Address by the Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
Leader of the Official Opposition
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As you know, today is an anniversary of sorts. The last election was just one year ago today. It was an election in which we, the new Conservatives – after only a few weeks of preparation, elected the largest official opposition in a quarter century.
Now, we stand on the threshold of another beautiful Canadian summer, and a period of enormous political opportunity.
Rona and Monte have just given us an informative and amusing report card on the achievement of the Martin Liberals over the past 12 months. But, the truth is, little of this has to be said. Canadians already know they are led by the most corrupt, incompetent, visionless government in our history.
Canadians are also becoming aware that two of the three opposition parties in Parliament offer no alternative of any kind. From budgets to marriage legislation, the NDP and the Bloc are working hand-in-hand with the government.
The Bloc especially has lost any raison d’être here in Ottawa.
Even Gilles Duceppe has chosen Canada. The Bloc is a dead end for Gilles Duceppe, and the Bloc is a dead end for Quebec.
All of this gives us the opportunity to present the one principled alternative to this Liberal government. As the other parties work with the Liberals, it is our opportunity to talk to Canadians.
As I said at our Montreal policy convention, I will go anywhere in this country in order to bring about change. I will meet any group that will help us elect a Conservative government. I will leave no task undone, no voter unheard and no region unvisited.
But I don’t have to do this alone. We have a great team in caucus. We have now nominated candidates in virtually every riding in this great country. We have completed most of the work on our platform.
This summer, I will be working. Our caucus members will be working. Our candidates must be working. And all Conservative supporters need to be working – to bring our message of change to Canadians.
Our message is that now, as never before, time to stand up for Canada. Time to finally elect an honest, principled government with vision – a vision that grabs the future and makes it ours.
Friends, the election may wait. The other parties will wait. But we don’t have to wait. This time is for us an opportunity and a challenge. The challenge is to lay the groundwork for the change that must come, to convince Canadians to elect a Conservative government, and to see what a Conservative vision would achieve.
It is a time to stand up for Canada.
You know, that biggest problem with this Liberal government is that everything it does is phony. A grand strategy is proclaimed, an announcement is made, a deal is signed, and eventually a cheque is cut to somebody somewhere. But, for ordinary people, there are never any results. Nothing ever actually gets done.
There is no better example of this than the Liberal daycare scheme. The Liberal government has promised to build a national system of institutional day care. They have no idea how much it will cost, but they’re willing to throw the first five million dollars into the hole. They’ll cut cheques to bureaucrats, experts and advocates. But at best a tiny minority of families will ever see the money, will ever get help.
As the summer unfolds, we will announce details of our plans. But make no mistake, Conservatives will give the bulk of the child care dollars to the millions of child care experts who already exist: their names are mom and dad. That is because we believe parents – not politicians – know what’s best for their kids.
Our program will have different parts, but the key will be that we will give families tax dollars for childcare – not raise taxes on parents. A Conservative government would give money directly to parents. We will provide a universal childcare payment directly to every Canadian family, regardless of where or how they choose to spend it. We will stand up for choice in childcare.
We will talk about health care as well. There is no area of public policy where this government’s record is more phony. Every year they sign another health accord. Every year they sign more cheques. And every year nothing happens.
Paul Martin said he would fix health care for a generation, and he has provided enough rhetoric to last a lifetime. But despite their high sounding words, the Liberals will not even require waiting list reduction targets for at least another three years.
Among other things, a Conservative government will:
• Insist that all jurisdictions be held accountable for meeting wait time reduction targets;
• Examine a care guarantee that would ensure patients received treatment within the clinically acceptable waiting times;
• Ensure that public health insurance covers a choice in delivery options to the patient.
Our approach will not centre on preserving one type of delivery and spending lots. Our approach will centre on serving the patient and achieving results.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on health care is a damning indictment of the Liberals’ health care record. As the court said, access to a waiting list is not access to health care.
A Conservative government will stand up for the health care access of ordinary Canadians.
This summer, we want to begin to better lay out our plans for the environment. We have had eight years of inaction under the Liberals’ Kyoto accord, and this year, we will again have one of the worst summers in terms of smog. In the Liberal-NDP budget, hundreds of millions of your tax dollars have been set aside – to do what? To clean up air quality? To purify our water? To preserve our natural heritage?
No. Instead, hundreds of millions of your tax dollars are being spent to buy hot air credits – credits literally as phony as three dollar bills. We’ll buy these from other countries, many with records far worse than Canada’s.
