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Address by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
October 13, 1999
I want to begin my remarks today by congratulating the Honourable Member for Windsor St. Clair for his words in moving the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne. And I wish as well to congratulate the Honourable Member for Laval West for her speech in seconding the Address. Both members have a bright future ahead of them in this House.
On behalf of all members of this House , I also want to congratulate Her Excellency on assuming her functions as Governor-General. We all wish her well.
Mr. Speaker, over the last 100 years, this country has been built and enriched by immigrants, by people from all over the world who came to our shores, made a life for themselves and their children, and made Canada the extraordinary country that it is. At the turn of the last century, overseas immigrants came almost exclusively from Europe.
Today we are on the eve of what many predict will be the century of the Pacific. How fitting it is that the remarkable woman who now occupies the highest office in the land is an immigrant from the Pacific. Chinese born. A refugee who came here as a young child with her family. A woman who has made a major contribution to the cultural life of her adopted country. One hundred years ago, Mr. Speaker, who would have predicted that a woman immigrant from China could one day become Governor-General of Canada? Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I say we have come a long, long way in this wonderful country.
We are now 75 days from the turn of a new century. As the current century draws to a close, the century Laurier predicted would be the century of Canada, it is appropriate to pause and reflect on where we have come from. What we have achieved together. Why we enter the next century with such confidence, such hope and such optimism.
It has been said that Canada is a triumph of will over geography and economics. And what a triumph it has been. How easy it would have been for a small population spread out over vast spaces across an entire continent to succumb to the forces of Manifest Destiny. But succumb we did not. We grew and we flourished. How easy it would have been for a small French-speaking population concentrated primarily on the banks of the St. Lawrence to succumb to the forces of the English-speaking North American melting pot. But succumb we did not. We grew and we flourished. How easy it would have been for our first citizens - the aboriginal people - to succumb to the forces of assimilation. But succumb they did not. And a new relationship is growing and flourishing.
Mr. Speaker, in a century of tyranny, Canadians gave their lives in far corners of the world so that others could live in freedom. In a century of intolerance, Canada became a beacon of freedom. In a century of brutal dictatorships, Canada became an advanced pluralist democracy. In a century of the worst excesses of nationalism, Canada became a multi-cultural post national society. In a century of human rights oppression, Canada embraced a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In a century of growing gaps between haves and have nots, Canada developed an advanced system of social security and a social safety net.
It is no wonder, Mr. Speaker, that a few short months ago a Kosovar refugee, on arriving in Canada, said "What a wonderful country. They treat you like equal human beings. In a short time you can have the same rights as all the people around. It is like going from hell to heaven."
In a century of great economic advances, Canada grew from a small agrarian society to become one of the seven leading industrialized countries of the world.
In a century of entrepreneurship and innovation, Canada has led the world in communications, transportation, forest and fisheries science, and agriculture. From the discovery of insulin to the exploration of the outermost frontiers of space, Canadians are always expanding the frontiers of knowledge.
In a century of education, Canada is the only major country in the world to have all its schools linked to the Internet - from the largest high school in Toronto to a one-room three student school on Pictou Island, Nova Scotia.
In a century where artistic production has expanded as never before, Canadians occupy a place of honour - from Morley Callaghan, Gabrielle Roy and Antonine Maillet, to Oscar Peterson, Gordon Lightfoot and Susan Aglukark, to Céline Dion and Atom Egoyan, to Denys Arcand and Margo Kane. And new talent emerges every day.
We Canadians have proven to be a very determined people. We have established a distinct Canadian Way, a distinct Canadian model. Accommodation of cultures. Recognition of diversity. A partnership between citizens and state. A balance that promotes individual freedom and economic prosperity while, at the same time, sharing risks and benefits. An understanding that government can be an instrument of collective action - a means of serving the broader public interest. The world has sat up and noticed.
President Chirac expressed it so well last month, in Moncton, when he spoke of "this Canada which seeks and invents the rules of peaceful and tolerant co-existence. This Canada, land of first nations, Francophones and Anglophones, which today stands as an example of linguistic and cultural diversity, as an object of value and everyday life."
