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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economic.

Topics

Appointment of ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before we proceed with orders of the day I have an important matter to deal with.

After my election as Speaker, I consulted the leaders of the recognized parties about the appointment of the other chair occupants. I am prepared to propose for the ratification of the House a candidate for the position of Deputy Speaker of the House and Chair of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to Standing Order 7, I propose Mr. Andrew Scheer for the position of Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole.

This motion is deemed moved and seconded.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Appointment of ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Appointment of ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Appointment of Deputy ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to propose for the ratification of the House a candidate for the position of Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to Standing Order 8, I propose Ms. Denise Savoie for the position of Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

The motion is deemed moved and seconded.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Appointment of Deputy ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Appointment of Deputy ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Appointment of Assistant Deputy ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to propose for the ratification of the House a candidate for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

Pursuant to Standing Order 8, I propose Mr. Barry Devolin for the position of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

This motion is deemed moved and seconded. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Appointment of Assistant Deputy ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Appointment of Assistant Deputy ChairCommittees of the Whole

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Appointment of Assistant Deputy ChairCommittees of the Whole

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank all hon. members for their assistance in this matter.

Before debate resumes I see one of my colleagues is here. I congratulate him on his election to the post of Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole and I wish the other two the very best on this happy occasion.

The House resumed from November 20 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

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you warmly on your re-election as Speaker in this House, and would like to inform you that I will share my time with my newly elected colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.

First of all, I would like to sincerely and warmly thank all of the voters of the riding of Verchères—Les Patriotes for the great honour they have bestowed upon me by allowing me to represent them once again in this chamber. I would also like to thank all of the volunteers from the bottom of my heart. Some of them worked on my re-election—with Lise Lavoie running the team of volunteers and Robert Laurent acting as official agent—but other volunteers stood up for ideas and proposals for each of the political parties that ran in Verchères—Les Patriotes and throughout Quebec.

And now let us turn to the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. We had great expectations for this speech. Analysts, citizens, commentators and journalists all said that the Speech from the Throne would focus on the economy. Our retirees are worried when they see their RRSPs shrinking because of the economic crisis and the financial meltdown in full swing on all of the world's stock markets. Our workers are wondering if they will still have work in a few weeks or months and if the work stoppages, which are currently temporary, will continue much longer. We expected the Speech from the Throne to discuss this. But the Governor General was very vague and very unclear when it came to economic issues. The reality is that anything related to social measures, anything that brings to mind the administration that was ousted on the other side of the border on November 4, and anything that reminds us of the presidency that is coming to an end there, that is all still in the Speech from the Throne. The government is still singing the same tune.

The reality is that the Speech from the Throne mirrors the Conservative Party's election platform, a platform which, I should remind the House, was overwhelmingly rejected in Quebec. Ironically, on page 15 of the throne speech, we read, “Parliament is Canada’s most important national institution. It is the only forum in which all Canadians, through their elected representatives, have a voice in the governance of the nation.”

Those words are ironic because the throne speech does not contain any proposals put forward by all the political parties represented here in the House, and it certainly does not represent the values and interests that are important to Quebeckers. The Conservatives decided to pursue the same path they did during the last Parliament, remaining fixated on their dogmatic positions and their own guiding principles. In fact, common sense, the common good and shared values do not really have a place in those principles. Basically, the law of numbers—and remember, the Conservatives have a minority—does not count. We saw this in the last Parliament. The House voted to adopt the Kyoto protocol. The Senate voted to adopt it and royal assent was given to ensure it was respected and enforced in Canada. This government ignored that fact, and I have a feeling that what it says on page 15 of the Speech from the Throne is nothing more than empty rhetoric to impress certain people who are not aware of what happened here.

In contrast—and this has always been our way of thinking, since 1993—the Bloc Québécois evaluates policies issue by issue and suggests practical, effective solutions for the government to implement. We hoped they would listen to us.

