Mr. Speaker, it is a very great privilege and an honour that has been bestowed upon me today to make this motion which is to be seconded by the hon. member for Beauce for the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the government for the honour they have bestowed on the people of Parkdale—High Park with their motion.
I am also honoured and privileged to be the first member of Parliament of Latvian and Baltic States heritage to take a seat in the House of Commons, which in Latvian is stated as follows:
Man ir liels prieks un Gods but pirma Latviesu un Baltiesu Deputate Kanadas Parlamenta.
I would like to thank the people of Parkdale—High Park who have placed their trust and confidence in me to represent their interests in the House of Commons. As their member I vow to work with my colleagues and in partnership with the private and non-profit sectors to address the challenges which we face today and in the future.
I would also like to especially acknowledge and thank my hon. predecessor Mr. Jesse Flis who represented the riding of Parkdale—High Park for over 14 years. I would like to thank him for the legacy he has left in the riding. Mr. Flis, we salute, thank and applaud you.
The riding of Parkdale—High Park, a microcosm of Canada, is one of the most culturally and economically diverse ridings in this country.
It is a very united riding, a riding that takes strength from its diversity and its sense of community, a riding which is exemplary of what can be accomplished through community based activities and initiatives, a riding that shows that diversity does not equate to disunity.
I believe that fostering partnerships is a key to addressing the issues and challenges which we will face today and in the future. In that context I would like to address three issues: job creation, the development of safe and prosperous communities, and the importance of the arts in articulating Canada's identity.
In its previous mandate this government committed to Canadians that it would ensure its strong economic fundamentals would be in place in order to promote economic recovery and job creation. The Prime Minister and his government have been successful at meeting and surpassing their targets of deficit reduction. The government predicts that we shall see the deficit eliminated well prior to the end of this mandate. I commend my colleagues on their achievements.
Our purpose must now be to take advantage of a vigorous economy and create jobs. In my opinion, the government has a duty to ease job creation by promoting the kind of economic environment we need and by nurturing partnerships with the private and non-profit sectors.
The Minister of Finance has completed the first task. The Minister of Industry and his colleagues are now responding to the second task with their jobs strategy.
One aspect of the jobs strategy is to target youth employment. As the mother of three children I commend the government for the initiative it has recently undertaken with the announcement of the youth internship program. This program is a partnership combining the efforts of the federal government, the YMCA, and Career Edge, the non-profit agency developed by 100 Canadian corporations to promote youth employment.
One of Canada's chartered banks has recently undertaken a comprehensive national study of the attitudes of Canada's nexus generation who are young people between the ages of 18 and 35. This study reveals that this group is much more entrepreneurial and positive than usually depicted. One-third of nexus respondents stated that their most desirable profession was entrepreneur, suggesting that young Canadians are determined to turn their innovative ideas into business realities.
Further to this, it is my belief that government does not create jobs, the private sector does. In Canada over the last three years 70 per cent to 80 per cent of new jobs were created by small and medium size businesses.
Small business needs access to capital, trade and technology. Government can help small business by encouraging banks, including the Business Development Bank of Canada, to lend money to these entrepreneurs.
As well, government can support small business by arranging trade missions such as the successful team Canada initiatives and the November trade mission to Washington for women business owners.
Women-owned businesses are a significant sector of our economy. As a founding member of the Women Entrepreneurs of Canada, I know first hand about the strength of women-owned businesses.
At the recent Women Leaders' Network for APEC Economies held in Ottawa, it was noted that 700,000 companies in Canada are owned by women and that they employ 1.7 million people, which is greater than the Canadian Business top 100 companies. They are also creating jobs at a rate four times the national average.
Private trade missions should be encouraged. Organizations such as Les Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises Mondiales are vehicles through which private citizens can act as goodwill ambassadors and introduce Canadian products and services to other countries.
In August I held job creation focus groups with business people, community leaders and residents in Parkdale—High Park. I also met with leaders from the arts community and Women Entrepreneurs of Canada. Several critical points emerged from these discussions.
It was emphasized that it was important to support small business and to reduce the amount of official paperwork and red tape that is required for the functioning of a small business. Further, I was told about the real importance of developing strong community structures such as co-operative business development and the need to continue spending dollars on infrastructure which brings new technologies such as fibre optic cable and ISDN connections to the community.
Although supporting technology is of primary importance, we must acknowledge there is a need for a healthy environment as well as excellent basic facilities such as skating rinks, parks and community centres. A strong and prosperous community is safe and a safe community will be strong and thriving.
In Parkdale—High Park just last month the Parkdale Community Watch won the distinguished 1997 International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners community based program of the year award. This award acknowledges the success and initiative that Parkdale residents have taken toward combating crime in their community.
