Mr. Speaker, I rise to reply to the Speech from the Throne presented yesterday by Her Excellency the Governor General. In doing so I want to take the opportunity on behalf of the official opposition to extend our best wishes to the former Governor General on his retirement as well as our congratulations to the new Governor General on her appointment.
This summer, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the region of New Brunswick in which Mr. LeBlanc will be enjoying his retirement, and we can readily understand his desire to live in that magnificent part of the country.
Along with other members of the House, we also had the opportunity to listen to another speech by Her Excellency the Governor General at her swearing in ceremony a week ago. I might say it was an excellent speech. It was much better than the speech prepared for her by the Prime Minister. We wish Her Excellency well in all her future communications.
I also want to extend on behalf of the official opposition our best wishes to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces both at home and abroad. Their contributions to maintaining peace in the world are even more significant in light of the hardships and resource limitations that they must endure, not the least of which are those imposed upon them by their own government. In the next few days my colleagues will be dissecting the Speech from the Throne in considerable detail, pointing out its deficiencies, which are many, and presenting constructive alternatives. My task today is to deal with the big picture which I will now proceed to do.
We stand on the threshold of a new century. Canadians have a right to expect that the legislative program presented by their government would put forward bold solutions to old problems and chart new directions for a new century, solutions and directions inspired by principles and vision. We see none of that in the Speech from the Throne. What we have here is essentially more of the same, perpetuation of the status quo.
For example, over the summer the country faced specific problems demanding government action. We heard of some of them today, from people smuggling on the west coast, to violence in the east coast fishery, to an agricultural crisis on the prairies, to the need to completely reorganize the airline industry. The Speech from the Throne does not even acknowledge the existence of these problems, let alone offer solutions that are based on some kind of vision of the future for those sectors or some kind of fundamental principles.
The greatest defect is the deficiency in principle and vision, a deficiency for which the government attempts to compensate with bland rhetoric. For example, the government refers in the speech to the principle of clarity as essential to national unity. It talks about the importance of principles to the national children's agenda. It talks about the need for principles to govern cooperative approaches to infrastructure development. But in none of the sections where it mentions the word principle does it spell out what these governing principles are. In most of the other sections of the speech there is no attempt to specify at all the principles that will guide the government's actions.
Since the government has chosen to exit the 20th century not with a bang but with a whimper, it is my intention to present an alternative set of principles for directing the legislative program of the government and an alternative vision for Canada in the 21st century, alternatives which I believe are in keeping with the deepest convictions and hopes of Canadians. Let me start with the principles of fiscal responsibility. When Reformers were first elected to parliament, we won support on the basis of a commitment to certain clear-cut principles of fiscal responsibility. Today we are even more committed to those principles because we are even more convinced they are right for Canada and Canadians.
As our chief finance critic, the member for Medicine Hat, has repeatedly argued, we want a federal government that is committed to controlling and prioritizing its spending, to balancing its books, and having a legal commitment to balance its books not just a policy decision, to lowering its debt and reducing federal taxes, and doing so at a pace that is far faster than that being followed by this timid and tired administration.
One of the things that bothers me profoundly is that it can be demonstrated from polling data and research data that there was majority public support in this country as early as 1984 for balancing the federal budget. There was majority public support for balancing the federal budget as early as 1984 and yet it took two administrations and 15 years to achieve what for most of us is a self-evident objective that should have been achieved far sooner. This Speech from the Throne is rife with government references, bowing and scraping toward the recognition of the global economy and high tech knowledge and computerization. The essence of all of that is speed in decision, yet when it comes to meeting the fiscal obligations of this country and implementing fiscal policies, the government moves at the pace of a snail dragging a chain through the mud.
It should be understood that the official opposition wants real tax relief and debt reduction, not as an end in themselves but because of the benefits that will flow to Canadians. We do not have just an academic interest in this principle. It is the benefits that will flow.
I have a dream. It is a simple one and it gets reinforced every time I go to a factory or a plant and talk to workers. It is a dream of getting a pay increase, just a pay increase for every Canadian worker and family. That is reasonable. It is a pay increase that does not come from their employer but from a reduction in the high taxes collected every day and every month by a tax crazed government.
