Hon. Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, it has been a long time since I have had the opportunity to address the chamber at length. I was a member of Parliament from 1984 to 1993. I remember speaking on behalf of the minister and the government on the child pornography bill in June 1993. It did cross my mind, at least fleetingly, as to whether I might ever get the opportunity to speak again in the House, but I was completely satisfied because of the importance of that legislation. In fact, that was the last thing I ever talked about in Parliament. It certainly was worthwhile. I look forward to the government introducing further changes in this bill.
I want to say at the outset, as I said 20 years ago, what a privilege it is and how wonderful it is to be in this chamber and how appreciative I am of the voters of the riding of Niagara Falls for giving me the opportunity once again. The riding consists of three communities. One of them is the town of Fort Erie, one of the great gateways to Canada. At the other end of the riding we have the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, which was the first capital of Upper Canada and boasts Canada's only Lord Mayor, and of course there is my hometown of Niagara Falls, Ontario.
I have said with respect to Niagara Falls, and I sincerely believe it, that no person can ever claim to have lived a complete life unless he or she has experienced Niagara Falls. I am very proud and grateful to come from that part of the world.
Let me congratulate the Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands, and congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, and the residents of Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon. I said to you privately something I will say publicly: I think it is a very great honour to sit in that particular chair and you should take a great deal of pride in that. It is a fact that in the last 137 years no legislative chamber in the world has a better record of protecting the rights of its citizens or of standing up for what is right in the country than the Canadian House of Commons. There is none, Mr. Speaker, so you and all those who, like you, have sat in that chair, can take this kind of pride in the fact that you are a part of this process.
I have been asked many times since I have been back about what has changed and what has not changed. I can tell the House about one of the things that has not changed. It comes within your purview, Mr. Speaker, and it is the individuals who provide you with advice from the table and the individuals who provide maintenance, clean our offices, provide security and drive the buses. I have invariably found them to be polite and friendly and they have made it a complete pleasure to work in this place. That has not changed in the ten and a half years since I have been here. I know I speak for every member of Parliament when I say how much help the people who work on Parliament Hill have been to us. That is the good thing.
I can tell members about something else that has not changed. I had the opportunity to listen to the first Speech from the Throne from the present government, in 1993. I do not know if you get the same feeling, Mr. Speaker, although of course you are completely neutral on these things, I know, but it is like I am hearing the same thing all over again. It has the same priorities. The same topics got covered. One gets the feeling that the same Speech from the Throne is being recycled every couple of years. To me, that was a great disappointment.
It is a disappointment as well for another reason. Mr. Speaker will know the history of the Prime Minister of today. For many years he has wanted to be and has planned for being Prime Minister of this country. That is his right, of course, as a Canadian citizen. He comes from a very distinguished political family.
What disappoints me about the Speech from the Throne is this. I would have that thought for him and those around us, having spent so many years in his trying to become Prime Minister, there would have been something that would have been a little unique, something a little original, something we have not heard before, a new idea in the Speech from the Throne.
I defy anyone to come up with anything in here that has not been recycled with the same old same old. To me, quite frankly, that was a disappointment too.
As well, I am sure the list of topics covered by the Speech from the Throne must be a disappointment to many Canadians. During the election campaign somebody asked me what I thought of the Liberal's day care plan. I told them the truth and said that I thought it was about the same as the last two times I heard it. I am no more or less impressed with it than the last few times I have heard it. It seems to me that it must be very discouraging for people to hear that sort of thing again and again. Part of the problem with this is that it is an area within provincial jurisdiction.
I remember being on a child care committee in the late 1980s. A woman from Snowbank in the Northwest Territories said to us that if we were talking about national standards in day care that she hoped it would not be Toronto's national standards that we were talking about. I was intrigued by what this woman had to say. She said that she knew what was coming. I should mention that not all of us were from Toronto. The woman said to us that if we were to come up with regulations that the children should be out one hour every day because that is healthy for them, that in Snowbank at many times of the year these children would die.
We should not come up with national standards for the city of Toronto because we will get into variations and regional standards. That will be the government's problem. It keeps promising a national child care policy but what we will see, and quite rightly, is that the provinces will speak up on this issue. When they finally sit down with the Prime Minister they will say that they regulate the area and that they know what is best in this particular area.
I suspect that the government will do much the same as what it did in health care if it is serious about it this time. I have no idea whether it is any more serious this time than the last four or five times. The government promised it, but if anything happens it will be the government handing out cheques with not much federal involvement at all. Those who think there will be major changes in this area should not hold their breath.
I was disappointed as well by some of the other things that were not covered. For instance, the government says in its Speech from the Throne on economic strategy that promotion of trade and investment is the fifth pillar of the government's economic strategy. Is that not wonderful? It did not address one of the major issues that can hold this country back in its economic development and that is what is happening at Canada's borders.
Just this morning about half a dozen truckers called my office from the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge along the Niagara River indicating they could not get their trucks into Canada. There are a number of issues, such as the labour issue on the Canadian side, and I urge the minister and the government to get these things settled. These things have been going on for a couple of years. The customs people must be reclassified. If the government wants them to do more work, to take greater responsibility and to get more involved with security it should pay them accordingly and get these things done. This has dragged on as well as the problems generally that we are having at the border. The Americans are very interested in security and I can appreciate that, but if the traffic does not move along Canada's borders it will hurt this country economically, not just along the borders but right across the country.
Economic decisions are being made right now by companies that are not expanding into Canada because they are worried about moving goods and services. The government can talk all the platitudes it wants and keep recycling it, I do not care--and I hope the Canadian voters will have a different view of this at the next election--but it should do something about our borders. If it opens up those borders it will find the consensus that I think it has found elusive up to this point.
Subtopic: Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply