Mr. Jean Lapierre (Shefford):
Mr. Speaker, I would like at the outset to extend to you my sincere congratulations for your nomination. The fact that hon. members designated you a second time to sit in the chair in spite of the present circumstances is a proof of your impartiality, efficiency and wisdom.
I also want to congratulate the two movers of the address and assure the hon. member for Cardigan (Mr. MacDonald) that as a part of a new generation of members of the House, 1 am just like him dedicated to keeping the country united and strong.
It is a privilege and a great honour for me to make this first speech in the name of the people of the riding of Shefford who, after having been represented for more than 11 years by a
member of the Social Credit Party of Canada, have come back to their long time Liberal tradition. I hope that this tradition will be kept for many years. Following the footsteps of parliamentarians like Huntington, Parmelee, Boivin, Leclerc and Neveu is for me a very important challenge and I hope I will take it up successfully.
Let me thank most heartfully my constituents of Shefford for the confidence they have put in me, and I want to assure them of my most assiduous devotion and of my determination to defend their interests in the House. According to the tradition, when a new member of parliament makes his maiden speech in this House, he does his best to describe the beauty and the charm of his constituency. I would like to describe the beauty of the eastern townships, but since that beauty cannot be described, I would rather invite my colleagues to come and visit our beautiful region. If we consider the numerous visits that the new Prime Minister (Mr. Clark) made to our region in the last two years, we must conclude that the Progressive Conservatives did like my constituency but, unfortunately for them, my constituency did not like them.
To come to the Speech from the Throne, I must acknowledge that, probably because I am the youngest of all members,
I was still deluding myself about the determination and the sensitivity of this new government faced with the problems which preoccupy Canadians in general and more particularly the voters in my constituency. Unfortunately, after having heard, read and read again that speech, I only feel bitterly disappointed. While the former government was called breathless, I call this one asthmatic. For me, to take over four months to prepare such a poor program of action is a sign of general weakness and asthma. As an example, I would like to recall the expectations of Canadian farmers since the May 22 election and show the inaction of this government.
Just a few days after the election, everybody was waiting impatiently for the appointment of that super minister of agriculture who was, according to what the new Prime Minister had said, to hold a very high rank within the cabinet, precisely in order to improve the status of farmers. What a disappointment it was for us to realize that the new Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Wise) was not even admitted within the closed circle of the most important cabinet ministers.
With the milk producers, I waited in vain to hear the announcement that there would be a drastic cut in cheese imports. With them, I have come to realize once again that the government does not keep its promises. With the pork producers, especially, I have been waiting for the energetic measures that were promised with a view to encouraging the sale of their products abroad. In that field, as in the others, our hopes were dashed. With the whole agricultural sector, I have been waiting for an increase in the funds allotted to research and development. There again, the government has changed its
October 11, 1979
mind. Mr. Speaker, those many commitments having been betrayed, I felt sure that the government was saving the best for the Speech from the Throne. But alas! The height of deception was reached when His Excellency the Governor General failed to even mention once the word "agriculture". Let me tell you that for a party that was supposed to raise the status of agriculture, this is a very discreet way of doing so.
Worse still, the government says it is prepared to introduce in the House a bill to help settle more quickly labour disputes under federal jurisdiction, whereas current statutes do allow the Minister of Labour (Mr. Alexander) to intervene into disputes that have been lasting for too long. I will give only one example: the dispute in the Montreal harbour. Farmers have been asking the minister to step in for many months now, but he keeps saying no and disregards their appeals. If this is how they raise the status of agriculture, then I deeply question the intentions of this government.
Mr. Speaker, although agriculture is a vital matter for the people in my riding, I would be remiss if I did not refer to other aspects of the Speech from the Throne which attracted my attention.
My age allows me to share the worry and concern of young Canadians faced by their job prospects, their future. That is why 1 welcome with pleasure, but also with a little reserve, the government's intention to create a youth employment secretariat. But I am afraid this could only be a new name for some old agencies. I hope the axe of the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Stevens) will not prevent this new agency from playing a really efficient part in the fight against unemployment.
By refusing to earmark funds for the Canada Works program in my riding, this government has put a number of young and not so young people out of work. 1 hope that programs will be created as soon as possible to enable the idle but powerful hands in our society to join the labour market and thus contribute to building our country.
I am much concerned by the review of the Unemployment Insurance Act and I hope the government no longer intends to apply its discriminatory concept of variable benefits. I have already communicated my views to the Minister of Employment and Immigration (Mr. Atkey) and I hope he will take them into consideration.
Industrial development is also an important issue in my region and I urge the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion (Mr. MacKay) not to wait for his mandate to be extended by Parliament before reviewing the delimitation of areas designated for grants. The riding of Shefford must recover its status of designated area to respond fully to the challenge launched by the Prime Minister yesterday to build our country. I consider that change so important that I asked to meet the minister responsible to explain to him in detail the validity of our representations. I hope that my request will be favourably considered.
The Address-Mr. Faour
Another significant aspect for development and employment in our area is the proposed decentralization of the cartography services of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the vicinity of Sherbrooke. That big project announced by the previous government has been shifted over to the "deferred" files in the office of the President of the Treasury Board. I speak now on behalf of my colleagues from the eastern townships to ask what this government intends to do now. I would say that I am relying now on the hon. member for Joliette (Mr. LaSalle) who holds the important office of Minister of Supply and Services, in the hands of the Progressive Conservative Party now, to inform us on the future of this project.
I also take this opportunity to comment on the now famous and unique speech of the no less unique minister of state for social programs, his address to the Federation des clubs de Page d'or du Quebec. Here is what he said to those people: "Our country can no longer afford to wander in the field of universal benefits and must concentrate its efforts on those who are the most in need without, however, jeopardizing its economy and the situation of those who depend on the present system."
These few words have caused much concern and insecurity among our senior citizens, because to question universal entitlement to old age security would be, in the eyes of many Canadians, a retrograde and anti-social move. I hope that the disappearance of the honorific title of this minister will result in the disappearance of this theory which would take away from Canadians the prospect of a secure future at the time of their retirement.
In closing, I join with my right hon. leader in asking the government to create a truly national spirit and to introduce programs which do not mean a shirking of all its responsibilities. Nothing in the Speech from the Throne shows the coherent vision of tomorrow's Canada that my colleagues and myself in the official opposition can offer to our fellow citizens of Quebec for the referendum. We do not believe that the Utopian feelings of this government, which can lead it to believe that there can be any spirit of co-operation between a central government and a government of secession, could promote the cause of federalism in Quebec. This attitude of neglect towards separatism will certainly be compensated by the energy and the vigour with which we, on this side of the House, intend to fight this battle.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the government party, in view of its extreme fragility, will be willing to accept a few of the suggestions made by the opposition and show some realism in the best interests of all Canadians.
Topic: ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY