House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was opposition.


Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.


Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can see that the members opposite are quite humble, but the Leader of the Opposition is laying it on thick when he says that after he took care of social union, everything worked out well.

Allow me to speak the truth. Allow me to tell you the facts. Social union never happened in the provinces. The Leader of the Opposition can stand up and tell us all about the Kyoto accord, but he has not even taken the time to negotiate with the provinces. Furthermore, when the new member for Outremont was Quebec's Minister of the Environment, he was unable to reach an agreement with the narrow-minded Leader of the Opposition who refused to have anything to do with the Government of Quebec.

In closing, I would like the Leader of the Opposition to explain his own stance on federal spending power to members of this House and to tell us how he plans to ensure that all Quebeckers and Canadians are united in a stronger, better Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:25 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his presentation on constitutional law, even though he got carried away somewhat towards the end.

I cannot find anything in his remarks that contradicts what I said in my speech. No one restricted the federal spending power more than we did in 1996 and through the framework agreement on social union.

In fact, the wording used by the Prime Minister in the Speech from the Throne does not go as far. Why? First, because it deals strictly with shared costs programs, and these programs have almost all disappeared. By contrast, the framework agreement on social union includes all forms of transfers to the provinces.

Second, the agreement clearly specifies that the support of a majority of provinces is required to implement a Canada-wide program that relates to a social provincial jurisdiction.

Third, the federal government cannot set up programs. It can agree on objectives with the provinces, but it is the provinces that establish their own programs. If they have achieved, partially or totally, their objectives, then they can invest in a related area.

This is how the Government of Canada and the Quebec government negotiated the daycare agreement. The Quebec government felt that it had enough daycare spaces—I do not know whether Quebeckers shared that view, but that was the Quebec government's point of view. In the social union framework agreement, the Government of Canada agreed that the Quebec government could invest in other areas relating to children and families. There was an agreement involving hundreds of millions of dollars. What happened? The same thing that happened to the negotiations on the Kyoto protocol: the Conservatives took office and cancelled these programs. Shame on them!

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:30 p.m.


Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, one would have the impression from the speech by the hon. member that he has major concerns with the direction that the government has taken and the fact that there are fundamental disagreements. We share that assessment of the Speech from the Throne and of the direction of the government.

However, instead of presenting self-congratulatory amendments and offering to simply sit in their place and abstain, I offer to the Leader of the Opposition and his party the option to do the right thing which is to join with the NDP, which is going to be rising in opposition to the direction of the government.

It cannot be sugar-coated, it cannot be tinkered with, with self-congratulatory commentary and amendments. Will the hon. Leader of the Opposition do the right thing, show some leadership, and stand up to the Conservative government and its agenda which is wrong for Canada?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:30 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a responsibility that the hon. member does not. I intend to become prime minister of this country. I remember a leader of the opposition not so many years ago, whom I just quoted, who said exactly the same thing. It worked for him and it will work for me.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario


John Baird ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest when the Leader of the Opposition said that it was not in the national interest to have an election. I will tell the House what is in the national interest. It is to keep this man as Prime Minister of Canada for the next two years.

I have a question for the Leader of the Opposition. Sheila Copps, a former Liberal minister of the environment; Christine Stewart, a former Liberal minister of the environment; and David Anderson, a former Liberal minister of the environment, all said that the Liberal Party in government lacked the commitment to follow through and to fight global warming.

We read now in a new book authored by the former leader of the Liberal Party, which I should quote, where it states that his successor did serious damage to Canada's progress and reputation in the process of abandoning the fight for climate change.

I will table the particular section, but can the member now respond to Jean Chrétien's new book who has blamed his successors? One of his successors was Paul Martin who put you in charge of the file--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The Minister of the Environment was here earlier and heard me rebuke some members for using other members' names in the course of putting questions and he just made that same blunder himself. I am shocked. I know he would not want to continue in this way and he will want to put his question forthwith because we have very little time left.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.


John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I apologize, Mr. Speaker. I forgot that member was still a member of the House.

I will say very directly to the Leader of the Opposition that this government and the Conservative Party will take responsibility for the next 10 years. Will he stand on his feet and apologize to Canadians and take responsibility for the miserable record of the Liberal Party over the last 10 years?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the proof that the Prime Minister is all postering is that he named this gentleman as Minister of the Environment.

I will tell members what the Minister of the Environment would say if he really cared about the environment. He would say that he agrees there was a plan in April 2005. It is not true and a fallacy that there was no plan. There was one.

The Conservatives decided to kill the plan and do nothing because they thought it would be good for the environment, and then they would try to justify to Canada and the world why they did it.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:35 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta


Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and colleagues, for allowing me to reply to the Speech from the Throne delivered yesterday by Her Excellency the Governor General.

In 2006 Canadians went to the polls and voted for change. Our government ran on a clear platform. We received a clear mandate and we are delivering what we promised.

Now, a mere 21 months later, I believe we can say with pride that the government is clean, the economy is strong, and the country is united.

In the eyes of the world, Canada is back. This change, after years of scandal, inaction and threats to national unity, brings home to us the strength of Canada’s foundational values.

We have a love of freedom, a commitment to democracy, a reverence for human rights, and an adherence to the rule of law. Notwithstanding our imperfections, we have built a society that genuinely aspires to the highest ideals of civilization.

We balance the rewards of individual initiative with a collective commitment to help those in need.

We value people for who they are and what they contribute, and not for who they know or where they come from. We leave the conflicts of older worlds behind to live together here in harmony and we reach beyond our shores to help resolve those conflicts.

The generations that came before us set our country on this noble path: the Aboriginal people who established Canada’s first settlements, long before the arrival of Europeans; the French adventurers who laid the foundations of the Canadian state on the shores of the St-Lawrence nearly 400 years ago.

The British settlers brought their democratic ideals and institutions that we have modelled into our own and of course the immigrants from every corner of the earth have enriched our society with their traditions and ambitions.

