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House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 40th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economy.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, during question period the Minister of Finance referred to my flight to my riding last Friday. As he said that I was in business class, I would like to table my economy class plane ticket to Halifax last Friday, and perhaps the minister could table his last economy class ticket as well.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Kings—Hants have the consent of the House to table this document?

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

National Violence Against Women Prevention WeekOral Questions

November 25th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That this House recognize National Violence Against Women Prevention Week and call on the government to develop a Violence Prevention Strategy to deal with the growing number of victims of violence against women, particularly among aboriginal women, who are more than three times as likely to be victims of domestic violence as non-aboriginal women.

National Violence Against Women Prevention WeekOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Beaches—East York have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

National Violence Against Women Prevention WeekOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Violence Against Women Prevention WeekOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Violence Against Women Prevention WeekOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

National Violence Against Women Prevention WeekOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

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, and of the amendment.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Yukon.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your re-election the fourth time around. I would also like to thank all my constituents in Newton—North Delta for their continued trust and confidence in re-electing me with an even greater margin. I promise them that I will continue the representation that puts our community first.

I rise to address the House regarding last week's underwhelming Speech from the Throne. Everyone in the House, and indeed the millions of Canadians we represent are aware that times are tough. On the doorsteps and on the streets in my riding of Newton—North Delta, there is a deep sense of concern about our economy that I have never seen before. There is a great unease about the future of people's jobs, people's savings and the ability to pay for post-secondary education for their children, or to build a comfortable nest egg for their retirement.

In this period of such global instability, Canadians want to know that they have a government that prepares for a rainy day. They want to know that they can count on the federal government to guide them through the tough times.

Unfortunately, with the performance that we have seen by the Prime Minister over the past few years, we now find our nation in a bigger hole than need have been. This situation is a direct result of the government's short-sighted fiscal policies.

The Conservative government inherited a $13 billion surplus from the previous Liberal administration. In three shorts years it increased federal spending by a shocking 25%, over $40 billion per year, making it the highest spending government in Canadian history. It eliminated the $3 billion contingency reserve that the Liberal government had put in place for an economic downturn such as the current one. It got rid of $12 billion in revenue by cutting the wrong tax, a move which every economist in the country, except the Prime Minister, warned against doing. This last point is something I would like to emphasize, because this is money that could have helped Canadians in need. It is money that could have created jobs. It is money that could have been invested in the struggling B.C. forestry industry or other sectors. It is money that could have been used to address seniors' pensions.

Now, in spite of promises on the campaign trail not to go into deficit, that is precisely what the government is planning on doing.

The simple question of this whole throne speech is the following: if responsible Canadians do not have the luxury of spending more than they are taking in, why should the government be exercising this kind of irresponsible course of action?

The throne speech stated that the government “will review all program spending carefully to make sure that spending is as effective as possible and aligned with Canadians' priorities”.

Belt tightening is an easy thing to talk about now, but where was the government over the past couple of years when every fiscal expert in the country warned against its carefree spending? The answer to this is that the Conservatives just did not listen.

How can the government justify a deficit in the coming year when it is also raising spending by $10 billion?

What is worse is that as recently as this past Monday, the Minister of Finance told Canadians that this week's financial update would “not include any major moves meant to stimulate the economy”, which makes me ask, what is it going to take for the Conservatives to wake up to the reality that surrounds them?

As mentioned last week, the Liberals will not bring down the government on the Speech from the Throne, not only because it would be irresponsible but also because the throne speech lacks any kind of detailed plan for action, making it as empty as the broken promises the Conservative government has made for the past three years.

Canadians want an idea of what the government is going to do for the economy. What they do not want are big promises about a tough economic situation that has largely been caused by bad government decisions.

Before I conclude, I want to point out one glaring omission within the Speech from the Throne. There is little mention of our senior citizens, many of whom are going to be hit the hardest by this financial crunch. Over a third of the nation’s elderly live in poverty on basic old age pensions and public supplements. There are a number of steps that the government could take immediately to ease the economic anxiety for seniors, including giving them more flexibility when they need to convert RRSPs into RRIFs.

