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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Internet Child Pornography Prevention ActRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-214, An Act to prevent the use of the Internet to distribute pornographic material involving children.

Mr. Speaker, one of the most despicable things in our society is Internet child pornography. We need to do everything in our power to stop this or mitigate it to its lowest level.

One of the things we can do is have ISP providers partially responsible for monitoring their sites and passing that information on to our authorities so we can track down these low-lifes and scumbags, as we call them, and stamp out child pornography. We need to do everything we can to protect the innocence of our children.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-215, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (community service group membership dues).

Mr. Speaker, we would not have the society we have today if it were not for the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who support various charities and issues throughout our country. The dues they pay, for example, to Lions Clubs, the Kinsmen, the Legion, churches or whatever should be 100% tax deductible.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

April 6th, 2006 / 10:50 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, first, I wish to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. It is a great honour and given your length of service in this chamber, it is well-deserved.

I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from April 5 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost in my remarks I want to thank the voters of Malpeque for their confidence in me in returning me to the House of Commons. I might add as well how proud I have been to have served the riding of Malpeque, under two prime ministers, in a party that turned the finances of the country around and turned the government over in extremely good shape to the new government entering the House. I also am looking forward to this time period of holding the government to account as the member of Parliament for the riding of Malpeque.

The Speech from the Throne sets out the government's general direction, but this speech fails completely. As much as the Prime Minister may want the country and Canadians to have only five key priorities, that is not how a country as complex as Canada functions, nor how a federal government should respond.

The minister who best revealed how the Prime Minister intends to function was the Minister of Agriculture. He told the CBC that if he brought forward legislation this spring “The Prime Minister would look at him as if he were from Mars”, meaning basically that if the issue brought forward were not in the Prime Minister's five key areas, then do not bring it forward this spring. I can tell the House clearly that farmers on the Hill yesterday do not want the minister or the government to be from Mars. They want the minister and the government to act on their concerns, whether they meet with the Prime Minister's five key issues or not.

The message from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Agriculture was clear to farmers and any Canadian: the Prime Minister does not consider it worthy of attention. If this issue does not meet with the five priorities of the Prime Minister, they are out of luck. The Prime Minister has decided that only his agenda matters and those other issues, whether related to trade, or related to rural Canada in terms of the agriculture crisis and farm income, or the future of the fishery, or issues related to transportation and infrastructure, or the needs such as in Atlantic Canada in terms of economic development, will just have to wait.

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention at the beginning that I am splitting my time with the member for Laval--Les Îles.

Let me turn to the issue of agriculture. I want to congratulate the new Minister of Agriculture in his position and his responsibility. As agriculture critic for the official opposition, the Speech from the Throne is a failure as it relates to agriculture. Yes, there was a paragraph in the speech, but it basically looks like it was almost an afterthought.

Let us begin with this one fact. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in February of this year, stated that farm income across Canada would decline in 2006 by a further 16%. In the previous year, 2005, the farm income crisis situation was evident and responded to in five specific areas.

First was the ongoing support for income support programs such as CAIS. The government committed itself to working cooperatively with all stakeholders on improving the program. While the Prime Minister said during the election campaign that he was going to scrap the CAIS, he has now at least changed his mind and said that it will be in place for a year to give some stability. However, the lending community as it relates to primary producers has been taking action, in part because of the uncertainty caused by the Prime Minister himself.

Last year as well there was the direct infusion over the year with support going primarily to grains and oilseed producers, beginning in March of 2005, of close to $1 billion in ad hoc payments to assist with spring planting and other needs of producers.

In October an additional commitment, through supplementary estimates, of $348 million was lost to farmers due to the efforts of the other three parties causing an election.

There was an additional announcement of $755 million in November of 2005. This money was booked in November and the new government has only managed to get $400 million of that out to farmers as yet, according to the Minister of Agriculture recently. What is the holdup with the government?

Last year a comprehensive report on farm income entitled “Empowering Canadian Farmers in the Marketplace” was tabled with the federal and provincial ministers of agriculture. It has some 46 recommendations and provides strong support for the farm community. The government should be acting on those recommendations and moving forward so it empowers primary producers in the farm community.

