House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was families.


Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:20 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is being terribly unfair in his question.

First, the program for the cities was not something we were going to do. It was done. He is being totally unfair in trying to colourize this as us wanting another election. I do not want another election. I want to work.

With all due respect, I do not think the hon. member can tell me that the government actually has a child care plan on the table. If I see one I will support it absolutely. If the government members want to meet with me and negotiate one, I will meet with them. I have no problem with that at all. I am here to work and cooperate.

I want to ensure we deliver the best possible programs to citizens. I have no intention of going into another election. What I want is a full child care program and proper programs for people in this country. If the hon. member and the government are prepared to negotiate a plan, I will work with them.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:20 p.m.


Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the Chair that I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.

It is a tremendous privilege to speak today in the House in response to the Speech from the Throne, the first for the new Conservative government. I am proud to be here in order to do so.

This is the first time I have had the opportunity to address the House with you in the chair, Mr. Speaker. Let me take the opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker.

I would also like to once again thank the people of Calgary Northeast for giving me the tremendous privilege to once again represent them in this chamber. I would particularly like to thank the many volunteers who gave so much of their time to ensure my re-election.

I would also like to thank my family for their support over the years and especially during the last election. As many in this place will attest, this life can be quite taxing on families. However, we do it because we want to make a difference and we want to make our country better.

At this time I would like to take a moment to extend my condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the four soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan this past weekend. Corporals Matthew Dinning and Randy Payne, Bombardier Myles Mansell and Lieutenant William Turner. We are all saddened by their loss, but their deaths will, however, not be in vain. They risked their lives to defend Canada's national interest, combat global terrorism and help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country. We are grateful for their service and mourn their loss.

The Speech from the Throne focused on five priorities, priorities which were laid out to the Canadian public during the election and for which the Canadian public voted: accountability, lowering the GST, choice in child care, cracking down on crime and establishing a patient wait times guarantee. I might point out that all these priorities impact my constituents directly.

On accountability, I commend the government for moving swiftly and decisively in introducing the federal accountability act designed to make the federal government more accountable to Canadian taxpayers by providing them with open, accountable and honest government. This act will, among other things, reform the financing of political parties by banning corporate, union and large personal, political donations. It will toughen the Lobbyist Registration Act by extending the ban on lobbying activities to five years for former ministers, their aides and senior civil servants. I already had an opportunity to talk to some registered lobbyists about that point and they have expressed their agreement with it. They feel it will level the playing field.

On strengthening the power of the Auditor General, this is a key part of the accountability act and one which we have called for in opposition. Now we have the opportunity to make it happen by giving the Auditor General new powers to audit individuals and organizations that receive federal money. That includes crown corporations.

On cleaning up government appointments, contract polling and procurement, key to cleaning up government appointments is the commissioner who will lead the public appointments commission, which the Prime Minister recently announced will be headed by Mr. Gwyn Morgan, former president and CEO of EnCana. Mr. Morgan is known far and wide as a champion of accountability and ethics in the public and private sectors. He wrote the agenda for his own corporation in that area. This is a very significant appointment.

The federal accountability act will also provide real protection for whisteblowers. People need to know that when they see problems in government, they can speak up without fear of reprisal. We have seen that very recently. I want to give praise to Mr. Cutler for his courageous statement doing exactly that, showing the corruption that took place within the government. He stood up and was counted. It was a bold move and a courageous move. It usually comes with a price, but I commend him for it.

The government will give protection to people like Mr. Cutler by making the public sector integrity commissioner an agent of Parliament with the power to enforce the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

The federal accountability act will as well strengthen the access to information legislation to include seven crown corporations, seven agents of Parliament and three foundations created under the federal statutes.

These are the words of the Prime Minister:

These measures will change the way business is done in Ottawa forever. They will replace the culture of entitlement that took root under the previous government with a culture of accountability.

They are strong words, but I think they are very welcome by the electorate as it ponders what impact the act will have.

On the GST, my constituents along with many others in the country have long complained, and rightfully so, that they are overtaxed. The government agrees and that is why we have come up with a plan that will help reduce the tax burden on Canadian families. This will be done by cutting the GST from 7% to 6% and reduce it further to 5% within five years.

No matter what one's income, the GST is a tax which everyone pays and from which everyone will reap the benefit of reduction. The tax cut will be of particular benefit to those living on fixed incomes and those whose incomes are so low that they do not benefit from cuts to personal income tax. This group accounts for about 32% of Canadians.

Child care is an issue that sticks in the craw of the Liberals I know, but at least this is reality. This is an initiative that will be of particular benefit to many families in my riding who need child care. It will provide a choice. When it comes to child care, we on this side of the House feel the decision is best left to the parents. The one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all families. There are some families who rely on institutionalized day care for their children. Some choose to make more informal arrangements by using a neighbour or a friend to fulfill their day care needs, while there are some families who have made the decision to have one parent stay home to look after the children. As can be seen, the day care needs of families differ.

Under our plan, all Canadian families will be given a $1,200 choice in child care allowance for each child under the age of six. This will be taxable in the hands of the parent with the lower income. In addition, the government has also earmarked $250 million per year for incentives to encourage business, non-profit and community based organizations to create 125,000 new day care spaces in urban and rural communities across the country.

The next point is one that has always been an issue that has been near and dear to my heart, and that is the issue of criminal justice. For once, there is a clear statement from a government that is going to be serious about cracking down on crime. Dare we speak of the violence we see, unfortunately, in so many of our streets. Some of it is committed by gangs. We can just about name everything from murder, down to extortion and prostitution. I think Canadians have a right to feel safe in their own homes and in their own communities.They also have an expectation that those who commit serious criminal acts will be dealt with harshly by the courts.

