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House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.

Topics

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River for a brief response.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that billions of dollars have been spent on this long gun registry, money that could have been spent hiring border guards, money that could have been spent stopping hand guns coming into this country through mail and through the Internet. The money was ill-placed. It was simply designed as a tax grab that has gone horribly wrong.

Let me--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Cardigan.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege to stand in the House and respond to the Speech from the Throne. It is an honour again to be in this grand chamber, the highest court in the land.

I want to congratulate the Speaker himself on winning the election and I want to thank all the people who were involved in the democratic process in order to show that they fully believe in democracy. It is certainly a great show. We heard some words of wisdom and it is important that the House operates in a proper manner, which I fully believe it does.

I want to thank the people of Cardigan in Prince Edward Island who were kind enough to re-elect me to the House of Commons. It is indeed an honour and a privilege, but I never could have been elected without all the volunteers and campaign managers who worked so hard to make sure I was able to return.

I also want to thank my wife, Frances, and my three daughters, Carolyn, Rita and Lynn, who put up with this. As the numbers speak, as I have indicated, they have small children at home and they are here. It is not that easy, I am well aware of it. The fact is that tomorrow I will have the honour of celebrating 20 years in the House of Commons which is indeed a great honour. I am certainly pleased.

I am here to address some of the serious situations taking place in the riding of Cardigan in eastern Prince Edward Island. In my area of Prince Edward Island there has been a very big problem with rainfall.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

One of the farmers in my area said it was probably his worst year in the potato industry. It is quite a thing to look at crops covered with water. It is more than potato growers. The turnip and carrot growers, and all vegetable growers suffered great loss. The Government of Canada needs to deal with this to make sure these people receive some help.

There is also a lot of blight in the area. A number of farmers told me they had to dump their crops. Being a potato farmer in the agricultural sector most of my life, I understand fully what a devastating thing that can be for people who are involved with this way of making a living. Another farmer indicated it was like the PVYn and the potato war, the whole thing combined, but tripled.

Farmers go through all the problems of growing a crop, taking the chance of covering up hundreds of thousands of dollars, harvesting the crop and possibly even grading the potatoes and tubers in the bag. They grade them and open the bag a week later only to be able to put a thumb into the potato. That means they have spent everything to produce the crop but have lost everything. It is vitally important the government assist those farmers.

I am aware that during the election campaign government members were looking at the situation in Prince Edward Island, but as I indicated previously, there are problems not only with potatoes but with other types of vegetables. I hope the government will look at this and deal with the farmers and be sure it comes up with an assistance program which will keep these people in the agricultural sector.

Another problem is insurance. When money is short, people spend the least amount of dollars on insurance. This is another problem. Now they have this devastating problem with not enough insurance.

On page seven of the Speech from the Throne, which I would hopefully take the government's word, it states that targeted help will be available for those who need it the most. In this situation the potato growers, the turnip growers and the carrot growers need it in Prince Edward Island.

Another problem, in other sectors, if it is a municipal area and the federal government comes in it can be about 90% federal assistance and 10% provincial assistance. When it is agricultural, the split is sixty-forty.

I come from Prince Edward Island, which is certainly not the wealthiest area in the country, but we produce some of the best potatoes grown in the world. We need help.

I also heard a number of times in the House and in other areas that we have to make sure everything is good from the gate to the plate, and I understand fully what that means. There is no problem at the plate. The products produced by the agricultural community in this country are second to none but we have to make sure that it can stay in business, and that is what I want to emphasize.

Crop insurance will be about ten times what it was in other years. I have written to the minister and again today I am pleading with the government to make sure that we come up with a package that would help good farmers who only want to work and make a living, and produce a top quality product and stay in the business.

A meeting of the leaders of the G-20, including the Prime Minister, was held in Washington on November 15. I well agree that he should have been there. This is an issue that has to be addressed. It appears to me that the minister agreed to reach an agreement that this year would lead to a successful conclusion to the WTO's Doha development agenda as stated in the Declaration of the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy. I quote from page 4, section 13, involving trade:

Further, we shall strive to reach agreement this year on modalities that leads to a successful conclusion to the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda with an ambitious and balanced outcome.

I can assure the House that I want an ambitious and balanced outcome.

The problem with the WTO Doha round was the fact that 152 countries sat down and made decisions. They evaluated what took place in different countries. They looked at programs. These countries evaluated whether programs were acceptable or not with a green light meaning a program was acceptable, an amber light meaning it was questionable, and a red light meaning it was totally unacceptable.

