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Speech from the Throne to Open the Second Session of the Thirty-Fifth Parliament of Canada
February 27, 1996
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Members of the Senate;
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the House of Commons:
A year ago when I became Governor General, I spoke about the generosity and the compassion of Canadians. I spoke especially of the unsung heroes, the volunteers and helpers who encourage and care for their communities.
Since then, travelling to almost every province, I have seen how much Canadians love their country and how generous and open they can be to those in need. I have discovered the great strength of those currents of generosity and compassion.
In the schools and the Scout troops and in every part of life, from the nurseries of the newborn to palliative care for the dying, Canadians give endless help to one another. Surely this must be the most giving of countries.
We are developing a new award to recognize the unsung heroes of Canada; and hundreds of Canadians have already put forward the names of their fellow citizens, to honour their constant help and their open hearts.
On the opening of the second session of this Parliament, and on behalf of the Government of Canada, I make the following brief statements of government policy. The Prime Minister and Ministers will expand on this in coming days. Legislation and other administrative measures will follow.
Twenty-eight months ago, Canadians elected a new Parliament and chose a new government. Since then, the Government has acted to meet its commitments to the Canadian people. Ministers have insisted upon the highest standards of integrity and honesty in fulfilling their mandate.
The Government approaches the second half of its mandate confident that what unites us as Canadians is far greater than what divides us; certain that the values we share as Canadians are as relevant today as they have been at any time during our history; and determined to apply basic Canadian values and principles to the new policies and fresh approaches that are required to prepare ourselves and our national institutions to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
Canadians are concerned about economic uncertainty, the sustainability of social programs and the unity of the country. The scope and enormity of the challenges are such that no individual, municipality, province or region acting in isolation can expect or hope to address them successfully. It will take the will to reason together and to pull together. Each of us must join with those with whom we have the most in common, with whom we share the most at the most basic level-at the level of values. And when we reflect on it, we realize it is with other Canadians that we have the most in common. And when we look at our history, and at our place in the world, we know we can solve our problems.
Ensuring Opportunity: A Strong Economy
A strong economy is the essence of a strong society. A strong economy creates the ability to translate into reality the values of equality of opportunity, compassion for the underprivileged and protection of the vulnerable.
Government has a necessary and essential role in facilitating change in society. Many Canadians are concerned about their security, and particularly their security of employment. The Government will work with the private sector and the provinces to make the collective investments required to produce hope, growth and jobs. Because government does not have the resources to do everything, it must be strategic in its approach. It must invest in people. The Government will focus its new initiatives on youth, science and technology, and trade.
Young Canadians want the opportunity to put their energies and talents to use. Young Canadians deserve a climate of opportunity. This must be a national objective.
It is time to harness the energy of the Team Canada partnership abroad between the federal and the provincial governments and the private sector to create hope, opportunity and jobs for young people at home. The Government will challenge the provincial governments and the private sector to enter into a domestic Team Canada partnership to create such opportunity for young people. In particular:
-The Government will announce measures to double the number of federal summer student jobs this summer. The Government challenges the business community and provincial and municipal governments to do likewise.
-The Government will work in active partnership with the provinces, the private sector and young people themselves to prepare initiatives to enhance youth job opportunities so that young Canadians can get work experience.
-The Government will challenge business and labour and all levels of government to work together to create new approaches to assist young people in finding their first job.
Science and Technology
To create enduring jobs for Canadians in the economy of the 21st century, investment in knowledge and technology is essential. The Government will establish guiding principles to improve the effectiveness and focus of the federal science and technology effort. In particular:
-The Government will make specific proposals to support technology development in the aerospace industry, in environmental technologies, and in critical enabling technologies such as biotechnology. Further measures will be taken to promote technology diffusion, including the launch of a Canadian technology network.
-The Government will support technological innovation by providing a predictable policy and regulatory framework for the information highway.
-The Government will continue to expand the access to the School Net and Community Access programs so that Canadians, particularly those in rural communities, will be able to use technology to increase their knowledge and access to each other and to the rest of the world.
