Mr. Speaker, I am honoured and privileged to second the motion for the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to thank Her Excellency the Governor General for her eloquent delivery. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the right hon. Prime Minister for the honour of this opportunity. Most of all, I would like to thank the people I represent, the people of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for the extraordinary honour of representing them here in Ottawa.
Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley symbolizes the very heart of rural Canada. We are very proud of our past and we are eagerly embracing our future. Speaking of our proud past, I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of many historic figures from my riding. Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley was the home of no less than five of the 36 founding Fathers of Confederation: Edward Barron Chandler, Robert Barry Dickey, Jonathan McCully, Sir Adams George Archibald, and of course, Sir Charles Tupper. As many hon. members know, Sir Charles Tupper was the premier of Nova Scotia in 1867 and led our province into Confederation. He went on to serve as the sixth prime minister of Canada.
I rise in the House keenly aware of the many political giants who have been elected from my riding, great public servants like Mr. Frank Stanfield, a great entrepreneur and political figure who represented Colchester county in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly and later went on to serve as the 14th Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. Frank's son, Robert L. Stanfield, became premier of Nova Scotia, was leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and was a member of the House.
At this moment I am reminded of the words of Robert L. Stanfield which he penned in a letter to his federal caucus on March 24, 1974 when he spoke about his vision for our land and our nation, a Canada that was orderly and stable, a Canada that, while stable, not static. Mr. Stanfield stood for integrity and humility, and humility “is a valuable strength provided it does not become an excuse to resisting change, accepting injustice or supporting vested interests”. That philosophy is still embodied in the fabric of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
Our riding is over 10,000 square kilometres and contains the gateway to Nova Scotia, the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. It was our Prime Minister who recognized the contributions of Robert L. Stanfield and was pivotal in renaming the Halifax international airport in honour of his legacy to our nation.
Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley touches on two waterways: the Northumberland Strait and the Bay of Fundy, the bay that contains the highest and most powerful tides in the world. Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley already harnesses wind. In our town of Springhill, mines that once provided coal to power our homes and industries have since filled with water, and we are tapping this great source of geothermal power.
As an educator and a believer in the future of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, it is tidal power which I believe will help make my riding an international centre for clean and green energy.
It was my pleasure this past January to be in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia to announce on behalf of our government the construction of a 3,500 square foot visitor and operations centre. This complex will showcase the harnessing of the Fundy region's promising natural asset. It will build an international profile for our riding, our province and our nation.
Also in January I had the great pleasure of joining the Prime Minister as he announced a major economic action plan investment that lets us build the Central Nova Scotia Civic Centre in Truro. This project has already put people to work, a lasting legacy that will promote a healthier, more active lifestyle for present and future generations.
As I move from local to national, I would like to take a minute to thank our Olympic athletes. We have just seen a spectacular Olympic Games hosted so admirably by Vancouver and Whistler. We saw our athletes rise to the occasion and very often rise to the podium. In fact, we witnessed Canada's best ever performance.
I was moved by the skill, the dedication and sheer determination of these Canadians who compete against the very best and more than hold their own, including one young man with ties to my riding who now plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins and for Team Canada. Sidney Crosby at one time played for the Truro Junior “A” Bearcats, which was perfect preparation for scoring the winning gold medal goal.
During the Olympics, all Canadians came together, from coast to coast to coast, to cheer our athletes, and our athletes performed magnificently. The spirit of unity that Canadians showed from St. John's to Alert to Victoria should guide us in Parliament to rise above partisanship and work together to address the concerns of our constituents, and above all, to focus on jobs and growth.
That spirit of dedication, that spirit of “we can do it” that brought our athletes such success, should guide us as we confront our challenges and seize opportunities of this coming year. Canada must continue, like our athletes, to compete against the very best, but more, hold our own.
Over the past year Canada has confronted a global economic recession but Canada has fared better than almost any industrialized nation, a testament to the resiliency of Canadians, the prudent regulation of our financial sector, and above all, to the unparalleled effectiveness of Canada's economic action plan.
