Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country.
It is a pleasure to speak today in reply to the Speech from the Throne. It is with a great deal of honour that I take my place here in the House of Commons as a Conservative member from Tobique—Mactaquac in New Brunswick.
I thank the voters and my campaign team for giving me the opportunity and privilege to represent the issues and concerns of my constituents.
I would like to take advantage of this occasion to thank the voters for giving me the opportunity and privilege of representing their views on the various questions and concerns of my fellow citizens.
I am honoured to be here with all the members of the House. The first two months as a new MP has been both challenging and gratifying, including my première semaine en immersion française.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome friends from the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac in Fredericton, New Brunswick, as well as some relatives, who are with us here today. I also was happy to have some of my riding staff join us here in Ottawa at the beginning of the week. They were unable to be here today as they were returning to the riding. I am not sure if yesterday's question period was too much for them.
For those members who are not familiar with the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, it is located in western New Brunswick. It is one of the larger ridings in Canada and covers some 250 kilometres from north to south along the Saint John River and spanning from the U.S. border to almost Boiestown in central New Brunswick and all points in between.
The riding of Tobique—Mactaquac is home to a diverse community which includes both anglophone and francophone municipalities as well as two first nations communities, namely Woodstock and Tobique. Tobique—Mactaquac is known for the picturesque beauty of the Nashwaak, Tobique and Saint John River valleys and the head waters of the Miramichi River system. It is also a region of proud heritage in agriculture and forestry and a riding that boasts manufacturing, including McCain Foods.
Of course, there are problems. The family farms that cultivate these fields are facing hard times. There have been many factors at play: international trade issues, market forces and a previous government that did not respect the family farm.
I am proud of the new Minister of Agriculture. He has a firm grasp of these problems and intends to address them.
Under the Conservative government the family farm can grow and prosper and all of Canada can be proud in the food and agricultural products we offer to the world.
I hope to be fortunate enough to work together with the minister on this matter in order to help our farmers.
Forestry is also very important in my riding, and unfortunately, since the difficulties and restrictions at the border, we have seen a steep decline in the jobs related to this sector.
I am pleased to be part of a government that understands the concept of resource management and that industry needs innovation and change to be viable in the future. In spite of these issues, the people I represent have an entrepreneurial, can-do attitude and work very hard for every dollar. They want their government to work hard for them. They do not waste their money and they were very clear with me during the election when they said that government should clean up its act and that it could not be a trough for personal friends and insiders.
I want to thank the Governor General for delivering the Speech from the Throne and setting this new Parliament on a path to a better Canada. A new government gives all of us a time to stop and re-evaluate the direction for the country. We will not run a government where the rich friends of members are given lucrative contracts for government projects. Some of these projects were real and some were not but all were funded by the taxpayers of Canada without any consequence.
There must be consequences. Our new government will not allow for this practice to continue. Our first act in the House of Commons will be to bring in the federal accountability act. During the election we said that our first move as the government would be to clean up Ottawa, starting with the accountability act. This is exactly what we are going to do. This is an important piece of legislation. We want to restore Canadians' faith in the way they are led. Without the faith of the population, we have a country on a decline. That is not the country we want to give to our next generation. Canadians expect politicians and public sector employees to conduct themselves with the highest ethical standards.
The government must be more effective and accountable to Parliament and to Canadians. The federal accountability act will set out in legislation an end to the influence of big money in politics by banning corporate and union political donations. It will also limit individual donations and put it back to the grassroots in our parties. It will strengthen lobbying rules and put an end to the revolving door that allows former ministers, political aides and the top bureaucrats to turn around and lobby the government for contracts. One portion of the act that I am proud of is the section that will give more power and teeth to the independent watchdogs, such as the Auditor General. This is all about making the federal government more transparent and accountable. It will not be about adding red tape. It will be about making it easier for people to do their jobs.
I am a professional accountant and member of the Certified General Accountants Association of New Brunswick.
In my role as an accountant and a consultant, I had the opportunity to work in Canada, the United States and Australia. In each case, my goal was to implement processes to secure various companies' assets from breaches in trust and ensure they were properly safeguarded. That included a budget authority to ensure credibility in our financial forecasts.
I believe government must take all measures possible to safeguard its assets and I believe the act will put in place the processes to do just that.
I understand the importance of complying with my association’s code of conduct. If I observed only part of this code, I would certainly lose my licence to practise.
We need tough rules for government, including crown corporations and foundations created under federal statute. The accountability and ethics code also requires me to report ethical breaches and put processes in place for companies to protect all their stakeholders, including employees and shareholders. Why should the federal government not be held to the same high standards of ethics? Our act will protect whistleblowers from reprisal when they surface unethical or illegal activities they have seen while working in a department or agency that serves the federal government. Our citizens have the right to know what is going on in government.
Finally, we will make government more open by strengthening access to information laws, including extending laws to crown corporations. Such changes will take a thorough and complete debate to ensure we balance concerns for personal privacy, commercial confidentiality and national security.
I believe that this part of the legislation is important for a new start. As a member of Parliament, I think that it will help us establish a work relationship based on collaboration that will be productive for all Canadians.
These principles will give Canadians the good, clean government they expect and deserve. It also builds on our platform commitments and takes into account discussions with officers of Parliament, such as the Auditor General, the Information Commissioner, public policy experts, eminent Canadians and unions.
Accountability is everyone's business. It requires that Parliament, the government and public service work together to serve Canadians honestly and with integrity. Let us work together and use this bill as one thing we can all get behind immediately. It is time to move from a culture of entitlement to a culture of accountability. We will fix the system for Canadians and the time is now.