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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parents.

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The House resumed from April 6 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, and of the amendment, as amended.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10 a.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I began my remarks at the end of the sitting yesterday, but I would like to make some further remarks in the time I have remaining.

Yesterday I talked about the five priorities of the government, particularly about the GST cut that we campaigned on and that we have a mandate to introduce. It is important to point out, however, that this one percentage point cut in the GST is an important part of our tax relief plans, but it is by no means the only one.

We also intend to act on other fronts, for example, on the current tax burden shouldered by business people, our job creators. We will deliver because all Canadians stand to gain from this kind of tax relief. Competitive corporate tax rates attract the kind of investment that boosts economic growth and creates well-paying jobs.

This government will also make a special effort to recognize and reward small businesses for what they are, the backbone of our economy. It is true in my community and in my city of Calgary, it is true throughout the province of Alberta and it is true right across our country.

As the Minister of Finance mentioned in his remarks, we will be implementing our opportunity plan for small business. It is a package of measures to give our small business people a well deserved tax break and create an incentive to hire new apprentices in industries that so urgently need them. Our plan would also raise the threshold at which small businesses have to pay the general corporate tax rate and cut the small business rate itself within five years.

Clearly there is a lot of work to do on the tax front, however, we are prepared to get down to work to lighten the financial load on Canada's families and businesses. Our government believes we must set priorities that are reasonable and fiscally responsible, and stick to them.

In January Canadians gave us a mandate to lead change, and we cannot have responsible leadership without making responsible choices. We cannot afford to jeopardize our strong economy with reckless spending, and I can assure members that we will not. Our plan is focused, prudent and affordable.

All told, the priorities we have proposed to Canadians may sound like a tall order, but we are up to the task and we will keep our word. Canadians expect us to say what we mean and mean what we say. They are looking for practical action, day after day, to address their priorities, their needs, their aspirations and those of their families and communities. They are looking for honest, accountable and transparent government, and that is what we will deliver to them.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the Speech from the Throne. Before I commence, I would like to state that I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg South Centre.

Before I get into my remarks, I want to take this opportunity, like all members have after this most recent election, to thank some people. First and foremost, I would like to thank my family, starting with my wife and my children, my sons, Paul and Daniel, my daughter, Irene, my son-in-law, Tony and our little grandson, George, who came together as a team. I would also like to thank my riding association executive and all the many volunteers and supporters of this most recent campaign. As well, I give a big thanks to the residents of Scarborough Centre who, in their wisdom, once again chose to give me the opportunity to have the honour and the privilege to represent them here in the 39th Parliament for the fifth consecutive time.

I read the throne speech over very carefully and I listened to remarks from other members throughout the past couple of days. I chose to take excerpts of some of the comments and I will comment on those.

The Speech from the Throne has been described as a pamphlet. I heard somebody this morning call it blue light. In one of the paragraphs it states:

Through hard work, foresight and good fortune, we have come together to make our vast country one of the most successful the world has ever seen.

That is so true. By making that statement, the Conservatives admit that this is one of the most successful countries. We did not simply get there by saying “Here we are. We are the most successful country”. The right type of investments had to be made. The right type of decisions, and tough decisions, had to be made.

In order for the Conservatives to make that statement today, we must go back to 1993 and before 1993 when the Conservative government was in office, prior to the Liberal government assuming office in 1993. The Conservatives say in their statement that we are the most successful country today. You, Mr. Speaker, were here at that time as were other members. They know very well that this beautiful country of ours was described as a banana republic. It was literally bankrupt. The statement could not have been made at that time.

However, the Conservatives are in a position today to make that statement, and I am very pleased it is being made. It is reflective of some of the decisions, some of the initiatives that were brought forward over the past four mandates.

It is proper to acknowledge the hard work of many of the members, led by the two previous prime ministers and so many cabinet ministers who, along with caucus, were able to consult with Canadians and bring forth forward thinking ideas.

Along the way, were there some mistakes? Very much so. As one of the members of the Conservative Party clearly stated so eloquently yesterday, we do not live in a perfect world, and I agree with him. It further states in the pamphlet:

The distance we have travelled is remarkable. A country once perceived to be at the edge of the world is now at the leading edge of science, business, the arts and sports.

Again, I agree with that, but we could not have got on the podium in Turin if proper investments by the previous government had not been made. We would not have been on the leading edge in science, business and art if the right type of investments had not been made.