The Bloc Québécois is a sovereignist party, a party whose mission is to prove unequivocally to Quebeckers that the only way for Quebec to develop and reach its full potential in a way that honours its values and promotes its national interests is for it to become an independent nation. Nevertheless, the Bloc Québécois respects the institutions and the democratic process established in this House. Out of respect for the majority mandate we received from Quebeckers, we have proposed a sub-amendment to the Speech from the Throne.

Today is Friday, and as the meeting begins, I would like to read it to you. We proposed that the following be added:

that the House recognize that the Speech from the Throne is unanimously decried in Quebec because it reflects a Conservative ideology that was rejected by 78 per cent of the Quebec nation on October 14 and that as a result the House denounce the fact that it does not respond to the consensus in Quebec respecting, for instance, the legislation on young offenders, the repatriation to Quebec of powers over culture and communications, the elimination of the federal spending power and the maintenance of the existing system of securities regulation.

That being said, allow me to now put on my hat as Bloc Québécois health critic to review what the throne speech had to say about health.

Since it was first elected in 2006, this government has been saying that it respects the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. On page 13 of the throne speech, it says that the government will take creative measures to tackle major heart, lung and neurological diseases. That kind of activity falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. Do I need to point out that Quebec and the provinces are responsible for health care? I will keep pointing it out in committee and in the House as long as I am here. Quebec and the provinces are perfectly capable of setting up programs that support our citizens' health and wellness. The federal government's job is to enable Quebec and the provinces to discharge that responsibility properly through social transfers.

The throne speech also implies that the government will once again introduce the Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. I would remind the government that there is still a great deal of work to do on this. Many witnesses were ready to appear before the committee when the government decided, of its own volition—because the Prime Minister felt like it—to call an election. Before the election call, individuals and interest groups were ready to testify before the committee. Of course, we still have some reservations, as I mentioned in my speech in June.

Progressive licensing, the government's proposed registration process and the whole issue of inspectors and inspections will have to be reviewed and clarified.

In the bill he introduced in the last parliament, the minister gave himself a great deal of discretionary power. I believe that there will need to be some clarification as to what he intends to do with that discretionary power.

The throne speech also addresses the Consumer Product Safety Act. During the holiday season, consumers buy many products with no way of knowing whether they are safe. Just a few days ago, RCMP teddy bears were recalled because of lead in their belts. As long ago as 2006, the Auditor General said there were problems. The government dragged its feet and did not introduce Bill C-52 until April 2008. We were prepared to examine it in committee. Once again, though, the Prime Minister decided to put an end to all that and call an election, leaving consumers in limbo.

Rather than taking up his responsibilities in this chamber and making progress on the issues, he decided to put his ego first.

I would also like to have spoken about the listeriosis crisis but, given that my time is up, we must simply remember that we need inspectors in every plant and we should not rely on self-regulation. I believe that the government wants to cut inspections and that is not the way to go.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to wish you and all my colleagues a good session.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I am on my feet in the House since the election, so I want to thank the good people of Ottawa Centre for having their trust in me and sending me back to the House of Commons to work on their behalf.

We heard from the government in its Speech from the Throne. We heard from a member of the Bloc today about some of the concerns Canadians have about the economy, about their priorities and essentially what government can do. One of the troubling aspects is that on the one hand the government is saying it is going to provide stronger regulation on things like food safety and health products, which is what Canadians want, yet on the other hand it is going to freeze programs. We hear today that there are in fact fewer people working in the public service now than there were a couple of years ago.

What are the member's views on a government that says it wants to provide stronger regulations for Canadians, but has fewer people in the public service to do it?

We have seen in the last five years an explosion in the federal government's hiring of temporary help agencies to do the work that public servants should do, which is more expensive. This cost has risen from $100 million in the national capital region six years ago to almost $300 million.

