Skip to main content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 166

CONTENTS

Thursday, June 7, 2007





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 141 
l
NUMBER 166 
l
1st SESSION 
l
39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers


  (1005)  

[English]

Auditor General

    I have the honour to lay upon the table the annual report on the Privacy Act of the Auditor General of Canada for the year 2006-07.

[Translation]

    This document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Trade

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, Canada's state of trade, Trade and Investment Update--2007.

Excise Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today of tabling this private member's bill to basically put school boards on par with municipalities. It is time. This has been discussed for a long period of time and I think we can get all party support to get this 100% exemption for school boards, many of which are struggling with cutbacks in provincial budgets.
    It is time to get on with it. I look forward to support from everybody on this private member's bill.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Motion Picture Industry Secretariat Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table a bill to establish a Canadian motion picture secretariat.
    This secretariat will be comprised of representatives from major motion picture industry sectors across Canada with the purpose of ensuring that the industry in Canada has every opportunity to remain internationally competitive and successful, including both domestic and foreign productions.
    The secretariat would monitor the industry and make biannual recommendations to Parliament regarding any legislative or other measures that could be taken by the Government of Canada in support of this industry which last year contributed $4.8 billion to the Canadian economy and employs over 124,000 persons nationally.
    In B.C., it contributes $1.2 billion to the economy and employs over 35,000 persons. In my riding of North Vancouver, it contributes over $100 million and employs over 5,000.
    Film and television production in Canada has grown over the years but faces strong and increasing international competition. Canada has developed a great motion picture industry with a wealth of talented professionals, and this bill is intended to ensure it remains healthy and competitive.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Competition Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, today I am very pleased to introduce, in this House, a bill to amend the Competition Act, to authorize the Commissioner of Competition to inquire into an entire industry sector.
    The current situation with gas prices is becoming alarming, and the fluctuating prices have motivated us to take action. This is why I am tabling this bill today, seconded by my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières and industry critic. I am tabling this bill today for our constituents, who must deal with constantly increasing prices.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[English]

Business of Supply

    Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions and I think you would find there is unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:
    That for the supply period ending June 23, 2007, Standing Order 81(18)(c) be amended by replacing “10 p.m.” with “8:30 p.m.”
    Does the hon. the chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

  (1010)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to seek unanimous consent on Motion No. 346, which reads, “That, in the opinion of the House, throughout Canada, in each and every year, June 10 shall be known as Canada-Portugal Day in recognition of the history of the Portuguese Canadian community and its contribution to Canadian society”.
    Does the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

Petitions

Point Clark Lakeshore 

    Mr. Speaker, I have a group of petitioners who have asked the House to consider the merit and the public support for the restoration of the Point Clark lakeshore, specifically the improvement of water quality and beach conditions from Amberley Road to Pine River.
    They also make the allegations that low lake levels, the presence of man-made groynes, the invasion of certain plant species, the population explosion of certain migratory and non-migratory bird species, poorly maintained and managed sceptic systems, manure and fertilizer runoff, and the foul odour and health conditions have rendered the beach unfit for human activities. They state that further deterioration and human health risk is having a serious negative impact on the residential and tourist activities in the area.
    The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to undertake any and all legal and regulatory measures required to clean up the said conditions and to restore the ecosystem to a natural state.

Income Trusts  

    Mr. Speaker, I present this income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Carol Crocker of Ontario who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said, “The greatest fraud is a promise not kept”.
    The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts but recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.
    The petitioners, therefore, call upon the Conservative minority government to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise and, finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords  

    That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.
    
    Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2007, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bill.
    In view of our recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. Leader of the Opposition, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.
    I am pleased to speak to today's motion. I would like to thank my Liberal Party colleagues on this side of the House and from all regions of the country who have supported those of us from Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. We are two of the provinces most directly affected by the Prime Minister's broken promise but, as we all realize, if he can do it to us he can do it to everybody else.
    If it were not so serious it would be funny in retrospect to recall the finance minister saying that with his budget the days of arguing over fiscal federalism were over. In fact, he opened up new fronts in that ongoing dispute and picked fights he did not need to pick. He could have honoured the Conservative election promises but he did not. He could have kept the commitment that the Prime Minister made no less than six times but he did not.
    In his famous mail out to thousands in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Prime Minister said:
    That's why we would leave you with 100% of your oil and gas revenues. No small print. No excuses. No caps.
     It was a promise made and a promise broken.
    In his election letter to Premier Williams, the Prime Minister said:
    We will remove non-renewable natural resources revenue from the equalization formula to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable resources sectors across Canada. The Conservative Government of Canada will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula.
     It was a promise made and a promise broken.
    In a letter to the Council of the Federation, to every provincial and territorial premier, he wrote:
    We believe that a new equalization formula should exclude non-renewable resource revenues for all provinces....
    However, the finance minister chose not to honour those commitments and now he and others will have to live with the consequences. Those consequences include, as of Tuesday night, driving out one of their own member's of Parliament.
     This is the second broken promise on a budgetary provision that has led to serious discord on that side of the House.
    The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley has joined our colleague, the hon. member for Halton, in the exodus from the sinking Conservative ship. This, despite assurances from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that members from Nova Scotia and from Newfoundland and Labrador would be able to vote their conscience without repercussion. These members knew all along that they were in political trouble due to the Prime Minister's broken promise concerning equalization and its impact on the Atlantic accords.
    Last month, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told us:
    We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring or firing on budget votes....
     Not only was there hiring, firing and whipping, there was flipping and flopping.
    Not that long ago, a Liberal member of Parliament voted in this place against the budget. What did those members opposite, when they were still calling themselves Reformers, say then? They called it heavy-handed and iron fisted. They said that it put party and politics ahead of principles and people. They said that it would not matter if an MP voted against a government bill, even a money bill. In the immortal words of the current Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, who said:
    I appreciate what he's done. I think he has taken the right position. He's standing up for his constituents.
     How times do change.
    Before our hon. colleague from Nova Scotia had even sat back down from voting his protest against this broken promise, his name was being erased from the government party's website and access to his important computer files was cut off. We all know who has the iron fist now.
    Where are those Reformers now? I think we sometimes long for those reformers who called for an end to party discipline and promised that they would do what they campaigned on or resign.
    The example set by our friend from Nova Scotia is especially galling to people in my province, especially in those three Avalon Peninsula seats occupied, for now I would say, by members of the Conservative government. They had the chance to show some backbone by standing with their constituents and with their province but they chose not to. They still have that opportunity. They still have a chance to show some honour in the vote on third reading.

  (1015)  

    The hon. member for Avalon already knows what it is like to side with his constituents and put principles above politics. He did that as a provincial MHA. It cost him his seat in government, but it endeared him to his own electors and launched him on his way to the House of Commons. However, it is sad on a personal level to hear what those people who supported him then are saying now. It is sad and disturbing to see the position he has been placed in by a Prime Minister who cannot keep his word.
    The hon. member for St. John's East, who has served in politics with distinction for many years and has announced his retirement with the next election, has nothing left to lose. There should be no fear of party discipline or punishment on his part, and in any event, the foreign affairs minister already granted immunity. Yet he sided with the Prime Minister and the finance minister and voted to break a solemn promise, a written promise.
    The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said, during the last great debate on this issue back in 2005, “You cannot ever turn your back on your province on an important issue like this, even if it meant your party says tough stuff, you have to sit in the last seat, last row”.
    It is okay for him. He is still on that front bench. It is our friend from Nova Scotia who is now in the last seat and in the last row.
    In Labrador we have long known about the worthlessness of the Prime Minister's commitments, written and otherwise. In 2005 he promised 60% federal funding for the Trans-Labrador Highway and in 2006 he promised to cost share the project, but in 2007 these promises are still left unkept. There was supposed to be a federal-provincial deal by June. It is now June, but there is still no deal.
    The Prime Minister promised us a 650 troop rapid reaction battalion for 5 Wing Goose Bay, along with a 100 member unmanned aerial vehicle squadron. The defence minister said he would personally give the orders to establish these units, but all of us in this House know what the value of one of his orders is.
    The Prime Minister said that he wanted stable funding for Marine Atlantic. What did the Conservatives deliver? Rate hikes.
    The Prime Minister said he would “accept the targets” for social and economic progress for aboriginal peoples set out in Kelowna, and then scrapped the Kelowna accord altogether.
    He promised, again in writing, to support regional development agencies such as ACOA and did so by cutting their budgets.
    Supposed Conservative commitments on fisheries retraining and emergency measures to deal with the ice blockade this spring have also led us nowhere, other than in circles as we try to decipher the contradictions coming from that side of the House.
    Overall, we view every broken Conservative promise and every platform plank left unfulfilled through the lens of the broken promise on equalization and the Atlantic accord. The Prime Minister promised to protect the deal that our Liberal government negotiated with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. The Prime Minister made those commitments. He made them in writing. He made them six times.
    With this budget, he broke them. He went back on his word. With the support of his Atlantic Conservative caucus, trained seals all but one, and with the support of the separatists, he is about to turn his broken promise into the law of the land.
    For my hon. colleagues I would only issue this warning: if he did it to us, he can do it to them.
     Let me repeat that: if he can do it to us, he can do it to them.
    The Prime Minister and his government deserve the censure of this motion.