It is shocking that seniors are being left to go it alone because of a government that is so desperately trying to cover up its past mistakes. My neighbours, my constituents in Newton—North Delta, and I will be watching with great interest the Minister of Finance’s fiscal update, which he has already warned would not have an additional fiscal stimulus package.

If the government is unprepared to act and is going to wait months to offer a tangible plan to deal with our current economic crisis, then it is going to face the judgment of the voters. Canadians are demanding action, something that last week’s throne speech unfortunately failed to offer.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the House is very interested in the full spectrum of concerns that the member has raised. He talked about the issues related to seniors and the economy in his constituency, about the confidence that people look forward to in the future, and about a prescription of action that would be required with respect to seniors, the guaranteed income supplement and the whole issue related to pensions.

In my riding, the issues related to jobs, apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships and training are also equally important. People are very concerned about that. I wonder if the member could expand a little bit. I know that in his area the economic downturn has affected the forestry industry and is even creeping into the mining community. I also wonder what actions the government has taken that have impressed him as prescriptions for creating high value-added activity, additional job activity and, in particular, investing in the housing market and affordable housing. There is a full spectrum of work-related initiatives that would help in this economic downturn.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for York South—Weston on his re-election and applaud his compassion toward our seniors and also his work on affordable housing.

When we look at the present government, it has no plan when it comes to affordable housing. Certainly, in British Columbia, when we look at the lower mainland area, homelessness is increasing. On the campaign trail, we put together a strong platform demanding an additional 30,000 low-income homes be made available, and also to refurbish the 30,000 existing affordable homes. Government can be a force of good in people’s lives, but the Conservative government is thinking selfishly and dealing the ideological cards to the voters who vote for it instead of taking care of the most vulnerable in society.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was somewhat critical of the government for not acting quickly enough on the current financial situation. Yet just yesterday, I believe, Germany announced that it is cutting its value added tax, which our government did more than two years ago, cutting the GST from 7% to 5%, a substantial reduction in GST of roughly $10 billion a year.

In the United States, president-elect Obama said that he would carry through on the tax cuts laid out by the current administration, even though he campaigned on not doing so during the presidential campaign. He has changed his mind because he realizes that personal and corporate tax reduction will help stimulate the economy, which our government started more than two years ago. We were ahead of the game by more than two years in providing stimulus that other countries are only providing right now. We are clearly ahead of the game.

I would like to ask the member this question. How can he be critical of our government for acting slowly, when we started acting more than two years ago and other countries, like Germany and the United States, are acting only now?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate the hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright. My first career when I moved to Canada was as an engineer in his riding.

It is not only me and the Liberals, but every economist in this country, except the Prime Minister, has said that cutting the tax that the member is talking about was a wrong step. If we look at the report from the budget officer, it has clearly stated that the government has put us into this mess for just that reason. I hope that member is able to find that report and study it.

I would like to tell him about our record. In fact, people must have more in their take home pay for us to have an economy that is stimulated. The Liberals have a great record. During their tenure, people had 11% more in their take home pay after paying taxes. The business taxes were reduced from 29% to 17% or 18%. The government came into power three years ago and raised personal income taxes from 15% to 15.5% and then still claimed it was reducing taxes. I hope the member was watching that budget. In the second budget, the Conservatives lowered the tax rate from 15.5% to 15%, to the same level, and yet still said they were reducing taxes.

This is a government that is not taking care of those people who are the most vulnerable in our society and who are having a tough time during this crunch.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the constituents of Yukon for again putting their faith in me and electing me to this Parliament for the fourth time. It is a great honour and I am very humbled by it.

However, at the doorsteps of this election campaign, for the first time in any in which I have run, there was a new ribbon running through the comments I was getting and that was one of great concern. People were very worried about their future, their homes and their pensions, to the extent that some people were actually very scared about what might come and the uncertainty.

