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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

Oral QuestionsPoint of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to deal with something that happened during question period. I would like to know if there was a problem with interpretation when my colleague and House Leader of the Bloc Québécois, the member for Joliette, asked a supplementary question. My colleague was directing a question to the Minister of Finance on retirees who are worried about their savings literally evaporating because of the economic crisis and it was the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development who gave us a canned answer about employment insurance. Her reply had nothing to do with the question about retirees' savings directed to the Minister of Finance.

Oral QuestionsPoint of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member, having been in the chamber for quite some time and being the opposition whip for the Bloc Québécois, is well aware of the Standing Orders. It is the government that decides who gets up to answer which questions.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 20th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, this has to do with House business. I would be interested to have from the government House leader his forecast of the agenda going forward.

As I ask him this question, the first time I have had to ask the so-called Thursday question in this new Parliament, I want to congratulate the government House leader on his new appointment and hope that the relationship among House leaders is one that works well as we go forward.

Could he provide to the House the information that is usually given about the game plan for next week? I note that the Minister of Finance indicated a certain time for the economic statement next Thursday afternoon at four o'clock. I wonder if that means that what remains of the throne speech debate would carry over then into the Friday of next week. Could the House leader tell us if that is his intention?

Specifically, on the economic statement, could he indicate if a decision has been taken yet as to whether the statement will be delivered in a parliamentary committee, or in the House in committee of the whole, or as a statement by a minister or in some other venue altogether?

Could he also say whether there will be a briefing provided to members of the opposition before the presentation of the statement so it can be treated with the seriousness that it deserves, given the gravity of Canadian economic circumstances at the present time?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I also congratulate the official opposition House leader for his reappointment to that position. I look forward to working with him and the House leaders of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party in the days, weeks, months and hopefully years ahead as we work productively on the part of Canadians in this 40th Parliament.

I will get to quite a number of questions that the hon. member had in relation to the economic and fiscal update later on in my short statement.

First, Mr. Speaker I thank you and congratulate you on being re-elected to serve this House as our Speaker. I also congratulate all members of Parliament who were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by their voters to serve their constituents in this 40th Parliament. I believe it is a great honour to be given that trust and we must be mindful of how we keep that trust and conduct ourselves accordingly.

I want to reassure you, Mr. Speaker, that you will have my co-operation in your efforts to run a smooth and productive House of Commons. I trust that all members will work together in an effort to bring more civility to our debates. I am greatly encouraged at the demeanour and the decorum that we witnessed today in the question period. I do not know whether it was evident to viewers watching the telecast at home, but the noise level was considerably lower than when we left last June.

Hopefully, and I mean this sincerely, all parties and all 308 members will work diligently to ensure that that continues to be the case. Perhaps we can even build on that and truly bring a new level and degree of civility to our chamber.

Today through next Thursday the government will be communicating its commitment to provide strong leadership during these difficult times through the debate on the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Due to a special order adopted earlier today, we will be voting at the end of the day Monday on the subamendment to the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. The plan would then be to vote on the amendment on Tuesday and dispose of the main question on Thursday, November 27.

Hopefully this will be accomplished by adopting the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne because this will be a confidence matter.

As the finance minister announced today, the economic fiscal update will be delivered on Thursday, November 27 at 4:00 p.m. It is our hope that the statement will be delivered in the House, but I would indicate for all my House leader colleagues that the details are open to negotiation.

I am very pleased with the relationship that we have developed so far and I will be looking for their co-operation to see that the finance minister could deliver this at the appropriate time in the chamber. I will be working with them to work out all the details to that.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before question period, the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright had the floor for questions and comments. There are five minutes remaining in the time allotted for them consequent on the hon. member's speech. Questions or comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Joliette.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that I will be sharing my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who is also a friend.

I would like to begin this debate on the Speech from the Throne by giving special thanks to the voters in my riding of Joliette, who placed their trust in me for a fourth time in eight years. Every two years I receive their continued support. I would also like to congratulate all the members in this house who were re-elected and also given a vote of confidence by their fellow citizens. I can assure those who voted for me that I will continue to work hard to represent them and to defend the interests of Quebec. It is in that regard that I will be approaching this debate on the throne speech delivered yesterday by the Governor General.

