THRONE SPEECH DEBATE
(Fourth Day of Debate)
Mr. Speaker: On the adjourned debate, the fourth day of debate, on the proposed motion of the honourable member for Emerson (Mr. Penner) for an address to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor in answer to his speech at the opening of the session, and the proposed amendment of the honourable Leader of the official opposition (Mr. Doer), and the proposed subamendment of the honourable Leader of the second opposition party, standing in the name of the honourable Minister of Energy and Mines (Mr. Orchard) who has 14 minutes remaining.
Hon. Donald Orchard (Minister of Energy and Mines): Mr. Speaker, thank you for this kind opportunity. Yesterday when I was closing my remarks, I was trying to offer some advice to the Liberal Leader (Mr. Edwards) because the Liberal Leader appears to be sort of ambivalent as to what he might stand for should he continue in a leadership role.
The example I used was building your strengths and identifying opportunities. Where you identify development problems that developing is not happening, you change the environment to make sure that in this globally competitive world that you have the opportunity to see your natural strengths invested in and the job creation that flows from those investments to benefit all Manitobans. Of course, that is exactly the course of action that we have been on for seven budgets. That is why we have not raised major taxes; that is why we have streamlined government; that is why we have looked at methods of providing incentive and opportunity in various industries.
Now, the question that obviously flows is, does it work? Can policies which incent investment and jobs in the private sector--do they work? Do they work for a jurisdiction like Manitoba? I want to say unequivocally that, yes, they do. The mining industry is the most splendid example that I can offer because the mining industry is genuinely being revitalized as we speak in the province of Manitoba.
It is because of changes in policy from exploration incentives to tax changes that make renewed investment financially beneficial, removal of sales tax on electricity. It works, and it works very rapidly. It is happening right now. The reason it works is that in Manitoba you build the strength. You have the geology, you have the infrastructure, and you build on that by developing policies that will work.
Mr. Speaker, in some of the new industries that are coming at us, for instance, the new information-age industry where the intellectual ideas, the knowledge-based industries are much coveted by growth economies throughout the world, can you apply those same principles and achieve the same results? Again I say to my honourable friends that yes, you can. But the difference in those areas is that everyone believes they have the necessary advantages.
Really, Mr. Speaker, when you come down to analyze, as any investor would in those new knowledge-based industries, if you try to analyze and pick where you should locate in the world, because these are industries that have global application, there are very narrow differences between jurisdictions that make the final decision. It is not as clear-cut as setting the environment right for something like resource extraction mining industry and have that industry respond because you have the mineral potential in your province.
For instance, I humbly submit that the State of North Dakota could do exactly as we have done in trying to incent a mining industry. It would not happen there because they do not have the natural geology that we do, but they do have an atmosphere like we do to attract knowledge-based industries--the call centres, the information-based sensitive industries--and therein lies a significant challenge to jurisdictions to be able to attract that investment, those jobs, those industries.
This is where investors look for consistency. Investors look for a government that does not abruptly change policies. It looks for jurisdictions that have stability in their outlook and that are willing to change with the times, and that is what we have done, Mr. Speaker.
Now, in trying to provide some caution to my honourable friend the Liberal Leader (Mr. Edwards), in this area the New Democrats do not have much to offer because we know the New Democrats do not have a vision for the future. They are sort of stuck in the past. They are unable to come to grips with some of the fundamentals of what makes an economy grow. New Democrats believe that a province of 1 million Manitobans, that we can develop wealth by each doing each other's laundry, and we do not have to export, I mean, we can do things for each other. We are very much an exporting province. Our whole wealth of our citizens depends on that.
That is why the Conservative Party has always supported agreements which expand trade. The New Democrats have not done that. Liberals in opposition do not support them, but in government sign them. Witness NAFTA, with the federal Liberals in opposition being opposed to NAFTA and then immediately signing it when they came into government.
The advice I would like to offer to my honourable friend the Liberal Leader is that you know it is more and more becoming apparent that he really does not have a set of policies and beliefs and objectives that he would bring to the province of Manitoba.
The Liberal Leader has voted against every single budget that has tried to create an economic framework and an incentive situation in the province of Manitoba wherein we can have investment. My honourable friend the Liberal Leader has voted against every budget which has tried to constrain spending.
Yet, when the federal Liberals are in power, who is the first one to rally behind the federal Liberals and say that we need to have fiscal conservatism too, we need to close Air Command in Winnipeg, that we need to close the air training base at Portage la Prairie? Who is the Leader in Manitoba of the Liberal Party who stands up and says, we need Mr. Axworthy's social reform because there is a fiscal agenda here? It is the newfound federal fiscal conservative, the Leader of the Liberal Party.
Yet, every initiative that this province, this government has put in place over six and a half years, he has voted against, he has argued against and his entire amendments to this throne speech have called upon this government to spend more. So in opposition in Manitoba, he is a spending Liberal; in spending, he is a fiscal conservative. It is going to be interesting to see how this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario will go on.
I want to offer to my honourable friend the Liberal Leader that he runs around this province--he did it again today in Question Period, the lotteries issue. If you listen to the Liberal Leader, he is against lotteries. He is against the harm they cause. Yet at the convention of UMM his lead promise to the UMM was to give them a full 25 percent of the revenues, unaccounted for, spending those profits from lotteries that he is so against. I want to have the Liberal Leader clearly and unequivocally state the case as to what areas of lotteries he will curtail should he ever be Premier of the province, because that is what he is talking about.
Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? He is just likely to follow the member for Inkster's (Mr. Lamoureux) campaign promise of opening more casinos if he was ever in government, not less.
Mr. Speaker, you know my honourable friend the Liberal Leader cannot have it both ways. He cannot be a fiscal conservative supporting the federal Liberals and yet have a shopping list that already in this short session is equivalent to $312 million of additional spending. That is what the Liberal Leader has already promised in this session. The fiscal conservative supporting the federal budget, Paul Martin et al, that Liberal Leader is urging us to spend $312 million more, and the dollar figure is climbing.
Mr. Speaker, my honourable friend the Liberal Leader cannot also decry every lack of jobs in his narrow perception and then call job creation efforts in rural Manitoba small, small potatoes. [interjection] Did not want to close on this issue.
This is a very, very Liberal issue. This is a typical federal Liberal issue. My honourable friend the Liberal Leader, because he has only to protect a nice narrow little urban base--he has already given up on seats in rural and northern Manitoba--is very definitive in his support of gun registration, unequivocal and ambivalent.
I note the New Democrats are not standing up and making the same strong case, because New Democrats have MLAs from rural and northern Manitoba. They have aboriginal members whose guns provide food. They know that there needs to be balance in this gun registration.
What we have said consistently in this whole debate around gun registration is that registration of guns will not stop the violence. Contrary to what was said in Question Period yesterday, this new gun registration will not stop the importation of illegal guns, not a bit. That is what one of the Liberal members said the other day.
Do you know what has happened in the province of Quebec since the federal Liberals lowered tobacco tax and took away that smuggling enterprise? Do you know what is now being smuggled into Quebec by the carload? Uzis and restricted weapons, automatic weapons, assault rifles. That is now the smuggling commodity of choice. My honourable friend the member for The Maples (Mr. Kowalski) says this law of Mr. Rock will stop that. How naive.
Mr. Speaker, I know that this issue is one in which it is politically correct to be in favour of registration of all guns. I recognize that. But I humbly submit that, as I stand here today, this registration, which will be imposed on us by the federal Liberals, will not stop the violence. Meanwhile, the federal Liberals will have an opportunity to toughen the penalties on crimes of violence, on 89 percent of the crimes in Manitoba committed by other than weapons, but they will not do it, Sir, because this is legislation which is politically correct but ineffective in solving the problem.
To those who asked the simple question about what it will hurt, Mr. Speaker, I want to deal with that question. What it will hurt is that this system will cost millions and millions of dollars. The range of estimates are from $200 million to $1 billion per year. That money used by the federal government to hire police officers on the beat will do more to stop criminal activity than this registration of rifles and shotguns. But will they spend that money on police? No, Sir, because they have frozen the salaries of the RCMP, this Liberal government in Ottawa, and they are not committed to dealing with the fundamentals of crime.
Sir, I can understand why the Liberal Leader wants to be politically correct. He hopes it will get him by. But, Sir, that is typical of Liberals who have given us the Young Offenders Act, which everyone says is not effective, and with metric which has cost millions and has not done a thing for this country. Mr. Speaker, I regretfully acknowledge that yet another Liberal policy which is politically correct, expensive and ineffective will be passed by the federal government. Thank you.
Ms. Rosann Wowchuk (Swan River): Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to make a few comments on the throne speech. Before I begin that, I welcome you back to being Speaker, and I also would like to recognize our Pages who are joining us and hope that they have a good term while they are here.
When we were called back to this session, although we had thought the government was going to call an election this fall, we were pleased that the government finally made up their minds that since they were not going to call an election they would come back to the House and get on with the business. We were anxious for the government to bring forward a throne speech to put forward their plans of what they had for Manitobans. Unfortunately, the throne speech that we have received from this government is quite a disappointment. Many Manitobans were hoping for action on a number of fronts on outstanding issues, but we have not seen very much in here.
In fact, it is a repeat of false accomplishments, a lack of initiative, and actually looks like a very tired government, especially since they have had to copy pages out of their throne speech. They cannot come up with new ideas. They are just copying ideas from an old throne speech. Certainly they have run out of vision, and I think that it is time that we go to the polls and we let the people decide what is happening. We will certainly look forward to that, Mr. Speaker.
There are a few areas that I would like to address in this throne speech as they relate to my constituency and the critic's area that I have the responsibility for. I would like to begin with talking about the Canadian Wheat Board, and I would like to congratulate those people who have been elected to the advisory board for the Canadian Wheat Board. Surely the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Enns) will recognize that the farmers have spoken.
The farmers have spoken very clearly that they want the Wheat Board to be retained. [interjection] Now the member across the way says, only 40 percent have spoken. Well, I know that there are elections when only 40 percent of the people may turn out to vote. Is that an invalid election? The producers have voted at a higher percentage and particularly in the area of the southwest part of the province where the member for Arthur-Virden (Mr. Downey) is from. I believe that voter turnout was--the voting was close to 50 percent, 49 percent. A record turnout.
They certainly sent a clear message that they did not agree with the position of Mr. McGuire who wanted to see a dual-marketing system, have clearly indicated and put in a very good person, a person I think with a lot of credibility, Mr. Bill Nicholson who has long supported the Canadian Wheat Board. I know that he will do an excellent job as I know Mr. Wilf Harder will, too.
So I want to congratulate all members but particularly the two members from Manitoba who were elected. I wish them well. The Minister of Agriculture federally is talking about studying the Wheat Board further. I think that we have to give this advisory board that has been elected the opportunity to do their work. The people have made a recommendation and let them do their job.
The other area that is of concern to producers, and one that has been a subject, a lot of debate, is the whole debate on the transportation payment. You know, that debate was always clear. We knew where the Conservatives were. The Conservatives have always said that they wanted the payment to go to the producer. We have always said that we want the payment to go to the railway. That was a clear position.
Unfortunately, we have a federal Liberal government that has now taken that debate away from all of us. They have decided that they are going to pay-the-producer, but at the same time they are reducing tremendously the amount of money that is going to be paid. I think that there is a lot of work to be done on this since it has been decided by the federal government that they are going to go to pay-the-producer. We have to ensure--and I hope that this government will lobby very hard with the federal government to ensure that that pool of money does not disappear as it is under the federal Liberals right now. We have to fight very hard to ensure that it is there. I am hoping that this government and this Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Enns) will take a lead role in ensuring that a pool of money, if it is not to be paid to producers, that there is a pool there, that it does not disappear quickly because the increase in freight rates will be devastating to grain producers.
(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)
The changing to pay-the-producer is going to have a devastating effect on another area of Manitoba and that is the Port of Churchill. It is hard to imagine how the Port of Churchill will survive with the changes that are being proposed. We know that it will be very difficult to keep that line open. That port is very important to the grain producers in western Canada, but it is also very important to the people of the North, that railway line. We should be looking at developing ways of using that port.
Just as my colleague from Transcona raised earlier in Question Period today, we have to develop that port. Tourism has to be developed.
We have heard a lot of lip service from the Conservatives over the past six years about what they are going to do with the Port of Churchill, a lot of photo opportunities but nothing has happened. The port has lost more money under this government than it has--the number of ships has decreased. Under the NDP there were 17 ships that came into that port in one year. Under the Conservatives the following year, one ship. That is not a real commitment. Now this government tries to pretend that they are committed to the North--[interjection] The minister talks about whether the provincial government has responsibility. If I remember correctly, the provincial government played a very big role in the agreement that was signed between the prairie provinces and the federal government to ensure that the Port of Churchill survived. This government has failed on the Port of Churchill. There is no commitment to northern Manitoba.
Mr. Acting Speaker, the other area that I would like to talk about is the hog industry. The hog producers in this province are very concerned with the direction that this government is considering going, considering going to a dual marketing system when there has been absolutely no analysis done on the impacts of those changes onto the small producers. There has been no analysis. This is a very major change to be made and the minister has commissioned a group of people, I must say, a group of people who have always been more favourable to dual marketing, have been opposed to the single desk selling. At least part of that committee is much in favour of moving to a dual system.
I believe it is a very biased report. I believe there should have been much more consideration and consultation with the hog marketing board, the elected representatives of the hog producers. The hog marketing board was consulted very little, so I would hope that now that the minister has heard the recommendations and heard the views of hog producers that he will cast aside that report and reconsider what he is doing and look at the vision statement that Manitoba Pork has put forward and look at some of those recommendations and move very carefully. Our industry can grow. The hog industry should grow in Manitoba, but it has to grow at a reasonable pace as the markets demand not because the government said on paper that it should grow double by the year 2000. No other industry grows that way and neither should the hog industry, Mr. Acting Speaker.
I would encourage the minister to seriously consider those recommendations and those comments. I know that he is listening to the hog producers and I hope he will reject this report and do a much more thorough analysis of how the industry should grow and what the impacts will be.
Having large operators, vertically integrated operations is not the answer for Manitobans. The small operations have been successful, and we should continue to support those rather than moving towards the vertical integration that is the wish of the feed producers. We do not need that here in Manitoba, Mr. Acting Speaker.
The agriculture industry is a very important industry and it has to grow, but we have to do much more in research. In looking at some statistics that were around, we have fallen behind, not only in Manitoba but across Canada. There has to be much more research, and we have to look at value-added jobs. How do we get the product that we produce here on the Prairies to a secondary stage where we can get more jobs from it? We have much more work to do in that area.
It does not necessarily have to be big. There is a food processing association in Saskatchewan and there are simple products that they are packaging now--jams, sausages, and if you can imagine, even borscht. They are packaging it and selling it. Coming from my background, I think that is a real tribute to the Ukrainian people. That is just an example of things that can be processed. We do have the flat spread. There are things that are happening here on a small scale. We have to do much more of that. Just as in the hog industry, bigger is not better necessarily. It is the small industry that we have to support, and we have to look at more ways to support those small businesses so that we get the value-added jobs. We have to have the supports there for those industries to grow.
Mr. Acting Speaker, the other area of concern to the people in the agricultural industry, of course, is the whole issue of safety nets. I believe that there is much more. We are at a time when there are some serious decisions that have to be made in the safety net industry. We have heard what is happening in other provinces. I understand that the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Enns) is attending a meeting later this month, and we look forward to hearing Manitoba's position on particular programs like NISA and the whole income support program.