We are talking about real, substantive tax relief. It is quite evident that the Canadian public, and particularly workers, are simply not going to believe promises of tax relief from anyone unless they can see it in a tangible form. They are going to look at their paycheques at the end of the day and they will believe they have tax relief when the federal deductions have been reduced. They will not believe any other promise or commitment to tax relief unless it shows up on the bottom line.
This is our vision of tax relief. Its impact on families could deliver up to $4,600 of tax relief per year per family for them to use on whatever they choose, such as education, shelter and clothing. We think the people themselves are the best ones to direct those expenditures whether they are socially directed or economically directed.
But what do we see in the Liberal administration's implementation of these principles of fiscal responsibility? We see a government whose main financial priority has been to collect and spend as many taxpayers' dollars as it can, from $107 billion, or almost $14,000 in federal tax revenues per family in 1993, to $148 billion, or $18,150 in federal tax revenues per family in 1999, and still growing.
We read in the Speech from the Throne on page 9 that the government will follow a multi-year plan for tax reduction. Why would anyone take this at face value when we consider what the government has said and done on this subject in the past?
On one occasion the finance minister said that the ultimate goal was to lower taxes but - and unfortunately there is always a but - lowering taxes and reducing the fiscal load would not be possible. He then promptly raised federal tax revenues to $14,835 per family. The next year the finance minister said that we could not have a massive tax cut across the board, and promptly raised federal tax revenues per family to $15,614.
The next year, speaking about across the board tax cuts, the Prime Minister said, "I do not think it is the right thing to do in a society like Canada". Somehow it is un-Canadian to give them back some of their money. That year, as if to reinforce the point, the finance minister raised federal revenues per family up to $16,550.
The next year, along with the budget close to being actually balanced, the finance minister said that to put in place a broadly based tax cut now would be irresponsible. That year he raised federal tax revenues per family to $18,000.
Is it any wonder that Canadians will regard tax relief promises from the throne speech with extreme, justifiable scepticism? The government's taxation record is in precisely the opposite direction to the direction it promises in the throne speech.
The most deceptive halftruth in the entire throne speech is on page 9. I could hardly believe the statement, when I heard it standing in the other place. If it had been in the prospectus of a company filed with the Ontario Securities Commission, this half truth which fails to disclose the other half of the truth, whoever put it together would be liable to spend up to five years in a provincial institution.
This is the statement: The government says it has begun to deliver broad-based tax relief totalling $16.5 billion over three years. It gets this figure by adding up projected tax reductions for the financial years 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2001-02, for a total of $16.5 billion. What it fails to mention is that during those same three years it also projects tax increases, namely through increases in CPP premiums and bracket creep, amounting to $18.4 billion for a net increase in the tax burden on Canadians of $2 billion.
The first great deficiency in principle and vision that we see in the Speech from the Throne is the lack of principle and substantive commitment to the great principles of fiscal responsibility, in particular tax relief that is the key to both sound government and a prosperous economy for the 21st century.
In our judgement, this is a deficiency which cannot be remedied by trying to change tax and spend Liberals into tax cutters. It is a deficiency which will only be remedied by the election of 150-plus members to the House who on a certain night in a certain month - probably February or March - are prepared to stand up in the House and vote for real, genuine, substantive tax relief.
Let me turn to economic policy in general. The official opposition's vision of an economically prosperous and secure Canada for the 21st century includes much more than just a fiscally responsible federal government and lower taxes. It includes a Canada where jobs with good incomes are plentiful rather than scarce because the job creation engine is fuelled, not by patronage-tainted and politically motivated grants, contracts, handouts and subsidies from the government but because it is fuelled by dollars left in the pockets of consumers to spend and businesses to invest. It is private enterprise. It is an old concept but it happens to work.