Canadian jobs and growth depend heavily on our exports. Every one billion dollars of exports means 11,000 Canadian jobs. The success of ``Trade Team Canada'' demonstrates the value of working together to succeed in world markets and therefore create job prospects at home.
Further ``Trade Team Canada'' missions will be undertaken under the leadership of the Prime Minister.
To create jobs at home, the Government will announce new measures to enhance export development and financing, with emphasis on developing new products and new exporters and attracting new foreign investment.
The Government will continue efforts to expand NAFTA and will work towards more world trade liberalization.
Where there are trade disputes, the Government will spare no effort to promote and defend legitimate Canadian trade rights and interests.
A Climate for Economic Growth and Job Creation
In the first half of its mandate, the Government has taken steps to ensure that the economic and fiscal conditions are in place for sustained growth and job creation. The Government has made major structural reforms. The deficit has been cut. International trade and investment initiatives have been undertaken. Much has been accomplished. Canadians are beginning to see dividends, particularly with lower interest rates.
But the job is not yet completed. The Government will continue to take appropriate action to promote a proper climate for economic growth and jobs. In particular:
-The 1996 Budget will set out how the Government will attain its deficit-reduction targets, bringing the deficit down to two percent of gross domestic product in 1997-98 and ensuring that further progress will be realized in 1998-99 and beyond.
-The Government will work with the provinces to conclude discussions on sales tax harmonization and establish a process to replace the GST and provincial sales taxes with a national sales tax.
-The Government will introduce proposals to strengthen the economic framework with legislative improvements in the areas of competition, bankruptcy and copyright.
-The Government will introduce proposals to update legislation governing financial institutions to ensure that it continues to be relevant to the emerging needs of businesses and consumers.
-The Government will propose a modernization of the rules governing labour relations under federal jurisdiction through changes in Part I of the Canada Labour Code.
-The Government will ensure through regulatory reform that requirements are strong and clear, delays are minimized and activities co-ordinated between departments and between levels of government.
-The Government is committed to the economic renewal of rural Canada. The Government will address the problems facing rural Canadians in a way that is tailored to their needs. Rural Canada is rich in natural and human resources and faces different challenges than urban areas. The Government will move forward in the coming session to make sure that all Canadians benefit from economic prosperity.
Ensuring Opportunity: Security for Canadians
Economic growth is not an end in itself. Government has the obligation, in accordance with basic Canadian values, to ensure security for Canadians in a rapidly changing world. Our legacy to future generations must include the assurance for all Canadians, wherever they live, that there will be a modern and accessible health care system; that a helping hand will be available when a helping hand is needed; that a public pension system will be there to support people in their old age; that our environment is protected; and that Canadians will be safe in their homes and communities.
A Secure Social Safety Net
The Government is committed to ensuring opportunity through a sustainable social safety net for the future. The Government will secure Canada's social union for the future and will adapt our federal arrangements as necessary to meet current challenges and to prepare for the next century. The Government is open to new ways and new directions to pursue our values. In particular:
-The Government will work with the provinces and Canadians to develop by mutual consent the values, principles and objectives that should underlie, first, the Canada Health and Social Transfer and, building on this, the social union more generally.
-The CHST consists of tax points and cash. The Government will announce plans to put a floor under the cash transfer component to provide a guarantee of continuing federal cash to the provinces. This will serve to secure Canada's safety net, particularly medicare.
Canadians attach high priority to our health care system and to the principles of medicare. The Government reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the five principles of the Canada Health Act. The Government will continue to work with the provinces to ensure the future of our publicly financed health care system.
Canadians expect to have secure elderly benefits and pensions available to them when they retire.
-The Government will propose to Parliament measures to sustain Canada's elderly benefits system for the future.
-The Canada Pension Plan will be made sustainable for future generations. Discussions are already under way with the provinces on possible changes. A joint federal-provincial paper setting out the problems and challenges facing the Plan has already been released for public consultation. And reforms will be legislated once the required provincial consent has been obtained.
Equality of opportunity is a basic Canadian value. It begins with children. The Government will announce measures to improve Canada's child support system, with the particular objective of helping single parents and low-income working families.
