Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank my fellow citizens in Markham for electing me. I also want to thank my family, which has accepted wholeheartedly the family and financial costs of political life.
Often many things have a silver lining. For my two teenage sons, the greater availability of a car during my sojourns in Ottawa is a definite plus.
I thank the Prime Minister, who invited me to join his team by selecting me as a candidate.
Finally, I thank my Liberal colleagues, fellow rookie MPs from all parties and the staff of the House of Commons who have made this first 10 days a very exciting and pleasurable experience.
My theme today is that in at least two respects Markham, my riding, can be seen as a vanguard of the shape of things to come in much of the rest of the country. I refer first to the increasing multicultural nature of our country and second to the degree to which we are as a country leaping into the new economy and making it grow.
If we go back 30 years, there was a negligible percentage of the citizens of Markham who were visible minorities. Today it is about half. Thirty years ago there were 135 Chinese people, today there are 43,000. More than half of the people of Markham are new Canadians, people who were not born in the country.
As one such as myself with a relatively Caucasian or WASP background from Bay Street or McGill, it was a distinct highlight of the campaign to have the opportunity to meet so many new Canadians in their places of worship and in their homes during door to door canvassing.
One event sticks out in my mind as something I will never forget. While canvassing on a street with mainly new Canadians one evening, I noticed that as soon as they saw a Liberal sign a smile would come to their faces and the names of Trudeau and that of the Prime Minister would often be mentioned, both in a positive vein.
At that point I realized, as a question of reality, that rather than theory it truly is the Liberal Party that has traditionally been the one to welcome people to our shores from all parts of the world irrespective of culture, religion or race. This is increasingly the population of Markham and increasingly that of Canada. It goes without saying that the government will continue in that tradition. In addition, there are measures in the throne speech and a commitment to work with provincial governments to make it easier for the credentials of immigrants to be accepted and for them to be integrated more quickly into our society.
As a Quebecer, or at least as someone who was born in Quebec and taught at McGill University, and at the Université du Québec à Montréal, I appreciate not only the multicultural aspect of the Canadian way of life, but also our bilingualism or linguistic duality.
This reflects the sense of balance which to me is the hallmark of being a Liberal. We favour innovation and inclusion. We favour wealth creation and growth and helping those who need help. We favour multiculturalism and bilingualism. This sense of balance comes naturally to Liberals, just as easily as walking and chewing gum. However, without naming names, that ability to walk and chew gum at the same time seems to come less naturally to some of the other parties in the House. That is meant to be a relatively non-partisan remark.
I come now to the second element. I said Markham is in a sense the vanguard of multiculturalism. Now let me talk about the new economy. Markham describes itself as the high tech centre of Canada. Markham has more than 800 high tech firms. Whereas the whole of the country benefits from the policies of this government, favouring economic growth and the new economy, nowhere will these benefits be felt more strongly than in Markham. Let me briefly illustrate three dimensions of these.
First, there are measures to make the macro economy perform because the macro economy has to perform for both the old and the new economies. The Liberal government's impeccably timed and very substantial tax cuts are just what the doctor ordered to allow us to weather the storms that are coming from south of the border.
Not only that, there are also budgetary measures specifically favouring the new economy. I refer to the end of the income tax surtax, the slashing of the capital gains inclusion rate and the measures on stock options, all of which are specifically geared to favour the new economy.
I also refer to structural measures contained in the throne speech that will favour expanded research, increased commercialization of research, increased learning and an improved information infrastructure, all of which are essential to the new economy.
Finally, as a specific illustration and as an economist, it does not make sense for the new economy to be a pure unadulterated private enterprise activity. There has to be an element of partnership. This is perhaps my favourite example of that. In the past year Markham attracted an IBM facility with 1,500 new jobs, thanks in part to a $33 million federal investment. Absent of that investment, according to IBM, it would not be somewhere else in Canada. It would be in Ireland or Asia. The Alliance policy, which would abandon and outlaw such partnerships, would see such companies not locate in this country but locate elsewhere.
In my view, Markham can be seen as a microcosm or as a vanguard of where much of the country is headed with respect to both multiculturalism and the new economy. In both of those two dimensions, the progress of the town will be much aided by the measures taken previously in the budget and more recently in the throne speech.