I would like his impression about how the government is going to provide better regulation to Canadians, yet it is going to freeze job hiring and likely cut jobs or not fill jobs.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Ottawa region for his question. It ties in with what I wanted to say about the listeriosis crisis. In the throne speech, the government told us that it wants an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of things.

As the NDP member was saying, we should bear in mind that the government intends to cut staff at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In the listeriosis crisis, self-regulation was a factor at the company in question. Rather than assuming the role of regulator and assessing the quality of what is on the market, the government has decided to make cuts to what is in my mind its most important responsibility—ensuring that products coming onto our markets are of good quality and are safe.

There is a discrepancy between what is said and what is actually done. We have heard it said that the government does not walk the talk. That is often the case with this government, which proposes one thing and does the opposite.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes on his appointment as health critic. He will be an excellent critic.

I know that my colleague could have gone on about the flaws in this throne speech, in particular, the fact that it did not provide for the reinstatement of cultural programs. Yesterday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages even admitted that yes, he had taken money, and cut cultural programs to give money to the Olympic torch relay program, once again, at the expense of Quebec culture.

I would like to hear what my colleague thinks about this.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree that passing the Olympic torch across Canada is not the same thing as taking our artists and sending them abroad, in order to make our culture known throughout the world. These are two completely different things.

If the government wants to have the flame passed around and shown to its friends all over its beloved country, that is fine, but the government should not cut funding for people who do not have much money to start off with, and stop them from promoting their and our culture abroad.

The culture of a nation like the Quebec nation must be promoted abroad. We had excellent tools for doing so, and this government, which only says that it recognizes the Quebec nation, wants to completely muzzle us and stop us from expressing who we are throughout the world. The government has shown this once again with this drastic cut, which we feel has no basis, but is completely understandable coming from a government that has decided to muzzle the Quebec nation.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I first want to congratulate you on your re-election as the head of this House. Also, I would like to thank the voters in Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher who elected me for the first time. Thank you in particular to the volunteers who helped with my campaign. To both the voters and the volunteers, I would like to say that I will put all of my energy into proving myself worthy of their trust. I am committed to defending their interests with as much vigour and rigour as my predecessor, the outgoing member, Caroline St-Hilaire. I am aware that I have big shoes to fill because our constituents really liked Caroline, so I am coming into Parliament determined to do my best.

Today, as many of my Bloc Québécois colleagues have done, I am denouncing the Speech from the Throne, which I find to be uninspired and unacceptable.

First of all, the proposed measures go against Quebec's traditional demands, particularly when it comes to federal spending power, which the Conservative government would limit, at least for new federal programs.

Quebeckers agree that federal spending power must be eliminated. All the Quebec governments, without exception, have expressed the desire to defend the integrity of Quebec's legislative authority, notably in areas such as education, health and social services.

The Séguin report, which received the support of all the parties in the National Assembly, recommended that:

Québec vigorously reiterate its traditional stance concerning the absence of a constitutional basis for “federal spending power” since this “power” does not respect the division of powers stipulated in the Constitution.

And the report also recommended that:

Québec maintain its demand to exercise an unconditional right to opt out with full financial compensation in respect of any program implemented by the federal government in a field falling under provincial jurisdiction.

In 2006, the current Conservative Prime Minister of Canada stated:

I have said many times, even since the election of this new government, that I am opposed and our party is opposed to federal spending power in provincial jurisdictions.

And he continued on, saying:

In my opinion, such spending power in the provinces' exclusive jurisdictions goes against the very spirit of federalism. Our government is clear that we do not intend to act in that way.

How ironic. That is what he said at the time, and yet, on pages 15 and 16 of this week's Speech from the Throne, the same Prime Minister said:

The federal spending power will be constrained so that any new shared-cost program in an area of exclusive provincial responsibility will require the consent of the majority of the provinces to proceed, and that non-participating provinces can opt out with compensation, provided that they implement compatible programs or initiatives

I repeat, “provided that they implement compatible programs or initiatives”. By placing such a condition on Quebec's withdrawal from federal programs that infringe on Quebec's fields of exclusive jurisdiction, the Conservative government shows that it does not understand Quebec's unanimous position.