Canada is their legacy to us. Enriching this heritage for future generations is our duty to them. Every day millions of Canadians are doing just that. They are setting the nation's moral compass by teaching their children right from wrong. They are building our economy with their hard work and they are making our communities better by giving more than they take.

In return for all that they give to this country, Canadians expect one thing from their government: principled, focused and effective leadership so that they can confidently plan for their future in a prosperous, safe and united country.

We titled our first Speech from the Throne “Turning a New Leaf”, reflecting our mandate for change. We have delivered on that mandate.

Now that we have turned a new leaf, it is time to fix our sights on Canada's longer term horizons, on where we want to go into the 21st century and how we will get there. That is why, for the second session of the 39th Parliament, our throne speech is titled “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada”. Strong leadership delivers more than it promises rather than promising more than it can deliver. We promise Canadians simply this: a better Canada for all of us.

We take inspiration from the great explorers of our true north Radisson and Des Groseilliers, Hudson and Franklin, Bernier, Amundsen and the rest. Just as they were guided by the North Star, we will be guided by a five point agenda for Canada. Our plan is principled and focused. We will strengthen the Canada of tomorrow while delivering real benefits to Canadians today.

For this session of Parliament, our government has five core priorities for a better Canada. We want to strengthen Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world; protect our environment and the health of our fellow Canadians; steer our economy toward long-term prosperity; modernize our federation and democratic institutions; and make our streets and communities safe again.

I do not intend to elaborate on everything included in the Speech from the Throne, but allow me to touch briefly on some aspects of the government’s agenda.

I would be remiss if I did not begin by addressing briefly the comments of the Leader of the Opposition. I, of course, take him at his word that he does not intend to force this Parliament to an election and that he will allow, indeed, the throne speech to pass and the government to proceed with its agenda.

As I listened to the Leader of the Opposition, it reminded me a little of the professor who goes through our term paper, marks all over it everything he disagrees with and then passes us anyway.

I have a bit of a different interpretation than the leader of the NDP on the remarks of the leader of the Liberal Party. While there was much criticism, I thought there was, if we actually cut through some of the verbiage, a fair degree of agreement, or at least apparent agreement, on the main priorities.

I note on Afghanistan that the main problem of the Leader of the Opposition seems to be calling it a combat mission rather than a military mission. I did not hear a claim or a call for Canada to simply leave cold turkey and abandon the Afghan people.

On crime, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would now consider passing all the government's crime legislation. Of course, we will be watching to see that happens in both Houses.

On the economy, I did not hear anything that differed substantially from the government's main lines of approach to the economy. In fact, I think he praised the very strong record that the Minister of Finance had created on the performance of the Canadian economy. I know he would like to take credit for that, but he has to be in power to do that.

On the federation and on democratic reform, whether it was the spending power of the Senate, I was not clear whether he was against those things or they were his ideas in the first place.

Most important, the Leader of the Opposition did not repeat his claim today, as he has so often in the past, that he could actually meet the Kyoto target, because we know that he could not and cannot.

Most important, of all the things I take note of, the Leader of the Opposition said that I was in fact his role model as the Leader of the Opposition.

Let me begin in terms of the substance of the throne speech with Canada's place in the world.

It is an understatement that we live in a global village where the economy, the security, the ideas and ideology and even the diseases of any one part of the world can be immediately linked or transmitted to another part. Canadians have always understood the critical nature of our connections to the rest of the world. We have never been an isolationist country.

Whereas in the past Canada participated in the world through its membership in the French and British empires, today we are a fully sovereign country. For the federal government, there is nothing more fundamental than the protection of this country's sovereignty.

Our most important potential sovereignty challenge is on our arctic doorstep.

Our most important potential sovereignty challenge today is on our Arctic doorstep where retreating polar ice, rising global demand for resources and the prospect of year round shipping are creating new challenges and exciting opportunities for the north. As Stan Rogers once sang, Franklin's dream of tracing “one warm line through a land so wild and savage” to “make a Northwest Passage to the sea”, seems about to be realized. However, it must be on our terms.

To ensure this we cannot just point at a map and say it is ours. Protecting and inserting our sovereignty in the Arctic and elsewhere requires real effort, expense and sacrifice. We cannot go 10 years without sending a single ship to the passage as our predecessors did. We have to use the north or we risk losing it.

Conservative governments going all the way back to Confederation have understood the importance of Canada’s true North.

John A. Macdonald, who oversaw Canada’s acquisition of our vast lands to the north and west, was the first to apply the “use it or lose it” principle of sovereignty.

Macdonald said, “were we so faint-hearted as not to take possession of it, the Americans would be only too glad of the opportunity and would hoist the American flag”. And so he assured our possession over the Arctic claims of Britain, just as he had created the Northwest Mounted Police to assure our sovereignty in western Canada.

Half a century ago, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker extolled his northern vision. He foresaw that Canada's future development and prosperity would depend on efficient transportation networks linking northern resources to southern markets. “Roads to resources” he called them. Therefore, he built, among others, our northern most road, the 700 kilometre Dempster Highway from Yukon to the Mackenzie River delta.

The opposition of the day has always dismissed such initiatives as unnecessary, fanciful and even wasteful, and history has always proven it wrong.

That is why our government established a strategy for the North, and why we have already taken a number of steps to affirm our presence and sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic.

In our first two budgets, for example, we have taken strong measures to strengthen the ability of our territorial governments to deliver services to northerners, with particular emphasis on northern housing for first nations and Inuit.

We are expanding our military and coast guard presence into the high Arctic and improving our surveillance capacity, including strengthening the Arctic Rangers.

We are stepping up our environmental activities and increasing the number of protected areas, as reflected in our recent announcement concerning a massive expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories.

And to mark International Polar Year, we are enhancing research in the High Arctic.

These research activities will help confirm our unassailable ownership of the Arctic Archipelago and the waters around them, including the Northwest Passage, along with the resources that lie beneath the land, the sea and the ice.

