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.


Address in Reply DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between all parties and I seek unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, for the purpose of considering the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne of the First Session of the 40th Parliament, Standing Order 50 be amended as follows:

Section (4) be replaced with the following:

“(4) On the third of the said days, if a subamendment be under consideration at fifteen minutes before the end of the time provided for the Address debate, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and forthwith put the question on the said subamendment”.

Address in Reply DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent?

Address in Reply DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Address in Reply DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Montreal-Trudeau AirportPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 20th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my first bill is ever passed by this House, the name of my riding will be Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine—Dorval.

I am pleased to table this petition in the House. It is signed by residents of the areas surrounding Montreal-Trudeau airport, who wish to draw the attention of the House of Commons, Parliament, the assembly and the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to the following:

The noise and pollution from the increasing number of night flights, which are exacerbating an already difficult situation, are having a negative impact on the quality of life of the residents of Dorval, Lachine, Pointe-Claire, Cartierville-Saint-Laurent and other municipalities and districts in the western part of the island of Montreal. The petitioners ask for an immediate cessation of arrivals and departures to and from Montreal-Trudeau airport between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., with the exception of those required for the following reasons: medical emergency, delays for reasons beyond the control of the carrier, poor atmospheric conditions, and flights directly linked to Canadian military operations.

I believe that the residents of areas surrounding the airport are right, and ask this House to support them.

Human TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as members of the House know, the tremendous crime of human trafficking of women and children is rising in Canada. Hundreds of petitioners from across Canada call on the government to continue its good work in combatting and stopping human trafficking across our borders and across our country. These petitions keep coming into my office because the Canadian public is increasingly more aware and more concerned about this horrendous crime.

Heavy Truck TrafficPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, in all the time I have been a member here, I have always tabled my petitions, so this is the first time I am introducing one in this way.

I attach great importance to it, because it is a petition signed by residents of Ottawa—Vanier and of other ridings on both sides of the river. The petition concerns the interprovincial bridges. People are opposed to the continuing heavy truck traffic in the heart of Canada's capital, a situation which makes their life difficult. They are also opposed to the proposal made by a consultant hired by the National Capital Commission to transfer part of this truck traffic to another area of established communities.

The petitioners therefore request that the Government of Canada require the National Capital Commission to carry out a thorough study of the option of a bridge between the Canotek industrial park to the Gatineau airport, which is option 7 in phase one of the environmental assessment of interprovincial connections.

I hope that the government will follow up on this constructive proposal by my fellow citizens.

AsbestosPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to present a petition from thousands of Canadians. They remind the House of Commons that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known and yet Canada continues to be one of the largest producers of asbestos in the world and in fact spends millions of dollars subsidizing the industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, these many petitioners argue that Canada should ban asbestos in all its forms, institute a just transition program for asbestos workers, end all government subsidies to asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam convention.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, first I want to offer my congratulations to you on being re-elected as Speaker of the House. It is a tremendous honour, one which is very well deserved. I know all of my colleagues on this side of the House wish you well for the 40th Parliament.

With respect to routine proceedings, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from November 19 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:10 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec


Stéphane Dion LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to provide the reply of the official opposition, the Liberal Party, to the Speech from the Throne that opened the 40th Parliament.

Allow me to begin by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to the speakership of the House of Commons. I would also like to congratulate all members on having been elected to this Parliament. Setting aside our partisan differences, we can all agree that it is an honour to represent and serve our fellow citizens in this House. I would like to thank the voters of Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.) for having placed their trust in me once again.

For the third time in as many elections, Canadians decided to elect a minority government. Once again, therefore, the government must work with the opposition for this Parliament to function.

Canada's Liberal Party is experiencing a period of renewal across the country, and it intends to act responsibly in its role as official opposition in a minority Parliament. Yes, we will be a responsible opposition, and we will devote our efforts to making sure that this Parliament works for the good of all Canadians during this period of economic instability.

I am disappointed to see that the NDP and the Bloc have wasted no time getting involved in one-upmanship and threatening to trigger yet another election mere weeks after Canadians went to the polls. That would be irresponsible. Canadians expect better from us. They want all of us to work together in the House to strengthen our health care system, to better protect Canadians, not just build more jails, to seize the economic potential of the fight against climate change, and to make our environment healthier.

What this Parliament does not need is a government written manual for committee chairs instructing them how to disrupt the work of vital parliamentary committees. What this Parliament does not need is a government that attempts to manufacture confidence votes on bills that simply are not matters of confidence.

What this Parliament does need, though, is a government that would finally offer Canadians a plan to see us through the economic challenges that we face.

Demanding strong action from the government on the economy will be our primary task. While reviewing every government action we will ask three key questions. First, will the government proposals protect and create jobs? Second, is the government doing all that it can to safeguard Canadians' pensions and savings? Third, of course, are the government proposals fiscally responsible? Government proposals for the economy that meet these three tests will be supported by the official opposition.

It is high time the government actually unveiled a plan that would protect jobs, that would safeguard Canadians' pensions and savings. It is high time the government showed an ounce of fiscal responsibility.

While there is no doubt that the global economic downturn has had a significant impact on Canada, that impact has been made worse by the government's previous economic mismanagement.

Our economic downturn did not start last month. It started nearly a year ago. Canada had the worst performing economy of the G-8 for the first half of 2008. In fact, so far this year, our economy has actually shrunk. It has been our worst economic growth since 1991.