The Bloc is calling on Ottawa to agree to simply stop spending in areas under Quebec's jurisdiction, either by eliminating the federal spending power outright, because Quebec has always disputed the legitimacy of that power, or by giving Quebec the right to opt out, with full compensation and with no strings attached, of any federal program in areas that fall under provincial jurisdiction.

There is nothing of the sort in the throne speech.

It is as if Jean Chrétien wrote this throne speech, considering that the Speech from the Throne delivered February 28, 1996, states:

The Government will not use its spending power to create new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction without the consent of a majority of the provinces. Any new program will be designed so that non-participating provinces will be compensated, provided they establish equivalent or comparable initiatives.

Quebeckers will remember what became of those empty promises.

They are not stupid: they know what that kind of limit on federal spending power means, especially since the government was only talking about “new programs” and therefore left intact the result of 100 years of federal meddling in areas that are supposed to be under Quebec's control.

During fiscal year 2005-06, the federal government spent no less than $55 billion in areas outside of its jurisdiction. The Conservative government seems to think that this is okay and should go on indefinitely.

The Canadian government's so-called open federalism is a fraud.

I would also like to point out that the government is offering only “compensation” for any new cost-shared interference. How can we be sure that this compensation will be full compensation?

Basically, Ottawa wants the right to punish provinces that refuse to participate in its new programs. Once again, the government is trying to impose Canada-wide standards, even in areas not under its jurisdiction, by giving provinces the right to opt out of new programs only if they offer programs that are, as it says, “compatible”. If the Quebec nation chooses to do something other than what Canada is doing, it will not have the right to opt out.

I will repeat that there is consensus in Quebec concerning the complete respect for our constitutional jurisdictions such as health, among others.

Not only is the Conservative government not acting in the best interests of Quebec, but it is also proving that it has no understanding of Quebec's values and legitimate aspirations. And as if that were not enough, the Prime Minister is going even further by proposing to reduce Quebec's weight in the House of Commons, which will only facilitate future federal incursions.

In fact, in the Speech from the Throne, the government confirms its desire to increase the number of seats for Ontario and certain western provinces, which at the same time implies a reduction in the relative political clout of Quebec in the House of Commons.

Once again that is proof that the Prime Minister still refuses to give concrete recognition to the Quebec nation and that Canada has no other future to offer Quebec than that of a dwindling minority.

The Bloc Québécois will oppose any institutional reform that is counter to the interests of Quebec just as it will continue to oppose any interference in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

This throne speech was to deal with the economic slowdown but instead ignores the real interests of Quebec. It does nothing for the most disadvantaged and ignores outright those citizens who have lost their jobs or who are seeing their pensions evaporate before their eyes.

Even though the snow has not yet started to fall, the Conservative government's vision leaves us cold.

It is sending chills through Quebec even before winter arrives.

I have a completely different vision for my country, Quebec. That is why I want it to be sovereign, independent and free.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the last election there was a financial earthquake. Unfortunately, it also occurred in the middle of a global sea and it will create a tsunami that has yet to hit the world and Canada.

In the last Parliament, one of the first things the government was to do was to pass the Federal Accountability Act and to create the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer, who, yesterday, completely refuted the government's arguments that things were sound, that we will keep the course and that we are in better shape. In fact, he announced to the government and Canadians that the deficit next year will be about $13.8 billion and about $11 billion each year thereafter until the year 2013, accumulating increased debt by about $50 billion. He says, very clearly, that it is due to the decisions and actions of the Conservative government and not the deteriorating global economy.

It would appear that the Prime Minister's position has been eroding very slowly and that he, very slowly, is admitting that some things may need to be done. However, what concerns me the most, notwithstanding that Parliament passed that act, created the position of a Parliamentary Budget Officer and received a report from that budget officer, is that the finance minister's position now in the media is that the government has its own set of economic forecasts.

