Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents of Chatham-Kent--Essex for giving me the honour once more to represent them in the House of Commons.
I would also like to thank all of the volunteers who gave their time and energy during the election to make this happen.
Finally, I would also like to thank my wife Faye and my children: Jeremy and his wife Joeline; Rachael and her husband Justin; Michael and his wife Angela; David and his wife Katie; Joel; Andrea and her husband John; Adam and his wife Melany; and Eric and his wife Katie. Without their support I think it is quite obvious that this would have been a much different task.
Yesterday, we were graced by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, who opened the 40th Parliament and laid out for Canadians the government's plan and agenda for the upcoming Parliament.
We have all just returned from our grueling campaign trails and so I take this time also to congratulate all of those returning and those newly elected to this House. The election race gave us the opportunity to face our constituents, the ones who have placed us here. The time also gave us the chance to listen to them very closely. After all, this is why we are here, to represent them in Ottawa.
I would like to tell the House a bit about my riding of Chatham-Kent--Essex. It is situated at the southern most part of this great country in southwestern Ontario. It is an area that has been blessed with some of the greatest agricultural land in all of Canada. It is a cornucopia of agriculture. It lies within the shadow of Detroit and the headquarters of the Detroit three, and has many satellite factories supplying parts for our all important auto industry.
The largest community, Chatham, has produced trucks at the Navistar plant for many years and has earned a proud tradition of workmanship that goes back three or four generations of craftsmanship.
Much of my riding lies along the shore of Lake Erie where, for instance, the town of Wheatley boasts the largest freshwater fishing port in the world.
At the base of the furthest land bridge of southern Canada, Point Pelee, lies the booming Municipality of Leamington, the tomato capital of Canada, where we will find the largest collection of farms under glass, namely greenhouses, in North America.
My colleagues can see that I am quite proud of my riding and like most insist it is the greatest riding in all of Canada. That is why I am so happy to reply to the Speech from the Throne today.
As I stated earlier, we have all had an opportunity to engage in a level of dialogue with our constituents that is normally impossible during an election.
I am happy to hear what our government plans to do and has done in the past two and a half years to address what the people of Chatham-Kent--Essex have told me.
First, my constituents wanted a government that would manage the global uncertainties that the storm clouds of economic chaos threaten to bring. I will be glad to bring back to them the report from the throne speech, a report that sets out a five prong plan.
The plan would reform the global financial system by working with our allies and trading partners to re-examine and renew the rules that underpin the global financial system.
Second, the plan would ensure sound budgeting by ensuring that Canada does not return to ongoing, unsustainable structural deficits while putting all federal expenditures under the microscope of responsible spending.
Third, our government's plan would secure jobs for families and communities by encouraging the skilled trades and apprenticeships, supporting workers facing transition, and providing further support to the automotive and aerospace industries.
Fourth, it would expand investment and trade by modernizing investment, competition and copyright laws while working with the United States to address shared challenges and pursuing trade agreements in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Finally, the plan would make government more effective by reducing red tape, fixing procurement, improving program and service delivery, and improving the management of federal agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations.
In addition to detailing the core economic priorities of the government, the Speech from the Throne also outlined other areas where our Conservative government will be looking to deliver results for Canadians.
We would secure our energy future by developing our rich energy resources and pursuing new, cleaner energy supplies, including further development of the natural gas resources in Canada's north. The government would also ensure it is ready to regulate new nuclear projects.
We would tackle climate change and preserve Canada's environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020, ensuring that 90% of our electricity needs are met by non-emitting sources by the same deadline and banning bulk water exports.
We would help all Canadians participate by further improving the universal child care benefit, increasing access to maternity and parental benefits under employment insurance, and acting to help Canadians who care for loved ones with disabilities.
We would keep Canadians safe by strengthening the sentences for serious criminal offences, putting in place new rules for food and product safety, and introducing a new national security statement.
We would contribute to global security by ensuring that our foreign policy is based on Canadian values, rebuilding the Canadian Forces with the best possible equipment, and transforming the Canadian mission in Afghanistan to focus more on reconstruction and development.
We would build stronger institutions, including moving toward representation by population in the House of Commons for British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, introducing fixed terms for senators, allowing for senate nominees to be selected by voters, and enshrining the government's respect for provincial and territorial jurisdiction in a charter of open federalism.
This is precisely the kind of news my constituents would be very glad to hear.
For example, in that little town of Wheatley with the fishing port, there is a shipbuilder, Hike Metal, which has built some pretty amazing ships, such as research vessels, police patrols, hydrofoils, and auto ferries. The owner spoke to me about the recent government procurement to build RCMP rescue boats. He showed me the stack of paper, a long and complicated application, that would just qualify his company and told me that it was his responsibility to do the architectural drawings at his cost. He submitted the documents, only to find them non-compliant and was asked to resubmit. This was not the first time, nor is he the only shipbuilder being frustrated by our procurement system. In fact, he has told me he is ready to stop bidding on government jobs, and that would be a shame since he has proved he has the capability and the experience to build many of these ships, and in so doing has provided important jobs in the process.
I will be very glad to go to him and tell him about the government's commitment to make government more effective by reducing red tape and fixing the procurement system.
I will be going to the greenhouse growers of Leamington and assuring them that the commitment to the border crossing at Windsor, which is so essential to cross-border trade, is still in place.
Do members know that there are 20 million people who live within a 24-hour delivery area of Leamington's circle? The people of Leamington realized this and built a billion-dollar industry around the fact. However, produce with a limited shelf life cannot be held up at the border. That is why I know these greenhouse growers will be glad to hear that our commitment to the border crossing is still in place.
Furthermore, they will be glad to hear about our government's commitment to strengthen existing trade agreements, as well as expanding into new agreements.
I know that they were very happy to see us act early in the fall of 2007 and introduce the stimulus package that kept their industry competitive when they struggled with the combined force of a high dollar and high energy costs. They will be glad to hear we will stay the course because if we give Canadians an equal footing, I know we can compete with any market.
I know that many people working in our factories that supply Detroit automakers will be happy to hear our industry minister has gone to Washington to take part in the discussions with the automakers on ways to save our North American auto industry.
They will also be glad to see our government's commitment in the Speech from the Throne to do its part. This will be done by encouraging skilled trades and apprenticeships, and providing further support to the automotive and aerospace industries by methods like the automotive innovation fund. That fund helped save the Essex Ford engine assembly plant after Ford retooled and showed a plan to develop new diesel engines and the development of a new generation of gas engines.
I know that seniors with savings will be glad to hear that our banking system has been rated the best in the world. This is the result of economic banking rules and pre-emptive moves last year that shielded our banking system from the disastrous policies that have caused so many banks in the United States and around the world to fail.
Young families will be glad to hear that the government will further improve the universal child care benefit of which so many of them have expressed their appreciation during the election.
Those seniors and families will also be glad to hear that the government is committed to keeping them safe by strengthening the sentences for serious criminal offences and putting in place new rules for food and product safety, and introducing a new national security statement.
At this time of extraordinary global economic challenge and uncertainty, I know my constituents will be very glad with the course our government has laid out in the throne speech. They indicated to me that they expected our government to manage our country through this challenge in a responsible and prudent fashion. This is what we will deliver.
The last election returned our government with an added mandate, increasing our numbers, and thereby renewing confidence in the government.
Our government is committed to provide Canadians with the strong leadership that they expect from us. I believe that Canada will emerge from this challenge both stronger and more united. This will be accomplished by the prudent, responsible actions set out by the government.