Mr. Speaker, first allow me to congratulate you on your new appointment, a well-deserved and certainly a well-earned position for you. Let me also congratulate my colleague the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister on her maiden speech. I say a job well done, bravo.
I want to contribute a few thoughts on the throne speech debate today. I am certainly privileged to the people of Essex for returning me once again to this chamber to continue fighting for them. The throne speech speaks to a number of the issues that my constituents were talking about during the last election campaign. I would like to take a few moments to discuss some of the things that ordinary Canadians expect from us and how the throne speech answers their concerns.
To begin with, all of us in the House would have to agree that historically from time to time some of our deliberations are a little bit arcane, somewhat removed from the day to day realities facing our constituents. Drawing on my experience as an auto worker, someone from the shop floor and not from the corporate headquarters, and drawing on literally thousands of conversations I have had with my constituents over the last two years, I will try to convey to members in the House what it is that ordinary Canadians want, what ordinary people in Essex want, and how the Speech from the Throne is going to take us there.
If my constituents were asked what their main concerns are, many of them would reply that they are concerned about making ends meet and making sure their children get the best start in life. For many people who work in Canada's industrial heartland where I live, one of their concerns is whether Canada will remain a country that has good, well-paying industrial jobs. That is exactly what the throne speech seeks to do.
For example, it is no secret that our government does not like high taxes; it never has and it never will. The reason is simple. High taxes kill jobs by hurting our international competitiveness, which makes it hard for companies such as our auto companies, our auto parts suppliers, our machine tool and die and mould shops to create high paying employment in this country.
High taxes also skim off people's pay and pension cheques that are too small to begin with. It skims it right off the top. That is why I welcome the commitment made in the Speech from the Throne to start work right away on reducing the GST from 7% to 6% and eventually down to 5%.
Cutting the GST makes sense. It helps to purchase, for example, Grand Caravans and Pacificas which I used to help build on the line at Chrysler. It helps families afford these types of vehicles and by doing that, it also keeps auto workers in our communities working.
It is estimated that GST relief would save ordinary Canadian families hundreds of dollars a year. This will help Canadians' paycheques go a bit further. It will make it a little easier to make ends meet. Best of all, this will be a tax cut that benefits everyone, not just those lucky people who are in a high enough salary range to get serious help from a reduction in the personal income tax rate. The reality is everyone pays the GST, even those with modest incomes. We all win when the GST is reduced. Everyone, including those living on fixed and modest incomes will see a bit more money in their pockets at the end of the week. That is money for family needs, money for food, housing and utilities. In other words, it is money for the necessities of life.
People I meet back home also tell me they want stronger and safer communities. Seniors I have talked with want to feel secure in their homes. Young women say they want to feel safe walking the streets at night. Parents worry about the safety of their children. They want to enjoy the basic human right to be safe in their own community. Once again, the Speech from the Throne has a great deal to say on this subject and getting tough on crime, particularly violent crime by giving police and the legal system the tools they need to do their jobs. It calls on the government to start tackling the roots of youth crime by working with our partners to help young people in trouble with the law to get back on track and also to encourage young people to make good choices so they do not get in trouble in the first place.
People in my riding have told me that they want to be safe from threats outside the country, such as criminals smuggling guns and drugs into Canada or from terrorists who might try to unleash fear and death in this country. This is particularly important for me as I represent a border community with valuable economic targets, such as the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest border crossing in the world.
The fine people of Essex love all of Canada, not just our particular region, and that is why they want us to protect our nation's sovereignty even in areas such as the high Arctic. All of these elements are contained in the throne speech which calls for both improved border security and a Canada first defence strategy aimed at repairing the damage to our military resulting from 13 years of Liberal neglect.
People have told me that they want us to clean up the mess in Ottawa where in the past political hacks and cronies traded favours and dipped their noses into the patronage trough time and time again. In the past contracts were based on who you knew and not what you knew. This is what Canadians have been saying and what the people of Essex have been saying, and that is what we are going to give them through the introduction of a new federal accountability act.
A federal accountability act will, among other things, toughen rules governing lobbying, give more power to the independent officers of Parliament, such as the Auditor General and the Ethics Commissioner, and provide real protection for whistleblowers.
In other words, Canadians will get the good, clean government that they both expect and deserve. Their taxpayer dollars will be used well and wisely, rather than wasted under the old system where government funds were all too often used by insiders as a sort of political slush fund to advance their party's fortunes. That is a bit of what Canadians have been telling us and that is what we in this government intend to give them.
Of course there will be naysayers who will scoff, probably at least a hundred of them on the other side, at these commitments claiming that we will break our promises just as previous Liberal governments did time and time again. I would reply quite simply that they should just watch us. Our commitments are laid out in black and white in the Speech from the Throne and they are promises we fully intend to keep.
I would urge my colleagues from all parties to put their partisan swords back in their scabbards and instead work with us as Canadians expect them to do on the commitments contained in the throne speech, so that working together we can build a better Canada for ourselves and our children.