Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to rise today for my maiden speech in the House of Commons. In addition, I am especially honoured to be the first member of Parliament for the new riding of Edmonton—Spruce Grove, proud to be among my Conservative colleagues and privileged to represent the honest and hard-working people of West Edmonton, Spruce Grove, Enoch, Stony Plain and Parkland county.
My journey to arrive here has been short in time but long in memories. I am blessed to have the support of my husband Bruce, my family, my friends and the good people of Edmonton--Spruce Grove who have put their trust in me to be their voice and to represent their interests.
I am proud to be a part of our Conservative team. Every day my Conservative colleagues inspire me with their fresh enthusiasm. They mentor me with their experience. They challenge me with their beliefs and their ideology. Their knowledge brings substance to our discussions. Most important, they bring humility and humanity to the difficult issues that we face every day as parliamentarians.
I am also proud to serve alongside the Leader of the Opposition. His leadership is one of the reasons that I am here today. His articulate, principled vision for Canada is the philosophical backdrop that I believe is necessary to ensure that this country is able to reach its potential, a vision that is embedded in freedom and respect for the individual.
I understand that the Speech from the Throne is merely meant to reflect an overall notion. It is supposed to be construed at maximum as a blueprint for the government's agenda and at best offer Canadians a small sense of the government's vision.
However this Speech from the Throne was disjointed. It was not only devoid of vision or passion, it was devoid of philosophical consistency and argument. It is not merely from rhetoric that I make this accusation. I sincerely believe that the Liberal government has lost its way. If I dare say, even to the detriment of my colleagues across the aisle who still believe in a Liberal vision, because those who actually lead the government may have once believed in a vision but today they have replaced it with a desire to maintain power.
Governments cannot sustain themselves on power alone. It is no mistake that practical solutions and real public policy did not emerge from this throne speech. Public policy is the building block that sets into motion the practical solutions that emerge from our passion and vision for our country but one cannot exist without the other. Public policy that will build a coherent, workable government cannot flow from words that are not rooted in a consistent set of philosophical principles and a vision for a country does not emerge without the passion that sustains those principles.
The Liberals' desire to maintain power has taken a toll. The Speech from the Throne was indicative of the most serious problem with the government, not that it is Liberal, but that it is nothing.
I was honoured to be appointed senior critic for intergovernmental relations for the Conservative Party of Canada. I believe that nowhere is this Liberal lack of vision and addiction to power more obvious than in federal-provincial relations because when we are dealing with the Constitution there is really nowhere that we can hide.
In almost every initiative in the Speech from the Throne, the federal government is infringing on provincial jurisdiction. It appears that infringing on provincial authority is the only consistent element to the government's agenda.
However, even if we acknowledge this element of consistency, there is still no reliability, no principle, no philosophy that is guiding the actions of the government, no vision for the way our federation should work and no sense of dependability or predictability in the relationship between the provinces and the federal government.
According to the throne speech, the government's vision of federalism is to ignore the most pressing issues faced by the provinces. Their constant and continuous incursion into provincial jurisdiction, if and only when it is politically expedient for them to do so, has become the Liberal way of maintaining power and establishing a sense of political relevancy.
This lack of consistency, this lack of respect for the constitutional authority of the provinces and the unpredictable nature of a government that makes decisions based on power as opposed to principle has left federal-provincial relations at an all time low. This relationship has been continuously undermined over the last decade of Liberal policy-making and today it has culminated in a desire to maintain power at the expense of the sometimes delicate fabric that holds the country together.
In their continual denial of the fiscal imbalance, their refusal to deal with the need to reform equalization, their dismissal of the call for real electorate and democratic reform and their belief that the state of Canadian unity can be bought with sponsorship money, the Liberals have fuelled the flames of western alienation, ignited sovereignist sentiment and created a wedge between the have and the have not provinces of this nation.
This has left provinces no recourse but to assemble a quasi-federal government of their very own in the council of the federation. While the federal government has ignored these pressing issues, the premiers have established a council as a vehicle to find solutions.
The Conservative Party of Canada supports the leadership the premiers are showing and the important work that the council of the federation is doing to advance interprovincial cooperation. However we also believe that these difficult issues require leadership from the federal government.
At the heart of all of this is the fiscal imbalance. I say at the heart because the fiscal imbalance created by the federal government is responsible for the inability of provinces to sustain their core health and social programs, the very things the Liberals claim make up the fabric of this nation.
Let us not forget the Prime Minister was formerly the finance minister and since then the federal government has taken an increasingly disproportionate share of tax money, creating a fiscal gap between the federal and provincial governments.
This persistent gap between the budget results of the federal government and the budget results of the provincial governments will only continue to grow and, at its current rate, it is predicted to reach a potential $90 billion by 2020.
Meanwhile, the provinces and territories will find it increasingly difficult to maintain balanced budgets and deliver health, education and social programs to Canadians.
Despite continued federal denial that a fiscal imbalance does exist, today it is expected that the finance minister will report that the federal surplus is easily more than double what the federal government had forecasted just months ago. This situation is unacceptable. While the federal government is swimming in surpluses we live in a country made up almost entirely of have not provinces.
Despite the continued federal denial that a fiscal imbalance exists, every provincial government, the Conference Board of Canada, the C. D. Howe Institute, the Séguin commission and the Conservative Party of Canada, just to name a few, acknowledge that this serious problem exists.
Even in the face of huge surpluses, the solution that the federal government offers is for provinces to simply raise their income tax to pay for the important social programs that Canadians need. However new taxes and continued provincial deficits are not the answer. It is clear that the current tax structure no longer meets the needs of the provinces and territories.
It is part of the Conservative Party's proposal to give the provinces greater autonomy. The Liberals' approach to the fiscal imbalance is stop gap measures when it is politically expedient for them. Instead, the Conservative Party has called for fundamental changes to the equalization formula, addressing the issues around resource revenue and the fiscal imbalance.
For instance, through the transfer of tax points the federal government could offer provinces the increased revenue necessary to deliver social and education programs without having to raise incomes taxes or go into deficit. It would also ensure that less inefficiencies and duplication would occur through federal intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.
However here is where the real problem lies. For the federal government to be able to implement a proposal such as this one it would have to give up some amount of power and control. To do that it would have to have some faith: faith in the provinces, in the premiers and in the members of provincial assemblies. It would have to have faith in municipalities, the mayors, the cities and the town councillors, the school board trustees, the parents and, last but not least it, it would have to have faith and respect for the individual. However this is something that the Liberal government has lost: faith in the individual and, by extension, faith in the nation. This is increasingly obvious in its politics of federalism when intervention, micro managing and duplication have become its contribution to federal-provincial relations.
This is the most striking difference between the government and the Conservative Party of Canada. We respect the Constitution and the power of the provinces and we respect the individual. Our vision of federalism begins from the notion that Canadians have the ability and capacity to make their own decisions and they know what is best for themselves, what is best for their children, their families and their communities. This is the vision of the Conservative Party of Canada and I look forward to the day that we form the government so the Constitution will be respected, the provinces will be respected and Canadians will be respected.
I also look forward to working with my colleagues, fellow parliamentarians and engaging Canadians in debate on these important issues. I do think togetherwe can find a better vision for Canada.