I would require an expansion of the aisle if I had to sit beside the member for Wild Rose and probably some body armour to protect me from time to time because we might find ourselves at opposite ends of a particular argument.
I have just gone through a nomination battle. I was unsuccessful at running for the nomination in Mississauga--Erindale. Having some experience in the fights that take place in here, in the cut and thrust that goes on across the floor, it is nothing, trust me, compared to what goes on in internal battles within the party. What we have actually seen is a bit of a transformation. For some time the internal battles seemed to be across the way. Now there appears at least on the surface to be some unity across the way and the internal battles are taking place within the Liberal caucus.
I do not say that out of bitterness. I made my choice. I knew what I was doing. I knew it was going to be a tough battle and I was not successful at the end of the day. However, it is a long road without a bend and we will see exactly where that road takes us.
This morning, since I am not talking under the pressure of an upcoming election, I seem to have some new-found freedom, some joie de vivre. I can almost say whatever I want. Those who want to attack the democratic deficit should lose a nomination. It is simple. Then they could come into this place and say whatever they wanted to say. There would be no consequences. What would the whip do to them?
I do want to leave some ideas in this place that may or may not be accepted, that may or may not last beyond my departure. I do not know when that is going to be. None of us know, except perhaps for one certain Prime Minister and I do not know if he knows, when that election will be. I want the House and my constituents to know some of these ideas. They are still my constituents.
I am still the member of Parliament for Mississauga West, although there was a friend of mine who went to get a passport and I signed the application. The passport office called to ask what riding I represented because the information in the passport office showed the riding of Mississauga West as being vacant. How soon they pull the plug and pull the lever. I assured them it was not vacant, that it was substantially filled and would remain so until the next election. Who knows what will happen after that, as I have said.
I do want to say that I do not go on to the next phase of my life with any sense of bitterness or any sense of regret. I go on with a sense of pride in having been able to stand in this place. It is such an honour to do so. I say to all who will return, and some who may not return under different circumstances than my departure, to always hold deep in their hearts the knowledge that they have been part of history, part of a place that is so steeped in the significance of nation building, steeped in the significance of world peace and the contribution that our country makes. It stems from this place.
There are 301 of us now and there will be 308 members after the next election. It is such an honour in a country of over 30 million people to be given the burden, the responsibility, the opportunity, the challenge to come into this place and to represent Canadians, in spite of the ideological differences that exist in this place.
Once we get away from the actual cut and thrust of question period or parliamentary debate and we get out into the community and work on committees and travel with colleagues from opposite parties, we get to know each other. Oftentimes we find that we really are not that much different, that all of us came here with the same kind of lofty goals.
When we run for public office, the first question people always ask us is why we are doing it. The standard answer is that we want to make a difference. It gets a little boring after a while, but it really is the truth for members on all sides.
I see the member for Edmonton North who is also not returning to this place, but it was her choice, and it was roundly applauded by people on this side who agreed with that particular choice. In spite of the fact that we have not been chummy or warm and friendly, I think she would agree that there are people on both sides who indeed can and do work well together, whether it is on a committee, a task force or in some other capacity other than the confrontational approach that occurs in this place.
It is not all about confrontation is what I am trying to say. I would like to leave a message for the young people in my community. All they see is question period and the scrums. They always wonder about all these empty seats. Is it because members do not enjoy hearing me speak? That is a possibility, but I would suspect they are not here because they are busy. They are working. They are in their offices. They are having meetings. They are at committees. They are in caucus. They are doing the job of a member of Parliament. The job of a member of Parliament is not simply to put bums in seats in this place all day long. There is too much to be done. The people in the community need to know that it is not all about that kind of approach.
There are some things that were not in the budget that I found a little disappointing. Obviously, as a member, even a defeated nominee for this party, I still support the budget. I support the government. So many good things are being done.
I particularly like the tax exemption for our fighting men and women when they are in harm's way. That shows some real sensitivity to the men and women who do the job on behalf of all Canadians. I can say that while the number one issue in the country may be health care, the number one thing we will hear from people is how proud they are of the men and women in Canada's military and the sense of pride they feel whenever they see what they are doing on foreign shores and in difficult places.
We did not put enough emphasis in the budget on what Canada can do in the world. It may be hard to quantify. We hear cries for more money for the military. What I would rather see is more money and more emphasis on diplomacy.
Let me take members back to the convention where the current Prime Minister was crowned. The Irish rock star Bono spoke to the throngs at the convention centre. Ralph Klein could not pronounce his name, saying he thought he was called bwana or something, poor old Ralph.
Bono made a statement that stuck with me and I think with everybody at the convention and probably with most Canadians. He said that what the world needs is more Canada. I have not seen that kind of leadership go far enough, frankly, with this government or any government: “what the world needs is more Canada”. That does not mean we need more military. That does not mean we need to go into every combat. That does not mean we need to agree with the United States and join the war in Iraq.
I want to say for the record that I wholeheartedly supported the government's decision not to go to Iraq in spite of some rumours that have been perpetuated around my community which would indicate that somehow I supported the war in Iraq. I did not, I do not, and I think it was a courageous decision on behalf of the former prime minister, one that I, along with most members in this place on this side of the House, was proud to stand behind him on.
But I think we could do much more. Let me talk briefly about the experience that people are feeling in the community about the war in the Middle East. We have terrible tensions. We have assassinations. We have suicide bombings. How could anyone ever understand how a mother could wrap a bomb around a child and then send that child onto a bus to detonate that bomb and kill people? It is not an image that most Canadians could even come close to understanding, but it is reality.