We must remind Canadians that the present government just took over. The many successes that are outlined were investments that were made in previous years. I thank the government again for acknowledging the success of the previous government.

The Speech from the Throne goes on to say, “The Government is proud of what Canadians have accomplished so far”. I thank the Prime Minister and his newly elected minority government for acknowledging the many accomplishments and for being proud of those accomplishments. Let me remind them of some of the accomplishments, which I took the opportunity to explain to Canadians during the election.

When we inherited the government from the Conservatives, we had a national debt of just over $600 billion. Today, not only have the Conservatives inherited a country awash with surpluses, but the debt is down by almost $60 billion to $499 billion. We inherited a deficit of over $42.3 billion and we eliminated it many years ago in 1997, if I recall.

In this country, we had never heard of surpluses like those we have had in the past several years, surpluses averaging $8 billion or $9 billion year after year, which we invested in the sciences, business, arts, sports et cetera, as the Conservatives have acknowledged that we did successfully. That is where the investments went.

I remind the party opposite, the minority government, that back then we had an unemployment rate of almost 11.5%. Most recently, before the election, it was at 6.4%.

We supported small business enterprise because, as was stated earlier, we also believed then that it is one of the main engines that drives the economy. That is why well over three million jobs were created.

Our debt to GDP ratio, which is so significant, had dropped dramatically to almost 38% from a high of 68.4%. What does that mean? It means that in terms of interest we were saving an average of $3 billion a year. The Liberal government took that money and invested it back into the country. We invested it back into the programs that Canadians asked us to invest in.

I stand here proudly to say that every budget we brought forward was a budget that was a result of consultations with Canadians. We used a balanced approach. We also knew we could not satisfy everybody. At the end of the day, the country became what the party across describes in the brochure as the best country and the number one country in the world.

I will go on referring to their pamphlet, which states, “This Government has been given a mandate to lead the change demanded by the Canadian people”. Does the government's mandate reflect the fact that two out of three Canadians did not vote for that party? I emphasize the fact that two out of three Canadians did not vote for that party. Had it not been for the dynamics of how the parties are split, with the beautiful province of Quebec and so on, I think things might have been different.

Today's Prime Minister gained some political capital along the way in the campaign. He made statements about the Prime Minister's “new way”. He talked about honesty and integrity. He talked about doing government differently. Where have we heard that? Back in 1993 we heard almost exactly the same phrase. “We came here to do government differently,” said the then Reform Party led by Preston Manning.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:10 a.m.

Leon Benoit

Absolutely. It's good stuff.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Absolutely? There we go. Those members agree.

Let me remind Canadians of the fact that the Reform Party said it had come here to do government differently. That party wanted no limousines. Members may remember the bowling alley those members wanted. They wanted no pensions, of course, but they reneged on that. That is how they ended up doing government differently.

Let me say for the Prime Minister that he had gained some political capital, but unfortunately he lost it all overnight. I will tell the House why.

I will reflect on the most recent Parliament. Before we recessed, Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, which would have created the Department of International Trade, were before the House. The present Prime Minister and his party, along with the NDP and the Bloc, voted against my party.

Why am I bringing this up? Because the Conservative Party recruited the member for Vancouver--Kingsway and gave him the portfolio of Minister of International Trade, yet that department does not even exist. The Conservative Party did not want that department to exist and yet the Prime Minister appointed a Minister of International Trade.

No wonder the people of Vancouver--Kingsway are upset. The member for Vancouver--Kingsway said he could best serve his constituents in this capacity. What is he saying? Is he saying that I, as a member of Parliament, and all the other members of Parliament cannot serve our constituents in our capacity as MPs? Is he saying that he has to be a minister to serve his constituents? I say no. He has done a wrong to his constituents and I encourage him to reflect and make the right decisions.

I will close by saying that there were a lot of innuendoes during the campaign. Candidates put out brochures promising pie in the sky, promising to repeal the gun legislation, for example. I say they had better keep their word. That is what they said.

The government talked about recognition of foreign credentials. Those members know very well that it is a provincial responsibility.

There was talk of buying more DART systems, when they ridiculed that in the defence committee when I was the chair.

I wish I had another half an hour, because I have a whole list of things here. I will just remind the government that Canadians are looking for constructive change. The Conservative Party, when two out of three Canadians did not vote for it, had better think twice.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, while I appreciate the remarks made by the member opposite, I will make a couple of comments and I do have some questions.

