Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Shefford, PC)
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate you on your appointment. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Shefford for the confidence they showed in me in the recent federal election. I want them to know that I will work with all my heart to defend their interests.
To return to Tuesday's speech from the throne, the government has revealed its political intentions. Satisfied with the current state of the country and unable to offer Canadians a national vision with clear objectives for the country as a whole, the Chrétien government has certainly set out its intentions, but without structure or time frame.
Not only does the speech not put forward any creative vision enabling us to move into the 21st century, but it fails to respond to Canadians' real concerns. The speech is a Liberal speech, the same one they have been dishing up for years. It says nothing to me and enables them to improvise, as they always have. They turn whichever way the wind blows, taxing, cutting, taxing, spending.
Tuesday's speech from the throne contained at least one piece of good news. The government will soon have a budget surplus. The bad news is that Canadians will not see a cent of it. The Liberal government now has to repair the damage it did in its first mandate and reinvest in the programs it had previously cut.
You know, we should not be surprised, this is the Liberal style. We are here in the House of Commons to work together to build a better future for our country. The challenge facing Canada is of significant proportions and warrants all our energies and creativity.
We must build for our children a country in which they can grow and develop without going hungry and without lacking quality health care, in a context that will encourage them to excel.
My party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, has developed a plan providing Canadians with a vision for the future that meets their aspirations and expectations, a simple, down to earth and unifying plan. Time has come to take new approaches and to offer new solutions. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has already come up with a plan that will give Canadians a vision, a down to earth plan for the future of our country.
However, a vision and a plan are not enough. Leadership is required to achieve key priorities. Our program for growth has three main thrusts: sound management of taxpayers' money; quality of life for our fellow citizens and, finally, initiatives for a brighter future. Quite simply, what sound management of taxpayers' money stands for is the need for any responsible government to introduce legislation to make fiscal balance mandatory, lower employment insurance premiums and reduce personal income tax. What people want is not rhetoric and empty promises, but action.
The government was in a position to act, but once again it sat back and did nothing. There is also a need to improve the quality of life of all Canadians. Our social safety net, which is the envy of many nations around the world, cannot be expected to withstand much longer the drastic cuts made by the government across the way.
Concerned with putting its financial house in order, the government, during its first mandate, brought all existing support programs and the Canada Assistance Plan together under a single umbrella called the Canada health and social transfer. Once again, concern about saving money took precedence over common sense, and government assistance was cut by $7 billion over four years with the results that we know.
Instead of federal transfers leaving the provinces at the mercy of the federal government's goodwill, we are proposing a tax point transfer to the provinces and territories to ensure stable funding. This way, provincial and territorial governments would be forever protected against cuts like those imposed by the Liberals. In addition, the public would receive services from governments that are closer to them and their situation.
We applaud the government's desire to end child poverty. Unfortunately, its efforts are directed more at the consequences of the problem than at the problem itself. There are 1.5 million children living in poverty in Canada. These children are poor because their parents are poor. Their parents are poor because the government has focused all its attention on one thing: the deficit. And all the while, Canadian workers, children and the elderly have been paying the price.
The government even admits in the throne speech that it has the means to improve our children's lives and that it intends to invest in their well-being. Let us remember that the money referred to by the government in its speeches has already been committed in the two previous years' budgets. Let us be clear: the government is promising us money it has already invested and it is promising to invest at least that much again.
Is this another of those elusive promises, like the 150,000 day care spaces, or will the federal government actually make a commitment this time? Of all the promises made by the Liberals during the election campaign, let us hope that those concerning children will be kept, and kept a little better than the motion passed in the House of Commons in 1989 to end child poverty by the year 2000. If the current trend continues, the child poverty rate will have doubled by then.
At the present time, over 1,500 food banks and hundreds of soup kitchens are waging the fight against hunger. Under the present government's plan, millions of children will still go to school hungry tomorrow. It is unfortunate that this sad reality is only brought home to us during electoral periods.
It is not surprising that election-minded politics like this have undermined the credibility of our institutions. When the public has regained faith in its public institutions, we will have the stability and confidence necessary to move forward. The country needs leadership with the courage to renew and revitalize the federation in order to show that it can work to everyone's satisfaction.
The premiers have agreed on a work plan and on the main areas of discussion. I am convinced that it is possible to find a basis for agreement. Canadians from all walks of life will not waste much time in extremist rhetoric, and they will demonstrate their attachment to Canada, I am sure.
It is time again for us to join forces around a common ideal. the polls clearly demonstrate that Quebecers have Canadian values at heart and want to remain within the country they helped build. Let us not get hung up on the words, the reality is clear. Quebecers are Quebecers, and just as proud to be Canadians.
What is less clear is that, in neither the last referendum nor the last electoral campaign, not even in the meeting at Calgary, was there any manifestation of leadership by our Prime Minister. I apologize for not mincing any words, but his leadership is worn out.
Our dynamic team, representing a new generation of politicians, will advance some constructive ideas which will rally the population. Rest assured that the only leader with a vision of the future for Canada is the man you heard yesterday, Jean Charest, and the true opposition which can speak on behalf of all Canadians is the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Subtopic: Speech From The Throne