speaking on a matter of local importance to my constituents. It pertains to the Queensway Carleton Hospital, which sits about three minutes outside the constituency I represent and services a catchment area, including roughly 400,000 people, some of whom are in the most aging demographic in the whole country. This is a hospital that provides indispensable care to constituents throughout my riding and also throughout the city of Ottawa and the national capital region.

Today I discuss a unique issue. The hospital sits on land that is owned by the Government of Canada, the National Capital Commission. It has paid nearly a million dollars in rent since its formation in the early seventies.

The current lease arrangement that exists between the hospital and the government will expire in roughly eight years, at which point the Liberal government is threatening to raise the rent by several millions of dollars to equal full market value. This would have the pernicious impact of costing the hospital, in the words of its outgoing chairman, as many as 40 nurses. It could also block plans for the hospital to build a cancer care centre and to provide family doctors right on site in a community that is sorely lacking of those resources.

My motion calls on the government to do what most municipalities and provincial governments already have done for their local hospitals, which is to turn over the land to that hospital for the price of $1. This is standard treatment for most municipalities and provinces. In fact, there are at least two hospitals in the city of Ottawa alone that received their land from the city of Ottawa for the price of $1.

It merely follows in a logical order that the Government of Canada would do the same thing for this local hospital.

This issue was brought to my attention by great community leaders like D. Aubrey Moodie, who was one of the hospital's founders. He indicated that this was a problem, but so did the chair of the hospital and its CEO and members of its board. All of them had attempted in the past to bring this matter to the attention of the government, but with no success. In fact, people attempted to bring this matter to the attention of the member for Ottawa West—Nepean. Her inaction on the matter had caused them to turn elsewhere to find some resolve.

I would like to begin by thanking some members of the House who have supported our hospital thus far, members of the Conservative caucus. We also have had support from members of the New Democratic caucus. I make particular mention of the member from Winnipeg who has showed excellent resolve and the Bloc member for Repentigny who also has supported the local hospital.

Neither of these members have direct interest in this hospital, as their geography puts them at quite a distance. Because of their altruistic desire to see health care provided across the country in a manner that is fair, equitable and complete, they have come to support of this hospital.

So far though, I say with great regret, we have not seen any support from any member of the Liberal caucus. Not one member of the Liberal caucus has taken any action whatsoever to bring about positive resolve for our community hospital.

In advance of their rising, I will address some of the bureaucratic obfuscation that we can expect from the Liberals in tonight's debate. I will go through argument by argument and dismantle piece by piece all the bureaucratic obstacles which will be presented by the Liberal caucus in this evening's debate and beyond.

First, they will argue that, if the hospital gets its land for $1, then the government's entire real estate portfolio will come tumbling down, that tenants of all sorts across the country will suddenly demand that they too should have land for $1 and that the assets of the Government of Canada will therefore be cannibalized.

I reassure them in advance that the sky will not fall if this hospital gets its land.

Let me provide the reasons why. First, municipalities do this all the time. Second, the Government of Canada has done it before. For example, the National Capital Commission owns the land on which the Pineview Golf Course is located. It charges that golf course $1 per year in rent.

The government will argue that the golf course made a down payment of $200,000 some years ago. That is true. This hospital has made a down payment of nearly $1 million because it has been paying year after year. The hospital has paid five times as much in down payment and now merely asks for the same treatment the Liberal government has given a golf course. Members opposite, even those who represent the region, oppose the hospital and come to the defence of the Liberal leader who is responsible for this problem.

Third, other hospitals in the country sit on federal land. Veterans hospitals and aboriginal hospitals sit on federal government land and the government charges them zero rent. In fact, only one hospital in the whole country pays rent to the federal government and it is the Queensway Carleton Hospital. It is the exception to the rule. It is my view that exception should continue no longer.

The next argument Liberal members will make is that the hospital's lease expires in 2013. We have plenty of time, “Don't worry, be happy”. Hospitals have long term planning cycles that go 10, 15 and even 20 years out. They hire demographers to plan what population will be in the region 10 or 15 years from now so they can make budgetary decisions and capital investments today that will support the long term care of the community.

This hospital needs to plan whether it can build a cancer centre, dental offices and family doctor centres on campus, as the board is actively considering. Those decisions, if they are to be taken forward 10 years from now, must be made today. The financial decisions and overall planning of the hospital campus must happen now. Those decisions cannot occur with this multi-million dollar cloud hanging over the hospital's head. It is impossible for any institution to make decisions of that enormity if it may have to face a multi-million dollar rent increase within the current hospital planning cycle. In other words, it needs to know immediately what its situation will be at the termination of this lease.

Finally, the hospital plans in the imminent future the possibility of constructing a building on-site which could be rented to family doctors, dentists and other health care practitioners which would generate revenue for the hospital and bring more specialists to our community. That cannot occur unless the hospital has control of its own land and an assurance that all the rental revenues that would come from those buildings would go to the hospital and not to the Liberal government. Again, this issue needs urgent resolution.

Another argument Liberals will make is that Treasury Board rules prohibit them from giving the hospital control over its own land. They will point to clauses in the Treasury Board guidelines which indicate that full market value rent must be exacted from the tenant in order to live up to the rules of the Treasury Board. They managed to do it for a golf course, but let us go even further.

The Treasury Board is a cabinet committee, meaning that the Liberal cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, and he should be responding to this issue today, has the full authority to overturn or create some sort of dispensation for this hospital at any time it pleases. In fact, it makes all the rules and the cabinet is the master of its own destiny. That means this decision is entirely within the hands of the Liberal leader and his Liberal cabinet.

The Liberals cannot simply blame the NCC and claim that the decision is out of their hands. They are the ones who are responsible for the punishing rent that awaits our hospital. They, at the next cabinet meeting, should they have the political will, have the authority to decide there and then next Tuesday morning to give the hospital its land.

Why will the Liberal Prime Minister not make that decision? He is dithering again. What is funny is that the Liberals did not have to dither that long when it was their friends who needed money. When they were handing out money in the sponsorship program there was not some complicated process of rules that had to be followed. They simply handed the money over to their friends.

To this day, through the Technology Partnerships Canada program, Liberal lobbyists are making money hand over fist and breaking all the rules. It just seems that the Liberals are fully prepared to bend and break any rule they want when it puts money in the pockets of their friends but when it comes to a hospital, oh, there are rules. We cannot have the rules broken because a hospital perhaps will not profit the Liberal Party of Canada.

