Honourable Members of the Senate,
Members of the House of Commons,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is my great pleasure to greet you on this first day of the 37th Parliament since Confederation. The vital relationship that exists between the Canadian people and Parliament is what we celebrate today through history, custom and symbolism.
I also have the pleasure of welcoming new members to the House of Commons, and I want all parliamentarians to know how deeply I appreciate the ideals that motivate you to serve your country. I also appreciate the sacrifices brought on by your task and made in the name of the common good and of leadership. And in a healthy democracy, leadership can come from everyone, because it is a sense of really knowing what you want and what you can contribute.
A little more than a year ago, I became Canada’s 26th Governor General. I set out as the main objective of my first year in office to visit every province and territory and to meet as many Canadians as possible, wherever they live and make their lives — to engage in a true dialogue with them. I have seen many places that Canadians have decided to call home, from big cities to small hamlets, from the Island of Montreal to Ellesmere Island.
But what we call home is more than a place name on a map. It is our belonging to a community of ideas and ideals; it is the knowledge that we can say something and be listened to, and the conviction that we can respect, rely upon and help each other.
Meeting Canadians across the country has given me the opportunity to hear about the different challenges we face. Looking at these issues, we of course remember that we have demonstrated, time and time again, that we have the self-confidence to act, and to act successfully. Change does not frighten us — we have always harnessed it to our advantage.
It is often said that our country’s strength lies in its diversity. Why is this so? Because diversity imposes serious responsibilities. Indeed, if we accept our place in a rich and successful society, we must also acknowledge and engage with the parts of our society that are less advantaged.
The Government has been given a third mandate by Canadians. In leading Canada into the new millennium, its overarching goal will continue to be to build a stronger, ever more inclusive Canada and secure a higher quality of life for all Canadians. In pursuing this aim, the Government will carry out the commitments set out in its election platform.
Canada is proud, optimistic and strong. The Government has achieved the critical objective of restoring the nation’s finances. The economy continues its longest period of economic expansion since the 1960s. Inflation and interest rates are low and stable. More than two million new jobs have been created since 1993. Significant new investments are being made in children and youth, in innovation and skills, in health care, and in the environment.
As we enter this new century, Canada and Canadians face the challenges of competing in a faster-paced, technology-driven world economy. Of responding to economic uncertainty among our trading partners. Of continuing to strengthen the fabric of our society in an era of increasing globalization. And of advancing our Canadian interests and values in the international arena.
We must ensure that every region, every province and territory, every community, and every citizen has a strong voice and can contribute to building our nation. To bring the benefits of our prosperity to all communities, whether urban, rural, Northern or remote. To promote innovation, growth and development in all parts of our economy, including our agricultural and resource sectors and our manufacturing and service industries.
Canadians must rise to these challenges. Success in our more interdependent and complex world will require the contribution of all Canadians. The Government of Canada, for its part, will focus on:
In fulfilling its responsibilities, the Government of Canada will be guided by the values of Canadians. It will work with other levels of government, the private and voluntary sectors, and individual citizens.
It will continue to set bold goals and work toward them in a pragmatic, step-by-step way. It will continue to be a prudent steward of the nation’s finances as it focusses on the priorities of Canadians. Its efforts will be affordable and sustainable. The Government reaffirms its commitment to balanced budgets.
To assist the Government in fulfilling its responsibilities, Canada must have a public service distinguished by excellence and equipped with the skills for a knowledge economy and society. The Government will seek bright, motivated young women and men to accept the challenge of serving their country in the federal public service. The Government is committed to the reforms needed for the Public Service of Canada to continue evolving and adapting. These reforms will ensure that the Public Service is innovative, dynamic and reflective of the diversity of the country — able to attract and develop the talent needed to serve Canadians in the 21st century.
The Government will help to create opportunity for Canadians and ensure that opportunity is shared by all. This is the Canadian Way for the 21st century.
An innovative economy is essential to creating opportunity for Canadians.
An innovative economy is driven by research and development. It requires a highly skilled work force and investments in new technology. A business environment and tax policies that encourage smart risk taking and entrepreneurship and that reward success. An attractive environment for investment. And a strong global brand for Canadian excellence.