The one concern I have when we talk about the whole income support program is how are the small farmers going to--now, I am not talking about small in size so much as the young farmers. As the minister is well aware when people are just getting started in the business there is very little cash flow. They are making most of their investment back into the business. Now how are we going to address the small producers who have very low incomes to be able to access the funds that are available to large operations, people who are more well established?
Those are very important issues to the producers out there. We have to look at being sure that we have the other programs in place. We cannot put all our focus on the whole income safety net. The crop insurance programs and other programs have to be in place for when difficult situations arise.
Mr. Acting Speaker, as I look at the other areas, there are a couple of other areas that I would like to address as they relate to my constituency as well. I guess I want to say, I talk about all of these issues that are related to the agriculture industry and I am disappointed that there is not more emphasis on agriculture in this throne speech. It is a very important industry in our province, and I would wish that there would be more emphasis on it and more commitment to that industry. I worry about that because when we see the cuts that we have seen in the agriculture budget and we hear about the threats of the budget that are being threatened by the federal government, then when we hear the cuts that the federal government is proposing it will be a difficult time.
If our industry is to grow, one of our base industries is to grow, we have to have the funds there. The government has to--not necessarily in support payments because hopefully farmers will be able to do well and not have to count on support. That is always our wish, that they could get a fair return for the product that they are growing, but we have to have funds in place for research and development of markets. There are markets that we have to tap into. There is a whole Asian market, the Philippine market, places that we have to tap into, look at what products they need. We can grow the products here. We can produce them here, but we have to have the supports for the farmers as far as research and development of these products.
Mr. Acting Speaker, the other area that I want to talk about--I want to say with respect to agriculture, I look forward to the discussion on the set aside program. There is a statement in the throne speech where the government is proposing to have some plan to set aside land, and I wait for that legislation with interest, because certainly there is lots of land that is now being cultivated that should not be cultivated, and we should be looking at setting that land aside so that it can go back to its natural state or other ways of using it so that farmers are not trying to grow crops on land that has just too high a cost of production on it. So I look forward to seeing that legislation and what the government is proposing there.
With respect to education, Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to tell this House that in my constituency I have met with school trustees, I have met with teachers and I have met with parents, people who are very concerned with the plans of government to remove physical education in the Grade 11 level from being a compulsory course and even more concerned with the intention of taking Canadian history as a compulsory subject out of the curriculum.
This is a very serious concern and the Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) has heard about this many times. I would hope that he would take those concerns to heart and reconsider that decision because certainly that is not what the people want to see. I think it is very important at this time in our history when our country is facing such difficulties that we do teach our children as much as we can about this country and help our young people have pride in our history. That is a responsibility that we have, to ensure they have the opportunity to get a good education and to learn about the history of our country.
The other area that I want to touch on is the area of fishermen. We hear the difficulties that fishermen are facing. We hear comments about how difficult it is. One of the reasons the fishermen are facing such difficulty is because of the actions of this government and of the federal government.
Removing the freight subsidy assistance has put a tremendous hardship on fishermen, a tremendous hardship on them and that is one of the main reasons that fishermen are facing the difficulties that they are. They cannot afford to ship their products to market, but this government will not listen to that recommendation.
I want to speak specifically about the fishermen on Lake Winnipegosis who have been facing many struggles, and they have raised with this government many times and I have raised on their behalf the concern that they have with the low stocks in Lake Winnipegosis, the Fairford Dam and other issues that are causing them concern, but this government is not addressing those concerns.
They say they make a commitment to put stock into Lake Winnipegosis but the numbers are not very high. Yet they are prepared to give grants to the sport fishing enhancement program for sport fishing. Now they have given several grants to that one. I know there is one grant of $3,000, another grant of $5,000--these are for sport fishing--[interjection]. Yes, they are in the Swan River constituency. But they are not addressing the concern of fishermen who are trying to make a living. They are not addressing the concern of comanagement of resources.
This government will put money into the fish enhancement program to bring stocks in for sport fishing but will not address the concerns of people who are trying to make a living on Lake Winnipegosis. They will not work with the aboriginal people who have asked for comanagement of resources for years now. We get lip service on comanagement of resources in the Duck Mountains, whether it be fish, whether it be forestry, whether it be wildlife, but there is no action. They give us the answer that we have the Elk Management Board. That is not the answer.
There are many, many more issues that have to be addressed, but this government is ignoring the real issues of co-management. They are ignoring the needs of the people who are trying to make a living, but they are playing a bit of politics and giving money to the fish enhancement group. That is exactly what it is, because they can get more mileage out of that money than they can out of the people who are trying to make a living. That is a sad day when people play politics with people's lives like that. It is a sad day when they will not address the concerns of people who are trying to live.
This is a sign of a tired government that has no plan, and I believe that the plan we have put forward is much better than what we are hearing from anyone in this government, our alternate throne speech and particularly our plan on putting children first. Our future is in our children, and our children have suffered because cuts have been made by this government.
When I look at some of the examples, the cuts to the rural dental program, that has hurt children in rural Manitoba. That has hurt children in northern Manitoba, the speech therapist program and many others. We believe that by working with the people, by working with people in the health care system, by working with people in the education system, by bringing health care back into the schools, by bringing nurses back into the schools, we can give teachers the time to teach which they are supposed to be doing, and through another channel we can work with children. We can have a healthy children's program and save thousands of dollars in the long run by helping our young children grow up in a healthier state.
I think that we have put some very good plans forward as far as dealing with health care. We have other plans. I think our plan that has been put forward is much more sound than the plan that has been put forward by this government in this throne speech which has the signs of a government that is very tired.
The one other issue that I want to touch on is the whole issue of video lottery terminals, of gambling and the impact of that whole matter on rural Manitoba, on all of Manitoba. It is an area of great change in Manitoba over the past few years. The government has moved from raising $55 million when we were in government to well over $200 million. They have introduced video lottery terminals at a higher rate than any other province in Canada per capita. We have 5,500 video lottery terminals in Manitoba, but we have not done an analysis of what this is doing.
Studies that have been done by the Minister of Health's department indicate that children in rural Manitoba are suffering because of the impact of video lottery terminals.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to tell you that in my constituency I have visited a few communities where people who have grocery stores tell me that they are not selling as many groceries as they were. I have been in communities where there is a secondhand store and people have brought in furniture during the middle of the month because they have not got enough money. The money has all gone into those machines.
We have to look at what is happening with the whole aspect of gambling, with the whole aspect of video lottery terminals, and put in place the resources to help those young people. The resources have to be there. We have the Addictions Foundation, but that is not accessible to our young children. We have to review what is happening with all of this gambling, and we have to make the Lotteries Foundation far more accountable than it is.
Mr. Acting Speaker, there are many, many other issues, but due to the limitation of time that we have here, and we want to give the opportunity to all of our colleagues to get some comments on the record, I will end.
I just want to add one note in here. We have had lots of discussion on the PMU industry in Manitoba, and I want to say that I was disappointed with the article that I saw in the paper the other day, from a London paper, condemning the industry which is very important to our province. I want to let the member know--the member for Brandon is listening, and it is an industry that is affecting his community as well. I want to say that I have written to the London Times and asked them to look more carefully at their facts, because certainly the facts that they have put into this article are not accurate. I would hope that people from England, if they are so interested in our industry, would come to Canada and look at it and get their facts straight. There are many important industries and this is one of them that is important to our province and we have to be sure that the facts are accurate, that the people who are criticizing this industry are factual in their information. We are making an attempt to get the accurate information to them.
So, Mr. Acting Speaker, with those few comments I thank you for your time. I will close. Thank you.
Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage la Prairie): Mr. Acting Speaker, I am pleased to make some comments, put some comments on the record in regard to the Speech from the Throne on this, the Sixth Session of the Thirty-fifth Legislature of our province.
Please pass on my welcome back to the Speaker. I look forward to participating in the sincere and fruitful discussions that we have, a continuation of those discussions which we have had thus far in the days ahead.
I want to welcome back all members. I want to acknowledge those members who have made the difficult decision not to seek re-election. I wish the member for Dauphin (Mr. Plohman) good luck in his future endeavours.
I also want to say, concerning the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Ducharme), that I have enjoyed very much the time that we have had together in my brief time here, and I thank him for his eight years of service to the people of Manitoba and to his constituents. I believe that he has demonstrated fairness and openness in the conduct of his responsibilties at all times. Our discussions have been enjoyable and enlightening regarding the Manitoba Developmental Centre, which is a major concern to me, of course, being located in Portage la Prairie, or proper grip on the golf club or release of the curling stone, whatever it might be. I wish him good luck and good health in the future.
With regret I learned of the decision of the member for Turtle Mountain (Mr. Rose) not to seek re-election. This member has brought a wealth of life experience and common sense and business acumen to this House as well as genuine compassion. I have been the beneficiary of his sage advice at times and also borne the brunt of his insightful wit and sarcasm more than most. I will miss the advice. Turtle Mountain has been well served by this gentleman, not just in his role as a member of this Legislature, but prior to that time. I know that they will be served by his contributions after his departure. I wish him the best of luck and good health, and his wife the best of luck as well in dealing with his increased presence.
Now to the throne speech. There is no doubt that jobs and the economy lead the list of concerns. Certainly in Portage la Prairie there is a growing understanding among my constituents, and I believe all Manitobans, that governments are far less effective creators of jobs than small private businesses are. What government promises to give, government can also take away. There is an adage that any government strong enough to give you everything you want has also got to be strong enough to take away from you everything that you have. This was never more clearly illustrated than during the catastrophic NDP spending spree of the 1980s. The interventionist experiment that the NDP conducted did not create any long-term employment at all, but what it did do was leave a legacy, a legacy of creativity.
I must admit that the NDP governments of the 1980s were truly creative in one sense, and in one sense only: they were creative taxers, very creative. They raised taxes 16 separate times in their brief, brief but very, very hard term of goverment--hard for the people of Manitoba. During their years general purpose direct debt rose from an '81 level of $1.4 billion in Manitoba, tripled to over $5.2 billion by 1988. Public debt costs went from 4 percent of the budget to 11 percent of our provincial budget. That took carrying costs of $375 million per year away from the genuine, needy, compassionate purposes that we would all like to see them put to. This is a party that talks compassion, but mismanagement is among the truly least compassionate traits. Mismanagement is what this province had in the 1980s term of office of the New Democratic Party.
The legacy of this failure of socialist intervention, this tax-and-spend approach to governing is what we have inherited as a government and as a province. This inability to manage money effectively is a tragic characteristic of governments in all provinces, of all political stripes, generally speaking, over the past three decades.
It has never been more clearly illustrated to me--
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please.
Point of Order
Ms. Becky Barrett (Wellington): Mr. Acting Speaker, I would like to ask if the member for Portage would be willing to entertain a question from myself.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please. The honourable member did not have a point of order.
Mr. Pallister: I would invite the member to ask questions following my talk. I am sure she will have many, and I would be happy to answer them if I can.
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Mr. Pallister: The lack of common-sense money management among members opposite is truly astonishing. The lack of business acumen has been noted by the former premier, Howard Pawley, and it is an incredible lack of business acumen and common sense. There is no question. But it was never more clearly illustrated that this lack of understanding in money management is not in the sole possession of the New Democratic Party but also inhabited by the Liberal Party when in the discussion around what to do with the $180 million so-called bonus windfall equalization payment, which we now find, of course, is a trifle $36 million and not $180, the comments from the member for St. James, the Leader for the second opposition party (Mr. Edwards), were very revealing in this regard. He suggested that we should spend half. In forever seeking the middle ground, half. Not a third or two-thirds, no, half, a magic solution. Let us spend half.
Now, we have a provincial debt at approximately $14 billion, depending on how you calculate it. So I would like you to indulge me in a little illustration here. As a financial consultant, let us suppose that in your role you had a client come to you with a cheque for $100,000 and say to you, what advice would you give me? What should I do? Now assuming this person had the same kinds of goals for their financial future that you and I have, financial security, independence and so on, what would you advise them to do? Well, you would not advise them, of course. You would say, let me learn more about your situation. Now, if your client was in the same situation as our province they would have personal debt of $1.4 million. What kind of moron would advise that person to spend half of their $100,000?
It would be ridiculous, insane advice. Yet that is the kind of advice coming forward from the Leader of the second opposition party (Mr. Edwards). Ludicrous and exactly the type of inadequate counsel that that party represents to me on behalf of the management of the Canadian taxpayer's money. It is precisely this kind of advice that has led our nation into a quagmire of debt, that puts us second only to Italy in terms of our degree of indebtedness in the western world. It is this kind of advice that makes it very clear to me that the best interests of our province are not well served, certainly, by the counsel of the Liberal Party.
I take great pleasure in hearing of this government's commitment to balanced budget legislation. It is something I have promoted for a number of years, and it is something I believe a significant majority of Manitobans do support. Although for the past quarter of a century governments have not been managing money in this manner, it is appropriate, I believe, that governments look to the good management that is provided for money by many families in our province, by many small businesses that recognize they cannot continue to spend more than they bring in.
The Fraser Institute was misquoted by a Frances Russell in a recent Free Press article in which she falsely editorialized that they did not support the idea of balanced budgets being effective, and I would welcome if the members opposite are interested, I could provide them with a copy of the correspondence, and they could review it and form their own opinions. I invite the honest interest in this genuinely nonpartisan issue, because it is an important issue and should not be lost in the fragmented approach I have heard thus far in this House.
Governments must manage money in a sustainable manner. We all talk about sustainability, and it would be wise for members to consider the sustainable nature of money management as well as the sustainable nature of environmental aspects of our province. The degree of indebtedness in this nation and this province is frightening to thinking people, and it is important for us to recognize the legacy of debt we were handed as a government and the fact that we have come through a recession, which is second only to the Great Depression and has put considerable challenges onto governments of all political stripes, in every province and nationally, tremendous responsibilities to manage in a sustainable way while bearing in mind that massive cutbacks are not the answer. So this government has done a tremendous job of balancing that approach and balancing that understanding.
The reason for balanced budget legislation is to make sure that we do not return to the incredible mismanagement of governments such as the member opposite for Wellington (Ms. Barrett) was part of. Members opposite are fond of comparing our province to others when it suits their purposes. They would do wise to put our province's record in terms of the management of the taxpayer's money up against any other province in this nation. They would find that this province has been exceptionally well managed in difficult times. The problem with balanced budget legislation in other jurisdictions as I have reviewed it is that it does not ensure that there is an all-inclusive approach to the money that the governments deal with, and it does not put into place teeth or penalties of any sufficient nature to encourage following the acts themselves.
An Honourable Member: Let us see your bill.
Mr. Pallister: I would be happy to share that with the member from Transcona (Mr. Reid).
The ongoing deficit tactic has only become an accepted approach in governments of the last quarter century. I believe as we age, and we all will, that when we look back on this last quarter century we will look back with some embarrassment and we will look back at a period that stands above other periods of a century prior in this province as a period of excessiveness across this country and in all provinces, as I said, of all political parties.
There are reasons why we need a balanced budget act. We have a system that is flawed. Our system is flawed in favour of spending because benefits are concentrated in the hands of a few when money is spent, but the costs are disbursed among a large number of people. We have a system that is flawed in another respect in that the benefits of spending are in the short term, both to the politicians who spend and to the people who benefit from the spending, whereas the costs are long term; they are delayed. We all know in our own households how difficult it is to put off buying things, making purchases in the short term, even though we recognize that we have long-term obligations that we must allocate some resources to. So we recognize it in our own homes when we manage money, and we balance budgets in our own homes.