The world values what we have accomplished. It wants us to succeed. And succeed we have, and succeed we will. We will build on our strengths. We will take bold action for the future. The Canadian Way will be a model, setting standards for the whole world.
Mr. Speaker, we all know that there are some in Canada who would judge the success of countries solely by how much money they can make. And, ironically, many of those who today judge us harshly on our economic policy have actually made a great deal of money in Canada. But that is certainly not the only criterion for judging success. Nor should it be the only criterion for governing. Life is about more than just making money.
There may be other countries that are better for those who are already very well off. I am not sure, but there may be. But if I have to choose between decisions that will make life better for those in the middle and for those who have less, or decisions for those who already have a great deal, I know how I choose. I know how this government chooses. I know how Canadians choose. We choose the Canadian Way.
Yes, we have every reason to be very proud of what we have accomplished. Yes, we have every reason to be full of hope, confidence and optimism for the future. But that does not mean that everything in Canada is as it should be for everyone. It is not. That everything in Canada is as it can be and must be for everyone. It is not. There is no room for complacency. There is no room for self- satisfaction. There is a lot of room for rolling up our sleeves, looking forward, and working harder together.
We have a lot of work left to do. Not only for this Parliament. But for the next Parliament as well. But with an appreciation for our past, boldness of vision and the courage to act, we can take what is clearly the best country in the world in which to live and make it better for everyone.
Our vision of the Canada of the 21st century is clear. A society of excellence with a commitment to success. A strong and united country. A dynamic economy. A creative and innovative population. A diverse and cohesive society. Where prosperity is not limited to the few, but is shared by the many. Where every child gets the right start in life. Where young people have a chance to grow and to be the best at whatever they want to do. Where citizens have access to the skills and knowledge they need to excel. Where citizens - regardless of income - receive quality health services. Where families enjoy safe communities and a clean environment. Where we work together with other countries. To promote peace, cultural diversity and the human purpose and benefits of the new global economy.
A country - Canada - that is the place to be in the 21st century. The place where people want to come and stay, to learn, to pursue opportunities, to raise children, to enjoy natural beauty, to open new frontiers, to set the standard for the world for a high quality of life. A Canada that is a leader and an example to the world.
Today, Mr. Speaker, I want to set out a comprehensive strategy that enables Canadians and their governments, working together, to turn this vision into reality. A comprehensive strategy for leadership in the knowledge economy and for promoting our interests and projecting our values in the world. A strategy that integrates the economy, social policy and the environment. To make Canada the place to be in the 21st century.
In the new global knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, the role of government is not what it was in the past. The role of a national government today is to represent the future to the present. It is to focus on those areas where it can make a real difference. Its role is sometimes to act directly; sometimes to work in partnership; sometimes to create a framework for the private sector; sometimes simply to lead by example.
Mr. Speaker, we can't do everything. But that which the national government can do, we must do wisely and well. We must set ambitious, concrete objectives. And work with Canadians to achieve them. That is what leadership is really about. That is why the government is setting out both five-year objectives and concrete steps over the next two years to achieve them.
Mr. Speaker, over and above everything, a strong economy is the indispensable foundation for all we want to do.
The economic strategy of the government to make Canada a world leader in the next century is clear and comprehensive. When we took office six years ago, we had a plan. Getting the books in order. Reducing taxes. Promoting trade and investment. Improving the environment for doing business. Increasing productivity. Sustaining our public pension system and our public health care system for the long-term. Investing in knowledge, children and health. We have followed our plan. It is working. And we will continue to follow it. We are now in a position to build on it by setting ambitious new goals and objectives for the next five years.
We have to build a common vision of how Canada will take on the world, and win, in the 21st century. Globalization is a fact. A fact that a country like ours does not have to fear. Rather, it should be seen as an opportunity to create greater prosperity for more Canadians. That is the Canadian Way. We have to think globally. We have to brand Canada, at home and abroad, as a dynamic and skilled knowledge-based economy. And we must do these things faster than our global competitors - because speed wins!
But to compete on an equal footing, we first had to restore the country's fiscal health. Even the leader of the NDP will agree that keeping the fiscal house in order is essential for everything else we have to do. It was no easy task to balance the budget. It required tough decisions and great discipline. But we succeeded. Canadians succeeded. We even exceeded everyone's expectations. And I am certain that we will again exceed expectations.
