The Honourable Claude Drouin was first elected as a Liberal MP for the Beauce riding in Quebec in the 1997 election; he was re-elected twice in 2000 and 2004; he did not run again in 2006. Mr. Drouin served as Secretary of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec (2002-2003). He also served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with special emphasis on Rural Communities (2004-2006) and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry (2001-2002). He was a member of several standing committees including the Committee on Transport (1999-2000) and Committee on Finance (1997-1999).
Following the first Throne Speech of the re-elected Liberal Government delivered by His Excellency the Governor General, Roméo Leblanc, on September 23rd 1997, rookie MP Claude Drouin of Beauce stood to deliver his maiden speech. He was invited to stand by seconding a motion brought forward by fellow new Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte to thank the Governor General for his delivery of the Speech.
Mr. Drouin begins with the conventions of a maiden speech by congratulating his colleagues for being elected to office. He also takes the opportunity to personally thank Mr. Leblanc, as well as congratulating the Hon. Gilbert Parent for being re-elected as Speaker of the House. In the traditional style, Mr. Drouin takes the opportunity to thank his constituents for giving him the honour of representing them in Parliament. He gushes that the riding is “one of the most beautiful regions in the province” of Quebec.
Kingdom of SMBs
In speaking about Beauce, Mr. Drouin refers to the importance of small and medium size businesses (SMB) to the riding’s economy. The region in Southern Quebec is home to a diversified economy, including agriculture, manufacturing, service sector jobs, as well as maple syrup, of course. Mr. Drouin lists names of companies that call the region home including Vachon (the maker of famous packaged cakes like Jos Louis) and Pomerleau (a construction management firm); according to Mr. Drouin, these companies have won Beauce’s reputation as the “kingdom of SMBs” with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the province.
The economy is a priority
Mr. Drouin praises the Liberal Government for its efforts in turning around the Canadian economy and in making its performance “one of the best among the G-7 industrial nations”. By making job creation a priority, he implies that the government’s efforts to revitalize the economy helped reduce the unemployment rate.
The Government’s goal towards eliminating the deficit is also praised by Mr. Drouin as a means towards a strong and stable economy. By balancing the budget, the Government will be able to cut taxes, pay down the debt and re-invest in social programs.
Mr. Drouin recognizes the importance of investing in the nation’s young for a sustainable economy and he takes the opportunity to briefly highlight the Government’s efforts in supporting youth in gaining experience and knowledge.
By summarizing the Government’s concerns, Mr. Drouin signals that the economy figures strongly in the Liberals’ plans for governing. According to him, its “priorities are first and foremost employment, improved public finances and Canadian unity.”
Working towards a modern federalism
Canada’s reputation for providing “the best quality of life of any country in the world” can only be maintained through national unity. Mr. Drouin praises the “flexibility and vigour of Canadian federalism” exercised by the Liberal Government towards maintaining unity. Furthermore, by de-duplicating services provided by the provinces, the Government has demonstrated its respect for provincial jurisdiction set out in the Constitution.
He uses the manpower agreement concerning the devolution of responsibility for labour force training in the wake of the 1995 Quebec referendum, as an example. Other examples brought forth are the environmental harmonization agreement and the transfer of responsibility for social housing. This “new federalism”, Mr. Drouin suggests, will serve to guide the Government’s actions.
Finally, before concluding by seconding Ms. Bulte’s motion, Mr. Drouin speaks of his pride in Canada and its respect for the French language. The active promotion of French across Canada as demonstrated by the fact that yearly, “more than 300,000 Canadians learn French” strengthens the bonds of the country’s “two languages and two cultures”.
Phillipe Murphy- Rhéaume is a graduate of McGill University's Political Science department. He is currently studying public administration at Ryerson while working as a researcher at a non-profit environmental organization in Toronto.