Madam Speaker, let me begin my response to the Speech from the Throne by wishing the hon. member who just spoke a very happy birthday. I request that she save some of her birthday cake for when I am finished.
I would also like to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your appointment. I would like to congratulate all the members on their election to the House. I would like to thank my wife, Clile, and sons, Jose, Kevin and Carlos, for working tirelessly on the election campaign to ensure that it was successful. I would like to thank my campaign staff and all the many volunteers and especially my predecessor, Bill Blaikie, the former dean of the House, who dragged me out at six in morning to plant gate at various locations, including Revenue Canada and the CN shops.
I would especially like to thank the people of Elmwood—Transcona for placing their trust in me.
Parliament has shrunk the speaking times with respect to the throne speech debate. I reviewed Bill Blaikie's speech from 30 years ago and he referenced that he had 30 minutes. In Manitoba in the last 23 years that I was a member of the Manitoba house we had 40 minute speeches; we have since reduced them to 20 minutes. Therefore, it is going to be very difficult to cover all of the subject matter in only 10 minutes. With that in mind, I have decided to stick with three topics, some issues that I have not heard mentioned by some of the other members at this point that I am aware of.
We enter this House at a time of huge upheaval on a worldwide basis with the economy perhaps in the worst shape it has been since the 1930 Depression. Governments have learned a lot since that time. They know that by injecting massive spending at the appropriate times they can help ease the pain and perhaps even get us through a recession.
There are several ways to deal with the issue. The United States issued cheques, but that really does not work. People simply take that immediate money and buy products that are made in China and it really does not help the economy here that much. I favour an infrastructure approach. I know one can make arguments about it not being immediate enough, but I think that is the way to go. It is investment that benefits Canadians for years to come.
In fact, the balancing of the budget exercise for the last decade, which I was highly supportive of in Manitoba and nationally, has in a way meant delayed infrastructure spending. We have a huge supply of infrastructure catch-up to do and it could not happen at a better time.
In Manitoba we have developed 5,000 megawatts of clean hydroelectric power, which is about one-half of our potential. We export most of it to the United States market because that is where the transmission lines run. They do not run east and west; they run north and south, just like the oil pipelines up to this point in our history. We could develop over the next few years another 5,000 megawatts, or 50% of our total capacity, if the federal government would support an east-west power grid or a hydro superhighway to bring the power east to Ontario and west to Alberta.
On July 3, 2007 the Prime Minister endorsed the plan. In fact he announced a $586 million payment to Ontario as part of the $1.5 billion Canada ecotrust fund. We need the Prime Minister to make this project happen so we can build the energy equivalent to the intercontinental railway that was built in the 1800s to tie this country east and west.
I know that members on the government side from Manitoba are highly supportive of this idea and I wish them well in convincing the Prime Minister to take a strong leadership role in developing this east-west power grid.
We can then build in Manitoba the hydro projects and send the power to Ontario so that Ontario can close its coal plants by the target date of 2014. The coal plants have a capacity of about 6,500 megawatts and therefore, Manitoba is in a strong position to help people in Ontario close those plants.
Instead, what appears to be happening, if we read between the lines of the throne speech, and not even between the lines but right in the throne speech, is that Ontario may be developing nuclear plants. The throne speech on page 11 states that 90% of Canada’s electricity needs will be provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal or wind power by 2020.
Why does the government call nuclear energy clean? Nuclear creates radioactive waste that stays deadly for a million years and it has to be transported and stored. I want to know how clean that can possibly be.
To achieve the government goal, we will need between 8 and 14 new 120 megawatt nuclear reactors. Where will these be built? It could take years to get approvals. I can see local residents rising up in protest wherever these plants are proposed.
Unlike the federal Conservatives in Canada, president-elect Obama is tying investment in clean energy to the creation of millions of jobs. He has set a goal of putting one million domestically built plug-in hybrids on the road and has put an emphasis on the need for energy efficiency and, along with electrification of transportation, hopes to get the U.S. off imported oil. President-elect Obama has also said he wants to expand and upgrade the United States' electrical grid so it can move renewable energy to areas of the country where it is needed.
This is the Obama version of the east-west power grid that I just discussed. When will this power grid be built? When will the Prime Minister take a leadership role on this file? I look forward to seeing some action from the Prime Minister in the next few months.
Page 12 of the throne speech refers to increasing incentives for energy-saving home retrofits. Manitoba Hydro has had the power smart residential loan program for many years, which since 1999 has achieved an estimated 374 megawatts in electrical savings. Participation levels are now over 50,000 people. New retrofit loans hit 40,000 recently. The result is $145 million invested in our homes. Manitoba Hydro is the largest electricity exporter in Canada. Its 2008 annual report shows $625 million in export sales to the U.S.
I am highly recommending another infrastructure project which directly affects my riding of Elmwood--Transcona. The city of Winnipeg is trying to close the Disraeli bridges, which are a major thoroughfare from my constituency to the downtown area. This closure would be one year and four months long. The residents are suitably outraged that the mayor and council would do this and not listen to the 5,000-plus people who have signed petitions for the addition of a new separate, two lane span to this structure which should be built for approximately $50 million, according to the rapid transit report of the city of Winnipeg, with costs shared by the three levels of government, which by the way would be about $17 million for each of the levels of government. This new extra two lane span would be built as soon as possible. Then the existing four lane span would be closed and would be rehabilitated. The city would not be shutting down an area where 100,000 people would be affected. In spite of the traffic chaos this closure will cause, the mayor has charged ahead and refuses to ask the provincial or federal governments for financial help to prevent the complete closure.
I have received an excellent response on this file from the premier of Manitoba, the President of the Treasury Board, who knows the area very well and has represented part of that area provincially, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and my colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, whose riding borders mine and will be equally affected by the closure. We have the support of Daryl Reid, the MLA for Transcona, Bonnie Mitchelson, the MLA for River East, and Bidhu Jha, the MLA for Radisson. In addition, we have the support of city councillors Russ Wyatt from Transcona, Jeff Browaty from North Kildonan and Lillian Thomas from Elmwood--East Kildonan, who have all done an excellent job of pushing this issue at city hall.
I call upon all of my colleagues to come together to support a proposal for the federal government and the province of Manitoba to offer the city a share of the money needed to construct the extra two lanes.
The Prime Minister announced a $70 million contribution in June as part of a three way cost share with the city of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan to construct a Saskatoon bridge which is six lanes and will only carry 20,000 cars a day. The current Disraeli, with only four lanes, carries 42,000 cars a day.