Mr. Speaker, the era of growing debt and large deficits is now behind us once and for all. The budget will be balanced in each and every year through the life of this Parliament and beyond - something that we have not seen for generations. In each and every year, instead of adding to the national debt, we will pay it down. The debt to GDP ratio will decrease year after year, after year.
The economy is growing strongly and sustainably. Canada's business environment is now rated third in the world by the World Economic Forum. For the first time in more than a decade, we have seen 12 consecutive months of economic growth. We foresee continued sustained economic growth this year, next year, and the year after. Inflation and interest rates are low. Our exports are up. Personal incomes are growing again. Unemployment is coming down. The economy has created 1.7 million jobs since we took office. And job growth will continue to be strong.
Canadians are more optimistic about the economy and their own individual prospects today than they have been for a long, long time. Unemployment is lower than it has been in almost a decade. And more Canadians are working today than ever before in our history. The country is on the right track. We are very well positioned to be a world leader in the new economy.
Mr. Speaker, a lot of people deserve credit for the economic success of the last six years. But no one more than the Minister of Finance. I want to express to him my personal gratitude as Prime Minister. The gratitude of his colleagues in caucus and Cabinet, and that of all Canadians.
With the fiscal house in order, with a strong and growing economy, we can move forward boldly to implement our economic strategy. To strengthen the economic and social fabric of Canada. To seize the opportunities of a new century.
The government, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the Liberal Party have been and are committed to reducing taxes as the finances of the nation improve. But lower taxes are not an end in themselves. They are an essential part of an economic strategy to provide jobs, growth, rising incomes and a higher quality of life.
We began targeted tax relief even before the budget was balanced. As soon as the books were balanced, the Minister of Finance introduced broad based tax relief. The budgets of 1998 and 1999 have together cut taxes by $16.5 billion over a three year period. Just to give one example, as a result of these budgets, a family with two working parents and two children making $60,000 a year will pay $620 less in federal taxes - a reduction of about 10 percent, and $275 less in employment insurance premiums - a reduction of 20 percent, for a total reduction of almost $900 a year.
This is a good beginning. But it is only a beginning. Now we will do more - in a responsible and sustained way. Year after year after year. With continuing improvements in the financial health of the nation, we will do more to reduce taxes in the years ahead. In the next budget, the Minister of Finance will outline a multi-year tax reduction strategy to ensure that Canadian families have more income in their pockets. And that Canadian businesses are better able to compete in the global knowledge- based economy.
But tax reduction is only one part of the equation. Today, success in the global economy depends on our human talent, our ability to learn, to adapt quickly to new opportunities, to develop new ideas, to make new discoveries. A comprehensive, balanced economic strategy requires investment - public and private - in children, knowledge, creativity, innovation, health and the environment. It also requires maintaining flexibility to meet urgent needs such as the problems of agriculture today in Western Canada.
This government committed itself at the beginning of this mandate to using 50 percent of any surplus for tax and debt reduction; the other 50 percent for investment in economic and social needs that will increase our quality of life over the long term. There is a growing consensus - a Canadian consensus - that this is the right approach, that this balanced approach is the Canadian Way. The NDP - or at least some of them - agree. In August in Quebec City, we saw agreement from Tory premiers in the Atlantic and the West. And from Lucien Bouchard. And there was Premier Harris reading from the Red Book - now that is real common sense!
Mr. Speaker, our comprehensive strategy to make Canada the place to be in the 21st century means focussing on children, on knowledge, on youth, on health and on the environment. Why this focus? Quite simply because it is crucial for a successful 21st century knowledge-based economy. The best place to start is with Canada's children. If we want the brightest future possible for our country, we must ensure that all of our children have the best possible start in life.
Over the last six years, we have begun to lay the foundations. The government established the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Programme. Aboriginal Head Start. The Canada Education Savings Grant. Improved Child Care Expense Deductions. The National Child Benefit for low and modest income families. Child Support Payments were made non-taxable. We have made progress. We can and must do more.
