Mr. Speaker, it is with a profound sense honour and humility that I move the motion, seconded by the hon. member for Laval West, on the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
I would like to pay my respects to Her Excellency the Governor General and thank her for delivering the speech to both Houses. I offer the governor general my sincere congratulations on her historic appointment and wish her much success in the years ahead.
I would also like to thank the Right Hon. Prime Minister and the government for the honour conferred on me, the recently elected member of parliament for the riding of Windsor—St. Clair.
As hon. members know, earlier this year I succeeded my friend and hon. members' former colleague, the late Shaughnessy Cohen. Shaughnessy had a heart of gold and an infectious personality. She served her constituents well and I intend to be just as enthusiastic as she was in representing the interests of my constituents.
The riding of Windsor—St. Clair is a special riding in that the people who live there represent the very best of what makes Canada such a great place to live. They are hard working people who play by the rules, raise their families and care deeply about their community and their country.
Proof of this can be seen in the fact that for the last 30 years the Windsor-Essex county area has led the country in per capita donations to the United Way. The tremendous sense of pride and community I see every day in Windsor and Tecumseh is what makes serving as their member of parliament so meaningful to me.
Along with numerous other localities in Canada, Windsor—St. Clair has an active and vibrant francophone community to which I am proud to belong. My parents, and their parents before them, were aware of the importance of preserving their language and culture and equally aware of the challenge involved. I face that same challenge every day, as do my children. Our government has done much to enshrine the rights of francophone Canadians from sea to sea.
Windsor is proud of its heritage as Canada's car capital. Windsor is equally proud to be the home of Hiram Walker, producers of the famous Canadian Club whisky. Windsor's long-established industries are doing very well under our government, but the city has progressed beyond its traditional industrial base of assembly and manufacturing plants.
The Windsor casino, with its 20,000-plus visitors daily, has become Canada's number one tourist attraction. Among its positive economic effects are the thousands of well paid jobs it has created, and the millions of dollars in new revenue to the provincial government, in large part from U.S. visitors.
Windsor's economy is changing in other ways as well. For example, aided by our government's investment in technological and skills development Windsor is now the tool and mould capital of the world. Our city is home to well over 100 high tech design firms using state of the art computers, machines and robotics.
Industrial leaders in our community such as Tony Toldo, the Rodzik family, Michael Soltz and Steve Reko are demonstrating Canada's leadership in quality manufacturing, industrial design and research.
During our government's time in office there has been considerable corporate investment in Windsor. The big three automakers, General Motors, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler, have all made significant investments to the lasting benefit of Windsor and Canada.
In addition to the investment in new factories and the modernization of existing plants and equipment we have seen the establishment of the cutting edge automotive research centre, a partnership involving the government, the University of Windsor and Daimler-Chrysler Canada. The centre is using state of the art computer assisted design and telecommunications technology.
Such investments are a clear demonstration of confidence in Canada's economy and an acknowledgement that Canadian workers are highly skilled, well educated and efficient. It also reflects a great degree of confidence in our government and our Prime Minister.
Of course, coming from Windsor I have very large shoes to fill. Paul Martin Sr., Eugene Whelan and Mark MacGuigan served in government with great distinction as very effective representatives of their fellow citizens.
My colleague, the member of parliament for Windsor West, the Deputy Prime Minister, has not only served our part of the country throughout his long and distinguished career, he has worked on behalf of all Canadians.
These men and my immediate predecessor provide me with inspiring examples of what it means to be a member of parliament, but I must say that my own sense of public service came from my parents. They instilled in their children the importance of making a meaningful contribution to our community and the world around us. That is why I spent 14 years on city council in Windsor prior to joining members here.
When I decided to run for parliament it was because I wanted to help Canadians realize their dreams. I wanted to help build on the accomplishments of this government.
In my previous career in the banking industry I had many opportunities to help people realize their dreams. I worked with men and women who were applying for student loans, loans for their first cars, mortgages for their first homes or starting new businesses. I helped people invest their life savings and plan for their retirement years. I listened to their dreams and their plans for the future.
I also remember when Canadians were uncertain about the future, insecure about their jobs or unable to find one. I remember when there was a huge budget deficit, high interest rates and a ballooning national debt. Most of us seriously doubted that the nation's pension plan would be there for us when our turn came to retire.
There was little talk about dreams and the future and more about just making it to the end of the week. That was six years ago.
The leadership and balanced approach of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have meant that this government has been able to accomplish many things. Over the years the government has introduced major tax cuts, eliminated the deficit and begun to reduce the national debt.
Our government is investing in priorities such as health care, education and technological innovation to prepare Canada for the 21st century. Today the unemployment rate in Windsor is a mere half of what it was in 1993 and the local economy is very strong.
Now when I run into my former clients they are again talking about their dreams. They have renewed hope for the future.