We will proceed with the first ever comprehensive mapping of Canada's Arctic seabed as well as the establishment of a world-class research station to be located in the Arctic itself. It will become the hub of our scientific activities in the north, gathering knowledge that will support our sovereignty and assist with resource development and environmental protection. The other Arctic nations of this planet already have most or all of these capabilities. Under our watch, Canada will not be left behind when it comes to the Arctic.

I should add that many of my colleagues will be working on these northern initiatives. They will be led by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who has done such a terrific job of getting Canadian agriculture back on track.

Of course, our role in the world is not just about our own sovereignty. It is also about effective action beyond our borders, in concert with our friends in the international community.

And we cannot be completely effective in either of these respects without solid, well-led and well-equipped armed forces.

That is why our government will continue rebuilding our long-neglected Canadian military. We want to ensure that our men and women in uniform are able to do the work that we ask of them at home and abroad as safely and as effectively as possible.

I have visited our troops in Kandahar twice in the past 21 months. The Minister of National Defence, the Minister of National Revenue and former national Defence minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, the Minister of International Cooperation, and several other colleagues have as well.

I have also attended Red Friday rallies and other events where communities, friends and others show their support. I have spoken to many of our soldiers and to their families, including some who have lost loved ones.

The soldiers who are serving this country in Afghanistan and the families and the friends who are supporting them back home rank among the finest Canadians I have ever known. Their compassion for the people of Afghanistan, their resolve in the face of a barbaric opponent, their manifest skill and professionalism and the diplomats and development officers they work with are a credit to our great country.

Our mission in Afghanistan is a noble and necessary endeavour. It is making a difference in the lives of men who were victims of Taliban oppression, for children forced to live in ignorance, and for women who had no human rights.

Remember, all of us, that these are ordinary human beings like ourselves, the vast, vast majority of whom just want to live in peace, give their families hope and build a future for their communities.

Parliament will have to make some decisions on the future of the Afghan mission post-2009 within the next year. I hope all parliamentarians will pay attention to the analysis and advice, which the former deputy prime minister, John Manley, and this panel of eminent Canadians will share with us in the near future.

For our part, both in and out of power, this party has faithfully supported our military and their mission since it began in Kabul in 2002 and, of course, since our forces were sent to Kandahar in 2005 by the previous government.

We cannot understate the responsibilities we have undertaken to the Afghan people, to the international community, and to the men and women of our diplomatic, development, and defence forces who have made such enormous sacrifices on behalf of all of us.

Once again, we cannot understate the responsibilities we have undertaken to the Afghan people, to the international community and to the men and women of our diplomatic development and defence forces who have made such enormous sacrifices on behalf of all of us. This Parliament must not let those people down, Mr. Speaker, and I can assure you we will not let them down.

The mission in Afghanistan reflects our conviction that Canadian foreign policy must promote our values and defend our interests. This philosophy is at the very heart of all our international policy initiatives. It was behind our call to confer honorary Canadian citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi, who has waged a heroic struggle to bring democracy to Burma. It is seen in our participation in the United Nations mission in Haiti. It guides our international assistance programs, which will be refocused and strengthened over the coming weeks.

Our conviction that foreign policy must promote our values and serve our interests drives our effort to renew Canada's engagement in the Americas. Many nations in Latin America and the Caribbean are pursuing market reforms and democratic development, but others are falling back to economic nationalism and protectionism, to political populism and authoritarianism. That is why it is so important for countries like Canada to engage in their own hemisphere, to demonstrate that there are alternative models that can meet people's aspirations. Their choice is not simply between unfettered capitalism and cold war socialism.

The Canadian model of democratic freedom and economic openness, combined with effective regional and social support, offers a middle course for countries seeking democratic institutions, free markets and social equality.

Canada can make a difference in the world.

I do have to respond to a couple of things that were said earlier on Africa. This government is the only government among the G-8 that is meeting its commitments in Africa. It has to be said.

In Darfur, a brutal, brutal tragedy for so many people, this government has been involved in assisting the United Nations and the African Union. When I met last month with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, I made it clear that he can expect Canada's help in any way that the United Nations requires that help in Sudan.

We can make a difference. But we will not make a difference by returning to the days when the government lurched from one fashionable international cause to the next, never pausing to assess whether we were making an impact or whether we even had the necessary capabilities to do so. In short, we will not be returning to the days of a government with an announcement on everything but a plan for nothing, as was the case with the previous government, most notably on the environment and climate change.

I met with leaders who helped draft the consensus climate change statements at the G-8 and APEC. They were not asking me how we were going to achieve our Kyoto target. They had figured out a long time ago, when Canada's last government spent a decade raising emissions year after year after year, that that government had no intention of meeting the Kyoto target.

What those leaders want to know is simply what target we are going to achieve and do we have a plan to achieve it. The Minister of the Environment has been clear. The targets he has set, a 20% reduction by 2020 and a 60% to 70% reduction by 2050, are among the most aggressive in the world going forward and have been recognized internationally to set the stage. He is moving now to implement the plan to achieve them.

And thanks to his efforts and those of his colleagues, we are engaged in a major effort to establish an international protocol that is to include all large emitters, including giants like the United States and China. The government will move forward with its plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.

There is no time to lose arguing about yet another “new plan” that will never be implemented.

It is time. We have heard enough from the Leader of the Opposition with his seventh, eighth or ninth plan. It is time to pass the throne speech and let the Minister of the Environment get the job done, just as it is time to let the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Industry and all of their colleagues get on with the job of strengthening the position of the Canadian economy for long term prosperity.

I am pleased to report, wherever I go in the world, that Canada's economic fundamentals are very strong.

The Minister of Finance just announced one of the largest paydowns of federal debt in Canadian history, the direct result of which will be a reduction in personal income taxes under our Tax Back Guarantee legislated in Budget 2007.

Canada continues to enjoy one of the longest periods of economic growth in its history.

Unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in nearly two generations. Inflation and interest rates remain low. The real disposable income of Canadian households has been increasing strongly since this government took office, but we cannot be, and are not, complacent about the continued growth of the Canadian economy.