I would argue that it is far more important that we provide this hospital with its land and its financial security than it is for that party to continue to pillage the public trust and waste Canadian tax dollars. However once again we will see Liberals rise in the House and they will list 15-year-old reports and bureaucratic rules dating back before I was born, collecting so much dust because they have not been pulled off the shelves for decades and decades, but they contain some small clause that would stop the Liberals, they claim, from giving the hospital its land.

That kind of bureaucratic obfuscation will not convince anyone. It will not convince this party, which actually supports health care and fights for its citizens, and it will not convince the people of west end Ottawa who desperately need the services of this hospital.

Today we stand before the House with an historic opportunity to defend the interests of an entire community of 400,000 who rely on a hospital. There is no reason why every member of every party in the House cannot unite hand in hand with the goal of this hospital's future prosperity in mind.

After having heard some of these facts I have shared this evening, I am sure that members of the Liberal Party will have changed their view and that when they rise today they will have agreed that this hospital is worth more than the rental cheque that the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister want to collect from it.

I want to close with a message of empowerment to inspire the government to change its ways. I will close with a very brief story if I have the time.

There once was a young boy who had a sage teacher, up to whom he looked all the time. He came to the teacher all the time and asked him questions for which that teacher always had an answer. He tried to stump him with question after question and he never could. The wise old sage always had a response.

The boy went to the sage old man with a butterfly in his hand and said, “Teacher, is this butterfly alive or is it dead?” The older gentleman thought for a moment, “How do I answer this, because if I said it was alive, the boy would squeeze it and suffocate it and if I said it was dead, he would open his hands and up to the sky it would flutter”, so there was no right answer. The boy asked once again, getting more cocky and happy, he said, “Is it alive or is it dead?” The wise old man said, “Young man, the answer is in your hands”.

The answer is in the hands of the Liberals. I call on them to do the right thing, to rise in favour of health care, to defend the interests of the Queensway Carleton Hospital and the thousands of patients that it serves. Let us rise together for this noble cause.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I believe it is unparliamentary for a member of Parliament to denigrate another member of Parliament with regard to his or her work or performance. I am sorry that the member from Nepean was named by the member and in fact is on his website again attacking another member of Parliament with his own judgment as to the quality of her work. I believe it is unparliamentary. As well, as we know the Speaker has already reprimanded that member for similar activity.

The member has not presented all the facts with regard to a number of the things that he said. I will give a couple of examples.

First, he indicated that no other Ottawa hospital is paying any rent because the city, the province and so on have given up all their debt and yet the Ottawa Hospital does pay $200,000 in rent for its land and the hospital, which goes to the city, also pays a per bed charge to the city. Therefore the member was incorrect in his information.

He also made light of the situation that there is a golf course on national capital lands and that it only paid a $200,000 deposit. If he had given all of the facts he would understand that it has ongoing obligations to maintain that property up to certain standards which would normally be the cost to the government. The member has, in those two instances and in many other cases, not given the full information.

I would like to ask the member a question which I posed at the government ops committee when he first brought this forward. If he is aware perhaps he could give the answer now.

The concern was raised that since the hospitals are funded in terms of their operations by the Province of Ontario, by provincial governments, that rent is included in that. To the extent that the Government of Canada or through the National Capital Commission would either charge no rent or effectively eliminate its current rental charges, the province would then offset and therefore effectively all that would be happening is that the federal government would be paying bills that were the responsibility of the provincial government, which would seem to be inappropriate and in fact would not help the hospital because on a net basis it would be in the same place.

If the member is aware of the answer to that, he knows the question from the government ops committee, could he confirm whether he has checked to see if the hospital would be insulated from an offset from the Province of Ontario?

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raises three points and I will respond to them one by one.

First, he raised the case of the Ottawa Hospital. Of course I made the point that no hospital was being charged rent by the federal government. I did not comment on the municipalities arrangement. Furthermore, the Ottawa Hospital has a very unique relationship with the City of Ottawa in that it has enhanced parking space for which those charges are made. It is not of the same kind of situation that exists for the Queensway Carleton Hospital.

As for the golf course, he said that it was different because the golf course has to maintain itself, which is what it is doing in exchange for its rental obligation. I suppose it would be cutting its grass regardless of its rent situation but the hospital has to maintain itself as well. It has to keep its beds clean and it has to take 160 patients into the emergency ward every single day. I would suggest the hospital is doing more maintenance work than the entire 18 holes of the Pineview Golf Course combined.

Finally, I do not suspect that the provincial government would offset any savings that the hospital received from the federal government unless, that is, the provincial Liberal government in the province of Ontario decided to punish the hospital. However so far provincial Liberals in this province have come to support my resolution.

In fact, the provincial member of Parliament in the riding of Ottawa West—Nepean has said publicly that he supports my initiative. I would not expect any problems from the provincial McGuinty government because it is only the federal Liberal Party that stands against the hospital here. It is one party with one objective to squeeze more dollars out of Canadian taxpayers and, in this case, a hospital.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the motion. It obviously is a matter of great concern to the Queensway Carleton Hospital in my riding and to the many people throughout the western part of our region whom it serves. In the interests of the hospital, all of us want to see a resolution to this issue that is fair, reasonable and acceptable to the hospital.

However I find it a bit ironic that the MP for Nepean—Carleton has teamed up with the provincial member for Nepean—Carleton. I also find it a bit ironic that John Baird is now purporting to be a defender of health care. This is the same John Baird who sat at the Mike Harris cabinet table as the senior minister for eastern Ontario while hospitals were being closed, while our local hospital board was being disbanded, while nurses were being fired by the hundreds if not thousands and while the federal government transferred one billion—

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. Let us listen to the hon. member, please.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened respectfully to my colleague across the way and I trust that I would have the same courtesy from other members of Parliament.

As I said, while nurses were being fired, when the federal government transferred $1 billion to the Mike Harris Ontario government for new medical equipment, not one new MRI came to our region. At the same time we transferred $250 million to the Mike Harris government for primary health care. The Nepean Community Resource Centre, which services that area and is represented by Mr. Baird, did not get one single cent for its long term plan for delivering health care in Nepean.

The member of Parliament for Nepean—Carleton keeps promoting information he knows to be false, and I find that unacceptable. As I plan to leave public office after nearly 30 years of service, it saddens me to see two politicians taking advantage and using our hospital to further their own political ambitions.

The hospital finds itself in this situation because it does have a 40 year lease with the federal government, the National Capital Commission specifically, that ends in 2013. For long term planning purposes it does need to know what its situation and what its costs will be at that time. It does want to negotiate the terms of the lease now following the end of the current lease.