We envision a Canada where the younger generation is valued and encouraged by economic opportunity to make their future in Canada rather than being told by the Prime Minister to go to the U.S. if they are not prepared to pay exorbitant taxes. Talk about a children's agenda. He is telling our children, "If you don't like the tax system here, if you think the levels are too high, go somewhere else".
We envision a Canada where economically disadvantaged regions and people, including aboriginal people, are given the tools to direct and create their own economic future by participating in a free enterprise, market based economy, not a country where aboriginal people are given the obsolete, dependency creating instruments of government planning and socialist economics.
One of the big reasons we object to the Nisga'a treaty is that it is straight out of the 19th century. There is no other group in the country that the government would have the nerve to say, "Your economic development is going to be achieved through collective rights and collective ownership of property and resources". There is no other group that the government would have the nerve to say that to. It then hands off those types of tools to aboriginal people. Exactly the same mistake the country made in the 19th century we are making as we enter the 21st century.
We envision a Canada where challenges faced by agriculture, the infrastructure sector, the airline industry or professional hockey are met by policies that give them tools and frameworks to solve their own problems rather than increasing dependency on the government.
Time does not permit me to deal with all the points in the Speech from the Throne where the Liberal government's approach to economic problems or the problems of particular sectors violate these principles, but let me touch on just three examples.
The first example is the brain drain. The official opposition has some of the youngest members in the House. Many of them spend a lot of time on university campuses and they hear about this problem all the time. I hear it every time I go to a campus. What is the question that we are asked by younger people at the universities? Some person will go to the microphone and say, "I'm graduating next year with such and such a degree and my wife is graduating with such and such a degree. Here's my tax position in Toronto. Here's my tax position in Chicago. You tell me why I should stay here one day after I graduate".
When I see the new pages in the Chamber I do not just think of the pages as servants of the House. I know many of them have ambitions and are studying far beyond spending time here in the House. I think of them as representatives of the younger generation who are looking for incentive, opportunity and things like that from government, not punitive taxes that create the opportunities for them somewhere else.
The government fails to see that high taxes drive youth, capital, jobs and companies out of the country. Its response to the brain drain is to deny it. It does not bring to the problem of the brain drain what free enterprise, market-based principles and fiscal responsibility in government can offer those people. That is a huge mistake. It is a deficiency in principle, not approaching the problem from a principled basis, and a deficiency in vision.
Let us look for a minute at the agriculture situation. This summer the member for Selkirk-Interlake and the member for Souris-Moose Mountain arranged for me to spend a little time talking to farmers and producers from southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. I do not have to tell the members in the House who have a background in agriculture about the depth of the dilemma. We have thousands of farmers who have suffered two disasters beyond their control. In that particular region, the disaster was an enormous amount of flooded acreage, an inability to seed after the flooding and late seeding leading to frozen crops in the fall. We now have the bigger problem of foreign subsidies driving commodity prices down to the point where a large number of our farmers cannot make a living.
It is worth looking at some of the statistics that the hon. member referred to a minute ago. Statistics Canada confirmed that 1998 was a disastrous year for Canada's farmers. Realized net income was down 21% over the year before. Agriculture Canada forecasts even worse for 1999. National realized net income of $2.2 billion and that figure includes payments from the government's AIDA program. The hardest hit will be Saskatchewan where Agriculture Canada predicts a net loss of $48 million. Manitoba will fare only slightly better earning $64 million, a little less than the net realized farm income of Prince Edward Island. This is one of the great agricultural provinces of the prairies yet that is what its net income is. I ask the Prime Minister to listen to this. Put another way, the realized net income for all farmers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan taken together will be down 98% from the previous four-year average. I cannot imagine that if any other group had statistics show that its net realized income had fallen 98% because of something beyond its control the government would not respond. However, in the Speech from the Throne there is no visionary response to this problem.
I do not want to labour this but I will read the statistics. The statistics do not tell the real story. Behind the statistics are incredible amounts of heartbreak. I have been going to farm meetings ever since I belonged to a 4-H club in the Horse Hill area of Alberta in the 1950s. I have gone to all kinds of agricultural meetings with different commodity groups, et cetera. At some of the meetings we went to this summer we talked to people in this dilemma. I cannot recall ever having seen people who could not even talk about the problem. These are stoical, independent western farmers who would go out behind the barn and shoot themselves rather than acknowledge that they have a problem. They tend to be that way.