I will refer to his point that consistently there were surpluses of $8 billion to $9 billion. Why is it that with all that financial wisdom, now on the opposition benches, the Liberals could not accurately project those surpluses? As well, they went on major spending sprees at year-end. We can actually say that the Liberals' $1.9 billion surplus turned into a $9.1 billion surplus. If the Liberals were so accurate, why did that happen every year?

Given that the Liberals have benefited from Conservative policies to get Canada to where it is today, why were the health and education transfers gutted under the former government?

Yes indeed, Canada voted for change and Canadians will get that change with the Conservative government.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is a new member and first I will congratulate him on his election, but when he talks about Conservative approaches, I will say that there was a Conservative experiment under Brian Mulroney and we all know what he left the country with: debts, deficits and high unemployment. Our country was psychologically down and out.

I said earlier, and I will repeat it again, that those members were not the Conservatives then. They came in as the Reform Party and then were the Alliance and today they are the so-called Conservatives.

I want to remind the member that we took a responsible position. On the contingency plan, for example, when he asks why, the Liberals took that contingency plan, that money left over, and put it directly to debt reduction. We made that commitment and we kept that commitment throughout the 13 years we were in government.

The numbers I quoted to the member are facts. I challenge the member to look at them. I say to the member, we just do not wake up, sir, and say that there was a $600 billion debt and now we have a $500 billion debt, or that we had a $42 billion deficit and suddenly we have no deficit. There is no magic wand. It comes from being constructive, intelligent, fair and liberally balanced.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech. He has brought up some very good points that the House needs to be reminded of. Obviously the little bit of information that was in the throne speech acknowledged the condition that we have left the economy in.

One of the areas in which the previous Liberal government was so successful was the area of addressing the skills issues and developing Canada, specifically universities, through research and innovation. There has been $13 billion invested since 1998, taking Canada from near the bottom of the G-7 in terms of publicly funded research to a place at the very top of the G-7. Most recently, last year the government introduced specific measures to address accessibility for students, particularly those from low income families, low income Canadians.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. When we talk about “five priorities” for Canadians, would he agree with me that education might be one of those five priorities? Was he surprised to see that education was not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Very briefly, Mr. Speaker, not only was I surprised, I was shocked. I was shocked because we had talked about how the Liberals would take our country into the 21st century by creating a smart society, about how we were going to be competitive. Even though I say it is a shame that education was not even one of the Conservative priorities, I will say in complimentary comments that they acknowledged it in their pamphlet when they spoke of our success “at the leading edge of science, business, the arts and sport”.

In response to the question, what the Conservatives have done here, to some degree, is acknowledge the investments made by the Liberal government. It is no coincidence that we are where we are today; it is because the Liberal government made the proper investments.

I am hopeful that the government also has a change of mind and starts investing in these areas as well, like we did, so that we can continue making our country leading edge, as they say, leading the world as a smart country that is competitively strong and, most important, united.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, congratulations upon your re-election. It must be quite pleasing to win re-election twice in three months.

I would also like to thank the constituents of Winnipeg South Centre, who have again shown their confidence in me and have given me the privilege of representing them for a third time.

I listened closely to the government's Speech from the Throne. I rise today to comment on those important elements that are missing. These missing elements concern me, because I believe the road map of the government of the country must reflect the diversity and complexity of the people of this nation and of the regions. A five priority list sounds good, but five easy pieces is not enough.

The government's position on child care is profoundly disappointing. In my home province of Manitoba, we are deeply disturbed that the government refuses to honour a true system of early learning and child care, a program that supports children and allows families the opportunities they deserve.

On April 29, 2005, the Government of Canada signed an agreement with the Government of Manitoba, the first in Canada, which provided new multi-year federal funding on child care and learning. I was there that day and I am confident in stating that no one who attended the signing would have predicted the sorry state we are in today. It was a profoundly moving event. As the signing of the agreement took place, those in the crowd spontaneously stood up and sang O Canada. What a moment.

It is important that members know what Manitoba is losing because of the government's approach to child care. Over the life of the five year plan, Manitoba would have obtained 1,650 new child care spaces in Winnipeg, 700 newly funded spaces in rural Manitoba communities, 68 new spaces in northern communities, funding for new facilities, for renovations, for the expansion of existing facilities, and for what I consider most important, new training spaces and wage increases for child care workers. This is all gone.

