Mr. Speaker, other nations have defined themselves by race and ethnicity. Not us. As former prime minister Laurier said, “Canada is free and freedom is its [only] nationality”. Over a century that freedom has allowed us to build the best place in the world in which to live, work and raise a family.
My purpose in this place has been to help make Canada the freest country in the world, where people are free to succeed and free to take responsibility for their own lives. Toward that goal, government should only do the things that people cannot do for themselves. It should do those things well and it should leave the rest to free people to do on their own.
This budget moves toward that principle and the best example of how is the changes it would make to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. The purpose of that act was to protect navigation. That purpose includes allowing boats and bridges to coexist on shared waters. It ensures that if I build a bridge, it does not obstruct other people's ability to run their boats down the river. That is a role that citizens cannot govern on their own and therefore government has a legitimate role to play in doing it.
This act was written over 130 years ago, at a time when people actually travelled to work by canoe. Someone reminded me recently that the last Canadian to travel to work by canoe was Pierre Trudeau. However, now we live in a different time and over the course of time, this act's tentacles have extended beyond its usefulness. It now applies to hundreds of tiny building projects that could never obstruct a boat, often on waterways where boats never travel in the first place. It literally extends to all waters in Canada that can float a canoe, including some brooks and streams that are only full for a few weeks during spring run-off.
For example, the city of Moncton applied to build a culvert under the highway in Fox Creek, which is so small as to be practically unusable. This act and the approvals it requires delayed that construction for eight months and resulted in extra costs to Moncton taxpayers.
In Alberta, 80 cottagers on Lake Wabamum waited for as long as a year and a half for Transport Canada to approve small docks along the water's edge. We are talking about simple docks, the kind that every Canadian kid has run 10 steps off and jumped into the lake.
In these cases, the delays had nothing to do with environmental precautions. The act does not even mention the word “environment” once. These delays were designed to ensure that the little cottage docks in Alberta and the tiny culvert in Moncton would not block shipping vessels from travelling down a waterway.
Such delays are not only unnecessary, they take time from citizens, money from taxpayers and public servants away from doing their real jobs. Focusing the act on its real purpose will liberate entrepreneurs, property owners and taxpayers from mindless red tape, while other acts that actually deal with the environment will continue to protect nature. It will help create a system of governance in our country that is lean and smart, not fat and dumb.
It is in instances like this that I am reminded of the example set for us by some of our ancestors in this part of the country, one of them being D. Aubrey Moodie who just recently passed away at age 99. The founder of the township of Nepean and its former reeve, he set the gold standard for common-sense government that maximized the freedom of its local citizenry.
I am reminded of the story of Jack May who started an auto dealership on Highway 16 in Nepean in 1965. The reason he started it there was because he had spent six months fighting delays and red tape on the other side of the river in Gloucester. After his frustration had reached a boiling point, he crossed the river and he showed up on the reeve's doorstep Sunday morning. He got Aubrey Moodie out of bed while the reeve was still wearing his pyjamas. They sat down and over coffee and breakfast he told the reeve he wanted to start an auto dealership in the community.
The next night, a few officials from the city and one or two lawyers from Jack May's business sat down over dinner and worked out the plans. Tuesday morning, 48 hours after he had first met with the reeve, the shovel was in the ground and the dealership was under construction. Forty-seven years later, that same dealership is creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity right in the heart of my community.
I share this story because it demonstrates that the obstacles of government can block our ability to achieve our full potential and that a common-sense, lean-focused government can allow that potential to be unleashed once more.
In this place, because it is a place of politics and government, we often forget the necessity to remain humble in recognition that it is in fact the individual and the industry of Canada that creates the wealth of the land.
Anyone who doubts the power of the individual in a free society need only reflect upon the story of the airplane.
If we had asked anyone, at the beginning of the 20th century, who would invent the first heavier than air manpowered aircraft, we would have heard one name, Samuel Pierpont Langley. He was a senior secretary at the Smithsonian Institution, a brilliant scientist, a regular at the White House, best friends with Alexander Graham Bell, who had invented the telephone and the recipient of the largest research grant in the history of the U.S. War Department, at the time $50,000 or $1.3 million in today's terms.
However, best of all for him his only competition were a couple of middle-class brothers from Ohio, the Wright brothers. They had no contacts in government and therefore no government funds. They raised all their money through their bicycle repair shop. They had no post-secondary education. All their higher learning came from their father's modest home library. They had no expectation of success. This was really a case of the Wrights versus might.
What happened? Langley spent his considerable sums on staff, advisers, travelling the world, meeting with important people, giving speeches and developing theories.
The Wrights, by contrast, developed their theories by watching birds, particularly gulls, in flight. They took these lessons and tested them in their homemade wind tunnel, which they built out of a wooden box with a gas-powered fan because they did not have electricity in their shed. They tested tiny airplanes to develop their theories, which they then ran in their life-sized gliders. One brother would be in the glider and the other would run alongside.
In December 1903, Langley launched his aircraft of the Potomac River near Washington, the capital of government. It shot straight up in the air and back down into the water, where it sunk to the bottom and lodged in mud. He gave up and declared his life a failure.
A week later the Wright brothers launched their aircraft. It, too, crashed, but they did not give up. In the next 48 hours, they rebuilt and launched the first ever manpowered aircraft in the history of humankind.
This is the story of the individual over the institution, of citizen over state, of practicality over pontification, of the Wrights over might.
Since the birth of humankind, we have gazed up at the birds in a spirit of envy.
In this magical story of entrepreneurship, these brothers of modest means did what the mighty state could not: give man wings and make him fly.