Security for Canadians means ensuring that people who are out of work can get help while they are unemployed and can get help to go back to work.
-The Government will implement a new Employment Insurance System beginning July 1, 1996. The Government will ensure that the legislation, while respecting the fiscal parameters of the proposed reforms, is responsive to the realities of the Canadian job market and that the impact of changes does not fall unfairly on workers who are most in need of support.
-The Government will accelerate its current discussions with the provinces on labour market training and development to ensure the orderly withdrawal of federal activity in training, and to explore new approaches and the appropriate roles and responsibilities of each level of government for strengthening national and local labour markets.
While sustaining the social safety net is an essential element of security for Canadians, it is not all. The quality of Canada's natural environment is a matter of national pride. Security for Canadians means sustaining our environment. All Canadians must work together to protect the environment. In particular:
-The Government will propose the modernization of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
-A federal Endangered Species Protection Act will be introduced.
-Legislation to ratify the UN Straddling Stocks Agreement and the Law of the Sea Convention will be presented to Parliament.
-The Government will promote the long-term conservation and revitalization of the Pacific salmon fishery and continue with the revitalization of the east coast fishery.
National parks are the heritage of a nation. The Government will seek agreements with provincial and territorial governments and with First Nations to establish new national parks and national marine conservation areas.
The solutions to many environmental problems lie outside our borders. The Government will continue to play an environmental leadership role both at home and in the international arena.
The non-violent character of our country-safe homes, safe streets-is also an essential element of security for Canadians. The Government will focus corrections resources on high-risk offenders while increasing efforts to lower the number of young people who come into contact with the justice system. The Government will develop innovative alternatives to incarceration for low-risk offenders. Criminal procedures will be reformed to better serve victims of crime.
In an interdependent world, security means taking an active role on the international stage. All Canadians strongly identify with, and take great pride in, the role Canada plays in the world. The Government will continue to work in the G-7, NATO and the United Nations for a more stable and peaceful world. It will pursue a wider spread entrenchment of democracy, and greater respect for human rights.
In keeping with its commitment to advancing human rights and dignity, the Government will make the rights of children a Canadian priority and seek an international consensus to eliminate exploitative child labour.
The Government will pay special attention to addressing the growing crisis of confidence in the United Nations, which Canadians rightly regard as the most important multilateral organization to ensure international peace and security.
Canada will also do its part to help keep and build peace in Bosnia, Haiti, the Middle East and elsewhere.
A Modern and United Country
Canadians have a common history, a common collective experience, a shared territory, and institutions that are uniquely our own. The Government will act to preserve this heritage.
Canadians also agree upon the values and principles which bind us together and give us confidence in ourselves and in each other.
On October 27, the people of Canada came together in their own communities and in Montreal to demonstrate as never before the will to stay together. On October 30, the people of Quebec voted in a referendum to stay in Canada.
At the same time, the referendum result gave a clear message that Quebeckers want change in the federation. This desire for change is broadly shared across Canada. The Government will act on a responsible agenda for change for all of Canada.
In the last two years, the Government has made significant changes in a number of areas. The Government will work with the provinces and individual Canadians to ensure that the Canadian federation is modernized to meet the needs of the 21st century. This modernization must be respectful of our diversity and be based on partnership and dialogue. Canadians want and expect governments to be flexible and to operate efficiently and effectively so that the country functions well. In particular:
-The Government will not use its spending power to create new shared-cost programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction without the consent of a majority of the provinces. Any new program will be designed so that non-participating provinces will be compensated, provided they establish equivalent or comparable initiatives.
-There are areas where, in the 21st century, the federal government does not have to be involved. For example, components of Canada's transportation infrastructure are being transferred to community-based groups, municipal authorities and the private sector.
-The Government is prepared to withdraw from its functions in such areas as labour market training, forestry, mining, and recreation, that are more appropriately the responsibility of others, including provincial governments, local authorities or the private sector.
-The federal government will propose to the provinces a much strengthened process to work in partnership, focussing on such priorities as food inspection, environmental management, social housing, tourism and freshwater fish habitat.