In November of last year a draft report was issued by the WTO through the Doha round. It indicated quite clearly that under the red light agreement was wharf repair under small craft harbours, employment insurance for fishermen, the elimination of the capital gains tax for fishermen, and even the elimination of the tax card that they use when they buy equipment for their boat or for their traps or whatever.

This is totally unacceptable. I know we are in a time of crisis. I know that things have to be done. I also know that three years ago we were sitting around here with a $13 billion surplus and now we are sitting here talking about eliminating employment insurance for fishermen. We are talking about ending small craft harbour repairs. We are talking about taking the capital gains tax exemption away from the fishermen whom I and many others around this place worked so hard to make sure was available for fishermen.

I want to see changes made, but I want to make sure that members on the opposite side of the House are fully aware of what is in this agreement. The fact is if this is allowed to happen, it will destroy an industry in the Atlantic region.

I also want to indicate that the Harper government has threatened the public service with legislation and it is going to force settlements. Public servants in my area in Prince Edward Island and across this country are--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member well knows that he cannot use the names of members in the House in any of his comments. He has been here a long time and maybe he gets rather forgetful from time to time, but I do suggest that he play by the rules.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I appreciate that assistance and I am sure that the hon. member will not do it again.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will not do it again, but I hope my hon. colleague who was so observant will listen to what I have to say.

I hope that when he talks to his colleagues in cabinet, he will persuade them of the need to watch the fisheries programs and the need to watch the agricultural sector. If they do not do that, we will not have either in the area I represent.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague from Prince Edward Island.

In 1977, under the René Lévesque government in Quebec, the Abenakis, Algonquin, Attikamek, Cree, Huron-Wendat, Innu, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk, Naskapis and Inuit were allowed to have schools taught in their language for the first time ever. This is very important for the preservation of the culture of many such nations that deserve our respect and that, for the first time, had a government that would listen. In fact, it was a sovereignist government in Quebec.

I would like to know how the member sees the Speech from the Throne meeting the needs of first nations people in Quebec and in Canada, who have, for quite some time—for over ten years—been asking the federal government to invest in first nations schools, to put them on a level playing field with other schools across Canada? How does he see this throne speech helping first nations?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have been here for quite a number of years and I understand quite clearly what he is talking about. As far as first nations are concerned, not only the schools but many other things need a lot more attention. Whether it is policing, the jail system, the correctional system, whatever, there are many things that need to be addressed for the first nations people. I can assure the member that I support that.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, like the member for Cardigan, I represent a rural riding that has both fishing and agriculture and I realize the problems.

If we look at the outcome of the last election, virtually west of the Maritimes the representation of Liberal members in rural areas was almost wiped out across the rest of the country. I am wondering if he can explain why the Liberals would bring forward such regressive policies, such as a carbon tax. A carbon tax would penalize agriculture producers from one end of this country to the other because of increased input costs not only for fuel but it would also dramatically drive up the cost of fertilizers. It would make it impossible for anyone to make a living.

I hope he is not being hypocritical in saying that we have to stand up for our farmers and develop programs and policies that work only to turn around and introduce taxes that would be regressive and would drive farmers out of profitability and into a situation where they absolutely could not make a living in rural areas. I want him to talk about that.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, if the member for Selkirk—Interlake really evaluated the green shift, he would find out that there were many programs for the agricultural sector in it. He knows that very well. He knows that a number of things will have to be implemented if we are going to live on this planet.

What I was trying to explain to my hon. colleague and others is that there are problems right now with dollars and cents for farmers who are in desperate financial situations. Now is the time for the Government of Canada to come forward and make sure that these good producers are able to stay in business.

My hon. colleague said that there are fishermen in his riding. I say with all honesty and earnestness that he should please look at what is going on. I would ask him to please talk to his colleagues about what they are proposing. Please do not let them take away the programs that are necessary for the fishery to survive.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Hon. members know that this is my first time in the chair. I am going to have to memorize all the riding names. The first one I have memorized is Mississauga South.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member indeed has been an hon. member for a number of years and has served his riding very well.

The throne speech includes a statement at the top of page 15 in which the government comments on respect for the institutions of Canada. In particular, I recall that in this place there was a confidence vote on Elections Canada and the Conservative Party voted non-confidence unanimously in Elections Canada because of the electoral problems.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on other examples where the government in fact has not shown support for the institutions of Canada.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick answer for my hon. colleague, the member for Mississauga South. Worldwide when there is a problem with democracy, whom do they consult? Elections Canada. Whom do they want to take care of the situation? Elections Canada. The Government of Canada is suing Elections Canada. It is a sad thing.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your re-election, not that I question the wisdom of the good people of Haliburton, but nevertheless, congratulations in any event.