That was the direct action taken by an activist government in response to the needs of Canadian farmers. That is what the previous minister of agriculture and agri-food did as part of his responsibility to those he represented at the cabinet table, the farmers of Canada. His job was to fight for additional assistance and he received it.

Ministers should not stand before audiences of desperate people and say that they would like to do something, but they do not want to disturb the Prime Minister's timetable or disrupt his plans. We need to see some leadership from the government as a whole on the farm crisis before us.

Also during the election the Prime Minister left the impression that there would be $500 million for producers. However, we find out now that it is not $500 million more for producers. It is $500 million over and above the safety net programs, which means it is about $1.2 billion short of what was actually funded over the last two years by the previous government. That is unacceptable. As farmers said on the Hill yesterday, they need cash and they need it now.

I see the member for Essex sitting opposite. I was surprised last night by his comments. While he said during the election campaign that the government would give immediate assistance to primary producers, he did not mention the word agriculture in his speech last night. He did not mention farmers. We have not seen a dime come forward from the government as yet. All we have seen is part of the money that the previous government put in place.

The Minister of Agriculture is either prepared to defend the interests of farmers in Canada in need or he is not. The Minister of Agriculture is a good person and a great individual. By reading the throne speech and seeing practically nothing in it in terms of the agriculture portfolio, I can only assume that the Minister of Finance, the President of Treasury Board and the Prime Minister himself have their own priorities in agriculture, and primary producers do not seem to be a part of it.

Yesterday close to 10,000 farmers from across Canada were on the Hill. They outlined their concerns about the inaction of the government and the fact that it had not put forward an ad hoc program for producers this spring. That is what the Minister of Agriculture has indicated thus far. Farmers are demanding cash and they need it now. The Minister of Agriculture called a press conference and basically said not to look to him because the problem relative to CAIS lay with the provinces. They support CAIS but it is not the only program.

Members across the way now make up the Government of Canada. They cannot sit there and just complain any more. The throne speech should spell out clearly what they are going to do for those rural communities many of them represent. We need to see some action. That is what producers yesterday were telling members opposite. That is what they were telling the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture. They want to see some action, not just hear words. It is not enough to say the problem is with the provinces. The members opposite are in a position of responsibility. What we need to see from the Prime Minister and the new government is leadership and leadership is going to require dealing with the farm crisis, putting money out there, or at least catching up to the kind of financial commitments that the previous government put in place.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member opposite. In particular, I noted how quick he was to take credit for the finances of the nation which have now been turned over to the Conservative government. What he left out was the fact that during his government's tenure in office, it was the recipient of a great deal of revenue generated by the GST and by the benefits of free trade. Both were policies I am quick to note that he and members of the Liberal Party adamantly opposed and fought tooth and nail to prevent, and then were the recipients of both of those financial policies.

It is also interesting to note that when the election commenced, the Liberals were opposed to what they used to be opposed to. Let me rephrase that. They did not want to see the GST lowered, and they are still opposed to lowering the GST so that ordinary Canadians could keep more of their hard-earned money.

The credibility of the member opposite is somewhat speculative. Then he had the audacity to stand up with great pomp and ceremony and such over the top emotion yesterday that I thought he might come out of his shoes and suggest that somehow this government, after two months in office, was entirely responsible for the terrible state of the Canadian farm. He suggested that somehow a government that has been in office just over two months should bear sole responsibility for the over 12 years of neglect that the member's government demonstrated in addressing the crisis of the family farm.

The member takes hypocrisy to staggering new heights when he gets up in this chamber and tries to castigate the current government for the state of the family farm.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how the member opposite does indeed change positions. I saw a great cartoon a little while ago. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was tied up in a pretzel because he made an announcement one day and the Prime Minister changed it the next. I thought it was quite appropriate.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for ACOA talked about the GST.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

And your island, Mr. Potatohead.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Yes, he is responsible for Prince Edward Island as well. We hope that he will take that issue seriously.

