Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak today against the Reform motion and that of the Liberal Party. I also wish to thank the constituents and the people of Sackville—Eastern Shore, a new riding in Nova Scotia, who elected me and gave me their trust and honour and privilege to represent them in this House of Commons.
It is amazing when we hear the Reform and the Liberal Party go on and on with their rhetoric. I want to inform them that the people of Sackville—Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia elected me to come to the House of Commons for political solutions, not political interference.
They wanted me to come and not only hold the government accountable and hold other opposition parties accountable for their actions and their responsibilities, but also to work with them to find the solutions of today.
When the hon. member for Durham talks about the NDP and our policies, I should inform this House that we are the only federal party whose parliamentary and constituency staff are organized under a collective agreement. We do not hear anything coming from their side on that aspect of it.
Where are the Reform and Liberal backbenchers to help us eliminate the immigration head tax?
If I may digress a little, I wish to inform the House that I am an immigrant. My mother and father and six of us moved to this country in 1956. We went from Halifax at pier 21 by train all the way to Vancouver. I want to tell members what my parents told me. At the time I was only eight months old.
My father was in the Dutch resistance during the war of 1939 to 1945. The first person who rescued him out of a POW camp was a Canadian. Because of that, he had a lifelong dream to come to Canada. Because of the closure of the coal mines in the south of Holland in 1952, 25,000 families in the south of Holland had to literally evacuate the country because there were no opportunities at that time.
We came to Canada in 1956. My father got off the boat at pier 21 and the first question he asked in his broken English to a woman from the Salvation Army who was there to help, along with the Red Cross, was where he could get food for eight people for a two day journey. She asked where he was headed. He said Vancouver. She laughed and laughed and of course it was contagious and my father started to laugh and laugh as well, not knowing what he was laughing about. He did not realize that it was a six day journey from Halifax to Vancouver by train.
Anyway, we got to Vancouver and that Christmas my mother received a turkey from her local church group. She had never seen a 20 pound turkey before. Not knowing what to do with it, she cut it up in little pieces and fried it up in two huge cast iron skillets. The woman next door who happened to be from Quebec and was living in Delta walked in to see how the turkey was coming along. She noticed that this turkey was cut up in tiny little pieces and she laughed and laughed. Of course my mother started to laugh as well. It was quite contagious. This woman then took my mother down to the store and got another turkey for her and showed her how to cook it properly.
My parents, in return, invested in Canada by running a group home for over 25 years. For over 25 years I grew up in a group home with over 400 children from across the country who were runaways, who were abused, from every aspect of life. My parents did that to repay Canada for their lovely entry to this country.
The reason I say that is because I spoke with my parents the other day. My father is under palliative care. One of his closest friends passed away two months ago waiting for a transplant operation. The hon. member for Durham should understand that my parents' laughter is now gone. The cuts to health care have taken away their humour.
Where are the political parties when it comes to health and education?
Our most valuable resource is our children, and yet we turn around and say to people that children with disabilities cannot receive proper education because we do not have the money. We have the money to give huge tax breaks to profitable banks and corporations. It is simply scandalous that this rhetoric can go on and on.
I wish to say a few things about the deficit and the debt and what we should do about them.
Average Canadians are the real heroes in the war against the deficit. They are the ones who should benefit from their struggles.
The interests of big business and Canada's elite cannot be put ahead of ordinary Canadians. The Reform Party and lobby groups, such as the Business Council on National Issues, are pressuring the government to give further tax breaks to Canada's highest income earners and the most successful corporations.
Unprecedented government cuts to programs, such as Canada's health care and education systems, might have improved the government's bottom line, but they have increasingly threatened the average Canadian; not only average Canadians who use the public services of health and education, but all Canadians who have a job; those who are said, from the government lines, lucky to have a job.
The current trend is that Reformers are pushing the Liberals into their agenda, away from the previous Tory agenda. During the campaign I liked to say that the Liberals have reformed the Tory agenda.
People who have worked for 20 or 30 years are now insecure in their jobs. They do not know if they will have a job tomorrow. They do not know if they will be able to meet their payments. They do not know if they will be able to send their kids to college.
Today I asked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans if he would re-commit to a signed, written contract with the 40,000 fishers of Atlantic Canada and Quebec to maintain the income supplement program known as TAGS, for the fishers of those areas. His response was that he consulted with those people, in order to eliminate the program, for an entire year. Can I honestly believe that he would ask 40,000 fishers “Do you want to lose your income for a year?”
It is simply scandalous that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans would stand here and tell us that is what he did. It is an absolute scandalous mistruth.