«I congratulate both the returning members of Parliament, as well as the more than one hundred who are newly elected, as you take up your duties in ...»
to open the First Session
of the Thirty-Eighth
Parliament of Canada
October 5, 2004
HONOURABLE MEMBERS O F T H E SENATE,
MEMBERS O F T H E HOUSE O F COMMONS,
LADIES A N D GENTLEMEN:
I congratulate both the returning members of Parliament, as well as the more than
one hundred who are newly elected, as you take up your duties in the House of
Commons for this Thirty-Eighth Parliament of Canada.
This year, Canadians commemorated the 60th anniversary of D-Day and the landing of allied forces in Europe—an event that spelled the beginning of the end of the Second World War. Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrews fought with dogged bravery and were ultimately victorious on Juno Beach that day.
Shortly, I will be going to Italy to commemorate the significant campaign in which six thousand Canadians sacrificed their lives. To me, personally, these commemorations are a symbol of our eternal gratitude and an affirmation that we have not forgotten.
On these occasions, we are reminded of the huge debt we owe to those in uniform who have served this country—then and today. Our veterans connect generations and Canadians. As a country and as individuals, we gain in pride and in purpose from their deeds and their service.
Speech from the Throne, October 5, 2004 1 I recently concluded extended visits to six cities of varying size—Saint John, Quebec City, Toronto, Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver. In them, I found remarkable, innovative projects for social renewal and individual commitment. They express the confidence and love that we all hold for this country. This is the spirit of Canada I see as Governor General.
The Government starts this new session with a commitment that all parliamentarians share—regardless of political affiliation—to contribute to real progress for Canadians, for this country, for our future. The Government faces a new Parliament fresh from an election. The people of Canada want this Government, and all parliamentarians, to rise above partisanship to address the public interest. They want their political leaders to catch up with Canadians’ own ambitions for the country and their readiness to take on the world with confidence.
Each of us must take responsibility. The Government will do its part to ensure that this minority Parliament works. Working together, we can unite the voices of all Canadians in common purpose.
The Government’s actions on behalf of Canadians will be guided by these seven
• to be unwavering in the application of fiscal discipline, the foundation of so much of Canada’s success over the past decade;
• to promote the national interest by setting the nation’s objectives and building a consensus toward achieving them;
• to pursue these objectives in a manner that recognizes Canada’s diversity as a source of strength and innovation;
• to aim for tangible, practical results for Canadians and report to them so that they can hold their governments to account;
• to defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion;
• to demand equality of opportunity so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians; and
• to assert Canada’s interests and project our values in the world.
Together, we can move Canada forward.
2 Speech from the Throne, October 5, 2004
A STRONG ECONOMYOur quality of life, job opportunities and capacity to support our social goals rely on a globally competitive economy.
Canada has a solid record of economic achievement. Over the past 10 years, we generated over three million new jobs. Since 1997, we have led all G7 countries in the growth of living standards. And low interest rates have made home ownership easier than it has been in decades.
This has not happened by accident. A virtuous circle led to increased confidence, lower interest rates and robust growth of well-paying jobs. The increase in revenues and the recovery of fiscal sovereignty have in turn permitted the Government to reduce and improve the fairness of taxes, and make new social and economic investments. This virtuous circle will continue.
We have been successful, but we will not be complacent. The Government will not spend itself into deficit. It will continue to pay down debt. Its objective is to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio to 25 per cent within 10 years. It will provide transparent, accountable management, treating every tax dollar with respect. The Government will make the difficult decisions among competing priorities and systematically review all expenditures, reallocating from old to new, from past to future.
Canada must now elevate its economic performance to the next level. Advancing technology and pervasive global competition demand of Canada a commitment to excellence, the pursuit of greater productivity, and a vision directed outward to the challenges and opportunities the world presents.
The Government will pursue a five-point strategy to build an even more globally competitive and sustainable economy.
The first element is to invest in people, Canada’s greatest source of creativity and economic strength.
We must invest in helping workers to continuously enhance their skills to keep pace with constantly evolving workplace requirements. To that end, the Government will develop a new Workplace Skills Strategy, including steps to enhance apprenticeship systems, and to boost literacy and other essential job skills. This will be Speech from the Throne, October 5, 2004 3 complemented by up-to-date training facilities and labour market agreements to be developed in collaboration with the provinces and territories, unions and sector councils.
The Government will continue to review the Employment Insurance program to ensure that it remains well-suited to the needs of Canada’s workforce.
Efforts to improve the recognition of foreign credentials and prior work experience have yielded too little progress. Looking to the growing contribution that will be required from new Canadians as our population ages, this Government will redouble its efforts, in cooperation with the provinces and professional bodies, to help integrate them into the workforce.
To increase access to post-secondary education, the Government will introduce legislation to implement its Learning Bond, an innovative savings vehicle that it announced to help low-income families provide for their children’s post-secondary education.
The second element of the economic strategy is to strengthen Canada’s ability to generate and apply new ideas.
The Government of Canada has made substantial investments—more than $13 billion since 1997—that have built a strong foundation in basic science and technology, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation, health research and other initiatives to create leading-edge capabilities. It will continue to build on this strength.