At these meetings we saw grown men breaking down and crying. It was not because of their bottom lines but because they were losing the farm that their grandfather had. It was because of what it was doing to their families, the stress lines that the hon. member mentioned. People are calling for help from psychiatrists, ministers and everybody else and the government does not respond.
The government has to do three things. It must first recognize that its AIDA program is a joke and is not working. The agriculture minister goes around saying that the government has promised farmers $25 or $50 an acre to put together with the provinces. I defy the government to find one farmer who has actually received $25 an acre. Some farmers pay $500 to accountants to fill out the forms to get $40 back while others pay $500 only to be told that they do not qualify for anything. Nobody gets what is in the press releases because there are a whole lot of strings attached: what was their last three years' average; what is their deductible, et cetera. There are 100 reasons for not getting the money. They want to know where the replacement for AIDA is and they want it fast.
Secondly, where is the expanded crop insurance program that includes disaster relief? This business of inventing a new ad hoc program every time there is a natural disaster is crazy. It politicizes the thing. It causes all kinds of problems for the minister. Why do we not extend crop insurance to include broad-based disaster insurance?
Thirdly - and this is one for the prime minister - where is the team Canada mission to Europe that is not just a glad-handing exercise but includes the prime minister, the minister of trade, the foreign minister and the agriculture minister and which makes a powerful argument with the Europeans that their subsidies are killing our farmers?
If we are committed to free trade, and the government professes to be committed to free trade, this is not just knocking down trade barriers and subsidies at home. Yes, it does include that and we have supported that, but it also means being even more vigorous at knocking down the other guy's trade barriers.
If the prime minister has great influence with President Clinton, why does he not use it on behalf of the farmers? If Canada and the U.S. teamed up to fight European subsidies rather than the U.S. just outbidding them, we could have an impact on those subsidies which are killing our farmers. I suspect the reason the government does not take this approach is because it really is not committed to market based, free enterprise ways of solving this problem. It will cut our subsidies but it does not go after the other guys. There is one other sector where I see a deficiency in the government's approach which is again a backward looking approach. The Speech from the Throne has a little section on physical infrastructure. It makes only token references to the demands for new highways, new roads, new bridges, new airports, new ports and all types of physical infrastructure development. The speech states nothing at all about the need for north-south trade corridors, the need to build the transportation networks and rebuild the transportation networks that are moving a billion dollars of trade a day across the American borders.
If the government looked at that it would soon come to the conclusion that there are not enough dollars in the public works budget of the Government of Canada and the highways departments of all the provinces to even meet the physical infrastructure investment requirements of the west. If we add them all up, there is not enough to even meet the requirements for building infrastructure in the west over the next 20 years.
What does that mean? It means we are going to have to find massive amounts of capital for investment and infrastructure from other sources. I say that the only place we are going to find that is in the private sector. We are going to have to look to these public-private partnerships in order to build that type of infrastructure. Guidelines will be needed from the federal government to make sure that these projects are not screwed up the way the federal government did it in Atlantic Canada where it picked public-private projects which did not meet the requirements or the priorities of the provinces and where the project got tainted with patronage right at the beginning which discredited the whole approach.
My conclusion is that the second great deficiency of principle and vision that we see in the Speech from the Throne is the lack of a principled substantive commitment to encouraging and facilitating individual and corporate enterprise and better operations of free markets to solve the actual practical problems in many of these particular sectors.
I have already spoken of Reform's vision of fiscal responsibility and the need for governments to constrain their natural appetites for excessive taxation and misdirected involvement in the economy. However, fiscal and economic ideals are not ends in themselves. They are but means to more important ends. Those more important ends for us are social and moral in nature.
