Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak today on Bill C-14, the borrowing authority bill to implement the budgetary measures.
In this, my first speech in this Chamber, I would like to begin by thanking the people of my riding of Portage-Interlake for their support and their confidence in me.
From Long Point, a finger-like extension which juts out into the north end of Lake Winnipeg, jusqu'à l'usine de beurre de St. Claude; from Denbeigh Point on Lake Winnipegosis past Fairford, Ashern, St. Laurent to Winnipeg Beach, Stony Mountain on to La Salle and Domain, this is my constituency of Portage-Interlake, Manitoba.
In some ways it is a microcosm of the problems and of the opportunities that exist today in our country. There are large commercial fisheries on Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba. The fisheries, like those on the east coast, are having difficulty at the moment.
Last year we had a very wet summer and our farmers experienced serious difficulties, many of them with fusarium head blight infection. In spite of these difficulties there are many positives such as beautiful scenic spots, some high quality soils, good pasture for cattle, the creative imaginations of local leaders who have produced the Interlake interactive television network, perhaps the most advanced distance interactive network for high schools in Canada.
Let us face facts. For 60 years for much of this region large numbers of young people have been moving away because we have not done enough to create job opportunities and we have not done enough to develop an environment which allows the local entrepreneurial spirit to develop new and diversified businesses.
For those who live in the 11 First Nations communities there are staggeringly high effective levels of unemployment; 60 per cent to 90 per cent plus in most of the communities.
It is time for change. The budget and the estimates have started that change, a change from the reliance on the old economy to the development of the new.
Today I want to speak specifically about the role of science, technology, research and development in the promotion of the new economy. As outlined in the budget and the estimates, our government has put considerable emphasis on this area. Because of considerable fiscal restrictions we have had to do less than we might otherwise have wanted to do in supporting some specific projects, the space station or KAON, for example.
In our approach to science, technology, research and development we have laid out our plans within the context of the philosophy embodied in the Liberal election platform, "Creating Opportunities", our red book:
"First, by stressing the notion of partnership with all sectors of society we think we can re-organize our total national resources, public and private, not only to be more efficient but to take advantage of strategic economic and social opportunities that can only be realized when all of us are working together.
Second, we wish to focus our efforts on leverage points to enable the impact of federal efforts to be as large as possible, particularly in times of tight fiscal resources.
Third, if we want to have a country that works we have to measure whether specific government programs actually deliver results over time. Whether it is in health care or regional development, it is important to measure the long term outcomes and consequences of our policies and our programs. That is why we have placed so much emphasis on evaluation, innovation and finding best practices".
Over the course of the next several months our government will be undertaking a series of new federal initiatives in science, technology, research and development. We will be consulting with Canadians over the course of this period as we develop these initiatives, as we review the current federal spending in science and technology.
A primary aim of our research and development approach will be to lay the foundation for the generation of both short term and long term wealth.
One of the main objectives of our approach to research and development is to do the necessary groundwork to attract more research to Canada, both in the long and short term.
We have an urgent need to find solutions to present high unemployment. We need to emphasize research and develop-
ment in parts of the economy with great potential for growth, including information technology, telecommunications, broadcasting, computer services, especially software development, environmental services and in medical and biotechnology areas.
It is also important to continue to have a solid foundation of support for basic untargeted research because the precise source of the next advance is never fully predictable. At the same time we must pay particular attention in developing or enhancing programs which are effective in converting advances in basic research into jobs and economic opportunities, whether they lie in advance materials, in information technology, biotechnology, agriculture, fisheries, transport or other areas.
Initiatives aimed at establishing partnerships based on the lever principle to maximize our efforts, are important.
Another important goal of our strategy is to develop a culture of innovation in Canada.
Our second important objective is to create a culture of innovation in Canada. Creating this culture means showing leadership by being innovative. It means showing leadership by including research and development components as central elements in the way our government works, whether in the way we promote industrial development, in the way we achieve effective change to our income support programs, or in our innovative development of pilot programs, for example, like the Canada Business Service Centre in Winnipeg to ensure we have the research and development base to ensure high quality and cost efficiency.
A third goal of our research and development strategy must be to make better use of sophisticated current research and development approaches to design and implement government programs and to assess outcomes of these programs.
