Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to speak in response to the Speech from the Throne.
It is an honour to rise and discuss the speech particularly from the perspective of Canada's international cooperation. I was very interested to hear our Governor General read the various themes of the speech, especially the elements relevant to Canada's foreign aid and cooperation.
In a time of great need, Canada has been presented with a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions of people in the world. I would like to pause for a few moments to praise both the people of Canada for the overwhelming support toward the people of Haiti but also make obvious mention of our Governor General for her role in representing hope and a new dawn for Haiti.
Our Governor General has exhibited deep human emotion and shown a robust mixture of personal and governmental reaction to these basic human needs. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the people of Haiti, and of course also to Chile.
As was also stated so clearly in the speech, we are a country whose story is still being written. The story is not just here in Canada but it is across the world. Canada continues to build a solid reputation. We are working diligently ensuring that it is a brilliant story and it continues to show our sterling reputation.
Canada is a country of refuge. Over the last few months Canada has brought some much needed hope and inspiration to the people of Haiti. The reason for our quick action in Haiti is simple, as citizens of the world we recognize we are all in this together. When a catastrophe of this magnitude strikes, it is our moral obligation to assist and let those less fortunate know Canada cares, Canadians care.
For many years Canada has been a beacon across the world. Yesterday in this House our defence minister said:
--within 20 hours, members of the Canadian Forces were on the ground in the wake of the earthquake, assessing needs and delivering help to Haiti.
Thanks to this government's purchase of the C-17 aircraft, load after load of equipment and disaster relief was brought to Haiti. Then over 4,000 Canadians were brought home. We built runways, cleared roads, rescued people trapped in buildings, produced over two million litres of water and delivered almost one and a half million meals. Canadian Forces medics treated over 22,000 patients, delivered babies and performed surgeries.
All Canadians can be proud of our military, our aid workers and our diplomats who responded so compassionately in Haiti.
As a result of the foresight and the action of our Conservative government now more than ever Canada is equipped to make remarkable contributions to all of humanity. Our government has increased our foreign aid budget at a rate of 8% every year, compounded annually since we assumed power.
For this coming year our budget specifies a further $364 million increase. Our international aid is going to reach $5 billion, the highest in Canadian history.
The Speech from the Throne also stated that we are a country and a government that stands up for what is right in the world. We do not pursue the easiest path. What we do is we do what is right. With respect to foreign aid, it is easy to throw some money at every possible project. Regrettably, I must say this was the history of the Liberal Party for 13 long years when it was in government.
However, under the Conservative government we took steps to make our aid more effective and more targeted. Instead of taking the bilateral programs funding and throwing it to the wind, allowing the funding to land wherever the wind blows, we have brought aid, we have brought focus to bilateral aid.
We initiated our 20 countries focus. These 20 regions were chosen by CIDA based on their deep need and our capacity to effectively address those needs. This will make Canada's foreign aid more focused, effective and accountable. Without a doubt, our foreign aid needs to be focused, effective and accountable. Our government has made some difficult decisions, but they were the right decisions.
We have further defined specific priorities: children and youth, food security and sustainable economic development. This is called focus. Canadians want a government that will step up and do the right thing. They do not want a government that just talks about it. They do not want a government that makes decisions based on the trend of the day. Our government has walked the walk and it has stepped up to our commitments.
We have doubled aid to Africa. We are doubling foreign aid. We are bringing our international aid envelope total to $5 billion. Moreover, we will maintain our foreign aid at that new high level.
I would say to the members across the way in the opposition, we have to remember, our story is still being written. If attempts are made to try to score cheap political points by muddying the water or by using misinformed statistics, then that will be written into Canada's reputation.
I look forward to the vote on the Speech from the Throne, which will indicate the cooperation and support in the House. We are accomplishing remarkable things, and we are planning to do much more. If the opposition rises in support of the government's agenda, then this will be Canada's time. This will be Canada's opportunity to turn to the world and show what we have to offer.
If we can put aside our differences and come together in this minority Parliament, allowing the entire nation to see the Parliament of Canada that is in support of the highest level of foreign aid in Canadian history, that is what we will be showing the world. The people of the world will see a Canada that led the relief efforts in Haiti, that is willing to keep on giving.
Last, but certainly not least, Canadians will see politicians of all stripes putting aside partisan games and misinformation, working together for the best interests of Canada.
I will be supporting the Speech from the Throne, and I invite the opposition members to recognize that the government is on the right track, especially with respect to our aid agenda.
Madam Speaker, I would like to digress for just a second and make a couple of personal comments. I have informed the Prime Minister that I will not be running again in the upcoming election. It is with great regret that I make that decision because I enjoy this place, I enjoy the people, and I think that we, as a democracy, are getting things done in spite of some of the things with which we end up fooling around, regrettably, from time to time.
Living in British Columbia and travelling back and forth across the country 26 times a year, you would know, Madam Speaker, coming from Victoria yourself, how much time we spend on an aircraft, which is time that we are not spending with our families.
I have had the privilege of going through six elections, winning a majority in all six elections, so I have had the continued support of the people of Kootenay—Columbia, all of whom I cherish greatly. I do cherish this job, but I cherish my family more.
After 17 years in this place at 68 years of age, I am told that I still have a degree of mental capacity to continue on. I know that I have a physical capacity to carry on, but I came to the conclusion that it was past time that I gave myself back to my family. It is with mixed emotions that I made that decision. This is in the public domain, but I did want to make a statement in the House to that effect and to thank the people of Kootenay—Columbia for their continued confidence that they have shown by their votes in the last six elections.