I would also like to thank the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who is an outstanding MP. He has been an outstanding seat mate over the years. He understands what regional economic development means to all areas. Coming from eastern Canada, the Maritimes, he understands what an agency really does for that area.
I listened to what the member for Kenora had to say. He defined FedNor as what it should be and what he thinks it does. I have some emails and there is a big problem with FedNor now. I am not saying it is bad or horrible. It is doing good things. It goes through the Minister of Industry's office and sits on his desk. The Minister of Industry is a very busy man. I am not taking that away from him. He allots certain amounts of time to issues and northern Ontario is not his priority. That is the problem.
If FedNor had its own minister, it would not be a problem. The minister would take care of things. He would be the minister of state for FedNor. That is what we are asking for. It would not sit as a minor portfolio or file on the corner of the minister's desk.
The other thing the member for Kenora talked about was a paternalistic approach. Of the two members for Parry Sound—Muskoka and Kenora, one is from Toronto and the other one is from Paris, Ontario through Winnipeg. Talk about a colonial outlook. What do we have to do? Are we serfs in northern Ontario? Do we go to whoever the landlord sends out and bow to the lords who are there and beg? Those days are over. They are finished. We do not need someone from outside of northern Ontario telling us what we need. That is the paternalistic outlook that the Conservative government takes.
It is worth noting that the Senate committee on agriculture and forestry considered whether FedNor should be a separate agency during a study on rural poverty between 2006 and 2008. In the committee's final report, Scott Merrifield, FedNor's director of policy, planning and coordination, said that FedNor differs little from the regional development agencies, except for its bureaucratic status. He went on to say:
Functionally, we do pretty much the same thing as the regional agencies; but structurally, we do not have our own legislation like the other agencies do. They would have the status of separate departments, whereas we are within Industry Canada. However, we are functionally similar and do the same kind of work; our approaches are similar, but still respecting the differences of the regions.
Historically, the Prime Minister has been against regional economic development. During the 2006 election campaign, the Prime Minister repeatedly promised that he would not make cuts to regional development funding. In fact, when the Liberals predicted that FedNor would be in serious jeopardy under the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry dismissed these comments as nothing more than fearmongering.
This is not fearmongering. This is just part of the long-term plan for the Conservative government. It does not believe in economic development and FedNor is not being converted to an agency because it will be easier for the government to get rid of it down the road. I urge all members to vote in favour of this important bill.