Our country's labour productivity is falling further and further behind the United States. Our productivity has fallen for nine months straight, something that Canada has not seen since 1990. With the fundamentals of our economy already weakened, Canada entered the escalating economic crisis with one hand tied behind its back. The government spin does not match its record. It did not anticipate this and did nothing to prevent it. Look at the economic projections last fall when it cut the GST. The projections were rosy, they were optimistic, they were wrong.

Canadian workers are the ones who suffer the consequences of this government's failure to act. Over the course of the government’s time in office, we have seen a continual, steady, stream of jobs losses in many of our highest-paying industrial sectors, including manufacturing and forestry.

The government’s response has been a combination of indifference and ideology. And most importantly, no strategy to strengthen economic development in the various regions of the country.

To take a key example, the government refused to invest in the auto sector, saying it would not pick winners and losers. That was until it knew an election was only a few days away. Then it changed its mind. Now the finance minister is changing his mind again, saying that he is talking to people on the street who are telling him not to invest in the auto sector. As the government wrestles with its indecision, our economy continues to struggle and Canadian workers are losing their jobs.

At present, with no clear proposals, the government is simply unable to answer the question of what it will do to give Canadians confidence in their jobs. It is clear that the government has more work to do to protect Canadian savings and pensions. I can say, though, that I am pleased that the Prime Minister is expressing a new willingness to work with the G-20.

When this organization was proposed by the previous Liberal government, in fact championed by Paul Martin, the current Prime Minister called it a weak nation strategy. He was wrong then and he would still be wrong not to take full advantage of the G-20, this good Canadian idea, this Canadian success story.

I am also pleased to see that the Prime Minister now no longer believes that the Liberal economic plan for the first 30 days is a sign of panic, as he did during the election campaign.

We are happy on this side of the House that the government has adopted our proposal to accelerate already budgeted infrastructure spending, to meet with private sector experts, to bring forth a swift economic update, and to finally, after two years, meet with the premiers of the provinces and territories to coordinate economic strategies for the federation.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister showed up at that first ministers meeting with nothing besides a new cap on equalization payments in a desperate attempt to get his flailing budget under control. By effectively renouncing his equalization formula as unsustainable, he is renouncing the centrepiece of his 2007 budget, a budget that will go down in history as one of Canada's greatest missed opportunities.

I hope that when the Prime Minister looks at the economy today, he demonstrates more sensitivity and vision, and sees more than simply buying opportunities, especially because, looking at the TSX, anyone that took his advice on October 7 would have lost around 10% of the market by now.

The credit crisis is affecting some of the biggest employers in Canada. This crisis comes at the worst possible moment, at a time when the decline of the stock markets has significantly reduced the value of many companies' retirement funds. Fortunately, thanks to good management by previous Liberal governments, our public pension plan is on solid financial footing. Fortunately, Canada did not listen to the current Prime Minister when he was the Reform Party's economic adviser and recommended ending the Canada pension plan.

In fact, the Conservative government inherited from the Liberal government a pension plan, a banking system, sound economic and financial fundamentals unprecedented in the history of Canada. It took three years of Conservative government to squander that legacy. This throne speech, like the two before it, falsely give credit to the Conservative government for Liberal achievements.

If only the government were at least offering new solutions for today's problems. This government has to move beyond generalities and explain precisely how it intends to provide businesses with the flexibility they need to both stay in business and deliver the pensions that they owe to Canadian workers.

The bottom line is that in less than three years the government has destroyed the $13 billion surplus that it inherited from the previous Liberal government. The government is now talking about a deficit. This deficit would not be the result of the global economic crisis. The Liberal government managed a surplus during the Asian financial crisis, after 9/11, and in the face of SARS. This deficit would be the responsibility of the Conservative government, of the finance minister, of the Prime Minister.

Who is responsible for this deficit? This Conservative government, this Minister of Finance, this Prime Minister.

It is the Conservative government that decided not to cut taxes in a way that would stimulate the economy and boost productivity. It is the Conservative government that became the highest spending government in Canadian history. The government earned that title in both 2007 and 2008. By the next fiscal year, the government is on track to have increased government spending by 25% from 2005-06. That is more than $40 billion in new spending every year. The government may be Conservative but it is certainly not fiscally conservative.

This government is ideologically very conservative, but it is certainly not conservative in its management of public finances.

The government has been imprudent to the point of eliminating the contingency reserve that acted as a buffer, thus helping to keep Canada out of deficit during challenging economic times.

The Prime Minister said repeatedly during the election that he anticipated an economic downturn. If he saw it coming, why did he spend the surplus? More important, if he saw it coming, why did he spend the contingency reserve?

The government made the decision to leave no buffer, no room to manoeuvre, to ensure that in an economic downturn the Government of Canada would spend more money than it was bringing in, to ensure that in an economic downturn Canada would be in deficit.

Last month, the Prime Minister said that he would never run a deficit and that talk of a deficit was ridiculous. It is actually the government that looks ridiculous today.

During the election, the government misled Canadians about the possibility of a deficit. Now, with this throne speech, the government is trying to mislead Canadians about the cause of a deficit. It is the government's responsibility. It is the government's record.

The official opposition has a strong caucus and we will continue to question the government about its choices and its record.