What we have discussed, and the matter is now before the House and will be voted upon in the very near future, will be to bring tougher sentences against those violent or repeat offenders, especially for those committing crimes with guns, drive by shootings and so on. This is not the kind of Canada we want for our children.

I was going to speak on the wait times guarantee, but I know my colleagues have addressed that issue.

I support the Speech from the Throne and I hope all members in the House will do likewise.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:30 p.m.


Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's address to the Speech from the Throne and I noted what he had to say about child care. In an area where there are not enough child care spaces for the families who need them, I agree that it is good to have choice in child care, but there has to be real choice. Many families will benefit from a payment that seems to be in many ways the re-institution of the old family allowance program that was cut by a previous Conservative government.

However, to get down to having real choice in child care, there needs to be enough child care spaces for the families who need them. For the families where both parents must work to make ends meet, there need to be enough child care spaces. What does his government plan to do to create well funded, secure, stable child care spaces for Canada's children?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:30 p.m.


Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is a legitimate one, but I believe that she also knows the answer to at least part of her question. When it comes to the track record of the past governments, which have clearly stated all the moneys they have thrown in to creating child care spaces, just how many child care spaces were actually created. Maybe it is up for debate as to how many, but the fact that there are not the numbers that the Liberals have proclaimed is the issue. There is no doubt that the needs of the families vary. Those living in rural parts of our country will have a need for a different solution than in the urban areas. The bottom line is, with the present level of funding and programming, about 15% to 20% of parents actually use the program that exists to this day.

We want to expand that dramatically. We are going to offer, across the board, a choice for parents. If one parent chooses to stay home, that parent will be able to benefit somewhat from our program of $1,200. Some parents may choose to take part in the 125,000 spaces that we intend to create by sitting down with industry, with employers, with the provinces and with communities. We are going to have a winning formula and many more people will benefit from it.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:35 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a follow-up question for my hon. colleague across the way regarding child care. I listened to his response to the previous question, but I am curious to know what kind of timelines he would see for the development of these new spaces.

The province of Manitoba is looking at not having 1,600 new child care spaces in the city of Winnipeg, 700 new child care spaces in rural Manitoba and about 60 to 70 new child care spaces in the northern part of the province. I am concerned about the plans of the member opposite and his colleagues. What kind of timelines would they see for the establishment of spaces to equate to what Manitoba hoped to offer in a very short period of time?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:35 p.m.


Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government is preparing a budget that will deal with much of what the member's questions relate to. That will be presented in the House.

The member can be assured of one thing. For years the issue of child care, of dollars being spent wisely, of being distributed into the hands of parents and offering them choice has been debated in the House, and very little movement has been brought about by previous governments.

We want to broaden the field, by far, in allowing parents from all areas, both rural and urban, to benefit from the child care program. Unfortunately, in the past, so few parents really benefited broadly from the programs that were there. The member should wait for the budget.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:35 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, may I congratulate you on your appointment to the chair.

It is my honour to stand today and address the House in support of our government's Speech from the Throne, “Turning a New Leaf”. On January 23 Canadians, including the constituents of my riding of Burlington, voted for change, not just change for the sake of change, but for a new approach and a new attitude to governing this great country from coast to coast to coast.

Canadians demanded integrity in their government. It was time to end the culture of entitlement and indifference. That is why the new Conservative government will restore accountability and ethics in Ottawa.

Canadians have placed their faith in a new government that has a sense of purpose. It was time to end the vast lists of unfulfilled commitments. That is why our new government is clear and precise in our priorities. Burlington voters wanted their new government to be proactive. It was time to end the litany of excuses for inaction. Our new government will deliver on our promises.

As the Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Burlington, I am honoured to be part of this change, part of turning over a new leaf for Canada. This afternoon I would like to concentrate my remarks on the section of the throne speech that focuses on Canada's role in the world.

Our vision, and I believe the vision of all Canadians, is for a strong, united, independent and free Canada, a Canada that will live up to its tradition as a leader, a Canada that has credibility on the international stage, a Canada that has the respect of our friends and allies, and a Canada whose voice is supported by action.

The Speech from the Throne begins the process of rebuilding and restoring Canada's prominent and important role on the global stage. As the Governor General read on April 4:

--this government is committed to supporting Canada's core values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights around the world. In this regard, the Government will support a more robust diplomatic role for Canada, a stronger military and a more effective use of Canadian aid dollars.

Freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights are the core values of our troops and aid workers who are courageously and diligently working to bring opportunity, democracy and peace to the people of Afghanistan.

At this time I would like to offer my personal condolences to the families and friends of our recently fallen soldiers. Their brave and heroic commitment to our country and to the principles and values that guided their desire to serve will always be honoured. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Standing up for Canadian values, being confident and decisive in our actions, defending the security of our citizens and protecting our national sovereignty have never been easy and rarely without sacrifice. Our veterans brought honour, respect and integrity to our country. Their sacrifice helped define us as a nation. Their brave actions liberated many from unspeakable oppression.

In Burlington on April 22 the Dutch community celebrated the relationship between Canada and the Netherlands. Much of the celebrations centred on the role our Canadian troops played in liberating the people of the Netherlands during World War II. It was my honour to represent our government and to participate in this important annual celebration of freedom.

