Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House for the first time in this 40th Parliament. The good people of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound have elected me for the third time. I am very humbled and honoured by the trust my constituents have once again shown in me and I sincerely thank them very much.
Madam Speaker, I would also like to congratulate you on your recent appointment. You will do a great job.
Constituents ask me from time to time about the pins that we all wear on our lapels. The top one represents the honour it is for each and every one of us to sit in this great House and represent our different ridings.
Even more important than that pin is the one below it. It stands for everything that this country is all about. Right now there is a lot of sadness in people's hearts across this country, and certainly in my riding, about the potential for this so-called coalition to rip the heart out of Canada. That bothers me deeply.
The Speech from the Throne and economic update we have heard in recent days were very welcome news for the people of my riding. The speech made it very clear that this government recognizes the international financial woes that threaten the livelihoods of hard-working Canadians and their families.
In my riding there have already been signs of an economic downturn. Some of my constituents have already been negatively affected by it. While my constituency is one of the largest agricultural ridings in the country, especially when it comes to beef production, my constituents also rely on a number of manufacturers and on the tourism industry for their livelihoods. It is because of these industries that the actions of this government are so deeply felt in my riding.
It is also why I am proud to be standing on this side of the House representing a government that truly understands the challenges ahead and has been working to protect Canadians from an economic crisis since October of last year. It is why I am proud of the policies that flowed from our throne speech and in last week's economic update by the Minister of Finance.
I want to thank the minister for his careful stewardship of Canada's finances during these troublesome economic times around the world. It is thanks to this government, led by our current Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, that Canada is well prepared for the rough waters ahead. In fact, Canada is in a better position than any other G7 nation to weather this economic storm, all because of the actions and changes implemented by this government in the last year or more.
Does that mean we are going to be immune to any effects around the world? Absolutely not. I think ordinary Canadians understand that. However, if ordinary Canadians have to watch their spending, their government must also set an example. It cannot disrespect them by wasting their tax dollars. If businesses large and small must investigate ways to save money, then their government must do the same. I applaud this government for seeing the importance of this principle of fairness. I hope that everyone responsible for government budgets will ensure that the taxpayers' hard-earned dollars are wisely spent.
Yes, stimulus is needed, and the Prime Minister and the finance minister have been acting for the past year, as I said, to ensure economic stimulus, including targeted tax cuts and infrastructure spending to build Canada.
I and my colleagues on this side of the House were elected in part because of the policies put forward by my party, policies that were realistic and very helpful.
We did not threaten our economic stability in the last campaign, but instead focused on targeted spending for those who needed it most. We need to continue this process with carefully targeted infrastructure and stimulus spending that will actually benefit our Canadian economy.
I was happy to hear in the Prime Minister's speech last week a recommitment to increase slaughterhouse capacity for our livestock industry. I talked earlier about my riding, which is the second-largest beef riding in the country. I am a beef farmer by trade. After the problems in the livestock industry in recent years, particularly in beef and pork, and starting with the BSE in 2003, this announcement is welcome news. Our livestock producers will benefit greatly from increased slaughterhouse capacity, as it will assist them in getting their product to market.
Farmers from coast to coast know that this government is committed to cutting red tape and eliminating waste. Along those same lines, it is very important to dismantle the long gun registry. Farmers who own firearms are not criminals and should not be treated as such. I am both a farmer and a hunter, and farmers and hunters in my riding and across this country have for too long paid the financial and social costs for the crimes of thugs in Canada's large cities. The long gun registry is a prime example of wasteful bureaucratic legislation and a gross misuse of taxpayer money.
If this separatist-backed coalition were to happen, the gun registry debacle would not get dealt with, something we have indicated we will do in the next few months, and many law-abiding Canadians would become criminals in the new year.
I want to remind the House of some of the important steps our finance minister has taken in the past month and in his economic update to ensure stability in the Canadian economy.
To help maintain the strength and stability of our financial system, this government has taken steps to free up liquidity so that financial institutions can continue lending to consumers, homebuyers and businesses at an affordable cost. Our measures maintain the availability of long-term credit through the purchase of mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, at no cost to taxpayers.
We have created a backstop, the Canadian lenders assurance facility, to ensure that our financial institutions are not at a competitive disadvantage internationally.
To prevent a U.S.-style housing bubble, we have put in place new rules for government-guaranteed mortgages.
Building on previous action taken by this government to ensure the continued competitiveness of the financial sector, the economic statement includes measures to provide solvency funding relief to federally regulated private pension plans. That is something I have heard a lot about.
To help seniors cope, the economic statement proposes a one-time change that would allow RRIF holders to reduce the required minimum withdrawal by 25% for this tax year. Although most RRIF holders have only a portion of their assets in equities, the change recognizes the impact of recent market declines on those assets.