It appears that the government continues to be in denial about the seriousness of the economic crisis that Canada is in and will be facing for some time. I wonder if the member shares that view.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government's lack of transparency is a serious problem. As far as relations with Quebec are concerned, in the past, federal governments often used difficult financial times as an excuse for not making the necessary transfer payments. In the coming years, I believe we are going to witness the same sort of denial of financial reality.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, my friend made an excellent speech, and I would like to ask him to tell us more about the need for Quebec sovereignty.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. The people who oppose Quebec sovereignty are people who would like to see Quebec in a position they would never accept for themselves. For example, I do not believe that English Canada would agree to join the United States as a group of states. English Canada wants to keep on running Canada in accordance with its own concerns, its own values, its own interests. We have the same concern in Quebec.

I was Quebec's delegate general in Tokyo at the time of the Quebec referendum. When the Japanese asked me why Quebec should be a sovereign country, I asked them whether it made sense for Quebec, which is a nation in itself, to be relegated to the status of a province of another country. I asked them whether, as Japanese citizens, they would agree to have Japan be a province of China. Now, one could say that China has many faults. But even if China were perfect, a highly democratic and prosperous nation, would they want Japan to be a province of China? Embarrassed, they would smile and acknowledge that there is nothing unusual about Quebec's aspirations. We do not want to be a province of another country; we want to be our own country.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to personally congratulate you on your re-election as the Speaker of the House. I am certain your re-election was due to your past record of non-partisan oversight of this House and your commitment to fairness to all members of the House.

I also would like to take this time to thank the constituents of Okanagan—Shuswap for their overwhelming and increased confidence in me as their voice in this place. It truly is an honour and I am humbled to be given such a vote of confidence. I would be remiss if I did not credit my electoral success on the leadership of our Prime Minister and the great job my staff in the riding and Ottawa offices have done in serving the constituents of Okanagan—Shuswap. I thank the many volunteers who helped during my campaign. Their time and dedication is sincerely appreciated.

The theme for this session's Speech from the Throne is protecting Canada's future. This theme is a reflection of our government's approach to these uncertain economic times. Our government will not react in a knee-jerk, irresponsible physical manner today at the detriment of tomorrow. The Speech from the Throne is very clear: our government will make calculated decisions that will weather the current storm in preparation for the sunny days in the future.

The problem today is that the current global financial framework has not served the global community well. Lack of sound fiscal policy and regulation framework has proven the undoing of many developed nations' financial institutions.

Canadians can be proud of the policy and regulatory work that this government and previous governments have put in place to ensure Canadians of a secure and stable financial sector. Our government's budgets have been balanced, our economic growth has proven surpluses and the $37 billion in national debt repayment has cushioned Canada from this current economic meltdown.

As our throne speech indicates, Canada will work with the global community to put in place international regulations to prevent this type of exploitation of financial markets and overextension of the credit markets. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance began this important work on November 15, joining the leaders of the G-20 in Washington, D.C., and will continue to pursue this in the future.

The global economic downturn has challenged the liquidity in global financial institutions and compromised the capitalization of the equity markets causing a lack of capital for home mortgages, business capital expansion and development. This credit crisis has weakened dramatically the prospects for growth of our domestic economy in the global economy.

Canada needed a throne speech that assured Canadians that we will keep our house in order by tight fiscal management and prudent targeted spending. This throne speech is just what the doctor ordered. We must remind ourselves that Canada is built on the promise of opportunity, the chance to work hard, raise a family and make a better life. Today it is more important than ever to deliver on this promise and ensure that all Canadians share in the hope and prosperity of this land.

Our government has already cut the shackles of high taxes and released businesses to be more competitive, labour to have more disposable income and investment to be more vibrant.

