Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to address the second throne speech of the 35th Parliament.
When our government came to power in October 1993 the Canadian people had elected us on a platform of promises and commitments to the voters that we believed in strongly enough to print boldly for the whole world to see in the famous red book.
The greatest commitment that would affect all other commitments was to restore financial confidence in Canada and reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of GDP by the 1996-97 fiscal year.
When this government came to power the annual deficit was more than $42 billion. By the end of the 1995-96 fiscal year, which will end in just a few weeks on March 31, we expect to reach the deficit reduction target of approximately $32 billion. We will be on target of the original goal and we will by the end of fiscal year 1996-97 be around a deficit of $25 billion to $27 billion. The Minister of Finance has already set new rolling targets to take us into the second half of our term and that will reduce the deficit to 2 per cent of GDP by fiscal year 1997-98. By the turn of the century I personally hope to see a deficit of zero and a balanced budget.
Why is this so important? It is important because it has reduced interest rates. It has reduced unemployment. It has reduced mortgage rates and has provided a healthier financial environment. It is important also to let Canadians know that we have set realistic targets and that we have made the tough cuts in spending to meet those targets.
Our finance minister has shown strong leadership and our government has shown great political courage to do the right thing, not always the politically popular thing. I am proud to be a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and I am equally proud of the advice and support that the Canadian people have offered us in the consultative process.
The kept promise of financial responsibility was of number one importance in order to keep the promises of our government programs. As well, the greatest promise of all, the all encompassing commitment was the contract with the Canadian people to insist on the highest standards of integrity and honesty of all ministers performing their duties in this 35th Parliament. Our Prime Minister has kept that promise.
By setting and meeting realistic goals and by delivering an honest government with integrity, we have restored credibility and confidence in our elected representatives. This is not only good for Canada at home but it is very good for us globally as other countries view Canada with great respect. What is it about Canada that causes other countries and the United Nations to declare it to be the number one country in the world to provide the best quality of life?
We as a government have shown leadership in getting our financial house in order, in reducing the public service and in doing the business of government more efficiently. Now we can ensure the continuance of our highly valued social justice system that provides this high quality of life that the world views in awe.
The throne speech highlighted the fact that our government respects the values that Canadians hold dear. In respecting those values our government must ensure economic opportunity as well as security for all Canadians. Economic growth alone does not make a nation. Canadians have told us what defines greatness in nationhood is: the opportunity to work; the national health care system; a fair judicial system; and compassion and respect for all human beings to live in one united Canada.
We have delivered on what the majority of Canadians asked for in the first half of our mandate. Now we are committing to those values that Canadians have identified and asked for, values that bind this country together in Canadian unity.
We are committing to income security for the elderly and the availability of old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. Measures will be taken in this Parliament to ensure the sustainability of our elderly benefits system into the future. Let there be no doubt that we will look after our elderly.
We are committing to our youth, to double the number of federal summer jobs this year immediately, which will help them pay for their post-secondary education. We will challenge the private sector and other levels of government to create opportunities in assisting young people in finding their first job. Our youth must be our priority.
Recently I was honoured to announce funding to establish a new Bachelor of Science degree program in aquaculture, that is fish culture, at the Nova Scotia Agriculture College in Truro. This program is extremely important to the Atlantic coast as it provides an opportunity to train our young people in a new field that has tremendous potential for growth in world markets for Canadian fish products.
We have committed in the throne speech to the five principles of the Canadian Health Act. We will work with the provinces to ensure the future of our publicly financed health care system which remains the number one health care system in the world.
We have committed to the security and protection of our environment and we will modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We will introduce an endangered species protection act and legislation to ratify the UN straddling stocks agreement and the law of the sea convention.
Canada will continue to participate in the G-7, in NATO and in the United Nations for a more stable and peaceful world. We will commit to advancing human rights and the dignity of all people. We will work vigorously to eliminate the exploitation of child labour and child prostitution throughout the world.
Many people listening to my voice today will know that very often I speak in this House on issues on rural Canada. I was very pleased to see that this throne speech addresses the problems facing rural Canada and acknowledges the fact that our government must tailor policies to meet those needs.
Quite often the problems of urban centres overshadow rural needs and we lose sight of the great richness of the human resources and the great contributions made by rural people to this country. The Prime Minister has heard our voice speaking on behalf of rural Canada. I feel confident that he recognizes that in a strong, united Canada we must ensure that both rural and urban needs are met and that both rural and urban Canadians benefit from the wealth of this great country and share in its economic prosperity. I look forward to seeing the words rural Canada becoming key words in all of our policy proposals in this session of Parliament.
These past two years have created much anxiety as many programs were cut to take swift action against the deficit. It has not been easy for anyone and it is not over. I am sure members will agree that had we not taken the prudent steps of compassion, if we had taken the steps of slash and burn as recommended by some parties, it would have been even more painful. We have shown compassion while being responsible and accountable in fiscal matters.
There is still much to be done. When the hon. Minister of Finance presents his budget next Wednesday afternoon, we will need the co-operation and the continued trust of the Canadian people. We need their support so that we can create the economic climate for investment and job creation while still funding programs that represent Canadian values.
We will serve the Canadian people in the second half of our mandate with the same integrity, honesty and dedication as we have in the past two years. We will pass legislation that ensures and serves all Canadians with a sense of fairness and equality in a united Canada.
I look forward to hearing the views from my constituents of Cumberland-Colchester. I thank them for giving me the privilege of serving them in this 35th Parliament of Canada.