I now want to turn to the social and moral dimensions of the Speech from the Throne. In the judgement of Reformers, the highest moral responsibility of government is the passage of just laws and the maintenance of law and order. The most important social responsibility is the protection and nurturing of the family. Let us look at what this throne speech does in those two areas. When it comes to criminal justice, we have a vision of Canada as a safe society where people can live their lives, walk on the streets, drive on the highways, go to school, go to work, shop in the stores, visit the parks and live in their homes without fear of harm to themselves or their property or, even worse, fear of harm to their loved ones.
I think of the many seniors we run into when we are door-knocking as all of us do. They live in fear in Canada inside their own homes. They are afraid of theft. They are afraid of assault. They are afraid to go out at night. They are afraid of a knock at the door. Some of them are men who risked their lives for the country when they were young, and they have to live their older years in fear. Some of them are women who pioneered in the workforce while raising families. Many of them are people who built our homes, our towns and our cities.
Do we not owe our seniors more than a pension? Do we not have a moral and social obligation to protect their physical safety and to lift the federal government's constitutional obligation to create peace and order off the dry pages of the constitution and give people peace and order in the place where they live?
It seems to us the only people who are really sticking their necks out to protect citizens from crime are police officers, particularly the ones who work on the streets. These are the men and women who literally put their lives at risk every day to make public safety a reality. How does the government treat them? It slashes their budgets and it turns their work and their risks into a mockery through a revolving door parole system and an unbalanced justice system.
To achieve the idea of genuine public safety for Canadians we believe the federal government must embrace the principle that the protection of the lives and property of the citizens must be the highest ideal of the criminal justice system. The right of Canadians to this protection and consideration must take precedence over the rights of the perpetrators of crime.
When we examine the policies and actions of the government we find them lacking in commitment to this principle. Let me take the classic illustration of this point from the events of this summer. Federal law, as everyone in the House knows, provides for the legal entrance into the country of immigrants and genuine refugees. However those laws were repeatedly violated this summer by international gangsters smuggling illegal entrants into Canada on our west coast.
This people smuggling is not only illegal but is a gross affront to the hundreds of thousands of legitimate immigrants and legitimate refugees who have waited patiently in line and fulfilled everything we have asked of them - all the hoops, all the paperwork, all the time delays - in order to have legitimate legal standing in the country.
The points I am making have been pointed out by official opposition critics for immigration and justice, but I want to repeat them again. The official opposition has called for expedited procedures to detect, detain and assess illegal immigrants and to immediately deport those who are not genuine refugees. In doing so we are not calling for something unusual or draconian. This is what the 1987 amendments to the 1976 Immigration Act were supposed to accomplish.
However there is a problem which those and subsequent amendments to the Immigration Act have not remedied. Many members in the House know what it is. Why do we not do something about it? The problem is that in 1985 the Singh decision by the supreme court ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to everyone who is physically present in Canada, even if they got here illegally and even if they have no legal standing whatsoever. So we hand to those engaged in people smuggling and to illegal entrants, regardless of their status, all the legal tools required to fight deportation hearings, deportation procedures and deportation orders. They can fight it for years to the point where the whole process of dealing with illegal immigrants and refugees becomes a farce.
This is an issue of law and order. It is an issue of criminal justice. We look to the federal government for a solution to make its laws enforceable so that rights granted to persons without legal standing in our country, and violating its laws, are not allowed to tarnish or diminish the rights and privileges of those who fully comply with our laws.
When we look at the Speech from the Throne, what do we see? Sad to say, we see nothing in the Speech from the Throne to correct this deficiency in principle and vision with respect to the Canadian criminal justice system. What is the third great deficiency in principle and vision that we see in the speech? It is a lack of principled and substantive commitment to criminal justice reform, in particular reforms which ensure that when the rights of law abiding citizens and victims of crime conflict with the rights of the perpetrators of crime it is the former that prevail over the latter.
As I said earlier, the social vision of Reformers attaches the highest priority to the protection and nurturing of the family. Our vision of Canada regards the family as the most important organizational unit of society. This is a statement of principle to which I believe many members of the House subscribe. Surely for each of us it has some real and substantive meaning.