The situation arises because of a policy that generally has served the public interest well. Treasury Board policy to charge fair market value for the lease or sale of any land owned by the federal government was brought in by the previous Conservative government. It was brought forward in response to the Neilson task force report, and I am sure many of us remember Eric Neilson. It stated that “Real property has been one of the most highly politicized functions of government”. That is precisely why the policy was brought in by the Conservative government at the time.

The member for Nepean—Carleton has spoken more often to the media than he has spoken to the National Capital Commission about a resolution of this issue. In fact, he cancelled two meetings with the NCC to put forward the interests of the hospital. I on the other hand have met numerous times with the hospital, with its chair, with the chair of the National Capital Commission and with them together, and initiated the very first meeting at which they began to discuss the changes in their lease. I am very happy to note that those negotiations resumed as of yesterday at my urging and apparently the discussions went well. They are not completed.

We all want to see something that is fair and reasonable for the hospital. The chair of the National Capital Commission gave that assurance some time ago directly in a letter to the member of Parliament for Nepean—Carleton. He said, “However, we welcome the opportunity to discuss the future of the lease with the hospital board and would like to emphasize that the NCC intends to act reasonably in all matters pertaining to the lease with the hospital”. That same letter to the MP for Nepean—Carleton said, “First, let me assure you that any suggestions the terms of the lease renewal would result in the rent increasing to well over $3 million in one year is entirely unfounded”. Yet, that figure continues to be repeated.

I have urged the NCC to consider that the hospital pays for maintenance of federal property, that the federal government is not paying grants in lieu of taxes on the property because it is leased to the hospital, that this is land that is part of the greenbelt, and therefore not available for sale or for development. The hospital is not going anywhere, so that part of the property is not available for sale or development. It certainly diminishes and minimizes the property value of the lease that we are talking about.

Whatever the NCC proposes we must ensure that Auditor General Sheila Fraser is satisfied. In the past she has warned the government of the need for transparency for Parliament and the public, and the recognition of the value of real property when selling or leasing to avoid indirect subsidization. We need to ensure that Auditor General Sheila Fraser is happy with any proposed solution.

I want to talk specifically about one aspect of the motion. The motion proposes the transfer of the property for $1, not the lease of the property. My colleague mentioned several commercial uses that the hospital might wish to put on the land. I am surprised, frankly, to find a Conservative member of Parliament proposing that a public institution on free land should be in competition with the private sector in the immediate area that could easily provide things like nursing homes or doctors' and medical facilities for profit.

In any case, I think he would agree that if the property were to be used for commercial purposes then it should be leased at commercial rates in order not to be subsidizing and competing unfairly with the private sector. Frankly, I would like to hear him defend that.

Finally, if there are going to be commercial uses on the property contrary to the current lease, this is something that would have to be subject to consultation with the neighbours. The member for Nepean—Carleton does not have to be concerned about that because he does not represent surrounding neighbourhoods as I do. Clearly, if we are changing the conditions that were agreed to when the hospital was built, I think the community has to be made aware of that and has to have an opportunity to respond and provide its comments.

We want to democratize the way government works. We want to democratize the way Parliament works. Excluding the public from a major change in public policy is not the way to do that.

I have put a great deal of effort into this. I want to do whatever is possible to get the hospital an agreement that it finds acceptable. I will continue to put my full efforts into that. I would urge only that others in the House do exactly the same thing, that we work toward a solution that the hospital finds acceptable, and that is consistent as well with the public interest. I hope we can all work constructively together toward that end.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Thibault Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to examine the facts with regard to this motion. The Queensway Carleton Hospital pays approximately $23,000 annually to lease 50 acres of land. This lease was based on fair market value at the time. The land was leased for 40 years, or until 2013. The lease was granted in compliance with the relevant Treasury Board directives.

The hospital authorities and the member for Nepean—Carleton fear an astronomical increase in costs and, in communicating that fear to us, the member is being somewhat alarmist. The government and the NCC are refusing to transfer the land in order, among other things, to maintain the national interest land mass.

Motion No. 135 seeks to have the federal government transfer the land to the hospital for the sum of $1.

There is a world of difference between symbolically transferring a lease or land in exchange for $1 per year and trying to reach a reasonable agreement between the hospital's board and the NCC. In fact, on one hand, the hospital must ensure its survival. It is understandable that the directors are concerned. On the other hand, the federal government's real property program also deserves respect.

When Tom Schonberg appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, I regretfully was not present. That was when my father was dying. What he said was: “We need some security going into the future, first, so that we do not have hanging over our head a large lease cost that will not bring services to Ottawa, in particular the west of Ottawa, and second, so that there's some certainty, as I said, in moving forward with any partner that a substantial amount of money does not go into the leasing of land. That's what our issue has been to this point in time.”

I take from this that the CEO assumes that the lease will be terribly expensive and that this is a cause of concern to him. He also would like to have greater certainty.

I would add in passing that Mr. Schonberg's concerns, like those I suspect of all health facility administrators, are of course legitimate ones, given the federal government under-funding to which they are victims. One way to remedy this, one solution, is to require health funding to be improved while respecting the jurisdictions of the provinces and Quebec, rather than as an exception. This could prove an extremely fair way of distributing wealth.

After that aside, I will quote the chair of the NCC at that same meeting. He said “I am happy to say that I have already indicated to the hospital officials that we would work with them to look at a variety of options for the future lease. I met with senior hospital officials in January 2005. At that time, we discussed a number of alternatives for setting the future rent that would respect federal government policies, while offering the hospital a level of certainty to enable future expansion.”

The Bloc Québécois is of the opinion that the two parties must, first, continue to negotiate in order to reach agreement on renewal of the lease. There is every reason to believe that they will reach an acceptable, good-faith agreement by 2013. The cost of the lease will be reasonable and set according to Treasury Board standards.

Second, both parties must agree on an amount that reflects fair market value of the land at the time of the agreement, and not base it on past decisions on other NCC properties, which do not reflect today's reality.

The Bloc Québécois position is quite consistent considering the arguments by hospital directors, the Treasury Board and the NCC. It is also consistent considering the case of the Wakefield hospital in Quebec, located in part on NCC property. Since this property was not part of the National Interest Land Mass, the National Capital Commission sold it to the hospital.

The property in question is 3.5 acres of land that was sold for $5,000 an acre.

In 1994, the National Capital Commission sold land to the Perley hospital for $9 a square foot, because the hospital needed it in order to continue operating. This land, too, was not part of the so-called National Interest Land Mass.