I want to also thank the people of Scarborough—Guildwood for their kindness and generosity in re-electing me for the fifth time in 11 years. I too might question their wisdom. Nevertheless, it is indeed an honour and a privilege to serve in this place.

Unfortunately the Speech from the Throne is more of the same old, same old. Having mismanaged the nation's finances for the last two and half years, the Prime Minister is now begging for forgiveness.

We have gone from a position of 10 years of Liberal surpluses and in two and a half short years the Conservative government has now managed to achieve a deficit. The warnings and the advice of the Liberal Party of Canada fell on deaf ears and we are now facing an exaggerated form of economic turmoil in a greatly weakened position because of the actions of the government. Ten years of Liberal prudence has been thrown out in two years by the Conservatives. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is correct in saying that we are staring down the barrel of many deficits to come.

The first part of the Speech from the Throne recites many accomplishments, many Liberal achievements over the previous years, Liberal achievements without attribution, may I say.

The Prime Minister, I know, is fond of plagiarism, but even this plagiarism is on a grand scale. Paying down the debt, investments in health and education, controlling spending, and a sound public pension plan were inheritances of the Martin and Chrétien governments. It would have been nice, although not expected, had the Prime Minister at least attributed to Messrs. Chrétien and Martin those accomplishments.

Not only does he claim credit without attribution, but he also announces in the Speech from the Throne that he is meeting the premiers. Last month when the Leader of the Opposition suggested such a thing, he was ridiculed for even suggesting it, that somehow the Leader of the Opposition was being panicky and was fearmongering. Now the Prime Minister thinks it is such a keen idea that he even put it in the Speech from the Throne. Possibly the Prime Minister was being just a touch economical with the truth when he neglected to mention that Canada in the first two quarters was actually running a deficit and that his government was already running a deficit during the election. His Minister of Finance, in an interview with Peter Mansbridge on CBC, said, “I am not going to be the minister of deficits”. In a direct response to Peter Mansbridge he said that he could not imagine any circumstance in which the Government of Canada would go into deficit.

When we read in the Speech from the Throne that it would be misguided to commit to a balanced budget in the short term at any cost, in Scarborough—Guildwood they call those weasel words.

This may have something to do with the great axiom of John Crosbie. John Crosbie was obviously not in our party but he had quite a number of great sayings, one of which was, “If I told you what I was going to do, you would never vote for me”. That is probably true of the Minister of Finance; if, during the election, he told people what he was going to do, they would never vote for him. The Minister of Finance is supposed to be on top of the nation's finances. His department tracks GDP, revenue and expenditures literally on a day by day basis. He either knew the government was facing a deficit, or he should have known the government was facing a deficit. Again, as the chief financial officer of the nation, either he is being economical with the truth or he is just plain incompetent.

The Prime Minister has nowhere to hide. The Parliamentary Budget Officer was quoted in the media as saying:

The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions...

There is no hiding behind the G-20, no hiding behind the mess in the United States. It is due to the policies of the government. An article in the media states:

Page concluded Ottawa could run a deficit as high as $13.8 billion next year, in 2009-10. Deficits could remain higher than $11 billion each year through to 2013, adding nearly $50-billion to Canada's debt over the next five years.

Fifty billion dollars is a lot of money, even for Conservatives. Fifty billion dollars would be added to the national debt because of the incompetence and mismanagement of this nation’s finances, in spite of the advice of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The Speech from the Throne announces that the Conservatives now have religion and they are going to experiment with responsible fiscal management, after having run expenses for the past two and a half years at something in the order of 6% to 8% on an annualized basis for a total of $40 billion. Now they have religion and they are going to try responsible fiscal management.

The Prime Minister is going to be disciplined. Is that not a novel idea. I wonder by what standard he is going to be disciplined. Is he going to be disciplined by the standard of GDP growth? Is he going to be disciplined by the standard of inflation? Is he going to disciplined by the standard of people’s wages? Or is it that Canadians are getting disciplined because of the lack of self-discipline on the part of the Prime Minister?