An innovative economy is one where the benefits of new ideas are shared by every sector and every region — from East to West to North, from office workers to farm families.
Canada has laid a solid foundation for success in the new economy. Our economic fundamentals are among the best in the world. Spiralling debt and deficits have been replaced by social and economic investments, tax cuts and debt repayments. On January 1st of this year, most elements of the Government’s comprehensive and broad-based package of $100 billion in tax relief took effect.
We are better positioned than at any time in the last three decades to seize the opportunities of the global economy and to weather a short-term slowing of growth experienced by Canada’s major trading partners.
To secure our continued success in the 21st century, Canadians must be among the first to generate new knowledge and put it to use.
Our objective should be no less than to be recognized as one of the most innovative countries in the world. Achieving this will require a comprehensive approach and the support and participation of all governments, businesses, educational institutions, and individual Canadians.
We must strive for Canada to become one of the top five countries for research and development performance by 2010. This is a challenge for all Canadians, but in particular for the private sector as the largest research investor in Canada.
As its contribution, the Government will at least double the current federal investment in research and development by 2010. In making new investments, the Government will:
New federal investments will include strategically targetted research that is co-ordinated with partners. These investments will directly benefit Canadians in areas such as health, water quality, the environment, natural resources management, and oceans research. Among its investments, the Government will increase support for the development of new technologies to assist Canadians with disabilities.
Research in life sciences will benefit all of Canada, particularly our agricultural and rural economies. The Government will help Canada’s agricultural sector move beyond crisis management — leading to more genuine diversification and value-added growth, new investments and employment, better land use, and high standards of environmental stewardship and food safety.
Skills and Learning
Canada will only realize its full potential by investing aggressively in the skills and talents of its people.
To succeed in the knowledge economy, Canada will need people with advanced skills and entrepreneurial spirit. Canada’s youth are optimistic, technologically savvy, globally connected and the most highly educated generation in our history. The Government will continue to help young Canadians contribute to their country, gain employment, and apply their business and creative skills.
Building a skilled work force must be a national effort. The Government of Canada will work with provinces and territories and with non-governmental organizations to ensure that all Canadians, young and old, can achieve their learning goals. Canada must see at least one million more adults pursue learning opportunities during the next five years.
The Government will also help adults who want to improve their skills, but who may face difficulty in finding the time or resources to do this while providing for themselves and their families. It will create Registered Individual Learning Accounts to make it easier for Canadians to finance their learning. And it will improve the loans that are available to part-time students, so more workers can learn while they earn.
Some Canadians face particular challenges in upgrading their skills and enhancing their education. The Government will take steps to make it easier for them to access skills and learning.
Immigrants have enriched Canada with their ideas and talents. The Government will take steps to help Canada attract the skilled workers it needs. It will also work in co-operation with the provinces and territories to secure better recognition of the foreign credentials of new Canadians and their more rapid integration into society. The Government will re-introduce changes to immigration legislation to streamline and improve the immigration system.
The Government has helped to make Canada one of the most connected countries in the world, yet the speed of change continues to accelerate. Canada must continue to develop and strengthen its information infrastructure.
The private sector today is expanding high-speed access to the Internet in many regions. The National Broadband Task Force will advise the Government on how Canadians together can achieve the critical goal of making broadband access widely available to citizens, businesses, public institutions and to all communities in Canada by 2004.
The Government will continue to support the Community Access Program and SchoolNet, ensuring that Canadians, their communities and their schools can have an on-ramp to the information highway. These programs are critical to Canada’s effort to close the digital divide, particularly in rural, remote, Northern and Aboriginal communities. The Government will also enhance SchoolNet, focussing on creating more and better learning content on-line.
The Government will continue to work toward putting its services on-line by 2004, to better connect with citizens.
It will also modernize federal privacy law to safeguard the personal information of Canadians and provide better copyright protection for new ideas and knowledge.
Trade and Investment
The Government’s investments in innovation, skills and connectivity, as well as its reduction of corporate taxes and improved treatment of capital gains, are making Canada one of the most attractive places to invest and to do business. In addition, the Government will:
The Government will work closely with the United States, Canada’s most important trading partner, to maintain secure and efficient access to each other’s markets. It will continue the joint work begun to modernize the shared border.
