Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking in this assembly for my maiden speech. I want to thank all of the voters of Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre for the trust they placed in me in sending me to this very honoured assembly. It is a matter of great pride knowing that I will be speaking on behalf of my constituents at every opportunity in this assembly.
The riding of Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre is like many in Saskatchewan. It is comprised of a split between the urban portion and rural portion of the province. In my particular case it is about 65% urban encompassing the northwest quadrant of Regina, and 35% in the rural portions of the riding. In typical Saskatchewan flavour we have a number of unique communities named for some reason that I am not familiar with. There are communities like Tugaske, Marquis, Eyebrow, Bethune, Craik, Nokomis, Davidson, Regina Beach, Lumsden and Craven.
The one thing that I found during the most recent election campaign was that regardless of where I campaigned, whether it was in the rural portion of the riding or whether it was in the urban portion of the riding, three issues consistently came to my attention. These three main issues were ones that we heard whether it be from a housewife in Regina or a farmer in the rural portions of the province. One thing that all of our voters had told me explicitly was that when I got to Ottawa, I was to make sure that I did not forget these issues because they were the ones they thought I had to take to the government to pressure it into changing its attitude, approach and way it dealt with these issues.
The first issue is one of government accountability. Prior to the election, we all heard and we were all brought into the light of what was happening with the sponsorship scandal. This was probably more of a lightning rod for discontent with most of the people in my riding. It typified the approach the government has had over the last 10 or 12 years when dealing with taxpayers' dollars.
The sponsorship scandal was something that enraged people in Saskatchewan and particularly in Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre. They felt it was nothing but another example of a government that did not respect taxpayers' dollars, and felt it could do whatever it wished with our money. The people in my riding said to me in no uncertain terms to make sure I got to the bottom of this.
Well, we have heard many things from the Prime Minister and the government in relation to the sponsorship scandal. The most startling in my mind were the comments made by the Prime Minister prior to the election after the sponsorship scandal came to public light through the Auditor General's report. The Prime Minister of the country said, number one, “I am mad as hell” and number two, that we would not have an election until we got to the bottom of this scandal.
What happened? Not only did we not get to the bottom of it, but the Prime Minister called an election in the middle of testimony before the public accounts committee. There were over 70 witnesses left, yet the Prime Minister deemed it necessary to call an election when there were too many unanswered questions. Those questions have yet to be answered but we are finding out more and more about the sponsorship scandal.
That exemplifies the problem with the government. It speaks to a government that does not care about its taxpayer. It speaks to a government that wishes to hide more than divulge. It speaks to a government that is corrupt. I think history will show that the government, in the 37th Parliament at least, was the most corrupt in all parliaments in Canadian history.
We have to do something about government accountability, yet in the throne speech there was no mention of it. There was no mention of taking steps to curtail the abuse of taxpayers' dollars. That is just tragic because before the election, everyone in this assembly knows that had there been a vote in January or February, prior to the release of the Auditor General's report, prior to the discussion about the sponsorship scandal, if we believe the polls, we would be looking at a government that would have had perhaps 250 Liberal members and the rest of the seats divided among the other three opposition parties.
What happened? What happened is the people of this great country of ours finally started to understand what it was like to have a government that did not respect them. They became very angry about this and it was reflected in the results of the last election.
However, it is not just what was discovered before the election, but what we have discovered since. Since that time, with respect to the sponsorship scandal we are starting to get more information from the Gomery inquiry, information that is extremely troubling because, number one, it is starting to point the finger at the Prime Minister's Office. We have found out only in the last 10 days to two weeks, according to witnesses testifying at the Gomery inquiry, that someone from the Prime Minister's Office made a phone call to the sponsorship's administration branch back in 1999, inquiring on the status of a grant application.
The grant application of course came from a very well known Liberal supporter. Lo and behold, after that phone call there was a grant awarded to this very group. This is not to suggest that the Prime Minister had any undue influence on the granting of that particular request, but it does speak to the fact that our Prime Minister, it appears, had once again misled the public. Prior to the election he said he really had no knowledge of what was happening in the sponsorship scandal, or at least with the events surrounding the sponsorship scandal, yet it appears that he must have, because one of his aides made inquiries.
The recipient of this money was a well known Liberal who eventually, two, three or four years later, hosted a major fundraising event for the Prime Minister following his successful leadership campaign. This does not sit well for anyone in my constituency, because again it erodes the confidence in this government. It reinforces the belief that this government is one that is corrupt. It reinforces the belief that this government does not care for taxpayers' dollars. This is something that I was told in no uncertain terms: to come to Ottawa and at every opportunity speak out against this flagrant abuse and the lack of respect for the taxpayer.
However, it is not only in the sponsorship scandal that we have seen these examples of government abuse. We have seen it every day in this House since we reassembled. We have seen an example where the former heritage minister spent $55,000 of taxpayers' money flying during the election campaign to the Banff film festival to deliver a highly partisan speech. Clearly that is against election laws, yet there has been nothing done about it. What makes matters worse is that this same individual, while defeated in the general election, is now the principal secretary to the current Prime Minister. All that says is that this government not only condones the actions of individuals like that, but rewards them after the fact.
I raised questions in this assembly over the last two weeks about a different couple of ministers who, it appears, again contravened election laws by bringing paid ministerial staff into their home ridings during the election for what appears to be nothing more than electioneering work or campaign work. That is against the law. Yet again, the members opposite have no idea of what was done wrong. The minister of heritage, whom I questioned, was totally dumbfounded and said, “I reported all the expenses. It is on my web page. What is the problem?” The problem is that they have to start respecting taxpayers' rights and this government has no idea of how to do that.
Second, if I may use a sports analogy for a minute, if anything typifies the TSN highlight of the night when it comes to taxpayers' abuse, it is the gun registry. There is no one in my riding who has anything good to say about the national gun registry. The interesting thing is that most urban women, who are not firearm owners, are as upset as anyone because they see the flagrant abuse of taxpayers' dollars. Over $2 billion has been spent on this program to date. Even though the government states that it will be capped at $25 million a year from here on in, we know that is also a false and misleading statement. It will be closer to $100 million on a go-forward basis, for what I can only categorize as a total waste of taxpayers' money.
Finally, the last thing people told me was for me to come here to Ottawa and make sure the government understands the serious crisis we have in agriculture. This throne speech had one word about agriculture, one word and nothing else. Precious little. We must make the government understand that agriculture is a Canadian priority and has to be treated as such.
I have just been reminded, and I should have dealt with this at the outset of my address, that I am pleased to be splitting my time with the hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon.
Finally, let me just say this. With all the examples I have given, whether it be abuse of taxpayers' dollars, disrespect for the taxpayers, the national gun registry or a lack of respect for Canadian agriculture and agricultural producers, I am a believer in one thing. I truly believe that every Canadian, or at least the vast majority of Canadians, understands the difference between right and wrong. And I am a firm believer that the members of this assembly absolutely know the difference between right and wrong. If we do nothing else but simply this, that is, enact legislation in this coming parliamentary session that is the right thing to do, then perhaps history will record that the 38th Parliament will go down in history as being one of the most respected parliamentary sessions in history.