Last weekend was Thanksgiving. Mr. Speaker, what are you thankful for? What am I thankful for? Well, many things. I am thankful for being a Canadian. I am thankful for growing up within driving distance of the Rocky Mountains. I am thankful for a Christian heritage and for the religious liberty which allows each of us to turn toward God or away from God and to accept the consequences of our own moral decisions. I am thankful for political freedoms. Reformers complain a lot about the political system of the country, but I am thankful for the freedom that allows my friends and me to start a political party and to try to change the government.
I am most thankful in my life for my family, and I think a lot of members share this. What was the most important thing Sandra and I did on Thanksgiving? We spent time with our family, as many other members did. I am thankful for the kindness and nurturing of my mother and for the wisdom and example of my late father. He was my hero. I am thankful for my wife, Sandra, and for the spiritual foundations of our marriage which have enabled us to withstand all the stresses and strains that everybody here knows politics puts on a marriage.
I am thankful for the effort Sandra makes to keep our family healthy and strong and the way so many of our spouses sacrifice their own interests for us to be playing in this game.
I am thankful for my own boys who have grown up to be strong and sensible with the help of a lot of other people besides myself, and who can do so many things from fishing to making music to operating computers far better than I can do.
I am thankful for my daughters; for their relentless pursuit of excellence in sport and education; for making life and faith commitments of their own; for their choices in husbands, the two who are married; and for the strength that these men bring to our family. I am thankful for three precious little grandchildren, with another one on the way, who find love and acceptance and roots in the family while at the same time becoming its brightest promise and prospects for the future.
I am thankful that such a family allows us to support and care for each other: children, parents, grandparents, great grandparents and siblings, and turn to one another in times of need instead of having no one to turn to other than a stranger on the end of some government telephone line. In expressing this thankfulness for family I am not denying for a moment the importance of government services, whether it is health, education or social assistance, that help the well being of families. I am not denying for a moment the harsh realities of all those who because of economic, social or personal circumstances have lost or been denied the benefits of family, or those for whom family has been transformed into a place of violence and insecurity.
My heart aches for such people, especially for the children in such circumstances, to do something to preserve the health of more families in the face of economic, social and personal hardships and adversity to give today's young people, regardless of the family circumstances in which they started out, at least a fighting chance to avoid some of the mistakes of our generation and to provide the benefits of healthy family relationships at least for the next generation, for their children and their grandchildren. May I suggest that if the Liberal government really wants to do something for children there are a number of other practical things it could do that are not in the Speech from the Throne? For example, it could focus first and foremost on doing something for families. It should not focus on government programs that attempt to substitute for families. It should focus first and foremost on supporting the family directly. It might start at the beginning, if it had the moral nerve, by defining the rights of the unborn. This it will have to do if it intends to reintroduce its bill on reproductive technologies. It will have to get into that subject and it would be better to do it sooner rather than later.
Second, if the Liberal government really wants to do something for children, it should state clearly the definitions of marriage and family which it believes are most conducive to the well-being of children.
On June 8, 1999, for example, the House passed by a vote of 216 for and 55 against a resolution moved by the hon. member for Calgary Centre which read as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps - Where are the steps? We did not see any in the Speech from the Throne - within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.
The government's support of this motion was a good step but it should be followed by another. If the Liberal government really wants to do something for children, it should also clarify the definition of family as the primary biological and social context into which our children are born.
It is the Reform Party's conviction that a family should be defined as individuals related by blood, marriage or adoption. Members should note that this definition is broad. It is not a narrow definition of family. It is broad enough to embrace a so-called traditional family, common law relationships, the single parent family and the extended family which is so important to many new Canadians.
Affirming these definitions of marriage and the family is not to say that parliament cannot recognize in law other relationships of dependency, but in our judgement these should not be confused in law or public policy with marriage defined as the union of a man and a woman or the familial relations based on that union.