Our plan for the next two to five years is comprehensive. One: increased maternity and parental leave benefits. Two: a federal-provincial Agreement on more supports for early childhood development. Three: more after-tax money in the hands of families. Four: more family friendly workplaces. Five: modernization of family law. Six: a third significant investment in the National Child Benefit. Seven: strengthened learning opportunities through an expanded School Net.
Real support for Canadian families in the Canadian Way.
Let me elaborate on three aspects of our strategy.
There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that success in a child's early years is the key to long- term healthy development. Nothing is more important than for parents to be able to spend the maximum amount of time with new born children in the critical early months of a child's life.
Therefore, I am proud to announce today that the government will introduce legislation in this Parliament to extend Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits from the current maximum of six months to one full year. To make these benefits more flexible to meet the different needs of families. To make them more accessible by increasing the number of parents eligible for support. And to be in effect no later than January 1, 2001.
Mr. Speaker, together with the provinces, we have begun to put in place the National Children's Agenda, to improve supports for families and children. I believe this work has to be accelerated. So do provincial Premiers. We must move as quickly as possible from talk to action. Today I challenge all governments to have in place by December 2000, a federal-provincial agreement consistent with the Social Union Framework. To strengthen community supports for early childhood development. An agreement on principles and objectives, on measuring outcomes and reporting to Canadians. And an agreement on a five-year timetable, for increased federal and provincial funding to achieve our shared objectives.
Mr. Speaker, we have demonstrated over the last three years that federal and provincial governments can work together to help families with children. To take action so that children can have the basic necessities to grow into healthy, educated, productive members of society. The National Child Benefit is an outstanding example of federal-provincial collaboration. We must now continue towards our goal that parents will no longer have to choose between a job and benefits for their children.
We will therefore make a third significant investment in the National Child Benefit for low income families with children, to be in place no later than July 1, 2001. And we will seek a commitment from the provinces - who have all asked for this further federal contribution - to build on our investment by increasing their own investments in early childhood development.
Mr. Speaker, many years ago, Canadians and their governments - Liberal governments, I may add, of my predecessors, Mr. Pearson and Mr. Trudeau - committed themselves to a bold and noble objective. In a country as prosperous as ours, senior Canadians should not be denied the security and dignity of an income. We did not build our system of old age security and public pensions overnight. But we focussed on our goal and, by and large, we succeeded.
Let us today make another ambitious commitment. This time a commitment to take the action necessary as a country - all levels of government working in partnership together with communities and the voluntary sector - so that every Canadian child can have the best possible start in life.
What kind of world will these children live in? Well, we can see it already. And we can also see how they will succeed. Mr. Speaker, we enter a new century at a time of rapid change, the scope of which and the speed of which the world has never seen. It was a Canadian - Marshall McLuhan - who coined the phrase "global village". Today we are living in that village. And it is a very wired village indeed. The information highway is revolutionizing business, government, society and citizens participation. We are in a global race where national vision is essential. Where partnerships are key. Where government provides the framework, but where the private sector builds. Where global thinking is a must. And where speed wins.
Our standard of living and our quality of life will be directly linked to our success in fostering knowledge creation, innovation and adaptability, and in maximizing educational opportunity and cultural expression.
Our researchers no longer compete with each other; they are in competition with the whole world. Our industries no longer compete locally; they compete globally. Globalization and technology have re-defined the concept of the market place. And this has major implications for public policy.
To seize the opportunities of the new knowledge-based economy requires a comprehensive and ambitious strategy. We have begun in the last six years:
Access to learning through the Millennium Scholarships, of which the first 100,000 will be awarded this coming January 1st. The Canada Education Savings Grants. The deductibility of interest on student loans. The use of RRSP's for training.
Building a modern infrastructure of universities and laboratories through the establishment of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. And a modern communications infrastructure for schools through School Net which has linked all our schools and libraries to the Internet.
The encouragement of research through large increases in resources for the Granting Councils and the expansion of the Networks of Centres of Excellence.
I am very proud of what this government has already achieved. And I am very, very excited about what we will achieve. Our goal is for Canada to be known around the world as the place to be. The place of exciting opportunities. If we set the right objectives, if we make the right investments, if we create the right partnerships and if we work together as a country, not only will we keep the best and the brightest in Canada, we will attract the best and the brightest from around the world to Canada. And we will give more people in Canada the chance to become the best and the brightest.
