February 16, 2004

LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Hon. David Collenette (Don Valley East, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to take part in the debate on the throne speech.

This is one of many throne speeches in my long career. The first one for which I was present was after the general election of 1974. In those 30 years a lot has happened, for the better I might add. When we ran in the 1974 election, the then prime minister, Mr. Trudeau, campaigned on capital assistance to cities, specifically urban transit, regional transit and help with all the infrastructure in our great cities. In Toronto, where I am from, that was particularly well received. However, the moment we got into office, the financial realities being what they were, we had to renege on all of those commitments.

For 30 years the federal government has taken a back seat to helping municipalities across the country. One thing I am most proud of in the last number of years is being able to work from the inside of government to try to change attitudes in Ottawa, attitudes, not just in the cabinet, but in the bureaucracy. There is an attitude in this town that says that somehow the municipalities out there, the great cities and their infrastructure problems, are not really the responsibility of the federal government. Time and time again at cabinet committee meetings I heard the argument “We do not want to own the problem”. That is an unacceptable phrase to use at any time.

I can remember that when we talked about helping the homeless some years ago there was incredible resistance within the bureaucracy, within government and within the prime minister's office to somehow deal with the problem. We had meetings and we found that each department was operating in a silo, that there was no one department that could look across government and really zero in on how we could help deal with one of the tragedies of our time.

No one in the House can be proud that in the year 2004, when we have a very prosperous economy, a well educated economy, we can leave Parliament Hill or go to Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver or smaller communities across the country and trip over people sleeping in the streets. That is not the mark of a great society and that is one of our great failures. When I say ours, I mean collectively, because the responsibility is not just in Ottawa, it is also at the municipal and provincial levels.

Our municipalities cannot deal with problems like the homeless unless they have funding. We fought in cabinet, in caucus, the Toronto caucus in particular, to get funding for the homeless. It has helped to some degree, but what has happened in the last year or so in our cities, particularly in Toronto, is we see an increase in the homeless despite the fact that we have put more money toward the entire problem.

My colleague from Peterborough just reminded me that I am splitting my time with him. I would not want to do Peterborough out. It is a smaller municipality and is a very important municipality which also needs the help which was signalled in the throne speech.

We made a start with the homeless, but it is not nearly good enough. There is something radically wrong with this society in this part of our history when we have such wealth and when we reduced income taxes by $100 billion over five years, yet we have potholes in the streets of Ottawa and Toronto. We have buses that do not operate in Toronto. We have subways and streetcars breaking down. We have people sleeping in the streets. We have waiting lists of people trying to get into our hospitals. If we bundle people up in an ambulance and try to get them to the hospital in Toronto, they will be turned away from hospital after hospital and they end up kilometres away from where they live. That is not the mark of a mature or prosperous society. We have our priorities wrong.

We could argue that perhaps we cut too hard and too fast in the mid-1990s. I do not want to get into that debate. We had that debate in cabinet. The fact is we are in a surplus position and we have to use our money wisely. We have to deal with some of these issues which are very salient, particularly to the large municipalities, but also right across the country in terms of hospital waiting lists, in terms of the homeless and in terms of the municipal infrastructure.

I was really happy to see the Prime Minister campaigning, when he was minister of finance, off and on. He rapped me on the knuckles a few times when I talked about the gas tax as minister of transport, but then he adopted that and I was very pleased. I went one further at the same meeting and said “Why stop there? Why not do something about the GST?”

Guess what? In the throne speech the Prime Minister actually has delivered. The government will work with the provinces to share with municipalities a portion of the gas tax revenues and determine other fiscal mechanisms to achieve these goals. Also, as of February 1, we will turn over the GST that the municipalities pay. That is a really good down payment. When we combine that with the infrastructure money we have made available in previous budgets, that is a good start, but it is not good enough. It should not get us off the hook.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

Vic Toews

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Vic Toews

It won't.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Hon. David Collenette

It should not get us off the hook.

I grew up in Toronto. It is a wonderful city yet I see the infrastructure crumbling. I see holes in the streets and crevices in the sidewalks. I see the homeless sleeping in the streets. I see parks unattended. I see garbage not being picked up. Municipalities are really taking it on the chin. It is up to the senior governments to ensure that money flows through and flows through properly.

