Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlottetown.
l am honoured to stand today to pay tribute to the people of Etobicoke North and to respond to the Speech from the Throne, the speech to provide the government's vision for the country, to set out its broad goals and directions and the programs it will undertake to accomplish those goals.
The speech should rejoice in Canada's history, build on our country's great spirit, our core values, what we stand for and why we exist, reaffirm our timeless purpose, passed from generation to generation, and should set the course for a greater future.
The speech should create opportunities for families: the opportunity for a first-class education; an excellent health care system when people need it most; the chance to get a fulfilling job; and the ability to contribute. It should provide care for society's most vulnerable: our children; those who suffer from brain disease, such as ALS, MS or dementia; and our aboriginal citizens. We must commit to closing the gap in a generation.
Governing means creating opportunities for every Canadian and not merely administrating. Where is the government's fierce resolve to do whatever it takes to dream of the future Canadians want and deserve, while addressing the tough decisions we face about our growing deficit, our warming climate and the future of our health care system, all of which will have an impact on future generations?
Where is the understanding that in building Canada's future, tackling climate change for example, there will not be one single defining action, one technological fix or one miracle moment? Rather, real action will require relentless steps in one direction: energy efficiency, transportation changes, personal responsibility and building greater momentum.
I would like to mention a case to highlight vision and catalytic policy to stimulate progress. For the next few minutes I will highlight the vision of His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who is transforming education and modernizing the business environment to become one of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world. Before I continue, I appreciate the differences in our society and our economy but it is the vision we must learn from.
When the kingdom was established in 1932, education was available to very few people, mostly the children of wealthy families living in the major cities. Today, however, there are 25,000 schools, 11 universities, with an astonishing 22 more currently being built. Female students make up a little over half of the nearly five million Saudi school and university students.
Most recently in 2009, over 3,000 dignitaries from around the world attended the official inauguration of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST. It came with an endowment of $10 billion and aims to be one of the world's great institutions of research, with partnerships with 27 universities, including Caltech, Harvard and Stanford in the United States, and Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College in the United Kingdom.
Government ministries, private companies, investors and the Saudi public all repeat the mantra of the 10x10 vision. Consequently, Saudi Arabia has shown significant improvements in the World Bank's Doing Business rankings over the last five years, leaping from 67th position in 2004 to 38th in 2006, 16th in 2007 and to 13th in 2009, ahead of advanced economies such as France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland.
The kingdom's exception performance and membership in the World Trade Organization has been driven by the vision of His Majesty.
In 2006, the Global Competitiveness Forum, an annual meeting of top business leaders, international political leaders and selected intellectuals and journalists, was founded. It is the premier event on the road to the World Economic Forum's Davos meeting.
The kingdom has actively encouraged domestic and foreign investment in the country, created new ministries and the National Competitiveness Centre, established the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority and privatized companies.
Canada must dream and dream big. In the past, Canadians built a country-wide railway system, they fought in World War I and World War II and they travelled to space. And remember the Allies gave 2% of GDP to rebuild Europe.
We have to negotiate for our children who are not here. We have to accept moral responsibility. With every tough decision, we must ask if this is something our children would be proud of.
As someone who taught at a business school, I understand that we must slay our country's biggest deficit in history, $56 billion. We must confront this brutal fact while retaining unwavering faith that we will prevail in the end.
However we cannot do it by destroying what makes us Canadian and in some cases uniquely Canadian. Let me take health care for example. Worldwide, we are now seeing major movement between public and private financing. Countries with a public financing scheme are trying to discover what the private sector might have to offer. Countries with the private sector, like Australia and the U.S., are looking to the public sector for advantages.
Today Canadian health care is at a crossroads. We must fix the system that served us so well for many years. We cannot let it slip away.
Thankfully, making improvements does not necessarily require higher spending. If we look at hospital costs across 10 OECD countries, we see wide variations. If unit costs could be reduced to the level of the best performers, average costs could potentially be reduced between 5% and 48%.
Opportunities for cost reduction include more emphasis on preventive medicine and the social determinants of health, such as early detection visits and mammograms. We know that diseases are cheaper to treat if they are caught earlier.
There are opportunities for better coordination. Problems can happen throughout health systems but most particularly at the barrier between primary, specialist, acute and long-term care. This is recognizing of course that we have a federal-provincial system.
There are opportunities to reduce drug spending. For OECD countries, drug spending is annually increasing at 5.7%, outstripping growth for other types of health care and GDP.
While we work to meet this challenge, a tectonic shift is taking place in medicine. For the average patient the movement is subtle, but ultimately it will affect the entire landscape of health care.
Genomics will allow tomorrow's physician to predict in utero or at birth what major diseases a person is likely to develop. Vaccines will be created specifically to treat an individual person's cancer. Stem cells will be used to regenerate a specific tissue lost to disease or trauma. I have seen heart cells beat in a petri dish. They will be used to repair the heart after a heart attack.
I know stem cells are scary for some people, but they have to understand that stem cells can be taken from adults. As an adult I can choose to take adult stem cells from my hip bone.
Medical information will be digitized and instantly available. Medicine will become safer.
I left a job I loved to run for elected office because I believed and still believe today that it is the job of government to make life better for Canadians today and to have a dream to build for a better tomorrow.
What I wanted to see in the throne speech was real vision for the future. It was not there. I wanted acknowledgement of our immense challenges, our aging baby-boomers entering their high demand period for health care, a recognized problem worldwide.
Today one in three, or ten million, Canadians will be affected by neurological or psychiatric disorder or injury at some point in their lives. Brain disorders and injuries will become a leading cause of disease in the next 20 years.
I want to see our current challenges and our future challenges laid out frankly and honestly with a plan to take action in the short term and in the long term.
Most of all I wanted to see promise, building hope for a better future by taking the right steps now. That means not only reducing the deficit, but building the social safety net now and in the future, as this side of the House was able to do in the 1990s.