Then, in this crisis that is facing Canada, we have a throne speech that basically has no prescriptions to deal with it. In fact, I would ask Canadians listening out there, who I know told their politicians and canvassers throughout the campaign that they were worried and scared, if any of them feel any comfort after reading that throne speech? I would be happy to hear from any Canadian who felt comfort after reading the throne speech, Canadians who saw their RRSPs fading away, who get their monthly pension statements, people who are so vulnerable because their working lives are finished. They cannot increase their savings, and as their pensions fade away, there is no hope except here in this House and what we could do for them.

They are worried about their homes with a possible recession. They are worried about unemployment, whether they can keep their mortgages, and whether they will be able to support their families. I would ask anyone to sincerely tell me what was in that throne speech that would give comfort to those people.

I predict the new spirit of conciliation will last about two weeks in this Parliament, for one reason because we may be acting honourably but we certainly should not give up our principles to fight when the needy are detracted from or not supported, or there is an inappropriate justice strategy. However, in the spirit of conciliation, I would like to speak about some things in the throne speech that I appreciate and support.

One of the items was the democracy promotion agency. I am not sure where that came from. It seems an antithesis of a government that had apparently decreased efforts in that area, certainly decreased our foreign presence, but all of a sudden we have this idea, which if it is what I believe it is, I am very supportive of and have wanted for a long time, which is that Canada has the expertise to intervene in world affairs, to develop democracy around the world, of course with our aid and military where necessary but also with our democratic skills.

We among all nations have such strong diasporas from around the world, and have the abilities and understanding to know that it is not necessarily our way or the highway. We have a great understanding of what can work around the world, what people might want, and how we could help promote democracy in unstable situations. If that were to come to fruition, I would certainly highly commend the government on that initiative.

I am also in support of increasing the incentives for energy-saving home retrofits. This is a program that was brought in by the Liberals. When the Conservatives came in, they cut it drastically, reduced it, and made it much harder to apply for. Now they seem to have reversed that and once again are increasing our excellent program. I am very happy for that.

Another one of our programs where there was much uncertainty was the homelessness partnering program. We started that a number of years ago and that was very successful in my riding. There was a huge uptake and very apropos to the needy. It was very successful. In the last Parliament, I and others lobbied that this had to continue because the funding was very close to expiring. Fortunately, the government has listened and has continued that program.

I was also happy to see the mention of a northern economic development agency. Members can rest assured that we will be in the north, watching very carefully to ensure that that promise is maintained and fulfilled, unlike a number of promises that have been broken by the Conservatives.

The Prime Minister's promise of three icebreakers was broken and reduced to one. The ice strength and supply ships are gone. The planes promised for the north have been cancelled.

I am happy to see the government has listened to all the other parties that wanted a cap and trade system. Once again, we will be watching for the implementation of that.

I am also happy to see the cutting of red tape for NGOs. I have had a number of complaints from NGOs that the government in power has made it increasingly difficult for them to get their funding through huge bureaucratic processes. We have to remember that a lot of these NGOs primarily employ maybe one or two people. They are mostly run by volunteers. They have huge complicated tasks of helping people and have sufficient problems in just existing. It does not do any of us any good for their time to be spent on unnecessarily bureaucratic application processes and reports. I am glad the government will move to deal with that problem, part of which it has created.

Another area I am very happy to see is the area for which the member for Pickering—Scarborough East, I and others have lobbied for a number of years, and that is increased provisions for the competition agency so it can be more effective in ensuring consumers of Canada get better treatment.

I was not happy with a number of things. The Conservatives did not bring back a petroleum monitoring agency. Canadians are very concerned about gas prices and home heating fuel, especially in the north. We had initiated an office to watch and control this very carefully so consumers could have information on what was happening and companies could be watched. The government closed that office and it did not bring it back in the throne speech.

A number of things related to the north, which had been talked about in previous times, all of a sudden seem to have vanished. Because of lack of details, a problematic mention of a regulation change was the only real reference to the north. I hope there is still a commitment to Arctic science, especially after we made the huge commitment, one of the best ones in the world, to the International Polar Year. I hope the government will follow up and continue the suggestion of a continuing Arctic science.