We will do everything we can to protect the jobs, the pensions and the savings of Canadians. We will do everything we can to ensure that discipline is once again a fundamental principle in the budget.

That is what we are asking of Canadians in these difficult economic times. And that is what the official opposition intends to offer.

The official opposition does not intend to use this occasion to bring the government down. However, we do want to offer some advice and test the government’s assurances of goodwill. To that end, using some of the Prime Minister’s own words spoken in the House of Commons on October 6, 2004, when he was the leader of the opposition in a minority government, I move:

That the motion now before the House be amended by changing the period to a comma, and adding the following:

and we urge Your Excellency’s advisors

to respect the results of the election in which more than 60 percent of voters supported members of Parliament in the opposition;

to bear in mind that people express their wishes as much through the opposition as through the government;

to recognize that Canadians rightfully expect the House of Commons they just elected to function in a less partisan, more constructive and collaborative manner, with the first responsibility for setting a better tone being that of the government which requires the government to be more forthcoming than it has been up to now;

to that end, given the crucial nature of the upcoming economic and fiscal update, to provide representatives of opposition parties with a detailed briefing by appropriate senior officials at least three hours in advance of the public presentation of the update, so all members of Parliament can be properly equipped to deal with the serious economic difficulties confronting Canadians.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the leader of the official opposition for his re-election. I thank him for his comments and his speech in response to the Speech from the Throne.

However, I sense a divided Liberal opposition when it comes to the matter of working in consultation and cooperation with the government as we all face this global economic crisis. I notice with some optimism that the Leader of the Opposition has stated for the record that he is willing to work with the government to try and provide economic relief for all Canadians. Yet, with some concern, I noted in an interview on Mike Duffy Live last night that the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore has said he has really no interest in working with the government in ways to find savings through the government’s annual operating budget.

I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to state the official position of the official opposition party. Is it the words just spoken or is it the position of the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, who has basically said he does not wish to work with the government to try and find savings or to try in any way to work collaboratively with the government to deal with this economic crisis? Could he please illuminate the official position of the official opposition party?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of the government to propose a plan, especially taking into account the fact that the government is the one that is completely responsible for the deficit. It mismanaged the economy over the last three years. It did nothing to prepare the country for the current economic crisis. It has the responsibility to propose a plan, to come with proposals, to be accountable, and to be transparent, not to come with ideological cuts that are announced by the office of the Prime Minister, but to come with proposals that are discussed by the elected members of this House. This is its responsibility and we will carry out our responsibility.

Speaking about a divided caucus, what can we say about the Minister of Finance, who said that in order to hide the deficit he is ready to sell the assets of Canada? The Prime Minister contradicted him the day after. Who is speaking for the government? I guess it is the Prime Minister. I hope it is the Prime Minister. I hope they will not come with this plan to try to hide the deficit by selling assets.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, millions of Canadians are waiting desperately for bold steps from the government. They are worried about their pensions, their savings and their jobs. and yet the throne speech contains nothing on a national public transit strategy, nothing on building affordable housing, no plan to create more child care spaces and nothing for the four out of five unemployed workers who cannot access employment insurance.

What I hear from the Leader of the Opposition is about what has occurred in past various governments. We have not heard any bold steps nor concrete suggestions. What I did hear was that the plan in the throne speech was ridiculous. If the speech is ridiculous and there is nothing bold or strategic for suffering Canadians, why is the Leader of the Opposition supporting this ridiculous plan he just spent 15 minutes saying that it is not worthy of support? I do not understand.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that she would appear ridiculous going door to door in her riding next week asking her constituents to vote for her. She would appear completely ridiculous and she knows that. Her leader knows that as well. This is a game.

She is right about the lack of precision in dealing with pensions, jobs and savings but we need to keep Parliament working. She must ask these questions of the government and for all of us. That would not be possible if we were to go back to an election. All of us would appear ridiculous.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in reading the Speech from the Throne, there are a number of statements on which I am sure members could give speeches all by themselves. One statement is on page 15 of the English version where it states, allegedly, the position of the government. It reads:

Canada's institutions are the cornerstone of our democracy, our freedom and our prosperity.

However, I wonder if that is the view of Canadians after seeing what happened to the head of the Nuclear Safety Commission. I wonder what Canadians would think if they were asked about respect for Parliament and its legislation for fixed election dates. I wonder what they would think about the government challenging the authority of and voting non-confidence in the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.

The Leader of the Opposition has been sued himself. I wonder if he believes, like I believe, that the government cannot be trusted at its word.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have another example. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister said that there would be no deficit and now he is presenting a deficit.

How can we trust the government? The question is certainly relevant. The government said that it would have a new attitude, a new mood and that it would have a cooperative approach. We will take it at its word and see if that is the case.

The official opposition will do its job. We will keep the government accountable. We will ask for more transparency, We will ask for a plan to help our pensions, our savings, our jobs, and to ask for respect for the officials of this country who are not partisan and should not be considered partisan each time they give advice to the government that it does not like.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario


Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments with interest. Perhaps he lives in a bubble and is not aware of what is going on globally right now.

I would like to know if he could make a couple of simple acknowledgements for members of the House. Would he acknowledge that Canada is the only G-8 nation that is currently running an operating surplus, paying down debt and reducing taxes? Would he acknowledge that over 800,000 jobs have been created since January 23, 2006? Would he acknowledge that consumer demand in Canada remains robust? The auto industry in Canada is a great example. Its sales were up 1.4% in October of this year over October of last year.

