We said at our wedding that one has a greater chance of being struck by lightning after the age of 40 than of getting married for the first time. So we are making Canadian history all the way. It was wonderful.
What I appreciate in a partner is when I can go home at night and just get so much personal support. That one person is certainly important and the most important, but I was told to find some friends. I did my very best and it looks pretty good from my viewpoint. I went from a caucus of one to one of a caucus and I like this a whole lot better. It is pretty exciting.
Thank you again for the support you have shown for us so far in the House. We look forward to working with everyone.
I want to pay tribute right now to the hon. member for Kamloops. It is interesting and life is ironic. I warmed exactly his seat and he warmed exactly mine. For now we have made a
complete switch in seats and I like this a lot too. I hope he appreciates the seat which I kept warm for him for several years as well.
On to the throne speech. Let us look at some of the things that went right in the throne speech and some of the things that have gone wrong. Maybe there are some weaknesses in it. Far be it for me to stand here and be terribly critical.
We are all here, I believe, for one reason regardless of our political affiliation or the way we are trying to come at this. I think we all believe that we want this country to be a better place no matter what we think of it. We are here for that reason only because it is not fun commuting to Ottawa.
From this throne speech we realize that probably the main concern of all Canadians is that of economic insecurity. Certainly that is the real focus of this throne speech. People in this country realize that they are frustrated with high taxes. They fear for social programs or the lack of a real job.
The economic insecurity troubling Canadians certainly results from many factors both national and international. Granted, there is perhaps little we can do at the international level but there are many ways by which we can determine to move this country ahead economically within Canada's borders. The way we exercise that potential influence through our taxing and spending policies is all important.
Unfortunately for Canadians, for the past 20 years we have perhaps had too much government. Governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have spent too much, taxed too much and owed too much.
Let us not bicker. Considering the hon. members on the other side of the House with whom I sat, I remember well the back and forth volleys. The Conservatives said the Liberals left them the debt.
I do not want to see that happen again. Some of my friends over here will talk about those Conservatives. People do not care. What people are concerned about is that we dig ourselves out of this debt hole and they do not want to concern themselves with the fact of whomever it was who got us into it. We want to get out of this debt hole and we will do our best on this side of the House to make sure that we put policies into practice and support this government when it brings in legislation so that we can start digging ourselves out and not worry about who dug us in. Let us dig ourselves out. That is the focus we need to take.
We must break the cycle of spending more, borrowing more and taxing more. What a refreshing change if we would be able to stand here as parliamentarians and say that we believe in spending less and borrowing less so that down the road we will be guaranteed that we will be taxed less. I think the Canadian public would support that wholeheartedly.
We are aware that the annual deficit now exceeds 5 per cent of the GDP. This government has promised to lower it to 3 per cent during the life of this Parliament.
That is noble and we will applaud that, but let us make sure that it is only the first step because 3 per cent of the GDP is still well up, $20 billion or $25 billion of an annual deficit. We will be digging ourselves continuously into that debt hole if we just function at that level.
Let us say for step one for this government it is 3 per cent of GDP but let it only be step one or phase one. Let us move rapidly toward a balanced budget so that we can break even with our arrears payments and then start making the actual payments on the mortgage.
We have spoken long and loud about this debt quagmire and we want to make sure that the Canadian public sees something in us in this 35th Parliament that we would be able to make some suggestions.
I am so glad to know that we have some economic specialists in my caucus now. I will leave that to them. It is marvellous because I have been able to turn that job over to them. I will let them deal with specifics about numbers and philosophies in terms of economics but let me say that we need to reform the economics of this country. The Minister of Finance is well aware of it and many of the Liberal backbenchers that I know and have spoken with are concerned about it as well.
Second, in terms of economics, what must we do with the pension plan for members of Parliament? I stand before you and before this House as the only member of my entire caucus who qualifies for a member of Parliament pension at this point. I speak wholeheartedly about this as well as with serious conviction that we just do not talk about it and try to make it look good on the outside. We should see substantive reforms in the MP pension plan that are really going to make a difference and not just say that we have made changes in it. Let us make sure that it is brought more in line with the private sector and that it is not such a completely enriched situation where no other Canadian citizen would qualify for such a ridiculously extravagant pension.
This process was introduced in 1952, the year I was born. It has been increasingly enriched far too much and almost in fact corrupted. Could we use that word? People in this situation will get into a program which is not actuarially sound. It is three or four times what every other pension plan is.
