Order, please. There is still far too much noise during questions and answers. I would ask members to come to order. It is increasingly difficult for the Chair to hear.
The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be joining this debate today, speaking about what many Canadians, and indeed people around the world, have on their minds, which is the state of the economy. The motion that has been presented by the official opposition finance critic is a very important one, and it calls on the government to present an economic and fiscal update to Parliament so that we all, on behalf of Canadians, can find out the state of our economic affairs.
The motion says that “...in light of the unstable economic situation, including job losses, falling oil prices, and declining government revenues...” we need to know exactly what is going on with the nation's finances. Further, the motion calls on the government to “...prepare a budget that addresses the economic challenges facing the middle class by creating more good-quality full-time jobs, and by encouraging economic diversification”.
There has been indeed a lot of discussion about the middle class. What does that mean? Who is middle class? What does a middle-class lifestyle mean?
A lot of working people across this country know what a middle-class lifestyle is. They know that it means having a good job that can pay their bills, that can give them enough money to pay for a decent place to live, that can allow them to support their family, that provides benefits for them, and that can help them one day look forward to a secure retirement. People know that the middle-class lifestyle also depends on access to quality health care.
As the member for Hull—Aylmer who just spoke said, of course our medicare system was pioneered by New Democrats, by Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan and by New Democrats here in the House of Commons, and it is one of the public programs that best guarantees a middle-class, secure life, which of course has been undermined by governments, including the current government and previous governments.
However, one of the things we most need to talk about right now is the state of the country's finances, given the rapid decline of resource prices, especially oil and gas prices, and what that means to the state of our budget.
I would just like to point out for the member and others that in fact I have not put any numbers forward. This member has been in the chamber for many years, and I am sure she will recall that she is to address her comments through the Chair. When she uses the word “you”, presumably that is to the Chair.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.
Order. There is a translation problem.
The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.
Well, I am the environment critic.
I do not trust that this is just a different standard. It says to me that this bill is opening the door a crack, and other parks legislation will also have a different and perhaps lower environmental standard, so it is hard to trust that this is what the issue is.
However, if we are looking at a new consideration of ecological integrity or a new consideration of urban parks, then I think we need to have that conversation. I think it needs consultation. I think we need to hear from witnesses at committee.
I think we need to, as I said, put the talking points down and have an open and honest conversation about what we do with urban parks. I think there is a solution. I am not sure what it is yet, but I think we can get there together.
I often think about the fact that there is a concept that the environment is a precious, pristine thing that is unsullied and is separate from us. It is not. The environment is us. It is the people. It is our buildings, roads, and farms. We are part of the environment.
There has been a lot of work and thinking on that concept of the environment, so I know that the work is there that can help us get to a solution here. I do not know if it is an amendment to the Parks Act. I understand if the government does not want to reopen the Parks Act, but maybe we need to. Maybe it needs to be a definition for urban parks.
We need to come together. I think we can do it, both opposition MPs and government MPs and communities.
One might think I am naive in thinking we could actually work together to get this done, but I live in eternal hope. I actually have some good experience. There is precedence here in this House, even in this current majority government.
I am really proud of the work we, all of us, were able to do on the Sable Island National Park to bring that bill forward, to raise concerns about some problems with the bill, and to actually get assurances and commitments from government, whether it was via the park management plan or reporting, that dealt with some of the problem areas and with our concerns.
As a result, there was near unanimous support, with the exception of one. Everyone wins in that case. Everyone feels good and confident, and we know we have a good piece of legislation before us. I hope we can do the same with this bill.
I challenge all of us to maybe come up with a definition for ecological integrity, or maybe to come up with a different standard for urban parks, something we can all agree on. I do not believe that anyone in this House, or any party, wants weaker environmental protection. I take the government at its word on this.
I think we can figure this out, and then maybe if we can figure this out, we could actually apply that solution to something like Gatineau Park, for example. Members may remember that the NDP has brought forward legislation several times, I think it is three times, to clearly establish boundaries and to clearly establish roles when it comes to Gatineau Park. This is a park that exists without a plan or real boundaries or definition. I will say that most recently, legislation was brought forward, in the form of Bill C-565, by my colleague, the member for Hull—Aylmer. We think this is another opportunity for an urban park with strong environmental legislation.
Unfortunately, the government voted against that bill—
I appreciate the member for Hull—Aylmer raising this. I will examine the blues and make a determination as to the language that was used. It certainly did prompt a reaction, so I will go back, take a look at that and come back to the House.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of turmoil over the last little while over the conduct particularly of the government in question period. For a long time question period has suffered and not met the standard which I think a lot of Canadians would hold. When questions are put, the ministers dodge or are evasive. As of last week, it had got to an extreme level where even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister found himself issuing statements that he was not proud of and apologized, and we took his apology.
What we have offered here today is some guidance through you, Mr. Speaker, to the ministers and parliamentary secretaries who answer questions on behalf of the government to do something as radical as have the answers bear relevance to the question. I understand that is so offensive to the current Conservative government it is trying to not even allow us to have a vote on that idea.
In the context of a question last week being so badly and I would suggest offensively answered by the government, which the member apologized for, we now have a proposition put forward, and the government's response is to completely suppress the conversation, to put closure on this conversation and not allow a proper and fair vote.
I think Canadians are going to be discouraged.
I wonder if my colleague from Hull—Aylmer has some comment on the process that the Conservatives have now heaped on top of this one progressive and positive idea to reform our Parliament and improve our question period.
The member for Hull—Aylmer will have five minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on the motion.
The electoral district of Hull--Aylmer (Quebec) has a population of 110,902 with 87,036 registered voters and 231 polling divisions.
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