Apparently, the Prime Minister is going to be fiscally disciplined without touching the major expenditures of the government. He is going to be fiscally disciplined without touching transfers. He is going to be fiscally disciplined without touching program expenses. Magically somehow the nation’s finances are going to right themselves without touching either program expenditures or transfers.

On page six of the throne speech, and I hope no one missed this, the Prime Minister has dragged out the favourite whipping boy, which is the civil service. He has announced a new war on the civil service, and somehow that is going to be the answer to his lack of fiscal discipline over the past two and a half years.

On the other hand, we could take the approach of the Minister of Finance, which is to sell off government assets at distressed prices. We in Ontario have seen this movie before. Prior to one election, Mr. Harris decided to sell off Highway 407, a very valuable asset of the people of Ontario and the GTA. The consequence was that he sold it for about 25% of its value. The new owners of Highway 407 flipped the property two or three years later and pocketed a tidy sum of money. The consequence of the consequence is that we have virtually institutionalized gridlock in the GTA. That is what the people of Canada have in store for themselves as the Conservative government flip-flops its way around trying to figure out what to do.

The Conservatives do not even have discipline on the revenue side. Against the advice of every economist in the nation, they have reduced their revenues to the point where the cupboard is bare. Well, who emptied the cupboard? According to Mr. Page, “The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions, since nominal GDP is higher than expected in budget 2008”.

That means Canadians are working. They are working harder and harder, and the government is squandering their hard-earned money. Having exacerbated the difficulties we are facing due to economic turmoil, the Prime Minister gives Canadians the advice that these are great buying opportunities. He gave that advice on October 7. How much has the market melted down since then? By 13%, and when I looked at 2 o'clock today, it had dropped another 447 points. We should not take advice from the Prime Minister on running the nation’s finances. He could not even run a portfolio. Now he wants to share in the pain. He wants our ideas. This is after two and a half years of ridiculing the Leader of the Opposition. Now he wants our ideas.

Maybe we could start with a little less ridicule and a little more respect.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, our art shapes our identity as a nation and is part of the soul of a people. It inspires, heals and helps to review what brings us together and reflects on what divides us.

As a country, we must give artists better financial support, better funding and better tax relief. We must strengthen rules for Canadian content and support public broadcasting with stable funding.

Yet in the throne speech there is no restoration of funding to arts and culture. There is no financial support to artists. We know that as a country, we need a striving arts and culture industry with artists who can imagine a better world and reflect it back to us.

Just a few weeks ago, during the election, the member and his party were totally opposed to the cuts to funding for arts and culture. How could the member and his party support the Conservative government's plan to cut arts funding? How could they vote for the throne speech? I just do not understand.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I frankly do not know where that question came from. There is a remote possibility we were in the same election.

The Liberal Party's position was that the funding cuts to the arts proposed by the government were ill-advised and ill-conceived. Had the hon. member read the Speech from the Throne, she would have noted as well that all the things actually producing revenues in this country, i.e. tourism, small business and things of that nature, have until recently not been doing badly and have been generating GDP for the nation.

The real difficulties are in some of the major areas, those being finance and auto.

The arts community actually produces a great deal of GDP for this nation and should be supported, along with tourism and small business. That is the position of the Liberal Party.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal government came to office in 1993, it was faced with a $42 billion deficit. It had to go through a very important process, which was basically to stabilize the situation.

There was expenditure review. There were some very difficult decisions to be made. Some very important tactical solutions were made to stabilize the situation. It took three years to balance the budget.

I read in today's Ottawa Citizen about the President of the Treasury Board basically cutting off negotiations with all the public service unions. Penalizing our public service will now summarily start, it appears, suggesting somehow that the public service is the reason we are in this predicament, while that does not seem to be the case.

Maybe the member would like to comment on the public service--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada is the party of Manley, Chrétien and Martin. It is the party that has seen economic turmoil in the past and the party that has been able to deal with the nation's finances in a prudent and reasonable way. It has not, in the 10 years prior to the present government's coming to office, gone into deficit. In fact, we have run surpluses.

As the hon. member rightly said, it took us three years to dig out from the previous Conservative mess in order to right the ship of state. At the same time, we did not take it out on the civil servants.

Every program has to be subject to expenditure review, except that this government does not seem to be interested in dealing with program spending and it does not seem to be interested in dealing with transfers. It seems to be interested only in beating the civil service over the head with a two-by-four. That is no way to run a government.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his re-election to the House.

I am wondering if the hon. member would comment on two different things.