At the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City this April, the Government will advance work toward creating the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
The Government will also launch a branding strategy to raise awareness of the advantages of investing in Canada. As part of this effort, the Government will continue its successful Team Canada trade missions and launch Investment Team Canada missions to the United States and Europe.
The Canadian Way recognizes that economic and social success must be pursued together. We cannot build a prosperous society in the absence of economic growth. We cannot lead in innovation and new ideas without healthy and secure citizens. We must not pursue our interests in the world without strengthening our distinct culture and values here at home.
Nowhere is the creation and sharing of opportunity more important than for Aboriginal people. Too many continue to live in poverty, without the tools they need to build a better future for themselves or their communities. As a country, we must be direct about the magnitude of the challenge and ambitious in our commitment to tackle the most pressing problems facing Aboriginal people. Reaching our objectives will take time, but we must not be deterred by the length of the journey or the obstacles that we may encounter along the way.
The Government is committed to strengthening its relationship with Aboriginal people. It will support First Nations communities in strengthening governance, including implementing more effective and transparent administrative practices. And it will work to ensure that basic needs are met for jobs, health, education, housing and infrastructure. This commitment will be reflected in all the Government’s priorities.
Children and Families
Securing a good start in life for children is the only way to ensure that they are ready to learn, to seize opportunity as adults, and to contribute to the building of their country.
There was a time in Canada when retirement often meant facing a new life of hardship. A generation ago, Canadians set a national goal to eliminate poverty among seniors, and we have made significant progress.
There was a time in this country when falling sick meant risking one’s life savings. Working together, Canadians built a national, publicly funded health care system to ensure access to quality care for every citizen regardless of income.
There was a time when losing a job also meant immediate loss of income for workers and their families. And so Canadians created Employment Insurance.
Now Canadians must undertake another national project — to ensure that no Canadian child suffers the debilitating effects of poverty.
Canadians and their governments have already taken significant steps in this direction.
A strong economy and job creation have been essential to reducing poverty and ensuring that families have the resources to care for their children. But economic growth alone is not enough. Governments also have a key role to play in helping families left behind and in providing support to families and children.
All governments have put in place a range of measures to help families and children. The National Child Benefit is the cornerstone of our collective efforts to provide children with a better start. It is the single most important social program to be introduced in this country since medicare in the 1960s. The Government of Canada’s contribution to the National Child Benefit will continue to rise over the next four years.
Most recently, the Government of Canada and provinces and territories launched the Early Childhood Development initiative to expand and improve access to services for all families and children. The Government of Canada is investing more than $2 billion in this initiative over five years. As part of this agreement, governments will begin reporting to Canadians on the outcomes of their programs and services for children. These reports will give the Government of Canada and its partners the information they need to take whatever additional steps are necessary to provide Canadian children with a better start in life.
The Government of Canada will also take immediate action with its partners where the challenges are greatest.
Good Health and Quality Care
A healthy Canadian society is built on the health and well-being of individual Canadians and the health of our communities.
Canadians place a high priority on good health and on their health care system. We know that our system of medicare, which ensures access to needed services regardless of income or place of residence, is vital to our quality of life. It is a Canadian advantage and deeply valued by all citizens.
The Government of Canada will uphold the Canada Health Act. It will work with the provinces and territories to ensure that all governments continue to fulfil their commitment to the principles of medicare.
Governments in Canada have come together to strengthen and renew Canada’s health care system. Last September, First Ministers affirmed the commitment of their governments to the principles of the Canada Health Act and endorsed a health action plan that will enable them to move forward in building a modern, integrated and sustainable health system for Canadians.
Over the next three years, governments will take concrete action to reform and support innovation in primary care, to adopt modern health information technologies, and to purchase needed diagnostic and medical equipment. For its part, the Government of Canada is committing more than $21 billion in new funding to the provinces and territories over five years through the Canada Health and Social Transfer.
The Government will also champion community-based health promotion and disease prevention measures.
Building on the health action plan’s commitment to public reporting, the Government of Canada will work with the provinces and territories to create a citizens’ council on health care quality. This council will ensure that the public’s perspective is considered in developing meaningful indicators of health system performance.