Governments, on the other hand, have had the ability to defer dead obligations for an indefinite period. But that problem is mounting, and the problems are affecting all of us in the form of higher inflation, higher future unemployment, higher interest rates. These problems are coming to bear, and they should not be borne by future generations that are young people who have not had the right to vote when these debts were incurred. So I think it is a problem of a moral nature, and I think it should be addressed in that way.
We have options, we have choices in this province. We can blame the system; we can blame one another, as I have heard abundant examples of that certainly in this House; or we can do something about it. I would invite members to try to do the latter. I look forward to contributing the best of my ability in the discussion. I look forward to trying to work positively towards addressing this important issue, and I invite other members to do that.
We have the opportunity to create an environment in this province that is very conducive to job creation and economic growth, and I believe that we have done that as a government more effectively than most. We in Manitoba have the opportunity through balanced budget legislation to create a jurisdiction which is even more hospitable and more welcome. An even better tax environment will ensue. As other jurisdictions in Canada and in the United States proceed along these lines, as they will, we should be addressing this problem now, aggressively, not later, in response to those other jurisdictions. Our ability to see continued progress and continued job creation depends on our willingness to make the adjustments now, not later.
Now, certainly one of the things I think that would help in our province, and probably nationally, to increase involvement and interest in the political process is for political parties to have--as they do in other jurisdictions--symbols. I think it would bring people into the political realm a little bit more and open it to them, make it less intimidating to them.
Mr. Doug Martindale (Burrows): What would your symbol be?
Mr. Pallister: The member for Burrows asked me what our symbol would be. Well, I do not know. I would welcome his suggestions. I would encourage them. I have some suggestions that have been brought forward to me for the Liberal Party. I would like to bring them forward to you and share them with you, just to provoke debate--not to provoke debate but discussion.
In our focus groups one of the suggestions that came forward as a symbol for the Liberal Party was Jell-O, and I thought, that sounds good: virtually transparent, no substance to it whatsoever, and it can take virtually any shape, any shape at all. The problem is, with Jell-O, where we lose the relevancy is that once Jell-O takes a shape, it is hard to take another shape, and that is not like Liberals.
Now what about a weather vane? A weather vane was brought up, and I thought that makes sense. It shows you a direction, but then it changes, you know, anywhere around 180 degrees, 360 degrees, all over the compass. But the problem with the weather vane is, weather vanes are generally on top of things, and so that would not work.
I would like to bring forward my suggestion. I suggest, often lamented but unjustifiably, the chameleon. Now, the chameleon moves extremely slowly, and anyone who has watched the implementation of red book promises would say, pretty valid. GST reform, there is another one. The chameleon changes colour, and Liberals change positions. Good similarity. Oh, the chameleon changes colour not in response to its surrounding flora but rather in response to fright or reaction to its environment. Same with the Liberals. Now, this allows Liberals, for example, the former member for River Heights, to take a position violently and aggressively against patronage appointments and then inhabit the Senate just a year later. Wonderful. This allows the present member for St. James (Mr. Edwards) to go to Sprague, a fine little community, and spout off about the need for less government and come back to Winnipeg and say that we need more--let us turn it right around.
Chameleons have another Liberal characteristic, they rarely, rarely fight with one another. This is a good characteristic. This is what allowed David Iftody to go to his constituents and say that he agrees, he is against entrenching in anti-hate legislation homosexuality and then go to Ottawa and say, well, it is okay because the other chameleons need me to get along with them, so I will vote differently now. This allows a cancer researcher to go to Ottawa and say nothing about lowering cigarette taxes. This is the type of thing that I think makes chameleons a very good symbol for the Liberal Party. Finally, and mercifully, chameleons when they are threatened by a rival puff themselves up to look larger than they really are to try to block their opponent or rival away. Anyone who has watched the member for St. James (Mr. Edwards) in this House would, I think, agree this is a very legitimate comparison. I invite members to come up with their own suggestions and symbols, but that is just sharing with you what our focus group came up with in Portage.
Portage la Prairie, Mr. Acting Speaker, has made an incredible economic turnaround in the last three years, and I want to publicly recognize and praise the members of my community and my constituency for their role, their major role, their steady aggressive pursuit of economic betterment in our area. I think most members are already aware of the fact that we lost two of our most significant employers in a very short period of time, just three and a half, four years ago, and we have responded well. I have worked with various people in our community, as I know all members do try to do, in a co-operative way to encourage economic development, economic growth activities, to have us pulling in the same direction as a team, co-operatively, and I think that is awfully important.
I want to praise our City Council who recently drafted an economic development framework. I am delighted to work with them on that initiative. It is a framework for development that draws on our strengths as a community, Agri-Food, value-added processing, transportation, tourism. I am pleased to see that these correspond rather well to the framework for economic growth of our province, and I look forward to the support of my provincial colleagues in helping certainly to restore Portage la Prairie and increase Portage la Prairie's growth as a key part of our rural Manitoba economy and as a key community in rural Manitoba.
One of the key things that has helped our community is the continuing support of the Rural Development department and a number of the initiatives. Certainly apart from that, decentralization was a very good thing for rural Manitoba communities, and I support that initiative and continue to.
The developments in terms of Grow Bonds, on a province-wide level, have been very, very impressive--a total investment of over $18 million, 400 new jobs created. In fact, in Portage we have two Grow Bonds up and running, and I am hopeful we will get more off the ground. The REDI program has generated over 745 new full-time jobs and another 2,100 part-time jobs. REDI funded projects total over $14.4 million and that has triggered over $159 million of capital investment in rural Manitoba.
I want to congratulate the people of rural Manitoba who have become involved in these initiatives and in other initiatives of their own without government support, but I think it is very important to recognize that these entrepreneurs who brought these ideas forward are the people we are depending on to create jobs and economic growth in rural Manitoba. Their dreams, their capabilities are what has created these tremendous success stories that we are now seeing in rural Manitoba.
I also am very pleased, we have had in our area at least a tremendous year on the farm, a record year. One of my good friends, an old farmer for 50 years in the area, I asked him how his year was and he said it should be illegal. So that is a good indication that it was a pretty nice year. It was a good year overall, but I must admit I was disheartened, although not surprised, to hear the Leader of the Second Opposition (Mr. Edwards) refer to the things that we have done in rural Manitoba, the initiatives that this government has been part of, to refer to them, as has been referred to on a couple of occasions, at least in this Chamber, as small potatoes.
I was disappointed. I was very disappointed because I know that the people who worked so diligently on these projects, who get them up, who get them going deserve encouragement, deserve congratulations. They deserve support and they deserve credit for doing something real in terms of developing an improved economic climate in rural Manitoba. They care a great deal for rural Manitoba, as all members should care for them and their efforts. So words of encouragement, words that support the kind of people that have made a real commitment to rural Manitoba are vitally important.
I know that these people care deeply, not just for themselves, not just for their political fortunes, but for the futures of their families. They would like to see their children working and living in the communities where they were born and raised. I share that wish and that is my mission as part of my role as the member for Portage la Prairie.
I consider rural Manitoba to be a fabulous place to live, to work, to raise a family. I miss it when I am not at home, as do most rural members. I was also disappointed by the critical comments of the member for St. James (Mr. Edwards) in terms of making reference to my defending the second residence allowance for rural members. That shows an incredible lack of understanding for the fact that rural Manitoba members of all parties--I am sorry, not of the Liberal Party--but the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party make major sacrifices of separation from their families to come to this Chamber and represent their constituents.
These sacrifices are indicative of the sacrifices made by many rural Manitobans and the obstacles they face in terms of separation, in terms of time and distance. There are real differences in the situation that exists in rural Manitoba that the member for St. James (Mr. Edwards) again reveals his inability to understand. Rather than an apology we get a sneer. The people of Manitoba deserve better from all of us in this House.
The attitude of the Liberal Leader is something that I had said earlier I am not surprised to see, because it has been an attitude of Liberal politicians for a long, long time.
I quote from the former member for River Heights: You usually do not find, in reference to Grow Bonds, people in rural Manitoba with broad experience in evaluating these kinds of things. Those people tend to gravitate to the city. There are people who specialize in those kind of things, and they do not usually live in rural Manitoba.
I beg to differ. That type of Perimeter vision, that type of centralist attitude has no place in this Chamber or in this province among elected people or nonelected people. That attitude was alive and well and is alive and well among the Liberal Party in this province. It reveals a complete lack of understanding of the true capability that we have as a province.
Nothing that the successor to Mrs. Carstairs has said or done in this Chamber has indicated the slightest change in that attitude. That member does not have a clue as to how true economic development occurs. True economic development is occurring all across rural Manitoba and all across this province. It is occurring in the form of people like Audrey Trimble. Audrey Trimble ran a little catering business out of her house. A year ago she had the courage, the guts, the determination to say, I am going to set up a little business. She did. She created two jobs doing it. Hurray for Audrey Trimble. That is small potatoes.
I talked to Marie Notemogan [phonetic] yesterday. She grew up on a reserve five miles from where I grew up. I have not had the privilege of knowing her, but I had the privilege of talking to her. She is employed. She supports her seven-year-old daughter working at Assiniboine Medicine Wheel in the Portage Mall, a little business set up by Amy and Delmer Assiniboine. Good for them, good for Marie. That is small potatoes.
People like Pat Crandell who had an interest in crafts and got together with a friend, a fellow enthusiast and they set up Andy-Lynn's Crafts on Saskatchewan Avenue, a little business, two jobs--small potatoes.
People like Home Hardware, Balloon Magic, Diamond D Auto Sales and a score of others have created in Portage la Prairie since 1991, 315 new jobs--all small potatoes.
The Liberal Leader does not get it. These are family incomes provided by these jobs. It is not just the jobs. It is the people that depend on the income from the jobs. It is not just the jobs themselves. It is the momentum that new business created and a community can create and can trigger the courage that it takes for other people to put capital at risk and start other businesses. It is a momentum kind of thing that is not helped when you refer to small business as "small potatoes." It is not helped, and it shows again that there is no understanding of rural Manitoba or small business on the part of the Liberal Party.
In terms of education, this government understands the New Directions for education blueprint can only be achieved with a positive partnership. Parent Advisory Councils will give parents a greater voice in the operation of schools. I am pleased to see the guidelines for these councils have been released, and I am pleased to hear that a second parents forum has been organized. I believe that all of us will benefit if we focus on the student and we develop a partnership attitude, a partnership approach in dealing with education as opposed to an adversarial approach based on defending turf.
As a former teacher, the son of and brother of teachers in the public system, a beneficiary of professional teachers' skills and their commitment, I recognize the need to make schools as safe as possible. A productive working environment is only possible when teachers and students can work safely together. I support legislative amendments to give teachers more power to preserve order in their classroom and to give schools increased authority in addressing school violence.
We are fortunate in Portage la Prairie. We are very fortunate. More fortunate than many school divisions to have parent councils already active and established, to have people who are committed to the future of quality education, to have an administration second to none in looking for opportunities for efficiencies and, at the same time, offering the finest quality education possible for the young people of our area. We are a community that is open and adaptable. Our teachers, our parents, our school board, our administrators are all open to new ideas and will adapt to see a continuous improvement in our education system in our community.
I believe there is general support for increased attention to be paid to distance education, especially in view of the federal announcements that will place an increased burden, a financial burden, on all pursuing post-secondary education. Particularly in rural areas where significant financial obstacles are in place to make it difficult for people to pursue post-secondary education, I am very pleased to see the New Directions refer to these things.
I am also pleased to see the New Directions blueprint place increased powers in the hands of local communities in a number of areas including curriculum. I believe there is general support for more power to be in the hands of communities to decide what courses they will offer to the students in their areas.
I am also pleased to see that increased emphasis will be placed on student performance and standards by which these can be measured and the development of curriculum, which assists our efforts to have our students read, write and compute and solve problems at a high level. These are important undertakings.
I was really pleased to be part of a public-private partnership that dealt with the re-regulation of our province and tried to put together, I think, some very, very good recommendations to our government in the area of red tape reduction and paperwork reduction.
I am pleased to read yesterday of the federal government's initiatives in this area as well. I think that is laudable and deserves our praise.
The partnership involved input from various business associations as well as from government employees who work in various departments where small business is most affected by regulations.
I am pleased to see that a regulatory review committee of cabinet and other recommendations we put forward enacted by this government posthaste because I believe this is an important and pressing problem for small business. I am committed, as I know others on this side of the House are, to making Manitoba the single best jurisdiction in this country for small businesses to establish, to grow and to provide more employment opportunities for Manitobans.
In the next election Manitobans will be making a choice in their future leadership in terms of the provincial government, and they will be asked to make that decision, and I believe they will make that decision, on the basis of their understanding of the view of the future that is held by each of these political parties. When I try to determine what the Liberal vision provincially is, I am increasingly reminded of an oxymoron--that is, something that is a contradiction in terms, jumbo shrimp, plastic glass, Liberal vision--a contradiction in terms because the positions outlined by the Liberal Party are, at best, not definite. They are, at best, unclear, and they are, at worst, misleading.
Now, apart from a blind exaltation of everything done by the federal government, and apart from a belief that rural development initiatives are "small potatoes," I do not think there is much of a willingness to assume any kind of fixed position on the part of the Liberal Leader thus far. I guess the Liberal Leader is working on the assumption that there are a lot of chameleons out there, a lot of people who do not care about any principled approach to the political leadership in this province, but I believe there are.
If you want to compare what we are offering to what the Liberals are offering, you have to go to the federal government and look at their performance thus far. Federally, I have seen a number of things. I have seen a willingness to cater to special interest groups continue through a variety of mechanisms. I have seen a willingness to download on aboriginal responsibilities that have cost this province over $60 million. I have seen a federal government that is quite willing to penalize or at least float the balloon that they will penalize those who have the wisdom to save by taxing RRSPs, while we have held the line on tax increases in this province. I have seen the federal Liberal government willing to trade off Manitoba's interests particularly in the area of agriculture where massive cuts have been announced and will be made, and where caps to durum wheat exports, which will limit the ability of Manitoba farmers to achieve financial success, were acquiesced to by the federal Liberals.
What did we hear from the provincial Liberal Leader on those issues? Not a word. When we had an emergency debate in this House--well, I am sorry, I cannot refer to the absence rate of the Leader of the Liberal Party in this House. I cannot do that, but I can refer to the fact he has the highest presence rate elsewhere of any member in this Chamber. I can refer to that.
We as a provincial government, on the other hand, have encouraged and continue to encourage value-added processing through such mechanisms as the Grown Bond program, and in my area in particular I could refer to Woodstone Foods or Crocus Foods as recent developments that have sprung up as a result of the Grow Bond program. That is a credit to our government, but, more importantly, to the people in our area who are willing to put their capital, their savings at risk and the entrepreneurs who had the idea and the courage to act on it.
The federal and provincial Liberal governments appear to be very willing to be gentle and compassionate, and those are good traits, but in the area of being gentle and compassionate on young criminals while being tough and punitive on law-abiding gun owners, I am not so sure if there is a balance there.
While on a number of other commitments in the Liberal red book the federal Liberals seem unwilling to take action, we are proceeding aggressively with reforms. I expect that the Liberal Party will, based on the creativity and originality I have seen thus far from that party, run their next election campaign with a banner something like, it is time for a change. The Liberal Leader (Mr. Edwards), despite that banner, appears to be fighting desperately for the status quo in most areas.
While we introduce meaningful education reforms, the Liberal Leader says no, no, do not change there. While we introduce rural development initiatives that he calls "small potatoes," he says no, no, we better not do that. While we introduce and lobby for changes to the Young Offenders Act, he says no, do not be too hard on our young offenders. He is ambivalent at best on other initiatives such as the balanced budget proposals.
