Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Minister of the Environment.
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating you on your appointment. It speaks well for your ability to be conciliatory with all parties in the House as well as the respect you have earned over the years. I am sure we will all benefit from your expertise and wise judgment.
I rise today as the member of Parliament for Ottawa—Orléans to address the House in response to the throne speech. It is an honour for me to represent the people of Ottawa--Orléans. I am grateful to them for the confidence they have shown in electing me to represent them in Parliament. I would like to assure them once again here today that I will represent their interests to the best of my ability. It is quite an honour for an Ottawa Valley boy to take part in this glorious assembly.
It is with both pride and humility that I accept the honour of representing the people of Ottawa—Orléans in the House of Commons. I will try my best to listen to them attentively and promote their interests in this House and with this government.
I began my career in Orléans 30 years ago. Thanks to my first job, I came to know and appreciate the community and the area of Ottawa—Orléans, to which I now wish to devote my energy and efforts.
I would like to start by paying tribute to this great community of Ottawa--Orléans. As many would say, it is the best kept secret in Ottawa.
I take this opportunity to invite all members of the House of Commons to visit. It is about 20 minutes away from here, and I would certainly be pleased to welcome you with warmth and friendship.
The riding of Ottawa--Orléans is made up of a collection of small and large communities in Ottawa's most eastern sector. Our population is highly educated and qualified as well as culturally and linguistically diverse, which makes it very representative of the whole of Canada. It is also a community where the quality of life is second to none. We have a vibrant arts community and our citizens are renowned for their charitable leadership and community involvement.
More than 100 years ago, the village of Orléans saw the construction of its first hotel, its first post office and its first school. This village and surrounding borough now has a population of over 100,000 people. Since the early to mid-1980s, Orléans has been one of the fastest growing communities in Canada and all signs indicate that this trend will continue.
This means that Ottawa--Orléans not only has many needs as a community but is ready to assume its rightful place in the national capital region and at the federal level. I am therefore very pleased that the government is committed to forging a new deal with cities and communities. This is more important than ever for the inhabitants of Ottawa--Orléans living, working and raising families.
Our communities are vital to Ottawa's economic, social and cultural viability. The challenges our cities and communities must face are now so numerous, and at times overwhelming, that it is beyond the capacity of local governments to act alone.
That is why the new deal focuses on striking more productive relationships among all three levels of government and community groups as well as the private and the not for profit sectors, relationships that will lead to local solutions for local problems. These relationships will have fiscal benefits for all communities.
Since 1993 our government has contributed over $12 billion in infrastructure funding, which in turn has leveraged over $30 billion from all partners. I am delighted that my colleague, the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities, will lead the federal efforts to secure this new deal.
In Ottawa--Orléans, we immediately got down to work. The day after the election I began organizing the first of two economic summits, bringing together all elected public officials. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my provincial counterpart, Phil McNeely, Mayor Bob Chiarelli, and the four city councillors, Rainer Bloess, Herb Kreling, Rob Jellett and Michel Bellemare, who have all committed to begin this strategic economic development for Ottawa--Orléans. We have already identified 11 concrete projects for Ottawa--Orléans.
I pledged to my constituents that I would place Ottawa--Orléans on the federal radar and I intend to deliver.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to talk about the Speech from the Throne, because it is a faithful reflection of our election promises, both nationally and locally, and especially for the young families of Ottawa—Orléans.
Under the leadership of the Minister of Social Development, our government, along with all the partners involved from the various communities and the provinces, will prepare a national plan for preschool learning and child care, based on the key requirements identified by parents and child care experts—quality, universality, accessibility and development.
I am particularly proud of our commitment to help Canada's children. As a trained educator, I am pleased to support the government in this file and offer my expertise. The announcement in the throne speech that $5 billion will be allocated over five years to early learning and child care is truly good news for Canadian families. We must, however, respect the diversity of our population and the self-determination of our communities.
One of our government's key commitments was health care. In less than three months after the election, we have already met that commitment through our agreement with the provinces. This past September's historic agreement on health care will ensure that appropriate services are accessible and wait times will be significantly reduced for all Canadians no matter where they live and their income level. This agreement is part of our 10 year action plan to aggressively address health care in Canada.
All this was accomplished under the leadership of our Prime Minister who did a fine job delivering the goods. I had the privilege of taking part in this negotiation with the provinces and territories and to see the birth of this new evolving federalism.
This agreement is especially historic because our government obtained the signature of all the provincial and territorial premiers in order to ensure fair and stable funding for health within well-defined parameters and an accountability framework. This was possible because the governments recognized that that is what every Canadian wanted.
The government is very committed to health care because it is the one social policy Canadians constantly identified as their number one priority. In our 10 year health care plan, $41.2 billion will go to the provinces. However the government has ensured that the provinces and territories will produce information on outcomes so that Canadians can be assured their money is being spent where it should be, securing for them, their families and community the best access to the best health care possible.
I am also very proud to be part of this government for its work with official languages. It has always shown a strong commitment to Canada's linguistic duality. It has just reiterated its support to the francophone and Acadian communities in the Speech from the Throne.
Our government will make sure the official languages action plan is applied and will continue to promote the vitality of official language minority communities across the country and not, as some would suggest, only those communities where the numbers justify it.
Allow me also to take this opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable contribution and extraordinary work of Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, who has always been a great defender of the rights of Franco-Ontarians and francophones outside Quebec.
I want to pay tribute to this citizen of Ottawa, who has had an exceptional career in the House of Commons and in the Senate. In addition to his work as an MP and a senator, and his involvement in the community, he was the Chair of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie from 1997 to 1999. He is a role model for all Canadians. Senator Gauthier, we will miss you when you retire at the end of the month. We thank you for everything you have done for francophone and Acadian communities across Canada.
I strongly believe that the Speech from the Throne truly conveys a message of hope to all Canadians for a better and stronger Canada, for safer and healthier communities, for more effective partnerships and respect for the diversity of our people. In my humble opinion, it reflects the priorities expressed to me by my constituents in Ottawa—Orléans, and I am proud, as their representative, to lend it my full support.