Twenty-two months after Canadians went to the polls and voted for change, our Government can say with pride that we are giving Canadians what we promised: principled, focused and effective leadership so that they can confidently plan for their future in a prosperous, safe and united country.
The Government is clean, the economy is strong and the country is united.
Our first Speech from the Throne was entitled “Turning a New Leaf,” reflecting our mandate for change. We have delivered on that mandate. And, now that we’ve turned a new leaf, it’s time to fix our sights on Canada’s long-term horizons – on where we want to go in the 21st century, and how we will get there. That’s why, for this second session of the 39th Parliament, our October 16th Throne Speech was titled “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada.” It contained five core priorities for a better country. We want to:
• strengthen Canada’s sovereignty and place in the world;
• protect our environment and the health of our fellow Canadians;
• steer our economy toward long-term prosperity;
• modernize our federation and democratic institutions; and
• make our streets and communities safe again.
The Government has worked hard this year to meet the expectations of Canadians for a government that sets clear goals and delivers concrete results, that is accountable and that puts Canadians and their families first.
STRENGTHENING CANADA’S SOVEREIGNTY
We have to use the North or we will risk losing it. That is why our Government established a strategy for the North, and why we have already taken a number of steps to affirm our presence and sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic. In our first two budgets, for example, we have taken strong measures to strengthen the ability of our territorial governments to deliver services to northerners, with particular emphasis on northern housing for First Nations and Inuit. We are also:
• expanding our military and coast guard presence into the High Arctic and improving our surveillance capacity, including strengthening the Arctic Rangers;
• stepping up our environmental activities and increasing the number of protected areas; and
• enhancing research in the High Arctic. These research activities will help confirm our unassailable ownership of the Arctic Archipelago and the waters around them, including the Northwest Passage, along with the resources that lie beneath the land, sea and ice.
Of course, our role in the world is not just about our own sovereignty. It is also about effective action beyond our borders, in concert with our friends in the international community.
And we cannot be completely effective in either of these respects without solid, well-led and well-equipped Canadian Forces. That’s why our Government has continued the rebuilding of our long-neglected military, so our men and women in uniform are able to do the work we ask them to do, at home and abroad, as safely and effectively as possible.
As the Prime Minister so often affirms, the soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan, and the families and friends who are supporting them back home, rank among the finest Canadians you’ll ever know. Their compassion for the people of Afghanistan, their resolve in the face of a barbaric opponent, their manifest skill and professionalism, and the diplomats and development officers they work with are a credit to our great country.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT AND IMPROVING THE HEALTH OF CANADIANS
The Government is moving forward with its plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. The Minister of the Environment has set clear targets – 20 percent by 2020, and 60 to 70 percent by 2050 – which are among the most aggressive in the world. Canada is a leader in the major effort to establish an international protocol that is to include all large emitters, including giants like the United States and China.
Canada continues to enjoy one of the longest periods of economic growth in its history. Unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly two generations, inflation and interest rates remain low and the real disposable income of Canadian households has been increasing.
This government announced one of the largest paydowns of federal debt in Canadian history, which will result in a reduction in personal income taxes under our Tax Back Guarantee. Additionally, Canadian individuals, families and businesses will receive over $60 billion in broad-based tax relief over this and the next five years, including a second cut to the GST in two years, down to 5 percent.
But good jobs are threatened in some of our traditional industries. And costs in some parts of the country are creating their own pressures on the budgets of working families. Our Government is aware of these challenges, and we are responding. In this session, we will continue to take action to help struggling sectors such as the manufacturing, forestry, fishery and tourism industries.
We are also undertaking the largest public infrastructure investments in half a century, with $33 billion earmarked for Building Canada.
A MODERN AND FLEXIBLE FEDERATION
The clear improvement in national unity since our Government took office is one of the intangibles that has been working to the advantage of all Canadians. Our Government has worked hard to respect the federal division of powers, to strengthen long-neglected federal jurisdictions and to work cooperatively with the provinces.
The Government has reintroduced important pieces of legislation from the previous session, including bills to provide for direct consultations with voters on the selection of Senators, to limit the tenure of new Senators to eight years, and to ensure greater fairness in representation in the House of Commons. New legislation was also introduced to strengthen the integrity of our voting system through measures to confirm the visual identification of voters.
This fall, the House of Commons passed the Government’s first bill of the new session, the comprehensive Tackling Violent Crime Act, which will protect Canadians and their communities from violent crimes and predators.
As outlined in some of my recent releases and publications, Bill C-2 deals with sentencing for gun crimes, making it tougher for accused gun criminals to get bail, cracking down on sexual predators, protecting our children by raising the age of protection, cracking down on drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, and giving police and prosecutors more tools to get impaired drivers off our roads, and keep them off. Finally, the most violent, dangerous individuals in this country will stay behind bars, where they belong.
The Government also introduced other bills as part of its tackling crime agenda, including measures to combat identity theft, toughen penalties for serious drug offences, and strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Next year, in 2008, the Government will continue with its focused agenda to strengthen the federation and our democratic institutions, provide effective economic leadership, tackle crime and strengthen the security of Canadians, and improve the environment and health of Canadians.
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For more information, please contact:
Leon Benoit, MP, 1-800-463-1194/ (780) 763-6130