He says it is time for a change, but it is not time for a change in all the meaningful areas that government is involved in. It is time for a change, but it is not. He is right, it is not, because if you want a government that is willing to deal with change you have one now, a government that is willing to look at meaningful change, courageous change in view of fiscal realities, not with an absence of financial credibility. We have a government that is looking at those changes and making those changes in areas such as social programs, in areas such as health reform, in areas like education reform and certainly in fiscal management.
This government represents progressive, positive change and has the courage to act as is in the best interests of this province and all Manitobans, not just some.
I would like to close by thanking my constituents for the honour of serving them, for the honour of working with them. I have had the great privilege of meeting a number of people in my own area and throughout Manitoba in my just two and a half years of service, and I know that all of us agree that one of the most positive parts of our role as a member of this Chamber is that opportunity to meet so many people in this province.
I have enjoyed it and I thank my constituents for honouring me with the opportunity to serve them here. I also want to thank my wife and my daughter for their understanding and support in the time that I have served as an MLA. I know all of us would share that thankful attitude to the support of families and friends that we have as we do this task, which is certainly not one of the easiest tasks that there are.
I would also like to just close by wishing every member of this Chamber the very best in the coming holiday season, the best of happiness to the staffs and the families of the Legislative Assembly, good health and good wishes for a happy holiday season and a happy year ahead. Thank you.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Inkster): It is always a pleasure to be able to stand in my place here and to add a few words, whether it is legislation or throne speech or budget debate, whatever it might be. It is always nice to be able to have input, and it has been something that I hope to be able to continue, my constituents, of course, having to give me their permission the next go-around for the next throne speech, so I will have to wait for what they decide, whether or not this will be my final throne speech or if I will get the opportunity to give a few more speeches on throne speeches.
Over the last year it has been very productive in my area. It has provided me the opportunity to do a number of things, and one of the things that I am most proud of that has come out of my area is the Youth Justice Committee. Over the last year we have put in a lot of effort in trying to establish a Youth Justice Committee. We have got wonderful volunteers that have put in a tremendous amount of hours in time in trying to make this thing work. In fact, it has been very successful with these individuals. We are now even looking at, as the Youth Justice Committee, what we might be able to do with young offenders that are below the age of 12, and I think there are lots of wonderful opportunities that are there in the community not only for Youth Justice Committees but also other individuals to get involved in making their neighbourhoods safe.
(Mr. Speaker in the Chair)
Mr. Speaker, I look forward over the next few months to, again, put some of my efforts on this as a special project for me in hopes that we are going to be able to get that much more brought into the community in terms of making our neighbourhood safer.
As I said, the throne speech is a speech in which I especially enjoy the sense that it provides you the opportunity to be able to say whatever is on your mind. There is no such thing as relevance or being irrelevant, and the wide spectrum of debate that you get from all members of this Chamber is definitely wide and at times can be most interesting and provocative in the debates during throne speech. We have witnessed a few of those speeches thus far in the debate. I would start off, Mr. Speaker, with my own Leader who provided many different alternatives and ideas for this government on what we as a political party would, in fact, be able to do if we were given the opportunity to govern this province.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to address the issue of education, but prior to talking about education I wanted to comment a bit about some of the discussions that I have heard thus far in the throne speech debate. You know, it was interesting, the member for Wellington (Ms. Barrett) commented in terms of how a throne speech allows a political party to state in terms of what it is that they want to do for Manitoba. Government has a wonderful opportunity, a 12-, 14-, 15-page document in which they say, this is in fact what we want to be able to do. The New Democrats came forward with a document in which they stated this is what we would want to do.
Mr. Speaker, we approached this throne speech in a different manner in the sense that what we wanted to be able to do was to give this government an opportunity to actually do something in the last month of this year, especially being the Year of the Family.
I did take some exception in terms of what the member for Wellington (Ms. Barrett) tried to allude to, the fact that our press release was in fact a platform for the political party. I can assure all members of this Chamber that the Liberal Party will have a full and complete and comprehensive platform that will definitely not be outdone by any of the other two political parties. I am sure that Manitobans, when they reflect on that platform, will come through and duly elect a Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to also comment on what the member for Emerson (Mr. Penner)--the member for Emerson started off by talking about potatoes. It seems that every government member nowadays wants to start talking about potatoes. I think that these ministers and members of the government are not necessarily being straightforward with Manitobans, and I get the feeling that they are going out to rural Manitoba, as the member for Roblin-Russell (Mr. Derkach) commented with respect to a letter that he sent to a newspaper. He addressed a problem in the sense that he felt that the Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. Edwards) was saying that the Grow Bonds and REDI program were small potatoes. From that particular letter we have the mover of the throne speech picking up on that particular point and talking about small potatoes, and I believe that they have been somewhat deceptive.
The actual article reads, Mr. Speaker--because it was an interview. The Leader of the Liberal Party made reference that, and I quote: Grow Bonds and the REDI are good programs, but they are really small, small potatoes; $70 million was committed to Faneuil.
Mr. Speaker, if you listen to what the government members are saying, they are trying to imply that the Liberal Party does not support these programs. That is being dishonest. The Liberal Party and the Leader of the Liberal Party have been big supporters of these programs. We have commented and we have complimented the government on these programs in the past, but when you compare what this government is doing, such as the Faneuil, where we have seen $70 million in contracts and loans, if you will, with Faneuil, when you talk about $5.9 million or approximately $5.9 million from the Grow Bonds, it is fairly clear to see in terms of what this government's priority is. It is not small business.
When you see $70 million or however many millions of dollars being sucked out of the rural economy through VLT machines, this is not a large, significant amount of money. If you take $100 million out of the rural economy, out of one pocket and then you slip $6 million into another pocket through a particular program, that does not necessarily mean that the government is doing a good job on all sides. I would argue that for the government in some areas, such as the Grow Bonds, it has been a very successful initiative, and this government is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next little while telling Manitobans just how successful it was through TV commercials. The Liberal Party has never opposed that particular program, and I think in future speeches that members give that they have a responsibility in terms of being a bit more honest. Small business has driven the economy in the province of Manitoba, and I believe that the Leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. Edwards) has been one of the strongest advocates for small businesses throughout the province of Manitoba, whether it is in rural Manitoba or the city of Winnipeg.
Mr. Speaker, it was interesting when you read through the throne speech--and today, prior to Question Period, we had minister after minister stand up and introduce legislation. I sat in my chair waiting for either the Minister of Finance (Mr. Stefanson) or the Premier (Mr. Filmon) to stand in their places and to introduce first reading of a balanced budget. It says in the throne speech: "My government will introduce balanced budget legislation."
Mr. Speaker, I believe that this government has absolutely no intention of bringing in balanced budget legislation. If they were sincere in bringing forward balanced budget legislation, where is it? We have questioned this government about balanced budget legislation. I do not even believe they have brought it to Legislative Counsel. They have given absolutely no indication to this Chamber that in fact they have taken any action to indicate that they are sincere in bringing forward balanced budget legislation. If this is such a high priority with this government, why do they introduce Bill 2 through Bill 10 today and not one of those bills includes balanced legislation? If balanced legislation is so important to this government, why was this not Bill 2? What bill number will it be? Are you now going to wait until we come back into session, if we do come back into session prior to introducing this bill?
I believe that if this government was serious about balanced legislation, this is something that they would have acted upon years ago. After all, when this government came in office, they had a surplus. They had a $55 million surplus. You know, this is the only government that I am aware of where they actually--the former Minister of Finance is walking in. This is the only government--in 1988 they brought in a budget, they borrowed $150 million, tacked it on with the surplus, created a Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Mind you, the New Democrats supported the Fiscal Stabilization Fund. They managed to take a surplus and turn it into a deficit. They had an excellent opportunity to have a surplus budget, and their argument is, Mr. Speaker, that when they took over, the books indicated that there was a larger deficit and they brought it down. A number of the members that have stood up have talked about that the New Democrats in fact had a deficit situation.
It is not that difficult to improve where the NDP were in previous years, and I would argue that the Minister of Finance and the government of the day at that time had a responsibility to bring in that surplus budget because they had the opportunity to do just that. So how sincere can they be about having a balanced budget when they know full well that we are going to have an election this year, and they are never going to have to materialize on it? They do not even have to materialize on a balanced budget. But I know the agenda of this Tory government. They are going to introduce a budget, if in fact we make it that far, and that budget is going to have no personal income tax increase, and they might even attempt to get a balanced budget. [interjection] Again, as members from the government shout or say.
Well, Mr. Speaker, that is somewhat fictitious. We have had numerous increases in different levels of taxation, everything from the property tax, which is one of the most regressive forms of taxation, and what has this government done about it--
Point of Order
Hon. Clayton Manness (Minister of Education and Training): Mr. Speaker, I think the member would want to choose his words very carefully and also be aware of the fact, if he is not already, that had we used the New Brunswick Liberal way of accounting, we would have had surpluses not in one year, we would have had surpluses four years out of seven.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. I am not sure if the minister rose on a point of order. But whether or not he did, there is no point here.
* * *
Mr. Lamoureux: . . . integrity to bring in a balanced budget piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker. This is a government that is trying to bring in balanced legislation when it knows that it will not be in government, in all likelihood, in order to implement a balanced-budget legislation. There is a good chance that Manitobans are going have to rely on a Liberal administration to ensure that if there is going to be chance of a balanced budget, it is going have to be a Liberal government, because this particular government has the distinction of being the government that has had the highest deficit in the province of Manitoba. They have done nothing.
Mr. Speaker, in dealing with the budget, I believe that this government, if it wants to redeem itself, what it will do is over the next few days have the integrity, talk to the Premier. Members of the Conservative Party and all that caucus should sit down and in their caucus meetings--
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Point of Order
Mr. Manness: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I was always led to believe that we are all honourable members and we all brought integrity to this House. What the member has suggested is that there is no integrity in some members in this House.
Mr. Lamoureux: On the same point of order, Mr. Speaker, if any individual inside the Chamber took offence to that particular remark, I would be most pleased to apologize for it.
Mr. Speaker: That settles the point of order.
* * *
Mr. Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, I believe the No. 1 item on the next caucus agenda--and let us hope it is before Tuesday, because if it is not, we are going to be out of here and I think this is what the government wants. Let us hope that there will be a caucus meeting and the first thing on that agenda should be the question of legislation for a balanced budget. Let us see it come before the House. Not only should we have it for the first reading, but why not--and I am indicating to you as the House leader for the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party will ensure that we will do nothing to prevent it from going past second reading so that it can, in fact, go into committee.
If this government is sincere in its ideas on a balanced budget, why does it not take the Liberal Party's challenge, bring in the legislation, have it for second reading? We will stay here until it is done second reading. Then, between now and when the federal budget comes down, whenever this government decides we are going to come back, at least we have the opportunity in committee to have Manitobans come before the committee to express their concerns. Then, Mr. Speaker, I would argue that this government might be a bit more sincere when they talk about a balanced budget. Unfortunately, we do not have too much time, because this government has indicated thus far that as soon as this vote is over, come Tuesday, we are going to be recessed until February. I find that is most unfortunate, that we have a wonderful opportunity.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, I believe that there is more substantive legislation that is before us now than we had all of last session. If you compare the legislation that was introduced this morning to the legislation that was introduced for the last session, I believe that there is more substance, especially if the government brings in that balanced budget piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to talk about education. It has really been an education for myself over the last year-plus to go around and talk to so many individuals, whether they are parents, teachers, students, school trustees, all of the different stakeholders in education, to seek and get input in terms of the direction the province is going with education, in particular, public education. I have found, as I say, that there are so many people--I am not aware of anyone that does not have an idea on what they would like to see in education, and I applaud the efforts of so many individuals that have attempted to get their message out in terms of what they believe is necessary for education. I find what this government has done--and I could talk about the process in which the current Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) entered into when they first started to talk really about education reform and it was interesting. The only time we really had the open door or perceived open door policy of education reform was not until this particular minister announced that there was going to be a cut in public education. Once we received that, that cut, then the minister started to talk about a blueprint that we want to change, that there is no real correlation in terms of a cut and a deterioration of quality of education.
The blueprint itself does have some good things in it. It does have some positive things in it. I will grant the Minister of Education that, but I want to point out what I believe is the fundamental flaw of the blueprint. That is, if you read through it you will find that it is a document that does not necessarily address the issues of individuals with learning disabilities, special needs. This is a document that is going to have students falling through the cracks. That in itself--and I believe that the Manitoba Teachers Society has also pointed that out. This is not something in which just teachers are pointing it out, this is something in which I believe it is all the stakeholders, at least that I have talked to.
It is interesting, in the legislation that the minister brought in today, once again he reinforces that particular argument. He brought in legislation that says we want to get those bad kids out of school. That is what he said. We are going to let them suspend. If they are misbehaving, we are going to suspend them.
Does the Minister of Education talk about what are those children going to be doing once they have been suspended? No. [interjection] Their parents? The Minister of Education says the parents are going to have to deal with them. The Minister of Education has got to get out into the community and start talking to some of the teachers, to start talking to some of the community leaders and the parents. That is not the answer. What the Minister of Education has to do is he has to come up with alternatives for when you suspend a child--[interjection] The Minister of Education has to be patient and I will give you a good example.
What you have to do is you have to provide alternatives. You have to provide alternatives. [interjection] The Minister of Education says a new system. Let us talk about a current system. Look at the Marymound Centre. Is the Minister of Education familiar with Marymound? He does not nod his head. I am assuming that he is familiar with Marymound.
An Honourable Member: I was there in September.
Mr. Lamoureux: The minister was there in September. I believe I was there in September, too. Unfortunately, we did not cross paths. Anyway, take a look at the funding formula for this particular institution and ask yourself, is there not something that the government can do to ensure that those spaces are in fact available, that we are not having really a volunteer-based board-- there might be some remunerations, I am not 100 percent on that--which is working very hard to try to manage and to educate some of the very same children that the Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) does not want in our public schools?
They are trying to do something for these students, and they are trying to get co-operation from the government. What is the government doing to address that, Mr. Speaker? I did not hear anything in terms of addressing that particular problem. Why does the Minister of Education not talk about issues of that nature? That is a wonderful alternative. This is something in which, if these kids were not able to go to Marymound, chances are they would be out on the streets doing who knows what. [interjection] The minister says I am upset because I have not dealt with 3 percent. He asked for an example; I just gave him one example.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I hope that someday we will get the opportunity to address the 100 percent as a government, but at least the Liberal Party is looking at not just the enforcement of discipline in our schools, we are looking at what are the alternatives for these children? That is a lot more than what this Minister of Education is doing. I would hope and I would expect leadership coming from the Department of Education. We have not seen that. We have not seen that in six and a half years. We have not seen leadership from this government dealing with education. That is with all three ministers.
There are a lot of issues that are out there. Everyone that I talk to is concerned about the curriculum. The Minister of Education knows that they are concerned about the curriculum. Somehow I do not know how he could have come down with his compulsory, what he believes--and that is what I believe. This is not what the Department of Education believes is compulsory core subjects. I believe that this is what this Minister of Education wants. I do not even know if he has the Premier's support on excluding physical education in Grade 11 as being compulsory. I would even say, Mr. Speaker, that Grade 12 physical education should be compulsory.
Did the Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) talk to the Minister of Health (Mr. McCrae) about the health reform and how importantly they talked about physical education? Maybe the words "physical education" were not used, but they talked about, in health care reform, the importance, Mr. Speaker, of health education and physical fitness.
I believe that this Minister of Education should admit that he has made a mistake on physical education. I believe that the Minister of Education should also admit that he made a mistake on Grade 11 History. Today we hear the Minister of Education on the Grade 11 History saying that Canadian history is taught in earlier years. Yes, the Minister of Education is correct; it is taught in Grade 6, from what I understand.