That is the record of this government and the effect of economic stimulus in the economy. At the same time, the U.S. demand is off some 50% in the automotive industry.

Would the member acknowledge that those are the global issues that we are seeing?

He cannot really talk about things in isolation. He cannot live in a bubble like his speech indicated, which is that we can somehow isolate Canada and look at these things in isolation. It really seems like he is ignoring so many of the global problems.

Would the member acknowledge the outstanding record of this government on so many fronts because his speech did not?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will acknowledge that we had a strong economy in the past, thanks to the hard work of Canadians and sound Liberal policies over a decade.

It was foreseeable that one day an economic crisis would come from abroad. We are not in isolation. We were not in isolation when we had SARS. We were not in isolation when we had 9/11. We prepared the country for that.

Why did the Prime Minister get rid of the contingency reserve of $3 billion? There was no reason for that except mismanagement on the part of the Conservative government. I am not alone in saying that. I will read what the parliamentary budget officer wrote:

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

The Conservative government is responsible for this deficit and it has the responsibility to come up with a plan, a plan that we want to see as soon as possible, which is why we want this Parliament to continue to work.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:40 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta


Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

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

I would like to begin by congratulating you once again, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election as Speaker and, through you, I would like to also congratulate all members of the House of Commons on their re-election.

I would also, in particular, like to thank the people of Calgary for electing me to the House of Commons for the fifth time. I have now been returned for the riding of Calgary Southwest four times in just a little over six years. Calgary is, in so many ways, a remarkable community. Dare I say that there are few like it where a young man with neither roots nor connections could have been given the opportunities I have been given and I am deeply thankful for these. In particular, I thank the people of Calgary Southwest for the enormous latitude they have given me to travel around this country and others while remaining their local representative.

Of course we are all here because of the election of October 14. Nearly 15 million Canadians voted in our 40th general election. In doing so, they were performing their civic duty, expressing their hopes for the country and leaving their mark on our shared history and destiny.

I am honoured that Canadians chose to give our government another and strengthened mandate. It is often difficult for incumbent governments to receive strengthened mandates but it is rare, indeed, to receive a stronger mandate during difficult economic times. However, that is precisely what happened in the election.

Our Conservative government, while still a minority, now has one of the broadest and most balanced mandates from across the country of governments elected in the past generation. We have moved beyond the time where governments swept huge regions entirely while being virtually shut out in other huge parts of the country. This is reflected in the breadth and depth of talent in our new caucus and cabinet.

If you will indulge a hockey analogy, Mr. Speaker, the core of experienced veterans on our cabinet team has been strengthened by the addition of several impressive rookies. This has given our line-up balance, with ministers from 10 of the 13 provinces and territories and, as well, we have one of the largest proportions of female cabinet ministers in Canadian history.

This representative breadth of our government has also been bolstered by a marked increase in our support among new Canadians from our country's vast array of cultural communities. The government will continue to build a peaceful, prosperous and pluralistic country where everyone enjoys equal opportunities to get ahead, where healthy families flourish in safe communities, where reward for individual initiative is balanced with collective commitment to helping people in need and where different faiths, languages and traditions all contribute to our rich cultural heritage.

Just as Canadians are a people who have come from different and sometimes antagonistic backgrounds and yet have managed to create one of the most harmonious societies on earth, so we as their representatives should resolve to put aside clearly partisan considerations and try, wherever possible, to work cooperatively for the benefit of Canada. This would not only serve to reinvigorate this chamber, it would also help us deal with the enormous challenges that confront Canada as a part of the global economy; challenges that have only grown since our election concluded just five short weeks ago.

Indeed, if there has been a silver lining to the global economic crisis, it has been the desire of governments thus far to come together in pursuit of common solutions. I have seen this in my meetings with our premiers and the world witnessed it at the unprecedented G-20 leaders summit held in Washington this past weekend.

If we can come to some consensus among the diverse governments of the world, many of whom have had long-standing and intractable conflicts, surely we can work more productively and cooperatively here within a single Parliament.

The Government of Canada is very pleased with the positions taken at the G-20 summit. There is a common understanding of the macroeconomic measures necessary to respond to a slowing global economy. There is an action plan for better national regulation of financial institutions and markets with transparent international assessments of countries' financial sectors and there is an endorsement of free and open economic policies with an explicit rejection of the temptations of protectionism.

That these positions are so close to those of Canada is not surprising. First, they reflect Canada's economic values: open trade and free markets, governed by prudent policy and sound regulation. We have long avoided the extremes of either protectionist economics on the one hand or ungoverned markets on the other, that, whatever their appeal, invariably leads to heartbreak for businesses, consumers and workers alike.

Second, they reflect Canada's position in the world today, particularly our relative strength among developed economies.

I will just review some of those strengths and I will quote no less an authority than the world economic forum, the world's soundest banking system. We have, thanks to prudent financial management in recent years, the strongest fiscal position of any of the major industrialized countries.

In less than three years, our government has paid down $37 billion on the national debt. That has given us the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G-7, which means we have greater fiscal flexibility than most other nations.