I would also like to point out that not only did the voters of the riding of Joliette place their trust in a Bloc Québécois candidate, but the vast majority of voters in Quebec ridings elected Bloc Québécois members. We have 49 Bloc Québécois MPs, which represents almost two thirds of the Quebec representatives in this House.

It is important to remember that during the election campaign, two visions clashed during the election debate: the vision of Quebec espoused by the Bloc Québécois—a number of consensuses that came out of unanimous decisions by the National Assembly of Quebec, as well as broad general consensuses—and the Conservative vision that led to positions that are much more right-wing and much further from Quebec's values and interests.

In recent days and weeks, the Prime Minister, some government ministers and the government leader talked about this apparent willingness to work with the opposition. It is therefore extremely surprising, on reading the throne speech, to see that the government and the Prime Minister did not use any of the suggestions made by the Bloc Québécois, even though these suggestions stem from the choice Quebeckers made on October 14.

It is therefore extremely surprising that the minority government did not take note of the fact that 78% of Quebeckers who were entitled to vote voted for parties other than the Conservative Party. As I said, it is especially surprising because, in the days leading up to the throne speech, the Conservatives indicated that they wanted to cooperate and would listen to suggestions from the opposition parties.

Obviously, I speak for the Bloc Québécois, but I believe that all the opposition parties can see that the throne speech in no way reflects any of the ideas expressed by the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, obviously by the Bloc Québécois—and I will come back to this—or by the leader of the New Democratic Party.

Why is it that in his throne speech, the Prime Minister did not use any of the proposals made by the Bloc Québécois, which is the leading federal party in Quebec? This shows a closed-mindedness, a lack of openness, that is hard to account for and, in my opinion, does not bode well for the future.

Earlier, the government House leader said that he thought the noise level was considerably lower. Maybe it was lower than at the end of the previous Parliament, but I think the partisanship we see from the Conservative members and caucus is not much different from what we saw during the last question period before the election.

This is very worrisome. The first thing that the Bloc Québécois leader and the other opposition party leaders suggested was for the government to adopt a much more conciliatory tone. But this tone was not evident in the throne speech or in the attitude of government members, particularly during today's question period.

I find this very worrisome.

What topics came up during the election debates in that 33-day election campaign? I will list them, because it seems that the topics discussed in Quebec were perhaps not discussed the same way in the Canadian nation. So it might be good for those watching at home and for my colleagues from across Canada to hear about what was discussed during the election campaign in Quebec.

First of all, of course, there was the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors. As we know, for several months, if not years, Quebec has been experiencing a major crisis in the manufacturing sector, which has led to the loss of several thousand jobs. I would like to remind members about a particular table. I bring this up because the government, especially the Minister of Finance, often tends to forget its own documents. On page 28 of the October 2007 economic statement, there was a lovely table that showed five Canadian industries that are declining. Since 2005, only one sector has been growing: the petrochemical, oil and hydrocarbon sector.

The government should have realized something was wrong way back in October 2007. The Bloc Québécois repeatedly suggested ways to help and support the manufacturing and forestry industries. Unfortunately, the government ignored us, and the only thing it did was lower taxes on profits, which, may I remind the House, only helps those companies that make a profit. As I was saying, when an industry is in decline, companies are not usually making a profit. The government has been congratulating itself on this measure for months, not to mention during the election campaign, but Quebeckers are not buying it.

I would like to comment on another Conservative government decision in the same vein: the infamous community foundation or community trust—I do not remember exactly what it was called—that gave a certain amount of money to all of the provinces and Quebec. That billion-dollar trust was not much considering the problems that needed solving. Quebec got about $280 million, if I remember correctly. That was the second thing the Conservatives did. Unfortunately Alberta received 10 times more money per lost job than Quebec. The Bloc Québécois pointed out that this was unfair to Quebec, as did regional and economic stakeholders. Because of the government's unfairness, Quebeckers were extremely dissatisfied with the Conservatives' solutions.