If the Minister of Education was listening to what, again, the stakeholders were saying, he would have understood that Grade 6 is just not good enough. If you sit down and talk to Grade 6 students and compare the Grade 6 students to the Grade 11 students, the Minister of Education, I believe, would likely understand why he again has made another fundamental mistake dealing with the core curriculum. [interjection]
The Minister of Education says, defending the status quo. It has nothing to do with defending the status quo because curriculum is something that is ongoing; there are changes that should be happening all the time, modifications, and so forth. But this government, this minister do not believe in that either, because we have seen constant cuts in the department.
(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)
I would argue that if we compared the size of the curriculum department six months ago or eight months ago to the department of curriculum with Winnipeg School Division No. 1, Winnipeg School Division No. 1 might have more people working on the curriculum than the Department of Education. This government has cut and cut, and they said, well, that lies the problem. [interjection] The minister is saying, Mr. Acting Speaker, that is the problem, that Winnipeg No. 1 has too many curriculum consultants.
Mr. Acting Speaker, the real problem is that this incompetent government has not addressed the issues of curriculum and school divisions and, fortunately, we have at least one school division that is prepared to ensure that the curriculum issues are in fact being addressed. How wrong can you be? If you had the resources, you would not have the school divisions necessarily having to rely and to spend those resources which are primarily financed through property tax, which is a real good idea according to this particular government, because the minister--[interjection]
Well, that is a crock. We have a provincial levy and a school board levy, and it is narrowing. Well, the Minister of Education wants further clarification.
Let me give the Minister of Education a further clarification on financing. On financing in 1983, Mr. Acting Speaker, and in fairness to this government, both the New Democratic government and this government have been underestimating the importance of education, and they have demonstrated that in terms of the way in which they have been funding education. In 1983-1984, 81.9 percent of financing of education was with the province compared--I want to make sure I have this correct--operating budget 54.3 percent from the province, provincial levy was 27.6 percent and the school board levy was 18.2 percent.
Compare that to 1993 and 1994. We have had a drop in general revenue contribution, down to 51.4 percent. We have had an increase in the property tax reliance on funding education, from the province, 18.1, to the school board, 30.5.
The really interesting statistic here is the fact that in 1983, 18.2 percent of the funding to education came from the school board levy. Today, that is 30.5 percent.
The Minister of Education (Mr. Manness), who is formerly the Minister of Finance, I would like to hear him stand up with a straight face and tell me that that means that education is being better served when the financing of education has been going in that direction. We have seen a further and further reliance on property tax--
Point of Order
Mr. Manness: On a point of order, the member challenged me to stand up with a straight face and either support his view of finance or not. Let me say to the member whereas in the past we put $100 million additional into education, this government, over the last six budgets, we put more money into education since we--
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please. The honourable minister did not have a point of order.
* * *
Mr. Lamoureux: Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to make it very clear for the Minister of Education. There has been a further reliance on property tax in financing education.
Does the Minister of Education--and he can answer it at another point in time so he can actually study and make sure that he is politically correct, or he can stand up on a point of order and answer again. Does the Minister of Education believe that it is in the students' best interests to continue to have a further reliance on property tax to finance education? Is that really in the students' best interests?
This is something that I hope the Minister of Education will address when he responds to the throne speech, but I am told that I only have 10 more minutes, and I do have a number of different issues that I want to--I should feel that I should either get a portion of the Minister of Education's time or a fraction of it, Mr. Acting Speaker.
A big issue with this government, right from its original election of April 26, 1988, was the school division boundaries. Throne speech after throne speech, this is a government that has said, we are going to look at the school division boundaries, and we are going to act.
You know, the member for Portage la Prairie (Mr. Pallister) was talking about action, and he was saying, the federal Liberals are not acting on their commitments. They have been in for one year. This government has been in for six and a half years and for at least three throne speeches have talked about bringing in a boundary redistribution and they have yet, to date, done that.
They have a commission. Why is the commission now presenting--coincidentally it is going to be, in all likelihood, after we have adjourned, unless of course we see the balanced budget legislation which would be wonderful, but I will not hold my breath.
If this government was serious about trying to address the school boundaries issue, it would have done what it promised in 1988, six and a half years ago. Now, once again, we are heading into another provincial election, and we see the government is in fact saying strong words that we want to see this redistribution. The truth be known, Mr. Acting Speaker, again they have failed in that area.
Teachers' special forum, wonderful. The minister has come forward with a blueprint. The minister is coming up with guidelines for parent councils and all sorts of things. Now he can consult with the grassroots teacher.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I believe that the teachers of Manitoba will see through that. If it is any indication through discussions I have had with teachers, I think they are very disappointed.
Hopefully what the Minister of Education will start off by saying is that ideas that come from the teachers will have an impact on what this government is doing. The best place to start off is once I sit down the Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) stand up and say that physical education, for example, is going to be brought back into the core curriculum, because if he talks with the teachers that is what the teachers are going to tell him. That is what the parents are going to tell him. [interjection]
Yes, to the former Minister of Education, if you read the document, it has been taken out of the core curriculum. [interjection] S3 and S4 are not in the core curriculum from this government. S3 and S4, you tell me if that is incorrect.
An Honourable Member: Can you tell me if it is still in one to eight?
Mr. Lamoureux: Sure it is. I did not say one to eight. The Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) has to listen. The Minister of Education and the former member know what it is that I am talking about. At least I would hope they know what I am talking about. If they do not know what I am talking about, Mr. Acting Speaker, then they are in a lot more trouble than I originally thought they were in.
I did not want to leave without commenting in terms of some of the federal issues. The government picks and chooses the issues, and so do the New Democrats. We see the loft of the issues coming across virtually on a daily basis. We understand why. It is like two peas in a pod. It is like we were a minority government, both New Democrats and Conservatives holding hands, kind of like a solidarity forever type thing in order to--a marriage of convenience. Let us not let the Liberals get too popular after all, so let us see what we can do to bring them down.
Mr. Acting Speaker, we have had a number of different federal issues. One is gun regulation. When it comes to something of some substance in which we are trying to get the government on record, this is an issue that they do not want to deal with, primarily because this government does not have a position. They do not know what their position is. We have a minister who maybe should not be the Minister of Justice going around saying, well, weapons have to be expanded; we have to start regulating or registering ashtrays and telephones and so forth.
Yes, Mr. Acting Speaker, we acknowledge that these are used in many domestic assaults, but let us get back onto the issue of gun registration. This minister stood in her place on several occasions, on six separate occasions, and was asked specifically, does this government support gun registration--and 18 times-plus in the hall--and this minister refuses to answer a fairly simple question. Yet, she like to just go around the province saying, we are going to fight youth. We are going to make sure that the youth crime is going down. Well, that has not been happening in the province of Manitoba.
This government has been doing a lot of talking. You want to do something about youth crime, why do you not start fighting the causes of youth crime? You are not going to fight the causes of youth crime by just suspending children out of schools, like the Minister of Education (Mr. Manness).
When the Minister of Education introduced his bills, I am wondering what thoughts the Attorney General had on those particular bills. Did she ask the Minister of Education, what are you going to do with these kids that are going to be suspended? Likely not, but she is going to go around the province saying, we are getting tough on crime. We, after all, have taken away their colour TVs and so forth.
Mr. Acting Speaker, there is no doubt that if this government wants to tackle crime, and I am not saying--and then they say, well, gee, I am getting--[interjection] Am I soft on crime? No, I am not soft on crime at all. I am saying to you if you want to really tackle the problem of crime, get tough with the causes of crime, then you will be able to do a lot more than establishing the boot camps, and it does not mean that I oppose boot camps.
This government takes an issue and they try to say, well, what can we say on this issue in order to make us popular. If this government was serious, if it was serious on youth crime in the different neighbourhoods, if it was serious about balanced budgets, if it was serious about the number of problems that are facing Manitoba today, it would sit down and it would be consulting with individuals, the stakeholders. It would be taking action, not something that just might have a chance of propping it up 1 or 2 percentage points in the polls. It would be taking concrete action to resolve some of the problems that we have today.
Minister after minister--and there are the odd exceptions. I thought the Minister of Energy and Mines (Mr. Orchard) in his speech with respect to Energy and Mines and some of the things the government has been doing, there have been a lot of positive things no doubt in that area, but time after time--[interjection]
The Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) says, we voted against the budget, so we voted against everything that this government did. I voted against the budget and there is a darn good chance I will vote against any budget the Conservatives bring forward because I believe that there is a better way to govern the province of Manitoba.
I believe, Mr. Acting Speaker, that the Liberal Party has better priorities than this government. If I did not believe that, if I believed that every priority that this government brought was my priority, then why am I sitting here? My job as a member of this opposition is to provide constructive criticism to this government. Over the last six and a half years, I have done just that. I have brought up numerous ideas.
As an opposition party, I have argued that this is in fact the real opposition party, because over the last six and a half years, you have seen idea after idea coming from this particular opposition party. Whether we are in opposition or we are in government, the Liberal Party will address the issues that are in fact before us. We are not going to introduce fluff for throne speeches. We are not going to promise you a balanced budget when we know that we would never have to materialize on it.
On that note, Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to see this government get some courage, and before we are out on Tuesday have the internal fortitude to bring forward, let us debate a balanced budget, whatever number it might be, whether it is 100 or Bill 11. Let us see you bring it forward before this Legislature. Let us see it go to Manitobans during the month of January. If you are sincere about a balanced budget, do just that. Bring it to the Chamber.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that this government will do that. That is sad, because I think if Manitobans want to have some input on this issue, I want to be able to say some things. I know the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Liberal Party has many thoughts about a balanced budget and in fact we made reference to balanced budgets in previous speeches. I was here when the Leader of the Liberal Party made a commitment, and I encourage the government to--
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laurendeau): Order, please. I regret to interrupt the honourable member for Inkster, but his time has expired.
Hon. Albert Driedger (Minister of Natural Resources): Mr. Acting Speaker, this will sound pretty melodramatic after the performance that we just heard from the member for Inkster. This place changes people over a period of time and I can recall the member when he was a little more humble and less aggressive, but it is always exciting to listen to some speakers anyway.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to say that in the normal tradition I want to pay my compliments to Mr. Speaker, who seems to be in quite a congenial mood these days in spite of the challenges that he has already been facing with dealing with small potatoes and big potatoes in this House. But he has always had a very casual attitude towards these things and managed to do things right without aggravating anybody whether it is opposition or government people.
I want to take the opportunity as is tradition to compliment the mover and the seconder on their contribution. I can recall when I had the privilege of doing that as well, and it is a tradition that is an important tradition in this House, that you want to make some impact in terms of supporting the position that the government has put forward.
I also want to take the opportunity to welcome the new Pages who in their early days of being exposed to a session must be sometimes going home wondering what this is all about. Each year we have a new group, and I sometimes wonder at the end of a session, if they could write some memoirs, what they would really write by the time they have gone through a full session, what their impression is of how the Legislature operates.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I was thinking about the comments that I would make related to the throne speech and did not have that great enthusiasm really in terms of getting into debate initially and was thinking back over the period of times when I spoke to throne speeches, and I had more occasions to speak in support of a throne speech than against a throne speech--from '77 to '81 and then from '88 on.
But, Mr. Acting Speaker, my enthusiasm developed for getting into the debate when I heard some of my colleagues speaking and was thinking back to some of the great speeches that have taken place in this Legislature over the years. One of the great speakers who always keeps everybody's attention and has a lot of wisdom to it is the dean of the Legislature, the member for Lakeside (Mr. Enns), who over the period of years, if anybody would ever want to read all the comments he has made, maybe not all of them but a lot of them, he has made some dramatic contributions here.
There were other people like Sid Green. Probably many of you must remember Sid Green who always could make a fiery speech in this House. Another member was Sterling Lyon during his days when he was in the House, a tremendous speaker, and he was very effective. That is not belittling any of the other comments or speeches that get made, but I am just saying there are some that draw more attention and draw more fire from time to time.
My colleague the Minister of Energy and Mines (Mr. Orchard) has a knack all his own. I was not here for his total comments yesterday, but on my monitor I had sort of set a deadline. It would take so and so long, and then things would get pretty rowdy in here, and I was right. Certain people draw that kind of enthusiasm and response here. I noticed that our fiery speaker just ahead of me was trying to create that kind of euphoria and enthusiasm here by bating the Minister of Education (Mr. Manness). We have many contributions here in this building.
The question that I basically raise is, we enjoy this, we know what it is all about, but how much does the public really become aware of what is going on in here, and how effective is this debate that we sometimes keep?
An Honourable Member: They are listening to our every word.
Mr. Driedger: Well, I will tell you something. There is not much coverage in the media in terms of the contributions that get made other than the Question Period and after that sometimes it is melodramatic to some degree.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to talk a little bit about credibility. As I mentioned before, somehow this Legislature here changes people to some degree and it changes their attitude. When we talk of credibility, politicians do not have necessarily a high rate of credibility with the general public. If you really want to look at it, you wonder why, because we are all on the verge of going to an election to the public again. As we go around knocking on doors and talking to people, the credibility factor will surface for all of us from time to time. I just wondered, is it in here that makes the difference, because I always had the opinion that initially when I got elected, very excited to participate in here all the time, and I thought that all my constituents should know what I am doing here and they should all be excited.
To my chagrin I find out that most of them did not even know when we were sitting. Some of them thought I was in Ottawa, and I have said this before.
Then I found out that this action in here really is not what gets you elected or gives you credibility. It is a matter of what you do with your constituents and how you deal with them and whether you can develop a credibility factor.
What I am coming to, Mr. Acting Speaker, is that in here something changes, because I can recall that the--I forget which riding Sharon Carstairs represented--River Heights. When she was in here, she was going to bring a new approach to this building. She as a single member, I think, at that time lectured everybody in this building saying that the way we conducted ourselves, the way things were said and things that were done were terrible, continually lecturing us in terms of the political appointments that were made, you know, patronage, this was a terrible thing. That is why I say, I wonder what impact this has, because the moment the opportunity comes, never mind apologies and saying I have changed my mind, bang, away we go and we grab it. It is different. What a difference a day makes.
The same thing when we talk of credibility. As we are getting down to an election, I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Doer), the Leader of the Second Opposition (Mr. Edwards) both make their remarks. Somehow we have a tendency to distort fact and we can take and give a different twist to things.
An Honourable Member: Like the potato argument.
Mr. Driedger: Well, the potato argument, but I would like to talk about the Leader of the Opposition who talks about the surplus fund they left us at that time and that they had no deficit.
I can recall being in this House, it was in March of '88 when the NDP government of the day brought in a budget and at that time a 300-and-some-odd-million-dollar deficit, and their own member, Jim Walding at that time, because of what he thought was a deceitful budget, voted against his own government, brought down the Pawley government, because of a deficit, not because it was a surplus, and he had warned his own colleagues prior to that, if you bring in a deficit during a time when the economy was buoyant, if you bring in a deficit, I will not be supportive of it possibly. They paid the price. He voted against it.
(Mr. Bob Rose, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)
Here we have the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Doer) blandly standing up and saying, we left a big surplus. That begs then the credibility of members of this House.
We can all change and play games with it. Even the previous speaker, the member for Inkster (Mr. Lamoureux), goes on with his tirade and changes things as well. Mr. Acting Speaker, everybody changes a little bit here, myself included. I do not want to exempt myself from that. Even the member for Burrows (Mr. Martindale)--[interjection] Thank you.