Funds have been committed to almost 16,000 stimulus projects across Canada of which 12,000 have already begun or have been completed, creating employment and building essential infrastructure for the future, like the civic centre I mentioned being built in my own riding.
As excited as we get about big infrastructure projects, we also cannot forget the other parts of the economic action plan. Tax cuts let Canadians keep and spend their own money. Tax credits like the home renovation tax credit spurred economic activity. Enhanced employment insurance benefits provide direct support to Canadians who have paid into the system year after year and now face hard times.
Among our key reforms is allowing self-employed workers to finally opt in to the EI system.
Statistics Canada announced on Monday that Canada's economy grew almost 5% in the fourth quarter of 2009, the strongest quarter in almost a decade, and a testament to Canada's economic action plan. Canada is being well served by the plan. We can see the affects at home in Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley just as we can from coast to coast to coast.
The first year of the economic action plan has seen the beginning of our economic recovery, but still far too many Canadians remain unemployed. Now, when the plan is bearing fruit, it is time to stay on course. It is time to implement the second and final phase of the plan to safeguard our recovery and to maintain our focus on jobs and growth. However, it is also time, as we finish implementing the economic action plan, to prepare for tomorrow's challenges and also tomorrow's opportunities. We must plan to balance the budget in order to sustain Canada's long-term economic prosperity.
Just as paying down the debt before the global recession gave Canada the flexibility to implement a swift and effective stimulus plan, returning to balanced budgets will help Canada emerge stronger than ever.
We must build on the jobs and industries of the future. We will keep taxes competitive and we will cut red tape. We will continue to sign new trade agreements and open new markets for Canadian goods. We will make Canada a clean energy superpower, a leader in green job creation on the planet. I already mentioned the great potential in my own riding, but leadership in developing clean energy is something that is coming to characterize our entire nation.
When we get things done, Canada will emerge stronger than ever, a great place to live, a great place to work, a great place to start a business, create jobs and grow the economy.
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a few other measures from the throne speech that are particularly deserving of the support of every member of the House.
Canadians believe in the rule of law, in a justice system that delivers justice, protecting Canadians young and old and holding those who commit crimes accountable for their actions.
While this government has passed important legislation like the truth in sentencing reforms that came into effect just last week, it is essential that we do more and avoid repeating delays and obstructions that have so often frustrated Canadians in the past.
As just announced in the Speech from the Throne, our government will introduce strong new legislation to combat organized crime and ensure that life means life for people who commit multiple murders. We will give Canada's police officers the vital tools they have asked for, investigative powers for the 21st century. We will not continue the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry that burdens law-abiding citizens, law-abiding hunters, law-abiding farmers.
This government's record of standing up for Canadian families is clear.
I would like to highlight that the government is reintroducing the consumer safety legislation which was passed by this House in the last session but unaccountably rejected in the other place. This legislation confers vital powers to keep consumers safe, provides tools to respond quickly to unsafe products, and gives parents assurances that their children are protected from harm. It should be passed in its original strong and unaltered form.
We have cut taxes for every Canadian. There are tax-free savings accounts that let us save our money, and income splitting for pensioners that gives them a well earned break. We have cut the GST by two per cent, the only tax measure that reaches and helps all Canadians. We utterly reject the opposition's musing on tax increases. We will continue to stand up for Canadian families.
I call upon all members of Parliament to support the Speech from the Throne. Canadians are not asking for another election. They expect the government to work for them, to focus not on partisanship but on jobs and growth.
This is a year of opportunity if we act and seize the moment. The Vancouver-Whistler Olympics showcased Canada to the world. We are hosting the summits of North American leaders, the G8 and the G20. Her Majesty, the Queen of Canada, will be in our nation's capital on Canada Day.
This throne speech invites all Canadians from coast to coast to coast to embrace our future. As Robert Stanfield said so memorably in 1974, we must be stable but not static. This is our government's vision, and the foundation of this vision was laid by the Fathers of Confederation. Our nation, like Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, is stable and far from static. We are proud of our past and we are embracing our future. Passing the Speech from the Throne and the important legislation that will come from it is essential for Canada to seize the great opportunities of this year, Canada's year.