Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning to speak to the importance of encouraging the greater participation of women in our democratic system of government.
In a democratic country, the governing body must endeavour to reflect the population that it is elected to represent, and Canada's diversity can best be served with the same diversity in the House. We will be enriched by the contribution of a true mix of the unique experiences, backgrounds and skills that our citizens possess.
Recognizing the contribution to be made by women in government must be promoted and encouraged. Canadian women have contributed to the building of our country in countless ways. They have had a significant role to play in our history and must have a key role in determining our future.
Consequently, today we stand to support the efforts to promote the increased participation of women in elected office. We must work together through non-partisan measures to ensure that women have an equal opportunity when it comes to serving in public life.
Canadian women have the skills and insight to make a meaningful contribution to the work of government at every level. They deserve the same opportunity to earn a seat in the House, not through special dispensation, but on merit.
The government does support every earnest effort to increase women's representation and their participation in politics. Because we recognize and welcome the contribution of women in this role, it was the Conservative Party that elected the first woman in the House of Commons as well as the first woman prime minister.
As we work together and continue our efforts to encourage more women to run for elected office, we must also ensure all Canadians that as a government we recognize our responsibility to address their issues and needs.
That is why our Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is working to provide matrimonial property rights to aboriginal women and to have their rights recognized under the charter. That is why our Minister of Health provided $300 million in our budget to support a national vaccine program to protect Canadian women from cervical cancer. That is why the women's programming budget at the Status of Women has been increased to $20 million, the highest ever since its inception.
As we work to promote the increased participation of Canadian women in government, we must always recognize that it is the responsibility across all government, and the responsibility of every elected member, to serve every Canadian, men and women.