Even the member for Burrows, who is just walking in, has already changed his attitude a little bit. Where he used to be very strongly principled, there is a little slippage taking place now because he is getting more into the political arena, as that has changed all of us. It has changed him too, because all of a sudden for him it is important that he get re-elected, as it is with many of us here. Then you start shifting a little bit in terms of what happens.
Mr. Acting Speaker, governments do not get voted in. Governments get voted out. We have seen examples of that. In 1981 the Sterling Lyon government got voted out because some of the changes that were implemented under that administration were basically premature in terms of the things that had to be done, and ultimately--[interjection] Yes, I will get to that as well.
Howard Pawley got voted out, and then the other parties, based on the kind of platforms that they had, ultimately got voted in.
Look at the federal level. There was not a thing that could have happened after the people had made up their minds to vote out Mulroney and the Conservative government even if they changed Leaders. A good example, because when people finally have had it with a government, they will throw them out and vote for somebody else.
That brings me to the point that the people of Manitoba, after six and a half years, are not unhappy with the Conservative government. Both Leaders desperately have been trying to look for an issue that they can try and focus some dissatisfaction on the government. They are desperately looking for that. That is why knowing that we have been fiscally responsible in six and a half years, that we have not raised taxes, makes them very nervous.
The Leader of the Liberal Party is yelling from his seat and very agitated about balanced budget legislation because he feels that could somehow--and if that happens. I expect it will happen, and somebody will have to eat his words. When that happens, it is going to be a credibility factor again, and the government will have to produce to that extent and other governments maybe, too. It makes them very nervous.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Doer) from the NDP, he keeps talking about the surplus they left. He is trying to attack the financial credibility of this party. It is very hard to do. The public out there basically make up their mind well in advance. They know what they want from a government. We can have the various interest groups and we have the various political parties, but there is a general trend in terms of whether they have a comfort level with a government or not. They did not have it with the federal government with the Conservatives. They have not had that with other governments.
Right now the thing that I want to raise a little bit is remember the federal Liberals got voted in because of the unpopularity of the Conservatives and the red book. Why I raise the red book is because as parties develop their strategy of going into the next election, I anticipate that the Liberal Party, feeling that this red book concept worked well for the federal Liberals, that they will develop something along the same lines. I will tell you something, the credibility of the federal Liberals has already started slipping because most of the things that were important in the red book are already falling by the wayside, doing away with the GST.
Questions were raised by the opposition today about Churchill. Almost all these commitments that have been made are starting to soften and take a back seat in many cases. So I want to caution all members, not that I want to lecture to anybody because I will be as political and active as can be when we get on the campaign trail, but it still comes down to a matter of having some credibility with your constituents. You cannot talk out both sides of your mouth all the time. Somewhere along the line you have to take the responsibility for the comments you make. Because many statements are made without having that kind of integrity, that is why possibly politicians are not viewed with the greatest respect at times.
I am the first to say, Mr. Acting Speaker, that by far the biggest majority of people who get elected come to this Legislature with the best intentions of doing the best for their constituents. I am cautioning everybody though that from time to time a little slippage takes place because we think that in this building is where everything takes place and you have to establish the credibility within your own constituency. If you do that, that is why you have people like the member for Lakeside (Mr. Enns) who has been here 27 years. Can you imagine how many debates he has been involved in? It is a matter of credibility, and I think we should all strive to attain that kind of credibility in terms of the general public so they have more confidence in terms of what happens.
Having said that, Mr. Acting Speaker, I want to just make some comments and these would be personal comments related to gun legislation. I am an avid hunter and fisherman. I have some concerns about the legislation that the federal government is bringing forward in terms of registering of guns. It is not the principle of having to register the guns that bothers me as much as the fact that there is an implication in there that by registering guns that it will have an impact on crime.
I have great difficulty with that because as a rural member, one that was raised on the farm, I learned to live with guns at an early age. We used to shoot gophers and rabbits. This was part of our life. In fact, my first income as a youngster was catching and shooting gophers and getting a cent a tail--they paid bounty at that time--or 10 cents a rabbit when we could sell them to the fox farm. So I learned to live with guns. Even at this present time I love to hunt. I have guns right now.
(Mr. Speaker in the Chair)
What bothers me is that the federal minister is playing politics to some degree by saying that if we register guns we will start controlling crime. That is the thing that bothers me most because that is not true. That is not true because by registering my guns, would that avert anybody from committing a crime with a gun? The majority of the crimes are committed by people who have crime in mind, and in most cases it will be guns that are not registered--[interjection] How are you going to address it? An individual who has crime on his mind, whether he has a gun registered or not, is going to use a gun if it is a gun that he wants to use, or whatever else by whatever means.
The people that are basically responsible gun owners, whether they are collectors, whether they are hunters, feel offended by the fact of this kind of impression that is given that if you have a gun you are one of the likely ones to commit a crime. That is where the concept has some difficulty.
I think that the federal minister would be well advised instead of moving in that direction to look at deterrents. I believe that the deterrents--at least as I was raised, if you did something wrong, you had to be punished and you paid the price by whatever means. I can go as far as to say that when I misbehaved in school and I got a licking in school, I got one at home as well, no questions asked. I mean it was automatic. The teacher was right and you deserved it. Those were deterrents.
Deterrents work. Let me tell you why I believe that. We passed the amendments to The Wildlife Act just this last session and we proclaimed it October 1. In the legislation or the amendments to The Wildlife Act we raised the fine substantially, including confiscation. I remember the debate that took place here and I was criticized severely for doing that, but let me tell you, since we brought that legislation in, our poaching and night hunting has just gone straight zip down, because people, if there is a strong enough deterrent as there is with the high fines, losing their property or equipment, there is a deterrent and it is working.
So why would the federal minister then not look at deterrents other than using a broad brush politically in terms of addressing the crime issue. Everybody is concerned about crime, but I have some strong exceptions to the way that our criminals are being dealt with nowadays; when convicted, to get suspended sentences, to get light sentences, to be on parole after a little while. These are not deterrents for those people that want to commit crimes. I think we have to be tougher with that issue. We all talk of being tougher. What happens? Register your guns, you know. That is being tough? No. I have some great difficulty with that.
(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)
Anyway, I just wanted to make reference to the fact that The Wildlife Act, the high penalties, the strong deterrents do work and should be applied on other issues of this nature.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I just want to make some reference to issues within my department. I have to say that it has been a little over a year since I have had the privilege of being the Minister of Natural Resources. It is a very nice department, and it is a department that touches virtually every person in one way or another. So it is a very user friendly, it is a PR-oriented type of department. It has to do with fisheries, sport fishing, commercial. It has to do with wildlife, whether you raise it, whether you--whatever means. It has to do with forestry. It has to do with parks. It has to do with water. These are things that affect everybody somewhere along the line even if you live in the city.
I have inherited a very good cross-section of staff, which basically under my predecessor, the member for Lakeside (Mr. Enns)--you know, the department went through some pretty tough decisions for a while, but we have very good people in there. I am very proud to work with them, and I have enjoyed the period of time that I have had to work with Natural Resources.
I do not want to touch on all the issues that are basically facing us there, but one that has been more contentious has been the forestry issue. The fact that Louisiana Pacific is trying to establish within the province to deal with strand board and the hardwoods issue, a lot of concern has been expressed especially by the environmental groups as to, you know, does the government know what they are doing? Do we have enough wood? I just want to say at this time that a lot of time and effort has been taken in terms of making sure that we have the kind of resources, hardwood, available, and that the allowable cut is such that it will not jeopardize the sustainable continuing development or use of a resource. We will be taking and corresponding in a very short time with the people in the Swan Valley, the affected stakeholders, to try to establish more of a comfort level with them, outlining a plan of action as the next stages of the environmental process move forward.
It has been challenging because as times change--for example, hardwoods four or five years ago were considered almost like a weed. They were sprayed. Nobody really harvested them. The price of wood has gone up to the point where now all of a sudden there is a lot of interest in it and a lot of people trying to get into the business as well. I think it is positive. But it just goes to show how circumstances can change from time to time. I know that it is not only for the mountain region, that even my colleague sitting right beside me here, the member for Emerson (Mr. Penner), has concerns in his riding in terms of wood supply available. I want to assure him that we will also be having a plan that we will be submitting in terms of trying to address the needs as they have shifted, you know, for the people in his area.
Hon. Harry Enns (Minister of Agriculture): Private wood lot farming.
Mr. Driedger: Thank you, Harry. The wood lot farming aspect of it--we just had a presentation the other day. It is a very positive program that has just basically kicked off in the last two years. The agreement with the federal government, who was a participant in that up to this point, has basically given us the indication that they will not participate any further in terms of these kind of agreements.
So these are things that somewhere along the line I want to caution the Manitoba Liberals. When you think that you are riding on the popularity of the federal Liberal Party at this time, be very careful because what goes around comes around. Many of these agreements that the federal Liberal Party is now terminating and not renewing and cutting back dramatically will come back to haunt you, and you will choke on it.
I can say this with a certain amount of confidence, because what happened when the Mulroney government was in power and we were here provincially, we were not always that confident that the federal government was going to be supportive of our position. Here we have the provincial Liberals on the bandwagon, being cootchie-coo, and they will have to change that position. They will have to change that. I can tell you, from the experience I have had in my department, as well as my colleagues, that any arrangements with the federal government are not going well. So if you want to laud the kind of activity--[interjection] Pardon me?
An Honourable Member: Environment is going fine?
Mr. Driedger: Environment is going fine. Well, I will tell you something. In Forestry and in Fisheries it is not. [interjection] Mr. Acting Speaker, the member for Inkster (Mr. Lamoureux) says they are one phone call away. From the Premier's (Mr. Filmon) experience in the past, there never was that kind of adoration, you know, that the provincial Liberals are putting on the federal Liberals. So I just raise that as a caution, and time will tell. It will tell by the time we go into the next election how that is going to play.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I also just want to--without going through all the various areas of my department--touch on water issues. Possibly because just prior to my coming into the House here I had a meeting dealing with water issues again with one of my colleague's constituents. If you look at the history of water itself and really look at the history of it, wars have been fought because of water. We in this country and this province feel that it is a natural thing to be able to have abundant good water.
Well, I will tell you something. I have found out that there are many, many water issues in this province, sensitive ones. You have, you know, diversified views and interest groups, stakeholders that all feel that they have a role to play in this, and that is one of the challenges that I face in my department in terms of dealing with these issues. So whether we deal with the Assiniboine River Advisory Committee, which I have set up, where I am basically waiting for recommendations--I feel that approach is a sensible approach in terms of getting the stakeholders involved. When we set up the advisory committee we had participants not just all looking at it from one side. We have opponents, we have environmentalists, everybody in this so that we can get a good cross section of views. Ultimately when the recommendations come forward, we can feel confident that it has had a good proper airing.
I was talking to my staff in the last few days and saying that the way departments and the way governments do business has changed over the years, and not that many years. There is an ongoing requirement and onus on consultation, that we talk with people, that we have the input, ultimately have assistance in terms of making decisions. This is very vital. As my colleagues have done, the Minister of Education (Mr. Manness) is doing that with the education system, and the Minister of Energy and Mines (Mr. Orchard) is doing that with the stakeholders in the mining section as well as the environmentalists. So I think every department has to change their attitude in terms of how they do business with the
(Mr. Bob Rose, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)
Nowadays the general public has much more of a say in terms of getting involved in these things. Even the minutest minority groups, you know, when they have a special interest they bring it forward and get consideration. Very often they get more consideration than the bigger majority groups do. So it is a different attitude that we have to develop in terms of dealing with the people of Manitoba.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I could ramble on about the department itself and the challenges we face there. I just want to say that I enjoy the challenges. I am looking forward to after the next election continuing dealing with those challenges. I am confident that--and once again I will repeat the fact that the people of Manitoba have not expressed unhappiness with this government, and so I suspect and feel strongly that after the next election we will be back here. We will continue on and carry on in the plan that has been developed some time ago.
The only question I have is, having been here since '77 and I looked at some of the pictures that were taken at that time, there are very few people, basically, left in this Chamber that were there at that time. In fact you are one of them, and the other one is sitting over there, and the member for Lakeside (Mr. Enns), the member for Brandon East (Mr. Leonard Evans) and myself, I guess, are the only ones that are left from that era. In the meantime there have been many that have come and gone, and I expect that after the next election there will be major changes again. Maybe not on this side, but I can tell you there are going to be some on that side. So I look forward to the upcoming election and the further debates that take place in this House.
Mr. Acting Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to participate.
Mr. Eric Robinson (Rupertsland): Mr. Acting Speaker, allow me first of all to begin by acknowledging the Speaker of the House, and I am sure that you will convey my words to him in thanking him for the help that he has given me and also others in this House. This is only the second time that I am going to be speaking to this subject matter before us, the throne speech. I want to commend the Speaker of the House for upholding law and order in this House.
I would also like to maintain what I have set out for myself as an individual member of this House, and that is to show our respect to other honourable members in this House. I would like to express, first of all, Mr. Acting Speaker, my condolences to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism (Mr. Downey) on the recent loss in his family. I think that all of us have experienced the loss of a loved one, a parent, and for some of us that experience is often painful.
Most recently, I lost two brothers in a boating accident. Fortunately, my nephew, who is 12 years old, survived the ordeal and was able to utilize the skills that his father taught him over the years and was able to survive on a small island for five days without food and water. So I would like to convey to the honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism that we can take comfort in the teachings of our parents and the ones that have gone ahead of us, sometimes suddenly, the teachings that they have given us and that we carry those teachings on with us in the years to come and the struggles that lay ahead of us as individuals in this difficult road of life that we have all been given by the Creator, the Creator of all things on Earth.
As I spoke on the throne speech the last time, I talked a bit about Rupertsland. I tried to continue to raise the issues that are brought forward by the constituents of Rupertsland, the many issues that are faced by the people in Rupertsland. The Port of Churchill issue continues to be a situation that is being carefully monitored by all parties, I believe. I think certainly that we have to pay attention to the future of Churchill, and I think that from what I read and from what I hear in this House, there is good support for the ongoing life of Churchill. I want to commend the government in their throne speech in that they said: the rail line, the port and the community are vital assets to Manitoba for the West and for Canada. My ministers will not accept closure as an option, and I commend the government for saying that.
(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Acting Speaker, in the Chair)
Mr. Acting Speaker, in Rupertsland I represent roughly 28 communities. I have not been here as long as some other members, but we are trying to carry out the work that is necessary for these 28 communities in Rupertsland. As a First Nations person I was born and raised in northern Manitoba, being born in Norway House, being a band member of the Cross Lake First Nations, having grown up in Grand Rapids, Churchill and other communities in between, wherever work could be found by my father. I have come to know a lot of the struggles that the First Nations and other aboriginal people face in northern communities.
Since I was elected in September '93, I have also come to realize the everyday realities of our people that live in Rupertsland, the alcoholism, the drug abuse, the solvent abuse, the family violence that does occur in our communities without adequate resources being in place in those communities to address those problems in a very serious manner.
We also have problems with the other communities, not necessarily aboriginal communities but other communities like Gillam, where they are faced with a dilemma right now. We brought the concerns of those people to the attention of this House, to the Minister responsible for Hydro (Mr. Orchard). We are confident that we will be able to accomplish something for those people in Gillam. I am a person that is an optimist to some degree. I am a person that believes in working with other people. I think that my forefathers have demonstrated that over the years. I believe that although we may not agree on certain issues at all times, there are issues that we have to collectively address, issues that are of importance to people, often issues that are of life and death situations that we have to address immediately.
I was very proud today to be a part of the framework agreement signing on the dismantling of the Department of Indian Affairs, a ceremony that took place over at the Hotel Fort Garry. I was very proud to be a part of that first step or another step in reclaiming our right to self-government as First Nations people.