Then came the cuts to culture in August, just a few weeks before the election was called. Those cuts were made because of the Conservatives' narrow, commercial ideas about culture. I like to point out that sometimes, as in the free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico, the word “culture”, which has extremely rich connotations in French, is often translated into English as “entertainment”. That is how the Conservative government sees culture: as entertainment. The government is just not interested in giving money to ballet companies so they can show off their skills.

That same attitude resurfaces when it comes to regional development, young offenders and the environment. I am sure that my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie will have more to say about that.

That is why the Bloc Québécois made those proposals, based on the support of Quebeckers on October 14. It is completely unacceptable and a real shame that the government and the Prime Minister are ignoring those results. Under the circumstances, the Bloc Québécois has no choice but to vote against the Speech from the Throne.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today to reply to the Speech from the Throne, particularly after the speech by my colleague, the House Leader of the Bloc Québécois and member for Joliette.

We waited a long time for the throne speech that was presented yesterday, and that was supposed to kick-start our economy. The government had made a commitment to presenting us with active measures, new measures to assist the most vulnerable industries, the industries that in recent years have fallen victim to international competition. We were expecting concrete measures for two industries in particular. I am thinking of the forestry industry and the manufacturing industry, among others.

We have to remember that the manufacturing industry forms the economic base of Quebec, while the economic base of the west is the oil industry. Unfortunately, Canada and the Conservative government have failed in this presentation, which could have provided some oxygen not only for the manufacturing industry, but for the jobs associated with it as well. Today, we have a throne speech that is devoid of any measures, devoid of vision, and that once again ignores the economic base of Quebec, the manufacturing industry.

It is disappointing that in an economic slowdown the government did not do more to present a new vision for a new Canadian economy, an economy focused on the future, an economy that would have made a real green shift possible.

I heard the Minister of the Environment tell us—and we also believe this, on this side of the House—that the environment and the economy are closely linked. It has to be said that this is not the spirit of the throne speech presented to us yesterday. It is as if the government had forgotten that there was a food crisis in 2008. It is as if the government had forgotten that there was a climate change crisis. It is as if the government had forgotten that there is a financial crisis right now.

What should the government have done? First, listen to the appeal made by the United Nations on October 22, when it called on the industrialized nations to commit to a Green New Deal. Do something to make use of the opportunities that are unfortunately created by the economic slowdown, to commit Canada and the industrialized nations to embarking on a transition in their economies. Take action, as the United Nations says, to create an initiative to encourage investment in clean technology and natural resources, to restart the economy. The purpose of that United Nations initiative is to build a green economy, generate green jobs and establish market policies and instruments that are able to accelerate a transition to a sustainable economy.

The fact is that a few days after the G-20 summit, the government did not heed the UN call. It continued to put in place measures which, once again, will benefit the oil industry in Canada. This is no joke. The oil industry will receive $2.8 billion in tax assistance over the next three years and the government will probably be handing out crumbs to the environmental sectors and industries that generate employment and could reposition our economy so that it is more competitive in coming years.

Thus, the government has failed to present a vision allowing Quebec and Canada to compete on foreign markets. What could the government have done? First, it could have taken its cue from the Bloc Québécois' election platform, which proposed a certain number of measures but not a shopping list.

There is a common thread underlying the measures presented by the Bloc Québécois. The goal is to ensure that we, particularly in Quebec, have a more sustainable economy. I will give a few examples. Fixed greenhouse gas reduction targets must quickly be set, and not intensity targets as proposed by the current federal government. Absolute targets are needed in order to establish a carbon exchange. That is what the new American president is proposing to us, and unfortunately, by refusing, it is Canada that risks undermining the viability of a future carbon exchange.

This is an important issue for our businesses in Quebec, since our manufacturing industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 8% compared to 1990. How? By making changes to industrial processes, by focusing on energy efficiency, by having plans that allow our businesses to reach their greenhouse gas reduction targets, and by being more productive compared to new, emerging economies.

Second, as I mentioned earlier, tax incentives given to the oil and gas industry must be eliminated in order to allow a fiscal conversion towards what is known as environmental taxation. Instead of the polluter-paid approach, we must take a polluter-pay approach. It is time to reinvest in renewable energy sources and move away from an industry that, in any case, is making huge profits.

