Mr. Dale Johnston (Wetaskiwin)
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to participate in this debate on the speech from the throne.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Speaker on his being elected as Speaker of the 35th Parliament. Indeed, I would like to pass on my congratulations to the Deputy Speaker. I want to assure the Speaker that we will endeavour to make your job easier and you can always count on us.
Mr. Speaker, with your permission since this is my maiden speech in this Chamber, I would like to dedicate my remarks today to the memory of my late father, Glen Johnston, who served from 1952 until 1967 in the Alberta legislature, in fact in the party that the Prime Minister this morning referred to as the grandfather of the Reform Party. In those years he served as the member of the legislature for Ponoka-Rimby.
It is my pleasure to carry on the legacy of hard work and caring support of his constituents, many of whom I represent today. To those people of the federal constituency of Wetaskiwin I thank them for their overwhelming support and their vote of confidence in me. I would like to assure them that I am dedicated to serving them and their interests in this House.
Let me say a little bit about the constituency of Wetaskiwin. It is located in central Alberta just north of the constituency of Red Deer and south of the Edmonton ridings. We are bounded on the north and northwest by the North Saskatchewan River and the terrain varies from heavily treed areas to the west to the prairie-like grain fields on the east. I am proud to say that we are a resource rich area. Agriculture, gas and oil are the engines that drive our economy. Our rich farmland is ideal for raising prime Alberta beef.
The Ponoka Stampede is an annual event. It is the second largest stampede in the west. I would like to invite the Speaker of the House and all members to join us on the Canada Day weekend for an exceptional stampede and rodeo.
Over the last year I have travelled extensively throughout the constituency speaking with many people and the message was loud and clear. People are concerned about the economic future of Canada and what kind of Canada their children and grandchildren are going to inherit.
Two days ago His Excellency the Governor General delivered the government's plan for the next four years to anxiously waiting Canadians. The election results from across Canada indicated a desire to depart from the status quo and it would appear the government MPs received the same message. I would like to congratulate this government for embarking on a path of dialogue and consensus.
We commend the initiative to cut $5 million from the House of Commons budget. I am pleased that the government acted on a few of the suggestions contained in the Reform Party's paper on pensions and perks. We encourage the Minister of Finance to incorporate our other recommendations in his budget.
The Canadian public have lost faith in their politicians. It is time for the elected people to win back that trust. Being elected does not mean that we are automatically respected. We have to earn back that trust.
Canadians have the right to expect their representatives to act with dignity and decorum of office. An end to double dipping and a limit of age 55 before MPs can collect their pensions would be steps in the right direction.
The whole issue of MPs' pensions, however, must be addressed. The voters told us that they would no longer settle for a plan that gives members of Parliament substantially more than average Canadians. The Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act must be overhauled, not just tinkered with. It must be brought into line with the private sector.
The MPs' pension plan is not self-supporting. How can we in good conscience ask the overburdened Canadian taxpayer to pay for this generous retirement plan? I cannot, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you feel the same way.
Canadians are looking to this government to restore their hope and to restore their jobs. The widely acclaimed $6 billion infrastructure program must be recognized for what it really is, a joint project equally funded by the federal government, the provinces and the municipalities. This short term project will cost the taxpayer threefold. There may be three levels of government participating in this scheme but there is still only one taxpayer.
The talk of creating jobs and restoring confidence are only small steps in encouraging economic growth. We can no longer tell small business people that they can be the impetus to get the economy moving while they remain overburdened with heavy taxes.
The government plans to replace the goods and services tax, but what with? The GST, the most despised tax in Canadian history, does provide almost $15 billion in net revenue. This is an issue that the Reform members on the finance committee are looking forward to tackling. Earlier today my colleague from Calgary Centre suggested that this caucus supports and proposes to replace the goods and services tax with a flat tax system.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Speech From The Throne