Mr. Speaker, like others who came before me, I also want to congratulate you on your new position as acting speaker. I wish you all the best in your new position.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the voters of Hillsborough for their confidence in my candidacy. It is an honour and a privilege to serve in the House of Commons. I am grateful to have been given this opportunity. My pledge to each of them is simple: to work hard, to represent the district to the best of my ability and to be guided by the values of the people of Hillsborough.
Mr. Speaker, I must tell you that I am enjoying the view from this side of the House. When I left my previous place of employment, my associates gave me a present. They gave me a set of binoculars. They told me that where I was going in the House I would not be able to see either you or the chair without these binoculars. I am pleased to report that my view from this chair is excellent.
At this point in time I want to pay tribute to my predecessor in Hillsborough, Mr. George Proud. Mr. Proud served the constituents of Hillsborough with dedication and distinction during the last three parliaments of the House. George Proud was a hard worker, was committed to the people of Hillsborough and always maintained a very close contact with the common person.
The riding of Hillsborough is comprised of the city of Charlottetown and a portion of the town of Stratford. Charlottetown is a very historic location, especially as it relates to this country and this very institution. It was there in 1864 that delegates from Upper and Lower Canada and from the colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island met for the purpose of exploring the possibility of forming a union which eventually led to this federation.
As members of parliament, it would assist us to reflect on the challenges and obstacles that faced those delegates who met in Charlottetown in September 1864. The obstacles were immense: cultural differences, historical differences, language differences, differences in trading patterns and religious differences.
Those delegates faced what in today's parlance would be considered insurmountable obstacles. However, they had one overreaching objective: to form a country, a country that would be greater than the sum of its parts. That was exactly what they did, and that is why we are here today.
As I indicated previously, the view from this seat is excellent. It is through this vantage point that I can report to the people of Canada that the government is doing a good job, not only here in the House of Commons but also in administering the affairs of the nation. By following sound economic principles and implementing a balanced approach, an annual deficit of $42.1 billion has now been eliminated and replaced by a surplus of $12.4 billion.
The balanced approach includes paying down the debt and cutting taxes fairly. It includes investing in health care, research and innovation. It includes investing in families and children. It includes protecting the environment. This balanced approach is the reason why the Canadian people gave the government a third mandate.
The theme throughout the Speech from the Throne that impresses me the most, as a first time member of the House, is that of inclusion. Any time a country, such as Canada, experiences economic growth both social and economic inequities arise. This occurred during the industrial revolution and, to a lesser extent, has occurred in western economies that have experienced economic growth mainly brought about by the increased use of technology.
Economic and social inequities, if allowed to persist, are counterproductive to further economic growth and will eventually lead to social unrest. We cannot separate social and economic priorities.
The Speech from the Throne establishes an agenda that will widen the social and economic circle of the country. It includes programs to improve the lives of the poor, especially poor families with children, our aboriginal communities, the disabled, people who have a lack of skills or training and people who are illiterate.
One of the greatest challenges facing the government is the issue of child poverty. In the throne speech, the government has announced initiatives which, taken with commitments already announced, will provide children with a good foundation so that every child has a good start in life.
Some of the commitments already announced by the government include: spending $2.2 billion over the next five years for early childhood education; the doubling of maternity and parental benefits available under the employment insurance legislation; the doubling of the child tax credit; and the lowering of income taxes for lower and middle income families.
I was pleased to see in the throne speech that the government will continue to expand on these initiatives. It has committed to implement new measures to help single parents overcome poverty and become more self-sufficient. It has committed to work with the provinces to modernize the laws relating to child support, access and custody. It has committed to take steps to enable parents to provide care for gravely ill children. Perhaps most important, it has committed to provide further income tax relief directed primarily at lower and middle income Canadians.
Another challenge facing the administration is the conditions found in our aboriginal communities. Too many aboriginal Canadians continue to live in poverty, without adequate housing, health, education or job opportunities. I am pleased to see in the throne speech that the government has made it a priority to ensure that the basic needs of aboriginals for jobs, health care, education, housing and infrastructure are met.
The government has taken a number of initiatives, including commitments for aboriginal post-secondary education and the creation of the aboriginal heads start program. There are a number of initiatives outlined in the throne speech that take these commitments a step further. A lot remains to be done but I believe the agenda is the correct one.
A third group that the throne speech reaches out to is those Canadians who do not have the necessary skills or training to compete in today's marketplace. The throne speech calls for a renewed effort in building a skilled workforce and the establishment of a national literacy initiative.
As a member of the House, I am pleased that our government has come forward with this agenda. The focus has shifted from economic survival to economic and social renewal.