Let me get back to the point on the GST. What we are concerned about on this side is that there is tax relief for low income Canadians.

A study released on March 29, 2006 by an independent non-partisan research institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, found that 5% of families earning over $150,000 a year will receive 30% of the benefits from the Conservative tax cuts, an average of more than $2,010 in savings each year. On the other side, almost half of Canadian families earning less than $40,000 will receive only 20% of the benefits of the Conservative tax cuts, an average of just over $163.

The GST cut the Conservatives are proposing, and taking away the tax reduction that the Liberals put in place, will transfer the benefits to the rich in society and take them away from the less well off. That is what the Minister of Foreign Affairs ought to be concerned about.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am angry, not to say enraged, to hear the speech by my Liberal colleague.

It was the Liberals of the previous government who precipitated the agricultural sector into one of the worst crises, which has now become even more brutal. For nearly three and a half years now there has been trouble in the agricultural sector. Everything started when bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly called “mad cow”, was discovered in Alberta.

Since then there has been a snowball effect on the dairy producers, who were its first victims. Next came the cattle farmers. Now it is the grain growers, who for two years have been getting next to nothing in international prices, for those prices are set by Americans vying with each other to subsidize their agricultural sector. We have seen the rise of the Canadian dollar, the doping of the Canadian dollar with western oil exports. There has been no compensation for hog producers, for example, who are also experiencing what is almost the worst crisis of their lives.

For three and a half years, those people did absolutely nothing to help farm producers. We knew from the outset that the stabilization program set up by the Liberals would not work, because the compensation mechanism was totally warped.

Now here we are with one of the worst crises. Those people are responsible. This gentleman, a past president of the National Farmers Union in the Maritimes, did nothing in the 13 years he was in that office, and nothing again over the last three and a half years.

I am also counting on the Conservatives to respond quickly. Yesterday I was not satisfied with the minister’s reaction. We must take action before all the agricultural producers of Quebec and Canada are wiped out. We must do so quickly, with significant amounts of money. In recent years the government has been more catholic than the Pope. It has slashed subsidies, starting with the dairy subsidy which at that time was paid to all the dairy producers in Canada.

We have beaten our competitors to the punch. With the result that, today, it is not the quality or supply of our products that is lacking, but the subsidies. We are competing with the American and European subsidies. That government did nothing over all those years to help out the producers. And here we are facing the worst of crises.

What does the past president of the National Farmers Union for the Maritimes say to that?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member and I are in agreement that the government has to take prompt action. It has not shown that and it is certainly not showing that in its speeches. In fact the Minister of Agriculture seems to be backtracking on ad hoc funding.

The member knows that last March 31 there was a billion dollars put out there to primary producers to assist them in terms of getting their crop in the ground. We need to see the same kind of action from the government.

With respect to the international subsidies of other countries, I suggest to the member, and I hope that he would be on side, that the government should adopt the programs and recommendations outlined in the report empowering farmers in the marketplace.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House of Commons on behalf of the official opposition to reply to the government's throne speech.

Before I begin, allow me please to welcome the new government, especially the new members. I would also like to offer you my warmest congratulations on your appointment as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole House. I have no doubt that you will provide the wisdom and calm needed in this House.

I must also take a moment to thank the residents of Laval—Les Îles in Quebec for electing me a fourth time. It is an honour to continue to be their voice in Canada's Parliament on issues such as immigration, early childhood, youth employment, expanding the labour market, infrastructure development, old age pensions and, right now, bilingualism. Their trust will not be betrayed.

In the 10 minutes that I have, I will cover four issues missing from the government's agenda: integration of minority language communities outside Quebec, support for la francophonie arts and culture, youth and child care.

The Governor General's opening remarks reminded me of my own travels across Canada and the people I have met in the two great linguistic communities. I too can attest to their tremendous asset to our country. We are indeed living in a country where everything is possible. We can follow our dreams and help build a strong and united country.