Why does it happen? It happens because there is no hope. It happens because there is no sense that anyone is coming to the table to talk about how we can resolve the differences between the state of Israel and the state of Palestine. We know, all of us, that the long term, ultimate solution is an independent Palestine and an independent Israel living together in peace. But how do we get there?
There is a synagogue in one part of my riding. In another part of my riding, I have Palestine House. Believe you me, Mr. Speaker, the conflict is very much alive in the city of Mississauga, and I will say tragically alive in the city of Mississauga, because it is not in Mississauga that we should be resolving this problem. However, we as a government can set some standards. We could use a budgetary tool or a throne speech or a particular announcement from foreign affairs to say to those people, “Look. Stop the killing. Let us sit down and talk. Let us talk about the issue of the wall and the fact that there is a sense that a wall is needed for protection from terrorists”.
What we need is education. What we need is understanding. Walls crumble. Walls fall. History shows that. Walls do not solve problems; they create problems and they create fear. Of course the fear is understandable. The state of Israel worries every day about who is crossing its border points because those individuals may have backpacks laden with explosives.
Are we going to solve that problem here? I do not think so, but we can show some leadership. Perhaps Allan Rock, our ambassador in New York, could show some leadership. In fact, I am working on a delegation to meet with Ambassador Rock to discuss this kind of thing and to see how we can move the dialogue along.
This is about more Canada. Let us give the world more Canada. We do not have to be smug about it. We are different from the Americans, there is no question about that. We are sovereign and there is no question about that. We tend to self-flagellate ourselves all the time. Every time there is a slight problem, every time some nutbar down in the United States goes on national television and calls us “Canuckistan” or whatever, we tend to blame ourselves instead of recognizing the fact that these kinds of comments are coming from people who are unbalanced, frankly, and who do not understand the very nature of this country. I think we need to start looking outward as a country to see how we can work.
There was another thing that was missing in the budget. There was no new money for immigration. That relates to this issue, because this is obviously a nation that is built on immigration. If we take a look at my riding, we see that I have people from every single corner of the world there, and in large numbers, too, I might add. We should be celebrating the fact that they are in this country. We should be working with those people to try to find out how we can take more Canada to the parts of the world that they have come from. They have left there to get away from the wars, whether they are in Afghanistan or Iraq, or in Jordan, Egypt or wherever; it does not matter. These people have come here to get away from the tensions, the fears and the problems, but they still have strong ties to their homelands and that part of the world.
It seems to me that we should take the opportunity to work with these people to find out how we can arrive at some solutions to some of the problems that exist around the world. I might add that the motive can be a little bit selfish. The motive can be that we are creating new markets for ourselves, that we are creating new opportunities for Canadian technology; we punch above our weight so much in the area of technology and our exports around the world. We talk about the importance of the United States to Canada, but I might add that it is a two way street. Twenty-five per cent of everything the United States exports is exported to Canada. It is the largest single trading block in the world. It is one that is important not only for Canada but extremely so for the U.S.
Why not have some free trade agreements with other parts of the world? I know what happens is that the Maude Barlows of this world would all come demonstrating and saying it is awful, that we are only trying to take advantage of the poor people. That is just nonsense. There is a way to help poor nations. There is a way to help South Africa.
I was once in Durban, South Africa, leading a team Canada trade mission. It was about roads, but because at the time I was responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing as the secretary of state, I did some work in the housing field. Durban is a city with a housing waiting list. We think we have problems here, but Durban is a city of 3 million people in South Africa, a modern, vibrant city, a very dangerous city, and it has a waiting list for affordable housing of 800,000 people.
Can we imagine that? Frankly, affordable housing in Durban is something like a 30 metre box with some decent plumbing and clean water. It is not what we would perhaps see as the standard here in Canada. They build 17,000 new homes a year in that community. The government does it. Why can we not do that? I do not understand. We have governments from sea to sea to sea and we as governments do not come close to building that, yet we have put in the money through Canada Mortgage and Housing.
Mr. Speaker, if I may, I will acknowledge Catherine Cronin from Winnipeg and Roberta Hayes from Saint John, two members of the CMHC board. They are here this morning. I know it is the Speaker's responsibility to acknowledge people in the gallery so I will not go any further.
I point this out just to say that we have an opportunity. It has been missed in this budget and, frankly, it has been missed in the government. I hope that it will show up in some form of a commitment in the next red book. That opportunity is to take Canada Mortgage and Housing and return it to its rightful place as a builder of affordable housing in this country. We must not simply leave it to the provinces and the territories, which then in turn pass it on to the municipalities, saying that the municipalities should build it, that the provinces and territories cannot do it, they do not have the money. They say they are under stress and under pressure and people should blame Ottawa.
The municipalities in Ontario blame Queen's Park. Whatever: let us knock it off. We have a company here, Canada Mortgage and Housing, that last year turned a profit of $500 million. It is basically an insurance company. It provides mortgage insurance. It turns a profit of $500 million and then puts, as it must by the laws of the Superintendent of Insurance, a large chunk of that into reserve, which it must do to operate competitively. Last year Canada Mortgage and Housing wound up with unallocated surpluses in the range of $200 million. Why can we not put that money directly back into housing? I argued that at the cabinet table but was unsuccessful.
Perhaps my colleagues, who will surely rise to the cabinet level after the next election, would be prepared to take that fight forward to the Prime Minister and to the cabinet. We have a tool that is there. It is called Canada Mortgage and Housing. We are not using it, we should be using it, and it should be here in this budget.
Let me say finally that I appreciate this opportunity. I cherish the opportunity to make a speech here because it means that I can share ideas I have on behalf of my community and my family, and I thank the Speaker for the honour of doing that this morning.