So government is not something mysterious. It is simply taking control of our lives and ending the system that has governed our people over the past 125 years. When the nonaboriginals came here during the fur trade they had no idea, and I want to be honest here, how to cope in our climate. If it was not for our forefathers that assisted the immigrants to this county in adjusting to the climate and the way of life, things would have been quite different in my opinion today.
The history of how nonaboriginals took over our lands and resources is only now beginning to be told in the schools of this province, and we had much to be proud of in terms of our culture as aboriginal people.
In our own history and despite the treatment our people had been subjected to, the strength of our people is quite evident. We have survived and now in this generation we are taking our rightful places in institutions that have for so long run our people's lives and we were never meant to be or felt to be a part of that system.
Regrettably, programs like BUNTEP and the ACCESS Program have made it easier for people in this province to get post-secondary education--I take that back. Thankfully, programs like that have given people in the post-secondary education system--and over the past three years we have had hundreds of teachers, nurses, social workers and a few doctors and lawyers graduate under these programs. I think that all members here will also recognize these names I am going to read off, people like Judge Murray Sinclair, Moses Okemow, Ken Young, Ovide Mercredi, all of whom became lawyers and are serving their people despite their own humble origins. That was because of the ACCESS Program being made available to these people.
As First Nations people, we have lived with discrimination all our lives, but we have somehow managed to survive. Increasingly, many of us have overcome discrimination to take charge of our institutions and our communities--from schools to nursing stations, to hospitals. Time and time again, First Nations people have shown that when given the same opportunity as other Manitobans we too can succeed.
Mr. Acting Speaker, back on December 15, 1921, I want to table this for the information of members of this House. I want to read a part of a circular that was distributed in Ontario by an Indian agent. One part of the letter says, "The rooms, halls or other places in which Indians congregate should be under constant inspection. They should be scrubbed, fumigated, cleansed or disinfected to prevent the dissemination of disease. The Indians should be instructed in regard to the matter of proper ventilation and the avoidance of over-crowding rooms where public assemblies are being held and proper arrangements should be made for the shelter of their horses and ponies."
Further to that, there used to be a time that as treaty Indians we required a note from the Indian agent to allow us to travel outside our reserves to communities like Winnipeg to purchase commodities and goods that may have been required, whether that was by horse team or whether it was by dog team. We used to have to have a slip signed by the Indian agent permitting a certain individual for leaving his reserve and he was going to be absent from his reserve for a specified number of days, and the business had to be indicated as to why this Indian had to be out of the reserve.
I would like to table that as well for the record. This is something that was necessary for Indians to leave their reserves, and it was issued by the Department of Indian Affairs.
The plight of the aboriginal people living in an urban environment is something that I would like to touch on briefly. Aboriginal people who live in cities like Winnipeg are unique from all other ethnic minorities. I think that has been proven time and time again. The social and economic system has no place for aboriginal people. They are upbraided for the demand of money, for special privileges and for being a tax burden to the average Canadian.
An aboriginal person is a refugee in his own homeland because he is denied any control over his life and, at the same time, conditioned to reject his aboriginal birthright. This creates a volatile situation which, when it is ruptured, ends up in the criminal justice system. The only thing bottling up a real violent spillover to the larger society is the sterile exchanges of money, for more or less.
We have long talked about an urban aboriginal strategy. Our people suffer due to the conditions they have left behind on the reserve. They find themselves in worse situations when they move to urban environments like Winnipeg. They have not achieved full and equitable self-sufficiency. They have become disillusioned and are treated like third-class citizens.
I do not have to tell anybody here. Just take a drive around Winnipeg for yourself. There is widespread poverty plagued by suicides, alcohol, solvent abuse, prostitution and other socioeconomic problems right here in our own backyard.
First Nations people represent only 10 percent of Manitoba's population, yet the jails are filled with more than 60 percent of our people. It is not a good feeling to see 11 and 12-year-old children selling their bodies to support their habits of chemical dependency.
Unemployment is chronic among the 70,000 aboriginal people who reside in Winnipeg, and only 10 percent of this population work at permanent jobs. We need an urban aboriginal strategy.
Mr. Acting Speaker, the Premier (Mr. Filmon) in his commitment to address urban aboriginal issues in August 1990 said, quote: This government will address the plight of the urban aboriginal people as a top social and economic priority. We shall review the effectiveness of current housing programs including transition homes for victims of family violence. Social problems is also a major concern. We will examine existing employment and training programs and improve on them where we can. Greater employment opportunities is a major priority.
(Mr. Speaker in the Chair)
A strategy is needed to deal with these vital issues with input from aboriginal leadership, municipal leaders and the federal government. We want to see a greater input of the federal Aboriginal Economic Development program for urban aboriginals and from other federal programs for the disadvantaged. A co-operative and a practical approach shall be required by the province, city and federal programs to tackle the serious urban aboriginal problems--end of quote.
That was spoken by the Premier (Mr. Filmon) in August of 1990. There was a series of meetings that occurred, Mr. Speaker, between 1988 and 1990 with the various urban aboriginal groups in the city of Winnipeg. I commend the then Minister responsible for Native Affairs for carrying out those meetings, those consultation meetings, as they were called, in developing an urban aboriginal strategy. Unfortunately, nothing developed from there, and still today in 1994, six years later, we are still without an urban aboriginal strategy. Again, I want to table a draft of a Memorandum of Understanding on an Indian and Metis urban strategy for Manitoba that was developed by this province and circulated but never acted upon.
More and more of our people are moving into urban environments, Mr. Speaker. I want to quote some stats by Stats Canada in their 1991 report on Canada's off-reserve aboriginal population for the Secretary of State reported in December '91 in the Globe and Mail. It says that more than three out of four aboriginal persons live outside reserves, and there are more than one million aboriginal people in Canada. The unemployment rate of aboriginal people outside reserves is double the Canadian rate and up to 80 percent in the winter months in many communities. Thirty-five percent of the aboriginal population outside reserves over 15 years of age have some post-secondary education compared to 43 percent of the Canadian population. Labour force participation of aboriginal people is nearly the same as the Canadian population, 65 percent compared to 67 percent, respectively. The average income for aboriginal men living off reserve was $14,300 compared to $23,200. Aboriginal women earned an average of $9,000 compared with $12,900 for nonaboriginal women. The urban Indian population doubled in the 1980s. Nearly two out of five aboriginal persons in the labour force are working full time compared to three in five in the Canadian population.
These stats are from Statistics Canada, Mr. Speaker, and I think that it should provide an understanding of the actual situation that aboriginal people face on a regular basis who are resident in the city of Winnipeg.
Regrettably, as well, we have seen cuts, we have experienced cuts, First Nations and other aboriginal communities. The northern economic development agreement with the federal government and the provincial government expired in 1989. There has been no new or renewal of the agreement. Last year it was cut 11 percent. The ACCESS programs were cut $2 million, 20 percent this year; enrollment in ACCESS is down from 928 to 714.
The Youth Justice Committees: for example, St. Theresa Point's, I understand, is running into problems right now.
Something that I really feel is important that we have to come to grips with, Mr. Speaker, something I believe that we should be addressing in a serious manner here, that is, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry. I know members opposite will probably disagree, but literally nothing has been implemented in dealing with the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry nor with working with aboriginal organizations that have a direct interest in the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.
I would like to say as well, Mr. Speaker, that the federal minister, now of Human Resources, back in 1991, August 31, was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press as saying: The federal government must be prepared to make substantial changes to the Indian Act, the Criminal Code and even the Constitution, if that is what it takes to implement the report. Of course, we are talking about the AJI here.
Mr. Axworthy then went on to say: Immediately we should call a meeting of national native leaders to discuss its implications. This is not just a Manitoba report but a blueprint for national change.
Mr. Axworthy further said in 1991 that the Liberals will not stand by and allow the Manitoba and federal governments to ignore, put off acting on this major report. Three or four more years to address these problems, he said, and the Manitoba commission has suggested something to be in the works within six months. I would suggest the Liberal Party wants to see progress on this issue by September 16.
That is very interesting. That was 1991, Mr. Speaker.
The commissioners of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry recommended that the Aboriginal Justice Commission be established. The commission's primary responsibility, as was recommended by the commissioners, was to monitor the degree to which governments are proceeding toward the implementation of the recommendations in this report and to assist where needed and requested and to report publicly on the progress of its implementation. I do not think that is unfair.
As well, I want to agree with this government's throne speech when they say: "The federal government has unilaterally discontinued its longstanding financial responsibility for social assistance and child and family services for Status Indians living off-reserve. This action alone has cost Manitoba taxpayers to pay an additional $60 million for services which were previously paid for by the federal government. Manitoba is unique in having the highest proportion of aboriginal population of any province"--further to what I said earlier. "Federal offloading in Manitoba therefore has more serious implications. My government is seeking to have its special circumstances recognized in the social security reform. My ministers are committed to continuing to work with the aboriginal leadership to redress this grievance."
I would strongly urge this government to do that. There are organizations like the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to deal with this issue, the Manitoba Metis Federation, the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Council of First Nations.
There are organizations to begin dealing in a serious way. Simply what aboriginal people want I believe is a little respect in dealing with these critical issues that face us. I do not think aboriginal people like being on the welfare rolls, and I think, given the opportunity, they would also contribute to society as taxpayers.
I mentioned a problem that is rampant in northern communities. Perhaps not all members here have had the opportunity of travelling in northern communities. We have solvent abuse that is rampant in some communities, second and third generation sniffers in some of our communities up north, and there are no facilities to deal with this issue, this very critical issue.
So we are losing people. People are dying as a result of solvent abuse. That may not mean a whole lot to people living in Winnipeg, but it does mean a lot to me. I want to be able to talk with a government that is responsive to these needs of First Nations communities, in working with First Nations communities, in addressing these problems that are in my opinion being ignored by the current federal government.
Simply, I think, the First Nations people and other aboriginal people are not asking for anything out of the question. They are simply being very straightforward. They want to work in partnership, and I think that was demonstrated by the federal Department of Indian Affairs this morning at the signing of that framework agreement, and they want the same opportunity with the provincial government.
We have to address the serious issue of highways, as well. It has taken many lives in northern Manitoba. There is a disproportionate amount of money being allocated to northern Manitoba as opposed to southern Manitoba, and that has to be addressed in a serious way. A lot of lives have been lost on Highway 391, accidents on Highway 373, and we do not want to be agitators to ministers or to the government, but we want to be able to provide solutions to these existing problems, and that is from the point of view that I speak, Mr. Speaker.
There are other issues that I have perhaps failed to address, but when I was elected, I was advised by many of the elders that I represent and also the constituents in Rupertsland to be a member with constructive criticism when it is necessary and not to misbehave in a way that would be contrary to the First Nations way of believing in things, and that is showing disrespect when other people are speaking. I am trying to uphold that to the best of my ability, Mr. Speaker.
We are all here representing our constituents. I believe that all of us are here for the good of all Manitobans. We are working hard. We are working hard together to address the many different people and the many different points of view that exist for all of Manitoba. We do not believe that Manitoba stops south of the Perimeter Highway. There is much more to Manitoba than what we see here in the city of Winnipeg.
Mr. Speaker, in conclusion I want to again express my respect for all members of this House. I believe I have done that to the best of my ability thus far. I want to express to everybody here our creator's blessings during this upcoming holiday season that there will be no hardship and everybody will have a bit of hope and health and happiness, including the people in northern Manitoba.
In that spirit, I want to extend my hand in friendship as is customary in the nation of people that I come from, and I believe that through listening and co-operative efforts a lot more can be achieved than spending time on issues that have no substance for the good of Manitobans. So with that, I thank you very much.
Hon. Glen Findlay (Minister of Highways and Transportation): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have an opportunity to spend a few minutes here this afternoon talking about the throne speech. I will spend most of my time talking about the areas I am involved in--highways and telecommunications.
Mr. Speaker, welcome back. This is my eighth throne speech in government. I presume it is your eighth for being here, too. I think we have been here together. It is my opportunity to welcome the Pages to this House. It will be an educational process. You have seen the up and the down of it this afternoon. When the member for Inkster (Mr. Lamoureux) was talking it was kind of raucous in here and everybody was talking at once.
I would like to congratulate the member for Rupertsland who used a totally different tone in addressing the House here and talked about co-operation and being constructive. On that I congratulate him, because I can say to the Pages or anybody who might be sitting upstairs, although we look a little wild and out of control at times--well, the member for Inkster knows what I am referring to. We express ourselves, our different personalities in different ways. I do not think anybody here really believes that they are here to destroy Manitoba or the country. They are here to do what they can in their mind to make this a better place to live. We certainly have different approaches, different philosophies, and as I look around the House, when we come back after the election, which is inevitably going to happen in the next year, we will probably see some new faces. Some will be disappointed with the results. I am sure many of us will be happy with the results.
I would just like at this moment to express my thanks to a couple of members, three members in fact who at this time indicated they are not running again. From our side, the MLA for Riel (Mr. Ducharme) and the MLA for Turtle Mountain (Mr. Rose), both who have served a long period of public service in this House and in school boards and municipal governments before they came here, and the MLA for Dauphin (Mr. Plohman), who has indicated he is going to do other things. Everybody has done their thing to contribute. I wish them all well in their new ventures after they leave this House.
Ladies and gentlemen, my experience of being in opposition for a couple of years and the government now for six going on seven years is that the more you learn about what is going on around you and around the world the more humble you become in terms of the approach and, I guess it is fair to say in my case, the better feeling I have about the attitudes that people have.
Certainly, in my previous activities in agriculture, through the '90-91 period, there was a lot of pessimism in the rural community, a lot of difficulty, a lot of concern about the future. As I look back now certainly in that industry and, I think it fair to say, many sectors of the business communities, we are evolving through a transition from a Canadian economy that had maybe too much protection; we did not have enough aggressiveness in us. Now we have a lot more understanding that we are in a global economy. People must move goods, must be able to sell it all over the world.
As I get further and further into this ministry and deal with the various aspects of it, there is certainly a lot of aggressive attitude about being able to deliver the services, whether it is transportation and air, road or rail, to the businesses that need to move goods and move people.
We have gone through a fairly significant restructuring in the air industry, probably too early to say whether it was totally successful, but at least both airlines are still operating here in Canada, which three or four years ago, there was a grave concern that one might not be here. So it is important that we have the services, the competitive services as offered in this country.
As I look at the trucking industry, there has certainly been a tremendous evolution in that industry over the last few years as extra provincial trucking deregulation has taken place, but we have aggressive trucking companies in this province. We claim we have six of the 10 national trucking companies headquartered in Winnipeg and the trucking sector creates an awful lot of jobs in Winnipeg. I look at them as being very well positioned to take advantage of opportunities that are currently unfolding.
Clearly from that industry, I consistently hear that there is a demand for truckers that cannot be filled because there are so many commodities in movement right now in all directions.
Clearly the rail industry is at this time going through that restructuring process, and probably it is way to early to know how the rail industry will be restructured over the next year to year and a half. Certainly the merger discussions that were ongoing for a while appear to be completely dead. The CP offer to purchase the eastern segment of CN is currently in front of the federal government. They will probably be making some comment on it in due course. I would be very surprised if they accepted it--very surprised.
The issue of commercialization, which now the Nault task force is looking at will probably be looked upon to bring forth some recommendation for the future of CN. I personally believe it is important that we have two railroads running in this country. Shippers need them. We need the competition, and I think restructuring will lead to a lot more viability in both those rail lines.