Recent volatility in financial markets emanating from the U.S. sub-prime market may be with us for some time to come. There is weakness in some of our export markets. Good jobs are threatened in some of our traditional industries and cost pressures in some parts of the country are creating their own pressures on the budgets of working families. Our government is aware of these challenges.

We have responded and, in this session, we will pursue our action in struggling sectors such as the manufacturing, forestry, fishery and tourism industries. We will also continue to take steps to bolster Canadian agriculture.

Speaking of agriculture, this spring when it looked like there would be marketing choice for western barley farmers, prices went up. When marketing choice was swept off the table, prices went down. The Canadian Wheat Board is supposed to be getting the best prices for farmers. That is what marketing choice will deliver and we will not rest until we deliver the choice that western farmers voted for.

Just as we will not stop defending producers in supply-managed industries.

The Minister of Finance will soon be presenting the fall economic and fiscal update, which will report on our progress. Our plan for Canada’s future prosperity is clear.

We are undertaking the largest public infrastructure investments in this country in over half a century. We are strengthening policies on science and technology, research and education. We are helping the disabled and those in poverty move into the workforce.

As the 20th anniversary of our free trade agreement with the United States approaches, we are reinvigorating our trade negotiations to open more markets to Canadian products, as we have done with EFTA. Of course we are dedicated to paying down debt, keeping spending focused on results and reducing taxes for Canadians.

We have cut the GST by one point, cut corporate taxes, and provided specific tax incentives for families, students, children’s sports, tool expenses, and public transit.

We will also be bringing forward a further long term plan of broad-based tax relief in this session.

I notice that the Leader of the Opposition, after voting against every single tax reduction this government has introduced, has now become outspoken in calling for tax cuts for large corporations. They cannot contribute any more. Let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, we will reduce taxes for all businesses as well as for all individuals and families in this country. Because in this country, there is only one party which, over the long sweep of our history, has been consistently committed to low taxes, direct benefits for families, fiscal discipline, and a free and fair market powered by the energy and creativity of the private sector, and that is the Conservative Party.

One of the intangibles that has recently been working to the advantage of all Canadians and to the advantage of our economy has been the clear improvement in national unity since our government took office. I know the Bloc is not happy but that is the idea.

One of the important steps along this road was the recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada, a measure widely supported in this House last year. That was a controversial act and some predicted, and I know they genuinely believed, that it would lead this country in the wrong direction. I have spoken in various parts of our country and outside our country in French and English, not just Quebec. I have urged, and I continue to urge, all Canadians to look at the beneficial effect that this historic recognition has had on the national unity of this country. Canada is more united today than it has been at any time since our centennial 40 years ago.

I believe that the results of the last election and reaction to the action taken since then—action on UNESCO, the nation, fiscal balance—are sending a very important message to us all.

Canadians, and Quebecois in particular, want to move forward. They have had enough of the old quarrels. They are fed up with the bickering between centralists and separatists, between those who would keep all the power in Ottawa, and those that would give all the power to an independent Quebec.

George-Étienne Cartier, MacDonald and their colleagues created a federation that, although not perfect, has served Canadians well for 140 years. In fact, the federation of 1867 created one of the most solid political institutions in the world, unbroken by tyranny or conquest, unbroken by social disorder or economic chaos.

And we mustn’t forget that Canada—a country born in French, a country with two languages and a multitude of cultures, which will soon be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of its first capital, Québec—is one of the biggest success stories in history.

Of course, I do not argue that Canada is perfect, and so we are committed to reforming it for the better. Our government has worked hard to respect the federal division of powers, to strengthen long-neglected federal jurisdictions, and to work cooperatively with the provinces.

In the next session, in accordance with our government practice, we will be introducing legislation to place formal limits on the use of federal spending power with respect to new programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction without provincial consent and to provide for opting out with compensation.

This is a historic measure, one that has already been welcomed by the government of Quebec.

I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition talked about why this would be a bad thing. One of the reasons he stated for how this would be a bad thing is that this might prevent him from trying to take the child care allowance from Canadian families and instead give it back to lobbyists, to researchers, to advocates and to other politicians. We are going to make sure we get that money directly to Canadian families.

We will also act within the federal jurisdiction to strengthen Canada's economic union, which is a fundamental responsibility for the national government, one that it must take in the interests of all Canadians.

When I say that Canada is not perfect, I think most Canadians recognize immediately that the Senate, as presently constituted, is one of its obvious imperfections.

I must admit to being rather disappointed that the Senate chose not to adopt the tenure bill, even after an excellent report on the subject prepared by the former Speaker of the Senate, Dan Hays. The government will reintroduce in the House, in a slightly amended form, the bill to shorten senators' tenure from a maximum of 45 years to eight years. I am tempted to say that such a reform should be a no-brainer, but I have been surprised before.

On the other hand, the government, while still supportive of allowing for the direct consultation of voters in the selection of senators, does recognize that this is a complex and controversial measure for some members. As such, the government will, upon reintroducing this bill, ask that it be sent to committee before second reading in order to get as wide-ranging a parliamentary input as possible.

Let me just say that I remain convinced the country deserves a reformed Senate, and an elected Senate for that matter, but the country needs the Senate to change, and if the Senate cannot be reformed, I think most Canadians will eventually conclude that it should be abolished.

In terms of reform, let us also hope that the opposition will see fit to stop delaying the adoption of the former Bill C-44. In this country, we are long past the time when the rights of aboriginal people living on reserve should be fully protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I noted with great interest, of course, the leader of the Liberal Party talking about compassion and help for the less well off, but I do have to point out that ours is the government that signed the residential schools settlement and that is now implementing it and preparing the apology; that has cut the right of landing fee to people who have come to this country; that has increased funding for official languages communities across this country; that has redressed finally, after so many years, the Chinese head tax; that has established the Air-India inquiry which was so demanded; and that has concluded a settlement with the sufferers of hepatitis C. These are our proudest moments and they show the difference between talking and acting.

Last but not least, I would like to draw attention to the fifth part of our government’s long-term agenda for a better Canada, a point that affects many Canadians.