Our government has lowered consumer taxes, such as the GST by 2%, has increased tax credits for spouses, children, seniors and businesses, all contributing to less money in government and more money in citizens' pockets as well as in the economy.

Initiatives such as accelerated capital cost allowance invite businesses to retool, expand, and create new jobs, resulting in new wealth for Canada.

Statistics tell us that one-third of our economy is wealth creation, that is, creating new money. Resource extraction, manufacturing, farming, power generation, forestry, and technology products generate new dollars for the economy. The other two-thirds of our economy takes this new wealth and provides services such as transportation, retail goods, food services, consumer goods, financial services and government. A drop of 10% in the resource and manufacturing sectors results in a 20% drop in the service sector.

In my past, when I was gold mining in the Yukon, our motto was “The buck starts here”. For every dollar created, there were two dollars spent in the service sector.

I tell members this so that they will understand why it is so important that our government invest in education and skills training, infrastructure, transportation, and research and development: so that those who are creating wealth for this nation will have the tools to create new money in the economy.

This Speech from the Throne sets a stage for investment and a climate for success for those who would risk and succeed.

In Vernon in my own constituency of Okanagan--Shuswap, Tolko Industries, the fifth-largest lumber products company in the world, has its head office. This company is a well-run and innovative company, but it has, as has all the forest industry, struggled in the past three years.

Tolko Industries has not hung its head low. It has taken the opportunity to make its operations more streamlined and energy-efficient. The gasification project to the Heffley Creek operation saved $1.5 million a year in natural gas costs. Its cogeneration operation in the Armstrong mill supplies electricity to the power grid in British Columbia, and its new OSB and engineered beam plants in Alberta are state-of-the-art, modern and efficient operations.

This Speech from the Throne reaffirms our government's commitment to continue to partner with industry to make Canadian businesses more competitive and more energy-efficient. Our government will continue to assist these industries through measures aimed at marketing Canadian products abroad, expanding trade opportunities and helping business to be innovative.

This means wealth creation. This means jobs.

The throne speech reveals our government's continued support for higher education, research and development, and skills training. A good example of our government's partnering with educational institutes to realize skills training for aboriginal students is in my riding. The Government of Canada partnered with the Vernon campus of Okanagan College to fund the carpentry apprentice program for aboriginal students. Through this investment, graduates were given the skills needed to fill vacancies in the building construction sector.

Canada has one of the smallest labour forces in the developed world, so we must be the most skilled, the smartest and the most innovative if we are to survive. Canada has a successful, proven track record. We must continue to invest in our greatest resource, our human resources.

Sometimes how we do things in government is just as important as what we do in government. This cannot be more clear than in the relationship between the economy and the environment. As citizens of this planet, we must do our part to ensure that we are good stewards of the environment around us. In the throne speech, our government committed to ensuring that by 2020, 90% of Canada's new energy sources will be from clean energy production.

We are taking action to move away from dirty coal and carbon fuels to the clean, efficient and environmentally responsible energy of the future. Truly, Canada is turning the corner on the environment. Our government will continue to work with the provinces and territories, the private sector, and our citizens to make Canada cleaner, more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable.

Our government believes that the foundation of this country is the family. In its throne speech, our government has once again supported families.

The continuance of the child care allowance, which helps parents make parental decisions for their children's best interests and supports them financially with those decisions, has further demonstrated our commitment to families.

Our government is introducing a new opportunity for family-owned businesses. The throne speech offers business women the opportunity to participate in maternity leave benefits as administered under the EI program. This is a great program to help small family-owned businesses to have children without compromising their business interests and their family income.

This throne speech also ensures that the transfer of payments to the provinces for education and health will keep up with inflation, ensuring that growing families will have top-notch education for their children and timely access to the health care they need.

Finally, the economic slowdown does not mean a slowdown in our efforts to make our communities safer. We will continue to crack down on organized crime, guns and gangs, drugs, and violence.