Taxes have been cut across the board: sales taxes, income taxes, business taxes and further tax cuts are built into our fiscal framework. Furthermore, our public pensions are actuarially sound and our government has increased social benefits to bolster the financial security of Canadian households, such as through the creation of the universal child care benefit, bolstered transfers to provincial programs of health and post-secondary education, and enhancement of the guaranteed income supplement.

These measures have been helping Canadians live within their means instead of beyond their means, as has occurred in so many other countries.

Nevertheless, as I have said, Canada is in a position of only relative strength in the global economy, and the global economy is entering a period that world leaders have concluded is as dire as anything we have faced in many decades. We have been affected and we will be further affected, particularly given that our closest neighbour and largest trading partner is at the epicentre of the financial earthquake and global slowdown.

The collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market in the United States set off shockwaves around the world, paralyzed international credit markets, caused bank failures in New York and London and financial crises in countries like Iceland and Hungary, and resulted in extreme gyrations in stock and commodity markets, and plummeting consumer spending in the hardest-hit countries, including the U.S.

As a consequence, our investments have suffered, our property values have softened, and some of our export markets have already contracted, but ever since this crisis began over a year ago, we have been moving decisively to counteract its effects. Our early fiscal stimulus in the form of long-term reductions in consumer, personal, and business taxes has bolstered domestic spending and improved our attractiveness for investment. Our legislation strengthening the Bank of Canada's ability to provide liquidity for our domestic credit markets has been essential, and to guard against the U.S.-style real estate implosion, we acted to limit mortgage terms and to establish minimum down payments.

Due to these actions, when the global crisis deepened this fall, Canada has been able to avoid some of the riskier and more expensive actions other governments were forced to take.

For example, we have not had to spend billions of dollars to buy into or bail out crumbling financial institutions. Instead, in Canada we have maintained stability through carefully targeted commercial interventions designed to preserve the inherent strength of our banking sector and to help it maintain liquidity and provide credit.

Our commitment to purchase insured mortgages through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has ensured that our financial institutions would keep lending to individuals and businesses. Our new Canadian Lenders Assurance Facility created the confidence needed to facilitate continued interbank lending. These actions have been very helpful in the financial sector, as have the monitoring policy actions undertaken by the Bank of Canada, often in coordination with other countries.

At the same time, some of these actions are unprecedented; indeed, we would probably not have considered some of them even a short time ago.

And it become very clear at the G-20 summit that further actions, possibly including further unprecedented actions, may be necessary.

It is becoming apparent that financial and monetary actions may not be sufficient to deal with the present crisis. Already governments around the world have been responding with large budgetary actions, and we will see many more. China has announced a half-trillion dollar package to bolster domestic spending; the United Kingdom and the United States, though already deeply in deficit, are moving ahead with additional fiscal stimulus.

In short, world governments have resolved that they will undertake whatever financial, monetary and budgetary measures are necessary to cope with the crisis, and, let me be clear, this is also the position of the Government of Canada.

We will undertake whatever short-term fiscal measures are necessary to be part of a global economic solution to a global economic problem. We will do so while ensuring that our country's fundamental strengths and competitive advantages are still in place when the turmoil subsides.

To that end, it is critically important that we avoid returning to the structural deficits that so handicapped Canada during the middle and late 20th century. Twenty-seven consecutive years of annual federal deficits led our government to the brink of national insolvency. Fortunately, in the 1990s a bipartisan consensus developed here and in virtually all of our provincial governments that such structural deficits had to be eliminated. This strong fiscal framework has allowed us to act early in this crisis and to keep our economy stronger thus far than has been the case in other industrialized nations.

Once again, I think we can all agree that balancing the budget by raising taxes, by cutting essential government activity or by refusing necessary intervention in the midst of a global economic crisis would be a cure worse than the disease. We will have to act in the months to come while clearly ensuring that Canada does not return to ongoing or structural deficits.

Once again, I think we can all agree that balancing the budget by raising taxes, by cutting essential government activity, or by refusing necessary intervention in the midst of a global economic crisis would be a cure worse than the disease. We will have to act in the months to come to clearly ensure that Canada does not return to ongoing or structural deficits.

The Minister of Finance will provide greater assessment and detail in his economic and fiscal statement next week during this debate on the Speech from the Throne, but I will mention the essential elements.

We will conduct a thorough strategic review of all departmental program spending plans for the next four years, and in fact the President of the Treasury Board began this process a year and a half ago.

All grants, contributions and capital expenditures will be scrutinized carefully with a view to streamlining operations, making service delivery more efficient and saving taxpayers money.

All departments and agencies will be required to produce detailed quarterly financial statements accessible to parliamentarians and the public so that expenditures are subject to regular ongoing scrutiny.

All crown corporations and assets will also be subjected to strategic review to ensure they are still providing essential services to Canadians.

Public service compensation costs will be held in check.

In keeping with our commitment to fiscal balance, the Canada health transfer and Canada social transfer to the provinces will continue to grow as planned on a principled, sustainable basis. Equalization payments will also grow at a sustainable rate tied to the overall growth of our economy.

In addition to the budgetary measures we will take in the form of both long-term savings and short-term fiscal stimulus, our government is committed to actions that will stimulate investment, help workers and businesses adapt to rapidly changing markets at home and abroad, and create new and better job opportunities for Canadians. Some of these measures were laid out in our election platform and will be pursued over the course of our mandate.