Third, refundable tax credits for research and development must be established so that businesses can develop environmentally sound technologies. That is how the Quebec manufacturing industry was and is able to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, because it found ways to change its industrial processes. Investing in clean technology has been profitable for Quebec and allows it to honour its international commitments.

Furthermore, we must introduce tax incentives to encourage people to convert their heating systems, from oil-fueled heating to other technologies. One such example is geothermal, a very promising technology that could benefit from a tax incentive from the federal government.

We could make use of a number of industries to build this greener economy. Investment in modernizing and repairing our railways would be good for the economy and the environment, and it would enable the creation of sustainable intermodal transport in Quebec. We must also restore our small wharves in the regions of Quebec, from Sept-Îles to Montreal, to encourage maritime transportation, which pollutes less and allows us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in comparison with truck transportation. That is sustainable intermodal transport. The federal government has financial responsibilities that it must assume.

It is important that we reduce our dependency on oil. Why? For one thing, Quebec's results in reducing greenhouse gas emissions are inevitably linked to the transportation sector, where we must make considerable effort to meet our goals. Perhaps it is time to help citizens who want to use public transit by giving them a reimbursable credit, thereby encouraging people to use public transit. Or perhaps it is time to reinstate the ecoAuto program, which allowed people who wanted to buy a hybrid vehicle or one that uses less than 6 litres per 100 kilometres to get a rebate. That is another measure that would encourage a greener economy.

Our automobile manufacturing standards should be changed, adapted and harmonized with those in the state of California and elsewhere. Our market in Canada is comparable to that of California. If it could work there, and if formerly innovative ideas have become practically the international standard, how can we explain that Canada is still dragging its feet when it comes to implementing tough regulations to remove the gas guzzlers from our market?

The government had a golden opportunity to present a plan, a vision for the future, in order to start our economy's transition towards a more traditional, greener economy. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has failed.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, as is proper, I will begin my speech by thanking the voters of my riding for again showing confidence in me and electing me a second time. My congratulations also to all colleagues here on their election. And to you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election in this House.

This Speech from the Throne does not meet the expectations of Quebeckers, the consensus of Quebeckers supported by all the parties in the National Assembly and Quebec's civil society as a whole.

There is a long list of ways in which the needs expressed in the Quebec consensus have not been met. Cuts to culture have not been restored. They still want to impose the Young Offenders Act. They still want to create a federal securities commission against the advice of those in the financial field in Quebec. There is no reference whatsoever to the Kyoto protocol in this Speech from the Throne. They continue in their desire to weaken the political power of Quebec in this House. Intrusions into Quebec's areas of jurisdiction go on and on. There is not a word about the fiscal imbalance, when no one in Quebec feels that it has been resolved. They still want to invest our tax dollars in nuclear energy and more military purchasing. And finally, of course, there is a total absence of any desire to restrict, or rather to do away with, the so-called federal spending power. All of this shows us that this government, despite its claim of openness to Quebec, is refusing to get onside with the consensus in Quebec.

We used to have a Liberal government that did not even claim to be open to Quebec, and did nothing to help Quebec.

This is what I would like to ask my colleague. What choice remains for Quebeckers in the medium term? What option remains so that we can truly move ahead with the strong consensus expressed in Quebec and not to be obliged to beg from Ottawa any longer?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my friend has answered his own question. I have been a member of this House for 12 years, and the leader of the Bloc Québécois has been here since 1990. Quebeckers tried to believe in what all the federal parties in this House had to offer. Under the Liberals and the Conservatives, we tried to believe in the wonderful opportunities that were laid out for us. But the fact is that Quebeckers have to vote based on their interests and what they believe in and aspire to.

I believe that, since 1990, the choice has been clear. There is only one sustainable choice for Quebec, and that is the Bloc Québécois. Quebec proved that in the most recent federal election. On October 14, Quebeckers elected a majority—a strong majority—of Bloc Québécois members, despite what our colleagues opposite believed would happen a few months ago.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first thank the voters of Yukon for entrusting me with this great honour to represent them in Parliament for the fourth time. They are very fair people and I really appreciate their support.

