Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment. I will be splitting my time with the member for North Vancouver.
As this is my maiden speech I would like to take the opportunity to let my constituents know I am truly honoured to be in the House of Commons representing them as the newly elected member of Parliament for Edmonton East. I would also like to inform the people who are listening to this debate today that we are debating the Speech from the Throne.
Many of the members of this assembly can trace their heritage to a common path. We share ancestors that sailed by the shadow of the Quebec citadel, some stopping, most going onward to Montreal or beyond.
My ancestors came to Canada in the 1850s. They, like many immigrants before and since, followed this route to Upper Canada. Like the French before who enjoined the land of the aboriginals, so too did the British. My wife's ancestors who came from Ukraine in 1910 travelled this conduit to settlement, as did many others who followed. The first impressions of this new country for most of Canada's immigrants was the impressive heights of the Quebec citadel and the wharfs of Montreal.
Canada by this time had embraced the railroads and more than anything else developed the interior territories by threads of rails emanating from its rapidly growing cities of Montreal and Toronto. Montreal was the hub of the dynamic business region and largest city in Canada up until the 1960s.
Business dynamics of cities have changed since then. Toronto now replaces Montreal in size and Vancouver may in turn in the future given its present growth rate. What Montreal retains is the true essence of Canada's multicultural make-up. Its cultural mosiac is a product of 350 years of enlightened immigration. This cultural diversity is shared by many cities and towns in Canada.
Edmonton East is just one of those cosmopolitan communities. Encompassing city hall and the Alberta legislature, Edmonton East also has a variety of cultural communities, Ukrainian, Italian, Chinese and others. Cultural diversity is a treasured part of our community. A large and popular cultural event is the Edmonton heritage day festival. Our community celebrates its individuals' heritage as well as enjoying the celebration of others.
Edmontonians truly do enjoy multiculturalism. Some groups display great pride in cultural accomplishment without federal funding. More groups should. Multiculturalism should not be about money. It should be about community involvement and community participation.
As a father of two teenage daughters, one in high school, the other in university, I am proud to say that they view, as I do, race and colour as transparencies. They simply do not exist in our lives.
In the global community of the next millennium discrimination will be a non-starter for those who will want to be equal partners in world affairs. Canada has become a major global trading country because of its diversity of cultures and the insightfulness it brings.
Canada Day is a product of evolution from the French-aboriginal encounter, to the early British stewardship, to the birth of a nation in 1867, already growing with immigrants from all corners of the earth, less than 500 years since Europeans set foot in Newfoundland.
What concerns me deeply is the very reason that brings me to this Chamber, Canadian unity. I truly believe in Canada's diversity. I have had a long and memorable relationship with a very significant part of our country. Since 1962 I have sometimes lived in, worked in and often visited Quebec. The most important visit was to Quebec City during the 1995 referendum. To be in Quebec City for the vote was important to me, to my past.
On October 31, like many thousands of Canadians, I was in shock and disbelief that our country could be lost for want of 100,000 votes. It was not a simple consultative referendum as we were told. It was a serious well orchestrated campaign for separation.
Thousands of Canadians reacted as I did. Dozens of unity groups sprang up. I organized a group in Edmonton. While several projects were completed I realized that to make a serious impression I could better serve Canadian unity from within a political party that truly supports Canadian unity. Ultimately it will be the government that makes constitutional changes, but we encourage suggestions from all Canadians that want to foster Canadian unity. I will bring forward concerns of people and groups in my role as deputy critic of intergovernmental affairs.
I stand here as a product of the 1995 referendum. I am not here pretending to have answers but I am here to try to help. Canadian unity is not just Quebec and the rest of Canada. Unity is successfully dialoguing concerns of all Canadians. It is renewing federalism. It is emphasizing the equality of the people of Canada as well as the equality of its partners, the provinces.
If Canadians have the will and determination we can resolve federal-provincial concerns, we can resolve aboriginal concerns and we can resolve linguistic concerns. The people of Edmonton East are just like the people of Gaspé and people from all across Canada.
What can and will work to bring this country together is to give Canadians everywhere the feeling that they have a government that cares, a government that will bring about real jobs by reducing taxes, not just floating statistics, a government that will support fair reduced taxes after it has begun a debt reduction program, a government that will make families a priority, a government that will work to make our streets safer by recognizing and correcting the misguided Young Offenders Act, a government that will repair the damage done by the past governments to the all important social safety net and pensions, a government that will view taxpayers for who they are, our employers, not simply as walking wallets.
Then all Canadians will feel better about themselves, about their families, about their well-being in senior years, about their justice system, about their government. Then we will have something to wave a flag about. Then we will have something to be proud enough about to even buy a flag ourselves. Then we might have unity.