This money will not clean the Canadian environment, develop Canadian technology, or reduce the effects of this summer’s smog. This money will just transfer Canadians’ hard-earned wealth.
What we will do is take that money out of hot air credits, bring that money back to Canada, and put it toward tax credits for public transit users.
When it comes to real environmental results, we will stand up for Canada.
Finally, let me just talk today about national unity. Once again, this is a subject this government talks about incessantly, but what have they done?
It was Conservatives Sir John A. Macdonald, George Etienne Cartier and their associates who founded Confederation - the most lasting act of national unity in our history.
In recent times, other prime ministers have made their own contributions, some of which remain controversial to this day.
• Lester Pearson gave us our flag, against great opposition – even as he led a minority government;
• Pierre Elliott Trudeau enacted official bilingualism and, though strongly contested in his home province, patriated the Constitution;
• Brian Mulroney, after a hard-fought election, secured our access to the American market. And, though ultimately unsuccessful, tried to modernize the constitution through a national referendum.
After 12 years of this Liberal government, after three Liberal majorities and one minority, we can ask ourselves: What is their vision for the country? What are their lasting achievements?
The sad reality is that this Liberal administration - through waste, corruption and mismanagement - has tarnished the reputation of federalism in Quebec so badly that they have given new life for the Bloc, a party that can’t even explain why it’s in Ottawa.
Support for separatism in Quebec is now higher than in the 1995 referendum when the Liberals almost lost the country.
And I said on the night of the confidence vote that I was embarrassed that the only MPs from Quebec in Ottawa who voted against corruption were the Bloc. At that moment, I resolved that after the next election, there will no longer be any Quebec MPs from the Bloc to vote for against corruption.
Our current prime minister’s only contribution to a national vision has been not to propose any solutions, but to give our problems a name – the democratic deficit. We deserve a government that is prepared to stand up for Canada and give the country some direction as a nation.
You know some of the things I stand for, and they are long overdue:
• The Senate of Canada should be modernized and occupied by those who are elected by the people they represent;
• The growing areas of Ontario and British Columbia are underrepresented by population in the House of Commons - and this situation should be rectified;
• And we need to do something about the fiscal imbalance, where Ottawa rolls in billions of dollars of waste, mismanagement and corruption – while lower levels of government struggle to provide essential services without going into debt.
The fiscal imbalance is not only a question of numbers, but rather one of government philosophy. The federal Liberals think our money belongs to them- that they can do whatever they want with our tax dollars – while the provinces struggle desperately to make ends meet.
The Liberal ideal is a dominant federalism with a rich, central government with poor provinces. The Conservative ideal is an open federalism that considers provinces and municipalities as partners – not adversaries.
Our Conservative government will stand up for a fundamental rethinking of transfer arrangements and revenue-raising capacity between all levels of government.
Our Conservative government will stand up for our provinces and our municipalities, as well as our federal government – because there are no federal Canadians, provincial Canadians and municipal Canadians.
There are only Canadians – and they need our governments to work together.
Friends, over the next few weeks before Parliament returns, our caucus members, our candidates and I will be talking directly and frankly to Canadians about our plans:
• Our plans to help in childcare;
• To rebuild our health care;
• To improve our environment;
• And to restore trust in Canada’s institutions and our national unity.
We’ll also talk about some things I haven’t touched on today, like standing up for hard-working immigrants, and standing up for our rural economy.
For too long, we have allowed other parties to define us, but we have a modern, mainstream and realistic program to put forward. This is what I will be doing, as I travel in a small van... paid for by the party…not on a government jet paid by Canadian taxpayers.
Friends, everywhere I go, I will be talking about the fundamental values we share as Canadians.
Mr. Martin likes to say that the Liberal party believes in what he calls “Canadian values.” But we know what Liberal values are –paying off your friends and buying off your rivals. That’s how they became corrupt and how they stay in power.
These aren’t the real values of Canadians. The real Canadian values, the values that built the country are:
• Honesty and hard work;
• Safety and security;
• Community and compassion;
• Democracy and decency;
• And family and freedom.
These are the real Canadian values. These are not the values of today’s Liberals. They are the values of Canada’s Conservatives.
And as we fan out across the country in the weeks ahead, taking our message directly to Canadians. Remember, that as we stand up for these values, we stand up for Canada.
I want to thank you, all the MPs, staff and supporters who are here for your hard work over the last twelve months.
Have a great summer.