The National Science Advisor is assisting the Government to ensure that these investments are strategic, focused and delivering results, and is working to bring about a fuller integration of the Government’s substantial in-house science and technology activity.
The next challenge is to turn more of Canadians’ bright ideas into dynamic businesses, great jobs and growing export earnings. To that end, the Government will ensure a supply of venture capital, particularly for early-stage businesses—for example, through the venture financing arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada.
4 Speech from the Throne, October 5, 2004 The Government will develop policies to foster Canadian capabilities in key enabling technologies—such as biotechnology, information and communications, and advanced materials—which will be drivers of innovation and productivity in the 21st-century economy.
Providing “smart government”—the third element of our economic strategy—aims to make it easier for businesses to do business in Canada.
Smart government includes a transparent and predictable regulatory system that accomplishes public policy objectives efficiently while eliminating unintended impacts. This can be a key competitive advantage for Canada. That is why the Government welcomes the just-released report of the External Advisory Committee on Smart Regulation.
Smart government also includes providing an up-to-date legislative framework for business. The Government will therefore propose changes to modernize the Competition Act.
The fourth element of the Government’s overall economic strategy is a commitment to regional and sectoral development.
The Government will do its part to enable the success of important sectors, including automotive, aerospace and other manufacturing, as well as agriculture and other resource-based industries.
Canada’s regional economies are a vital source of economic strength and stability.
Support for regional and rural economic development will target the fundamentals— skills upgrading, support for research and development, community development, and modern infrastructure such as broadband communication—by employing the regional agencies and tools such as the Atlantic Innovation Fund.
The Government’s regional objectives will be complemented by the most fundamental reform of the Equalization program in its 47-year history. The objective is to make more stable and predictable the total payments by the federal government to the less-wealthy provinces in support of key public services.
A region of particular challenge and opportunity is Canada’s North—a vast area of unique cultural and ecological significance. The Government will develop, in cooperation with its territorial partners, Aboriginal people and other northern Speech from the Throne, October 5, 2004 5 residents, the first-ever comprehensive strategy for the North. This northern strategy will foster sustainable economic and human development; protect the northern environment and Canada’s sovereignty and security; and promote cooperation with the international circumpolar community.
Promotion of trade and investment is the fifth pillar of the Government’s economic strategy.
Strong investment will be the primary generator of growth and good jobs for the future. The Government will foster investment by attending to the conditions that encourage entrepreneurs and providers of risk capital. These include sound monetary and fiscal policies as well as competitive taxes, efficiently targeted to promote economic growth.
Canada has always been a trading nation, but never more so than today. It is therefore vital that we secure and enhance our access to markets, both in North America and the world. To this end, the Government will continue to push for an open, rules-based international trading system and a successful conclusion of the Doha Round of global trade negotiations.
Issues such as softwood lumber and BSE underline the importance the Government attaches to obtaining more reliable access to U.S. markets. It will build on the successful Smart Borders initiative and on measures designed to develop a more sophisticated and informed relationship involving business and government officials in the United States.
The Government will enhance its capacity to expand international trade and commerce, with a particular focus on North America and emerging markets.
To complement its international commerce initiatives, the Government is determined to forge a stronger Canadian economic union, free of the internal barriers that still diminish opportunities and reduce our competitiveness.
Canadians have told their governments, year after year, to renew Medicare, to stop bickering and work together to ensure that it will be there for them and their children.
Governments have responded. On September 15, all fourteen First Ministers agreed on the Ten-year Plan to Strengthen Health Care.
The Plan sets out a clear commitment, shared by all provinces and territories, to achieve tangible results—results for patients. What united all First Ministers was the commitment to a meaningful reduction in wait times for health services because it is key to transforming the health system. The Plan holds all governments to account by establishing a requirement for evidence-based benchmarks, comparable indicators, clear targets and transparent reporting to the public on access to health care. This means that the needs of patients will drive change.
The Plan will accelerate reform and ensure better access to key tests and treatments. It will increase the number of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. This will be helped by quicker assessment and integration of those who have received their training abroad. The Plan will improve access to home and community care services and to safe and affordable drugs.
The Plan commits to a 10-year track of substantial, predictable long-term funding, closing what has been called the “Romanow Gap.” The Plan creates a Wait Times Reduction Fund, so that Canadians can see tangible progress in key areas such as cancer and heart treatment, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements and sight restoration.
The Plan addresses the unique challenges facing the delivery of health care services in Canada’s North, including the costs of medical transportation, and encourages innovative delivery of services to rural Canada.
As part of the Plan, governments will, for the first time, set goals and targets for improving the health status of Canadians. The Health Council of Canada will provide an annual report on health status and health outcomes, and will report on progress in implementing the Plan.
Funding arrangements will require that jurisdictions comply with the reporting provisions agreed to by First Ministers.
Speech from the Throne, October 5, 2004 7 Better health for Canadians requires more than just timely access to health care. It requires the promotion of healthy living, addressing risk factors such as physical inactivity and nutrition; the prevention of injury; and integrated disease strategies.
The Government will also work with partners to enhance sports activities at both the community and competitive levels.