I was happy when I was the regional minister for the greater Toronto area to work with my caucus colleagues to ensure that we made significant investments. We have seen a renaissance of the arts in Toronto with the construction of a new opera house, the construction of a new addition to the Ontario Art Gallery, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Roy Thomson Hall and of course the new National Ballet School on Jarvis Street, which not only is a cultural necessity for the entire nation, but is a big part of our urban renewal in that part of town. I have been supported by my colleague, the member for York South—Weston, on these ventures, and the former chairman of metropolitan Toronto has been a great tower of strength in all those deliberations.

We also put a billion dollars among us, the province and the municipalities into GO Transit. For those who unfortunately do not have commuter rail in their communities, GO Transit is perhaps one of the great resources we have in the greater Toronto area. It transports thousands of people everyday to and from their jobs using conventional rail, using CN and CP infrastructure. We are putting a billion dollars worth of infrastructure into GO Transit.

Part of that money will also help to build Canada's first dedicated rail link from the downtown core to the airport. Those people who go through Pearson International Airport will see one of the world's great airports when it opens this April. It is a magnificent piece of construction and it will be a gateway not just to the greater Toronto area and southern Ontario but to all of Canada. That will be linked with a 15 minute rail service to Union Station with a connection to the subway on the way down. That means people will be able to get to the airport. As the airport is built for 50 million people, it must have rapid transit. Canada cannot allow our car mentality society, our highway driven society to suck the lifeblood out of our ability to commute from downtown to the airport.

I am getting close to the end, but one thing that is not in here, when we talk about the new agenda for the municipalities, are ways in which we can use the tax system to encourage brownfield building. We have to stop, certainly in the greater Toronto area, the building of prime farmland and urban sprawl which is creating gridlock. It is unproductive and I think it is creating social division within the great Toronto area. We have to work as a federal government to ensure that we have measures in place to stop urban sprawl. We have to work with the province of Ontario and the other provinces across the country.

The throne speech was a good start, but a lot more work has to be done. I know the Prime Minister's heart is in the right place and I will ensure that I support him with further measures to deal with all these issues that I have raised today.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear my colleague mention the city and county of Peterborough in his remarks. This is something, Madam Speaker, that you can relate to and which may be of interest to you: Toronto is somewhere to the southwest of Peterborough just in the same way, I understand, that Vancouver is somewhere to the west of Kamloops.

I believe that the downloading of responsibilities, as it is called, which has occurred in recent years generally has been appropriate. My colleague mentioned homelessness in particular. My riding is partly rural and partly urban, and I believe that the only way to deal with homelessness in my community is at the local level. What we have not done, until now with regard to the GST, as he mentioned, is also download the resources to deal with those local problems.

I would like to ask my colleague to comment on that, because I know that with respect to transit, my colleague supported VIA Rail to Peterborough. I would like his comments on that from the point of view of smaller communities in Canada.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Hon. David Collenette

Madam Speaker, I am glad my colleague raised this matter because it is very important. In the throne speech, the politically correct title was used, “Great Places To Live--A New Deal for Communities”, and that was to keep smaller communities happy. I want to keep them happy; they do have legitimate needs.

But unless we have been born and raised in or have lived in one of Canada's large cities, I do not think we can fully appreciate the unique nature of that experience. The daily trade-offs that an individual has to make in a big urban area are not like those that would have to be made in Peterborough or other smaller communities across the country. I wish we could all live in those smaller communities, but larger communities have unique problems and that is why I put so much emphasis on the Toronto area and the other big cities in the country.

One of the issues we have to deal with is that in our desire to deal with the deficit, five to ten years ago we downloaded not only the responsibility but the financial obligations to those communities; I know that the City of Toronto is almost broke. We cannot have the big cities in this country on their knees. The last time that kind of thing happened was in the Depression and the federal government had to bail them out. What I am saying is that now is the time for the federal government to bail out our municipalities.

Smaller cities like Peterborough have unique needs, and that is why the GST rebate will help everybody, but let us not be so politically correct that we lump large cities in with everyone else. It is the large cities that are receiving thousands of new people every day, immigrants from around the world, and they are being stretched to the limit. They do not have the resources to deal with the problems being created.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I have a short question for my colleague in relation to the gas tax. The Liberal government has been in office for 10 years and all it had to do was to work with the provinces to share with municipalities a portion of its gas tax revenue.

