Mr. Speaker, I wish to pay tribute to His Excellency the Governor General, Mr. Roméo LeBlanc, and to thank him for giving the throne speech before both Houses.
I would also like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on being re-elected to the Chair. We feel, and you have demonstrated to us, that you have all the qualities required for the important job of directing the work of the House. I would also like to thank the Prime Minister, who honoured me by asking me to move the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
In addition, I would like to congratulate all my colleagues on being elected to office. Representing one's constituents well is no small challenge and I know that each of us, with God's help, will carry out our duties conscientiously, with respect for the institutions we serve and, of course, for the citizens of our country, Canada.
I represent the wonderful riding of Beauce. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my constituents for the very great honour they have bestowed on me by electing me to represent them in the House of Commons.
Our riding, the cradle of small and medium size enterprise and entrepreneurship, is located in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, in southern Quebec just across the border from the United States. It is my fortune to represent one of the most beautiful regions in the province.
Our economy is made up of businesses working in very diversified sectors. From agriculture and forestry to manufacturing and the service industries, each sector is well represented in our economy. And let us not forget our excellent maple syrup, a favourite with everyone.
Our region boasts several well known enterprises. It is thanks to names like Dutil, Lacroix, Pomerleau, Poulin, Vachon, and the list goes on, that our region is seen as an economic leader and envied by all. It is because of these enterprises that it has often been said that the Beauce region is the kingdom of SMBs. The Beauce region, along with the Chaudière-Appalaches region, has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Quebec, 6.1 per cent in August of this year.
What sets our region apart from others is that when we have a problem, we look for a solution, not a culprit. Instead of going over old ground when it was elected to office on October 25, 1993, the Liberal government helped put an end to the crisis.
Today, after four years of Liberal government, Canada's economic performance is one of the best among the G-7 industrial nations, and the future looks even more promising. That is why Canadians can look forward with great hope to the future.
From the time of its first election in October 1993, the Liberal government has made job creation its top priority. Since then, close to a million jobs have been created in the country, and the unemployment rate has dropped from 11.2 to 9%. The Liberal government's re-election will ensure that the policies responsible for revitalizing the economy will be continued.
In its Employment Strategy, the Liberal government has put public finances back on a sound footing, starting by addressing the problem of the huge deficits inherited from past governments. It has reduced the deficit from $42 billion to under $14 billion. This is a remarkable drop, over $28 billion in four years, or a reduction of over 70 percent. The Liberal government is committed to continuing along this same path, with a view to attaining a zero deficit by 1998-99.
This good management has made it possible to keep interest and inflation rates at their lowest. These rates, moreover, help businesses to invest and to create jobs, which encourages purchases of major consumer goods. Once the budget is balanced, half of each billion dollar budgetary surplus will be used to cut taxes and reduce the debt. The other half will be invested in important social and economic programs, including job creation initiatives.
Our government believes in young people. It invests annually in programs that enable young Canadians to acquire the knowledge and experience they need to get their careers off to a good start. In addition, it recently announced the youth internship program in the federal public sector.
The government's priorities are first and foremost employment, improved public finances and Canadian unity.
For the past 130 years, Canada's achievements have earned this country the admiration of the whole world. In fact, according to the United Nations, Canada happens to provide the best quality of life of any country in the world. We have reached this level of excellence largely thanks to the values of equality and diversity which we hold dear. To preserve and improve our federation is to preserve and improve the way we live.
The Liberal government has demonstrated the flexibility and vigour of Canadian federalism. This same government has put forward new strategies for getting rid of duplication among levels of government, while showing greater respect for the jurisdictions set forth in the Constitution. The manpower agreement, for instance, is an example of our government's desire for a modern federalism.
With the provinces, we have also reached an agreement on environmental harmonization. We have withdrawn from programs of direct involvement in mining and forestry development and have suggested transferring management of social housing to the provinces. Finally, we suggested introducing federal-provincial mechanisms to deal with securities, food inspection and revenue collection.
The principle of a new federalism will continue to guide our actions during the government's present mandate.
Every year, more than 300,000 Canadians learn French, in a country that should be proud of its two languages and two cultures. I am proud to be part of this beautiful country we call Canada.
It is an honour and a privilege for me, as the new elected member for Beauce, to second the motion on the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne moved by the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.