I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, and of course all returning members and especially the new members. It is a great honour to be here and I know they will all appreciate it and treat it with that great honour.

I would like to question the member along the following line. I know the member is very interested in the environment. The throne speech states:

We will work with the provincial governments and our partners to develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases and an effective international protocol for the post-2012 period.

First of all, it says provinces and of course we do not like the exclusion of territories whether it is just the words or not. Definitely, the people of Yukon want to be involved in the environment and dealing with this critical problem that affects the north worse than anywhere else.

My question for the member is this. Does he take comfort in this? The Conservative Party as we know originally denied that climate change existed and then proceeded in government not to take any significant steps. Does this give the member comfort that the Conservative members have now come around and are taking this major step that all the other parties were asking for or does the member believe they have no choice and they have to do it because the United States is doing it and they are being pulled along by circumstances?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for a brief answer, please.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we do not have confidence in this government. My friend quotes page 13, but what is more alarming is that, on page 12, the government says, “Our Government will continue its realistic, responsible approach to addressing the challenge of climate change.”

The reality is just the opposite. The government says in this throne speech that it will continue its approach, which is not to take climate change into account in government policies. We expect the government to be environmentally responsible when it comes to the three Ps: policies, plans and programs. To date, this government has deeply disappointed us.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

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.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the history, it was 1993 when the incoming Liberal government inherited a $42 billion deficit scenario from the prior Mulroney government which meant that very serious steps had to be taken to deal with a deficit situation. Now we are facing a situation where the government still has not really admitted the facts. Yet, the budget officer today has made it very clear that the government is now spending, in just three years, $40 billion a year more than it was when it took office.

It is pretty clear that we do not have the manoeuvre room, the financial flexibility, to give the assurance to Canadians that we can protect them when the tsunami finally hits, because it has not hit yet. We have had the earthquake but the tsunami is coming.

I have to ask the member, first, how will we protect those in our society who are unable to protect themselves? At a time of financial crisis it is those who have no income who cannot prepare themselves for this. Whatever they have is bare minimum already. What is the commitment of the government to take care of those people, to help those first, those who are most in need?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his return to the House and thank him for his question.

I want to point out, and I pointed it out in my speech as well, that it was the prudent foresight that the government acted on in the fall of 2007 that put us in the position we are in today. It has been stated a number of times that our country has had the highest rating of any banking system in the world. As a result of that, I can again go back to seniors and tell them that their funds are safe in our banks and that our banking institutions are safe.

I believe that is the prudent method. That is the one that has enabled us to be the leading country in the world. As a result, we are in strong economic shape. We will not be fully inoculated against what is happening in this world, but we were the last to enter, and we believe that through good, sound management, we will be the first to re-enter again into a strong economy.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex back to the House. We have had a chance to chat a number of times and I enjoy his company.

However, I cannot understand his reference to shipbuilding in saying that he will support the throne speech. It defies imagination. On page nine of the English version of the throne speech it specifically states that the government will push forward with a trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

We know that the shipbuilding industry and shipyard workers have expressed broad concerns about the EFTA agreement concluded by the previous trade minister because it will gut or eliminate our shipbuilding industry in the same way that the former trade minister was able to destroy our softwood lumber industry with an ill thought out softwood lumber sellout. We have the EFTA agreement where Liechtenstein bamboozled the former trade minister and the results could well be the loss of every shipbuilding job in the country.

It makes no sense that the member, who is concerned about the shipbuilding industry, will support a throne speech that undermines that same shipbuilding industry and those good jobs that result. In my area, in the Lower Mainland of B.C., the word “emerson” is a verb and it is not a nice verb. To emerson the public is not considered a nice thing to do.

Has the member thoroughly read the throne speech and does he understand the implications of adopting a trade agreement that kills our shipbuilding industry?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also welcome the member back. Yes, we have had some great chats and I am sure we will have many more. I would invite the member to see our beautiful riding and maybe we could explore and take a tour of that shipbuilding yard. I would like to show the member that that particular company has been very effective, not only in this country but in the United States. Most of the shipbuilding that it does is for clients in the United States. So it is very able to compete.