These are two examples that show that the National Capital Commission has signed valid contracts without suffering a shortfall.

It is very important to note that the Bloc Québécois position is in line with our calls for returning expropriated land at Mirabel. The Bloc Québécois is not asking Aéroports de Montréal to give expropriated land back or to give it up for more or less $1, but to sell it.

In closing, it is very important that this situation is resolved without causing any financial repercussions to the federal government or for this to look like an indirect subsidy. Just like the hon. member who spoke before me, I want to add that the auditor general herself has already raised the issue of the need for transparency in the past and the need for the value of real estate to be known and taken into account.

It is not desirable to create a shortfall for the NCC, nor a precedent in this case.

As I was saying in the beginning, the two parties are now in negotiations. We have no reason to doubt that they are acting in good faith. They have until 2013 to agree, so let us leave them to it.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me also begin by complimenting the member for Nepean—Carleton. I honestly believe that this is an example of a member of Parliament doing exactly what a member of Parliament should be doing and that is to advocate aggressively on behalf of his riding and the people in his riding on an issue that I see as having broad public policy interests.

We are talking about the National Capital Commission charging rent at market value to a hospital within my colleague's riding of Nepean—Carleton. I put it to hon. members that this is simply bad public policy. I think we should support my colleague's motion as a matter of course, and as a precedent-setting matter of course this rent should be reduced to one dollar, a token amount of money.

I cannot tell the House how strongly I feel about this. I know that there are other hospitals across the country on federal land. The federal government does not charge them rent or lease amounts because it is an absurd idea to have this snake eating its tail in a circular route of public money.

The federal government gives public money to the provinces to administer health care. The province gives money to a hospital to run the hospital. Why should the hospital then be charged market value rent just to send it back to, in this case, the federal government via the National Capital Commission? It does not make any sense and it certainly puts the hospital at a disadvantage.

With all due respect to my colleague from the Bloc who was making the point that there is plenty of time for the two parties to negotiate a reasonable settlement, I ask her to consider the testimony we heard at committee from one of the principals, a member of the board of directors. It may even have been the CEO of the board of directors who pointed out that in order to plan future development they need certainty about what their capital costs will be and what their fixed costs will be. The cost of their lease as contemplated by the NCC could be as high as $3.4 million per year. Some media outlets have put it at about half that amount. Either way, it could equal the salaries of 40 nurses.

In order to plan a proposed new cancer care centre for that hospital, a much needed and much anticipated new capital investment, the directors also need to know what their costs will be, because it takes five, seven and eight years to get a new cancer care treatment centre online and up and running. They need to know with some certainty today what their fixed costs will be eight years from now or that cancer care program and building will not be built. There is some sense of urgency, even though the lease does not expire for a couple of years.

I hope members of Parliament here can see fit to at least listen to the words of Mr. Jeff Polowin, the chair of the board of directors of the Queensway Carleton Hospital. I would ask hon. members to listen to a brief part of his presentation to us. He said to our committee, “Mr. Chair, we are the only hospital in the Ottawa area that pays rent. We pay rent to the National Capital Commission...Let me stress, please, that this is not the NCC's fault”.

In fact, said Mr. Polowin, the NCC and its staff “have been extremely cooperative in searching for a compromise...but Mr. Beaudry and the NCC's hands are tied”. He goes on to say that this is purely “a political decision here in Ottawa” and that perhaps the committee “can untie his hands”.

In other words, there is some interest on the part of the National Capital Commission in accommodating the reasonable position of the hospital and the member of Parliament representing that hospital, but the NCC's hands are tied by a directive from government, from cabinet, from Treasury Board. The NCC's hands could be untied with a directive from the House of Commons to tell the cabinet and the Liberal government not to adhere to this Treasury Board guideline, in the case of hospitals alone, because it is counterproductive, it is bad public policy, it is bad for our health care system and there is no justification.

I think my colleague, the member for Nepean—Carleton, was trying to point out that we are being constrained by a policy decision made arbitrarily with no business case for it. As if there were not enough compelling reasons for the government to simply change this policy, there is this glaring contradiction of a golf course within the geographic region of the NCC being given a $1 a year lease. It is absurd to be charging a hospital which, arguably, is of greater public benefit even for those who may love golf. Surely we can accept that it is more important that the hospital be adequately funded and not be crippled and constrained by high rent costs than it is to grant this $1 deal to a golf course.

Surely we can see the sense as parliamentarians of our beleaguered health care system not being saddled with this onerous rent. The $23,000 that the hospital has been paying for over 30 years is a significant chunk of change in its own right, but to assess the rent at the market value, given what just happened to real estate prices in the last 12 months, puts an uncertainty on the board of directors of the hospital that they would have a really hard time coping with.

Therefore, in the interest of common sense, if we can appeal to nothing else but common sense, I urge members of Parliament to consider this motion and to consider entertaining the idea that in the case of hospitals, without precedent or prejudice for any other type of federal government building that may be on public land, we should in fact adopt the motion as put forward in the debate today.

Just for added weight, I should say that I have the full support of my caucus on this and, in particular, the member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre who feels very strongly about this idea but who could not be here tonight so I am representing the caucus on this issue, and other members of Parliament in the Ottawa region who are in full agreement with the motion. The only caveat or condition that the member for Ottawa Centre asked me to convey to members tonight is that he wishes this policy could be expanded so that it would apply to any hospital on any federal land anywhere in the country.

This is a good idea brought forward by a good member of Parliament who is doing what an MP should be doing and that is advocating aggressively on behalf of his constituents and on behalf of this critically important hospital. Anyone who may have the time or interest should look through the presentations made at our standing committee when we dealt with this motion. I also should point out that the motion passed at the committee. We are only asking the House of Commons to further ratify and endorse what the committee, in its wisdom, decided.

There is great wisdom in this idea. National benefits can be gained from this idea as a precedent pertaining to hospitals only, I should add. I feel very strongly that this is a good thing to do for all of these reasons.

I will close by quoting a legal opinion from the law firm of Lang Michener stating:

It is clear that the Canadian Health care system has come increasingly under financial pressures. The federal government continues to cut federal spending on provincial health care, yet, continues to demand adherence to the principles of the Canada Health Act. By forcing the QCH to pay rent for a service which is constitutionally mandated to be a “national concern” within federal jurisdiction is requiring the QCH to violate the legislative authority to which they are bound.

This lawyer sees the contradiction inherent in this practice of trying to make the Queensway Carleton Hospital pay rent at market value to the National Capital Commission.

