Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise in the House of Commons for the first time and respond to the Speech from the Throne.
Please allow me to begin by thanking the constituents of Scarborough Southwest for their support and confidence in electing me as their representative to the House of Commons. It is an honour and a privilege to serve them.
I also want to thank my campaign manager, Pierre Cyr, and Earl Provost, my campaign chair, who mobilized a team of fabulous volunteers. Their dedication and hard work made this day possible. In addition, thanks to my many friends and family for their support.
Finally, I would like to thank the two most important men in my life: my son Eric, and my husband George, who has been there for me every day. Not only is he my best friend, but his love and support was instrumental in my being elected to this honourable House.
While the official opposition has signalled it will not defeat the throne speech, it is not because it contains a plan to deal with our country's current crisis, but because our country needs a cooperative and collaborative Parliament to effectively deal with the serious challenges we are facing.
In fact, as a new member, I am disappointed in the past policies of the government that contributed to the economic instability we are experiencing, and the fact there now appears to be no plan to restore Canadians' confidence in our economy.
The Speech from the Throne focuses heavily on preparing Canadians for the difficult times ahead. Due to Conservative mismanagement of the economy, we are indeed facing very difficult times.
The government did not just inherit a $12 billion surplus from the previous Liberal government, it inherited a multi-year Liberal legacy of fiscal prudence and balanced budgets. In two and a half short years, the Conservatives managed to not only squander this sizeable cushion, but also destroy the culture of strong fiscal management that the Liberals, in partnership with all Canadians, had worked so hard to create and maintain.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, the Conservative government is unwilling to admit that its policy decisions played no small role in where Canadians now find themselves.
The previous Liberal government understood that in a global economy, meaningful tax reductions for all Canadians, measured in consistent national debt reduction and a viable contingency plan, can insulate Canadians to many economic woes that start beyond our borders and are not within our control.
Governments, fundamentally, have a responsibility to its citizens to be prepared for such circumstances, to ensure that Canada is in the best possible position to meet these unforeseen challenges. The previous Liberal government understood this and successfully managed Canada through a number of crises by prudently maintaining budget surpluses.
During the election, triggered by the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister vowed that Canada would never fall into deficit. Now that the election is over, the Prime Minister has issued dire warnings to Canadians that a deficit is not only unavoidable but may be economically the only option available for Canada.
The government is claiming it foresaw this economic downturn over a year ago. If that is the case, why did the Prime Minister make a commitment to all Canadians just five short weeks ago to never fall into deficit if he knew that promise could never be fulfilled?
Canada ran a deficit for the first three months this year, and as the Speech from the Throne so clearly points out, we are headed into deep deficit once again. This deficit is not the result of the global credit crisis but the direct result of choices made by the government. It was the Conservatives' choice to increase spending to the point that the government has become the highest spending government in Canadian history. It was its choice to cut taxes in a manner that has eroded our tax base.
As the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, said in his report, “The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions”. This analysis is coming from the Prime Minister's own appointee and clearly flies in the face of the story the Prime Minister is trying to sell. This is a fact that has negatively impacted all Canadians.
I also find it disturbing that the Speech from the Throne failed to acknowledge the issues facing Canada's most disadvantaged, the people who will be hardest hit by the downturn in the Canadian economy. It makes no provision for Canadians living in poverty, including some 800,000 children.
Also ignored by the government is the issue of affordable child care. It is not surprising, considering the current government, with the help of the NDP, dismantled the previous Liberal government's national child care program. I am sure the government hoped this issue would fade away after deciding to cut cheques instead of dealing with this serious problem. A monthly cheque is not child care, nor does it create a single day care space. Hard-working families need safe, accessible and affordable child care.
The speech also fails to address the challenges faced by our seniors. Seniors who are financially crippled by the government's decision to tax income trusts are now having their savings ravaged again by the current economic crisis and they do not even merit a mention in the speech. We need a plan to protect our seniors.
There was no mention of poverty, child care or seniors. The government has a responsibility to help Canadians through the current crises: those who currently live in poverty, those who are on the edge of poverty, struggling working families, those who have already lost their jobs and the thousands who will as our economic crisis deepens.
The Conservative government's Speech from the Throne is simply an infomercial designed to sell Canadians on the idea it is not to blame for our current problems rather than what a throne speech should be, which is a blueprint for future economic prosperity, justice and fairness for all Canadians. Liberals understand that and Canadians understand that.
As a member of the official opposition, I understand that Canadians want Parliament to work together and in partnership with the provinces and municipalities from coast to coast to coast to effectively tackle the challenges facing our country. Liberals are committed to ensuring that Parliament takes action on the economy in a way that will best help Canada through these difficult times. Canadians deserve nothing less.