Mr. Speaker, it is both an honour and a privilege for me to rise in my place as the new member for the riding of Kitchener Centre to participate in the Speech from the Throne debate. I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington.
I am both honoured and humbled by the support of the people of Kitchener Centre who have brought me here to Ottawa. As well, I would like to acknowledge and send good wishes to my predecessor, Dr. John English, who has moved on to new challenges while he continues his work on the anti-personnel landmine issue.
It is the faith of Kitchener Centre in my ability to represent their best interests which has brought me to this historical seat of democracy to be a part of the historic second consecutive Liberal government, the last Parliament of the 20th century and the one which will lead Canada into the next millennium.
There are a couple of things I would like to share with the House this afternoon.
First I would like everyone to know why I support the Speech from the Throne as presented by the governor general on the opening day of this Parliament.
Second I would like to offer the government an idea. It is an idea which builds on the agenda presented in the Speech from the Throne and one which would effect real change in the perception and effectiveness of government.
It is important to recognize the foundations which were laid for Canada and Canadians by those who have sat in this House throughout the last century, those who have shaped Canada's identity from coast to coast and abroad.
We are known for our Canadian values, generosity of spirit and collective action; values which have set us apart in the areas of health care, foreign affairs and peacekeeping; all those characteristics which lend to our pride in our country and the respect of the maple leaf worldwide.
In addition to Canadian values, much of our success is based on at least four principles of Canadian liberalism as laid out by Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
The first is faith in the individual, which implies freedom of the individual to make his or her own decisions within the constraints of a democratic society.
The second principle is compassion for the underprivileged, a principle which is the underpinning of a social safety net which Canadians of all parties speak of with pride.
Third is the principle of tolerance toward individuals and groups. It is this principle which enabled Laurier and his successors to bridge the ethnic, racial and cultural differences which characterize Canada.
The fourth principle is that of reform, pushing to develop new policies in keeping with changing times.
The Speech from the Throne provided the vision as to how this government, the 36th Parliament, will continue to act on these principles, and to ensure and work to enhance the quality of living we experience as Canadians.
The theme of partnership permeated the Speech from the Throne; partnership between governments, provincial, territorial and federal; partnership between the public and private sector, large corporations, small businesses, communities and individuals; partnerships which will provide a well-rounded, multifaceted approach to program development and delivery.
I am pleased with the government's commitment to this type of collaboration as I believe it is important for the government to address issues on local and regional levels with the assistance of supporting organizations, businesses and government services.
One of the outstanding characteristics of my riding is the high degree of volunteerism from the community and the willingness of the corporate sector to support both with personnel and funds the initiatives which the community values.
It is the government's ability to draw on the strengths of our country's differences which will build a stronger Canada.
Kitchener is fortunate to be a part of Canada's technology triangle comprised of high tech companies located in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph. The success of partnership in these areas demonstrates that no longer can any one group or sector effectively operate and succeed in isolation. This initiative has created a vehicle with which our area is able to compete in a global economy. As stated in the Speech from the Throne “one in three Canadian jobs depend on trade”.
In the last Parliament the government made progress in promoting trade both within our borders and beyond through reducing internal trade barriers and using the team Canada approach to open doors to Canadian businesses in Asia.
A number of Kitchener area businesses which were represented on that mission have benefited from increased international demand. The success of this approach demonstrates what can be accomplished when governments and the private sector work together.
I am pleased with the government's commitment to build on this success with a focused strategy. I am confident that upcoming team Canada missions will be as fruitful for Kitchener area businesses as well as others throughout Canada. By mounting these initiatives the government is providing fitting leadership which facilitates lasting job creation in the private sector.
Tourism plays a significant role in the economic mosiac of Kitchener and surrounding areas. Many visitors, future residents and investors became acquainted with our community through tourism. Kitchener's rich ethnic diversity and cultural wealth have certainly aided the development of various industries including tourism.
Kitchener is the ninth largest destination for new immigrants. The community benefits greatly from the contributions of these citizens. I am sure many are familiar with what has become Kitchener's most famous celebration by far, Ocktoberfest, a wonderful celebration of the largest German population in Canada drawing an average of 700,000 participants each year. It is an excellent example of people taking pride in their heritage and working together for the benefit of the entire community. The associated economic benefits are in the millions of dollars and continue to grow each year.
While Kitchener enjoys steady growth, the health of a community cannot be measured solely in economic terms. We must also recognize the areas which require attention: continued quality health care, reduced child poverty, improved community safety, lower unemployment and sustained economic growth. All these areas must be addressed without jeopardizing how far our government has come in getting our fiscal house in order. In the Speech from the Throne the government has offered a positive approach to these issues through strategic investments.
I propose that our government promote the integration of various government services and agencies to target the issues and work together with the business community, faith communities and the volunteer sector to create private and public partnerships. As suggested in the Speech from the Throne, if we tackle the problem together we will gain strength as a country.
I come to the 36th Parliament with one agenda: to be the best representative I can be, to fulfil this role with energy and dignity, and to participate in the development and implementation of legislation that is good for all Canadians.
The Speech from the Throne set the foundation for an exciting and fulfilling term. Together we can bring a stronger, united Canada into the next millennium.