Some might argue on the basis of the supreme court's recent M. v H. decision that the court is headed, whether we like it or not, in the direction of saying that in Canadian law a couple is a couple is a couple, regardless of the basis of the relationship. However I believe I speak for the majority of parliamentarians, not just Reformers, when I say that it is parliament's intention, that it was parliament's intention and that it is still parliament's intention that the union of a man and a woman, which is unique in its potential for the natural procreation and nurturing of children, should be in a category by itself as should be the familial relations based upon it.
On page 22 the throne speech states that Canada will champion efforts at the United Nations to eliminate the exploitation of children. If this is the case, the government should then direct the courts here at home to stop protecting the consumers of child pornography. When parliament passed that section of the criminal code, and that debate has gone before the B.C. court, it intended that the possession of child pornography should be treated as a crime. Why? Because possession represents the demand side of the pornography industry. If one wants to shut down the pornography industry one has to go after the demand side and not just the supply side. If the criminal code does not make it crystal clear that is what parliament intended, the government should introduce legislation that makes that crystal clear to the courts. If the courts still insist that section of the criminal code is not charter compatible, the government should not hesitate to use the notwithstanding clause now to enforce such a provision. Surely if the government values children it will put their right to protection from the evils of pornography ahead of any adult's right to possess child pornography.
The throne speech also expresses particular concern about child poverty while often ignoring the family context in which much of that poverty occurs. Again if the Liberal government wished to do something about child poverty, it could do two practical things which do not require the invention of some new program. It could stop overtaxing the parents and stop taking up to $6 billion a year from people making $20,000 a year or less.
The government takes in $6 billion and tries to figure out how some complicated program, which will cost a lot administratively, will give them back a couple of hundred dollars for this or that. Am I missing something, or would it not be simpler to leave the dollars in their pockets, stop the unfair taxation of single income families and see just how many new child care spaces that creates?
What is the fourth great deficiency in principle and vision that we see in the Speech from the Throne? It is the lack of a principled priority commitment to the protection and nurturing directly of the Canadian family, the human context, the primary biological, economic, social, cultural and spiritual context into which our children are born.
It is a deficiency which in our judgement cannot be remedied until there are 150-plus members in the House who are convinced in their hearts as well as their heads that the number one social priority of government should be the protection and nurturing of the family.
There is another set of principles nowhere alluded to in the Speech from the Throne and yet absolutely essential to the implementation of any legislative program approved by parliament. They are those principles that define the proper line between the executive, parliament and the courts. In recent years we have seen these lines increasingly blurred by this administration. We have seen the courts increasingly encroach on the prerogatives of parliament to the point where one might argue that one cannot fully interpret the Speech from the Throne until after hearing the speech from the bench. I have three examples.
There is the impact of the Singh decision on the government's ability to halt people smuggling. What difference does it make if this parliament sets up the ideal system for handling immigrants and refugees? As long as the Singh decision stands, there are legal ways around it. It can be fought every step of the way for seven years.
There is the impact of the B.C. court decision in the Sharpe case which legitimates demand for child pornography. It is already having a secondary impact in other parts of the country while we wait and wait for a court decision that may not come.
There is the impact of the Marshall decision on the management of the east coast fishery. I understand we will have a debate tonight during which we can get into this in detail. The member for Delta-South Richmond will be saying a lot on this a little later. In the Marshall case the court affirmed an aboriginal fishing right from a treaty that does not contain the word fish. Talk about writing things in, that is a good example.
Apparently no one, and this is the responsibility of the government and not the court, made a convincing case for the dangers of having one law for aboriginals and another law for non-aboriginal fishermen. No one made the case apparently of the threat that unlimited fishing rights create for destroying the biological basis of the fishery. And apparently no one made the case that the government, through its constitutional right under section 91 of the Constitution and its responsibility for fisheries, also granted rights to fish under certain licences and if the court was going to deal with this problem at all, it was a matter of balancing two sets of rights, one against the other, not simply affirming one set of rights.
The court made a fishery policy as distinct from parliament making a fishery policy leading to, in this case, violence and chaos on the east coast fishery.
[continued in Reply to the Speech From The Throne, 1999, Part 2, published on conservativeforum.org]