Let us work together on that. People do not want their members of Parliament to be poorly paid. We learned that in the campaign. People do not want their members of Parliament to sort of be put out to pasture and not looked after, but let us make sure that it is brought into line actuarially so that we are not doing anything any more extravagant than that for other Canadian citizens. I do believe that the Canadian public would go for that.
I am sure that caucus would agree with my suggestion concerning these changes when they are brought forward and we look at the meat of the legislation. Please let us not tinker with the MP pension system just so it looks good. Let us actually make some substantive changes so that we can say that this was the government and these were the opposition parties-all of them in this House-that said they were going to change this and that will make a difference in the politics of this country.
What about reforming this place? Does Parliament need to be reformed? Yes it does. Of course you and I, Madam Speaker, sat in the last House and watched the use of closure and limiting debate literally dozens of times. Let me again assure my friends with whom I visited in the lobby the last time on this side that I am going to be watching and making suggestions. I know that many people now on the government side are going to be concerned about that and give really good guidance to make sure that closure and time allotment and all these things are not slapped in.
Let us make sure that the behaviour and decorum in this House change. The 34th Parliament and the 35th election issued an incredible warning from the Canadian public to all those who would run as members of Parliament. It was this: "If you people do not behave the way any of us would behave in our boardrooms, if you people do not behave the way we would behave in our classrooms or in our private lives then we will do something about it". They did so.
We should not ever think for a minute, those of us who sit here cosy today, that they will not do it to us too if we do not make sure that we clean up the behaviour and the decorum in this House.
Let me say I appreciate that in the first couple of days we have not had these spats. Let us make sure that whatever it is we feel so passionately about we still treat each other with that dignity and respect that every one of us deserved in our private lives and that we deserve as well in our public lives.
There is a phantom in the Ottawa scene and it lives in this Chamber probably more than it lives anywhere else in this town or across this country and that is that it is so easy to become part of this group where we say: "We are here, we made it, some of us are back again and some of us are new here". There is something that is seeping through Parliament and that is perhaps that ego is number one. Let me remind all of us, myself included, that ego did not get us here, but it can get us out of here faster than anything we know of.
Let us make sure that we realize what our position is here and that is as a servant. We should not just say it so it sounds good, but say it so we believe firmly that we are employees of the people who voted us in and sent us here. I believe that ego set a precedent in this place long, long ago and as my leader mentioned earlier, we will do things in this House to break precedent and I am excited about that.
Let us break the precedent of ego. Let us make sure that when we have new parties here, so many new members here and a new Speaker here that we break that phantom of Ottawa which has permeated this place and chase it out once and for all. Would we make an impression on the Canadian public? You bet we would. What a refreshing change that would be. Beware of the phantom of Ottawa that permeates this Chamber. Let us make sure that we behave in such a way that we are servants. We have an opportunity now like no other Parliament has ever had to have a fresh start and clean it out and make sure that we are going to make a more efficient, democratic and freer Parliament.
Let us make sure that if we talk about free votes in this House of Commons that they are free and not just that they sound free. In the last Parliament we had a few free votes and unfortunately the public saw on TV just a particular member. What I got to see was the whole thing where the whip or somebody would come around and try to convince someone: "Oh, no, you don't want to do that". Let us make sure that if we talk free votes then we really act on free votes. That will free this place up and chase that phantom out faster than anything else. I think the Canadian public would really notice that.
What about members of Parliament who get here and are safe for the whole term with a majority government? May we trust the people who put us here to be our board of directors so that they would be able to call us home as shareholders if we are not doing our job? I introduced and I am reintroducing my private member's bill on MP recall. Let us make sure that this Parliament is opened up. The phantom of job security here is so tight that nobody could chase us out. No executive director of a company would be allowed to be completely safe. Let us make sure that we open ourselves up.
I am glad to second our subamendment which will be voted on tomorrow. We cannot afford to not support a subamendment which caps the finances. We cannot afford to let parliamentary reform just slip out of our hands and talk about it so nicely and yet it did not really happen. What a sad legacy at the very beginning of this 35th Parliament if we were to just give up by default right at the beginning.
I want to finish now and conclude my remarks by just giving us all a word of encouragement, regardless of what party we are with and what our political philosophies. I have a tribute to the late Senator Stan Waters who knew many people in this House and who was certainly a good friend of mine. He was my only political ally here in 1990. Stan always said that whenever one is going ahead some place one must keep on marching no matter what deters one from that.
It is not just for my party here in the House, but for every party, regardless of political stripe. Let us all get one sight in our mind and that is to make this a better Canada and make it a place where we are proud to go back on the streets or back to our constituencies and say: "I am a member of Parliament and I am proud of that". What a change that would be. Keep on marching.