Today the men and women who proudly don our country's uniform carry these Canadian values and traditions. All Canadians are proud, honoured and grateful for the service and sacrifice of all the men and women of our armed forces, past, present and future.

Our government is committed to a robust diplomatic role for Canada. We clearly understand that we are not alone in the world. We must work to rebuild our reputation as a reliable and respected international partner, a partner that is not afraid to lead and be decisive on the big issues in the international arena.

Our government will work through diplomatic means to bring freedom and democracy to other parts of the globe. Canada will participate with the international community at the United Nations to foster peace and prosperity for all people who subscribe to the Canadian values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Closer to home the throne speech makes a commitment to building a stronger relationship with the United States. The throne speech states:

The Government will work cooperatively with our friends and allies and constructively with the international community to advance common values and interests. In support of this goal, it will build stronger multilateral and bilateral relationships, starting with Canada's relationship with the United States, our best friend and largest trading partner.

The relationship with our closest neighbour has frankly been strained over the past decade. A number of the issues from trade disputes to border security have been poorly managed and new issues are emerging that can and will affect the lives of many Canadians. It is time that we restored the respectful, professional and businesslike relationship with the United States. The throne speech clearly supports this objective.

The quality of the relationship we have with the United States has a direct impact on all parts of Canada. I want to illustrate its impact on my constituency of Burlington.

Burlington is situated between Canada's leading steel manufacturers, Dofasco and Stelco in Hamilton, and Ford Canada in Oakville. My community is home to thousands of workers who make their livelihoods from these leading companies that represent the foundation of Canada's manufacturing economy.

Burlington is also home to a large number of small and medium size businesses that are either suppliers or customers in these vital manufacturing sectors. The relationship that Canada has with the United States is key to the long term growth of these industries and businesses. Our neighbours to the south can either be our best customer or our toughest competitor. The decision is ours.

As a Great Lakes city, Burlington also has a vested interest in the relationship with the United States not only as it relates to trade, but also to the environment. Our shared fresh water resource represents a vital link between our two nations. A respectful, professional and businesslike relationship with the U.S. is what my constituents are demanding from our government. A good relationship with our neighbour is fundamental to Burlington's and Canada's health and prosperity.

I am proud of our government's commitment to rebuilding our mutually beneficial partnership. From my experience as a municipal councillor, I have learned that good neighbours make strong communities. As a good neighbour to the United States, both countries will be stronger.

Finally, “Turning a New Leaf” is about our government's commitment to leadership.

There is leadership in restoring accountability to our federal institutions. The new accountability act will deliver a government of integrity and higher ethical standards.

There is leadership in supporting families. Our family support program will provide direct financial assistance to families regardless of where they live in Canada. Our program is universal and fair to all families with preschool children.

There is leadership on delivering tax relief for all Canadians. Lowering the GST to 6% will have a direct and immediate impact on all taxpayers in the country. It is time to lower taxes.

There is leadership in tackling safety on our streets. Increasing the minimum sentences for violent repeat offenders is long overdue. We need to keep drug dealers out of our neighbourhoods and more police officers on our streets.

There is leadership in delivering health care. Working with our provincial partners we must find a solution to the long wait times that have plagued our health system. That begins with our wait times guarantee.

On January 23 Canadians voted for change. Our government will deliver that change. Our government will deliver leadership. Our government will deliver. It is time to turn a new leaf.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:45 p.m.


David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my congratulations to the hon. member for Burlington. I have known him for a number of years. In his former capacity as a Burlington city councillor and with my background as a Hamilton city councillor, our paths have crossed many times. I acknowledge that his predecessor has left big shoes to fill. She was well known as someone who fought for her riding and took care of her constituents, but I am sure the member is up to that challenge. I look forward to working with him in a non-partisan way and wish him all the best in this place. I am sure he has much to contribute.

My question to him is very similar to the one I asked the member on the other side of the House. It has to do with the cities agenda. The member was good enough to mention my hometown of Hamilton. Burlington is now our closest neighbour given the new boundaries of the City of Hamilton. Obviously a lot of what happens in the community of Burlington affects what happens in Hamilton and vice versa. Our futures are very much linked in terms of economic strength. He would certainly know better than I the challenges that exist in Burlington in terms of infrastructure and public transit, the very things that are crucial to the success of my hometown of Hamilton.

As he is a new member I do not expect him to stand up and spout off a list of things that he has done, but I would like to hear in his own words his commitment to ensuring that he will do everything he can along with those of us in the opposition parties to get the investments we need in our cities so that we can turn around the economic issues and the quality of life issues. Getting our local economy going is an absolute priority in my riding of Hamilton Centre given the poverty numbers that unfortunately exist.

I wonder if he would be kind enough to give the people in Hamilton the kind of assurances we would like to hear that the cities agenda and infrastructure and public transit will be a priority for him. Will he do everything he can from inside the government to effect change so that hopefully we can move forward on this file?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:45 p.m.


Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I have been friends and political acquaintances for a number of years. He also does a great job of representing his riding. He has done a great job both provincially and municipally. If he keeps moving up, I think he will be king eventually.

I understand the issues. In my speech I talked about being good neighbours with our friends in the United States. We also must be good neighbours with our friends in Hamilton as we do share a number of economic issues and infrastructure issues, such as the harbour, roads and transit.

As an individual coming from the municipal world I have a good understanding of the infrastructure needs and demands of the urban area which I represent and parts of the GTA. I made a commitment to my constituents to bring those needs and desires to caucus and to the House so that other members without these experiences will understand what we need to keep our economy moving. Infrastructure is the basis for economic development and economic growth which adds wealth to this country. It also will enable us to provide the social services that we are so proud of in my community.