Mr. Speaker, I am not satisfied with the rigid contrast found in the message of the Government of Canada. It offers no vision for the ongoing integration of francophones and anglophones in Quebec or for the development of official language minority communities.

The year 2006 will mark the 40th anniversary of French immersion programs. It all started with a project at the Riverside school board in St. Lambert, Quebec. Today, this vision of the duality and equality of the two languages is enshrined in the Official Languages Act, and $751.3 million over five years has been earmarked by the action plan for official languages, which sets out clearly the government's responsibility for putting it in place. Linguistic duality is now firmly entrenched in the foundations of our multi-faceted society.

The mother tongue of almost six million people in Quebec today is French. Almost 66% of another approximately 700,000 English speaking people speak French at work. Also, 400,000, or 63%, or another half a million people without French or English, many of them immigrant workers, live and work in French.

The most recent statistics indicate that nearly seven francophone workers in ten living outside Quebec, or some 566,000 people, use French at work.

The Liberal vision of a bilingual country has taken root. We now have a government that is trying to destroy that vision. The day before yesterday I asked a question in this House about the future of bilingualism in Canada. The hon. member responded, and I quote:

“We have a strong minister in charge of heritage and culture who has indicated that she wants to promote that”, meaning bilingualism, “throughout Canada”. The member also said that “bilingualism is something this party supports”. I am very happy about this since the Prime Minister can certainly thank the Liberal policy on bilingualism for having had the opportunity to learn French.

How has the government shown support for bilingualism? The Prime Minister appointed a unilingual minister whose mandate is to coordinate the horizontal work of the government in promoting French and English. What has that minister done since her appointment? She has refused every attempt by the Commissioner of Official Languages, Madame Dyane Adam, to meet with her.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage has yet to say two words about official languages or even meet with francophone and other national organizations which are still waiting two months later for a return phone call.

These groups confirm today that:

in the Speech from the Throne, arts and culture in Canadian francophonie have been eradicated from the vision of Canadian society as the Conservative party sees it. The Conservative party wants to build a strong, united, independent and free Canada, but it is an aberration to think they can do so without culture, without the arts and without cultural diversity. We cannot accept this. How does the Canadian government intend to sustain these sectors, these strong social, economic and educational drivers of our Canadian society and true foundations to building our identity, within the francophone and Acadian communities?

Instead, the minister had a lot to say about the CBC even before her briefing and nothing to say about the minority language community.

There is more. Without even bothering to read the mandate of the Canadian Unity Council, funding was gutted from the council because it does not fit into the Conservative government's vision of open federalism that, according to the throne speech, recognizes the unique place of a strong, vibrant Quebec in a united Canada.

The Canadian Unity Council is a non-profit, non-partisan organization created in 1964 when a group of francophone and anglophone Quebeckers established the Canada Committee, which was the precursor to the council. Its mandate is to create an openness toward federalism and its mission is to inform and mobilize the public on the development and promotion of Canada. It stems from our social foundations as a nation.

Most of the council's work affects young people. For example, its summer job and student exchange program, originally supported by all parties, allows young francophones and anglophones to improve their second language while discovering a region of Canada they are unfamiliar with. I know for a fact that one hon. member opposite benefited from this program when he was young. Because of this decision by the Conservative government, roughly 80 Canadian employees, including 21 at the council's head office in Montreal, have lost their jobs.

The Conservative government talks about supporting democracy, about accountability, open federalism, respect for diversity, bilingualism and the understanding of cultures. How does it do it? It does it by gutting the funding of the Canadian Unity Council across Canada.

Here is an institution able to add to the dialogue of our country. It has or, more aptly put, had offices located in every region of the country. Thirty-two regional round tables were held in Quebec alone through the Council's Centre for Research and Information on Canada. They engaged all sectors of our society: academics, business people, volunteers and the general public. Their work was citizenship participation in action.

How do Canadians get to understand their country if cultural misperceptions exist, if access to people's stories is cut off? If integration and adaptation is eroded by the government's hidden agenda that is now coming to light, how many other non-profit community based organizations are going to be affected?

