Mr. Speaker, I rise today with honour and a great sense of pride in representing in this magnificent House the people of Crowfoot. It is a privilege to stand here today and address the members of parliament in my maiden speech.
Mr. Speaker, before I proceed, I commend you on your service in the Chair. A number of members have told the House about your service over the years. We appreciate it.
May I also make mention of and congratulate our Speaker on his victory? When he was chosen, he spoke about fulfilling a dream to serve as Speaker in the House. It is rare that we can fully achieve our dreams. I have come to realize that I will never fulfil all my dreams. I will never score the winning goal in a Stanley Cup playoff game or play in the PGA. Indeed, I will probably never throw a pitch in the World Series. Standing here today, however, I recognize that I have fulfilled one dream.
I therefore begin by sincerely thanking the numerous volunteers who selflessly and diligently assisted with my campaign. It was undoubtedly the collective effort of all those involved that resulted in my victory and the victory for the Canadian Alliance in a very difficult and, in some respects, very emotional campaign in Crowfoot.
I would like to thank God for allowing me the privilege of serving the people of Crowfoot and Him in parliament. I would also like to pay special tribute today to my family, to my parents and my in-laws, and to my wife Darlene and our two children, Kristen and Ryan, who are here with me today, in the gallery, as they are every day. If it were not for my family and their love and support, I would not be in this House.
Finally, I thank all the people of Crowfoot for bestowing their faith in me. I promise to respectfully and truthfully represent their views and concerns here. I pledge to work hard, with the same diligence that the majority of the people of Crowfoot demonstrate daily as they go about their occupations and their careers in our predominately rural riding.
As mentioned earlier, I would not be here if it were not for my family. I think it is safe to say that the majority of my colleagues share this with me. The family truly is the foundation of our society. Therefore, in order to have a socially and economically vibrant nation, it is imperative that we have strong families.
Yesterday's throne speech clearly indicates that this Liberal government does not share this view. I am thankful that this view is a view that is prevalent within the Canadian Alliance and among our many supporters.
Although there was mention in the throne speech of children and families and children and poverty, there was no talk of proposals for addressing the economic realities facing many Canadian families today, particularly those who are threatened with losing their jobs or with having less disposable income as we enter into these uncharted waters or uncertain economic times.
The government's pre-election mini-budget is, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out yesterday, sadly outdated. It has been found sadly wanting. Clearly we need a 2001 budget that includes, among other things, more aggressive and immediate tax cuts. Since the Liberals took power in 1993, Canadians' disposable income has dropped by close to $2,200 for every taxpayer, and taxes have risen over 37 times. This is not the legacy to leave Canadians.
We now pay personal income taxes that are 56% higher than those of the average G7 country. As if cripplingly high taxes were not eroding Canadians' disposable income enough, this country's citizens are now being unfairly burdened with excessively high fuel prices, so prohibitively high that some cannot afford to pay their heating bills.
While the Prime Minister may, as he stated yesterday, just be getting warmed up to the position of Prime Minister, the fact is that many Canadians literally are finding themselves out in the cold. I, as a federal official, can provide little comfort and hope to the many distraught constituents who are writing letters, making phone calls and dropping in on our Crowfoot office.
I understand from recent newspaper articles that the federal government has initiated a program called “Relief for Heating Expenses”. Reports indicate that cheques of $125 to $250 will be sent out automatically to every Canadian who received a GST tax credit for the 1999 tax year.
Although I commend the government for recognizing the horrific burden placed on many individuals due to high heating costs, I do question giving the rebate only to those eligible for the GST tax credit in 1999. This is not 1999. This is not 2000. This is 2001. Quite obviously incomes have changed in the last two years, some for the better but many for the worse. This rebate does not guarantee that the people in need of financial assistance today will receive it.
I must also question why the federal government has failed to address soaring energy costs and other input costs that are negatively impacting Canadian farmers. A forecast of farm incomes by Agriculture Canada suggests that Alberta farmers will be among the hardest hit in the country as the cost of farming continues to rise. Operating farm machinery has become more expensive as natural gas and fuel costs rise. So has the cost of fertilizing our crops. The price of nitrogen fertilizer, with its key ingredient and process being natural gas, has risen from approximately $390 per tonne as recently as last spring to a projected $700 plus this year. Farmers are losing hope. The next generation is leaving and there is no one to take over the family farms.
Overall in Canada, net cash incomes for farmers are expected to drop another 6% this year. Despite this grim reality and the fact that more than two years ago the federal government promised to help producers struggling with slumping commodity prices, the federal government has failed to deal aggressively with its trade partners to lower international agricultural subsidies.
Although our Prime Minister mentioned yesterday in the House that he was going to the United States and would be speaking to President Bush, he still does not see the need to place our farmers on a level playing field with our competitors.
The federal government took decisive action to counteract the illegal export subsidies provided by the government of Brazil to its aircraft manufacturers. Pointing out the importance of the aerospace industry to the Canadian economy and the need to save 24,000 jobs, the federal government moved quickly to provide subsidies to Bombardier to enable them to better compete with major competitors.
Over the last year within the agricultural industry we have lost almost the equivalent of Bombardier's entire workforce. Approximately 22,000 farmers or persons in related farm occupations are out of business.
The western grain and oilseeds industry provides tremendous value to the Canadian economy. In 1999 it was valued at over $70 billion. That value is steadily and very quickly diminishing.
Due to the effects of subsidization around the world, market receipts for grain and oilseeds have been dropping for many years and are expected to continue to decline. In Saskatchewan, where grain and oilseeds are the dominant industry, total net income is predicted to be negative in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
We need to immediately develop and implement assistance packages for our producers to stem the exodus of farm workers and the destruction of the Canadian family farm.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on all sides of the House to find meaningful and long term solutions for reducing input costs and providing a stable and deliverable assistance to our farmers. Every business in rural Alberta, in Oyen, Drumheller, Stettler, Camrose, Wainwright, Provost and Hanna, all farming communities within our constituency, is dependent on a strong agricultural sector and therefore dependent on us to provide viable solutions.
As one of the Canadian Alliance deputy justice critics, I also welcome the opportunity to help find the means to truly make our streets and communities safer for the sake of my children and for all Canadian children.