I can assure the member that I will be a voice in caucus on these issues. As I said during the campaign, I will bring forward the ideas and the infrastructure needs of our urban communities.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:50 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time today with my colleague from Hamilton Mountain.

This, my inaugural speech in the House of Commons, begins on a very sad note. Four Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this past weekend, one of whom, Bombardier Myles Mansell, was born, raised and stationed in my riding, in Victoria. I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to his family and to assure them that their fellow Victorians share in their mourning.

I am very proud to speak today as the new member representing the people of Victoria. I would like to thank them for placing their confidence in me to bring their voice to Parliament. Their needs will inform my work and their priorities will be at the forefront of my efforts in Ottawa.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my predecessor, David Anderson, for his hard work on issues like Kyoto, west coast fisheries and offshore drilling, and the understanding he brought to those issues.

Victoria is an eclectic, diverse region. There are parks and natural forests that surround the city with a greenbelt, providing recreational opportunities and important habitats. There are heritage buildings that we have protected through tax incentive programs for which we have won international awards.

I am honoured to represent a population that is itself representative of Canada's cultural mosaic, with vibrant Chinese, Sikh, aboriginal and other cultural communities that enrich our common experience.

As a francophone living outside Quebec, I am proud that Victoria, the westernmost city in Canada, continues to honour my French and English heritage. My daily recognition of the presence of these two cultures in our country is one of the reasons I ran in the federal election. I wanted to remind everyone that francophones and anglophones can work together from coast to coast in a united Canada, within a renewed and more flexible federalism, and that both cultures will be the better for it.

As a former city councillor, I was proud to contribute to the progress and preservation of what makes Victoria unique. I worked to bring about a large mixed-use project called Dockside Green, which has the highest green standards in North America and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

This project showcases all that can be accomplished when political will is used to expand rather than limit the range of possibilities, so I will not be deterred by the seemingly flippant use of the word “impossible” by the government when it comes to our environment, because I realize how crucially important it is to have the support and the leadership of the federal government for these progressive programs and projects.

During the recent federal campaign, the concerns of Victorians were brought home to me at every doorstep, as were the expectations they have for the government.

They expect their national government to once again work to ensure that all Canadians have a home. The recent throne speech fails to mention any support for affordable housing. In my community, many residents spend upwards of 40% of their income on housing and others are homeless. The housing crisis we face grew under the federal Liberals and it is incumbent on the new government to restore a viable national housing strategy.

My constituents expect a child care program that addresses two key concerns for parents: cost and availability. The Prime Minister's answer does little to address the former and nothing for the latter. Typically, day care in Victoria costs between $30 and $35 a day. The PM offers a maximum of $4 to $5 a day. Where does a single parent family working on minimum income find the rest?

My constituents also expect ongoing adequate investment in post-secondary education and skills training. It is well trained, well educated people who will create new opportunities and fuel our prosperity. The University of Victoria and Camosun College, like hundreds of others across Canada, were overlooked by the government in the throne speech.

As the post-secondary education critic and as a teacher and parent, I am very disappointed by this omission. This government would allow high tuition fees to hinder access to training.

Education is critical to a just and prosperous future. The C.D. Howe Institute admits that Canada continues to under-invest in education, when research shows that functional literacy has three times the impact on productivity and GDP than capital investment. Forty-two per cent of Canadian adults have a functional literacy level that is inadequate by international standards.

Finally, Victorians expect their national leaders to implement a real plan to tackle climate change. Eight out of ten Canadians want action now, but yet the Prime Minister concedes defeat on achieving the most basic Kyoto reductions before he even tries.

On Earth Day in Victoria last Saturday, hundreds of young people and their families gathered. They were angry at the Conservatives' lack of urgency in responding to climate change. They want a future with clean water, clean air and a healthy environment in a country that has moved from a polluting economy to a sustainable one. As their elected representatives, it is our opportunity and our obligation to make that future real.

Listening to my first throne speech from this Conservative government, I waited to hear something of substance for the citizens of Victoria: concrete proposals for affordable housing, effective programs to tackle climate change, and post-secondary education programs. I heard no such commitments. I hope the government will consider that these issues, if not addressed, will fundamentally impact the Canadian way of life much more than a 1% reduction of GST.

As MPs, we are leaders from whom Canadians expect political courage and decisive action on substantive and long term issues. The people of Victoria expect and deserve no less.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

4:55 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the words of my colleague from British Columbia. She has shown that there are many ways we can work in the House. We can be cooperative or confrontational; anglophones and francophones can work together; even Conservatives and New Democrats can work together. Mr. Broadbent once said in the House that while 80% of the subjects we address unite us, we often get stuck on the 20% that divide us.

The Speech from the Throne is not a shopping list. The government will consider the issues as the work of Parliament progresses. One thing is certain: to work together in this House, we must all share the vision that I share with my colleague: open federalism. That is why I, too, am here.

I also want to reassure my colleague about some issues such as the fight against climate change. Unlike the previous government—which talked a lot but failed to act on the advice of environmental experts, as we can see from its pathetic 13 year record—we plan to take concrete action. I would like her to tell us about the concrete actions she envisions with respect to climate change.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I find his words reassuring, particularly in regard to climate change and also to the importance of post-secondary education and technical training and to housing. These are all very important issues in my riding.