As the former minister of transport, my colleague had the opportunity to share with municipalities a portion of that gas tax, a portion of the $4.7 billion that the government raised through the 10¢ excise tax on gasoline, to address the potholes that he was talking about. Why has the government failed to act in the 10 year period it has been in power to truly address those infrastructure needs of our municipalities?

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Hon. David Collenette

Madam Speaker, I am not bound by cabinet solidarity anymore and the fact is that I agree with the hon. member. For the last 10 years I have been pounding away about this issue, but in fairness to the ministers of finance at the time, there were a lot of other priorities.

We know what it is like in government, though I am not sure the hon. member will ever know what it is like to be in government. If a party gets in government, it has to make compromises. We have to keep hammering away. We did receive money for the homeless and money for infrastructure and we put the whole gas tax issue on the map, but the former prime minister did not want to look at that. It was a source of disagreement between us. I am glad that the present Prime Minister is at least going down that road and has at least done this with the GST.

The Liberal Party is a very dynamic, creative group of people who enjoy the thrust and parry of debate. There is intellectual ferment. We give and we take, all for the betterment of the country. At least we are getting somewhere now.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to join in this debate on the Speech from the Throne. It is very special because it is the first speech of a new Prime Minister and a first speech for a new cabinet. Although all speeches from the throne are important, this one will be particularly important because it will be carried through to an election.

I want to speak particularly on the parts of the Speech from the Throne that deal with post-secondary education and research. In my remarks, I am going to be referring to the open letter that was published, long before the speech, by the government caucus on post-secondary education and research and circulated very widely in the country. It can be found on my website at www.peteradams.org.

Before dealing with the speech itself, I want to comment on the new cabinet and the way that it has been structured from the point of view of post-secondary education and research and the federal government's involvement in those things.

First, we greatly appreciate the division of the former department of HRDC into two departments, including the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. We believe and we hope, when we look at the vision statement of that new department, that it will become the depository for information and resources to do with lifelong learning as we know it today. It is not, by the way, that this department will take over everything the federal government does in lifelong learning, but it will become knowledgeable about what is going on and as a result make the federal programs, whichever departments they are coming from, even more effective.

We realize that post-secondary education in particular, as well as research, is a shared jurisdiction with the provinces. We are very conscious of that. We want the federal government to be much more proactive in dealing with the provinces and so we hope that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development will in the future become the permanently designated representative for the federal government with the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada.

In the past, senior federal cabinet ministers have attended that particular council, which is the nationwide group dealing with education. I think they have been well received but they have been different ministers representing different departments. We think now that this one minister should be briefed on all those matters by all the federal departments and should be our representative on that council.

Second, we were delighted that the parliamentary secretary to the new minister that I have just mentioned has particular responsibility for the Canada student loan program and for student loans in general. We think this is particularly important. We have supported the development of the Canada student loan program to where it is and we would support further development of the program, but we, like many others, are concerned about student debt.

The time has come for us to wean ourselves away from heavy dependence on loans. We were delighted to see in the Speech from the Throne that there will now be grants for lower income students to cover their expenses in the first year of university or college. These will be grants and those grants will be added to grants that go with the RESP program. We are glad that there is now a parliamentary secretary doing nothing else but looking after student loans.

We know that in the new structure of cabinet there is also a parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister who is responsible for science and small business. From the point of view of research, this is extremely important. Having this person, one of our colleagues, reporting directly to the Prime Minister is very important for science, that is to say, science in the universities and colleges and other schools in Canada and science in the private sector.

For example, the R and D tax environment has greatly improved in recent years for small business and larger business. It needs to be even further strengthened so that the private sector is encouraged to participate in real research.

It also includes responsibility for in-house federal science. Groups like the National Research Council, which work with small business and maintain vital government labs, deserve support. Groups like the Geological Survey of Canada and researchers in Environment Canada and other federal departments need a voice to deal directly with the Prime Minister. This parliamentary secretary has been named and we hope that he--and perhaps in the future it might be a she--will deal with this.

I referred to our open letter. There were various sections in it. One dealt with the north. We do notice that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs now has a parliamentary secretary dealing specifically with northern economic development and other matters related to the north. In research and development, we believe that the federal obligation in the north, both in the territories and in the near northern parts of the provinces, is particularly important. We hope that this new position will help with that.

Also mentioned in the Speech from the Throne but existing before then is the appointment of a science adviser to the Prime Minister. This is the first time in Canadian history that such a person has been appointed. The actual individual involved is currently the President of the National Research Council, a very distinguished scientist. He will be reporting directly to the Prime Minister on science in general. My understanding is that he will start in April.