First, Ontarians remember something they fondly, or not so fondly, recall as “Rae days”. I know the hon. member has some commentary on the politics of Ontario.

The second issue I would bring to the hon. member's attention or recollection is the fact that--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Scarborough--Guildwood, a short answer, please.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a pithy response to the hon. member's improper suggestion of using names, but in the event that you were not listening, Mr. Speaker, I would say, better Rae days than Harper years.

The government has no idea what to do in a situation of fiscal discipline. It has no--

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

6 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am glad I am speaking after the hon. member. I can set the record straight on what he was talking about.

I would like to thank my family, my spouse, Neena, my daughters, Priti and Kajol, my son, Aman, my son-in-law, Robin, my grandson, Devon Obhrai Martin, and my granddaughter, Evasha Raina Obhrai Martin, who campaigned to have me re-elected. I had a great team, Ken Walker, the official agent, Doug Page, Laxmi Saberwal, Akshay Anand, Rita Obhrai, and my mother, Asha Obhrai, who helped and encouraged the volunteers who worked very hard. Finally, I want to thank all the voters of Calgary East for electing me for the fifth time.

Even if it is for the fifth time, it is a very humbling experience on the night the people elect us to represent them in this wonderful House here. It is an honour and a privilege, and I am very thankful that my constituents have allowed me the opportunity to come to this House and speak. Not only that, but as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I have had the opportunity to represent Canada overseas, so I sincerely want to thank them very much.

When I was campaigning in my riding, my constituents of Calgary East brought up three primary issues which were of concern to them.

One of their main concerns was the growing residential crime rate in Calgary, specifically in my riding, all related to gun violence, all related to gang and drug wars. Calgary is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. As it grows, its affluence has attracted a lot of people who are involved in gangs and drugs. This has raised a lot of concerns with longtime residents. I heard it time after time when I was knocking on doors that this was one of their major concerns. I am very happy to say that the government and the Prime Minister have made a clear commitment to strengthen the key areas such as youth crime, organized crime and gang violence.

Canadians need to be reassured that they are safe in their homes and communities. Citizens need to know that justice is served and that it is served swiftly. Our government under the Prime Minister will take tough action against crime and will work with our partners to improve the administration of justice. Serious offences will meet with serious penalties.

The safety and the security of Canadians is our utmost priority. As such, we will continue moving forward on our tackling crime agenda. In case people did not notice, the Prime Minister has appointed two parliamentary secretaries for justice because he views this as one of the key areas that needs to be addressed to ensure that Canadians feel safe in their homes.

The government has already taken significant action to better protect Canadians from those who would commit serious crimes and to strengthen the capacity of the criminal justice system. The government is committed to protecting Canadians from the violence of gangs and guns and organized criminal activity, as well as to helping youth make good choices while protecting communities from young people who pose a danger to society. This was re-emphasized today when the Prime Minister gave his speech in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

The second point I heard on the doorsteps while I was campaigning was from seniors. Seniors told me that they feel the crunch. Those who are on fixed incomes see the rising prices of fuel as well as the rising prices of food which in turn creates a pressure on the day-to-day necessities. As we know, Calgary is a booming city. I am told there is a lot of pressure with the cost of housing going up and this has all had an impact on seniors. Seniors, understandably, were very much concerned when I talked with them.

Let me say that the government has taken important steps to improve the financial security of seniors and pensioners. Last year, the government provided close to $5 billion in tax relief for seniors and pensioners. The government doubled the pension income amount, increased the age limit for maturing pension and registered retirement savings plans from 69 to 71, and introduced pension income splitting for seniors and pensioners. In budget 2008, we increased the guaranteed income supplement exemption to $3,500 from $500 to benefit low and modest income seniors who choose to continue working.

We have received on many occasions, and we continue to receive, calls with regard to transferring RRSPs into RRIFs. This is of course due to the downturn in the global economy. People think their assets have depreciated and seniors are rightly concerned. However, let me remind all seniors and everyone here that there is no requirement in the income tax rules for an individual to sell assets to make RRIF minimum withdrawals. If the individual's financial institution is set up to do so, it can transfer particular assets, such as shares, from the RRIF into another type of investment account in the name of the individual without selling assets.

This is, again, one of the many steps that our government has taken to reassure seniors that it is concerned about the welfare of seniors. Not only that, but the Prime Minister has a dedicated minister looking after seniors' issues and that minister, who is in the Senate, has done a fabulous job of looking after seniors. This is to reassure seniors that we do take their concerns and their welfare very seriously.