Canada is now experiencing the longest stretch of economic growth since the 1960s. The unemployment rate now stands at 7.5%. This is the lowest it has been since June 1990, and it is now almost four points lower than the 11.4% our government faced when it came to power in October, 1993. Over 1.7 millions jobs have been created since that date.
In the last budget, we announced $7.7 billion in tax cuts over a three year period, and the tax cuts of $16.5 billion announced in our last two budgets will benefit all taxpayers. In fact, 600,000 low income Canadians will pay absolutely no federal income tax.
We have brought down a second balanced, surplus budget. We have proposed a tax plan of four consecutive balanced, surplus budgets. This is only the third time since Confederation that such a feat has been accomplished.
As part of the Canadian equal opportunity strategy, we announced an additional investment of over $500 million for the purpose of creating Canadian institutes for health research.
This is a record of commitment, a record of achievement, a record in which our government can take pride. It is a testament to the vision and the leadership of our Prime Minister. More important, this is a record that has improved the life of every Canadian.
There is still much more that remains to be done. We must continue to reduce the tax burden on Canadians in a meaningful and responsible manner. We must continue to reduce the national debt and we must continue to foster a climate where entrepreneurs can succeed, where we reward talent and hard work, and where Canadians can be confident in their economic future.
At the same time we must build on the strengths of our national health care system and take steps to modernize it so that it is ready for the challenges of the 21st century. We must provide families with the support framework they need to ensure that Canada's children, our children, get the best possible start in life.
Working with provinces and territories, we have opened a new front in the war on child poverty with the creation of the national child benefit system, the most important new social program since medicare. It takes an innovative national approach to helping low income families with children. It boosts programs and services for children. It helps parents make the transition from welfare to work. The Government of Canada's contribution to the national child benefit system is the Canada child tax benefit, CCTB. We have pledged to increase the CCTB by $2 billion by Canada Day 2000. This means a family earning $20,000 with two children will get over $3,700 through the CCTB.
We must invest in higher learning and scientific research to secure our place in a knowledge based economy. This year Canada became the first country in the world to connect every public school and every public library to the Internet. Connecting all Canadians remains a priority for our government. High speed access is essential to give Canadians a competitive edge.
Investments like the millennium scholarship fund will generate over 100,000 scholarships each year for low and middle income post-secondary students over the next decade. As well, there are programs such as the Canada savings education grant in which our government is topping up new contributions through the registered education savings plan, RESP. These are an enormous hit with parents saving for their children's future education. Over 300,000 new RESP accounts have been opened since the new grant was announced last year.
There are programs such as the youth employment strategy which has consolidated over $2 billion in new and existing funding for the programs and services young people need today to acquire skills and work experience, to find jobs and to build careers, a program our Prime Minister renewed last December with a substantial increase in funding.
Since we must act in all these areas, I am pleased to see that the Speech from the Throne proposes a proactive agenda. The last throne speech of the 20th century is truly an action plan that sets the foundations for a promising future.
As a federal member of parliament, one of my priorities is to try to improve our national roadway system, because it is critical to the quality of life of all Canadians.
Our roads are used to transport the products we sell and the food we eat to Canadian cities and towns. The roadway system is the backbone of our tourist industry and the lifeline of our foreign trade. As such, it must be safe and effective to ensure our prosperity.
Another priority for me is the environment. In my riding of Windsor—St. Clair we are the victims of cross border pollution in addition to what we ourselves add to the mix. In recent years Canadians have become increasingly aware of all types of pollution. While many industries are working to clean up their act, like the Ford Motor Company attaining ISO 14001 certification in our local plants, citizens are worried that individuals in the various levels of government are neglecting their environmental responsibilities. This growing awareness is one of the reasons that environmental activists are no longer a fringe group. They are now the mainstream population.
Getting to know our new Minister of the Environment has given me a renewed sense of confidence in our ability to make real progress. That message is also reinforced in a vision expressed in the Speech from the Throne. One of the best ways to succeed is to support the development of clean technologies. For example, this spring Daimler-Chrysler revealed the first zero emission fuel cell car in North America. The Ballard fuel cell is Canadian technology that is also being successfully tested in mass transit. Such a development could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In closing I leave the House with this thought. In the last election Canadians chose our government to lead the nation into the 21st century. Canada has been recognized for six straight years by the UN as the best country in the world in which to live. With our government's inspiring vision for the future unveiled earlier today we have indicated that we are ready for the new millennium. Together we can build a society that strikes the right balance between economic investment and respect for the environment, the right balance between support for innovation and support for our cultural diversity.
With a balanced approach we can build a society where every Canadian has a place and where we all share the rewards. Together we can ensure that Canada remains the best country in the world in which to invest, to learn, to work and to live in the 21st century. In doing so we will strengthen Canadians' sense of pride and belonging to this vast, diverse and beautiful nation, a nation woven from caring communities like my own.
I hereby move, seconded by the hon. member for Laval West, that the following address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
May it please Your Excellency:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the House of Commons of Canada, in parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both houses of parliament.