Mr. Speaker, as this is my first address to the House I must say that it is a distinct honour and privilege to stand and represent the citizens of my riding in this place. I thank them for placing their confidence in me.
My thanks therefore go out to the citizens of Simcoe North.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to my family, especially my wife Heather and our children, but also the family members who are continuing to manage the family business, giving me leave and the opportunity to serve our community in this most distinguished way.
My family emigrated to Simcoe North from England in 1874 and successive generations have fashioned their livelihoods from our small village on Sparrow Lake ever since. Simcoe North is a fairly prosperous and growing region, about an hour and a half drive north from Toronto, on the cusp of cottage country encompassing, as the name suggests, the northern half of the historic county of Simcoe. We have a mix of rural and agricultural businesses with a strong representation in the tourism and manufacturing industries to supply much of our primary employment.
We are home to the general headquarters of the Ontario Provincial Police and one of Ontario's most recent and modern correctional facilities. As members might imagine, law enforcement, crime and sentencing issues are very top of mind among a key group of residents in my riding.
Simcoe North is home to two first nations communities, Mnjikaning and Beausoleil, and a large Métis community. We are also proud to have one of the few French speaking communities in southern Ontario in the town of Penetanguishene in the southern Georgian Bay area.
As the greater Toronto area has grown, so too has Simcoe North. A growing number of people commute from our communities to work in or near Toronto and many more have moved to our area in recent times to enjoy their retirement years in the more peaceful and picturesque surroundings offered by Simcoe North. While my riding may enjoy relative prosperity, there is a growing sense that governments at all levels must act more honestly and decisively to bring real results, lower taxes, and spending only in the areas that matter most to Canadians.
It is with this backdrop that I support the agenda for this Parliament that we heard ever so eloquently from Her Excellency the Governor General on April 4. With this past election people were ready for change. They had their limit of theatrical politics, politics where words, announcements, re-announcements, scandal and photo ops overtook the real business of our nation and plunged the cynicism toward elected officials to a new high. On January 23 they voted for change and change is what they will receive.
I am pleased that the first act of the government was to introduce the federal accountability act tabled on April 11 to begin the process of making the government more effective, transparent and accountable to the people. I believe this bill will be the first important step in regaining the trust of Canadians in their federal government.
To reduce taxes we will cut the GST to 6% and then to 5%, giving the widest form of tax relief possible. This will provide tax relief even to the nearly 30% of Canadians who do not pay income taxes. I have heard from many in my riding in that category who reminded me clearly that income tax cuts would not help them to pay for their ever increasing energy costs, rent and living expenses.
As I referenced earlier, the government's commitment to crack down on crime, restrict the use of conditional sentencing, and direct more resources to law enforcement, border security and against the proliferation of illegal firearms will be welcome in Simcoe North.
I represent a riding where many of our well paying jobs are on shift work and a good many more are held by people who live in rural areas where day care does not exist. They, like most families, seek out child care solutions that suit their circumstances, whether it is a relative, a neighbour or, where permissible, a neighbourhood day care centre.
The $1,200 per child under six that we pledged to them as a child care benefit will help. We know it will not completely pay, and they know it will not completely pay, for their child care, but it is far better to have that direct benefit in their hands than being lost in more government administration and programming that they may not even be able to seek out. They know this will help. They know they will have a choice.
As for the families that do have access to traditional day care services, I commend the efforts of professionals in the child care services area for developing programs like Ontario's best start program.
I encourage them to utilize the government's commitment to help maintain that program through to March 2007, and if best start proves to be successful, as it appears it will, then the Ontario government has every right to continue it on its own. It is its jurisdiction and I hope it does.
Our commitment to create 25,000 new child care spaces each year over the next five years will clearly tie in well with the good work of Ontario child and family services programs.
Finally, I have spoken to people in my riding who have given up on the health care system, people who have chosen not to endure the pain in their knees or hips, for example. They have reached into their own pockets to pay for medical services in places such as Buffalo, New York, a two and a half hour drive from Simcoe North. For those who have that financial capability, it is an alternative and that is a sad indictment of our health care system.
Excessive wait times are at the root of the public's loss of faith in our once proud system. I am delighted to see the government's undertaking to address wait times with a guarantee. The guarantee is tangible. It goes beyond the usual flowery words on a page. It compels actions and sets consequences if or when services fall short of medically appropriate wait times.
This is the kind of action that will help Canadians to regain their faith in our system and be proud of it again. At this time, when public health care services are struggling to meet demand, it makes perfect sense that we consider a greater role for private health care providers inside the bounds of our universally publicly administered and publicly paid system. That will mean better service for patients and better value for their investment.
It is encouraging to see the provinces working in this vein already: in Quebec, Alberta and recently, even in my home province of Ontario. It goes to show that when we work together, we can bring timely access to quality care. That is what Canadians want from their health care system and it is the kind of cooperation they expect from both levels of government.
In closing, I am optimistic about what lies ahead for our country. In this focused and succinct plan for the 39th Parliament I see a way to move forward, to step forward in meaningful, measurable steps. These steps reflect the kind of change that Canadians seek, that they believe are priorities for themselves and their country: a well deserved break on taxes, safe communities, accountable good government, choice in child care, and probably for the first time, a guarantee of service in health care.
The priorities set out in the Speech from the Throne become even more poignant when balanced against their commitment to address fiscal imbalance, to engage our provincial and territorial partners in a more open brand of federalism, and to restore Canada's reputation as a dependable leader on the international stage.
I look forward in this Parliament to implement these priorities. I ask hon. members opposite to see the value and the benefit to all Canadians from this program, to get behind it and support it, and for the first time in too many years, bring concrete results for all Canadians to share.