Governments are called upon to provide citizens with law and order. Our government will continue to review the young offenders act and make certain that a young age will not be an excuse for criminal activity.

Canadians want to know that their children are safe from those who would exploit their sons and daughters with drugs.

Our government will not only make our streets safer, but we will also continue to make our nation safer and more secure. Our government will continue to improve border security in an effort to stop the flow of guns and drugs into Canada.

Our government will build a new icebreaker and an Arctic port. We will increase our presence in the Arctic and protect Canada's sovereignty over our northern frontier.

Security of our nation is the responsibility of the men and women of our Canadian Forces. Our government will continue to support their efforts by purchasing new and more modern equipment. Whether in a foreign field or at home, our men and women stand bravely for the freedom we enjoy daily, and we appreciate their commitment. We support them in their work and we will continue to give them the tools needed to do their job.

I once again remind the House of a good definition of good government. As a famous statesman said many years ago:

--a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain [its citizens] from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government--

This Speech from the Throne embraces all of these: law and order, freedom of enterprise, and low taxes. It is no wonder Canadians returned this Conservative government to office with a larger mandate.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for being re-elected.

I have three suggestions for him to take to his government. They are three easy things it could do to address the pressing concerns of our citizenry.

First, arguably the second most important issue affecting Canadians is health care. Would the member ask the Minister of Health to work with her counterparts across the country to address the medical manpower crisis we are facing?

Second, consistent with the interest the government and all of us share in dealing with the issue of crime, the most effective preventive measure is actually the early learning head start program for children, which has proven to reduce youth crime 60%.

My last question is with regard to our veterans, to whom we owe a debt that cannot be repaid. Many of our veterans are coming back and struggling to find the care they need. The veterans charter was intended to be a starting point, a living document. Will the member ask the minister and committee to do a public review of the veterans charter to ensure that our veterans will receive timely access to the quality care they desperately need and seek?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, our government has a proven track record on delivering support to the provinces for health care. We increased health care transfer payments to the provinces by 6% each year for the past three years.

In the last Parliament we worked with the provinces to shorten wait times, and we saw some significant decreases in wait times in our health care system. Our transfers of those dollars to the provinces proves we are concerned about health care and patient wait times.

I was at a fundraising foundation's reception for the local hospital in Vernon, the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. It was very encouraging to hear one of the physicians from that hospital say that they are seeing some new equipment and some capital investment in the hospital, and that what our government is doing in the financial support for the provinces is great. That was very encouraging.

With regard to our initiatives around the issue of crime, when we made our announcement about our challenges with drugs and said that we would attack that problem in our society, we looked at rehabilitation, education and enforcement. These three things were funded equally. Our concern is to make sure we educate the youth of this country on the challenges drugs bring to life and on the need to stay away from them.

We increased the funding for Veterans Affairs and we established an ombudsman so that veterans could have a better resource for appealing any decisions for benefits. Those measures were brought forward by our government in the last Parliament. I spoke with some of our veterans during my campaign, and I found they were deeply impressed by the increased benefits and the easy access to Veterans Affairs.

We have done it in the past and we will continue to do it in the future.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the voters of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for electing me to this House for the first time, and for trusting me to represent them. I would also like to thank the team of volunteers and activists who worked on my election campaign.

My question is of course for the member who spoke in this House about the same old measures just packaged a little differently. In the throne speech there was a list of important objectives, but there were no big surprises.

Unfortunately, Canada and Quebec are currently experiencing huge job losses. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in the past few years, and unfortunately, the Conservative government, with its laissez-faire attitude, has done nothing.

Now, it is waking up and saying it will do something for the automotive and aerospace industries. The Conservatives boasted about giving $80 million to Ford. But everyone knows that in the automotive industry, $80 million is peanuts. It takes money to move this type of industry forward.

My question is about what the Conservative government plans on doing in the present dire situation to help workers who are affected by major lay-offs. What will the government do to help them?