I was very disappointed not to see any mention related to potential credit card increases in these desperate times. Apparently all the retail associations in Canada are up in arms that the merchants may be charged higher rates and individuals, if they miss a payment, may be charged higher rates, as if credit card rates are not high enough. Why would the government not take a strong stand against this in such a time of economic crisis?

I also hope the government will rescind its notice of a couple of years ago that allows certain dumping in the Arctic. I have a private member's bill to stop that if the government does not.

I was also disappointed not to see anything specific about a search and rescue plane fleet. I hope it was in the military announcement. It has to be renewed to protect Canadians. I have been lobbying for a number of years to put some planes north of 60 for the first time.

There were seven items in the throne speech where it talked about the provinces and the federal government, but it did not say territories, which included work on the economy, common securities regulator, foreign credentials and international standards, education, international trade barriers, cap and trade and opting out of federal programs. Certainly northerners, like anyone else, want to be involved in those discussions. I was very perturbed to see those omissions in the throne speech.

Finally, we have come through a time when we had a rising tide and our efforts were to ensure that the rising tide affected all ships. Even the poor were included. Now we have changed the whole scenario and we have a tide going down. When the tide is going down, who is going to be the first to hit the bottom, to have the danger of crashing on the bottom? It is those least able to afford it.

When the tide was flush, the government cut the most vulnerable, the aboriginal people, people who could not defend their rights, women and literacy. What is going to happen when there are fewer resources? The tide is going down and those people are going to crash first. All Canadians should be very concerned about that.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment to that great position.

The member talked in such a negative fashion about our country and the prospects for our wonderful country, which surprised me and disappointed me.

He talked about the throne speech and mentioned nothing at all about the fact that this government has been preparing for more than two years for some type of downturn in the economy.

The Prime Minister and the government did not know that financial institutions would collapse as they did. No one could have known that. This preparation has put Canada in a better position than almost any other country to deal with this difficulty before us.

Over the past couple of days Germany has lowered its value-added tax. Our government did that more than two years ago.

Over the past couple of days president-elect Obama has indicated that he will follow through with the tax cuts put in place by President Bush, something that our government has done over the past two and a half years.

Why did the member mention nothing about how well the government had prepared Canada for this situation compared to other world economic powers?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to answer that question.

First, the member asked why I was talking negatively about Canada and Canadians. I was not talking negatively about them at all. I was talking about the Conservative government's throne speech, which is not going to help Canadians in their time of need.

Canadians have told the government time after time that they are worried, and what did they get? The member said that the government would not do anything because it did something two years ago and that would solve Canadians' problems. Obviously it has not.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that Canada was going into deficit. Why did the member point out something that his government did a long time ago?

Now there is a problem with the ship of state and there has been no suggestion that the government will do anything, not even from the member who has had the chance to ask a question.

The member talks about the position his government has put Canada in to deal with a potential crisis. The government squandered the $12 billion surplus it was handed that could have dealt with emergencies. That is the position in which the government has put Canada. The government has squandered revenue that it could have used now to do exactly what the Prime Minister wants to do about stimulating the economy and he cannot.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member has paid a lot of attention in the past to issues facing first nations, Métis and Inuit.

The recent report that came out on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women noted, with regret, that aboriginal women in Canada continued to live in impoverished conditions, which include high rates of poverty, poor health, inadequate housing, lack of access to clean water, low school completion rates and high rates of violence.

The throne speech contained a couple of short lines about only first nations, but excluded Métis and Inuit.

Could the member comment on what he sees as a priority that should have been included in the throne speech to deal with first nations, Métis and Inuit and their desperate economic conditions?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member has done tremendous work in the area of aboriginal people.

That is exactly what I was referring to at the end of my speech. Canadians should be worried that in good times the government cut the most needy programs. This time when there are less resources, there is very little for aboriginals. As the member said, there is disparity between aboriginal people and Canadians.