Canadians have always been proud of their safe streets and communities—something that long distinguished us from our friends across the border. Today, however, crime is erasing the promise of our Constitution, the promise of peace, order and good government.

Canadians want their safe streets and communities back. They want leadership that is tough on crime and reliable on national security and that is exactly what they are going to get from this government. Under our government, the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property is once again becoming the top priority of our criminal justice system and this will be the agenda we will pursue if Parliament adopts this throne speech. In short, the opposition cannot allow it to pass and then obstruct our core priorities.

That brings me to our first piece of legislation. Last year, our first bill was our historic anti-corruption law, the Accountability Act. This year, our first bill will be our comprehensive justice reform bill, the Tackling Violent Crime Act.

Just as the accountability act cleaned up corruption in government, the tackling violent crime act will be a first step in cleaning up crime in our streets and communities. And it will be a matter of confidence, because the time for talk has passed and the time for action has long since arrived.

Canadians are fed up with a criminal justice system that puts the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens, fed up with a revolving door bail system and soft sentences for serious offenders, and fed up with feeling unsafe in their homes and public places.

In the first session of Parliament, our government introduced 13 justice bills. Seven have been passed into law, but six, which included several key policy measures, were held up by the opposition.

Though we accommodated many opposition amendments, the bills were held up in opposition-controlled House committees or by the Liberal majority in the Senate for a grand total of 976 days. That is simply not acceptable.

Canadians are losing patience, so Bill C-2, our tackling violent crime act, to be spearheaded by the Minister of Justice, will reintroduce the key elements of those bills. It will, for example, take action on sentencing for gun crimes. Too often, people convicted of violent crimes involving firearms do little or no time. That is unacceptable. Under our law, serious gun crime will mean serious mandatory prison time.

Furthermore, in too many cases bail has been granted to people charged with serious weapons offences, and while on bail some of them have committed appalling new crimes. That is also unacceptable. Our bill will make it tougher for accused gun criminals to get bail.

The Tackling Violent Crime Act will also crack down on sexual predators. For far too long now, these predators have gone after our children. That too is unacceptable. This legislation will protect our children by raising the age of protection.

Our legislation will also crack down on drug- and alcohol-impaired driving. Too many innocent people have died at the hands of drunk or stoned drivers. Again, that is unacceptable. The tackling violent crime bill will give police and prosecutors more tools to get impaired drivers off our roads and keep them off.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, too many of the most violent, repeat and dangerous offenders in this country wind up back on our streets where they can offend again, again and again. Each time they do, Canadians look at their records, their rap sheets, and ask, “Why on earth was this person ever let out of prison?” There is nothing more unacceptable than that.

Again, let us be clear. We are talking about a few dozen of the most violent, dangerous individuals in this country. Our bill will make sure they stay behind bars, where they belong.

I have no doubt that some people will say we are being too aggressive. From high up in their academic ivory towers or from the boardrooms of their law firms, they will look down on the streets they never set foot on and say things like, “Criminals are really just victims of injustice, oppression and social exclusion”.

Try telling that to their real victims. Tell it to women who do not feel safe walking in their neighbourhoods at night or having their children in those neighbourhoods during the day. Tell it to the innocent teenager killed in a gang shootout on the streets of Toronto.

Tell it to the young girl in Quebec who was out riding her bike when she was struck by a drunk driver.

Tell it to the two Prairie boys who were kidnapped and horribly abused by a serial pedophile.

Tell it to the police, the prosecutors and the elected politicians of all stripes at all levels of government, including municipal and provincial, who have been clamouring for these laws for years.

There is no good reason for the official opposition to oppose or to delay Bill C-2. In fact, the official opposition campaigned in favour of virtually all of these initiatives in the last election and has had enough days, weeks and months, and in some cases over a year, to delay their passage. That is why we are making the tackling violent crime act a matter of confidence. We will be seeking timely passage of this legislation and, as is the case with confidence measures, the government will not accept amendments to the substance of these initiatives.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

An hon. member

What happened to democracy?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.


Stephen Harper Conservative Calgary Southwest, AB

What happened to democracy is that the people of Canada voted for this and have waited for a year while the opposition tried to change its position on this legislation. Democracy will tolerate that no longer.

This Parliament must get done what it was elected to do.

This Parliament must get done in a reasonable period of time what it was elected to do. This government has been working, and this Parliament sometimes has been helping, to make our economy stronger, our system cleaner, our federation more united and our streets safer, to put families and taxpayers at the centre of our efforts, and to voice our values and interests effectively in the affairs of the world. These are the right priorities and our country is moving in the right direction.

I urge this Parliament to support the Speech from the Throne.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:25 p.m.


Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but begin by rejecting, with some indignation, the absurd proposition on the other side of the House that there is only one party that cares about the victims of crime. This is really too ridiculous.

Our party over many years has shown as full a concern for the victims of crime as any other party and we have also shown in the House of Commons, as the other side will fully know, our willingness to cooperate with any measures that actually do increase the public safety of our fellow citizens. That is the test on this side of the House and this side of the House should tell the other side of the House that if they actually seek cooperation to increase the safety of citizens as opposed to playing rhetorical games they will always get support from this side of the House.

Let me pass, however, to another matter where there is considerable confusion in the message of the Prime Minister. Our men and women are in combat in southern Afghanistan. The Prime Minister continues to confuse Canadians about the war being fought in their name.

Last week the Prime Minister asked an expert panel, led by John Manley, to consider four options for the future of Canada's role in Afghanistan after February 2009. Mr. Manley told us that the list of options did not include continuing the current combat mission but the Prime Minister contradicted him and suggested that continuing a training mission was essentially an extension of the combat mission.

Our soldiers are currently engaged in a combat mission, not a training mission. Canadians need clarity on this issue; they deserve it.

Last night's Speech from the Throne announced that the government's preferred option is to extend the current mission to at least 2011. If it is a combat role that the government wants to extend it should get up in the House and say so. If it is a training role then it should be clear.

My view is that the government actually knows what it wants to do and, if it does, why is it using Mr. Manley and other distinguished Canadians as pawns in its game of manipulation?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:25 p.m.