To encourage investment specifically in our uranium mining and airline sectors, we will raise the threshold for foreign investment reviews. We will negotiate reciprocal treatment for Canadian businesses with our trading partners, while retaining the right to block foreign investment if it jeopardizes national security.

To stimulate investment and employment in the automotive and aerospace sectors, our government will increase funding for the automotive innovation fund and the strategic aerospace and defence initiative.

We are watching developments very carefully in the automotive sector, both here and south of the border. Any intervention by Canada will only be done if it is in the overall interest of the Canadian economy and if it is in sufficient regard for the interests of Canadian taxpayers.

To ensure that all our manufacturers continue to transform in a competitive global economy, we have already provided accelerated tax writeoffs for investments in machinery and equipment. We will also reduce tariffs on imported machinery and equipment.

We will also continue to support and encourage private sector research, development and commercialization of new products and innovations through our national science and technology strategy. For example, we will make further investments in Waterloo's Institute for Quantum Computing, an emerging world leader in the areas of computer, engineering, mathematical and physical sciences.

As well, while investing in the industries and jobs of tomorrow, our government is supporting the traditional industries that have long formed the sturdy foundation of Canada’s economy. In some sectors and regions, those industries have been buffeted by a perfect storm of currency fluctuation, declining demand and increased foreign competition. One-industry communities have been particularly hard hit, and our government has responded with funding that supports local economic diversification, employment retraining and assistance for older workers.

However, there is more we can do to support traditional industries.

For the mining sector, we will extend the mineral exploration tax credit.

For the forestry sector, we will extend support for international marketing efforts and provide incentives to create energy from biomass.

For agriculture, we will invest in slaughterhouse capacity across Canada, maintain support for supply-managed sectors, and continue to champion marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers.

In our globalized economy, no country can escape international downturns altogether.

During such periods, governments have a duty to help families and communities bridge the gap between downturn and recovery.

It is also our duty to ensure that when a downturn occurs, Canada is last in, least affected, and first out. Our government has already taken numerous measures to achieve the first two objectives. To achieve the third, we are investing in the national infrastructure and economic development that will carry us to recovery.

Our Building Canada plan is the most ambitious infrastructure renewal effort in half a century. It involves roads, bridges, ports, border crossings, water treatment facilities airports and much more, in communities large and small from coast to coast. The federal and provincial governments will be working to accelerate these investments over the coming year.

We are also working to complete Canada's broadband Internet network, so Canadians in rural communities will have equal access to cyberspace.

As well, to further ensure equal opportunities for all Canadians, our government will restore the funding to Canada's three major regional economic development agencies, funding that was cut by our predecessors.

We will also make federal regional development funding available for the first time to communities with high unemployment in southern Ontario. We will establish a new agency dedicated to the economic development of Canada's far north, our magnificent Arctic frontier that holds such incredible potential to fuel our future prosperity.

To be at the forefront of recovery, Canada needs a healthy small business sector and skilled labour force. Our government will unleash the entrepreneurial energy and creativity of our country by further raising their tax thresholds and by indexing their lifetime capital gains exemptions to inflation.

With the resumption of Parliament, we will continue to implement the federal paper burden reduction initiative for small and medium size businesses. We will establish a venture capital fund that will help entrepreneurs get new products off the drawing board and into the marketplace.

Furthermore, we will assist young entrepreneurs with families by increasing their access to maternity and parental leave benefits through the employment insurance system.

Skilled tradesmen and women are already in short supply in some sectors and regions, so our government is taking action to ensure that Canada has the workers we need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. We have provided tax deductions and credits for apprentices and the companies that hire them. Next we will introduce cash bonuses for apprentices who complete their training programs.

We are also tackling the massive backlog in our immigration system by prioritizing applicants with the skills our economy needs immediately and by working with the provinces to ensure that the credentials of skilled immigrants are recognized across Canada.

There are other fronts on which we need to act with our provinces and territories. Our government will push forward a national effort to produce a strong agreement on internal economic union by 2010 in order to reduce interprovincial trade barriers, improve labour mobility and increase investment.

We also intend to press for a common securities regulator, as demanded by much of our business community. The Hockin report will be released no later than January, and we are pleased that virtually all provinces are open to examining its proposals.

The same principles, open and well regulated markets will guide our efforts to expand Canada's international trade relations. We are especially looking forward to working with the new administration in Washington, to strengthen the deep bonds of friendship and cooperation with our good neighbour and largest trading partner.

We will work closely to ensure our mutual protection while seeking to limit any obstacles to trade and travel undertaken in the name of U.S. national security. We will also emphasize that assured access of Canadian energy to U.S. markets is essential for the Americans' own security.

We have a real opportunity to work with the new American administration on an economically balanced North American strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

We will not put all of our eggs in one basket.

Our government will urge Parliament to quickly ratify trade agreements we have concluded with the European Free Trade Association, Peru, Colombia and Jordan. We will also actively pursue new trade and investment agreements in Asia, the Americas and Europe. And we will continue expanding our network of overseas trade offices in countries such as China, Mongolia, Mexico, Brazil and India, developing countries whose economies continue to have healthy levels of economic growth.

Throughout Canada's history our economic growth and prosperity has often been disproportionately driven by a handful of commodities. At various times fish, fur, timber and wheat were primary sources of our national wealth. Today for the foreseeable future energy is a major driver of our economy.