For those of us who are interested in research, whether it is within the federal system or whether it is within the colleges and universities or in the private sector, this appointment of a permanent person who will report directly to the Prime Minister and future prime ministers is going to be a major step forward.

As is known, our objective is that by 2010 Canada will be in the top five countries in the world as far as research and development are concerned. We believe that is quite feasible, but only if we coordinate better. By the way, there are many things we still need to do, but if we could coordinate better what we are already doing, it would be a major help toward achieving that objective.

In the open letters I mentioned, which we have had for a number of years now, we have always mentioned international studies and internationalization on the campuses of colleges, universities, high schools and so on across the country. We believe the federal government has a very special role in research and development in the international sphere.

We hear about the Canada corps that the Prime Minister is proposing. My understanding of it is that it will be as we have had in the past: a youth corps doing volunteer work and so on overseas. I think this is admirable and I look forward to that happening very actively again to reinforce Canada's roles overseas.

We also hope that this Canada corps will become a sort of repository of knowledge of what is going on in civil society, in high schools, in colleges, universities and in government departments, be they provincial, territorial, or federal, in the international sphere all across the country, so that in this one place, in addition to equipping teams that will help in developing countries, they will have some knowledge of what is going on in a particular developing country. Again, this will focus better what is happening already in the international sphere across Canada.

In regard to the Speech from the Throne, let me say that in our letter we mentioned other investments that happened before this. I would like to express our feeling of great relief that some years ago the government invested in a number of foundations, for example, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the climate change foundation, human Genome Canada. We invested money that will flow in millennium scholarships and graduate student scholarships over a period of years so that they are no longer subject to the economy or to the annual vicissitudes of the government. We think those early investments are going to stand Canada in good stead.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

Randy White

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, CPC)

Madam Speaker, it always amazes and surprises me when I hear members opposite talking about how to make programs more efficient and the good things we can do in the country and I watch in disgust as money is being stolen from taxpayers day by day by the Liberal Party and its members in the House of Commons. It really is disgusting when we think about it. Talk is pretty cheap when we are witnessing those kinds of actions.

I do want to ask a couple of questions concerning the education system, being one of the CEOs of a fairly large educational school district. One question concerns the foreign student intake in post-secondary facilities. Much of what is being done, even in high school today, is done because of the high student fees and the extra income that motivates educational institutes within Canada to bring in foreign students.

The consequence of that exercise, of course, is that the GPA for Canadian students to enter a post-secondary school goes up every year and it gets harder for Canadian students to get in because seats are being filled by those who are willing to pay a lot higher fee. It also drives up the fees for our Canadian students.

I would like to ask the member if any consideration has been given to looking into the situation to find out how we can get more of our students into our own facilities and to stop screening them out by requiring higher GPAs, because of other problems we are seeing in the country.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague's interest in these matters with respect to international students.

As he knows, tuition is a provincial jurisdiction. I am sure he would join me in my support of the idea that in the transfer that we make to the provinces there be a designated transfer for post-secondary education that could only be spent on that.

He mentioned the higher tuition. In Ontario, which just recently had a Conservative government, tuition is the second highest in Canada. We just got rid of grade 13, which was an essentially free college or university year. We replaced it with a year in college or university, which has the second highest tuition.

In the adjacent province, the province of Quebec, as my colleague knows, it has two years of free college. This is with the same transfers to that jurisdiction as others. If we go to British Columbia we would discover that tuition has been kept low for a number of years.

I strongly support the lowering of tuition in the provinces where they have raised it to an extreme extent.

Going back to the international students, my view is that we benefit in at least two ways. We benefit from future contacts with those 200 or so countries around the world from which they come and our students benefit from them being on campus. I do think, though, that the federal role in those things should be better co-ordinated, in the way I tried to describe in my remarks.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

Randy White

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Randy White

Mr. Speaker, I recognize the benefits of foreign students. The trouble is that we in Canada are screening more and more Canadians out by way of GPA; that is their marks in high school. We are screening them out of entrance into our universities because our universities are filling up fast with, in addition to Canadian students, foreign students.

There are several concerns with this. We are keeping many young people in Canada, who are more than eligible to get post-secondary training, out of our facilities.