Let us be clear: a taxable $1,200 per child will simply not come even remotely close to achieving the objectives that I just laid out.

It is also important to note that I have not heard any discussion anywhere of the $100 million the previous government committed to child care in aboriginal communities.

I know that I speak for thousands of Manitobans who have asked the members on the opposite side to honour the agreements made in good faith. I want to remind members of a comment made by the premier of British Columbia. It was a comment following the signing of the Kelowna accord. He said that “the honour of the Crown depends on our meeting these commitments”. Indeed, that was a commitment made government to government.

What also concerns me is that the government is now speculating about withdrawing funds for those who advocate for early learning and child care. I hope this is not intimidation.

The Speech from the Throne was also silent on another agreement put in place by the former government. I am speaking of the Kelowna accord. It would seem that the current government has never heard of the Kelowna accord. There was hardly a word on aboriginal people in the speech. It was mentioned twice, and only in passing. But we know that the government is aware of the Kelowna accord. It simply does not want to honour it.

The new government must begin to listen more closely, especially to its own members. I want to congratulate the new Minister of Indian Affairs on his appointment. It appears that he cares, but what about his colleagues?

On January 10, at the height of the recent election campaign, he said on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network:

--I am the party spokesman on the Kelowna accord and let's be perfectly clear for the viewers of your network. We are supportive of Kelowna. We are supportive of the targets and objectives that were set at Kelowna.

He said they are supportive, but is anyone listening to him? Is his own Prime Minister? Is his Minister of Finance?

Why is the aboriginal community not in the five priority list? Kelowna speaks to hope and opportunity for aboriginal peoples. It speaks to dealing with the different circumstances in all regions and communities, in rural and urban areas, on reserves, on settlements in the north and Arctic regions. It speaks to working with first nations, with Inuit and with Métis, to women, to men and to children. It speaks to improving education, housing and health care. It speaks to partnership, collaboration and accountability, and accountability is more than financial audits. Accountability is to change the lives of Canada's first citizens. It speaks to transformation and it speaks to change.

Again, I would say to those opposite that they should honour the agreements reached by all the aboriginal leaders, by the provincial leaders, by the territorial leaders and by the Government of Canada. I repeat what Mr. Campbell said, “The honour of the Crown depends on meeting our commitments”.

The throne speech was silent on all matters relating to the aboriginal community, in particular, the Indian residential school resolution. We have asked the minister questions about honouring it. He is not silent but he says nothing.

According to Statistics Canada, it is estimated that there are 80,000 people alive today who attended residential schools. Many of the elderly survivors of the schools are dying daily. I do not believe the new Minister of Indian Affairs does not care. He knows that aboriginal people want the respect and recognition of what happened to them. He knows the residential school experience haunts many aboriginal people. He knows that the elderly and ill survivors of the residential schools look forward to the financial compensation to make their lives easier. He knows there was a good faith clause to immediately fast-track payments to the elderly and sick. He knows it is time to do something.

Again I say to the members opposite that they must honour the Indian residential schools agreement and bring some closure to the painful Canadian experience. The honour of the Crown depends on meeting our commitments.

There is only a passing reference to the environment in the Speech from the Throne.

It goes without saying that I love the province of Manitoba but there is a special place in Manitoba for me. Since childhood I have vacationed on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, a lake that is truly an inland sea. I know the communities around it. I have met the fishers from the aboriginal communities like Pine Dock and Bloodvein. I also know that Lake Winnipeg is the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world. It sustains a commercial fishery with an annual landed value of approximately $20 million. It is a key component of Manitoba's hydroelectric system. I also know that Lake Winnipeg is undergoing increasing stress and without action from all levels of government, Lake Winnipeg may be a lake in crisis. We can prevent this crisis from occurring but further action is needed. It is incumbent upon the government to take that action and to move forward.

I ask the members opposite to commit to Lake Winnipeg, to commit to the initiatives that the previous government implemented. It is important for the viability of those around the lake and it is important for Saskatchewan and Alberta as well.

I also want to briefly mention another missing aspect of the throne speech. There is no mention of cultural endeavours, of the arts, film, theatre and music. There is no mention of supporting the Canada Council in order to meet the needs of creators and performers. There is no reference to support for galleries and museums. There is no reference for the Museum of Human Rights. I urge the government to move forward there.

I am almost out of time but I do not want to leave without speaking about the fact that there is no mention, as my colleague referenced earlier, of post-secondary education, of the importance of innovation, of support, of skills development and of revising the student loan program. In a country like ours, this is critical and the previous government made many commitments.