In regard to climate change, the NDP has proposed a very solid plan that would enable us to achieve the Kyoto objectives without difficulty within 25 years. It would give us a moderate transition plan that treats industry with care.

What had my constituents in Victoria concerned was the fact that the Conservative government seems ready to drop any reference to Kyoto without providing a plan for the direction that it wants to take. However, I find it reassuring to know that there is political will. We want to work together with the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois in order to meet the needs of Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the new member for Victoria on her speech. It was delivered very well and she spoke very directly about the British Columbian francophonie.

As we know, British Columbia now has the fourth largest francophone presence in Canada, after Quebec, the Acadians, and Franco-Ontarians.

There is a thriving, very vibrant culture in British Columbia. People speak French with Quebec and Acadian accents, of course, but also with the accents of Africa, Southeast Asia, China and other places.

I congratulate the member on her comments.

My question is related to the environment, because what she raised, very importantly, is the fact that we are seeing in British Columbia environmental degradation, with increasing smog days and more people spending time in hospitals as a result of the fact that our environment is deteriorating. The Liberals did nothing. The Conservatives, as she mentions, have not directly tied into Kyoto an environmental plan. I would like to ask the member what she believes the implications are if the Conservative government acts as the Liberals did and ignores the environment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

April 24th, 2006 / 5 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, the question of climate change is a very serious one that affects the future of our children, the future of my children, my grandchildren and those of everyone else here. I believe the results of doing nothing will be very tragic for all of us. I can only hope that we will have the political courage to act now.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:05 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, as today is the first time I have had the chance to stand in the House, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to reflect on the privileged opportunity that the voters of Hamilton Mountain are affording me.

As I look around this Chamber I am deeply mindful of those who have gone before us. To think about the profound impact that the greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas, made on the lives of working families from this very institution is to be both inspired and humbled by the opportunities that Parliament represents. I cannot and will not take that responsibility lightly.

While many of our campaigns were fiercely partisan, our work here must be aimed at improving the lives of all working families. In the last election, voters expressed a desire for change. They elected a new government but they wanted to temper its power by also electing enough New Democrats to balance that change. The resulting minority Parliament represents a great opportunity to enact the constructive change that Canadians wanted. By working together, members on all side of the House can enact the positive changes that will strengthen both our communities and our country.

To that end, let me contribute to that dialogue by offering some suggestions that I hope the government will deem helpful as it begins to navigate its way through its mandate.

I was encouraged by the fact that the throne speech addressed some of our party's priorities. It was clear to all of us in the election that Canadians were tired of the culture of entitlement that was and is the Liberals' legacy. They are looking to us now to bring integrity and respect back to the political process.

I applaud the government's first steps in promising action with respect to greater accountability but I hope that it will not stop short of banning floor crossing outright. Nothing incenses voters more than seeing politicians put self-interest ahead of their sacred trust with constituents who elected them to office in good faith.

Similarly, Canadians are tired of broken promises and are understandably suspicious of empty government rhetoric. After 12 years of broken Liberal promises it is hard to blame them. Canadians want and deserve concrete action.

In taking on my new responsibilities here in the House, I was absolutely stunned to discover how callously the Liberals manipulated working families for their own political gain. In the lead up to the last election, workers in Hamilton watched closely as a bill made its way through the House that purported to move workers up the list of creditors in cases where companies went bankrupt. We did not get everything we wanted but at least workers' wages were finally being protected, or so we thought.

Imagine my surprise, upon taking up my duties here, to learn that, despite the fact that the bill had passed all three readings in the House and despite the fact that it had received royal assent, the Liberals did not proclaim into law those clauses of the bill that explicitly offered wage protection to workers in cases of bankruptcy. In fact, those were the only substantive clauses that the Liberal government did not proclaim into law before heading to the polls. Of course no one knew about it because proclamations are usually a matter of routine immediately following a bills passage.

Not even I would ever have suspected that the Liberals would stoop so low as to take public credit for standing up for working families when they had no intention of ever walking the walk. Their behaviour is absolutely disgraceful and before the Liberals stand up in the House and lecture others about integrity and accountability, I would encourage them to offer an unequivocal apology to working families in this country, but of course they will not.

As Bob Mackenzie , my mentor and Ontario's former minister of labour, used to say, “The Liberals are so deep in the pockets of big business that they're going to choke on the lint in that pocket”.

Working families deserve better, which is why our caucus is committed to advancing the working families first agenda. I was delighted to see that even the Conservative throne speech referred to working families as well. I am hopeful that the Conservatives will not fall into the Liberal trap of only talking the talk without walking the walk.

We are confronted by a unique opportunity where the government can do the right thing and demonstrate that it is serious about parliamentary accountability. Parliament has already expressed its views about the protection of workers' wages in cases of bankruptcies and it is incumbent upon the government to act on that resolution.

In my riding of Hamilton Mountain this issue is a top of mind priority for hundreds of working families. When Stelco entered CCAA protection, it became apparent to employees in all workplaces in our community that the security of their earned wages and pensions was in jeopardy.

We have the opportunity to do the right thing. I have already committed to workers that I will be introducing a bill to provide effective pension protection. I call upon the government to proclaim the remaining sections of the wage earner protection program act. Together, we can show Canadians that we are serious about ending the sleight of hand conduct that became the hallmark of the Liberal administration over the last 12 years.

The same is true of child care. The Liberals promised a national child care program in 1993 but for 12 years that promise was not kept. It is the will of Canadians and the majority in the House to build a truly national child care program at last. I want to work with the government to build upon the current child care agreements so that we can achieve more for child care in the next 12 months than the previous government did in 12 years.

