Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Members of the Senate, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the House of Commons.
The two and a half years that have passed since I last had the pleasure of addressing Parliament have brought many changes, to Canada and to the world. Our hopes for global peace have been raised and, in many places, shattered. In some countries today, democracy is under stress, its future uncertain.
Canadians, however, continue their unwavering commitment to democracy. Elections in this country are carried out as peaceful clashes of ideas, not of forces. The very fact that we are gathered in this chamber is, itself, testimony to the durability and wisdom of the process by which we govern ourselves.
Once again, we look forward to welcoming Her Majesty. This year she will travel to Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories, and to British Columbia, where she will open the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
On October 25, 1993, Canadians chose a new Parliament and a new government. The Government has made a number of commitments to the people of Canada. They will be implemented.
On opening the first session of this Parliament, and on behalf of the Government, I make the following brief statements of government policy, which will be followed by legislation and other proposals by the Prime Minister and Ministers themselves.
The agenda of the Government is based on an integrated approach to economic, social, environmental and foreign policy.
In order to achieve this agenda, integrity and public trust in the institutions of government are essential.
My Ministers will insist upon integrity, honesty and openness on the part of those who exercise power on behalf of Canadians.
Specifically, an ethics counsellor will be appointed to advise Ministers and government officials and to examine the need for legislative change. Legislation will be placed before you to increase the transparency of the relations between lobbyists and the Government.
The Government is committed to enhancing the credibility of Parliament. Changes will be proposed to the rules of the House of Commons to provide Members of Parliament a greater opportunity to contribute to the development of public policy and legislation.
Measures to reform the pension plan of Members of Parliament, including the elimination of double-dipping, will be placed before you.
The Government attaches the highest priority to job creation and economic growth in the short term and the long term. To stimulate economic activity, an agreement has been reached with provincial and territorial governments for a joint federal-provincial-municipal infrastructure program. This program will proceed immediately.
The Government will reintroduce the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program. The Government will also create a Youth Service Corps to begin putting young Canadians back to work.
For longer-term job creation, the Government will focus on small and medium-sized businesses. The Government will work with Canada's financial institutions to improve access to capital for small business. A Canada Investment Fund will be created to help innovative leading-edge technology firms to obtain the long-term capital they need. To improve the diffusion of technology and innovation, a Canadian technology network will be created. To strengthen research and development, the Government will encourage technology partnerships between Canadian universities, research institutions and the private sector. The Government will also implement a Canadian strategy for an information highway.
The Government will promote better training for the managers of small businesses and greater access to strategic information on new technologies and new marketing opportunities. The Government will also work with the provinces to reduce the regulatory and paper burden on small businesses and to streamline the delivery of programs.
Job creation and economic growth also require Canadian firms, especially small and medium-sized businesses, to adopt an aggressive trading mentality to take advantage of export markets. With the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round and the implementation of NAFTA, the Government will assist Canadian companies to translate improved market access into greater export sales. The Government will pursue an activist trade policy so that Canadians may have improved access to expanding markets, particularly in the Pacific Rim and in Latin America.
The Government will ensure greater cohesion of federal activity in international business development and welcomes the agreement of the provinces at the First Ministers' meeting of December 21, 1993, to explore opportunities for reduced overlap and duplication in this area.
At the same time the Government will promote greater trade opportunities domestically. The Government is committed to working with all provincial governments to eliminate internal barriers to trade.
Job creation and sustained economic growth require an investment in people. The Government will work in partnership with the provinces and the private sector to help young people to be better prepared for the transition from school to the workplace. The Government will propose measures to improve job training as well as the literacy skills of Canadians. Funding for the National Literacy Program will be restored to its original level.
Canada's social security system must be responsive to the economic and social realities of the 1990s. The Government will announce an action plan for major reform of the social security system to be completed within two years. The Government will work closely and co-operatively with the provinces and will consult Canadians on the modernization and restructuring of our collective social security. New legislation will then be placed before Parliament.
The Government will pursue the fiscal discipline necessary for sustained economic growth. The budget will be tabled in February and will include measures to bring the federal debt and deficit under control in a manner that is compatible with putting Canadians back to work. The Government will work with the provinces to ensure that our shared fiscal challenge is dealt with co-operatively and creatively.
In collaboration with the provinces and as a result of consultations to be undertaken by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, the Government will replace the Goods and Services Tax.
It will be the policy of the Government to promote sustainable development as an integral component of decision making at all levels of our society. Special emphasis will be placed on pollution prevention and the development of ``green'' infrastructures and industries and their associated high-technology jobs. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be proclaimed.
The East Coast fishery, which has provided a livelihood to thousands of families in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, confronts significant challenges due to the groundfish resource collapse. The Government, working with industry and the provinces, will help those involved to become self supporting. The Government will take the action required to ensure that foreign overfishing of East Coast stocks comes to an end.
The Government will vigorously pursue its commitment to strengthen the fabric of Canadian life. The Government will introduce measures to enhance community safety and crime prevention. There will be measures to combat the high level of violence against women and children. Measures will be proposed to combat racism and hate crime. The Court Challenges Program and the Law Reform Commission will be restored. Amendments will be proposed to the Canadian Human Rights Act; and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act will be proclaimed.
Canada's universal health care system is founded upon the principles of the Canada Health Act. The Government is deeply committed to these principles and rejects any measure which undermines them.
A National Forum on Health chaired by the Prime Minister will be established to foster, in co-operation with the provinces, a national, public dialogue on the renewal of Canada's health system.
A Centre of Excellence for Women's Health will be established to ensure that women's health issues receive the attention they deserve.
Prenatal nutrition programs for low-income pregnant women will be created and expanded.
The Government will forge a new partnership with Aboriginal peoples, particularly in respect of the implementation of the inherent right of self-government. Legislation to further the implementation of northern claims settlements will be put before Parliament.
The Government will allocate additional funds for the support of post-secondary education for First Nations and will develop an Aboriginal head-start program.
Our cultural heritage and our official languages are at the very core of the Canadian identity and are sources of social and economic enrichment. The Government will announce measures to promote Canada's cultural identity.
The Government will ensure that Canada plays an active, internationalist role in the global arena. In light of the radical changes that have occurred in international affairs in the last few years, the Government will ask parliamentary committees to review Canada's foreign and defence policies and priorities.
This year will also mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day, and I look forward, on behalf of the people of Canada, to participating in commemorative ceremonies to mark the valiant efforts of our servicemen and servicewomen who participated in the liberation of Europe.
The Government will work vigorously to fulfil its responsibilities to ensure that federalism meets the needs of Canadians, recognizing that all Canadians share in the responsibility for making Canada work. It will be the policy of the Government to seek to clarify the federal government's responsibilities in relation to those of other orders of government, to eliminate overlap and duplication, and to find better ways to provide services so that they represent the best value for taxpayers' dollars and respond to the real needs of people.
By working co-operatively to create economic opportunity; by restoring common sense to our public finances; by rebuilding a sense of integrity in government; and by pursuing a positive and innovative agenda for our society, my Ministers are convinced that Canadian unity will be preserved and enhanced. They believe that this Parliament can play a historic role in preparing Canada for the new century to come.
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.
Honourable Members of the Senate/Members of the House of Commons:
May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.