Stephen Harper Conservative Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, on the issue of crime, this party was elected partly because Canadians were saying that after 13 years they were tired of criminals having such a high priority in our system and victims and ordinary Canadians in their protection not having a high enough priority. That is why the government was elected.

We have had cooperation on a wide range of these initiatives from the New Democratic Party. We have had cooperation on some of these initiatives from the Bloc Québécois. What we have had from the Liberal Party is it saying that it agrees then shoving them to committee or the Senate where it can delay them or make them go away as quickly as they possibly can.

We are going to be shining the spotlight on that and if the Liberal Party genuinely supports these initiatives, which have been thoroughly debated in the House and in committee, it will get these through both chambers in a matter of days.

On the question that the deputy leader asked on Afghanistan, let me just repeat what we have said. First, when we announced the panel last week, the Leader of the Opposition said that just because we had announced the panel did not mean the government did not have to state its own preference. Now that we have stated our own preference he is saying that we are trying to somehow sabotage the panel.

Mr. Manley obviously takes Canada's international responsibilities very seriously. He is a Liberal. He is not a supporter of my party. Mr. Manley and his colleagues, and certainly Mr. Manley was aware of the government's position in the throne speech.

Let me just say what we want to do. We have been very clear that this mission today has a wide range of elements. Over the past year we have been shifting the emphasis in Afghanistan toward the training of Afghan forces. That is going successfully but our honest assessment today is that we will not be in a position to complete that and to ensure that the Afghan forces can take care of their own security in Kandahar by February 2009.

I believe we are obliged not to leave that province, for which we have taken international responsibility in front of the whole international community, in chaos. Our preferences to continue that track and we believe it should be completed by 2011.

Mr. Manley will examine that option and his colleagues will examine a number of other options and he will bring those to the government. The government will then present those options to Parliament for a debate and a vote before we proceed further.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am constantly hearing from parents who have to wait months and months for child care. Our child care centres are in crisis because they cannot recruit the staff to stay open. I am hearing from mothers who need to go back to work but cannot find child care and yet the Prime Minister says that the government has offered more choice to parents with the $100 a month. It is some choice, indeed.

I am wondering when the government will make a commitment to ongoing systematic funding to really give choice to parents and help out working families.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.


Stephen Harper Conservative Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I need to say that no matter what amount of money the government gives to parents, the response of the NDP will always be that it is not enough. We are aware of that but the reality is that Canadian parents are strongly supportive of this financial assistance that provides them more flexibility in their child care choices.

We are also aware of the necessity of creating more child care spaces in this country. More have been created in this country since this government took office and the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development continues to work with our provinces to ensure that they continue to increase.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, an amendment to the Conservative Party's first Speech from the Throne, dealing with the establishment of a support program for older workers, was agreed to. Last year, that is a year later, following the budget, a committee was formed to study the issue. That committee's mandate was supposed to expire on September 30, but it was just extended for several more months.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, because of his behaviour, because he did not keep his word and honour the commitment made in the Speech from the Throne, today, that is a year and a half later, a lot of people are forced to rely on welfare? These are older workers who do not have access to training to find another job.

And the Prime Minister has better not tell me again that these people should think about retraining. They worked for the same company for 30 or 35 years and are now 58 or 60 years old. Today, they have to rely on welfare. Unfortunately, some of them have even gone as far as to take their own lives.

Will the Prime Minister finally honour the commitment that was made? And will he see to it that a real support program for older workers is established? Such a program would help them keep their dignity by giving them income security until they are eligible for old age security benefits.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.


Stephen Harper Conservative Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am aware that these needs are growing in some communities. At the same time, this government has been taking measures from the start. We signed an agreement with the United States to help the forest industry. We included tax incentives in both budgets to improve the position of certain industries in certain communities.

In addition, in cooperation with the provinces, we created a program for older workers. We took initiatives in both budgets, and the Bloc supported those budgets.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.


Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When I look at the Speech from the Throne it says, “bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in the British Empire”, “the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Citizenship Act”, “40th anniversary of the Order of Canada”. My point of order is to allow the Prime Minister to explain why the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not in the Speech from the Throne.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I think that might be a matter of debate rather than a point of order.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:35 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in its throne speech, the government recalls historic events, such as the presence of the Queen on October 14, 1957.

I would like to remind the government of another historic event. When Canada was formed, there was a contract between the two founding peoples. That contract provided that, in the only province where it was in the majority—Quebec—the francophone people had sovereignty over areas such as health, education and social services.

That contract was violated by the central government in Ottawa by virtue of spending authority that it gave itself unilaterally. No Government of Quebec has ever recognized that authority. This is a critical issue for Quebec, and we have made it a priority.

We must also remember that, at this very moment, Quebeckers are in Afghanistan, fighting in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. We owe them our unswerving support. On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I want to tell them that we admire their courage and that they can count on our support.

However, the Bloc Québécois certainly will not support a militaristic policy and agree to have Canada's combat mission extended beyond February 2009.

The Bloc Québécois has long been the staunchest defender of the Kyoto accord in the House of Commons, and today I want to reiterate our determination to fight climate change.

This issue is a crucial one for Quebec, because implementing the Kyoto protocol would provide it with a unique opportunity to accelerate its economic growth.

For the Quebec nation, agriculture is more than a mere economic sector. Agriculture is also inextricably linked to the development of our land and to Quebeckers settling on it. As the song says, “our great-great-grandfathers cleared the land”. Let us also not forget that it is the supply management system that allows a large number of our agricultural producers to remain active, to develop and to use our national land.

In conclusion, I urge the government to remember that Quebec without its regions is no longer Quebec. And those regions are currently experiencing an unprecedented forestry crisis. Forestry workers, and their families and neighbours, are suffering from this crisis, and I want to tell them that we will not let them down.

The elimination of the federal spending power, the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan in February 2009, the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, fully maintaining the supply management system and supporting those regions affected by a major forestry crisis are the five main priorities of the Quebec nation.

