Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and privileged to move the motion on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to pay my humble respects to Her Excellency the Governor General and thank Her Excellency for delivering the speech today.
I would also like to extend to the right hon. Prime Minister my gratitude for the honour he has given to me today and to the people of my riding of Davenport in asking that I move this motion.
I am also honoured, as the member for Davenport, to follow in the footsteps of two previous members, both outstanding parliamentarians: the Hon. Charles Caccia and the late Walter Gordon.
I commend the Prime Minister on his unfailing efforts on behalf of our wonderful country. To have courage means more than just not being afraid. It also means having faith.
Our Prime Minister has unwavering faith in his fellow Canadians and his country. The Speech from the Throne expresses his strong belief in the unlimited potential of Canadians.
As a Canadian and as the first member of Portuguese origin in the House of Commons, I am particularly aware of the profound responsibility we as members have to be role models. It is a great privilege to serve as a member of Parliament and with great privilege there is also great responsibility.
Over the past month, we have all had the opportunity to talk to people in our respective ridings. From coast to coast, all Canadians share some of the same concerns and priorities.
We live in a world that has become increasingly more complicated. As we survey the state of our planet, we see cause for deep concern. Wars that rob generations of the right to peaceful existence, inequities that cry out for justice and acts of incomprehensible inhumanity cascade across our various media with seemingly endless regularity, and yet there is always hope. There are people and nations who will answer the call for those of goodwill to stand up and be heard. Nations that stand for the best in human nature seek to cure this with compassion, humanity and fairness. Canada is such a country, a shining example, a light of hope of the ultimate boundaries to which humanity can strive when people of goodwill come together in common cause.
Today's throne speech calls on all Canadians to join together to protect and enhance the values that help us to be the country that so many others strive to be like.
Across Canada, Canadians have expressed their strong attachment to a universally accessible health care system. They recognize the importance, the vitality of families and the health of children, of having access to the services they need.
They want cities and communities that are vibrant and healthy places to live and they believe that like them, we must be fiscally responsible. Our house must certainly be in order. We owe this to the generations that have yet to come. To borrow a quotation from the Haida: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.
In my riding of Davenport I am pleased to speak regularly with my constituents to discuss their concerns and hear their views. They ask to be assured, like all Canadians, that should they need access to health care service, it will be available to them.
The Speech from the Throne expresses the government's continuing commitment to a well-structured health system, founded on one national standard of service for all Canadians.
The government has also proven that it is determined to improve the health care system that Canadians need and deserve.
Last month, the Prime Minister and representatives of the provinces and territories met and reached an agreement that will make the government's commitment to health care a tangible reality.
Today's throne speech clearly demonstrates that this commitment will become reality. The Prime Minister has stated many times that the government would set itself specific goals that the previous government was unable to attain.
As is the tradition, the throne speech addresses the health care issue in very general terms, but Canadians will certainly want to know what this really means for them. In practice, it will mean shorter wait times for key services, a national pharmaceutical strategy and better health care for aboriginal Canadians. These are the promises made at the first ministers' meeting on health care and these are the promises reiterated in today's Speech from the Throne.
There is no longer any doubt in our minds that Canadians will demand accountability. The government has committed $41.2 billion over the next 10 years to reach its objectives. The government does not just make promises; it takes action.
The government has also honoured its commitment to our first nations, Metis and Inuit people by announcing $500 million for medical equipment, and a further $700 million over five years specifically dedicated to first nations people.
Each day, whether in my riding of Davenport or here in Ottawa, I pass elementary schools that are literally hives of activity. Children playing in the school yards before their learning day begins. Their laughter and their conversations are the sounds of our country's future. Into their hands we commend the hopes of tomorrow and the aspirations of a great nation.
In return they ask that we provide them with the tools they need to grow and the safety and protection they truly deserve. In this regard, and among other initiatives, the government will invest $5 billion over the next five years toward a Canada-wide system of early learning and child care.
All great countries have thrived only when they realize that in the eyes of our youth is reflected the true value of our society. If they are to grow into healthy and productive citizens, it is essential that they receive the care and instruction they need in their early years.
The government will work to implement policies that will assist Canadian children to realize their full potential regardless of where they live or what resources their families have. It is imperative that all levels of government work together to achieve the honourable goals that have been put forward in the last year in terms of caring for our young people.
My riding of Davenport is not unlike thousands of communities across Canada. Each day families rise and begin with the promise of a new day. They go to their jobs, their schools or they volunteer their time in countless endeavours. Families of all kinds are the fabric of our country.
The government recognizes this reality and that is why it is confirming its intention today to help Canadian families to prosper and develop their full potential. As the government moves to implement the Speech from the Throne, helping families will remain at the heart of its agenda.
For over nine years I served my community in Toronto as a city councillor and at times acting mayor. I am proud of my work at Toronto city hall and I believe that at the core healthy cities and communities are the foundations upon which we build and sustain a healthy country.
It is with pride that I commend the government today on its renewed commitment to improving support for our local governments with initiatives like full relief from the goods and services tax and the municipal rural infrastructure fund.
This is a government with an agenda for change, true change that will help to ensure that our cities and communities are the places they ought to be.
The government has set a new tone in recognizing the need to support our cities and communities and today we have heard once again that these commitments will be transformed into action.
Also, today's throne speech demonstrates the government's continued leadership in the areas of the environment and sustainable development. The government has realized that it must play a leadership role in this regard.
Canada is a country of incredible beauty: forests as old as time, majestic rivers that flow over vast distances and mountains that reach seemingly beyond the sky. In protecting our environment we not only preserve this beauty for generations to come, we also confirm our understanding that the very sustainability of our society is contingent upon our success in this area.
The throne speech clearly illustrates this commitment to action with policies like the green procurement policy and an increased focus on wind power. This is a priority for the government and it is central to its mandate.
Historically, Canada has been perceived around the world as a fair and just country, one which fulfills its international obligations and understands the importance of building bridges rather than walls.
We are a people of peacekeepers and, as we know, our flag has flown proudly in the most troubled parts of the world. It is viewed as a symbol of equity, dignity and responsibility.
Today, the government has shown that Canada will continue to be a model of international cooperation in conducting its international affairs.
We as a government will not recoil from our responsibilities to all nations of the world and we will certainly uphold the principles for which we as a country are regarded around the world with respect.
The throne speech today is a reflection of the basic values that we as Canadians hold close to our hearts and the spirit of this commitment is reflected in the creation of a new Canada Corps which will bring the best of Canada's values to the world.
This is an agenda that is inclusive and respectful of the need to ensure that Canadians from coast to coast feel engaged and very much a part of the process of governing the country.
Today, the government, in its throne speech, once again invites Canadians to share in the opportunities that are before us to meet the challenges that may lie ahead and to recognize the greatness of this country.
We are a country that the world regards as a city upon a hill, a country of tolerance, opportunity, inclusiveness and fairness.
The throne speech delivers on the government's commitments to Canadians in the true spirit of our democracy. This throne speech invites us to embrace the future, certain in our resolve to improve the lives of Canadians regardless where they live and committed to lead Canada forward into the new century.
This is the government's vision and this is the vision of Canada set forth from the founding of our country. The throne speech confirms once again the very best of what Canada is about.
This is the government's vision and the true vision of Canada.
I have the honour and pleasure of moving, seconded by the hon. member for Gatineau, that the following Address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada.
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
May it please Your Excellency:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the House of Commons of Canada, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.