We are enhancing credit availability through crown agencies for Canadian businesses.
We are accelerating and doubling infrastructure funding this year in order to ensure stimulus for Canada's economy. I would like to thank and congratulate the minister for doubling this funding. Some people have no idea of the importance of infrastructure projects in my riding.
We are carefully planning other steps to stimulate the economy and fend off the economic woes faced by our neighbours. This is the largest investment in infrastructure in over 50 years. That is a long time.
In the economic statement, the government committed to consult with provincial and territorial leaders on the best way to accelerate infrastructure projects to help further stimulate the Canadian economy.
Again, if this separatist-backed coalition were to come to be, this initiative to double our infrastructure funding and get it out to municipalities in the first couple of months of 2009 would not happen. We need to make it very clear that it will not happen. That would be a travesty. My municipalities cannot wait any longer.
Since forming government, in this year we have taken unprecedented action to stimulate the economy, and here are a number things we have done since 2006.
We have reduced the federal debt by $37 billion. They want to wipe out $30 billion of that in the first few days of this so-called separatist coalition government.
We will have reduced taxes by almost $200 billion over 2007-08 and the following five years.
By 2010 we will have reduced the tax rate on new business investment to the lowest level in the G7. That is great.
We have made historic investments in job-creating infrastructure. We have invested extensively in science and technology and in education and training, which is something very dear to my colleague's riding of Cambridge.
As I mentioned, the government took early action to help stimulate the Canadian economy through tax cuts of nearly $200 billion over the next five years. It is the largest investment in 50 years.
Our plan strikes the right balance. We are restraining spending and protecting our economic future. I feel very confident that we will overcome the current economic turmoil and have a much stronger economy coming out of it.
I am also pleased to hear from the Prime Minister a recommitment to the banning of bulk water transfers or exports. I heard someone bring this up in the House today, over in the corner.
Canada's fresh water is one of our greatest natural resources. All of us must do all we can to protect it from speculation and abuse. In our country's history we have learned many lessons about our rich natural resources. We must put all those experiences together to ensure that our country protects this precious resource.
I live on Georgian Bay, which part of the Great Lakes. My grandchildren and my family are there. It means a lot to everybody up there. My riding's geographic location in regard to all the Great Lakes makes both the quality and the quantity of fresh water very important.
We must also ensure that Canadians are safe. We must ensure that communities have the tools they require to deal with the social and criminal problems of today.
We must work to ensure that drug dealers who infiltrate our schools and threaten our children are held responsible for their actions, and that those who innocently get caught up with the wrong crowd have access to programs that will change their lives for the better.
The difference must be clear. Those who commit violent crimes should not be met with handfuls of excuses and the comforts of home. Instead they should be met with a strong, efficient criminal justice system. One of my new colleagues from Manitoba is a former police officer. If there is anybody in this House who understands what I am talking about, I am sure she does.
The mandate of this justice system must be to hand down appropriate punishment for violent crime. It must not confuse help with leniency. Constituents in my riding have demanded this approach, and I applaud the recent Speech from the Throne for addressing this very important issue.
Lastly, I fully support the idea of making the Senate more accountable to Canadians. Changes to our upper chamber are needed to modernize the institution and to meet the democratic expectations of Canadians.
On this subject, in recent days we have heard more about this separatist coalition that is coming about. It is becoming clear that there is a distinct possibility that we are going to end up with six new senators from the province of Quebec, senators who will be separatists. Madam Speaker, can you imagine that? The people in my riding have not heard that yet, but they are going to go crazy. They are going to go ballistic. It is unbelievable.
The difference between success and failure for small businesses may lie with our votes in this House. The difference between a healthy family farm and a for sale sign may come down to the policies that we craft here.
With that in mind, I ask all hon. members to reflect on the importance of the work we do here and to remember to put Canadians first, and not our politics. We must all work together.
A strong message was sent on October 14. That message was not to have a separatist-backed coalition in this House; it was in fact to have this government.
Some of my colleagues and even some of the future members of this separatist coalition have told me they are getting a lot of emails. I am going to read some of the examples I am getting. I have received literally 200-300, and that number is climbing daily. Not very long ago I received an email from one of my staff informing me that I have received 255 new ones, and I have not seen her since two o'clock. That shows how fast they are coming in.
This email is from Barb of Owen Sound:
I'm usually one of the silent majority, but everyone who I know, had the same initial reaction as myself. VERY ANGRY! This is totally irresponsible. After... [a recent] election, these three idiots think the Canadian people will thank them for making our country, an unstable third world country
Remember, Madam Speaker, that I am reading this. I am not saying this.