The knowledge-based industries which will provide the jobs of the future require access to a diverse range of skills close at hand to support them. This is much easier for a large country like the United States to achieve than it is for a relatively small country like Canada. If we want to attract the investment Canada needs, we have to establish that type of critical mass. And we can only do it through collaboration between government and our universities and research institutions and the private sector.
Today, our challenge as a country is to create a climate of opportunity for our graduate students and for our graduates. To provide exciting opportunities for Canadian researchers and to attract the best academic researchers in the world to Canadian universities. And to do so at a time when world-wide competition for them has never been so fierce. And particularly at a time when United States universities benefit from both permanent endowments and the generosity of private Foundations out of all proportion to those of our universities.
Mr. Speaker, over the years, through the Granting Councils - the Medical Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the government of Canada has been far and away the largest contributor to university research in our country. In recent years the Granting Councils have contributed to the pursuit of excellence by creating and supporting hundreds of research chairs in our universities. Now they are prepared to build on what they have already begun.
Canada is more dependent on universities for our research and science innovation than the United States and other major competitors. The government of Canada must increase its support to research through the Granting Councils. Otherwise, we will lose the race to be a leader in the knowledge- based economy.
The heads of the Granting Councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, working with some university presidents, in particular the Rector of the Université de Montréal, Dr. Robert Lacroix, and the President of U.B.C., Dr. Martha Piper, have come to the government with an exciting and ambitious proposal. To build on existing partnerships between our universities, the Granting Councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. To brand Canada around the world as the place to be for knowledge creation as we enter the 21st century. To enable Canadian universities to create outstanding research opportunities for the best and the brightest Canadians. To make Canada a place where Canadian students and Canadian graduates want to be. To attract the "global research stars of today" and the " future research stars of tomorrow". To attract to Canada some of the world's best minds from other countries. To create an environment to produce Canadian Nobel Prize winners in the future. A plan for brain gain not brain drain.
They have proposed a plan, Mr. Speaker, to establish, over the next three years, 1,200 new 21stcentury Chairs for Research Excellence in universities across Canada. To provide enough financial support for the total costs of research for each new research chair to make them internationally competitive. And to set as an objective reaching a total of 2,000 new Chairs for Research Excellence across Canada as soon as possible thereafter. A plan I welcome. A plan for excellence and international competitiveness which this government endorses enthusiastically.
We will provide the required funding to the Granting Councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This investment in our Granting Councils to promote research and the quest for excellence will truly make Canada a leader in the knowledge-based economy, and will truly brand Canada as a country that values excellence and is committed to success, a country that is the place to be in the 21st century.
But Mr. Speaker, this is not all. We will introduce legislation in the next few weeks to create the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. To ensure that Canada stays in the forefront of health research. To create a more integrated system of health related research than in any other country. To ensure the pursuit of excellence in health research. To keep in Canada our best and brightest practitioners. To attract to Canada the best and the brightest from elsewhere.
Mr. Speaker, with the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Fund providing access to higher education, the Canada Foundation for Innovation providing our universities and teaching hospitals with the most advanced infrastructure, the 21st Century Chairs for Research Excellence attracting the research stars of today and tomorrow, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research providing massive research support in the health area, this government is putting in place a sweeping and comprehensive strategy for putting Canada in the forefront of the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.
Getting Canadians connected - to each other, to schools and libraries, to our diverse stories and voices, to government, to the market place and to the world - is one of the key elements in establishing Canada as a world-leading economy. As a country of opportunity. As the place to be. We must aim to be the most connected country in the world. A country which uses these connections in a dynamic and original way.
Success will mean productivity growth and job growth in all sectors of the economy. Success will mean innovative public services for Canadians. Success will mean innovative goods and services available to the global market-place.
Our goal is to make Canada a world leader in the smart use of electronic ways of doing business. To encourage the rapid use of e-commerce throughout the economy. We will introduce legislation in this session of Parliament to ensure that Canada has the most attractive policy environment for electronic commerce in the world by the end of the year 2000.