In the meantime, the Prime Minister's first public address to public servants, delivered mainly in English and posted on the government's website, was a direct violation of the Official Languages Act. Now we know the Conservative leadership's stand on bilingualism. Since being elected and establishing its cabinet, the government's target has not been about bilingualism because it has no vision.

It has been about building super jails to house youth while abolishing the gun registry, instead of putting in place better community support systems and leaving in place the substantive national crime prevention strategy and the youth employment strategy that have helped to reduce crime by 12% over the last 10 years.

This government's Speech from the Throne is an insult to the five-year plan of action to allocate $751.3 million to official languages. The agreements reached between the federal government and the provinces on early childhood education helped to fund more places for official language minority communities.

Nova Scotia could have stimulated the vitality of its francophone and Acadian communities. Newfoundland and Labrador could have worked with its associates, such as the regional health services, to satisfy the needs of francophone children.

There were also plans to have the appropriate authorities report on the provisions available for services in French. This government will put the future of our children at risk because of its linear views on flexible and open federalism.

The Conservative alliance government might definitely need to use as its guide the foresight which our forefathers showed to build a federal system that would be flexible and accommodating of diversity.

In that way, the Conservative alliance could build on one of Canada's greatest strengths—the federal system of government. In the meantime, it would build on the unique strengths of the different parts of our federation.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I was seated in another place.

My name is Steven Blaney and I am the member for Lévis—Bellechasse.

I would first like to thank my colleague for wishing--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The member has to be in his own seat if he wants to speak. I did not think he looked like the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, but he was sitting in her seat. If the member wants the floor he has to take his proper seat. We will give him time to do that.

The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I wanted to thank my colleague for welcoming all new members of Parliament, including myself, here to the House of Commons. I am proud to have the opportunity, as the representative for Lévis—Bellechasse, to ask her my first question.

I listened closely to her address. I can sense her love of the French language, which is one of Canada's greatest cultural assets. It is also the language spoken in the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse.

The Government of Canada and all departments are responsible for defending the French language. And the Conservative government intends to do so. The election of this government has already contributed immensely to the promotion of the French language, both in Quebec and across the country.

I ask my colleague this: how did her government help promote French culture when the French language was sullied by several scandals?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really do not at all see the connection that my colleague is trying to make between these two things. What is very clear is that in our party there are a lot of bilingual people from across Canada. This is one of the signs of the respect our party has for our country’s two founding languages, not just for the French language.

Furthermore, I would like to remind the member that, when we were in power, we set aside a large sum for language-teaching. The amount of $751.3 million over five years was provided for the action plan for official languages.

A question arises, and I would like to put it to my colleague and to all the members on the other side of this House. Do they intend to respect this agreement for $751.3 million provided for the action plan for official languages? We have not heard anything from the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women or from the Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages. They were appointed over two months ago and we have not seen anything yet. We stand before a large void. This is very worrying for us.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment.

The throne speech, as the hon. member has said, was very light. It was light on details, light on vision and light considering that only one-third of Canadians voted for the Conservative government. Perhaps that is the reason that the Conservatives do not reflect the Canadian values of bilingualism and respect for other cultures.

As the member has said reviewed the whole speech from the throne and other areas and is so well-versed in issues, what are other areas that my hon. colleague thinks that the Conservatives have arrogantly duped or insulted Canadians of francophone origins?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the government’s website, on which the Prime Minister, for more than 24 hours, left his speech totally in English, except for a few words in French, in spite of the fact that we contacted him.

It is the duty of the Prime Minister of Canada, of the leader of the government, to be the first to respect legislation. The Official Languages Act clearly says that all government documents, those from Ottawa as well as those coming from elsewhere in Canada, must be presented to the Canadian public in both official languages.

Perhaps that does not count for some people, but it is very important for us whose language is the minority official language in Canada. I am sure that my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse would agree with me, contrary to his party.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:25 a.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague how it is that she can continue to--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I was not recognizing the hon. member on questions and comments. The time for questions and comments has expired. I was recognizing the hon. member on debate as the hon. member is the next speaker.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the people of Winnipeg South who elected me to this chamber. I also would like to highlight that my wife, who is my biggest supporter, is very happy to be here today.