With its Speech from the Throne, the government has clearly shown that it rejects Quebeckers' priorities. Consequently, the Bloc Québécois rejects this throne speech.

I am going to begin with the federal spending power.

In a speech delivered in Quebec City on December 19, 2005, the Prime Minister said this, in reference to the federal spending power:

This outrageous spending power gave rise to domineering and paternalistic federalism, which is a serious threat to the future of our federation--

The Prime Minister said those words exactly 668 days ago. He has had all the time necessary to act, but he has done nothing to eliminate this domineering and paternalistic federalism.

Not only has he not done anything, he has made things worse with new federal intrusions in Quebec's jurisdictions. He has created a federal mental health agency, which is something that falls under Quebec's jurisdiction. He has set up the Canadian agency for the assessment and recognition of foreign credentials which, again, is something that comes under Quebec's jurisdiction.

For many months, its Minister of Finance has been attempting to ram through the creation of a federal securities commission. That is another Quebec jurisdiction.

Yesterday, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a motion opposing the Conservative government's desire to establish a federal securities commission. The Quebec Minister of Finance was forced to escalate the rhetoric in order to head it off. Ms. Jérôme-Forget said, “The federal government should put into practice the open federalism that it espouses.”

The Prime Minister failed to keep his promise for 668 days. He claims that his government had to give a new throne speech because it had fulfilled its previous commitments. That is not true. The Prime Minister broke his main promise to Quebec.

In this new throne speech, the Conservative government promises to limit federal spending power in new programs. That is to say that all federal meddling in Quebec jurisdictions, all this meddling that makes this federalism of which he spoke domineering and paternalistic, will continue.

In addition, the government continues to want to impose conditions on Quebec, which is unacceptable because we are talking about exclusive areas of jurisdiction. By taking this stand, it is going against the Quebec National Assembly and the Government of Quebec which affirmed, yesterday again, through its Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, that Quebec does not recognize this so-called federal spending power. I will read an excerpt from the Throne Speech. In speaking of federal spending power for any new shared-cost programs, he says and I quote:

—non-participating provinces will be compensated, provided they establish equivalent or comparable initiatives.

This is an excerpt from the 1996 Throne Speech of Jean Chrétien's government, which proposed the social union.

I will read another excerpt.

Our government will allow provinces and territories to opt out with reasonable compensation if they offer compatible programs.

These two excerpts are practically identical. The first is from Jean Chrétien's government and the second from the current Conservative government. In short, the Conservative government is now proposing the same thing as Jean Chrétien. I would like to point out that the social union was rejected by the National Assembly.

When he was still in the opposition, the Prime Minister wanted Canada to take part in the war in Iraq. On March 26, 2003, when talking about Iraq, he said: “We should be there with our allies”. He was in this House, seated on this side, a few seats away from me. That is what he said. It was very clear; just check. Lucky for us he was not Prime Minister of a majority government at the time.

We now know the militaristic inclinations of the Conservative leader. We saw him at work during the crisis in Lebanon, when he stirred the pot.

In his government's speech, he announced more exorbitant military spending. We know that his goal is for Canada to continue to fight the war in Afghanistan until 2011. We know that, but on the issue of Afghanistan, the Conservative leader is trying to buy time to make his wish come true.

Instead of immediately notifying NATO that we are withdrawing in February 2009 in order to focus as quickly as possible on humanitarian aid and reconstruction, he created a panel to deceive the public. We absolutely will not give our support on this issue to a Prime Minister who wanted to push us into the war in Iraq.

One of the government's five priorities is to strengthen Canada's place in the world. The Prime Minister said that the government is back as a credible player on the international stage, but the opposite is true. The Conservative government is losing all credibility in the world by wanting to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto protocol and join a group of countries led by George Bush, who rejects this international agreement.

By acting this way, Canada is going back on its word. By acting this way, it is going against the unanimous view of the National Assembly and Quebec's environment minister. Even the leader of the ADQ is disappointed.

By refusing to adopt the territorial approach, it is showing that its openness to Quebec is nothing more than a farce. The government talks about mandatory targets, but we know that it is firm in its position and that it is talking about intensity targets, which means more pollution.

The Conservative government announced that it will set up a carbon exchange. This exchange should be located in Montreal, which already has a carbon exchange, and not in Toronto or Winnipeg.

The only thing the government has to do is set up a regulatory framework with absolute targets. In this Speech from the Throne, the government simply showed its true priority and that is the well being of the oil industry, which it is carefully protecting.

The Prime Minister is siding with big oil, but we are siding with the values and interests of Quebeckers.

The government promised to support supply management. We will give the government the benefit of the doubt even though it has not told us what it intends to do. However, we know that some ministers would like to do away with it. I am warning the government that we will not cut it any slack on this issue.

Our fifth priority is support for regions undergoing crises in the forestry and manufacturing industries. The Speech from the Throne suggested that the government was prepared to take action because it praised Canadians who have worked hard their whole lives.

Personally, I know people who have worked hard for decades and who have just lost their jobs. These people are just as honourable as any member of this House. These people paid their taxes and their employment insurance premiums for decades, and after a few months, they get nothing. These people find themselves having to dip into their life savings to maintain their dignity.

This Conservative government is washing its hands of the whole thing. It abandoned them. It ignored the appeals of unions, the Premier of Quebec and the entire National Assembly.

The Prime Minister refused to create an assistance program for older workers who just need a little help bridging the gap to retirement. He refused to provide concrete measures to support the regions and the people affected by crises in the forestry and manufacturing sectors. The Conservative government has abandoned the regions.

There will come a day when we will all remember that the Prime Minister decided to help an oil industry that was swimming in cash rather than the regions of Quebec and workers struggling with a serious crisis in the forestry industry.

When it laid out its priorities, the Conservative leader's government went against Quebec's National Assembly on a number of issues. It announced that it will once again try to destroy the gun registry, a position that is contrary to the unanimous will of Quebec's National Assembly.

It also announced that it wants to make the Young Offenders Act tougher, in blatant disregard for the unanimous will of Quebec's National Assembly.