The company has told me repeatedly that its biggest problem is the procurement system That system needs to go because it is stifling business. The next problem is the red tape.

I am sure the government can fix those problems so that the shipbuilding business will be there next year and the years to follow, as will the ones in St. Catharines and the ones on the east coast. We can compete with anyone but we cannot compete with red tape and systems that bog us down.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members of Parliament who congratulated me and sent gifts on the new addition to my family, our first child, Aurora Sage Bagnell-Craig, born on October 29 at 5:53 p.m. weighing 7.64 pounds.

I welcome the hon. member back. My question is not from the throne speech but it is a serious issue for some of my constituents. It is related to credit cards. Some businesses are irate that there is a move to increase the merchant fees, especially in these very difficult times. I have also been told that companies are increasing potentially the fees for individuals who miss payments. Once again, when everyone is struggling this is not very timely. I want to be assured by the member that his government will be taking action on this front.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to welcome the member back and I congratulate him on the arrival of the newborn. I know he will spend many wonderful evenings changing that baby and that he will be of great help to his spouse.

We are really discussing the throne speech and I must confess that I did not see that issue in the throne speech. However, I would be willing to take that up with the member. We can talk about those issues and I am sure we can approach the necessary ministries together and talk about this.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

I would like to preface my remarks with my deepest appreciation to the people of Don Valley East for my re-election to the House. It is an honour and privilege to serve as their representative. I would also like to congratulate all the returning members and new members. It is definitely a privilege to be here.

If we were one of those unemployed Canadians who once worked in Canada's manufacturing or auto sectors or if we were a recent graduate searching for the first break in the job market, yesterday's Speech from the Throne offers very little in the way of substance or hope for the future. This is truly a shame.

The reason the speech contains nothing in the way of substantial assistance to Canadians is because the federal government is broke. In fact, this particular Speech from the Throne will go down in history because it is the first one that actually forecasts a federal deficit in advance of next week's economic statement.

Canadians have a right to be angry. It was just a few weeks ago during the federal campaign that the Prime Minister swore that his Conservative government would never run a federal deficit. On October 7, 2008, the Prime Minister addressed the Canadian Club in Toronto and issued the following statement:

A Conservative Government will not be raising taxes. We will not cancel planned tax reductions for business. We will not be running a deficit. We will keep our spending within our means.

I guess the Prime Minister should have mentioned that the Conservative campaign promises come with a caveat because this one has already passed its expiry date. This is a promise that the Prime Minister made just six weeks ago.

Furthermore the Conservative campaign platform released just a week before election day stated the following:

Our plan's budgeting is based on the revenue projections in Budget 2008. These are the most up-to-date projections released by the Department of Finance....

If the Prime Minister had the benefit of the most up-to-date information, why is he suddenly changing his tune today or the day after the election was held? The official excuse that we have been hearing all around today from the government side is that there is a downturn in the global economy, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a made in Canada federal deficit, courtesy of the Conservative Party.

Less than three years ago, the Conservatives inherited a $13 billion federal surplus from the Liberals. Unemployment was at its historical lows and the Liberals had put in place contingency funds to cover unforeseen budget costs and to pay down the federal debt at the same time.

How did the Conservatives blow that $13 billion surplus in such a short period of time? First, in spite of the advice of leading economists across Canada, the Conservatives went ahead with a bunch of tax gimmicks that did little to benefit Canadian taxpayers, yet created a massive hole in the public treasury to the tune of $11 billion. These tax measures did not create jobs, spur consumer spending or boost productivity. Instead, they created a hole.

Second, the Minister of Finance went on the largest spending spree in Canadian history with his budget 2007. Now Canadians will have a tough time swallowing the Conservatives' apology in next week's economic statement. In fact, the Conservatives will be hard pressed to explain why the cupboard is bare with little or nothing to offer Canadians in advance of an economic recession.

Although the Prime Minister has a background in economics, he sadly lacks the basic fundamentals to run a fiscally sound government. The Liberals ran healthy federal surpluses so that we could pay down the federal debt and our children and grandchildren would not have to pick up the tab with interest added on.