Reference was made to education, which upset me. The government did not even work with the territories to deal with that. That is a tiny fragment of the $5 billion that the government took away from aboriginal people and did not reinstate the money, with the exception of the part on education, whatever small amount that might be. That money would have helped with economic development and housing. It would have determined the success and health of aboriginal people in Canada. That should be a worry to all Canadians who care about the disadvantaged.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:35 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in reply to the Speech from the Throne.

First, as this is my first opportunity to speak in the House since the last election, I would like to thank the constituents of South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale for returning me with a renewed vote of confidence as their member of Parliament. It is truly my privilege and honour to serve them for a third time and I will work hard to keep their trust, in this Parliament.

The Speech from the Throne sets out the government's objectives for this Parliament, with the primary emphasis on the global financial situation. Without a doubt, the developed world's economy has to be the primary focus of Parliament and our government at this time.

Canadians elected us because we tackled the problems facing families and businesses in these times of economic uncertainty. The Speech from the Throne describes the crucial measures we are taking to keep our economy moving and to support the hopes and dreams of our families and communities.

The Speech from the Throne laid out five key elements of our government's approach to addressing the global financial situation: to ensure sound budgeting by further scrutinizing spending; secure jobs for our communities by encouraging skilled trades and support workers facing transition; reform the global financial system in co-operation with our allies and trading partners; make government more effective by reducing red tape, simplifying the procurement process and improving the management of federal institutions; and expand investment and trade by seeking out new foreign trade agreements and removing barriers to internal trade investment and labour mobility.

While I do not have the time to address all five of these in detail, I want to elaborate on a few of them and highlight what the government has already done to protect the financial security of Canadians.

To start, it is important to note that Canada leads the G8 in economic performance. The reason Canada is leading the G8 is because of our government's commitment to lower taxes, a balanced budget and our aggressive paydown of the national debt. We have paid down $37 billion of the national debt in just the last two years. While other nations have been engaged in deficit spending, Canada has been spending within its means and delivering nearly $200 billion in tax relief to Canadians, including nearly a 30% cut in the GST. This prudent approach to our nation's finances has allowed all Canadians to benefit, even during these uncertain economic times. Not only are taxes lower, but unemployment is at historic lows, as are interest rates, and inflation is under control.

Canada remains a great place in the world to invest.

It is clear that some sectors of the economy are facing real challenges right now. The automobile, forestry and aerospace industries have been particularly hard hit. Our government recognizes that and is making strategic investments in these industries to help them adapt to future needs.

My province of British Columbia hosts a huge forestry sector. As the B.C. MP, I have been very pleased by the actions our government has taken to support the industry in the last few years.

Since coming to office, our government reached an agreement with the United States over the softwood lumber trade. That ensured B.C. foresters and lumber mill workers stable, predictable access to the U.S. market for at least seven years.

In response to the pine beetle epidemic ravaging the forests of B.C.'s interior, our government delivered $200 million in aid to support workers in communities in transition in B.C.'s interior. We have also delivered assistance and support to workers transitioning to the skilled trades. Already our government has invested $100 million a year in apprenticeship incentive grants to encourage more young Canadians to pursue skilled trades careers.

As well, we have provided a total of $200 million a year in tax credits, that is up to $2,000 per placement, to encourage employers to hire apprentices.

We have also committed $3 billion over six years for new labour market agreements with the provinces to assist those who do not currently qualify for training under the employment insurance program.

We must help workers get the training they need to build the new economy and ensure the prosperity of all Canadians. Our government saw what British Columbia needed, and it took and is taking measures to meet those needs. For example, in the throne speech, the government focused on the importance of enhancing trade opportunities.

Whether it is the just concluded free trade agreement with Colombia or the negotiations toward a free trade agreement with Europe or Korea, the government is determined to ensure that Canadian companies have access to markets right around the world.