The Prime Minister would rather reform the Senate than abolish it, once again ignoring the Government of Quebec.

By expressing his desire to use the federal trade and commerce power to impose free trade between the provinces, a federal securities commission, he is using threats and once again breaking his promise to practice open federalism.

The government promises to invest in the Windsor-Detroit corridor and the Pacific gateway, but nothing is planned for the Montreal-New York corridor. This is proof of the powerlessness, and even insignificance, of Quebec ministers on this issue, since nothing was said about the St. Lawrence, the natural gateway to the Atlantic. It is also proof of their powerlessness when it comes to seasonal workers, since no employment insurance reforms were mentioned.

This government led an attack against groups defending women's rights, and we might have hoped for a change in direction. All we see is the government's complete insensitivity towards and disregard for women. These groups are not mentioned anywhere in the throne speech. The Bloc Québécois will continue to defend women's rights.

The only possible conclusion we can reach on this throne speech is that the Prime Minister's Conservative government has run out of steam in its efforts to fool Quebec. This speech shows that the Prime Minister is not sincere in his openness to Quebec.

Indeed, on the federal spending power issue, the Conservative government is proposing the same kind of domineering and paternalistic federalism put forward by Jean Chrétien, which was rejected by the National Assembly. It comes in conflict with the will expressed by Quebec's National Assembly on issues such as securities, Kyoto, the forestry crisis, young offenders, the gun registry and the Senate. This is a lengthy list.

Just a few months after recognizing Quebec as a nation, the Conservative government is reneging on just about every one of its initial promises. Day in and day out, the Quebec caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada demonstrates its inability to stand up for Quebec's interests and values. By refusing to address Quebec priorities in its throne speech, the Conservative government has shown that its discourse about open federalism toward Quebec was really hot air. The Conservatives' so-called openness is nothing but a political marketing strategy which is looking more and more like a sting operation against the Quebec nation. As things currently stand, no Quebec representative worthy of the name could support this Speech from the Throne.

Consequently, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Joliette:

That the amendment be amended in paragraph 1 by replacing the words “of their decision to kill the previous government's innovative Project Green plan, followed by 18 months of inaction,” with the following: “of the inaction of the Liberal and Conservative governments”; and

by replacing paragraphs 3 and 4 with the following: “to put forward tangible measures to help the workers, businesses and regions affected by the crisis in the forestry and manufacturing sectors”; and

“to eliminate the federal spending power in areas that fall under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces by ensuring the right to opt out with full financial compensation and with no strings attached from any federal program that encroaches on the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.”

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The question is on the subamendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec


Christian Paradis ConservativeSecretary of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, this is not new. The Bloc had announced that it would vote against the Speech from the Throne. It said loud and clear that it wanted to defeat our government. It defeated the previous government, saying that Liberals are centralizers who still deny that there is fiscal imbalance.

However, since it came into office, the Conservative government has offered open federalism. Let us think, among other things, about the seat that Quebec got at UNESCO; let us think about the recognition of the Quebec nation; let us think about the settlement of the fiscal imbalance; let us think about the historic measure that was announced yesterday, that is, restricting federal spending power. This is on top of other measures that were taken, including strong support for supply management.

This cannot be more clear. It is clearly written. Yet, the Bloc continues to make a big scene.

Quebec has 75 members of Parliament out of a total of 308. What does this mean? It means that Bloc members will never make their promises a reality.

However, Quebec is getting stronger with a Conservative government. Why? Because we are able to make our promises a reality. We keep our word and we keep our commitments.

Why would the Bloc defeat a government that helps Quebec make progress? I cannot understand this. Is it really in Quebec's interests to content itself with trying to defeat a government that keeps its word, at last, and that respects its commitments toward Quebec and Canada? That is the question.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer his question.

First of all, it is said that Quebec stands proud at UNESCO. I understand, because it has no seat; it has no choice but to stand. This seems self-evident to me.

Quebec is told that it can be part of the Canadian delegation, but that it can speak only when it agrees with the federal representative. If Quebec does not agree, it will be told what it was told in Nairobi: “When you do not agree, go and talk in the hallway”. That is the message for Quebec at UNESCO.

The Prime Minister, who talked so often about Belgium, should follow that country's example. When the two communities do not agree, Belgium abstains at UNESCO. In this way, Quebec would really have a place, just as it does at the summit of la Francophonie, where it has the right to speak.

Second, the member talks about the recognition of Quebec as a nation. I said then that that had consequences. When the government recognizes the Quebec nation, it must also recognize the language of that nation, French. However, under the Canada Labour Code, the federal statute that governs relations in banks, airports, ports, telecommunications, communications and interprovincial transportation companies, Bill 101 does not apply in those areas.

Yet under subsection 178(1) of the Canada Labour Code, the federal government recognizes that the minimum wage in effect is the wage set by each province and that the federal minimum wage must be adapted to the minimum wage in each province.

If the government can do that with the minimum wage, could it not also do so with the language, which I believe is just as important as the minimum wage?

When we propose an amendment to the Canada Labour Code, we will see whether the member who is saying that his party delivers on its commitments will rise to say that the language of work in Quebec should be French in banks, airports, ports and telecommunications and at Radio-Canada. Currently, this is not the case.

I cannot wait to see him get up. I cannot wait to see whether he will stand up for Quebec for once.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is often said that a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Those should be the first people that it should be helping in times of need, so that we can all rise and progress together.

I would like to ask the member what he thinks about a throne speech, during International Poverty Week when there are demonstrations all across Canada, where there is nothing to help the most vulnerable, nothing on a poverty strategy, nothing for literacy, nothing for women's programs that were recently cut, nothing for the people who are on waiting lists and very sick, nothing to replace the Court Challenges Program for people fighting for their rights, no celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and nothing for students who can least afford an education?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, those are exactly the reasons why we on this side will vote against the throne speech. I will tell members something. The Prime Minister said in the throne speech that he is inspired by the North Star. I think he is much more inspired by the 50 stars on the American flag.