Unfortunately, those fiscal fundamentals have gone out the window with the Conservatives.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada has already indicated that moderate growth forecasts for the Canadian economy have virtually evaporated in less than a month. In other words, Canadians cannot expect too much from the Conservatives in terms of tax cuts or economic assistance because the federal government is broke. Once again, it is a Conservative government that is quick to whip out the federal credit card and start running up the public debt at taxpayers' expense.

The Speech from the Throne says so in the following paragraph:

Ongoing, unsustainable deficits are quite rightly unacceptable to Canadians. These structural deficits must never return. At the same time, in a historic global downturn, it would be misguided to commit to a balanced budget in the short term at any cost, because that cost would ultimately be borne by Canadian families.

That statement is truly astounding. A deficit is essentially an unpaid bill for our children and our children's children to eventually pay off.

I would like to know how much of the federal debt the Conservatives plan to pay off in the upcoming budget. The answer would have to be nothing. Few Canadians are aware that the largest single federal expenditure is interest payments on the federal debt. In budget 2008, that represented $33.9 billion or 14.5¢ of every tax dollar. We still owe $500 billion in federal debt and now the Conservatives are pulling out the government's credit card and piling on more and more.

Philosopher George Santayana is often remembered for the following quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Unfortunately, this is true of the Conservative Party.

In 1993, the Liberals inherited a $42 billion deficit from the Conservatives and were given the unpleasant task of cleaning up eight years of Tory mismanagement. The Liberals did a very fine job. They cleared off the deficit and brought Canada back as the strongest and most fiscally responsible country in the G-8.

Now we may need to clean up the Conservatives' mess because they are going down a slippery slope. As the official opposition, the Liberal Party pledges to make this minority Parliament work but we need to look after the interests of Canadians who will eventually demand a fiscally responsible government that is accountable, reliable and lives up to its campaign promises.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech. I know that coming from Toronto she has a deep interest in social issues and I want to ask her about an issue that is very pressing on the minds of many of our citizens, and that is the issue of access to child care.

The absence of child care is an enormous problem for families across our country. Today is the international day for the year of the child. One of the most effective programs that can be adopted for children which can prevent an array of social problems, from youth crime to keeping kids in school longer, is the ability for us to have access to a head start early learning program.

Does my colleague think the government should work with us in a bipartisan fashion to implement a national early learning daycare head start program for children so that the children of our country can have the basic needs they must have in order to develop and be nurtured in a loving, caring environment?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend is aware of the studies that were done by Dr. Fraser Mustard. Early learning and child care strategies are very critical because they help the country to be more productive. We need a country that is economically productive. If we were to be ideologically bound, as the Conservatives were in the past election by establishing a $100 fend-for-yourself system, it will not work.

It is important for the government and the opposition parties to work toward a very cohesive strategy for early learning and child care because it will boost the economy and productivity. However, I do not know whether the government has any money because it has claimed on page 6 that it will only fund essential programs and nothing else. I wonder how the vulnerable will be looked after.

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I extend congratulations to my colleague, the hon. member for Don Valley East, on her comments today and on her re-election.

It seems that the government is blaming our economic downturn on global factors and is suggesting it began in the U.S.

Would she care to comment on how those policies have affected us, and does she have a solution that is distinctly our own?

Resumption of debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the U.S. economy was the subprime mortgages, the deregulated way in which the mortgages were given out in the U.S.

Thanks to Liberal governments in the past, we had a very structured, regulated system. Prime Ministers Martin and Chrétien tried to avoid the deregulation that was demanded by opposition parties at that time.

It is important to note that when the Liberal government was in power, it set aside $3 billion in contingency funds. Those contingency funds were essential to help with various crises, such as 9/11, SARS, and the ice storm that affected Quebec and Ontario.

The Conservative government removed that contingency fund and it has nothing to fall back on. It is bad economics to let that contingency fund go. One cannot be so ideologically bound that contingency funds are let go and free markets rule. It could create a disaster. We will have to watch this very carefully.