We need ongoing stable funding for a publicly operated child care program. My colleagues and I remain absolutely committed to ensuring that quality, affordable, not for profit child care spaces will be built, not just in Hamilton but right across this country. Children deserve educational excellence right from the early years.

In my home town of Hamilton, one in five people live in poverty and 25% of those are children. We know that children are not poor. It is their parents who are poor. Hamilton families need help now. We need to invest in our manufacturing sector to ensure that we will continue to have decent paying jobs in our community. We need to provide training and retraining opportunities so that we can develop and maintain the skilled workforce that is essential to supporting the 21st century economy. We need to get serious about access to professions and trades for foreign trained workers. Our economy and our communities depend on it.

We need to support our municipalities with money for infrastructure renewal and housing so that cities like Hamilton can provide residents with the services they deserve and offer some much needed property tax relief.

We need to get serious about living up to our commitments under the Kyoto accord. With the environment so integrally linked to the health of Canadians, we cannot afford to wait to green our economy. The time to act is now.

We also need to ensure that seniors can retire with the dignity and respect they deserve. In Hamilton, seniors live in poverty at twice the rate of the national average. They have worked hard all their lives, played by the rules and still cannot make ends meet. The throne speech talks about addressing seniors' needs but does not even offer one specific initiative to offer seniors hope.

We need to ensure that CPP, OAS and the GIS afford our seniors the opportunity to retire with dignity and in relative financial security. We need to protect the very institutions that their hard-earned tax dollars built: health care, home care and long term care. For years our seniors contributed to building the best health care system in the world, only to watch that system crumble precisely at the time when they need it the most. Seniors deserve better and they need our help now.

The government's throne speech affords opportunities for hope but unless the Conservatives are willing to engage in constructive dialogue about flushing out the rhetoric of their agenda, Canadians will be no better off than they were after 12 years of Liberal rule.

History has taught us that we can accomplish amazing things in minority parliaments. It is how we got old age pensions, public health care and national housing programs, but they work best when there is consultation, cooperation and compromise.

I am prepared to do my part to make this Parliament work and I look forward to working with other members in good faith. As Tommy Douglas would remind us, it is not too late to make a better world.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:10 p.m.


Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain, on her speech. I note that she expressed concern about how the throne speech will affect workers and about the whole issue of social justice. The Conservative Party is very concerned about criminal justice. That is its choice, and it was elected in part for its stand on that issue. But it is disquieting to see that the Conservative government's throne speech has little to say about social justice.

The hon. member also mentioned that poverty is increasing and is affecting children. Logically, when children are poor, it is because their parents are poor.

Before I ask my question, I would like to say that according to the Canadian Federation of Food Banks, last year more than 885,000 people in Canada—more than the population of Ottawa—visited food banks. This figure includes 250,000 children, more than the population of three ridings.

I would like to ask my colleague, who is concerned about this issue, how she feels about the fact that the throne speech makes no mention of it.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:15 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. As l tried to indicate in my reply to the throne speech, the agenda of the Conservative government does very little to address the real issues that working families in Canada must face every day, which is one of the reasons that my colleague who is sitting here today talks about child care all the time. We need to ensure that children get an excellent start early on in their lives and that we stop considering child care to be babysitting but rather that child care is deemed as an integral part of our early childhood education system.

For those of us from Hamilton, my colleague from Hamilton Centre is here today, we have been fighting for a very long time to ensure our manufacturing sector gets the support it needs so people have decent paying jobs. In Hamilton the steel sector is first and foremost on our minds as we listen to the Conservative government's throne speech and its absolute silence on a steel strategy or an auto strategy. I look forward to working with the member across the way on some of those issues.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:15 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe my hon. colleague is saying that she wants to make this government work. As parliamentarians, we all share this responsibility toward Canadians. The Speech from the Throne supports this goal.

Our colleague talked about what we must not do: play games with each other. We must establish trust not only between Canadians, but also between parliamentarians. Earlier, a member brought up an example of the previous government's actions. It did not respect its commitment to the opposition.

That is why we have tabled the accountability bill. We want to restore Canadians' faith in their institutions.

My colleague said that the manufacturing sector needs support. Last week, I was in Lévis. Representatives of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business told me how well the measures we have taken to help businesses are meeting their needs and stimulating growth.

With respect to families, the $1,200 allowance will also be distributed to families with parents who work at night or stay home. A parent's love is surely the best way to raise a child. I would like to know whether my colleague agrees that this measure demonstrates the government's support for families.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:15 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to say that I do find common ground with the member of the government in that we both believe that the last 12 years were ones of broken promises. Therefore I am delighted to at least start this part of my participation in Parliament in a conciliatory way.

Having said that and because nothing is ever unequivocal in this place, I do believe that the love of parents is absolutely important in the development of children but there is a reason why most Canadians do not home school their children. It is because the educational system offers excellence that we cannot provide at home. Let us be clear that child care is part of an early childhood education system. It is not a babysitting service. It is not in lieu of parenting. It is something that we absolutely must provide to give kids the best start in life.

I am sorry but on that we will not agree but let us chat some more about 12 years of broken Liberal promises.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:20 p.m.


Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nipissing--Timiskaming.

First and foremost, I would like to thank the people of Thornhill for the trust and vote of confidence they have given to me again. It is an honour and a privilege to continue to serve as the member of Parliament for Thornhill, a vibrant riding that is very diverse in nature.