This government recognizes the importance of these initiatives as evidenced by the recent announcement by the Minister of Justice that $150 million will be allocated over the next five years to foster such community based programs.
Creating partnerships with communities is essential. The value of community impact statements must be acknowledged, particularly in the case of alleged victimless crimes such as drugs and prostitution where the impact on the community is significant.
Consideration must be given to the imposition of more minimum sentences, allowing communities access to the briefing of federal judges and passing legislation to require the proceeds of crime to be reinvested into those communities affected.
My constituents strongly believe that health and justice must work together in partnership with communities not only to fight crime but to fight the causes of crime.
Young offenders are one of the greatest tragedies of crime. Victims of crime are not alone in feeling their loss, society too experiences a loss—that of the potential of a young life.
We must redouble our efforts to rehabilitate young offenders and provide whatever support it takes to discourage repeat offenders. We must, however, ensure that, in the case of violent young offenders, the needs and demands of the public form part of vigorous measures taken to protect society.
As a lawyer I applaud the Minister of Justice on her commitment to work with her provincial colleagues to reform the justice system in such a way as to better acknowledge the voice of all victims of crime.
I would now like to address one area about which I am particularly passionate, the arts in Canada. As the former volunteer chair of one of Canada's foremost arts organizations I believe we must invest in programs, opportunities and partnerships which support our culture. This is one of our greatest responsibilities.
A country's real strength lies in its people. The arts and the culture of a people are the expressions of its heart and soul. It is the movies, television, music, painting, dance and theatre that enable Canadians to laugh, talk and cry together. Through them we can express our identity and our similarities and differences.
I believe in investment, in investing in the development of original Canadian artistic product. Without our own product, without our own voices, without a generation that shares our vision to keep our culture alive and meaningful, Canada will have no legacy. Without this we will never get that opportunity to see our hopes and dreams reflected. Instead we will have to watch and live vicariously through others.
Members will hear me speak in Parliament about the arts industry because I believe it is just that, an industry. When we start looking at it that way some surprising things turn up.
The cultural sector represents a significant part of the Canadian economy. The cultural sector contributes $25 billion to Canada's gross domestic product. This means 900,000 jobs or 6.9 per cent of total employment.
Last year Canadians spent over $2.9 billion on arts events and products. For every dollar that the federal government has invested in the arts industry ten dollars of economic activity has been generated, an excellent rate of return.
These numbers do not even acknowledge the spin off effect the culture also brings to our economy. “The House of Martin Guerre” a critically acclaimed production by Canadian composer Leslie Arden, brings people not only to the Canadian Stage Company but also to the restaurants, bars and hotels nearby.
In Canada, the arts play a leading role in enabling Canadians to define themselves in relation to one another and to the rest of the world. If we want a strong national identity, we must ensure that control over our cultural institutions, publishing houses, radio and television networks and film productions rests with us.
The Liberal government believes that we should balance spending in this sector with a plan to invest in the future of Canadian culture. Artists and arts organizations will play a major role in determining how Canadians see themselves in 20 years.
The arts are on the cutting edge of the development of new communications and new technologies which will play a major role in not only the economic prosperity of Canada but in the world.
We should remember that the arts industry's sustenance and growth and the commensurate benefit to government revenues and Canadian society can be assisted by the Government of Canada without increasing the federal debt.
I applaud the federal government's commitment to cultural organizations such as the Canadian Publishing Development Corporation and the Canada Council for the Arts, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The creation of the Canada television and cable production fund has supported the creation of excellent Canadian programming.
We should acknowledge the unique and important voice that the CBC provides to Canadian culture and Canadian life. We must continue to ensure the long term health of Canada and at the same time we should make sure we put in place partnerships to ensure that Canada's arts organizations and artists have a chance to continue to promote and develop the ideas, hopes and aspirations of all Canadians.
The time has come to show the world that Canada has writers, artists, directors and performers second to none, and that we can develop artistic endeavours here in Canada which will be produced all over the world. Canada as an exporter of Canadian cultural products and not an importer? I say welcome to the new millennium.
As members we have all been entrusted with an important responsibility, that of giving political leadership to Canada as we move into challenging times. While we may not all agree on the policy steps required, we do all commit to serving the best interests of our country. It is this difference of opinion that divides us into five parties and which will lead to spirited debate in this Parliament.
Debates are at the heart of parliamentary democracy, where it is appropriate to support opposing views. Our political history has shown that the true superiority of the parliamentary system can be fully appreciated through the diversity of views being represented.
I am proud to confirm my support for the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada. I vow to facilitate a true partnership among all Canadians toward making Canada an even greater country.
I hereby move, seconded by the hon. member for Beauce, that the following address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To His Excellency the Right Honourable Roméo A. LeBlanc, 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 to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.