Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment to the Chair. Your guidance and leadership will be appreciated by all in this House.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak in this first session of the 35th Parliament as a duly elected representative for the riding of South West Nova. It is a pleasure, indeed an honour to have been elected by the people of South West Nova to represent them and to bring their concerns to the government and to this House.
The Prime Minister and this government have been given a clear mandate by the people of Canada to implement the programs as outlined in the now famous red book.
South West Nova is a riding in the southwestern part of Nova Scotia. It was represented by Coline Campbell for many years. Coline did not seek re-election this time and I want to wish Coline and her husband Ron, God speed and good health in the future.
South West Nova is a riding rich in history and dates back to Champlain's landing in 1604. The riding has a diverse cultural mix of native Canadians as well as English and French speaking people. As a matter of fact, the Acadians in South West Nova proudly celebrated their 225th anniversary this past year with festivities mainly centering in and round the University of St. Anne at Church Point in the district of Clare. This small degree granting university has the distinction of having the best immersion program in this country.
I want to say that I intend to maintain a close personal relationship with the people of my riding and to the best of my ability give them personal service.
For generations our people have made their living through the use of natural resources, the sea, the land and the forests. However, in recent years our people have found it difficult to make a living from those resources. The fishing industry has been crippled mainly because of mismanagement.
Our ground fishermen are second to none in this country and have co-operated with management to help keep this fishery alive. The thanks these same fishermen received in return for their co-operation from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was a mid-season quota cut which resulted in great monetary loss for bought quota and a reduction of 40 per cent in their catches.
These fishermen were betrayed and lost all trust in the department of fisheries. Our fishermen want better management of these fishing industries where justice and fairness play leading roles. The fishermen of South West Nova want to work and they want to fish.
Recently I had the privilege of meeting with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to voice my concerns for those fishermen of South West Nova. I am pleased the minister indicated to me and to the deputy minister that he too wanted fairness in his fisheries policies so that the people in the industry could regain that lost trust.
The fishermen want to co-operate but insist they must have some input into the decision-making process. I am pleased that at a meeting with the minister of fisheries just today he again reinforced his commitment to visit the fishermen in South West Nova in the very near future. I will be reminding the hon. minister when the near future is here.
In the forest industry our riding is also experiencing some problems. Small woodlot owners have great difficulty trying to
survive. Years ago when a small woodlot owner ran into difficulty and when things were tough and hard, he was allowed o go into the woods and cut a few cords of wood and sell it to the local people. Under the present regulations a man cannot even do that in order to bring bread to the table for his family. It is time to realize that this is also a problem. We have to work to rectify it.
The only mining activity in our riding was centred around the tin mine in Yarmouth County. This mine is closed because of falling world tin prices. The result is 400 more people out of work. This, together with the closing of the textile mill in Yarmouth has left the town and area with over 600 more people unemployed. The people of Yarmouth, Argile and Clare are working together in an effort to bring new business and industry to the area and are in great need of this government's assistance.
In Bridgetown, the friendly town, one of the two main industries has closed with the loss of many jobs. The people of Bridgetown will not give up as they continue to try to attract new business.
Farming in the constituency continues to survive reasonably well even though the traditional family farm is slowly disappearing and with it the opportunity for young men and women to live and work at home. Because of this we need to find alternative ways to keep our children employed, one of which could be the expansion of small business.
Small business in South West Nova has provided employment for many of our citizens but has depended largely on the success of our natural resources. The decline of these natural resources automatically means the decline of others and this is a situation we are currently facing.
Our government must look closely at the rural areas and small towns of our country and encourage small businesses. We must provide the economic climate necessary for people to risk their time and capital.
Last but certainly not least is the issue of CFB Cornwallis, an issue that is very near and dear to my heart. As a young sailor I served at CFB Cornwallis and it has always brought back fond memories for me. South West Nova has been the home of this base for over 50 years. Since 1949 it has served as the only English speaking recruit training centre for Canada.
In December I had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of National Defence with regard to this issue. I explained to the minister the history of CFB Cornwallis as a recruit training base and I spoke to him about a recently developed peacekeeping training plan. I explained to the minister that this peacekeeping plan was developed entirely in South West Nova by the people in and around Cornwallis.
I explained to him the work, the time, the research and the money spent by the community on this plan. I informed the minister that this was our plan and we would be upset if the military tried to steal that plan and implement it in any other part of this country.
I explained to the minister the necessity of blending the advice of military officials with the concerns of the people of Cornwallis and the surrounding area.
The Minister of National Defence has heard from me exactly how the people of South West Nova stand on the issue of Cornwallis. I hope that the minister will seriously consider the input of the local people when the final decisions are made.
Before concluding, I want to say that the most important resource we have in this country today is that of our youth. As a father of seven children and the grandfather of 25, I have great concern. I am pleased to hear that our government is working to implement the youth training corps to begin putting young Canadians back to work.
In conclusion, before coming to this House I made a commitment to the people of my riding that I would fight as hard as I could to ensure that their interests were represented. To the people of my riding, I pledge accessibility and accountability.