I am happy to be participating in this debate on the most recent Speech from the Throne which contains a number of important new initiatives that I found of great interest as a westerner, as an aboriginal Canadian and as an entrepreneur. I am especially proud to speak before you today, Mr. Speaker, as a Métis member of Parliament from Winnipeg South, an area of Manitoba which has not elected a Métis representative since Louis Riel.

A lot has changed since then and the Prime Minister highlights that change by giving me the opportunity to work as the minister's parliamentary secretary in this important department relating to aboriginal issues. I also look forward to working with the Prime Minister on our government's important new initiatives which will benefit everyone in Canada, including our first peoples.

Of these new initiatives there are several I would like to highlight. For example, take those measures designed to strengthen the family, that vitally important institution that lies at the heart of everyone's community. It represents the very foundation of this country.

One of the most important measures would give Canadian parents greater choice in child care, so they can choose the option that makes the most sense for them. This is particularly important now that the family unit has changed. Many families have different makeups and their needs should be addressed. In these various situations it is critical that their children be well cared for while they are on the job and that child care options be right for their child and match the family's needs and values.

However in order to get this right it costs money and many families do not have enough money. This is where the Government of Canada comes in, helping to make good child care a bit more affordable.

The problem is that the federal government has not always done a very good job of addressing the needs of families. This was particularly true since the previous government tended to have a do nothing approach to child care, which became a one size fits all approach whenever an election was looming.

As a result, the previous government ploughed every penny of taxpayer dollars into publicly funded daycare, while stubbornly refusing to accept that there might be any other options. We as a government campaigned on a different approach. We as a government believe that money is best kept in the hands of parents who can decide what the best care option is for their children. It is simply a matter of philosophy; would parents rather be given a choice or would they rather have the government tell them how best to care for their child? I and my colleagues believe that choice should and must rest with parents.

Under the old system, if a family did not fit into some stereotype dreamt up by Ottawa bureaucrats, ivory tower academics or lobby group leaders they were simply out of luck. Families had to choose between trying to live their lives the way the experts said they should or digging into their own often meagre financial resources to pay for child care that matched their needs. That was then and things have changed. This government recognizes that every family is unique, which means their needs are different too, including their child care needs. That is why the Speech from the Throne calls for greater choice in child care by providing parents with a child under the age of six with $1,200 per year to help them purchase child care that is right for them and right for their child.

That is not all, to ensure parents keep as much of their income as possible, the throne speech also contains a commitment to drop the GST from 7% to 6% and ultimately down to 5%. Such a tax cut would be particularly welcome for those families living on modest or fixed incomes, people whose income is often too low to allow them to benefit from a cut in the personal income tax rate.

Since the GST is the one tax that everyone pays no matter what they earn, cutting this tax benefits all Canadians. Again, this is a question of philosophy. Where is the hard-earned money of Canadians best kept? Both our government and Canadians believe that their money is best kept in their pockets. Cutting the GST is a tax cut that benefits all Canadians from all income levels. I am sure these benefits will become quite apparent.

Strengthening families is about more than just money. It is also making sure that people can get the medical treatment they need to live long and healthy lives when they need it. After all, they paid for it.

This is addressed by our promise to negotiate a patient wait times guarantee. Under such a system, people who cannot get the medical care they require in their own locality in a timely fashion using the public system can go to a private facility or another jurisdiction with the cost being paid by public insurance. Such a guarantee is long overdue. People who often require significant medical attention on an urgent basis in the past could not get it. This was particularly true in families with young children or elderly or disabled family members.

The universality of health care has long been ignored and we will do our part as a government to ensure that Canadians get the health care they deserve and the services they are entitled to.

Mr. Speaker, I am also splitting my time with the member for Calgary Southeast.

Of course, some families involve veterans, many of whom are seniors living on fixed incomes. These are people to whom we owe a lot which makes it imperative that they be treated with respect. Unfortunately, one group made up of first nations, Métis and Inuit veterans has not received the respect it deserves.

