Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by adding my congratulations to those which have already been expressed to the Speaker of this House on his election to a post of great trust and responsibility. I hope my words will not be taken as a mere formality because they are most sincerely meant.
Members of this House chose their Speaker in a free and democratic vote. We hope it will be the first of many free and democratic votes in this Parliament. I believe their vote was a clear indication of members' confidence in the Speaker and his ability to preside over this Chamber fairly and effectively.
I also congratulate the right hon. Prime Minister and members opposite on being given the opportunity to form the government of this great country as well as all members here for earning the confidence of fellow citizens in their home ridings.
Voters in the riding of Calgary North have allowed me the great privilege of representing them in the Parliament of their country. I want to take the opportunity of my first speech in the House of Commons to once again express to the citizens of Calgary North sincere thanks for the confidence they have placed in me and in the Reform program which I intend to work for as I work for them.
Other members will be interested to know that the riding of Calgary North has the largest population of any of the 26 Alberta ridings. New residential areas are continually being built in Calgary North and our people are forward looking, dynamic and working hard to build sound futures for themselves, their families and their communities.
It has been my pleasure to meet and talk with many of them in recent months and I am determined to do my very best to provide the competent and trustworthy representation they want and deserve.
In the many hours I have spent talking with Canadians in Calgary North I have heard two messages loud and clear. One is a real concern and growing anxiety about the mismanagement of this country's finances. The people of Calgary North like most Canadians do understand that there is a connection between the enormous amounts of debt which successive governments have run up and the difficulty people are having in finding stable jobs with good incomes.
Excessive government spending has led to more and higher taxes. Taxes are like weeds in a garden. Let too many grow and pretty soon there is not enough soil left to grow flowers.
The second message is the focus of my own reply today to the speech from the throne. It is this. Canadians have a profound and disturbing distrust for the institutions of government and for politicians in general. It is no secret how this has happened. Politicians tell us they will do certain things. They do something different.
We try to tell politicians what we want them to do. They do not listen. Yet it is our money they are spending and it is our future they are deciding.
That is why I together with many other Canadians in Calgary North and elsewhere applaud the statement in the speech from the throne which reads:
The government is committed to enhancing the credibility of Parliament. Changes will be proposed to the rules of the House of Commons to provide members of Parliament with a greater opportunity to contribute to the development of public policy and legislation.
I would like to inform the government and the members in this House that the people in Calgary North would be all for this. They want and are prepared to contribute to the development of public policy and legislation through me as their elected representative. In fact since the election they have been working with me to set up mechanisms which will genuinely allow me to inform, consult with, and be advised by constituents.
Less than a month following the election over 300 people packed a school gym in my riding for our first constituency meeting to discuss how this could best be done. Out of this meeting and through subsequent consultations have and will come many excellent recommendations. We will hold regular public constituency meetings to discuss key issues and legislation which come before this House.
Constituents have requested regular communications about what is happening here and they want to know how government activities will affect their lives. They want their say on major legislation and that is why we are designing ways to get their input before I come here to vote.
In early March we will discuss the federal budget at a public constituency meeting. The people will tell me which budget initiatives they support, which do not carry their judgment and where this is so what alternatives they would recommend. This is a constructive approach and one which the people of Calgary North believe is consistent with the principles of representative democracy which this House has been entrusted to uphold and to practise.
Calgary North constituents are also able to participate in question period by sending questions they want asked of the government to the fax line and voice mail number installed in our Reform parliamentary office. People are demanding that the parliamentary process must be opened up and made more relevant to the real needs of Canadians.
Believe me, they will be watching. They are watching these proceedings and the highlights of the daily question period on the nightly news to see if the decorum and attitude in this place will truly change.
When Canadians watch television they expect to see the body checking, cheering and jeering left to Hockey Night in Canada, but when they watch Parliament they want to see us put the puck in the net. They want and look to us to work together to find real answers to real problems facing this country.
The decisions taken in this House must reflect the will of the people of Canada expressed through their legitimate representatives and not just the will of a small group of ministers and bureaucrats who advise them. Government proposals must be tested and balanced by the people themselves.
In this 35th Parliament I believe the courage to demonstrate faith in the democratic system by making this possible would prove to be justified. It is clear not only to myself as a new member but to all members that there now exists an unprecedented and genuine desire in this House for new directions and new approaches.
I sincerely believe that we want this Parliament to operate for the people of this country by consulting them meaningfully and by seeking direction from them. I and the Canadians I represent are willing and waiting to see whether the good intentions which have been expressed in the speech from the throne to enhance the credibility of Parliament will be implemented and whether the words will be matched by the deeds.
I would appeal to this government to allow members of Parliament to do the job we came here to do. I hope it will not allow our reports and recommendations to this House and to the government to gather dust on some shelf. I would ask that all members be allowed to vote freely in consultation with the people they were elected to speak for. We want this House to operate in such a way as to provide us with the opportunity to make a real difference and to carry out the wishes of our constituents.
I conclude by affirming to the people of Calgary North my sincere intention to represent to the best of my ability their interests, concerns and aspirations for themselves and for their country.