Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the Chair that I will be sharing my time with the member for Burlington.
It is a tremendous privilege to speak today in the House in response to the Speech from the Throne, the first for the new Conservative government. I am proud to be here in order to do so.
This is the first time I have had the opportunity to address the House with you in the chair, Mr. Speaker. Let me take the opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker.
I would also like to once again thank the people of Calgary Northeast for giving me the tremendous privilege to once again represent them in this chamber. I would particularly like to thank the many volunteers who gave so much of their time to ensure my re-election.
I would also like to thank my family for their support over the years and especially during the last election. As many in this place will attest, this life can be quite taxing on families. However, we do it because we want to make a difference and we want to make our country better.
At this time I would like to take a moment to extend my condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the four soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan this past weekend. Corporals Matthew Dinning and Randy Payne, Bombardier Myles Mansell and Lieutenant William Turner. We are all saddened by their loss, but their deaths will, however, not be in vain. They risked their lives to defend Canada's national interest, combat global terrorism and help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country. We are grateful for their service and mourn their loss.
The Speech from the Throne focused on five priorities, priorities which were laid out to the Canadian public during the election and for which the Canadian public voted: accountability, lowering the GST, choice in child care, cracking down on crime and establishing a patient wait times guarantee. I might point out that all these priorities impact my constituents directly.
On accountability, I commend the government for moving swiftly and decisively in introducing the federal accountability act designed to make the federal government more accountable to Canadian taxpayers by providing them with open, accountable and honest government. This act will, among other things, reform the financing of political parties by banning corporate, union and large personal, political donations. It will toughen the Lobbyist Registration Act by extending the ban on lobbying activities to five years for former ministers, their aides and senior civil servants. I already had an opportunity to talk to some registered lobbyists about that point and they have expressed their agreement with it. They feel it will level the playing field.
On strengthening the power of the Auditor General, this is a key part of the accountability act and one which we have called for in opposition. Now we have the opportunity to make it happen by giving the Auditor General new powers to audit individuals and organizations that receive federal money. That includes crown corporations.
On cleaning up government appointments, contract polling and procurement, key to cleaning up government appointments is the commissioner who will lead the public appointments commission, which the Prime Minister recently announced will be headed by Mr. Gwyn Morgan, former president and CEO of EnCana. Mr. Morgan is known far and wide as a champion of accountability and ethics in the public and private sectors. He wrote the agenda for his own corporation in that area. This is a very significant appointment.
The federal accountability act will also provide real protection for whisteblowers. People need to know that when they see problems in government, they can speak up without fear of reprisal. We have seen that very recently. I want to give praise to Mr. Cutler for his courageous statement doing exactly that, showing the corruption that took place within the government. He stood up and was counted. It was a bold move and a courageous move. It usually comes with a price, but I commend him for it.
The government will give protection to people like Mr. Cutler by making the public sector integrity commissioner an agent of Parliament with the power to enforce the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
The federal accountability act will as well strengthen the access to information legislation to include seven crown corporations, seven agents of Parliament and three foundations created under the federal statutes.
These are the words of the Prime Minister:
These measures will change the way business is done in Ottawa forever. They will replace the culture of entitlement that took root under the previous government with a culture of accountability.
They are strong words, but I think they are very welcome by the electorate as it ponders what impact the act will have.
On the GST, my constituents along with many others in the country have long complained, and rightfully so, that they are overtaxed. The government agrees and that is why we have come up with a plan that will help reduce the tax burden on Canadian families. This will be done by cutting the GST from 7% to 6% and reduce it further to 5% within five years.
No matter what one's income, the GST is a tax which everyone pays and from which everyone will reap the benefit of reduction. The tax cut will be of particular benefit to those living on fixed incomes and those whose incomes are so low that they do not benefit from cuts to personal income tax. This group accounts for about 32% of Canadians.
Child care is an issue that sticks in the craw of the Liberals I know, but at least this is reality. This is an initiative that will be of particular benefit to many families in my riding who need child care. It will provide a choice. When it comes to child care, we on this side of the House feel the decision is best left to the parents. The one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all families. There are some families who rely on institutionalized day care for their children. Some choose to make more informal arrangements by using a neighbour or a friend to fulfill their day care needs, while there are some families who have made the decision to have one parent stay home to look after the children. As can be seen, the day care needs of families differ.
Under our plan, all Canadian families will be given a $1,200 choice in child care allowance for each child under the age of six. This will be taxable in the hands of the parent with the lower income. In addition, the government has also earmarked $250 million per year for incentives to encourage business, non-profit and community based organizations to create 125,000 new day care spaces in urban and rural communities across the country.
The next point is one that has always been an issue that has been near and dear to my heart, and that is the issue of criminal justice. For once, there is a clear statement from a government that is going to be serious about cracking down on crime. Dare we speak of the violence we see, unfortunately, in so many of our streets. Some of it is committed by gangs. We can just about name everything from murder, down to extortion and prostitution. I think Canadians have a right to feel safe in their own homes and in their own communities.They also have an expectation that those who commit serious criminal acts will be dealt with harshly by the courts.
What we have discussed, and the matter is now before the House and will be voted upon in the very near future, will be to bring tougher sentences against those violent or repeat offenders, especially for those committing crimes with guns, drive by shootings and so on. This is not the kind of Canada we want for our children.
I was going to speak on the wait times guarantee, but I know my colleagues have addressed that issue.
I support the Speech from the Throne and I hope all members in the House will do likewise.