My strong feeling is that the House of Commons should give direction to cabinet to give direction to the National Capital Commission to renegotiate a long term lease on behalf of the Queensway Carleton Hospital at $1 per year regardless of the market value of the land that it sits on.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my remarks will be divided into three matters. First, I want to talk a little about the importance of this particular hospital, as someone who has lived most of his life in an area that is served by the Queensway Carleton Hospital. Second, I would like to talk a little about the theme of equality of treatment for institutions on federal lands and how the Queensway-Carleton Hospital is being singled out for unfair and certainly very different treatment from other institutions on federal lands. Third, I would like to correct a couple of factual errors made earlier in the remarks by my hon. colleague from Ottawa West.

At the end of my debate I will be moving an amendment to the motion. The amendment has the approval of the mover of the motion, the hon. member for Nepean--Carleton.

Let us start with number one. This is a very important hospital. My former riding of Lanark--Carleton contained a number of very small towns. Carleton Place, where I live, with a population of 10,000, has a hospital, and a very good hospital I might add. Almonte, a smaller town, also has a hospital. Smiths Falls and Perth now have a united hospital with two campuses, one in each town. This is part of the reason for the vitality of smaller towns, having the capacity to serve people in the community.

The other part of the constituency I formerly represented was the city of Kanata, now part of the city of Ottawa, with a population 65,000 and it did not have its own hospital. It was only part of the catchment area covered by the Queensway Carleton Hospital, along with Stittsville, the Goulburn area, parts of the western part of the city of Ottawa and much of the former city of Nepean, a catchment area in total of several hundred thousand people. This is a very important institution. Perhaps I am biased a little in emphasizing how important it is by the fact that this is the hospital to which my mother was taken when she broke her hip a couple of decades ago and she received excellent service there.

Of course excellent service can be provided only when there is the financial capacity to provide that service. When moneys are diverted from health care to other expenditures, including rent to the National Capital Commission, then of course the ability to provide that money for health care services will not be there.

That is not necessarily a tremendously significant issue right now because the amount of rent being paid is not huge. Just now the Queensway Carleton Hospital is finishing up a 40-year lease that was signed in July 1973. The lease will expire in 2013. Right now the rent is not enormous, but in 2013 it could become a very substantial rent. Because of the uncertainty caused by no decision being taken to guarantee a reasonable rate of rent, a guarantee into the future, the Queensway Carleton Hospital is hamstrung. It is hamstrung now by the dithering of a government that will not deal with an issue which, sure, is eight years off in the future. In terms of this government, that might as well be a million years from now. In terms of investment and the sorts of investments that a hospital has to make, that is not a million years from now. Eight years is in fact a very short time horizon and the hospital cannot act unless it has certainty.

The second thing I want to talk about is equality treatment. Justice demands that all like facilities on federal lands be treated similarly. There are other hospitals on federal lands. This is not the only one. This is, however, the only one that faces this kind of uncertainty. This is the only hospital on federal lands that pays more than a nominal rent and which faces the danger of a potentially enormous increase in its rental payment in the future. This makes this hospital's situation very different from that of the other hospitals that are on federal lands.

Of course the example was already given of the Pine View Municipal Golf Course, a golf course in the city of Ottawa which pays a nominal rent to the National Capital Commission. An observation was made about the fact that it has certain obligations in addition to its nominal rent.

I am unaware of any lease signed by anyone anywhere--and I say this as someone who has a lease on a number of properties myself, including constituency offices. I have two constituency offices. I rent where I live. I have signed business leases. I have never heard of a lease that does not have obligations in it.

The nonsense that was thrown out by the hon. member that somehow this distinguishes and explains why there is no actual monetary revenue paid by this golf course is just nonsense. This is just a red herring thrown across the path to leave the impression that somehow the government is not engaged in a gross injustice when it imposes costs on a hospital that it will not impose on a golf course. And I say that as someone who loves golf.

This brings me to the third theme I have in my remarks today, the misstatements or the errors that were made in the remarks by the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean. I mentioned the golf course already which was one of them. The second one was about private facilities on hospital premises. She suggested, erroneously, and it was probably an honest mistake but I want to correct it now, that the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton in his motion had also talked about the idea of putting private facilities, for profit facilities, on the land currently leased by the hospital from the National Capital Commission. That is not so. What in fact the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton has said is that the hospital might be allowed in the future to sublease facilities to private practitioners, that is, to family practitioners in particular, in order that they can carry on their family practices.

There is the problem of a lack of family practitioners in Ontario. I for one do not have a family doctor right now. The member is trying to assist in dealing with this problem in his constituency. This is something that hospitals are doing everywhere, including in the province of Ontario. To suddenly discover that this is some kind of abuse of the health care system is an invention of the member for Ottawa West--Nepean. There is in fact a perfectly reasonable business case for doing this. There is a health care case for doing this. I think this is just another red herring the member has thrown out to distract us from the real issue of the injustice in the way in which the Queensway-Carleton Hospital is being treated.

Third is the issue of what the NCC can and cannot do, that somehow the NCC is an independent operator, operating out there with no political interference, that it is on its own and any problems that arise in the way the Queensway-Carleton is treated should be laid, the member suggests, at the door of the National Capital Commission. That is just not so. The National Capital Commission is under the control of the cabinet and of the government. The National Capital Commission can and does change things, or indeed is overridden by orders in council when the government decides to do so.

The government did decide to do so in a matter that it judged to be of urgency just a few months ago when it was discovered that a member of the Senate might be in a position of conflict of interest. The Treasury Board rules were changed regarding a building in the national capital area. When it is an issue the government judges to be of importance, it can act lickety-split and it should act quickly on this issue too, an issue that is of importance.

I mentioned that I had an amendment to present. In presenting this amendment, I just want to say that the member also suggested that the transfer of land, the transfer of ownership of the land is a major issue, that we ought not to alienate federal property and that it might some day go on to some other use. Of course some things could be written into the covenant of sale to deal with that. The other possibility is that the land could be leased at a nominal rate for a long period of time. That is what my amendment is going to suggest, that the federal government lease the land to the hospital for a long period of time at $1 a year.

We can test the sincerity of the member's commitment to actually try to provide these services and test whether or not it was just a non sequitur that she threw out when this amendment comes up for a vote.

Therefore, I move, with the approval of the original mover of the motion, the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton:

That M-135 be amended by:

(a) deleting the word “transferring” and replacing it with the words “continuing to lease”; and

(b) by adding after the word “dollar”, the following: “per annum, starting at the end of the current lease in the year 2013”.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There always are these questions of whether there is a substantive change in the original intent of the motion.