There are many challenges ahead of us and I look forward to them but I want to repeat the phrase “honour the commitments made by the Crown”. The honour of the Crown depends on our meeting our commitments. We have many challenges ahead of us in this new Parliament and I look forward to working with my colleagues.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as this is my first occasion to be on my feet here in the House of Commons I would especially like to thank the people of Kildonan--St. Paul for re-electing me and the faith they have shown in the job I have been doing in the House and in Kildonan--St. Paul.

I listened with great interest to the member's speech. As I listened to all the speeches I heard sort of the same themes: a renewed interest in very key issues like day care, aboriginal issues and Lake Winnipeg.

My daughter lives and owns property on the waters of Lake Winnipeg. The lake has had a lot of problems over the past 10 years. Everything was silent until very recently this year when there was a renewed interest in Lake Winnipeg.

The member opposite talked about day care. There is a very strong interest in a national day care program. What we have chosen to do is give parents choice. Parents will receive $1,200 a year for every child under the age of six and we will also create 125,000 new spaces, which is a lot of spaces.

As a new government we have addressed certain things.

On the aboriginal issues, my daughter-in-law is aboriginal. She is an Ojibway girl. She was so dismayed at what the Liberal government had presented for the aboriginal people. Our new minister for aboriginal affairs has done an absolutely astounding job, immediately before the House was even called back, to address the water problems.

The Canadian people have spoken and, with all due respect, they have said that they want a new leaf turned over and that they want a new government.

Does the member not believe that parents should have choice? Does she not believe that 125,000 new day care spaces is something to rejoice in and to support the government? Does she not believe that the water situation on the reserves is something that is of paramount importance? Can she not understand that these kinds of things need to be supported by all sides of the House so we can work together, instead of doing the partisan toe to toe thing day after day?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member and I have gone toe to toe on a number of issues because we have a very different approach to it. I applaud her commitment to day care but I want to inform the member that the issue is not day care. It is child care. It is early learning. It is providing opportunities for parents to enter the workforce or to go to school.

The program to which my hon. colleague is speaking is modelled on a program that was introduced in the province of Ontario and did not provide one single day care spot. We know in Manitoba what the funding in Manitoba was going to provide. We have calibrated it and we know what it means.

It is interesting that the member raises the issue of water. We heard the minister yesterday talk about the shifts in the water. I applaud him for reintroducing the Liberal water plan. He spoke yesterday of the issue at Canoe Lake but he was speaking of a band-aid solution. The community is trucking water in. It needs a new system. The system was built for 130 homes, not the 220 homes that are there now. If members will recall, the Kelowna accord added an additional $400 million for water and water systems, and we want that agreement honoured.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to respond in the House today to the Speech from the Throne.

I will say at the outset that I will be splitting my time this morning with the member for Vegreville—Wainwright.

Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time I am on my feet in the 39th Parliament I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker and as a member of Parliament. I would also like to congratulate all new members in the House on their election and incumbents on their re-election. I thank all Canadians who let their names stand for election in this great country.

It is important that I say thanks to the voters of Palliser for once again investing their trust in me and the Conservative Party in the last election. I extend a heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of quality people who volunteered their time to send me back to this chamber. Most important, I extend a special thanks to my loving wife Denise for all her hard work to help me get here and her solid support every step of the way.

It is truly an honour to serve the hard-working families of Palliser. Since first being elected in June 2004, I have had the great opportunity and sincere privilege to listen to and speak with thousands of people throughout my constituency about their hopes and dreams for the future, for the Canada they want to see and the government that they deserve.

During the past election, it was clear throughout the many conversations I had with people in Moose Jaw, Regina, Wilcox, Avonlea, Mossbank, Pense, Rouleau, Caron and Caronport that concern about trust and accountability were common threads uniting rural and urban, young and old. Those voices spoke loudly and clearly during the last election. They voted for change. They voted for a new government that would respect their families and their tax dollars.

They voted for a new Conservative government because we promised to deliver on five key priorities: cutting the GST from 7% to 6% and then to 5%; ensuring our communities are safe by cracking down on gun, gang and drug crime; giving parents choice in child care with a $1,200 annual payment for each child under the age of six and creating 125,000 more child care spaces; and working with the provinces and territories to establish a health care patient wait time guarantee.

