Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me this opportunity. It is a privilege for me to work with you. I commend the people of Elmwood—Transcona for sending you to this place nine times. You are our dean and, as a rookie, I value your wisdom.
I am the 18th member to represent the people of Ottawa—Orléans in this House, and I know that my responsibility is as great as the debt I owe to all the constituents, regardless of their political affiliation.
Today, in the debate in reply to the Speech from the Throne, I plan to share with the House my personal story and my hopes for Ottawa—Orléans and for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I also would like to inform you that I plan to share my time with the hon. member for Peterborough.
I have known eight of my predecessors, starting with Omer Gour. The one who made the greatest impact on the country was the Right Honourable Jean-Luc Pepin. The one who has had the greatest impact on the disadvantaged is my friend Eugène Bellemare.
My all-time favourite will remain Jean Pigott. An Officer of the Order of Canada, Jean is a model for anyone who seeks to balance duty to country and duty to the people. Her insight is an inspiration to all who know her.
I also wish to thank our colleague from Kingston and the Islands for recommending my name twice to the House for the position of Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. Before reaching this recommendation, I know that the Speaker consulted all party leaders.
I thank the hon. Bill Graham and wish him health and happiness in his retirement. I also thank all hon. members for twice consenting to the Speaker's recommendation about my House duties.
I am aware that I am the first rookie MP to occupy this function and that my 26 predecessors had an average of nine years in the House before being given this trust for impartial service. It is that much more humbling. I also thank the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle for his support.
Although I have often spoken from the Chair in this 39th Parliament, it is the first time that I participate in debate.
As much as Canadian unity has fed the fire of my patriotism since childhood, the people of Ottawa—Orléans have witnessed that I am not a one-trick pony. So, to balance my passion for matters that constitute the cultural makeup of our country, I am focused tirelessly on turning the National Research Council into a pole of attraction for economic development in east end Ottawa.
The key to this came from my friends Bob MacQuarrie and Ken Steele, when 30 years ago they advocated the establishment of a technology transfer centre. In the past 21 months I have been very active in reviving that dream. This goal is realistic and this project can be the most significant element in the transformation of Orléans from a bedroom community to a self-sustaining community where, in addition to sleeping, people work, shop and play.
Some people feed expectations and make empty promises about moving federal jobs to Orléans from elsewhere. That is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. It creates no wealth, except for selected speculators. Economic development is not just a matter of serving the interests of land speculators. It must be based on a web of compatible assets, such as the intellectual property that lies dormant at NRC. Just as Bell Northern Research was a source of spinoffs for economic development in Nepean and Kanata, the NRC must be for North Gloucester and Orléans.
On St. Joseph Boulevard the Government of Canada owns a site of 180 hectares. With Mr. Pepin and the hon. Jean-Jacques Blais, I worked 25 years ago for the revitalization of the Land Engineering Test Establishment. Now, my staff and I provide active support for a national security infrastructure partnership focused in Orléans.
Parking lot 174 must regain its vocation. It must truly become highway 174, a roadway that is equally used in both directions at all times. I said that in my swearing in ceremony 18 months ago. Last Friday, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities turned good intentions into hard cash when he announced an investment of $40 million to help resolve this issue.
The poorly designed 417-174 split must be fixed before more traffic is added to the volume, but the most practical solution to traffic congestion is improved public transit. That is why I have worked for three years on the east-west light rail transit environmental assessment committee and my heart is still there.
Public libraries are the most practical and democratic way for Canadians to share knowledge. I had the privilege of working in this area for six years, and I will always have fond memories of it.
While serving on the Ottawa Public Library Board, I was determined to filter access to Internet pornography. Some thought that intellectual freedom was more important than the protection of children and we lost the first vote. Two weeks later we voted again. Now, children in Ottawa no longer have access to Internet pornography.
I am pleased that the House will consider a bill to extend the protection of children against sexual predators by raising the age of consent. We are at the service of families at all stages of life and as such I am glad that pension income can now be split for taxation purposes. This will be a great benefit to retired couples.
I thank the government for its ecoauto rebate program. Before the tabling of budget 2007, I had recommended such a program to the Minister of Finance for energy efficient vehicles. The environment is not just a popular slogan. It is a treasure that we must all protect.
That is why I am fully supportive of Tree Canada. One tree absorbs 800 kilograms of carbon emissions. In my lifetime I have planted 50,000 trees. That is the same as absorbing 40,000 tonnes of CO2. That is not all. My children are doing it too. My youngest son, Claude, planted 23,000 trees so far. How about that for getting things done?
Since the establishment of the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact, some 45 years ago, this country has progressively reduced international trade barriers. Frankly, it is now time that we pay as much attention to the breaking down of interprovincial trade barriers.
Linguistic duality is an added value for Canada. Here in Ottawa, 120,000 francophones speak French, but did you know that 180,000 anglophones also speak the language of Rabelais? Let us move forward together to promote the positive aspects of our heritage. When the last statement is made, when the last vote is cast, when we return home, we will have a clear conscience and the knowledge that our country is better off.
As we inspire our community leaders that non-partisan service goes further than petty partisanship, we become more effective as servants and we understand better that we are only tenants in this place. The landlords are the electors who temporarily give us their trust.
I would like to pay tribute to Team Ottawa-Orléans. There is great talent among the members of its committees, and I am fortunate to receive advice from them. In fact, on January 24, 2006, I moved my office to the same building.
I also organized the first meeting of all the elected officials in Ottawa—Orléans. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my provincial counterpart, Phil McNeely, on being re-elected, Mayor Larry O'Brien, and the four municipal councillors, Rainer Bloess, Michel Bellemare and Rob Jellett, who are all committed to working together to help Ottawa-Orléans flourish.
I would particularly like to highlight the efforts Councillor Bob Monette has made to protect and promote Petrie Island Park.
It has been a privilege for me to participate in this debate in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I look forward to the months ahead as together we implement the elements of the speech.
I would like to thank my staff, under the capable direction of Ginette Gagnon. Lastly, I would like to thank my family, my wife and social conscience, Anne Pallascio, as well as our four children, Louis, Paul, Claude and Miriam.