Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with another member.
I am proud to stand in this historic chamber and address my esteemed colleagues as well as my constituents who have shown their confidence in me by electing me to this Parliament. I am overwhelmed to have the opportunity to take my place with colleagues of such diverse accomplishments; from academics to physicians, to musicians, to CEOs, to representatives of the agriculture and fishery sectors.
We all have one thing in common. We believe that Canada is the most wonderful country in the world, a country where diversity of background and respect for differences shape the engine that drives our economy and the dynamic that maintains our uniqueness, our independence and our steadfastness even while competing interests try to erode these very qualities that are so essential to the ways we define ourselves as Canadians.
Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale is a reconfigured riding. It is a microcosm of all the lifestyles embodied in the Canadian landscape. Ancaster is a suburban area of substantial farms, gracious properties and stately homes. Flamborough comprises a rich diversity of quaint towns and hamlets with varied agricultural products, including beef, dairy and farm produce. Westdale is a suburb of the city of Hamilton with a true sense of community. Dundas, my hometown, is a charming and historic community with many preserved heritage buildings and a distinct and lively business and retail core. It is the area that I represented on various municipal councils for almost 20 years.
There are distinct historical connections between my riding and the House. The Hon. Thomas Bain of the former Wentworth North riding was a Speaker of the House of Commons at the turn of the 20th century. The tricorne hats that you, Mr. Speaker, and your counterpart in the other place wear, are made by John McMicking of Dundas.
The Valley City Manufacturing Company, formerly known as Valley City Seating Company, designed and constructed all the MPs' desks, with the exception of those in the front row, as well as several of the speakers' chairs. Some of the furnishings in the parliamentary dining room were also made by the same firm.
My riding is home to the world renowned McMaster University, famous for its medical school, teaching hospitals and research centres. It was my employer for over 25 years. My riding is also home to Redeemer University College, the first faith-based college or school in Canada to be granted university status.
Vast areas of protected green space include the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Hamilton and Halton conservation areas, hills, ravines and hiking trails, terrain which is very unusual in an urban environment.
A truly distinctive feature is that Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale is significantly impacted by four major modes of transport, namely the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, our Great Lakes port in Hamilton harbour, the 400 series of highways and national railways.
Notwithstanding the pride I take in being the first federal representative of this new riding, I am using this opportunity to communicate with my constituents both my appreciation and my blueprint outlining how I plan to represent them. I hope to confirm their confidence in sending me to represent them as their member of Parliament.
To date I have been appointed to two standing committees and two caucus committees. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women will likely be addressing matters of violence against women, workplace equity and human rights.
Women comprise more than half of our population and the majority is now in the labour force. Whether women are working outside the home because of financial need, which is most often the case, or to practise a profession that they have invested both time and money in acquiring, it is incumbent upon us as the committee responsible for the status of women to ensure that we devise the necessary measures to achieve equity in compensation. It is incumbent upon us to create support systems that facilitate full participation of women in the marketplace, the professions and political life.
My government has already embarked on a program to ensure that we achieve those goals as outlined in the Speech from the Throne. We have created a Minister of Social Development and a minister of state responsible for seniors, caregivers and persons with disabilities. We will develop a national child care program so that all women who wish to work or need to work outside the home will have access to superior support services for their children, their elderly ailing family members, or their disabled dependants.
There will be choices. For the first time in our history we are developing a network of services that will structure the environment to enhance the quality of life for the primary caregivers in our society. These are my priorities and they are my government's priorities.
My other standing committee is government operations and estimates. This committee is the oversight mechanism for all federal government expenditures and for quality control in the public service. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to participate in the review of how the various government departments spend the taxpayers' money. I am keen to share this information with my constituents as it becomes available.
I also participate in the Liberal caucus committee on cities and communities, an area of special interest for me. In my previous life I was a member of Dundas town, Hamilton-Wentworth regional, and Hamilton city councils. I was fortunate to be re-elected seven times. Throughout my long service at the municipal level, I have had many opportunities to access various aspects about the problems and the solutions.
I am happy to say that my government's commitment to infrastructure and social structure is both timely and essential. The largest portion of Canadian life is organized in tandem with municipal life, hence maintenance enhancement of vital elements such as transit, roads, clean water and sewers are the lifeblood of dynamic and thriving urban, suburban and rural environments.
Targeting cities and communities for upkeep and refurbishment can be the driver for many related outcomes, such as civic pride, which in turn can lead to higher levels of education and employment and lower levels of crime and ennui.
I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to contribute to the cities and communities portfolio and in particular my own area of expertise, water quality, which I have travelled afar to share with citizens in such places as the Czech Republic, Japan, Africa and Central America.
The discussion of water, both quality and availability, leads me to another area of interest both to me and to my government. I am pleased that the new Minister of the Environment has mapped out a blueprint prioritizing sustainable development that is both forward looking on the environment preservation front and also essential for Canada to stay competitive in the manufacturing and export sectors. This will be an exciting agenda, one which I believe will galvanize Canadians and lead us to focus on a broad scale on how we can achieve superior results by applying a lighter footprint on our natural environment.
We will also be honouring our commitment to the Kyoto accord. Hence we will be working together with our European and now our Russian partners to ensure these goals are met. At the same time there will remain various purely environmental issues, such as the dumping of toxic waste in our offshore waters, ensuring drinking water free of contaminants and perhaps embarking aggressively on an inventory of our water sources, both above and below ground level. I eagerly anticipate leading the charge on that front as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
I will close with a final expression to my constituents and my colleagues in this House on both sides of the floor. I have come here with the intention of representing my constituents and working in the spirit of cooperation to prove that a minority government can indeed work to the betterment of everyone.