I want to challenge the private sector, and particularly the small business community, to take rapid advantage of this policy environment. Acting quickly, not hanging back to see what businesses in other countries do. In fact, today I challenge all sectors of our country, private and public, government and business, to work together toward the goal of capturing 5 per cent of the world share of e-commerce for Canada by the year 2003. And do over $200 billion of business in this way.
Governments can, and should, be at the leading edge of the information revolution. A model user of the new technologies to improve services to Canadians. By 2004, our goal is to be the most electronically connected government in the world to its citizens. So that Canadians can access all government information and services on-line at the time and place of their choosing.
We must also work together so that Canadians have Canadian choices. To help connect Canadians to the diverse Canadian experience and to support and promote our rich Canadian talent. We have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that our creative artists have new avenues for expression. That all Canadians have access to diverse Canadian stories, voices and images.
In a world where human development, quality of life and economic prosperity are increasingly driven by knowledge and creativity, who better to lead the way than our artists, writers and performers.
For its part, the federal government will help to bring our cultural institutions into the digital age and promote Canadian content in new and traditional media.
Mr. Speaker, our success in the future will as never before depend on a population committed to learning, adapting to change, at ease with new technologies and the digital economy, and able to master new media. Our ability to continue to lead in the world demands a commitment to ensuring that young Canadians have opportunities to acquire direct experience in these areas.
Mr. Speaker, by March 31, 2001, six thousand new community access sites will be established in urban and rural Canada. To ensure that all Canadians, regardless of geographic location, have affordable access to the Internet. To ensure they have the skills required to use new information technology. We will recruit up to 10,000 young Canadians to train community members of all ages. To help small businesses set up websites and promote e-commerce. To ensure that community access sites have the expertise required for the on-line delivery of government services. And Canadian content. In both official languages. For all Canadians.
The quality of our lives and the future strength of our society requires a new generation of Canadians who have the skills of citizenship and leadership, who understand themselves and their country, and who are open to the world.
Many young Canadians are already on their way, actively volunteering in their own communities to build a better life for everyone. Groups of citizens that work together to transform our generosity, our ideas and our desires to make the world better, into tangible improvements to our quality of life.
Our government has committed to an accord with the voluntary sector that will lay the foundation for a new, more effective partnership in the service of Canadians. We will work together to build a national voluntarism initiative to mark the International Year of the Volunteer in 2001.
In collaboration with the voluntary sector, the government will create a single-window service called Exchanges Canada. To give 100,000 young Canadians every year the chance to learn about another part of Canada. To live and experience another culture and language. To develop projects in the arts, amateur sports, sciences and community development.
The development and maintenance of a strong basic infrastructure as well as a knowledge infrastructure is also a key component of a competitive economy for the 21st century. The environment, public health, tourism, transportation, telecommunications and cultural infrastructure. These must be well planned to meet the needs of a modern economy in urban Canada and in rural Canada. It will require partnership - federal, provincial, municipal and the private sector. It will require new resources from all the partners. It will require a commitment over the years.
Therefore, we will seek to reach an agreement with our provincial and municipal partners by no later than the end of the year 2000. To begin in 2001 a five-year modern national infrastructure programme for Canada.
In the new global economy, not only are people connected more than ever before, not only do businesses compete around the world as never before, but the quality of our environment - the air we breathe, the water we drink - depends not only on what we do in this country but also on factors beyond our borders. Environmental quality is both a local and a global challenge; it requires both national action and international partnerships.
A healthy environment and a high quality of life go hand in hand. This is a matter of very high priority for this government. The environment is of importance to all Canadians, but particularly to young Canadians. Our generation will be judged on the environmental legacy we leave to our children and grand-children.
Legislation will be introduced in this session of Parliament to protect species at risk and their critical habitat. We will continue to extend Canada's national parks system. And we will clean up contaminated sites in this country and protect the health of Canadians.
We must adapt existing technologies aggressively, develop new technologies strategically and export our technical products successfully. By doing these things, we will contribute to the health of the global environment as well as increase jobs and growth at home in Canada.
In collaboration with the provinces and municipalities, a significant portion of any new infrastructure programme will be allocated to green infrastructure, to improve water and air quality.
Our respected place in the world must have not only a human face and an economic face, it must also have an environmental face. We will adopt sustainable practices and encourage our trading partners to do the same.