Again, as a British Columbia MP, I am pleased because Canada's increased focus on markets in Asia, including Korea, China and India, is of particular benefit to my province. West coast ports will benefit from the increased trade with Asian and Pacific Rim nations. Our government has recognized the potential created by increased trade across the Pacific and has invested over $1 billion in the Asia Pacific Gateway initiative to grow and modernize our west coast ports. It has been estimated that the expansion of our west coast ports will lead to nearly 50,000 new jobs within a decade.

Of course, our government is investing in more than just port infrastructure. Our Building Canada fund will invest $33 billion in new infrastructure, such as highways, bridges and public transit, over the next seven years. This new infrastructure is critically needed in the rapidly expanding communities of the lower Fraser Valley, including the communities of my riding. The fact is that traffic congestion and resulting pollution has become a major problem in the Lower Mainland.

Outdated infrastructure is leading to gridlock and even increased traffic accidents and deaths. Until now, our transportation infrastructure has not kept up with the incredible growth our region is experiencing. The Building Canada fund will help to reduce congestion, increase safety and, ultimately, protect our environment.

British Columbians are also concerned about crime.

Property crime rates in our communities are among the highest in the country, and, like other Canadian communities, B.C. communities find the increase in violent youth crime particularly worrisome.

As we stated in the throne speech, Canadians have to feel safe at home and in their communities, which means that we have to crack down on violent crime, including gun crime.

Our government continues to take action focused on eliminating the smuggling of guns by increasing penalties for gun crimes. Our focus will be on the criminal misuse of firearms, not on criminalizing the millions of law-abiding Canadians who own firearms.

Our reforms to the Youth Criminal Justice Act will ensure that sentences better reflect the seriousness of the crime.

As co-chairman of our party's task force on safer streets and healthy communities some years past, I could not help but be struck by the universal comment from Canadians that the existing youth criminal justice legislation does not provide a sufficient deterrent to those youth who would consider serious violent offences.

The most common comment I heard was that our youth know they will get nothing more than a slap on the wrist. For some young people, the current Youth Criminal Justice Act does achieve its desired objectives. Some first-time minor offenders receive the stern and serious rebuke of the law, learn from it and do not go on to a life of crime. However, for other young offenders, the current lenient sentences for serious violent and repeat offences do not keep these young people from an adult criminal career.

We cannot simply stand, mouths agape, before this tragedy. We have to intervene to prevent potential repeat offenders from embarking on a life of crime.

We have to protect society from violent crimes and property crimes committed by young offenders.

We will continue to make the safety and security of Canadians our highest priority. We will continue to move forward with our tackling crime agenda.

As members know, British Columbians are always on the cutting edge when it comes to democratic reform. In modern times, we have often been the first province in our Confederation to consider reforms such as citizens' assemblies, recall, fixed election dates and the election of senators.

In the throne speech, our government has committed to pursuing the popular selection of senators and limiting the length of term of senators to eight years. We are proposing to reform this ineffective and unaccountable 19th century institution and make it more accountable and more effective as we move rapidly into the 21st century.

Our government has also committed to act to ensure the principle of representation by population in our lower House, the House of Commons.

British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, the three provinces with the fastest growth in recent years, will gain seats in this House to properly reflect their populations.

For far too long, some regions of the country have been under-represented in Parliament. The Lower Mainland, part of which I represent, is one of those regions. I would really like it to have more representation in this House.

I am confident that all members will want to support the legislation our government brings forward to ensure greater fairness in the seat distribution and uphold the principle of representation by population.

Speaking of fairness among the provinces there is another issue that our government will be addressing in this Parliament, as mentioned in the throne speech. We are committed to working with the provinces to further remove remaining barriers to interprovincial trade, investment and labour mobility. Working cooperatively with the premiers, we were able to make progress on the enforcement of the agreement on internal trade.

The agreement will be amended by this coming January to reach the goal of full labour mobility for all Canadians. This will result in the mutual recognition of occupational credentials between all the provinces and territories. Of course, when we speak of credentials, our government must also continue with its important initiative to recognize foreign credentials.

Our economy depends on having the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world. We recognize that more needs to be done to ensure that immigrants are able to use all the skills and knowledge they have acquired.

