Mr. Speaker, this is the first opportunity I have had to make a speech in the House. I want to congratulate you on your appointment.
On February 22, Canada's finance minister stood before the House to release the first budget of Canada's 35th Parliament. By doing so, the government took the next step toward completing a process that began for us a long time ago, a process that originated with the desire to bring economic prosperity back to Canada and to bring personal dignity back to Canadians.
The recent election made evident that Canadians shared the Liberal vision of a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where a top priority of government is jobs and economic growth, a tomorrow where government acts with integrity, with respect for the constituency that it represents, a tomorrow where social programs are reinforced and strengthened by a caring government and not sacrificed under the banner of deficit reduction, a tomorrow where the government believes that tomorrow begins today.
In the recent speech from the throne we confirmed our determination to deliver on the commitments we made to the people of Canada during the last election campaign.
On February 22, we demonstrated our commitment by introducing decisive measures to reduce the deficit, by showing Canadians where and how we are going to pay for our program of economic renewal. We are taking the next step toward implementing that vision of a better tomorrow which Canadians overwhelmingly supported on October 26.
In my riding of Vancouver South my constituents have placed a tremendous amount of confidence and trust in me. They have entrusted me to come to Ottawa and to work with the government to ensure that their voices are heard as Vancouver residents, as British Columbians and as proud Canadians. They have asked me to battle for the interests of small and medium sized businesses. The majority of businesses within my riding are small and medium sized.
Whether those businesses are located on Main Street or Marine Drive or whether they sell groceries in the Punjabi Market or process lumber on the banks of the Fraser River, they all have one thing in common. For the past nine years they have been frustrated and feeling excluded from the economic decision making process that has shaped the country.
As a small business owner for most of my life I have promised small business in my riding that I would work with this government to promote positive initiatives, initiatives which will encourage growth and security for Canada's small and medium sized business sector.
Traditionally the Liberals have focused much of their attention on the enhancement of the small business sector. I am proud to say that this budget reaffirms our commitments to small business by providing it with tax relief and by improving its access to capital. This budget provides the two ingredients crucial to building a vibrant business culture. Most important, however, the budget allows small business owners to do what they do best; manage their businesses.
While this budget makes significant progress in addressing the key issues for the smaller business sector, some challenges still remain. One of the most significant challenges that small businesses face is attitude, the attitude that big is better. This must change. If small businesses are to flourish the measures taken in this budget will make substantial progress toward eroding this attitude.
Another significant challenge to the small business sector is the increasing paper burden. This burden has hindered growth and reduced productivity for many businesses. We must find a way to alleviate the paper burden.
A further challenge to growth in the small business sector is the GST, long seen as a thorn in the side of small business. We must find an alternative to the GST so that Canadians will once again have the confidence to invest and to take risks, a process which is essential for growth.
My constituents have also asked me to be frugal with their tax dollars. British Columbians are honest and hard working people. They are angry with the way they have seen governments spend
their tax dollars. During the election the people of Vancouver South asked me to work toward putting an end to the waste and mismanagement of past governments and to act responsibly with their tax dollars.
The government knows we cannot ask Canadians to pull together in hard times if we are not ready to make sacrifices. The budget demonstrates that we are willing to make those sacrifices: a smaller, less expensive cabinet, the Gagliano plan, and a "just the facts" budget all demonstrate the government's commitment to ensuring that the hard earned tax dollars of Canadians are not wasted. The government knows that we must continue to work with Canadians to make the tough choices needed to get our financial house in order.
My constituents have asked me to ensure that we do not compromise when it comes to our environment. I consider myself very fortunate to come from British Columbia, a province that has both a mild climate and unparalleled beauty. After experiencing my first winter here, I am confident that when I initiate a private member's bill to move the national capital from Ottawa to Vancouver I will receive tremendous support.
British Columbia offers a unique natural environment which I humbly submit is unequalled in the rest of Canada. It is a combination of mountains, oceans and forests, which ensures that British Columbians remain conscious of the impact our actions have on the environment.
No government owns the oceans, land or air, yet every government has a responsibility to protect our natural environment for present and future Canadians. We must never forget that we are only the trustees of this world. Our challenge is to pass it along to our children in a cleaner and healthier state than it was passed to us.
I hope to work very closely with cabinet, both in my capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and as a representative of a constituency very much concerned about protecting our environment.
My constituents have also asked me to ensure that government remains compassionate, both nationally and internationally. During the election my constituents asked me to ensure that despite the pressure to cut back on government expenditures, a Liberal government would maintain Canada's record of compassion and continue to provide for those areas of our society which need our help.
February's budget announcement allowed me to return to my riding and show my constituents that the government, while still acting responsibly, has remained compassionate. Whether it means ensuring fair pensions for the elderly or providing opportunities for less fortunate Canadians, the government will not abandon those in need.
But compassion does not end at home. In some countries in the world freedom is not a right, it is a dream. In some countries in the world human rights abuses continue regularly unchecked. Many of my constituents come from countries which have track records of human rights abuses. They know first hand the difference between good and bad democracy. They are confident that Canada as a role model for human rights and compassionate government will not lose sight of its international responsibility as a facilitator for justice. They are confident that this country will never allow itself to be silenced by commercial interests when speaking out on human rights issues.
My constituents asked me to represent their diversity. Like Canada, my constituency has a diverse ethnic and cultural base. Many of my constituents are first generation Canadians. They have come here with their hopes and dreams and have become part of the Canadian mosaic. They offer us diversity, a diversity which I believe contributes greatly to Canada's national identity. It is our responsibility as the Government of Canada to ensure that we continue to represent our nation's diversity, that we continue to represent the constituency which we serve.
The Liberal government is proud to be working to include a truly representative cross section of Canadians. I am proud to be a part of that change.
I inherit a proud tradition in my riding of Vancouver South. Nestled between West 41st to the north, Canada's largest fishery, the Fraser River to the south, and Boundary Road to the east, my riding has had a long history of demanding a high quality of representation from their elected members. John Fraser served Vancouver South for 20 years and during that time was distinguished with being the first member of Parliament to ever be elected Speaker of the House. It is in that tradition of strong parliamentary representation that I am privileged to follow.
In conclusion, I would like to humbly thank my constituents for placing their trust in me to represent them at the federal level. My constituents have placed a tremendous challenge before me which I am proud to meet. Every long journey begins with the first step. On October 26 we took our first step on the journey toward economic prosperity for Canada. On February 22 we took another long stride.