And while we will lead a national effort - public and private, federal and provincial - to meet our country's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will work to achieve concerted international action to deal with climate change.
Mr. Speaker, Canada enters the next century with enormous advantages. In an era of globalization, we are a multi-cultural society whose people have roots in almost every country of the world. We are an Atlantic, a Pacific and an Arctic country. We belong both to the Commonwealth and the Francophonie. We speak to the world through the values we have developed at home. And we speak in two international languages. As President Chirac said in Nunavut, "a vast country that is perfecting the art of living together in a spirit of peace and tolerance." As such we are well placed to promote human security and cultural diversity.
We have earned a respected place in the world community. Over the last six years, we have taken significant initiatives to help achieved shared international objectives. The Landmines Treaty. The International Criminal Court. We have participated actively in Kosovo. And taken a leadership role in Haïti.
In the post Cold War world, it is more and more possible for foreign policy to focus not only on relations between states but on the needs of people, needs that transcend borders. Addressing the human side of globalization. Human security, cultural diversity and human rights. The more people are safe and secure in their own countries, the more Canadians can live in safety and security at home. And our quality of life will be higher.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs will continue his initiative to focus on human security and human rights. We will devote resources and share in multi-lateral strategies to combat the international drug trade. We will take steps to deal with organized criminals who exploit poor immigrants.
Mr. Speaker, we know there will be set-backs. There are intractable problems in the world that we cannot hope to resolve. We have to be realistic.
We cannot act alone, and we cannot act everywhere. We will work closely with like-minded countries. Our objective is to make a difference. To use our ingenuity, the history of our international achievements, and the respect in which Canada is held in the world. To make progress on the human security agenda. And to recognize that in a difficult world, there will always be more progress to be made.
We are a fortunate country. We are an affluent country. Our fiscal house is in order. We are able now to make choices in accordance with our values. We have an obligation to do our part to help those who are very poor. This is our obligation to our fellow human beings. And this too is the Canadian Way. Therefore, we will increase our international development assistance. And we will concentrate the growth in our assistance to enable Canada to work in innovative ways to help other less fortunate countries improve life for their citizens.
An active foreign policy through which we project our values, coupled with a trade oriented economy and vigorous promotion of trade and investment interests will make Canada very well positioned for the global economy of the 21st century.
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I have spoken about the country that we are so proud of, the country that we have built so well in the 20th century. I have laid out for this House some of the challenges and opportunities we face as we enter a new century and a new millennium.
Today I have set out a comprehensive strategy for Canadian leadership in the knowledge-based economy and for promoting our interests and projecting our values in the world. A vision for the Canada of the 21st century and a plan to achieve it; a vision of the Canadian model, a modern project of a society, the project of a forward-looking country. Not old solutions to the problems of today, but new plans to meet new opportunities. A strategy to ensure that the opportunities of all of Canada are available to all Canadians. A strategy to ensure that Canadians shape their future in the Canadian Way - a strategy for people, for opportunity, for excellence, for success, for a high quality of life, for sharing, dignity and mutual respect, for creativity and innovation.
A realistic strategy for a realistic country. A caring strategy for a caring country. A modern strategy for a modern country. An ambitious strategy for an ambitious country. A bold strategy for a bold country. A strategy for the future for a country of the future. A country that is open to the world and willing to lead.
Canadians are not a boastful people. We are not given to flag waving or emotional excesses. And in a century - indeed in a Millennium - that has seen so much blood shed over differences of faith, race and nationality, perhaps that is a good thing. Instead, with quiet confidence we have adopted a Canadian Way of living together, of resolving differences, reasoning together, of creating what is quite simply the best country in the world to live.
I began today referring to the famous remark of Sir Wilfrid Laurier about the 20th Century belonging to Canada.
I do not know if the 21st Century will belong to Canada, but I do know something even more important. Canada belongs to the 21st Century. And Canada will be the place to be in the 21st Century.
Our way of living together, our way of working out problems, our way of respecting and caring for each other, these ways - this Canadian Way - is the way ahead for this ever smaller world of ours in the century ahead.
Mr. Speaker, the world has seen the future... and it is Canada.
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