Mr. Speaker, one of the greatest honours any of us could have is to be chosen by our fellow citizens to represent them in this wonderful and august House. I would like to thank the constituents of my riding of Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca, the most beautiful riding in Canada, for enabling me to serve them for a sixth term and to be their voice here in Parliament to fight for their needs.
I also want to give a very big thank you to all of the volunteers. Clearly, with a win by 68 votes, this would not have been done without their hard work. This is a victory by them and for them and I thank them very much for this, especially my two campaign managers, Harry Kuiack and Lynne Henderson. They worked tirelessly, along with all of the volunteers on my team.
The Speech from the Throne was reasonable in its content but it lacked vision and specifics on the big issues of the day.
All of us here are citizens of our great country, but our citizenship implies a responsibility, a responsibility to ourselves, to our citizens and to our country. It also implies a responsibility on the part of the government of the day to our citizens, and as elected members we have a responsibility to our fellow countrymen and countrywomen.
A series of solutions should have been enshrined in the Speech from the Throne to deal with the most pressing and persistent issues that affect our citizens on the ground, and in that, the throne speech was lacking. I am going to outline some of the things the government should do. If the Prime Minister is truly being honest in his desire to work in a bipartisan fashion, then I know he will find across party lines the willingness to do this in the interests of the common good of our great country.
We have heard much about the economic challenges. This will entail a number of solutions. Timely, temporary and targeted fiscal stimuli may be necessary. The Bank of Canada rate is at about 2.25%, which is low. We could also use a number of integrated responses here. We could have an integrated parliamentary committee to deal with international trade, revenue and finance, to work together on the solutions that are required.
We could also bring together our best and brightest minds to put together the science and policy making, rooted in good research, which should drive the policies our country requires to deal with the challenges ahead. One of the heartbreaking things that I have noticed in this House over the last six terms is the inability to connect the best and brightest minds in our country with the challenges at hand. Too often the battle that goes on here has to do with trying to embarrass the other side, rather than trying to find the best solutions. Rather than a battle over ideas, people try to make the most egregious comments against each other.
There is something that is missing internationally. International tools are required to have a common securities regulator, for each country to have common objectives and common guidelines, in terms of how we deal with investments. The recapitalization of banks is critically important. It is essential that the countries of the world come together to ameliorate the contagion that is running through the financial markets in order to limit the damage but also to prevent this from happening in the future.
We saw a Ponzi scheme wreak havoc with the international financial markets, but most important, destroy the financial savings of citizens around the globe and cause the unemployment rates to increase. This is having a devastating effect on people's lives. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about.
The Speech from the Throne missed many other areas.
The number one sleeper issue that is not being dealt with is our aging population. Years ago people could expect to live to about 57 or 58 years. Now men can expect to live to the age of 79 and women can expect to live to the age of 82. There will be a huge impact upon our society, especially on the expenditures that will have to come out of government revenues. We have to deal with this by providing solutions now.
People could be encouraged to work longer if they were able to extract their CPP, perhaps tax free. We have to expand our workforce in a way that is responsible and give people the choice to continue working if they wish to. Today, 65 years of age is the new 40. I can say that at my age very easily.
Access to education is important. Education is key to ensuring that we have a productive economy. Shockingly, access to education in our country is dependent upon the amount of money one has in one's pocket. We live in a country where we should never have to say to those who are qualified and want to get a post-secondary education that they cannot because they do not have enough money in their pockets. In the last election the Liberal Party put forth a very comprehensive series of solutions to enable our citizens access to education without hurting financially as a result.
As I said before, we have to connect some of our excellent research groups, such as Genome B.C. and the Public Health Agency of Canada, which do phenomenal research, and innovative groups such as the MaRS Centre at the University of Toronto which links up research and the utilization of that research to market.
The big issue that was not dealt with in the election campaign, much to our chagrin and to the chagrin of the Canadian public, was health care. In Canada today it is a toss-up for those who get sick as to whether or not they will get timely access to quality health care. Why on earth are we wedded to a piece of paper? Why are we not wedded to the fundamental principle of enabling our citizens, when they get sick, access to timely, quality health care when they need it, without hurting financially as a result? That is what we should be fighting for.
The old shibboleth that we have a choice merely between the Canadian system and the American system is nonsense. What about the systems that exist in the European countries, in Germany, France, Norway, and Sweden? They have better outcomes and healthier populations at a lower cost. Why is that? We do not have to study this any more, but we need to work with the provinces, the managers of health care, to enable them to implement those solutions that will enable our citizens to get the care they need when they are most vulnerable.
We are all getting older, and so too is our medical workforce population. They are getting older. They are getting burnt out, and they are leaving the profession, which means there is a smaller number of medical professionals who are able to carry on the work. We put more pressure on them, and therefore, more of them burn out. There is a crisis in our medical workforce. We need a national medical workforce strategy. We need to work with the provinces and the professional faculties to deal with this crisis, not tomorrow, but now.
The public service has been maligned and ignored by the Conservative government. No longer can that continue. If the Prime Minister really wants to work in a bipartisan fashion, he needs to listen to MPs from all parties. No longer can it be a government run by the Prime Minister’s office. A small number of people, largely unelected, cannot continue to make the decisions in our nation. The problems are too large and too complicated. There are many people with many good ideas who must be heard in order to work for the common good. The public service cannot have a situation where those of us in the opposition require somebody from a minister’s office to listen in as a spy during meetings with them. That is absolutely ridiculous.
On the international aspect, the world needs more Canada. We are in a unique position to deal with the global challenges that face us. We are part of a global society. We must work in our own self-interest, but our self-interest is tied to the interests of our fellow citizens around the globe. As the saying goes, we only have one race, the human race. The Prime Minister said that he wants to double aid to Africa. Make no mistake, that aid should be for development and should be measured in outcomes. We should focus on the millennium development goals and not simply focus on a number but on the outcomes we are having in the international field. We are at the nadir with respect to our international diplomacy. We need to deal with that.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I thank the constituents of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. Together we can work for the common good and for all of us, that is our task at hand.