We launched the foreign credentials referral office in May 2007 in co-operation with the provinces and territories. The office helps those trained overseas who want to work in Canada to have their credentials assessed and recognized in Canada more quickly.

The ability of all workers, including foreign trained workers, to have their credentials recognized everywhere in Canada will lead to a stronger, more efficient economic union. In fact, strengthening our economic union is more important now than ever, given the current global economic uncertainty.

We do not have to look far to see the positive impact that labour mobility can have on a national economy. Our major trading partner, the United States, eliminated most barriers to trade and labour mobility many decades ago and has long experienced economic growth that has outstripped ours as a result.

Reducing barriers to internal trade is not the only way our government can give the economy a boost. As a former small businessman, I know that red tape also costs our economy and results in lost productivity. Time spent filling out forms, reporting to government to obtain various licences means time not spent serving customers, producing products and creating value for shareholders.

Our government is intent on streamlining the way it does business and is committed to reducing the administrative and paper burden on Canadian businesses. Our current goal is a 20% reduction in the paper burden, but we have already taken other actions to save businesses time and money.

For example, we have already eased the tax compliance burden on businesses by reducing record-keeping requirements for automobile expense deductions and taxable benefits. We have also launched the new BizPal service in many municipalities across Canada, including in Surrey and White Rock in my community. BizPal allows businesses to quickly obtain all the forms and licences they need to comply with the requirements of every level of government with an efficient visit to a single website.

The throne speech also outlined another way our government will give the economy a boost through the creation of a national securities regulator. In a time of global economic uncertainty, investors are looking for stability and security.

Foreign investment in Canada means jobs for Canadians and growth in the economy. While Canada is already an attractive investment destination, greater certainty is provided to potential international investors by a single national standard for securities regulation rather than numerous different provincial standards.

We will work with the provinces to put in place a common securities regulator. I note that financial institutions in Canada already benefit from the existence of a national financial institutions regulator. A common securities regulator will allow Canada to respond swiftly and efficiently to any developments in the financial sector and to speak with a common voice.

Some of the advantages of a common securities regulator would be reduced compliance costs for companies offering securities and improved enforcement. Canada's lack of a national securities regulator has been identified as an area for reform this year by both the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Our government recognizes that lasting prosperity for Canadians comes through entrepreneurship and sheer hard work. Government does not create jobs, but government can help to create and support an economic environment in which those jobs will be created by the private sector.

Another way we are helping to support job creation in the private sector is by extending the benefits of maternity leave available to other workers, to self-employed business owners through the employment insurance program.

Facilitating child rearing for the self-employed allows entrepreneurs greater flexibility in pursuing their dreams. No longer will the self-employed have to consider giving up their business ventures in order to raise a family. Instead, they may keep their businesses going for the benefit of their families and the other workers they employ. I have already heard from many small business owners in my community who are very enthusiastic about our plan.

As well, the throne speech recommits our government to legislation that would provide better oversight of food, drugs and consumer products. The legislation would strengthen the power to recall products and increase penalties for violators. Our 2008 budget provided nearly $.5 billion over five years for the food and consumer safety action plan and to support the legislation we will be bringing forward.

We have all seen news items in recent years regarding unsafe food, health or consumer products, including toys. As the father of a two-year-old, I can assure everyone that I am personally concerned about the food my daughter eats, the medicine she may take and the toys she may play with. Reports of melamine in imported food products or lead in paint in children's toys worry parents like myself.

Our legislation would ensure that federal inspectors have the power to enforce standards that parents can have the confidence in. Protecting and promoting the health and safety of Canadians, their families and communities is of paramount importance to our government.

The secure and efficient flow of goods, services and people is also essential to a trading nation like Canada. As members will know, my riding of South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale contains the busiest border crossings in western Canada.

The trade corridor linking Vancouver to Seattle and the west coast of the United States goes through my riding. The throne speech commitment to continued expansion of gateways and border corridors is essential to Canada's economic growth and cultural prosperity. It is particularly important to ridings like mine.