The federal government has an important contribution to make in preserving and modernizing Canada's social union so that the caring society remains Canada-wide in scope. In particular:
-The Government will work with the provinces and Canadians to develop agreed-upon values and principles to underlie the social union and to explore new approaches to decision making in social policy.
-The Government will continue to protect and promote unhampered social mobility between provinces and access to social and other benefits, and will work with the provinces to identify new and mutually agreed approaches.
The federal government has a major role to play in strengthening the Canadian economy and the Canadian economic union. The Government will work with the provinces to take concrete steps to further improve the functioning of the Canadian economic union. In particular:
-The Internal Trade Agreement, which came into effect in July 1995, must be improved. The government will work with the provinces and the private sector to achieve a much more open agreement.
-The Government is prepared to work with the provinces and other partners to reduce or eliminate remaining barriers to labour mobility.
-The Government is prepared to work with interested provinces towards the development of a Canadian Securities Commission, a single food inspection service, and a national revenue collection agency.
The Government welcomes public participation in the debate about Canada. It will encourage Parliament to reach out to Canadians to seek their views on the specific components of an agenda for change.
A First Ministers meeting will be called in the months ahead to discuss how governments can better work together for job creation in Canada, how to secure the social safety net and how to put into place a common agenda for change to renew Canada.
The Government intends to focus its energies on positive action to prepare Canada for the 21st century. The Government welcomes the commitment of the new government of Quebec to focus all its energies on the real problems of its citizens. The Government will work in collaboration with the Government of Quebec and all provincial governments on an agenda of economic renewal and job creation.
But as long as the prospect of another Quebec referendum exists, the Government will exercise its responsibility to ensure that the debate is conducted with all the facts on the table, that the rules of the process are fair, that the consequences are clear, and that Canadians, no matter where they live, will have their say in the future of their country.
The Government recognizes that national unity is more than a re-balancing of roles and responsibilities of levels of government.
At a time of globalization of the economy, Canada is especially well placed to compete because of two official languages and the many Canadians who speak languages other than English and French. The Government recognizes that because of the minority status of the French language in North America, French-speaking Canadians have legitimate concerns. The Government affirms that it is particularly important to reinforce a Francophone presence at home and abroad. Such a presence contributes to our national identity and is a source of strength and enrichment for our country.
Action has already been taken to recognize Quebec as a distinct society within Canada and to guarantee that no constitutional change affecting any major region of the country will take place without the consent of that region. The Government supports the entrenchment of these provisions in the Constitution.
National unity means reminding Canadians of what they have in common. The Government will put forward a series of measures with special emphasis on helping Canadians, particularly young Canadians, to broaden their experience of Canada and to learn more about their country. A new Citizenship Act will be introduced to better reflect contemporary views of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Culture is at the core of our identity as Canadians. The Government is committed to strong Canadian cultural industries. The Government will propose measures to strengthen culture in Canada and will ensure continued access to our own cultural products in order to maintain a balance between Canadian perspectives and those from abroad. The Government reaffirms its commitment to ensuring the long-term vitality of the CBC, the National Film Board and Telefilm Canada as institutions which interpret Canada to Canadians and to the world.
The Government believes that one of the tests of Canadian values is our ability to incorporate the aspirations of Canada's Aboriginal peoples. The recent historic Nisga'a agreement in principle shows that this is possible. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will continue to pursue other initiatives in partnership with Aboriginal people and other governments.
Honourable Members of the Senate;
Members of the House of Commons:
In looking to the 21st century, it is essential that the federal government, in its own policies and programs, be dedicated to providing modern, flexible public services-services that are accessible, affordable and responsive to the needs of clients and citizens. The Government acknowledges the contribution of the Public Service of Canada to the continuing achievement of its goals. Further measures will be introduced to enable more flexible and innovative methods of service delivery.
By working in partnership throughout Canadian society to create jobs and economic opportunity, to provide the security of a modern social safety net, and to preserve national unity, the Government affirms that a legacy of hope can be left to future generations.
Members of the House of Commons:
You will be asked to appropriate the funds required to carry out the services and expenditures authorized by Parliament.
May Divine Providence guide all of you in your deliberations.
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