The motion as presented to the House was very clearly that there be a sale of property for $1 and that the ownership is going to transfer from the National Capital Commission to the hospital.

The amendment being proposed is a totally different arrangement, where the ownership is not going to change. That is different. The whole concept of leasing or continuing to own and to lease is much different from actually selling.

I believe that the amendment is out of order, simply because it is a substantive change from what was presented to members and on which we have debated.

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not have the rules of the House in front of me, but I believe that in order for an amendment to be out of order, it would have to change the intention of the motion. The intention, as was made very clear in the lengthy speech of my hon. colleague, was to ensure that the Queensway Carleton Hospital is able to continue functioning.

I am aware that the hon. member disagrees with me on this point. However, I think the key point here is not the sale or lease, but it is in fact the—

Queensway Carleton HospitalPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order. Seeing that we are at the end of this hour, I will take the proposals under advisement. We will come back to the House prior to the next hour of debate on this particular subject.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Queensway Carleton HospitalAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey Conservative North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on a follow up question that I raised originally on June 20 after the Department of Agriculture announced it was closing the Nappan Experimental Farm in my riding, along with three other farms across the country.

I raised the issue at the time after I made an access to information request to find out the reasoning behind it and what was going on. In response to that access to information request, a report said that the field site at Nappan would not be needed for research any more and would be divested by 2006. The beef research from Nappan would then move to New Liskeard, Ontario.

In the same access to information report it stated, “Nappan is one of the four original experimental farms in Canada created by legislation in the 1880s. Research here could be shifted to Lacombe, Alberta”. It goes on to say, “The office of the local MP has now become involved”, and that is me. I am involved and very concerned about this. The report I received indicated that other farms, including Kentville, Bouctouche and many others across the country, would close.

We raised this with the minister and, to his credit, he called a moratorium on all closures. He has begun a process of hearings to try to determine a better strategy for science in the country. We appreciate the moratorium and the opportunity to present our case.

Nappan is an 800 acre farm with total unique soils, grasses and forages that are unique to Atlantic Canada. Research in Atlantic Canada cannot be done in Lacombe, Alberta. It cannot be duplicated simply because of the different soils and circumstances. There are hundreds of acres of chemical free property at the Nappan Experimental Farm, perfect for organic research and research on crops and products that could be produced for Atlantic Canada.

There is a unique building that does testing on individual cattle. It tests cattle for the amount of feed they eat each day, they are controlled, one by one, and it is very impressive. It is my understanding that it is the only one in any experimental farm in Canada and it cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

Through access to information, we received a document on specific activities and time lines for agriculture research and science in Canada. At the time, I tried to find out who wrote this brief, who it was addressed to and the date it was written. We have had several comments that it is a memo. It outlines specific things that will happen in agricultural science across the country, including closing several experimental facilities. It specifically says that the first four will be Nappan and the three others I mentioned earlier.

We have asked for this through access to information and officials at the Department of Agriculture. Originally, the minister agreed to ensure that I received this information, but we still have not obtained the information on specific activities and time lines. I called the minister's office today to give him a heads up that I would be asking about the report. We would still like to know who wrote the report, who it was to and the date it was written.

I see the very distinguished Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture is present. I am sure he will give a very eloquent answer on this. I believe the agricultural community in Nova Scotia, the Department of Agriculture and the minister are working toward a solution that will allow the Nappan Experimental Farm to survive, prosper and serve the agricultural community in the way it should for many years to come.

If the parliamentary secretary has that information, could he tell us who wrote it, who it was to and the date it was written?

Queensway Carleton HospitalAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, we will provide information later on where we believe we should go with our research. The member opposite continues to refer to documents that relate to opinions, analysis and possible scenarios that were developed to explore possible directions for the department's science activities, but they do not represent the final decisions made by the department.

In his remarks the member opposite congratulated the minister for putting in place a moratorium on the four research stations mentioned, and that is to the member's credit.

The facts are these. In February the department, as part of the expenditure review initiative, announced that it would be closing four research locations in Nappan, Nova Scotia, St. John's, Newfoundland, Kapuskasing, Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba. However, the minister decided, after feedback from many across the country, including the member opposite, to put in place a moratorium. That moratorium has been put on those closures and those locations will continue to operate until all consultations about their future are completed and evaluated.

The government is committed to ensuring that Canada is a world leader in agriculture. To achieve that goal we must be a world leader in science and innovation. On September 22 the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced a series of cross-country consultations and a national symposium as the next phase in the development of our science strategy. We will be working with communities, stakeholders, industry, universities and provincial representatives to determine research priorities for agriculture and we will be endeavouring to ensure that public funds are spent wisely in doing so.

During the cross-country consultations that I held on the farm income problems, it was made very clear to me at every location that research at the primary production level was extremely important. There is a view among producers that research has shifted away from primary agriculture to the industry value-added side and they want that dealt with.

In part these consultations are all about that. They are to hear the industry so the government can develop a policy and that moratorium will remain in place until such time as those discussions are over and the federal government can announce its science research and science policy for the Department of Agriculture.

Queensway Carleton HospitalAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey Conservative North Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraged that the parliamentary secretary came to the Nappan Experimental Farm, like the minister did last week. It was very valuable to all of us for him to make that trip. I appreciate the fact that he did that. I also appreciate the parliamentary secretary's opinion a minute ago when he said that they recognized the value of research.

When the minister was in Nappan last week, he said that he recognized agricultural research much be regional. I know the parliamentary secretary has a lot of experience with P.E.I. potatoes and I am sure he would agree that research on P.E.I. potatoes could not be done in Lacombe, Alberta.

Would he agree now that beef research for Atlantic Canada cannot be done in either Lacombe or somewhere in Ontario? It must be done in Atlantic Canada to reflect our Atlantic Canada circumstances for soils, grasses, forages and feed prospects. Would the parliamentary secretary agree that beef research for the Atlantic region must be done in Atlantic Canada?

Queensway Carleton HospitalAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I prefer to lay out the five principles that the minister has laid out for the consultations. First, the department's national investment in science will be maintained at its current level or better. Second, research and development activities will be generally maintained in all provinces at current levels. Third, science undertaken will meet the needs of industry and take into account regional variances. Fourth, departmental initiatives will be integrated with the research and development planning and delivery done by government partners, universities and industry in Canada and abroad. Fifth, departmental initiatives will work to ensure synergy between researchers and to create state of the art facilities.