Clearly it is interesting that in the rail industry, they are making money, doing reasonably well in western Canada, and it is eastern Canada that is the weak link. That is where all the manufacturing is taking place, where they should be handling and hauling big volumes. One of the things that the rail industry has certainly brought to my attention is, their ability to compete depends on taxation, and clearly in Canada the taxation level is higher than it is in the U.S., but Manitoba has responded.
We have lowered fuel taxes from 13.6 cents a litre down to 6.3, a significant--well, the members talks about return on investment, and that is important. It is important to every person who invests money, every householder, every business. You must be able to show a profit or you are not going to survive. You cannot pay for inflation. You cannot do the capital upgrade.
I wonder if the railroads really 10 years ago were looking at the future with enough aggressiveness. I think that has changed now. I think they look with more aggressiveness and want to be able to restructure in order to make a profit and be able to compete for the commodities that need to be moved, compete with the other modes of transportation and with the rail in the United States.
I have a lot of optimism that they will find a solution, whether it is through the Nault commission or whether it through the companies themselves looking at the future. I think there is opportunity for success. In one particular commodity that is very important in western Canada, the grain industry, I can tell you that the episodes that happened about a year ago right now with terrible problems, not enough cars, not enough movement planned ahead, over the last eight, nine months, all the players have worked quite aggressively to try to prevent the bottlenecks from happening in '94-95. I think they have been successful because we been moving record volumes of grain east and west, and clearly there are not the bottlenecks. I would not say all the problems are solved, but a lot of the problems that occurred a year ago are not reoccurring now.
Clearly in western Canada there is a large volume of crop that needs to move; the markets are aggressively buying it. I think the rail industry is doing a much improved job of moving those commodities to the markets to Thunder Bay and to the west coast.
There is certainly another very big issue around us right now in the rail industry and that is the Port of Churchill. Unfortunately, we have an article in the Globe and Mail today which has as its intention to criticize the fact that Churchill exists, the fact that we want to see Churchill survive.
I am glad the member for Rupertsland (Mr. Robinson) has commented on the comment that we have in the throne speech that we will not accept the option of closure. We think there is great opportunity there. If there is really a renewed initiative to move grain out there, other commodities in, the spaceport will play a significant role in the future as will tourism and resupply to Northwest Territories.
I have to congratulate the people in Churchill who along the line have worked so hard over the years to keep that dream alive. We have to realize that in eastern Canada they view every tonne of grain that goes through Churchill as one tonne less going through the seaway, so they have a vested interest to be sure that this does not happen.
I was a little concerned a few days ago when the Free Press wrote an editorial that was, I thought, saying prepare yourself for the fact that Churchill may not be there in the future. I think the task force that has representatives from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, federal government, many of the farm community, from the port are going to come forward with some degree of recommendations as to how to restructure the way we do business involving that rail line and that port to be able to inject some economic viability into it for the future. I think there is a strong commitment there.
The federal government in their red book--the Manitoba M.P.s at least a year ago had planned to have a million tonnes going through there. I think they meant immediately, and they got up to 290, which is not much different than the year before, which is a long way away from what they planned to do. We support them; if they can do it that is great, and more the better. They did not accomplish it, and we would expect now they will have some renewed interest to try to accomplish it a year down the road.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to optimism in the transportation sector, clearly one of the most optimistic ventures that is ongoing right now is what is called the Northern Hemisphere Distribution Alliance which is a total intermodalism between rail, air and trucking with Winnipeg as the key focus of that. Some people might call it very visionary; some people may say it is never going to happen. I think we have the right kind of people in Winnipeg in the business community spearheading that initiative to try to find people in the world who are prepared to fly cargo in here for redistribution to road and rail for distribution around North America.
There is no question that there are more commodities moving further distances. We used to think you had to do all your manufacturing right beside where the raw material was mined or produced. That is really not true any more. You can move that commodity around and do various bits of manufacturing and processing in different parts of the world. I think that we must not look at that initiative with anything other than optimism and try to be sure we create in government the opportunities for them to succeed. Clearly, the federal government is going to have to be active in terms of the free trade zone that they are looking for to make that happen.
Another initiative that is involved--[interjection] Somebody wants to hear about the initiative between Winnipeg and Mexico. Clearly, in terms of the future development of transportation activities in western Canada, Manitoba is well positioned, again the centre of activity, the hub of road and rail. As we move commodities more and more to the U.S. and to Mexico in terms of north-south trade, the corridor aspect from Mexico, it can be envisioned all the way to Churchill right through Winnipeg. Churchill to Mexico City can be called a corridor of opportunity. Certainly there are corridor initiatives south of B.C., south of Alberta, but we can go right down the gut of North America all the way through many major cities, six states right to Mexico City. It is the most cost-efficient route for trucking because it is relatively flat land all the way. It is good roads. There are no mountains, and it is the shortest distance.
The north-south corridor has been worked on by states, our province, many of the Chambers of Commerce of many of the cities north and south. There have been meetings in Winnipeg involving those participants, and we expect and hope that the United States government is going to commit some funds to upgrading that route. We have done our part at this end in terms of four laning Highway 75 right to the border. From Winnipeg, from the trucking terminals, there is basically a four lane all the way to the U.S. border, so the road is opening.
Our trade with the United States from Manitoba has certainly increased roughly 30 percent in the past year. The trucking industry tells me that more and more of their routes of traffic are going south with commodities, so the corridor I think is real. I think it is underway right now, and as governments, particularly the federal government, we have got to be sure that we make the movement through that border as efficient as possible for the trucking industry. Initiatives are underway to try to achieve that.
The next big issue around the trucking industry is clearly the state of our roads. We have relatively good roads, but roads are always subject to deterioration on a constant basis so there is constant upgrade that needs to be done.
The previous member from our side who was the Minister of Highways, Mr. Driedger, worked for four and a half years to bring the National Highways Program forward. There was a strong consensus across Canada for some 25,000 kilometres of road to be designated in the National Highways Program. The province of Manitoba has some 860 kilometres in that network out of the 25,000. It involves Highway 1, Highway 16, Highway 75 and the Perimeter around Winnipeg.
The process of consensus amongst the provinces was not good enough for the federal government, they have not committed themselves to this point. The western Premiers asked the Ministers of Transport in the four western provinces and the two territories to get more aggressive on the issue. So we formed what is called Team West, the six governments. We met with all the ministers across the country here in Winnipeg a while back and put our case very clearly that we as provinces were prepared to commit money in that formula, the federal-provincial, cost-sharing formula. Now, will the federal government commit?
The federal government said, put forward what you will spend in the next five years on the National Highways Program, and every jurisdiction across Canada has. The federal government has committed they will respond by December 15 if they will participate in it. So we await, in a few days, a decision from them whether they will participate in whole or in part with the National Highways Programs. My hope is that they will start at least in this period of time with some kind of funding. If they do not commit any, then I am sure every province will break down and try to do bilateral agreements, which will be a bit of a hodgepodge, and there will not be fair treatment across the country.
I have said before, and I will say it again, we in the province of Manitoba--certainly Alberta does, and I think many other provinces--say that most of the taxes they collect from the road network, from fuel taxes, licences, registrations, goes back into the network in terms of capital upgrade or maintenance. The federal government across the country collects $4.5 billion a year from the road network and fuel taxes and puts less than 10 percent of that money back into the road network in this country.
If you look at comparisons with the United States or England or France or Australia, every other federal government puts a lot more into the road network than this federal government does.
Our discussion about the National Highways Program, the federal minister was adamant, as we are as provinces, that new money cannot be put forward, new taxation cannot happen. We must redirect within existing funds to accomplish this objective. We are spending roughly $100 million a year on capital on road network in this province and about $50 million on maintenance. I have heard from every region of this province, and the general message is, I want more roads, I want more roads. A lot of people want to say or imply that the roads in their area are more important than the roads in somebody else's area.
When the UMM was in town here a couple of weeks ago, I had 35 meetings with municipalities or groups of municipalities, and every one of them was laying out roads that they wanted to have upgraded, graded, gravelled, paved, bridges to be built. Some would like us to increase the mileage in our network. A lot of them are driven by the changing movement of commodities, particularly in rural Manitoba. They see larger volumes moving in different directions and more wear and tear on their municipal roads, so they want the province to spend more.
Clearly in the North as the member for Rupertsland (Mr. Robinson) has indicated, those roads were built to a pioneer standard, very low volumes of traffic. Now they are community connections that are very important, long mileages of roads. Whether it is 391, 280 or 373 or Highway 6, big expenditures are needed to bring them up to the level of expectation people have, big expenditures.
I have talked with numerous communities up there--Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids, Thompson, Churchill. Understand the scarcity of funds to do what everybody wants across the province. Try to work together in some consensus fashion to determine where the priorities are. [interjection]
The member for Thompson (Mr. Ashton) wants a fair share. What is a fair share? I have every community saying, I want a fair share. It always means more money for me and less for somebody else. We spend--[interjection]
For the member for Thompson, you have 3 percent of the traffic mileage in northern Manitoba, and you have 8 percent of maintenance and 5 percent of the capital budget.
An Honourable Member: About 10 percent of the population. We produce so much of the province's GDP with our mining and . . .
Mr. Findlay: At the end of the day I do not care whether you come from northern Manitoba or southwest Manitoba or south central or southeast. We spent a lot of money on capital in this province. I have about a hundred million dollars for $700 million of expectation right now, one in seven. We have spent a lot of money on various roads in the North, and we will continue to.
We in the province of Manitoba, with 18,000 kilometres, spent $109 million last year on capital and highways. The province of Saskatchewan with 26,000 kilometres--that is about a third more than ours--spent $62 million. You tell me who is committed to the road network. [interjection]
I was on them too. Have you been on No. 1? Have you talked to a trucker on No. 1 Highway west of Moosomin? You better talk to him.
I look at Manitoba's network. I have been through Calgary on No. 1 Highway, and you drop down into the city to a light at every intersection, four lanes, and the right lane is for parking and the left lane is for turning left. Where is the through lane? Right in downtown Calgary. That is the Trans-Canada Highway. That is Calgary.
Manitoba has a road network that does not go through any towns or villages right across Manitoba.
An Honourable Member: They have a by-pass there around Calgary any way.
Mr. Findlay: They do not have a by-pass. You are sent right through downtown Calgary. On the north-south trails, they are good; east-west, darn poor. Edmonton is much the same.
I think Manitoba has a pretty good road network in terms of the Trans-Canada. It has a reasonable network in comparison to any other jurisdiction. [interjection]
Mr. Speaker, 373. The member wants to know--see, he just wants to criticize. He does not want to thank anybody for the efforts made to improve that road.
An Honourable Member: Improve the road. Which road?
Mr. Findlay: 373.
If the member wants to hear what happened, I will explain to him. There was a clay capping that was occurring, gravel to be put on top. Because of some weather problems and so on and so forth, the contractor was behind. It came to mid-October when it should normally be freezing. They decided they would not put the gravel on because it might be plowed off in the wintertime, most likely. Unfortunately, wet snow came along. You had no gravel. You know what happened. Then there was a bit of panic because with the gravel, if it had been on there, you would not have this trouble. So they started putting the gravel on.
Hindsight tells you they should have put the gravel on because it was not going to freeze in the next three weeks like normal. That is what happened. I apologize for it. Everybody in the system does. It was a sequence of events that is very unfortunate, but there will be a better road service there next year. It is clay capped; the gravel is on. [interjection]
I guess the member for Thompson (Mr. Ashton) wants to hold us accountable for the fact that the weather turned against us. The weather turned against us. [interjection]
An Honourable Member: You have ignored northern roads.
Mr. Findlay: We have not ignored northern roads. The member for Thompson sat in government for six and a half years, and when we came into government, the roads were in terrible shape, because when he was in government they did not do their job.
When we came into power, you were spending $85 million on capital; we moved it up to $110 million. Why did you not build the roads to the North when you were in government? You chose not to. You built a bridge to nowhere north of Selkirk, 30 million bucks. [interjection]
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Findlay: Mr. Speaker, the other area of my activity is telecommunications, and we have done a significant capital investment in terms of private lines, digital switches throughout all of Manitoba. South, north, Winnipeg--everybody has seen that investment improve the network. By 1996, we will be totally digitalized and all private lines across this province, a significant upgrade in communications.
We are in an era now where more and more people of businesses rely very, very heavily on communications to do business, to reach their friends and families and take the phone for granted, and the clarity and the success of that network is very good.
Yes, we had a shutdown a couple of weeks ago, exceedingly unfortunate. The problems have been resolved, and we are very hopeful it will not happen again. But the issue in front of us right now is the development of the information highway. It has been talked about a lot. It has a lot of opportunity for people communicating, whether it is the Internet, FreeNet, or whether it is just straight communication person to person.
Our ambition in the province here is to move to a telephone system that has private lines in every home and connects every home to the network to allow every citizen and business in the province of Manitoba to tap into the information highway to whatever capacity they want to use it, whether it is computer communication or whether it is person-to-person communication, whether it is fax utilization, or whatever the new technology that will come along to use that information network.
It is critical to our development. It is the focus of job creation in this province. Clearly, businesses are doing business, are doing their advertising more direct, called teleservicing. It is direct marketing through telephones. It is call centres. It is customer service centres, like CP and CN have brought to Winnipeg, to create the jobs of communicating directly with the customers right across Canada.
It is the growth sector of the 1990s. We have brought to Winnipeg in excess of 2,000 jobs, and more and more discussion is going on to bring more of those jobs here. They are jobs that pay well.
A study in North Dakota indicated the average salary in the teleservicing industry is higher than in the manufacturing sector. It creates good employment for people, with flexible hours. Over the course of time I am sure you will see people who work in that area will not have to go to the office to do it. They will be able to do more and more of it at home. It will be very convenient for people that are house bound, for whatever reason, to be able to work without having to travel to a workplace.
I am very proud of the activity that has occurred here in the province. We have, as I mentioned earlier, CN and CP through Winnipeg, AT&T. Transtec which we visited this fall, has come to Winnipeg as the customer service centre for Unitel. They started out in the spring--that was about April--with 200 jobs. They are now up to 600 jobs. We visited that centre. It is one of 13 centres they have in North America. The newest one they have in that group of 13 is right here in Winnipeg, and the people from Jacksonville, Florida, who are in charge of all 13 said that--a surprise to them--this was the very best producing, performing customer service centre they had in North America. The best of the 13. They were very pleased with the aggressive young people that were working there. The enthusiasm of people was obvious. They like the bilingual capability that we have, the work ethic we have, and our young people really do want to work.
The Canadian Liver Foundation is here in Winnipeg, Stentor is here in Winnipeg. Canada Post is in Winnipeg, Faneuil is here in Winnipeg; 183 people collecting pay cheques there at this time, and I say more are under discussion stage to bring here. I think it is important that we understand that is a new area of growth. It will strengthen the Manitoba Telephone System in terms of creating more network activity. I see all kinds of different partnerships in the future in terms of delivering these kinds of services, whether it is the Manitoba Telephone System with the private sector in various ways and means. There are growth opportunities here.
I think that we can do more and more business across North America out of Manitoba in the telecommunications area, and it is interesting to talk to people like CN about what they do, how they want to serve their customer. I cannot say I knew how they talked 10 years ago, but to hear them talk about wanting to satisfy that customer and that client in a very positive way on a consistent basis through communication, I am very, very pleased with, and I think it is a change from where it was a number of years ago.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will probably terminate at this point. It is a very good opportunity to be back in this House. I know we will exchange lots of points of view over the next few days, and I wish everybody well for Christmas and the New Year that is coming up.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Speaker: The hour being 6 p.m., this House is now adjourned and stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday).
By the way, this matter will remain open.