Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Surrey Central.
I begin by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker. I know you and I are just beginning our new roles and I am sure that we will both go through a wonderful learning curve very quickly.
I also offer my thanks to the constituents of my beautiful constituency of Portage—Lisgar. They have bestowed the great honour on me, an honour that all of us who are members of this parliament share, of having the opportunity to speak on behalf of those who we love dearly, who we care very much about and who we share so much with. I look forward to fulfilling, in any and every way I can, my role and obligations to those people who reside in my constituency, my province and my country.
I also thank my wife Esther and our daughters Quinn and Shawn. They have been a tremendous support and encouragement to me. Ultimately the sacrifices made by members of this Chamber are not sacrifices we alone make. There are sacrifices that are made by our families as well and I especially want to thank them for that.
I also thank our leader for giving me the opportunity to join a political movement where I am made feel welcome and where the openness to new ideas and new approaches on many issues is very real. The willingness to reach out and include other Canadians, not just in terms of theatrics or partisanship but in terms of real debate on real issues right from the grassroots level up, is a real and genuine thing.
Over the last several years I have tried to do my best to reach out to and get people across this country who share the goals of small
Conservatives to join together and fight for those goals effectively beside one another. The people of our country who share those goals to be divided plays only one role. It is a role of effectively perpetuating a government of people who do not share those values, the government that is presided over by the Prime Minister.
My constituency is Canada in microcosm and it is Canada in microcosm in many good ways. Portage—Lisgar has attracted people from around the world to settle there. It is an old constituency. It was a fur trading area originally. In fact, my home community of Portage la Prairie was one of the first settlements of Pierre La Vérendrye who was one of the first explorers of western Canada. He saw the shining mountains that some of my colleagues and other members of the House are so familiar with. It was that original sense of exploration, of reaching out, of going into new territory and into new lands that drove those people and that drives the people of my constituency to this very day.
If I can define the mindset of my constituents in an accurate and general way, I would say they are desperately fair-minded. They are people who are brutally honest and frank with one another. More than any people I have ever met, they are tolerant and understanding of the differences which exist within that riding and within Canada.
In Portage—Lisgar we have people who very much pride themselves on the diversity that exists within the riding and within the country. They see it as a source of great strength and as a brighter future for all of us. We are by every definition an inclusive people. I feel very comfortable and feel very supported by this inclusive political organization of which I am now a part.
The issue of regional equity is something that is not addressed in the throne speech to any satisfaction, in any way, shape or form. It is that inclusiveness that I, the people of Portage—Lisgar and the people on this side of the House value. That is missing from the throne speech. The lack of responsibility of the government opposite is so evident. There is a lack of a plan and a lack of any method or means to address the important issues of including everyone in this country.
There is a centrifugal reality of the way in which the government has governed. This centrifugal effect has pulled the people who do not reside in the centre of the country away from the centre of the country. The policies enacted by the government have exacerbated those circumstances. It has shown a disregard and a disrespect for the people outside that central area.
An example would be in my riding. Agriculture is such a key industry to us. The government has no food plan for the nation. It has shown no respect for the trials and tribulations of long time family farmers, not just in Portage—Lisgar but across the country. That disrespect is resulting in a playing field being perpetuated that is not level. Foreign nations are subsidizing their farmers and their agricultural producers and we are, by default, adopting a policy of rural depopulation in this country. We are letting the nations of Europe and the United States establish policies which we cannot respond to. That is what the government is doing.
By our failure to respond, we are saying to family farmers across the country that it is time for them to move to the cities. It is time for them to leave. That simply is not right. The damaging effect that has on rural societies across Canada is very obvious to all of us on this side of the House. Basically, the only effort the government made in the throne speech to address the problems of agriculture was a comment made about connecting farmyards to the Internet. That should be increasingly easy as the number of farmyards across Canada dwindle.
The problem is that when the government addresses the need for adaptation it looks elsewhere. When it looks for adaptation within it does not find it. The reality is that the most adaptable and diversified people, in terms of the challenges they have faced and the reality of their lives, are the farm families and farm producers of the nation who have been forced by necessity to made tremendous adaptations. One of the principle adaptations they have had to make is to say goodbye to their children.
We would like to see these issues addressed in a real way. That is what we are committed to doing.
Today we raised the issue of equalization. The equalization formula seems to have a perverse incentive. It seems to provide a disincentive for certain provinces to increase their industrial job component and to develop the resources that are within themselves because of the problems of the formula which benefit the federal government but punish the provinces. We need to see those formulas revisited.
Other regions such as Atlantic Canada and the west have many shared goals and concerns. They also have concerns that are specific to their regions. Nonetheless, if we do not see a need to address the problem, as it is clear the government does not, it will not be addressed. There is no plan in this throne speech to address these problems.
Another longstanding issue to many of us is the issue of parliamentary reform. Parliamentary reform would give a greater sense of involvement and representation, not just to the people here but far more importantly to the people we represent. It is those people who we hear from on a regular basis. They are telling us that they would like to see us have a more meaningful role.
What better evidence of the truth of the disdain which Canadians increasingly feel for this institution than the absence of these same Canadians from the polling booths. From their absence they have said to us that it does not really matter. I am told that fewer Canadians turned out to vote in the last federal election than had for over a century. More Canadians came out to vote when they were two horse families than when they were two car families. That is a shame.
Parliamentary reform and other reforms such as electoral and Senate reform, and other aspects of measuring and addressing in a real way the need to include Canadians, to make their representatives more effective and with a magnified voice of effectiveness in the House, have not been addressed by the government in perpetuity.
The government has taken an approach to many issues which basically is threefold. First, ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Second, belittle and blame those who advance and articulate the problem. Third, if that does not work, throw money at it and maybe the people who articulated the problem can be coerced into supporting it.
That is a disrespectful approach. It is that disrespect most of all that is reflected in the comments of the intergovernmental affairs minister, the immigration and citizenship minister of all people, and also in the Prime Minister himself. Disparaging remarks about one region or another should not come from any of us. They certainly should be apologized for by the members who made those disparaging comments.
I close by quoting Donald Savoie in his book
Governing from the Centre
While I argue that the centre and, in particular, the hand of the prime minister, has been considerably strengthened in recent years, this is not to suggest that the federal government is better able to define new strategic direction or a coherent plan to which all government departments can contribute. It is ironic perhaps that as the hand of the centre has been strengthened, its ability to manage horizontal issues has been weakened.
I will close by saying that we need to reinforce the fact that the members of the House are not puppets of the Prime Minister. They are the tools for the people of our constituencies. The reality is that we have a plan to address those issues and we will do so. I look forward to doing this to the best of my ability with the support and help of all of my colleagues in the House.