I listened to the throne speech, thought about the impact this statement of the government's intentions would have on the residents in my riding, and became increasingly concerned. When we need to be reaching out to include more people in our prosperity, the direction the new government is set upon seems to have missed the mark.

Based on what was outlined in the Speech from the Throne, it seems that the government can see the future only through the thin haze of its five point strategy. For so many of our citizens and our businesses, there was simply no mention.

Canada needs a forward-looking plan that takes action, not one that only focuses on five priorities and does not offer either a national or a global vision for our continued future prosperity. There is no commitment to our cities, our communities, our seniors, our caregivers, our environment and, what is very important, our future generations.

There is absolutely no mention in the throne speech of continued investments in infrastructure or transit for our cities. Cities and communities are the economic engines that drive our economy forward and it is absolutely imperative that the federal government continue to partner with them on key investments in defined priority areas. Our municipalities play a critical and far-reaching role in the economic vitality and quality of life of Canadians.

The throne speech is limited in vision and reflects the minimalist goals of the government. With emerging economies in India and China rapidly taking their places as global economic giants, Canada must stay ahead of the curve and plan the contours of that future now. Investments in our infrastructure and our transportation systems, incentives to stimulate innovation and the proper support of our knowledge-based economy must be paramount to this plan.

I cannot understand how the government can ignore infrastructure, because more than ever we are living in a time that demands this recognition and a proper plan for the potential that lies ahead. This lack of recognition does not bode well for the new deal for cities and the continued and necessary investment in our municipalities. This comes at a time, in fact, when provinces such as Ontario, B.C. and Quebec are committing greatly to the needed investment in cities and infrastructure initiatives.

Instead of continuing to build and leverage further investments for the benefit of our future growth, productivity and prosperity, the throne speech was singularly silent on this issue. What does the future hold for our cities and communities if they are not properly supported? How will the economic engine turn? Where will trading partners turn to get the products they need and get their products to market? It is not even enough to ensure that the gas tax revenue flows to municipalities in the next four years; it needs to flow consistently for the long term.

It is not only about the gas tax commitment. The new deal gave municipalities a seat at the table for the first time. It paved the way for a new era of intergovernmental cooperation and partnership while still respecting the jurisdictional areas.

The provinces are making the necessary transportation and infrastructure investments. Specifically in my area, Viva rapid transit and the Province of Ontario have announced the expansion of the Spadina subway line north into the city of Vaughan. I support this expansion and Viva rapid transit and wonder how long the province will have to wait to see if the federal government will step up to the plate. We cannot afford any uncertainty or delay, because it will not encourage the sustainable growth, effective transportation systems and healthy, prosperous and vibrant cities and communities that we all need.

Living within our cities and communities are our future leaders of tomorrow. They are the citizens that will keep Canada at the forefront in the 21st century, but this too will require furthering our investments in people, our greatest resource. It will involve a commitment to skills training and to supporting continuous education. It will involve making post-secondary education a top priority, and importantly, it will involve giving our youngest citizens the very best possible start in life.

Canadians believe in and have embarked on establishing a truly national, accessible and affordable early learning and child care system. This is not babysitting, I agree. This is an opportunity for all children to grow so that every child can come to the school system ready to learn and ready to be successful. These agreements signed with the provinces reflect the core Liberal belief that we have a responsibility to invest in our children.

However, the government has chosen to rip up these deals in favour of what? A nominal $100 a month taxable allowance to parents, in the name of choice. I too believe in choice, but for the majority of Canadian families this allowance does not offer any choice, and no matter how many times the government says it does, it still is not true.

It is important that we support our families, but providing a meagre taxable allowance and calling it a child care program is a cruel trick to play. I do not believe that people will be misled by this. With over 75% of both parents working outside the home, they badly need child care spaces, period. Repeated studies have shown the benefits of such a program: that it is in fact in everyone's interest to invest in our children, that it is our future.

The government claims to have a plan. The truth is that it is a non-plan. There is no plan. A cash allowance to support families with children, while certainly welcome, is an inadequate response to a very real current need for child care in Canada.

Support for our future leaders must flow from their years as children to their young adult life. Support needs to be invested in post-secondary education and skills training. However, there again is a disconnect on this issue, incredibly, as the words “post-secondary education” were not even mentioned in the throne speech.

We need a continuum of education from early childhood to young adult life, through the middle years and beyond. This is the key to building a healthy, educated population that is enabled to reach its potential and in fact our country's potential.

The only way to ensure that Canada succeeds in the 21st century knowledge based economy is to invest in our people. Providing a mere tax credit for books is not enough for the thousands of young people who struggle under enormous debt. We need to provide the opportunities and a variety of incentives for all our youth and every person who seems to and wants to pursue higher education and additional skills training.

Students across the country are bewildered. They are wondering how post-secondary education fell off the radar screen so quickly and so unilaterally. To ignore this pivotal area is merely short-sighted. By shortchanging our young people, we are shortchanging our future capacity as a country and to be the world's best.

In striving to be the world's best we have to continue creating a climate of opportunity, a climate where the skills immigrants bring to this country are fully honoured and utilized. We must help new Canadians integrate into the job market quickly so they can add to and benefit from this country's prosperity. We need to unleash their talents and potential that currently exist and ensure that their hopes and dreams are fulfilled and realized. Canada can and must deliver in this area. It is very important.

On the international stage, Canada is a nation the world has looked to for leadership on many counts. We are a nation that has always stood up against hate, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance. We introduced Canada's first ever national action plan to combat racism and Canadians rightly want to know how this government will continue moving Canada forward to combat hate and intolerance.