What remedy does the federal government have for that, other than just saying that it will throw more money at it? The government throws money in a lot of bad places, as we know. It could have done this for the last 10 years but has not. What is the government doing about accommodating those students who have GPAs that are less than what the requirements are today?

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
LIB

Peter Adams

Liberal

Mr. Peter Adams

Mr. Speaker, in the open letter that I mentioned, which is available on my website, we discuss this question of capacity in great detail. The capacity problem is partly physical and we are transferring funds to the colleges and universities which help them with the physical problem.

It is partly a faculty problem. The universities simply cannot afford to hire faculty to replace faculty who are retiring. As I tried to say, it is also a tuition problem for our own students.

If the member reads the letter he will see that the capacity of our universities and colleges must be addressed for the benefit of the students and of the economy of Canada. I appreciate the member's great interest in this.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to respond to the Speech from the Throne.

I want to begin by talking about an issue that was absent from the throne speech. It is amazing that the government and the Prime Minister failed to address what I think is perhaps the greatest crisis facing Canada today: the beef issue. It is certainly a crisis of a national issue and one that affects western Canada.

The Prime Minister said that his mission was to address concerns in western Canada but the fact that he failed to address the issue of mad cow even once is such a failure on his part that it is inexcusable.

The fallout from this disease has made beef, feed and the slaughter of livestock a national crisis. The Liberals, frankly, have mishandled the issue since the first case was discovered in May 2003. The border remains closed. Confidence in the beef industry has been shaken, which is truly heartbreaking. Thousands of Canadians are losing their jobs and their way of life because the Liberals have overlooked this plight. The Liberals have overlooked the fact that the beef industry is the third largest contributor to our gross domestic product.

We must encourage the government and the agriculture minister to get active now to address the problem. We do not have months to address the problem. We have anywhere from 1 million to 3 million head of cattle in Canada that will be surplus if the border is not opened. The situation will be catastrophic if the government does not act.

I should point out that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest.

The second issue I wish to speak to is the Kyoto accord. In the throne speech the Prime Ministers says that he will go above and beyond Kyoto, whatever that means.

I want to give some background for people. In the summer of 1997, Canada and 160 other nations met in Japan and agreed to targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement that set out these targets and the options available to countries to achieve them is known as the Kyoto protocol. Canada's target is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by the period between 2008 and 2012, which, considering that our economy has grown since then, is about a 30% reduction from today's standards.

Five years later the government brought forward a motion in the House of Commons and ratified it in December 2002. What happened at the time is that members, on this side of the House especially, were demanding an implementation plan of how the government would reduce our emissions and possibly our production by 30%, especially when the Canadian manufacturers and exporters predicted that 450,000 jobs would be lost in Canada if we were to actually achieve those targets.

What did the Prime Minister do? When he was out of cabinet he criticized the then minister of the environment and said that the government had no implementation plan. It was at a Liberal leadership debate where he was debating the former finance minister and former deputy prime minister and said that the government had no implementation plan whatsoever, which was a direct criticism of the former minister of the environment.

What does the Prime Minister do when he assumes office? He reappoints the same Minister of the Environment who has done such a lousy job on this entire issue to the same position. Then the Prime Minister says that we will go above and beyond Kyoto. The government does not know how it will do it but it will say it because it thinks Canadians want to hear it.

The fact is that the government has no plan on Kyoto. It had better produce one because a lot of Canadian jobs are at risk if it does not produce one and it tries to achieve these targets.

We at the industry committee have asked two fundamental questions on this issue for months and we have not received a response. What questions have we asked? First: Who will measure the emission reductions or increases according to companies and industries? This is a basic question because different companies say they have reduced emissions by different amounts. The answer we get back is that the government does not know who will measure the emissions.

How will Canadians know if they have achieved targets if they do not know if they are actually meeting the emissions because we do not know who is actually going to measure them?

The second question is very important to many industries and companies. When the government signed Kyoto in 1997 a lot of companies, such as NOVA Chemicals in Alberta, took some fundamental steps in addressing and reducing their emissions. They got what they called low hanging fruit. They reduced their emissions as much as they could between 1997 and 2002. They are still waiting for an answer on whether they will get credit for reducing emissions based upon their good faith at that time. The government still has not said yes or no to giving the company credit for those early emissions. It is absolutely inexcusable.