Globally, we are first in hydroelectricity production, first in uranium production, third in natural gas production and fifth in overall energy production, with the second largest oil reserves in the world.

We are poised to tap the enormous energy reserves in the Arctic and to build the pipelines that will deliver it to markets across this continent. We have the raw material and potential to join the worldwide renaissance in the production of clean, safe nuclear power.

We will also increase production of clean energy, including ensuring that we generate 90 percent of our electricity from non-emitting sources by 2020. We will invest billions of dollars in renewable energy sources, including biofuels, wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power.

We will insist on upgrading raw bitumen in Canada before sending it for upgrading to countries with less stringent emission standards than our own.

To this point, my reply to the Speech from the Throne is focused on our plan to protect Canada and Canadians from the turmoil in the global economy.

But our government understands that Canadians also want us to take action on a broad range of other issues, and we intend to do so over the course of our new mandate.

Just as we are protecting Canada's economic security, we are taking action to protecting the health and safety of Canadians. This includes action on food and product safety, health care, safe streets and communities and protecting our national sovereignty and security. Canadians want assurance that the food, drugs and consumer products they buy are safe for their families.

Our government will reintroduce new food and consumer product safety measures that will provide for more inspection, testing and recall provisions for food, drugs, toys and other consumer products.

We will also launch an independent investigation of the listeriosis outbreak this past August and we will implement the food safety action plan, which will provide the Canada Food Inspection Agency with the necessary personnel and resources to improve safety systems.

Our government will also take further steps to improve Canada’s health care system, including initiatives that will help increase recruitment and retention of doctors and nurses. And we will launch national strategies within our federal jurisdiction to specifically tackle lung and neurological diseases.

Serious and violent crime is obviously a threat and growing concern to Canadian families and communities. Our government has already instituted numerous criminal justice reforms to restore the primacy of the rights of law-abiding citizens and to make our streets and communities safer. However, more must be done to deal with the intersection of guns, gangs and drugs, the main sources of violent crime.

Our government will end house arrest for those convicted of serious crimes such as robbery, arson, impaired driving causing death and kidnapping. We will introduce legislation to target violent crimes committed by criminal gangs. We will also deliver on our commitment to reform the youth criminal justice system.

Young people who are at risk of wandering off the path of law-abiding citizenship deserve our compassion and support. And our government will increase funding to help prevent at-risk youth from falling into the criminal lifestyle.

However, Canadians deserve protection from anyone who commits violent and repeat crimes and we will reform the young offenders legislation to achieve this objective.

We will also uphold our commitment to end the long gun registry, which is not only wasteful but has served to target law-abiding Canadians, especially rural Canadians, instead of dealing with gun crime.

The federal government has no greater duty than to protect our national sovereignty and security. For generations the Canadian Forces have proudly and honourably upheld this duty at home and abroad. Our government will continue to implement the Canada first defence strategy, our long-term plan to ensure our brave men and women in uniform have the resources they need to protect our security at home and to project our values abroad.

As it has been since 2001, the NATO-led UN sanctioned mission to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan will be our primary overseas deployment. We have made tremendous contributions at tremendous cost to the Afghanistan mission. As Parliament resolved earlier this year, we will continue to transform Canada's engagement in Afghanistan to focus on reconstruction and development in preparation for the end of the military mission in 2011.

Canada will also continue working for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world. To that end, our government will establish an independent agency to promote international democratic governance. And we will proceed with our planned increases to foreign aid, including our commitment to double aid to Africa this year.

Our government is also committed to ensuring our sovereignty over Canada's Arctic. We will continue working to assert our jurisdiction over the lands and waters of our Arctic Archipelago under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We will also expand our jurisdiction over the region under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act and require mandatory notification of any foreign vessels entering Canadian territorial waters.

As well, we will proceed with a new polar class icebreaker named in honour of our late Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker.

Further, by the same logic that we need to control and protect our offshore waters, our government will move to protect our precious inland fresh waters. Therefore, we will introduce legislation to ban all bulk water transfers or exports of water from Canada's freshwater basins.

We Canadians are blessed to live in a mature, time-tested democracy. But as I said at the outset of my remarks today, we need to work together as parliamentarians to ensure the effectiveness of our democratic process.

Our political institutions and rules should be modernized in order to be relevant and credible in today's world. Our government will once again give Parliament the opportunity to act on Senate reform by reintroducing legislation that will set fixed terms for senators and give voters a say in their selection.

Our government will also ensure that growing provinces like Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta receive representation in the House of Commons that more fairly reflects their increased populations.

Building on the sweeping initiatives of our first mandate to take corporations, unions and big money out of political party and candidate financing, we will also be reintroducing legislation to prevent candidates for federal political office from receiving large private loans on a non-commercial basis.

We will reduce the number of appointees to federal boards, agencies, commissions and crown corporations, in concert with reforming the selection process. Finally, we will continue to constrain the use of the federal spending power and focus our efforts on improving our own areas of jurisdiction.

Our government has received a mandate for the agenda it will place before this Parliament, but our most urgent and pressing task will be to act pragmatically, carefully and expeditiously in dealing with the global economic crisis and the risks it presents for our country. The evolving nature of the crisis will condition our response and I invite members of all parties to provide constructive input into shaping that response. However, whatever the situation, I have no doubt that Canada will rise to this challenge.