As public reporting begins on how the health system is meeting the needs of Canadians, governments will use this information to continue to move forward with the renewal of medicare.
A Clean Environment
Canada is blessed by the beauty of its vast landscape and the wealth of its natural resources. But with this blessing comes the responsibility to ensure its preservation. A healthy environment is an essential part of a sustainable economy and our quality of life.
The Government’s focus will be on the three priorities of clean air, clean water, and the conservation of Canada’s natural spaces.
Last December, the Government of Canada signed an agreement with the United States to significantly reduce the emissions that cause smog. This agreement will lead to a 90 percent reduction in smog-causing vehicle emissions by 2010, bringing cleaner air to millions of citizens in both countries. The Government will move quickly to implement this agreement and other measures, working with the provinces and territories to achieve cleaner air.
It is Canada’s responsibility, as steward of one of the world’s largest supplies of fresh water, to protect this critical resource. Safeguarding our water is a shared task among governments, industry and individual Canadians. The Government of Canada will fulfil its direct responsibilities for water, including the safety of water supplies on reserves and federal lands.
Canadians are the guardians of a significant percentage of the world’s wilderness and wildlife. The Government will invest in the creation of new national parks and implement a plan to restore existing parks to ecological health. It will work with its partners toward more integrated, sustainable management of Canada’s oceans. And it will re-introduce legislation for marine conservation areas and to protect species at risk.
As part of its efforts to promote global sustainable development, the Government will ensure that Canada does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will work with its provincial and territorial partners to implement the recently announced first national business plan on climate change.
To safeguard Canadians from toxic substances and environmental contaminants, the Government will also strengthen laws, research efforts and other measures for health protection. This will include the development of appropriate standards that reflect the special vulnerabilities of children.
Strong and Safe Communities
Strong and safe communities are an essential part of the fabric of our society. They are critical to providing Canadians with the security to build a better future for themselves and their families. They are also important to attracting talented people from around the world to come and make their home here.
Canadian communities of all sizes — whether urban or rural, Aboriginal or multicultural — face diverse challenges and have unique needs. The Government of Canada will strive to ensure that, wherever possible, its actions and programs are co-ordinated to help build local solutions to local challenges. It will work with partners across Canada to launch a dialogue on the opportunities and challenges facing urban centres. It will co-operate with provincial and municipal partners to help improve public transit infrastructure. And it will help to stimulate the creation of more affordable rental housing.
Ensuring that Canada’s communities are safe is an important element of fostering and attracting the talented people needed for success in the new economy. Crime rates in Canada have fallen steadily for almost a decade.
The Government of Canada will continue to work with provinces and territories, communities, and all its partners to implement a balanced approach to addressing crime — focussing on prevention as much as punishment, strengthening penalties for serious crime, and considering the needs of victims.
The Government will focus on safeguarding Canadians from new and emerging forms of crime. It will take aggressive steps to combat organized crime, including the creation of stronger anti-gang laws and measures to protect members of the justice system from intimidation. It will provide enhanced law enforcement tools to deal with emerging threats to security, such as cybercrime and terrorism. It will act to safeguard children from crime, including criminals on the Internet. The Government will take steps to ensure that our laws protect children from those who would prey on their vulnerability.
The Government will re-introduce legislation to change how the justice system deals with young offenders. It will encourage alternatives to custody for non-violent offenders, emphasizing rehabilitation and re-integration into society, while toughening consequences for more violent youth.
Working with the provinces, territories and communities, the Government of Canada will strengthen the capacity of local communities to deal with conflict, prevent crime, and address drug abuse.
It is a tragic reality that too many Aboriginal people are finding themselves in conflict with the law. Canada must take the measures needed to significantly reduce the percentage of Aboriginal people entering the criminal justice system, so that within a generation it is no higher than the Canadian average.
Vibrant Canadian Culture
Canada is defined by far more than its political boundaries or economic relationships. In these times of rapid change and globalization, it is more important than ever that we know who we are as Canadians and what brings us together.
The focus of our cultural policies for the future must be on excellence in the creative process, diverse Canadian content, and access to the arts and heritage for all Canadians.