This goal must apply to new programs as well as existing programs including those involved with health care, income support, learning, resource management and so on. We as a government must use our resources with the greatest possible efficiency. This means continually assessing and testing our approaches.
A fourth and final goal of our research and development strategy is to integrate all our approaches to maximize the quality of life for Canadians. An enhanced quality of life is an important result of research and development efforts. Research into health care, child development and environment is an important component of this thrust.
It is our objective to work with Canadians from one end of the country to the other to utilize research and development and to support the development of a new economy in Canada. We have some marvellous models, some shining examples of success. One is the city of Waterloo, a community which has been hurt over the last several years with the loss of thousands of jobs in traditional sectors.
I visited there recently. Through an extraordinary research, development and training partnership between the university and business, the largest co-operative program in the world, the community has built upon the opportunities of the new economy to replace the large majority of the lost jobs through the development of new businesses and new industries.
Initiatives such as the information highway will play key roles in promoting growth in the new Canadian economy. To this end I spoke at the beginning of February in Toronto at the Information Technology Association of Canada to outline the government's goals in developing a Canadian strategy for the information highway. Our goals are threefold.
First, we want a strategy which emphasizes employment opportunities through innovation and investment. Opportunities for Canadians are our top priority.
Second, we want a strategy that emphasizes Canadian culture and Canadian values. In essence we believe the cars and the trucks of the information highway, the information packages, may be as important or perhaps even more important than the highway itself. We want to be sure that Canadians can learn about Canadian achievements and Canadian success stories through the information highway.
We want to make sure that Canadians can be made aware of Canadian successes and achievements through this information highway.
Third, we want a strategy which will give Canadians universal access at reasonable cost. All Canadians, whether rich or poor, whether rural or urban, must be able to take advantage of the opportunities of the information highway. Initiatives like the media centre in the constituency of the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood and Larry Geller's freenet in rural Sprague, Manitoba, may be very important in bringing these dreams to reality.
The information highway provides extraordinary opportunities for communities to take control of their own destiny wherever they may be located. The example of North Bay is inspiring.
Ten days ago on February 25, just three days after the budget which will result in a considerable reduction of personnel at the base in North Bay, the community was going full steam ahead with plans to make North Bay a central hub on the information highway, to create an integrated community network for health, education and business, and to bring the benefits to North Bay and surrounding areas of the emerging technological opportunities. I was there that day and felt the excitement as participant
after participant put forth ideas and suggestions for new job opportunities in tourism, health, education and real estate. The opportunities are enormous.
I felt a similar level of enthusiasm recently in Pinawa, Manitoba. I know a number of my constituents are moving forward in developing new initiatives for the information highway. Late last week at a Manitoba Trucking Association meeting to which I was invited there was talk of what happens where the freight highway meets the information highway.
Late last week, we discussed with members of the Société franco-manitobaine the incredible potential of a Trans Canada French language information network, in which Quebec would have a key role, of course, and which would link all francophone communities across Canada.
In my own riding, I could feel the enthusiasm of people who would love to belong to such a network, when I mentioned it in Saint-Claude, Saint-Laurent, Saint-Eustache, Fannystelle and La Salle. These communities will finally have access to the tools they need to deal in French with the problems they face regarding learning, health care and business, as well as to other opportunities which otherwise would not have been available to them.
We shall shortly be setting up an advisory council to provide advice on our Canadian strategy for the information highway. We are still open to suggestions for names for this council and those suggestions can be imaginative.
I have even made one suggestion myself, remembering the words of our Prime Minister when campaigning in Shawinigan. Il a dit: "Je vais faire mon possible". I will do my best. I have suggested that perhaps the council could be called the council of the possible, le conseil du possible, transforming the world of dreams into the realm of the achievable, for that is what our government is about: helping Canadians to start dreaming of the possibilities of the information age and then working in partnership with other Canadians from coast to coast to turn these dreams into reality.
Finally let me reiterate my government's commitment as laid out consistently in our election platform, the throne speech, the budget and the estimates. We will work with Canadians to develop a more innovative economy. We will use and harness the benefits of science and technology to create new job opportunities, to help Canadians develop the skills to find meaningful work, and to enrich the lives of all Canadians whatever riding they may live in. Whether in Burin-St. George's, Madawaska-Victoria, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve or my own community of Portage-Interlake, we are about transforming Canada through science, technology, innovation and creating jobs. That is what our goal is and we are well on the way.