Most important, they voted Conservative because they wanted a party in power that would restore trust and accountability to government. It is a pleasure today to rise in the House on behalf of the people of Palliser as part of a government that is making good on that commitment to Canadians.

As announced in the throne speech on Tuesday, the government's first piece of legislation will be the federal accountability act. This new law will restore the principle that government should serve the public interest of all Canadians, not personal interests and certainly not the political interests of the Liberal Party of Canada, as well as restoring Canadians' faith in our public institutions by making them more accountable and effective.

Canadians expect politicians and public sector employees to conduct themselves according to the highest ethical standards. My goal as a representative of the people of Palliser is to make government more effective and accountable to Parliament and to Canadians.

During the last election campaign I knocked on a lot of doors and many people told me how fed up they were with Liberal corruption. These are hard-working men and women who play by the rules and pay their taxes. They were absolutely fed up and disgusted by the culture of entitlement that developed in Ottawa under the former Liberal government. That is why they voted for change, positive change that would get rid of this culture of entitlement, positive change that would mean tough new rules to ensure that the kind of corruption we saw happening under the Liberal government could never happen again.

The federal accountability act builds on our platform commitment. It takes into account our discussions with officers of Parliament, such as the Auditor General and the Information Commissioner, along with public policy experts, eminent Canadians and unions. Our accountability package will address longstanding and difficult issues head on.

Most importantly, through this new legislation we will increase public confidence in the integrity of the political process by tightening the laws around political financing and lobbying. We will take steps to ensure government is more accountable by eliminating the undue influence of big money donors, by banning large personal or corporate donations to political parties, by toughening the rules governing lobbying, by making the federal government more transparent and accountable by increasing the power of independent officers of Parliament such as the Auditor General, and by providing real protection to whistleblowers, both public servants and other Canadians who wish to come forward with information about unethical or illegal activities that they may have seen in some area of the federal government.

We will make government more open while balancing legitimate concerns about the need for personal privacy, commercial confidentiality and national security. Accountability and trust in government is essential. It is not our business, it is everyone's business. It requires that Parliament, the government and the public service work together to serve Canadians honestly and with integrity. This is a government that campaigned on trust, believes in trust and will govern with trust. That is why it is my sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to the throne speech today.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the member's comments intently. I was particularly puzzled when he talked about the culture of entitlement because he made it seem as if it was something that was unique to one political party. If it is, I would ask him which party it is? Is it an entitlement for the member for Vancouver Kingsway to gain a cabinet position, car and driver, Challenger travel, ministerial salary and perks, independent of whether or not his party actually wins the election?

Is it an entitlement for Mr. Fortier to be appointed to the Senate, a Senate that we were told would be elected? I was encouraged to see that it was elected. I was surprised to see that only the Prime Minister had a vote. I would have thought that it would have been a more popular election, but was that his entitlement, his entitlement to cabinet? Is it an entitlement for Mr. John Reynolds to become a privy councillor, so he can advertise on his website that he has the capability to see cabinet documents and cabinet secrets? Is it an entitlement for the defence industry to get its lobbyist appointed as minister? Are those the entitlements we are talking about? Is it an entitlement for campaign workers to get untendered contracts to advise the government on how to tender in the future?

I believe that Canadians did want change, but they received nickels and dimes. We saw that in the Speech from the Throne. They received no real political change. When these people say that they want to change Ottawa, that they want to shake it up, I believe they want to shake it down.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, it surprises me to hear the member opposite talk about a shakedown, because if anybody should be talking about shakedowns it is certainly not the members opposite.

The term “culture of entitlement” did not exist until we saw the exploits of the prior government. This is new terminology. I do not know if Canadians really want us to get into chapter and verse. Certainly we could do that. There are about 35 different RCMP investigations ongoing and people are under investigation. My constituents want Liberals to go to jail, but I do not think we really want to go down that road.

What we are doing in this party, as our first order of business, is cleaning up government with a robust and vigorous accountability package.

The ballot question in the 2006 election was about who could restore honesty, trust and accountability to Ottawa, and Canadians spoke. Accountability for hard-earned tax dollars should be a given. It is not something we should really have to be spending all this time on. As we have seen from the exploits of the previous Liberal government and prior Liberal governments, unfortunately it is not a given, but this party and this Prime Minister are going to give Canadians the good, honest government they deserve.