By pooling our resources with other research partners, we will be able to focus and increase the actual level of research activities with similar dollars. The minister's initiative is to move forward and do a better job of doing research.

Queensway Carleton HospitalAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:42 p.m.)

[English]

Your Excellencies, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me begin by expressing, on behalf of all Canadians, our appreciation to the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul. With warmth, intelligence, and wit, they have honoured this high office and made an indelible contribution to our nation.

Over the course of six years, Madame Clarkson recognized achievement, decorated bravery, bore witness to tragedy and grief, and encouraged the disadvantaged. She welcomed foreign visitors and eloquently explained before audiences abroad what it is that makes Canada special. She took great interest in our cities and towns, and especially the north. She traveled to more than 200 communities across Canada; in some of them, it was the first-ever visit by a representative of the Crown.

Adrienne Clarkson was a patron of the arts – a supporter of designers, artists, thinkers. Above all, she encouraged us to embrace our potential. As she has boldly stated of Canadian citizenship itself, it is “a statement of potential. It is not enough to possess it. The potential has to be fulfilled.”

Madame Clarkson, Mr. Saul: We are the grateful beneficiaries of your energy, creativity and dedication. In your faithful service you have reaffirmed and celebrated Canada’s singularity in the world. On behalf of Canadians, thank you.

Esteemed guests: we have the pleasure of welcoming to the Senate an already widely admired Canadian who today will become one of the youngest-ever residents of Rideau Hall. Marie-Éden is six and a half years old. I’m reliably informed she intends to use her newfound prominence to serve as an outspoken advocate for later bedtimes.

In making the move to Ottawa, Marie-Éden has been kind enough to bring along her parents. Her father is the respected documentary filmmaker, Jean-Daniel Lafond. Her mother is the 27th Governor-General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean.

A woman of rare perspective, sensitivity and understanding, Madame Jean is renowned for her compassion, her eagerness to listen—and for her desire to act.

Her story is remarkable. She was born in Port-au-Prince. In 1968, at the age of 11, she and her family fled Haiti as refugees. They came to Canada. They settled in Quebec.

One might be tempted to say: “… and she never looked back” – for in her adopted country, Michaëlle Jean achieved success, rose to prominence and built a family. But no matter how far she has come, no matter how much she has accomplished, she has nurtured her memory of the past. Through her work we can see that by looking back, she has found the compass to guide her into the future.

During a rich and varied working life – as a social activist, a writer and lecturer, a public broadcaster – she has often been the voice of those who must struggle to be heard. She has been much more than an observer. She has defined herself as a woman of action, committed to social justice, to raising up those who need help most. She has turned our gaze to Haiti, the country of her birth. She has investigated the lives of the most vulnerable among us and examined the fact of her own status as an immigrant, and as a black woman in Quebec. She has spoken of a confident Canada, a country looking ahead, a country making its mark on the world.

The office of Governor-General is a link to our past, a repository of tradition, and so it should be. But it must also serve as an expression of how we see ourselves today, and of our aspirations and our hopes for the Canada we want to be.

We are a young nation, a nation built by Aboriginal peoples, by pioneers and their descendents, by immigrants – people who have come here in search of safety, in pursuit of opportunity. We are an optimistic nation, open to the global community. Look into the face of Canada, and you will see the world.

Your Excellency: your life is as profound an expression of what it means to be Canadian as any story you have reported on.

In your story, we find that what lies at the core of Canada is respect – for other cultures, for other races and religions, respect for other points of view. In your story, we understand that we have an obligation, at home and abroad, to protect human dignity – that freedom is not freedom from responsibility.

You represent Canada at its very best: a nation that is determined to assure equality of opportunity, a nation that embraces difference and is capable of growth and change.

Ladies and gentlemen, over almost four decades, Michaëlle Jean has seen Canada change. She has been part of that change. As our Governor-General, she will represent the Canada of the 21st century – she will represent us – to the people of the world.

Your Excellency, I thank you and your family for embracing your new responsibilities. It is my pleasure, on behalf of Canadians, to wish you every success in the accomplishment of your new duties.

Thank you.

[English]

Monsieur le Premier ministre, Prime Minister,

It is with tremendous pride and deep emotion that I am responding today to the call of destiny which sometimes takes us in a direction we might never have imagined. I am proud of the confidence you have placed in me by choosing me as the 27th Governor General of Canada. Here today, before all of you, I am turning a significant page in my own story as I set off on this new adventure with hope and determination.

Let me begin by speaking about hope. During the 22nd visit to Canada by Queen Elizabeth II last May, Her Majesty reminded us that we can “make a difference” for those who will come after us. “If we make an effort in our own lives and in our way of improving the world around us,” she said, “we will have every reason to be proud of what we have accomplished.” That observation is a perfect reflection of the woman who is deeply concerned about the fate of humanity, whom I had the honour of meeting at Balmoral. It is an expression of hope that parallels my own.

Hope has been a beacon for me since childhood and into my adult years. It is embodied in this country with its unlimited possibilities – this country that we sometimes take for granted. My own story begins as a young child in another country, one “draped in barbed wire from head to toe,” in the powerful words of the Haitian poet in exile, René Depestre, who is also my uncle. The story of that little girl, who watched her parents, her family, and her friends grappling with the horrors of a ruthless dictatorship, who became the woman standing before you today, is a lesson in learning to be free.

I know how precious that freedom is, I know what a legacy it is for every child, for every citizen of this country. I whose ancestors were slaves, who was born into a civilization long reduced to whispers and cries of pain, know something about its price, and I know too what a treasure it is for us all.

Every Canadian woman, every Canadian man prizes that freedom and would defy anyone who tried to take it away – of that I have no doubt. From Signal Hill to Vancouver Island, from Baffin Land to Thetford Mines, the freedom that is ours unites us all. Freedom has marked our history and our territory, it has marked our summer breezes and our howling winter winds. It has helped create the spirit of adventure that I love above all in this country, this country where each and every one of us is able to participate fully in the ongoing task of building it.

More than four centuries ago that spirit of adventure drove women and men to cross the ocean and discover a new world elsewhere. That spirit also led the First Nations to pass on to those new settlers the essence of this generous land. And it encourages people from all over the world to share in our prospects or to take refuge here and make a fresh start, safe from tyranny and violence. It inspires our artists, our scientists, our peacekeepers and our institutions as they work to spread our know-how and our message of hope. Today, we are the sum of those adventures.