Throughout its long history, Canada has been tested many times by economic and political upheaval that erupted in other parts of the world. Each time, our country has faced those challenges and emerged stronger than before.

In the midst of today's global economic crisis we are looking at a future with unprecedented uncertainty, but we can say that few countries are better prepared or better endowed to deal with it. When the world comes to the Olympics here in Vancouver and Whistler in just a little over a year, it will see a remarkable country. Canada's economy, like Canada's people, is durable and resilient. We are blessed with an incomparable abundance of natural resources. We have a hard-working and highly educated labour force that can adapt to a modern economy and our country is strong, compassionate and outward looking.

Working together, Canadians will overcome the current economic challenges and our great country of compassion and openness will come through this period of global economic instability stronger than ever.

If we ourselves pledge to work together in the service of this country, I have no doubt that we will emerge from these troubled times stronger, better and more united than ever before.

Let us protect, all together, our families and our future.

God bless the true north strong and free.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:20 a.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating the Prime Minister on his re-election.

I would also like to remind the Prime Minister that it was he who appointed Mr. Kevin Page as our dispassionate and independent Parliamentary Budget Officer. This is significant, because Mr. Page came out with a report this morning which leaves the Prime Minister absolutely nowhere to hide in terms of direct and personal responsibility for Canada's impending budget deficit, the first in more than a decade.

On page 16 of his report, Mr. Page wrote, “The weak fiscal performance to date”--that means a deficit is coming--“is largely attributable to previous policy decisions”--that means actions by the government--“as opposed to weakened economic conditions”--that means the global economic crisis.

In black and white, the Prime Minister's own appointee has said that our impending deficits, and he says we will be in deficit for at least the next two years, is due to actions taken by the government and not to a deteriorating global economy or Canadian economy. These are actions like reckless spending increases by the finance minister, to the point where he is the biggest spender in Canadian history; the erosion of the tax base; and, worst of all, the spending of Canada's contingency reserve, which is our safeguard against going back into deficit.

Would the Prime Minister admit, coming from his own appointee, Kevin Page, that he has no longer anywhere to hide, that the deficit is not the fault of the international community, and that he and his reckless finance minister are the sole proprietors of Canada's deficit?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:20 a.m.


Stephen Harper Conservative Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I also will begin by personally congratulating the member for Markham—Unionville on his own re-election to the House of Commons.

First, I think we need to correct the facts. There are numerous prognostications about the future. The Minister of Finance will deliver his fiscal update in the week to come and that will provide the facts to all members of Parliament. However, let us be clear on what the facts are today.

Canada remains in surplus and, indeed, is one of the very few industrialized countries in the world to do so. This government undertook last year, as this crisis began, to act earlier than most other countries, by engaging in long-term fiscal stimulus both on the tax side and in infrastructure investments. We make no apologies for those actions. Those actions deliberately reduced the size of the surplus. As the hon. member who was once an esteemed economist knows, at a time of an economic downturn the government puts activity into the economy; it does not horde it in the government itself. That is what this government did. We did it earlier, whereas other countries are doing it later. They are already in deficit. They are increasing their deficits. In many cases they have structural deficits.

This government will act further in concert with our G-20 partners to ensure there is a global aggregate demand in the world. We will do so in a way that maintains a structural balance in this country. We will undertake some short-term economic stimulus. At the same time, we will undertake long-term savings to ensure that we do not go into structural deficit.

To the extent that the Liberal Party is critical of increases in spending, I would hope that means that in this Parliament the Liberal Party will cease to urge this government to spend more on everything. In fact, I would expect that the Liberal Party will be coming forward with specific suggestions for savings following its own electoral platform which said that the Liberals could find $12 billion in federal savings. As I said to the Leader of the Opposition, I look forward to the Liberal Party's advice.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

11:25 a.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree that we are in a period of economic and financial turmoil. I think it is important to invest taxpayers' money prudently at this time.

I wish to make a connection between the Speech from the Throne and the current rejuvenation of the Canadian armed forces. The Prime Minister just mentioned it again in his speech. We have some extremely important thoughts on the subject. First of all, does the Prime Minister realize that, before updating or purchasing anything, what we need is a foreign affairs policy? A defence policy would also be necessary.

We believe that “Canada first” is not a defence strategy. It is merely a shopping list that the government has put on the table. We could convey our negative reaction to the throne speech and the $6 billion allocated to aerospace contracts, for example. I would remind the Prime Minister that 55% of Canada's aerospace industry is in Quebec. The Prime Minister needs to think about that.

Those contracts are awarded through an untendered bidding process and American companies are the ones that walk away with our money. There are practically no economic spinoffs here, least of all in Quebec. The problem is that the $16 billion will not generate any economic spinoffs in Quebec.

It is up to the government to do so. It is the government that awards the contracts. It must impose its conditions and stipulate how they must be carried out. It does this in the auto sector. It does this everywhere, except in the aerospace sector in Quebec. The free market runs its course and Quebec loses contracts. This is unacceptable.

I am asking the Prime Minister if he will insist that a majority of aerospace contracts, that is, 55%, be given back to Quebec.

Will he let go of his laissez-faire ideology? It is important for Quebec to have its fair share, specifically, 55% of the contracts. The Prime Minister must abandon his laissez-faire ideology and impose these conditions in order to give Quebec its fair share of contracts.