The federal accountability act will ensure that the trust of Canadians will be upheld. The residents of Palliser and Canadians from coast to coast grew sick and tired of watching the previous Liberal government function like a big club. The vast majority of Canadians were outside the Liberal club, so they closed down the club and they want it closed down permanently.

Under the previous Liberal government, the mantra truly was “Who do you know in the PMO?”. Under this new Conservative government, the questions will be these. What is in the best interests of Canadians? Is this good value for money? Is this decision in keeping with the trust that Canadians have bestowed upon us as the government and all of us as elected officials?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me to congratulate you on your election. I would also like to thank the constituents of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for putting their trust in me and the Bloc Québécois for the second time in a row.

I have listened carefully to my colleague's remarks. To me, it sounded like he was listing accomplishments. But the Conservative government came to power just a few months ago. At this point, they can really talk only of intentions, not actions.

I would also like to remind the members opposite that they were elected to form a minority government. As a result, they will be under scrutiny. All parliamentarians are under scrutiny, of course, but government members more intensely so.

The member's comments verge on arrogance. He was practically reading a record of results. He went on and on about the past, blaming the Liberals for everything and promising that things will be different now. I simply want to say that this government will be judged by the decisions it makes and the actions it takes.

As such, I would recommend that the member pay closer attention to what is actually going on and frame his statements more as intentions. I would suggest that he be more careful about what he says.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is the fifth day of sittings of this Chamber and we are very fortunate and very blessed to have been entrusted with this great honour by Canadians. This is a record that is just going to build. We are going to build our report card and it is one that Canadians are going to be proud of.

We on this side of the House look forward to the scrutiny of the opposition parties because our record is one that we are going to be proud of. This is going to be a record of honesty, integrity and accountability, and it is just going to continue to build. This is why our first order of business is going to be this monumental piece of legislation, the federal accountability act, which is going to change the way that this place functions forever. This is a nice way to begin what is going to be an excellent report card for this Prime Minister and members on this side of the House.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can see by the time that I will not be finishing my speech before question period.

I would like to begin like many others have here today by sincerely thanking my constituents for their overwhelming show of support during the election campaign. It is an honour that I do not take lightly, and it is a great responsibility that they have bestowed upon me. I recognize that I represent all of my constituents, not only those who voted for me, and I will work as hard as I can on behalf of all my constituents when they come to me. I will work with them to build a better Canada, which is what this Conservative government is here to do.

I would like to talk a bit about the Speech from the Throne. The Liberals have been criticizing us by saying that our whole agenda is boiled down to five points. It is much better to have five specific points to work on and to actually do them, then to have 30, 40 or 50 pages of rhetoric out of which nothing comes. That is what we have seen for the last 13 years since I came here as a member of the opposition. We have focused government and we will continue to do that.

The Speech from the Throne is this government's agenda for what is going to happen in the House in terms of legislation for this first period of time. It is not our agenda for the whole Parliament. Our election platform is our agenda. It is what we intend to accomplish in this mandate, and we will work on that. Given a chance, by all members in the House, we will deliver our entire election platform. That is what we intend to do. For this first session in the House we are going to focus on this throne speech.

There are five parts to our throne speech and many people already know this. The federal accountability act, the first part of our throne speech, will be the first piece of legislation we will deal with. We will cut the GST by 1%, bringing it down from 7% to 6% and then we will continue to bring it down to 5%.

We will get tough on crime, especially on those who commit violent crimes and those who use weapons in committing crimes. The $1,200 a year child care allowance is part of our plan. We will be working with business and communities by creating 125,000 child care spaces. We will work with the provinces to put in place firm wait time guarantees for health care delivery. That is our throne speech.

Members opposite criticize that as being a light agenda. Accomplishing any one of these things will be a wonderful accomplishment, more than the Liberal government certainly did in the last Parliament. We fully intend, with their help and with the cooperation of the House, to accomplish all of these.

I want to focus today on the federal accountability act and on our sixth priority which is not in the throne speech but is certainly a priority of this caucus. We saw this priority last night when so many members of this caucus were here for the take note debate on agriculture. Our sixth priority is working on behalf of farmers to make things better for them and for the agriculture industry. That is a focus of our caucus and it has been a focus for the last 13 years. It is a good thing we have been here in opposition in the past to focus the government on that or there would have been little to no focus on that at all. Now that we are in government we are going to be working hard on agriculture as well.