The third area I want to touch upon is the whole issue of corporate welfare. I want to quote what the present Prime Minister said when he was finance minister in his famous budget speech of 1995. He said:

Across government, we are taking major action to substantially reduce subsidies to business. These subsidies do not create long lasting jobs. Nobody has made that case more strongly than business itself.

It is now clear that that statement means nothing because the government in fact has doled out billions and billions of dollars, particularly through Industry Canada and certain other agencies, in business subsidies. In fact, it does not apply even to the Prime Minister's own companies because as we know he received about $160 million in government grants.

I want to use the example of Technology Partnerships Canada which is run by Industry Canada. It is a perfect example of what is wrong with corporate welfare. Less than 2% of the money that has been loaned out since 1996 has been repaid. Therefore, of the $1.6 billion of hard earned taxpayer money given to various companies that the Liberals deemed fit, 2% has actually been paid back.

Industry Canada no longer keeps track of jobs created or jobs maintained through this program. It said that it was for job creation. Now it has even removed that from its website.

Our own calculations show that it costs Canadian taxpayers $625,000 to create one job under the program. That is absolutely amazing. It is impossible to tell whether this money is being spent on research and development or if it is just subsidizing certain activities within the various corporations.

The fact is that generation and development of new scientific knowledge is pivotal to the growth and prosperity of the Canadian economy. We in the Conservative Party are absolutely committed to that. We are committed to improving Canada's capacity to perform research but that does not mean getting involved in corporate welfare and giving money to companies across the country that are Liberal friendly.

I would also encourage the government to reassess its R and D tax credits. The member who spoke before us bragged about how much the government improved it. Almost everyone in the sector, and in small business across the country, say that it does not work, that is too regulatory and too administrative to even fill out the forms. They want to see it reformed.

The previous member spoke to the science agenda. In a sense I compliment the government a little on the appointment of Dr. Carty as the national science adviser. However I want to offer some comments. This is another example of the Liberal government taking a good idea and not implementing it fully.

It was at least five years ago that this party and in particular Preston Manning, a former leader, and the member for Kelowna who still sits in the House with us, called for a chief scientist. It is heartening to see that the idea has finally reached the government's benches, but our concern is that this person will again report to the Prime Minister. This is another example of the centralization of power in Canadian politics.

What should happen is what happens in the United States. The chief science adviser actually sits at the cabinet table as a full cabinet minister and is a very high profile person. Even better than that would be the example set in the United Kingdom where the chief science adviser has a full budget and reports to Parliament so that parliamentarians of all parties can access this person's information and ask him for advice on issues like Kyoto and so on. We should have a chief scientist in Canada who actually reports to Parliament.

I want to touch on one more science issue. Preston Manning wrote in the Globe recently about the difficulty of scientists across the country accessing government funding. They have to go to various sources. We should have one funnel where scientists and researchers can go to one government agency or one department to get approval for their big science project, such as the synchrotron in Saskatoon, and then have the government decide how to fund the particular project.

I want to finish up on the biggest issue in my riding over the past week or so, the sponsorship scandal. What is most disturbing to me today is the continuing pattern of absolute disregard and disrespect by the government for Canadian tax dollars.

I was listening to Rex Murphy on Cross Country Checkup yesterday. A lady from Calgary said it best when she said “This government simply does not treat our tax dollars as taxpayer funds in trust. They treat it as their own to do with as they see fit”.

That is fundamentally wrong, which is why we need a change in government.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to elaborate a little more on the democratic deficit. The present Prime Minister has spoken about this. Last week we saw examples of his imposing closure on the House after only having been in the House six days as Prime Minister. I think it is the earliest that closure has ever been imposed by a sitting prime minister.

I want the member to speak to that issue. What does he see presently that the Prime Minister has done that would lead us to believe he is serious about addressing the democratic deficit?

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. It was truly astounding to see the Liberals, I believe for the 85th time, invoking closure and cutting off debate again.

It was interesting that during the debate the government House leader said, “We do not want to talk about process. We want to talk about issues and policies”. Obviously the Conservative Party does as well.

That motion was actually about reinstating Jean Chrétien's old legacy bills. It was not about the government or the Prime Minister introducing their agenda. He has wanted to be Prime Minister since he was five years old and the best he could come up with in his throne speech was to regurgitate all of Chrétien's old bills.