I am pleased to report that our government has already delivered on major investments in modernizing our land border infrastructure to accommodate the growth in west coast trade and tourism. This is particularly important for my region in preparing for the upcoming 2010 Olympic Games.

Our government is also delivering for other regions of the country, including a long overdue expansion of the critical border crossing at the Windsor-Detroit border.

While upgrading our gateway and corridor related infrastructure is essential to extending our trade and our economy, I am pleased that taxpayers will benefit from over $13 billion of planned and committed private sector investment in this infrastructure over the next three years.

As I conclude, I want to return to the main theme contained in the Speech from the Throne: the economy. We recognize that we live in uncertain economic times and stickhandling our way forward is a major challenge for our government. As I already mentioned, our prudent approach to fiscal policy since forming government has left Canada in an enviable position compared to other developed nations during this challenging time.

Even so, the slowing global economy and its impact on Canada creates challenges for our revenue stream. That is why our government will be further scrutinizing all areas of government spending in an effort to keep our national finances on track. I am confident that additional savings can be found without unduly impacting the essential services and responsibilities Canadians count on the federal government to provide.

I encourage all members to work together to support this government's agenda as outlined in the throne speech.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment to your position. I also congratulate the hon. member for my neighbouring riding, South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, on his work for his constituents.

I listened very carefully when the hon. member mentioned fairness and the fixed election date. I am sure the hon. member and Canadians well know that the Prime Minister has betrayed Canadians by breaking the promise of a fixed election date.

With regard to fairness and spending, on the one hand the Prime Minister and the Conservative government are putting our country to the verge of deficit. On the other hand, our area of Surrey and Delta has elected four Conservative members out of the five, yet we see zero representation in the Prime Minister’s cabinet, even though he appointed the biggest cabinet in Canadian history by appointing 26 ministers, 11 state ministers and 27 parliamentary secretaries. What defence can the hon. member make when on the one side the Prime Minister is putting the country to the verge of deficit, while on the other side he is snubbing Surrey and Delta?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment to your position. I also congratulate my colleague for Newton—North Delta for his success. It is a privilege for all of us to be here, and we never take it lightly. It is one of the things that drives all members of Parliament. We recognize the uncertainty that the economy is facing, and we come back here to do the hard work that Canadians expect us to do.

My colleague raised a number of issues. I will not be able to address all of them, but I do want to address a few.

He made some passing reference to the lack of fiscal prudence, or something to that effect, and suggested that we were mishandling the government’s finances. I think the exact opposite is the case. For the last two years I have been very proud that our government has introduced two balanced budgets, budgets that provided tremendous results for Canadians.

In my speech I referred to our cutting $37 billion from the national debt. The interest savings were passed along to Canadians in the form of tax cuts. I mentioned that tax cuts of nearly $200 billion are working their way through the economic system in Canada and that families and businesses are benefiting from those tax cuts. Seniors are benefiting from splitting their pensions. There is no apology on my part, nor on this side of the House, for the steps we have taken to reduce the amount of money the government takes in and the steps we have taken to give that money back to Canadians.

We can never forget that the money the government spends is not the government’s money. That is what the Liberals used to think. It is the people’s money, and we want to be good stewards of that money. That is why we are giving it back in the form of tax cuts, while at the same time being prudent in administering the finances of the nation.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

4 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment.

I would also like to congratulate my colleague with whom I travelled for a few days when we participated in a mission to India related to climate change. We went to the Commonwealth General Assembly in New Delhi, where we discussed climate change and summarized the numerous problems we are currently facing and those we will face in the future.

I can quite easily imagine that the member is troubled by this situation. However, although he is worried about climate change—having participated in a meeting where many countries were worrying about the future of our planet—the Speech from the Throne still does not mention anything that would lead us to believe that the current government is worried about the situation. In fact, when the government talks about climate change, one gets the impression that it is more of an economic analysis than an environmental analysis.

I would like the member to explain how he can be open minded about climate change and still support a Speech from the Throne like this one.