Why is the federal accountability act so important? This bill would be the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are about to cut me off so I will finish my presentation after question period.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Vegreville--Wainwright will have a good five minutes to complete his remarks when the debate resumes on this important matter.

Youth Criminal Justice ActStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous honour to rise today to address this chamber. As a new member I look forward to learning from each of my hon. colleagues.

The people of Kitchener—Conestoga have honoured me by providing me the opportunity to serve. I thank them for the trust they have shown in me. I want to thank my family for the support they have given me, especially my wife, Betty, and my children.

I want to speak to an issue that has recently taken on a new urgency. Last week I was meeting with a family of a young man in my riding. The young man, full of hopes, dreams and ambitions, had those dreams cut short when he was murdered by a young offender last month.

The young offender is currently out on bail. If convicted he will be out on the street, likely before his 20th birthday.

Many young offenders realize the current Youth Criminal Justice Act has little to do with justice. They continue their criminal activities fully aware that they will also continue to enjoy their freedom. Canadians deserve better.

I look forward to working with my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House to restore justice to this great land.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth IIStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the constituents of my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham for placing their trust in me to represent them in Parliament once again. I look forward to the challenge and to ensuring that their views are expressed here in Ottawa.

On April 21 Queen Elizabeth II will mark her 80th birthday. My office is pleased to have launched a very successful initiative to mark this important milestone. I sent out hundreds of birthday cards for constituents to fill out for the Queen. We distributed more than 500 photographs of the Queen to constituents, and also organized a series of coffee and cake receptions throughout the riding.

I want to thank the people of Nobleton, King City Seniors' Centre, the Royal Canadian Legion in Stouffville and the Markham Seniors Activity Centre for helping my office to organize these receptions.

On behalf of Oak Ridges—Markham, I extend a heartfelt birthday wish to Queen Elizabeth. God save the Queen.

Saint-Hubert Citizen AdvocacyStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the mandate of the Parrainage civique Saint-Hubert community agency is to help adolescents with mental and physical disabilities become socially active in the community. The agency does this by pairing adult volunteers with young people who are having a hard time integrating socially due to a temporary or permanent disability. In other words, they match a dedicated adult with a young person in need.

Adults devote a few hours of their time, around the same time every week, to an adolescent who may be experiencing difficulty due to a physical or mental disability.

Every summer, Parrainage civique Saint-Hubert also organizes day camps for such young people, thus giving their parents a well-deserved rest.

Next week, April 9 to 15, is citizen advocacy week in Quebec. Thus, now is the perfect time to highlight the extraordinary work of this agency and, particularly, its president, Richard Rioux, its general manager, Yvette Leblanc, and their collaborators, Marianne Veilleux-Poulin, Jacinthe Barabé and Benoît Renaud.

Tuition FeesStatements By Members

April 7th, 2006 / 11 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, I met with students at Selkirk College in Castlegar. They presented me with more than 400 cards, representing half the students at the college, and asked that we take action to reduce tuition fees.

In 2005, B.C. students paid an average tuition fee of $4,874, up from $2,592 in 2001. High tuition fees are the most significant barrier to education.

These students are asking that the $1.5 billion allocated for post-secondary education in the last budget be used exclusively to reduce tuition fees.

It is clearly unacceptable for our young college graduates to have a debt of anywhere from $20,000 up to $60,000.

We must act. The future of our country is at stake.

CurlingStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, on February 24, ordinary life drew to a halt across Newfoundland and Labrador. All eyes were focused on Pinerolo, Italy and the curling rink of Brad Gushue, Jamie Korab, Russ Howard, and from my riding, Mark Nichols and Mike Adam. Not only the best in Canada, this rink proved that they are the best in the world, winning the gold medal for Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics in a spectacular final.

Gushue and Korab from Newfoundland and Nichols and Adam from Labrador became heroes to the entire province. With the addition of Ontario and New Brunswick's curling statesman, Russ Howard, they became the pride of all of Canada.

My constituents and I have since had the pleasure of meeting members of the Gushue rink at the recent Labrador Winter Games and at events in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Wabush and Labrador City. We are proud of their historic accomplishment. We admire their exemplary sportsmanship. We wish them continued excellence in the sport of curling.

Riding of BurlingtonStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today. I would like to take this moment to thank all those who helped me out in my campaign during the last election.

It was a very tough campaign over the Christmas break, but we came together as a team and we worked very hard. I am very honoured to represent all of the constituents of the riding of Burlington.