It is funny that we had about a day and a half of debate about reinstating about five to 10 bills. The government decided that was enough debate and shut it down. It shows that the fundamental problem in Canada today is the centralization of power within the Prime Minister's Office. Look at the way the Prime Minister has set up the cabinet with a myriad of secretaries of state. What he is doing is actually centralizing power in his own office. The science adviser now reports to him.

Frankly that is the biggest problem. He needs to devolve power to parliamentarians and citizens. The fact is that the Prime Minister and the government will never do that because it is not in their nature to do that. They simply do not trust citizens and parliamentarians enough to do that and that is why frankly we do need a change in government.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

Vic Toews

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to some of the earlier comments of members. I am wondering whether the member has any comments about the whole issue of the gas tax.

It has been very disturbing in a rural area like mine, Provencher. We hear ministers talk about all this money that is going to be poured in to the big cities but the largest community in my riding is 10,000 people. Where does the Liberal scheme leave the small communities? Does the Conservative Party have a better option?

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte

Mr. Speaker, I was struck by that as well. I do not know if the member opposite, the former minister of transport, knows of anything that exists outside of Toronto. His focus was exclusively on the Toronto area. Toronto is very important in our nation obviously, but the fact is that we are a nation from sea to sea to sea of communities of various sizes. Just focusing on the extremely large cities is frankly not good enough.

Our party's proposal is to take a portion of the federal excise tax on gasoline, perhaps 3¢ to 5¢, negotiate with the provinces and transfer it to the lower levels of government for them to address their infrastructure needs.

That means it would hit the smaller communities because it addresses the highways that they rely upon. A lot places in the member's own constituency do not have GO trains. They rely upon the highway infrastructure and the water quality and sewer systems. That is what the infrastructure program should be, stable funding, using perhaps up to half of the gas tax and transfer it to the provinces and municipalities to let them address their infrastructure needs.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

Rob Merrifield

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask another question along the same line.

Part of the Auditor General's report last week indicated the dire situation in Parks Canada. In my riding it is a big issue because one of the primary highways, Yellowhead Highway, goes right through Jasper National Park. It is a transportation route, but Parks Canada's budget actually has to maintain that highway. The money comes out of Parks Canada's budget when the parks' infrastructure is in such dire straits, rather than from the gasoline tax.

I am wondering if the hon. member would comment on whether the money should come out of the Parks Canada budget or whether some of the taxes that we are paying on gasoline should pay for that infrastructure.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte

Mr. Speaker, I know that area well. I have driven that highway many times. It is one of the most beautiful areas in the country, perhaps the most beautiful.

No, it should not come out of the parks budget. The parks budget is stressed enough. It should come out of this infrastructure fund. It should come out of a fund set up to address specifically these types of needs. That would be our suggestion.

It is very disappointing it was not in the throne speech. The government has had 10 years to do this. All we hear is that the government might consider it. Frankly it needs to be done and it needs to be done now.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink
PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Following the Speech from the Throne a journalist asked me what I thought of it. I said that it was just words on paper. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. In other words, the government has to act on some of its promises because that is what it amounts to, things the government would like to do, things it is interested in doing.

To make my point, I want to go through some of the promises made by the Liberal government since 1999. I could go back a little further than that, because there were other promises made. Possibly I could touch on those as well.

One of the interesting things is that of the 114 promises in the 1999 and 2001 Liberal throne speeches, about a third of them were completely ignored at the time of the 2002 throne speech. Another 28 promises were incomplete or, get this, too vague to measure. The 2002 throne speech outlined 85 promises, reiterating many from the earlier throne speeches of which little or no action was taken on 33 promises.

If it does not get done between throne speeches, just re-promise it. That is the strategy of the government. If the government keeps saying it long enough, I guess people will believe it. The fact is the government has a horrible track record in following through on those commitments.

Between 1999 and 2002 only 23% of the promises made in successive throne speeches have actually been implemented. Quick arithmetic will tell us that 77% of the government's promises have been broken. That would lead us to believe the words that I originally used with that journalist, that they are words on paper. That is it. The government has no commitment or follow-through on most of its promises.

In fact, when we look at the Prime Minister, he is the man who single-handedly authored the red books. We have had successive red books and of course the history of implementation of the red book is worse than throne speeches. We will not get into that because it is probably getting a little too political and we would not want that to happen on the floor of the House.

The Prime Minister is the man who said that the GST would be scrapped. That one obviously did not happen.

Topic:   Speech From The Throne
Subtopic:   Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply
Permalink

February 16, 2004