Mr. Speaker, there is an ancient Chinese proverb that states, “we are cursed to live in interesting times”, and these are certainly interesting times. The Speech from the Throne is a general statement of the government's objectives. These speeches are often remembered more for what they do not address as opposed to the issues they actual raise.
Notwithstanding all of this bluster, what of the content in the Speech from the Throne? What about the issues of importance to Canadians? We hear a great deal of chatter in the speech with respect to our national sovereignty and yet in practice the government action leaves a great deal to be desired.
For example, where is the government in regard to the recent outrageous proposal from the United States administration with respect to airline passenger lists? What could be more important to our sovereignty than protecting the privacy and personal rights of our nation's citizens? We hear no challenge from the government to the Bush administration's demand that Canadian airlines provide names, dates of birth, gender, travel itinerary and track information for passengers originating in Canada even though they do not even land in the United States.
If the Prime Minister wants to protect our sovereignty, I suggest he start by refusing to provide this information to the Bush administration. This is clearly an issue of sovereignty and the rights of Canadians need to be protected by their own government. Speaking of sovereignty, we need only to look at the issue of the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples to see the issue of the actual level of commitment to the basic rights of our first nations peoples.
While I commend the government for some of the statements made in the throne speech with respect to aboriginal issues, there is so much more of substance that needs to be done.
We all remember the Kelowna accord. It was a landmark agreement between the previous Liberal government, provincial leaders and first nations peoples.
When the members of the New Democratic Party joined with the Conservative Party to defeat the Liberal government in 2005, the fate of this historic accord was sealed along, I might add, with so many other progressive initiatives. It was a tragedy that the NDP would so easily cast its soul on the altar of political expediency but that is a debate for another day.
The Prime Minister did indeed withdraw from the Kelowna accord and effectively ended an historic opportunity to deal fairly with first nations peoples.
This past September, the United Nations General Assembly voted on whether to adopt the United declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Only four countries voted against the declaration and Canada was one of them.
The Conservative government reversed the previous Liberal government's commitment and voted against the measure. We need only listen to the words of Mr. Gary Highland, the national director of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation to know why. He speaks of the role of his country's prime minister, John Howard, a good friend of our Prime Minister.
It's common knowledge in Australia that Howard was responsible or had a major influence in changing the Canadian government's position.
Where is the leadership from Canada's government when foreign heads of government direct our government on how to vote at the United Nations?
I have met with various labour leaders in recent months to hear their increasing concerns about the need to protect manufacturing jobs in this country, among them, Gus Goncalves and Maria Pinto of the Canadian Auto Workers at the Bombardier Aerospace plant in Downsview, Ontario, who know that these jobs are threatened.
Manufacturing jobs in Canada are being lost at an alarming rate and urgent action needs to be taken. However, the message of these labour leaders and that of millions of Canadians is falling upon the deaf ears of the government. We had hoped there would be a real commitment in the throne speech to address this issue but again there were only platitudes and lack of substance.
Our environment is under siege. Climate change and greenhouse gases are real issues to be addressed, not political headaches to be shuffled aside as the government continually does.
It is truly disheartening that Canada, under the Conservative government, will be the only major signing nation to the Kyoto accord that is to withdraw from the commitment we made. The government needs to implement our Kyoto commitments and not spend so much energy finding ways to avoid them.
What about our role as a peacekeeping nation, one that the world looks to for leadership? We need to take action where action is so desperately needed. What about Darfur? Why does the government not take a role in helping to alleviate the suffering of so many millions of people in this region of the world? This is the most pressing humanitarian crisis facing the world community and yet the government continues its policy of inaction.
I commend the government's decision to bestow honorary citizenship upon Aung San Suu Kyi whose courage, perseverance and commitment to freedom is beyond exemplary. However, Canada should also be taking substantive steps to hold the military leadership in Burma to account for the terrible abuses taking place in that country.
Where in the speech is the commitment to students who are increasingly leaving school with enormous student debt? The previous Liberal government was putting in place the help they needed but the present government has done nothing of substance to assist Canada's students.
Many of our country's senior citizens are finding it increasingly more difficult to manage and yet there is no real help for them either. Where is the help for these great Canadians who have built our nation?
Families across the country continue to struggle. What about the national child care program that the previous Liberal government was implementing? Again, nothing.
In essence, we are speaking about the basic human rights of all Canadians, whether they are travelling abroad, are first nations peoples, older Canadians, students, parents and the list goes on.
I would note, speaking of human rights, that the government made reference to several anniversaries to be celebrated this year in Canada. While those noted in the throne speech are of significance, what about the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Why was there no mention of one of Canada's greatest achievements? Would this be inconvenient for the government?
Those are but a few of the issues that the Speech from the Throne simply fails to deliver upon. There is no passion for the values of Canadians in this speech and no vision of what Canadians want to aspire to. It is really the remonstrations of managers when what we need is leaders.
I am reminded of a comment by the former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. He was asked by a young member of the British Parliament how he could put more fire into his speech. Churchill replied, “What you should have done is put the speech into the fire”.
I have spoken today on many issues of importance to Canadians. We can only hope in the months to come that these real concerns of Canadians will be addressed by the government.