Moving Canada forward also means playing a strong role on the world stage. The government says it will sharpen Canada's foreign policy. The throne speech states that “the Government will support a more robust diplomatic role for Canada...”. What exactly does that mean? And how does the tragic situation in Darfur factor into this sentiment?

As we know, the conflict in Darfur has resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 people. Over 2 million Sudanese have been displaced from their homes, including more than 200,000 who have had to flee to nearby Chad. There are unspeakable horrors occurring every day as we speak.

As a result of my own deep concern and the concern of many of my constituents, I have joined forces with other colleagues from all sides of this House to spearhead an aggressive action plan to stop these atrocities. Canada must take the lead. With members of the government active in this parliamentary coalition, I hope that the Prime Minister will not only listen but will take action on the recommendations put forward to stop this genocide.

It is precisely this kind of collective understanding and team effort that need to be put forward to meet our Kyoto commitments as well. We cannot ignore the science. We know that combating climate change and honouring our commitments are high priorities for Canadians out there; however, to date the government has conceded defeat without even trying. The government is disregarding outright the concerns of many Canadians and has moved unilaterally to cut numerous important educational environmental programs.

There is a grave concern out there in many quarters about the detrimental impact this will have on our environment and our ability to meet our Kyoto commitments. The time has come for the government to be honest and upfront about its true intentions. Canadians need and deserve to know. We have a lot at stake. A closed door policy is not increasing the transparency that the Conservatives say they want to increase.

I would suggest that there is a pattern emerging. It is a pattern of inconsistency that is troubling. Canadians know that this government inherited one of the healthiest economies in memory, one in which serious investments in social and economic programs for Canada's continued prosperity are very doable, possible and necessary. With so much hope and progress on the horizon, it is very disheartening that the government has lowered the bar with a throne speech that in fact does very little for the average Canadian.

But the world does not stand still. After the tremendous growth, the many achievements, our model of intercultural harmony and the sound fiscal management that we have experienced, Canada cannot afford to be just a fulcrum. We must keep moving forward with hope, optimism and ambition. Disconnects will only erode what we have achieved and diminish our capacity on all fronts. We need to be planning and setting up the needed infrastructure and systems to provide a foundation for another decade of prosperity to be realized.

I look forward to the discussions and debates in this great House on how we can together best achieve this goal.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:30 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much share much the hon. member's concerns over the omission relating to post-secondary education and training. We all know that education fees have gone up. In my province, they have gone up by more than 30% in a few years.

I am wondering how the member can explain the 12 years of the Liberal Party's inaction in that respect, first by putting education under some obscure transfer where it was absolutely impossible to estimate or even guess how much money was actually going to education and also in having the then Liberal prime minister say that he recognized the need for a dedicated transfer but never, never acting on it.

I am wondering how she can express such dismay over the omission and yet justify her own party's inaction over 12 years. The Conservatives have had only two months to be inactive.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:30 p.m.


Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a high priority area for me and hopefully for our whole country, I am sure. As members may recall, we did have the initiative to give partial funding, direct funding, to our students, something that had not taken place previously. It was a groundbreaking initiative.

Unfortunately, due to the member's party itself supporting the Conservative Party and the Bloc, we went to an earlier election and this is one of the things that was left by the wayside. It was very disappointing, because it held great promise for our students.

So with respect, those members really cannot say one thing and do another. Again, talking about walking the talk, I think this is one of the areas that really was a sacrifice from that early election call.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:30 p.m.


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague for her speech and also her accurate answer to the question that was just posed. The whole issue of education in Canada surely has to be one of the top five priorities for all Canadians, certainly for Canadian families.

In post-secondary education we have made a lot of strides, as she knows. The hon. member was a member of our caucus on post-secondary education. Canada has become a leader in the world and the leader in the G-7 in terms of publicly funded research.

Last year, we had an opportunity in the economic update presented in this House to bring in sweeping new improvements for student finance to address the issue of access, especially for those Canadians most in need: aboriginal Canadians, low income Canadians, and persons with disabilities. We did not have a chance to pass that in this House. We would have if the New Democratic Party had supported it. It would now be in place, helping students. Also, in the election campaign, we came out with the fifty-fifty plan to help all Canadians.

I wonder if my hon. colleague might give us her thoughts as to how optimistic she might be about this government following through on those sweeping improvements in light of the fact that education was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:30 p.m.


Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I appreciate the member's leadership on this issue.

I have major concerns about the fact that education is not even mentioned in the throne speech. It is actually unfathomable in this particular time, day and age not to hear a country such as Canada say very clearly that it is going to invest significantly in this area, with the other jurisdictions. It is actually unheard of and it is very worrisome, because again, our youth are looking to us to see that we understand. They are waiting to see what the government will come forward with. I know that right now our youth are greatly concerned that we are taking a step backward. Again, this is something that, like a child care system, is in everyone's interest. To not understand that is to really have one's head in the sand.

Again, it is great to have a focus, but we cannot forget about so many people and their interests and the potential positive impact this has for all of our lives in our Canadian society.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:30 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to come back to the whole issue of the Liberals' record on post-secondary education, because my recollection of the last Parliament was that the Liberals' sole measure for students was for dead students: that a student had to be dead and then he or she might get loan forgiveness. That was the only measure, the only initiative, the Liberals took in that last Parliament.

I do not know how the member can get up and criticize this new government for taking no action when that was the only measure the Liberals could come up with in their time in power. I wonder if the member could comment on that.