Now we come to the main point of the throne speech, and this is of concern to my constituents: the global economic slowdown.

We hear the Liberals talking about whether there is a deficit, but they need to understand that at this given time people are losing their jobs, there is uncertainty and assets are being depreciated. That is why the G-20 met in Washington. The G-20 came out with recommendations as to how to help the global economy recover. That recovery is critical for Canada. Canada is not an isolated country. We are part of the global system.

We also heard from the Prime Minister and others that we are seeking ways to further increase free trade agreements with the European Union, Peru and other countries which would bring Canada more into the global economy.

Therefore, the impacts from the global economy will have an effect here in Canada. We are not isolated. The prices of commodities have gone down because world usage has done down. However, while one sector is going down, there are other sectors that are benefiting.

We are very fortunate. This country of ours has vast reserves of all kinds that can help us stay balanced, so that where one sector goes down another sector goes up. However, this whole talk requires action and as the Prime Minister said, last year action was taken. That is why we are not feeling the strong effects that are being felt in the United States and Japan, both of which are now in an official recession. We are not in a recession here because the government rose to the occasion with the finance minister when it was required.

When the last speaker talked about Highway 407 and other things, he failed to understand the steps this government has taken to ensure that Canadians do not suffer greatly from the economic slowdown.

While we hear the U.S. and European Union coming out and supporting their banks with massive loans, the Government of Canada, with its policies, has yet to give any money to the banks for bailouts. The Canadian banks are strong. We have not given any bailouts.

It is an important point to consider, that our economic fundamentals are sound, but the clouds are out there and are coming in. That is what the Prime Minister said in his speech.

During the election campaign, Canadians said the best person to manage the economy was our Prime Minister. They have all the confidence in our Prime Minister, not the Liberal Party that wanted to put in a carbon tax and talked about taxing people. Then the Liberals were saying it was going to be revenue neutral and there were going to be tax breaks. When did taxes become revenue neutral? We know from past experience, no taxes are neutral. There was the GST with promises to cut it. Now they want to increase it.

One of the most interesting factors of this campaign was that the Green Party, the NDP and the Liberals wanted to raise taxes, the GST and everything else. However, the clouds are looming and there is going to be a recession. There are signs of a tough economic slowdown coming and we have parties that want to raise taxes.

Canadians have confidence in the Prime Minister and have re-elected us to the House as the government. All of us are thankful for that.

People in my riding are concerned. They call us asking if they are going to be affected. The riding that I represent in east Calgary is the industrial hub of Calgary. Blue collar workers live there and they are all concerned about the economy.

The U.S.A. is our largest trading partner and any recession there will have an impact on us. That is a foregone conclusion. We see this happening in the auto industry and other sectors.

People in my riding are concerned about that. I can assure them that the government is taking steps to ensure the world economic downturn does not impact us, or if it does impact us, that its impact is minimal. The throne speech is all about giving confidence.

We will continue doing that despite the Liberal rhetoric about going into a deficit. Instead of talking about the deficit, what is more important is seeing what we can do to stop the global slowdown affecting Canadians. That was the intention of the G-20, which has come to an agreement, and we are part of the G-20.

We will not talk about the NDP members because they never liked free trade.

How can the Liberals expect us not to be part of the G-20? They expect us to be coming up with our own policy, forgetting that we are part of the world economy? I do not understand that.

Canada is part of the G-20 and part of the G-8. We have to work with our partners to ensure we bring the economic downturn back into an upswing very quickly. That is what is important. They have an answer. That is what we are going to do.

I do not understand what the Liberals are worried about. They should be worried about jobs. The Prime Minister asked them to give suggestions on how we can improve the economy. They have given no suggestions. They just keep saying that it is the government's responsibility. They say that we do not want to go into deficit, that we do not want to do this or that but they give no suggestions. If they cannot make suggestions they should not criticize. We need to get on with the business of running this country and ensuring that Canadians feel their government is standing up for them.

The Liberals keep talking about the surplus they had when they were in power. Today the Minister of Finance said that the Liberals were the biggest spenders. If we were to look at the spending graph we would see how it went up and up. We will not take any lessons from that party on how to run this country. We will run this country the way the Prime Minister said, which is in a prudent, conservative way to ensure that Canadians feel the economic downturn is in order and the consequence of that. That is what this government will do and that is what the Speech from the Throne is all about. The Speech from the Throne was well received in my riding. People feel confident that we will continue handling this as the Prime Minister said.