I recently had the pleasure of witnessing the honouring of five such veterans myself. Bob Ducharme, Oscar LaCombe, John Pederson, Joseph Clement and the late Louis Lamirande are Métis nation citizens who along with their brothers made a great sacrifice for our country, who for too long have not been properly recognized. This is why I was so pleased that the government committed to making redress for the inequities they have suffered for the last 60 years. I look forward to working with the government to make this a reality.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Métis National Conference in my home province of Manitoba. I can tell the House that the Métis people are fiercely proud of their veterans. I, along with them, look forward to the day when their sacrifices and their selfless contribution is awarded the recognition it deserves, not just from their families but also from government.

The Speech from the Throne contains measures aimed at protecting and strengthening communities, For example, to ensure citizens can go about their daily lives in peace and security, the throne speech contains measures aimed at combating gangs and youth violence that we see in some of our larger cities including my home of Winnipeg. To do this, it proposes a two-pronged approach. First of all, we will get serious about youth crime by giving police and the justice system the tools they need to combat it.

The message here is simple. If one commits a serious crime, one is going to do serious time. This message is even stronger given the resolve of our justice minister who will stem the tide of victimization in our justice system. Law-abiding Canadians will be protected with him at the helm.

However, tougher laws and law enforcement cannot by themselves solve all the challenges in this area which is why the Speech from the Throne calls on government to help those young people already in trouble to get back on track. It commits us to working with our partners, in the community and other levels of government, on projects that encourage young people to make good choices, so that they can get their lives back on track.

Taken together this should go a long way toward providing our young people, who are after all the very future of our country, with the help they need to become healthy, productive and well-adjusted citizens capable of making their own special contribution to this country and their community.

Canadians are yearning for change. They are looking for new ideas and they want a government that works for them and with them. The throne speech contains a number of important new measures which, when implemented, will strengthen Canadian families and communities even more.

However, translating these commitments into action will not be easy for we are talking about complex issues where everyone must get involved if we are to enjoy success. We will require the ideas and cooperation of all members of the House if we are to find solutions to challenges facing us. By working together we can be an example to all Canadians. We can show them that through cooperation much can be achieved. Together we will restore the public's faith in their elected officials. It will not always be easy and it will require hard work. Still, it will be worth the effort, for when we are finished, we will have laid the groundwork for a stronger and safer Canada.

It is for this reason that I support the commitments in the throne speech and I encourage other members to do the same.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on his election to the House, but I would like to make a few comments about the speech itself.

When he talks about long ignored, long ignored and long ignored, I would like to point out something that was very much ignored. My hon. colleague from Prince Edward Island talked about how there was very little in this throne speech regarding the agricultural world. I can point out even less that was said about the fishery. As a matter of fact, I will even go further and say there was nothing, other than to point out that the oceans provide a vital resource, which is an incredible flash of brilliance that has been talked about very much.

I would like the hon. member to address the situation in the fishery. As recently as a few days ago, in the Atlantic snow crab industry, our fishermen went back out on the water. In a situation where prices are low and the resources are not as plentiful as they used to be, the question becomes management. One of the grave concerns in the fishery is about local management and more local say, something that was talked about very much by the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans from Newfoundland and Labrador.

I would like my hon. colleague to address this situation. Perhaps he would like to give us some vision on what the government sees for the fishery. I am not sure whether the throne speech, all 12 pages, was written by the government or Robert Munsch. It was very cute, but very small on detail, especially regarding the fishery where there was virtually nothing.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, we often hear members of the previous government talk about what was accomplished in the past, yet we currently find ourselves in this state. When we refer back to the 13 years of the previous government, it really dumbfounds me to hear the questions that are asked.

We are waiting for a plan that we are going to be implementing regarding the fishery. Right now we are focusing on our five priorities. I assure the member that when the finance minister comes out with his plan, it will make sense and it will be focused. It is unfortunate that we have seen a 13 year term, but he will be seeing a plan from the finance minister as soon as possible.