Think about it. To set off for terra incognita with the hope of putting down roots in a new land. To take one’s inspiration from the encounter with the first population of these wide-open spaces and their age-old customs. To open oneself to the entire world, which comes here inspired by the ideal of a society in which the rights of all citizens are equal. Our history speaks powerfully about the freedom to invent a new world, about the courage underlying those remarkable adventures.

Let me add that my appointment to the position of Governor General of Canada is proof of that. We are encouraged to believe that everything is possible in this country and my own adventure represents for me and for others a spark of hope that I want kept alive for the greatest number.

Today we are reaping what we have sown and the harvest is bountiful. We have designed measures to foster new talents who send out our voices to the world. Now, in the first years of a new millennium, Canada can rely on two priceless resources : our land and our population. Every one of us rekindles in his own way the sense of belonging to this space that we all share, a space that contains the world. Never has it been so urgent to ensure the ethical and ecological integrity of this world for the generations to come. It is a moral obligation.

I know that our planet is fragile, and that natural disasters like the one that recently assailed our American neighbours, are a brutal reminder of that fragility. And we have seen so many lose their possessions. And as is universally the case in such circumstances, we have seen emerge entire segments of a population, among the most destitute, men and women who had nowhere to go. Dispossessed, with no points of reference, facing sheer devastation, even utter dismay. Such images we have seen before – from Darfur, from Haiti, from Niger. And this time they came from New Orleans, from the margins of an affluent society.

Other changes have come, changes that sometimes leave us perplexed. Redefining national boundaries and the violent upheavals that sometimes accompany it, the opening of markets, the speed and convergence of our systems of communication, mean that the map of the world is changing day by day, before our eyes, and that some countries may be wondering about where they fit in. The stakes are high: they include taking part in increasing globalization while at the same time protecting features that enrich humanity with our own perceptions of the world.

As a journalist, the profession I practiced with passion and resolve, I have been a privileged witness both of a good many upheavals and of an unprecedented opening onto the world. I pledge that I will go on listening and that my curiosity will remain keen. We are at a turning point in the history of civilization and more than ever before, our future rests on those who are forcing us to imagine the world of tomorrow. Those women and men are today showing us the vast range of what is possible for us. They are etching upon our memories the breadth of our aspirations. They are holding out a mirror that reveals the gap between what we are and what we aspire to be.

The time of the “two solitudes” that for too long described the character of this country is past. The narrow notion of “every person for himself” does not belong in today’s world, which demands that we learn to see beyond our wounds, beyond our differences for the good of all. Quite the contrary: we must eliminate the spectre of all the solitudes and promote solidarity among all the citizens who make up the Canada of today. As well, we must make good use of our prosperity and our influence wherever the hope that we represent offers the world an extra measure of harmony.

And that is how I am determined that the position I occupy as of today will be more than ever a place where citizens’ words will be heard, where the values of respect, tolerance, and sharing that are so essential to me and to all Canadians, will prevail. Those values, which are paramount for me, are linked inextricably with the Canada I love. Along with my husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, I hope to rally our creative forces around those values that unite us all and that are universal in scope.

There is an observation by Montesquieu, a philosopher of the Enlightenment, that has a particular resonance for me and I would like to share it with you. It states that “The duty of the citizen becomes a crime if it makes him forget the duty of the man.” To this, I would of course add “the duty of the woman,” because we want recognition as full-fledged citizens in our own right. That statement inspires me and comforts me, for me it is a rampart against the barbarism that afflicts so many in this world. And it reminds me how fortunate we are to be citizens of a country that’s not afraid to tear down walls of prejudice, one whose generosity is its finest attribute in the concert of nations. As Governor General I shall place special emphasis on the generosity that Canadians have shown throughout our history, from our veterans and our Canadian Forces, who have often sacrificed so much, to the many volunteers in humanitarian actions, who often work in the shadows in the name of a peaceful ideal of freedom and justice.

Most of all, I want our young people to be our standard-bearers. I want them to dip into the enormous treasure trove that is Canada. I am the mother of a little girl whose story opened my eyes to certain very harsh realities that we must not ignore. My daughter, Marie-Éden, has changed my life. She has taught me that while all children are born equal, they don’t all have the same opportunities to flourish. This is as true for children here as it is for children in the third world.

I think of Joshua, a young Cree whom I met not long ago in Nemaska, which I was visiting as a journalist. While most of his friends had dropped out of school and a number had even taken their own lives, this boy was curious to know what someone like me was doing in his community. He asked about my work in the media and, somehow, my experience inspired him to pursue his own interests in that field, in spite of all the obstacles along the way.

Nothing in today’s society is more disgraceful than the marginalization of some young people who are driven to isolation and despair. We must not tolerate such disparities. After all, our young people are helping to redefine the great family we all belong to, in a world that is less and less impermeable, more and more open. They are the promise of our future and we have a duty to encourage them to join us in this reinvention of the world. We must communicate to them the spirit of adventure that our ancestors, regardless of their origins, have passed on to us. We must give our young people the power and, even more, the desire to realize their full potential. I shall do everything I can to see to that and I invite each and every one of you to help me in this vital task.

I am eagerly looking forward to meeting my fellow-Canadians very soon. I am convinced that Canada will continue to accomplish great things if we work together for a better quality of life - for our own population and for all humanity. Our country is vast and it is blessed with a wealth of colours and the varied music of its tongues and accents. Many have not had the good fortune of measuring its full extent. I know how privileged I am. And knowing it makes me impatient and eager to meet you and to begin the dialogue that I consider to be the founding principle of this country

I already have some sense of the wisdom of the First Nations; of the legendary hospitality and humour of people in the Atlantic provinces; of the flourishing culture and the generosity of spirit of Quebeckers, of the resilience of Francophones outside Quebec; of the impressive economic vitality of Ontario; of the sense of honour of residents of the West where, I’m told, it is still possible to conclude a business deal with a handshake; and of the spectacular geography of British Columbia. I have a sense of some of this country’s splendours, but there is still so much for me to discover at your side. I look forward to visiting you in your communities, your towns, your villages, your homes, and to listen as you talk about your faith in this land of freedom which is an inexhaustible source of renewal.

Every level of government, every community in this country, every body that oversees its development, the institutions that represent the best of it, the women and men who are at the core of its very existence - all have a responsibility to kindle in us the spirit of adventure with which I undertake today, with pride and determination, to assume the office of Governor General of Canada. I hope with all my heart that together, we can call upon the vigour of our shared history to realize our dearest and most ambitious wish: to make a better world.

Thank you.