Both the English and French networks of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have long been cornerstones of Canadian cultural policy. The CBC helps connect Canadians to each other, their history and their country. It reaches all parts of Canada, from big cities to small towns to Northern and Aboriginal communities. It provides a distinctive Canadian voice in both official languages and important opportunities for our creative people. The Government will increase its support to help the CBC fulfil its distinct role as a public broadcaster serving all Canadians.
The Government will assist the book-publishing and sound-recording sectors to make the transition to the new economy. It will continue to support the development of digital content for the Internet and other new media in French and English. And it will work to expand international markets for Canadian cultural products and services.
Communities across Canada are increasingly recognizing the importance of arts and heritage for their quality of life and ability to attract talent, investment and tourism. The Government of Canada will continue to work with the private and not-for-profit sectors and other governments to strengthen Canada’s cultural infrastructure. It will help communities to develop arts and heritage programs that are sustainable and relevant to their diverse circumstances and aspirations.
The well-being of Canada and Canadians depends on global human security, prosperity and development.
The Government of Canada is committed to working with its international partners to promote international peace and security by enhancing the mechanisms for conflict prevention and resolution. It will work to strengthen global governance as well as existing and new multilateral institutions. These include the G-20 — a new forum of which Canada is the first chair — which is striving to enhance the stability of the world economy and ensure that globalization benefits all its participants.
The Government will increase Canada’s official development assistance and use these new investments to advance efforts to reduce international poverty and to strengthen democracy, justice and social stability worldwide.
Canadians have become leaders in harnessing the power of technology to build a more inclusive society. This experience serves as a powerful model for the world. Through its participation on the Digital Opportunities Task Force established by the G-8 nations and through its own investments in developing countries, Canada will contribute to closing the global digital divide.
The Government will continue Canada’s proud record of peacekeeping. In Budget 2000, the Government provided funding increases for the Canadian Forces to help ensure that they are equipped and prepared to respond quickly to calls for help at home and abroad.
The Summit of the Americas this year presents an exceptional opportunity to promote a balanced and coherent vision for deepening co-operation among the nations of the Western hemisphere. The summit declaration and action plan will support Canada’s interest in strengthening democracy and human rights, expanding commerce through the Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative, increasing people’s access to the benefits of growth, and providing opportunities for all nations in the Americas to improve the quality of life of their citizens.
At the Summit of the Americas and as chair of the G-8 in 2002, Canada will work to expand opportunities for more countries to participate in the benefits of globalization, while pressing for peace and security in the world.
Canada was born of a noble vision and an act of will.
Our Canadian citizenship has been built over time through the experiences we have shared . . .
. . . when together we celebrate the successes of our scientists, scholars, athletes and artists, our leaders on the world stage, and our peacekeepers. And when we remember and honour our war veterans.
. . . when we visit other parts of our country or when we travel abroad and see ourselves through the eyes of others.
. . . when every year thousands of new Canadians stand proudly with their families to take on the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.
. . . when we come together to help each other in tough times. And when millions of Canadians volunteer their time and energy to make their communities a better place.
The Government will help Canadians to strengthen their bonds of mutual understanding and respect, to celebrate their achievements and history, and to exercise their shared citizenship.
The institutions of Government will continue to be strengthened. Since 1993, the Government has taken a range of measures to enable members of Parliament to more effectively represent the views of their constituents. MPs have participated in pre-budget consultations, at the end of which recommendations were made to the Government. Moreover, private members’ bills from the House and Senate have been taken into account more often and considered with greater attention than at any time in the past.
In this new session of Parliament, the Government will make further proposals to improve procedures in the House and Senate. Among other measures, voting procedures will be modernized in the House of Commons and, to assist parliamentarians in carrying out their duties, the Government intends to increase the resources of the Library of Parliament to better serve the research needs of standing committees of the House and Senate.
Every Canadian is called upon to make a contribution to building our country. To ensure that the promise of Canada becomes an even greater reality in the 21st century. And to ensure that our Canadian Way remains the best example of what is possible when women and men of every race and creed come together in community in search of a better future.
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 and
Members of the House of Commons:
May Divine Providence guide you in your deliberations.