  (1020)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Labrador for his speech this morning on what is really the betrayal by the Conservative Party and the Government of Canada of the region that the member represents and also the region that I represent in Nova Scotia.
    I want to give the member a chance to comment. Today in newspaper editorials and letters to the editor and on the talk shows in Atlantic Canada, people are ripping to shreds the Conservative Party and the integrity of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    I remember a particular individual who also was betrayed. His name is David Orchard. He said that the Conservative Party was “conceived in deception and born in betrayal”. Does the hon. member for Labrador agree with that statement?
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly do agree with the member's comments. Those members opposite in the Conservative Party of Canada came into our small towns and our harbours, sat with our fishers and plant workers, the hard-working men and women of our province, and promised to protect the Atlantic accords. They looked them in the eye and said they would protect the Atlantic accords. It did not take them too many months, or I should say, too many days--
    An hon. member: Saskatchewan too.
    Mr. Todd Russell: Saskatchewan is in there as well, as I am reminded by my colleagues.
    It did not take them too many days to break that promise and to really shaft the people of our province. We are hard-working people in Newfoundland and Labrador, as they are in Nova Scotia and across the country. We believe in electing politicians who are going to stand up for their people and follow through on their word.
    What they have done is basically turn their backs on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. They have perpetuated a fraud on the people, and I believe this not only when it comes to the Atlantic accords but on the other issues that I have enunciated here today. I believe there are members in the House who could come up with their own examples of how the Conservatives have perpetuated a fraud not only on Atlantic Canada but on all Canadians.

  (1025)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure we are going to have a wonderful conversation throughout the intervening hours between now and adjournment, but I have a question for the hon. member. Why in the world would he be speaking as he has this morning when in fact his own leader has contradicted the very things that he is advocating?
    In March of this year, the leader of the official opposition was asked whether he believes in excluding 100% of non-renewable natural resources from the equalization formula. The opposition leader said unequivocally: “No. No. I would not commit to this”.
    How on the one hand can the member stand in this place and say that there is betrayal from the Conservatives when in fact his own party leader has stated that he would not agree to excluding non-renewable natural resources from the equalization formula, which would devastate the member's home province? Has he had a conversation with his leader about that? Does he care to comment on his leader's comments?
    Mr. Speaker, the word hypocritical comes to mind when I hear certain comments from the hon. member opposite.
    We have a leader who, when he gives a commitment, will honour that commitment. We have a leader who has integrity. For the hon. member to get up and defend the broken promise of his leader, the Prime Minister, is unconscionable.
    That is bad enough, but I find it so disappointing today that I do not hear a voice from the Atlantic Conservative caucus members. I do not hear that voice of response. I do not hear that voice of Atlantic Conservative caucus members and I do not see them standing up for their particular province. I find that disappointing.
    I would say to the hon. member that there is another vote coming. He can tell his Prime Minister to do the right thing for Saskatchewan, where the hon. member is from, and for Atlantic Canada, and he can tell all those members from Atlantic Canada to vote against the budget. It is a bad deal for Atlantic Canada, a bad deal for Saskatchewan, and a bad deal for Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, over the past years Atlantic Canadians have listened to the Prime Minister and many members of his government routinely promise to honour the Atlantic accords. In fact, they heard very specific promises, as my colleague, the member for Labrador, just explained to the House, like this one from a Conservative Party mailout, which stated in 2004:
    The Conservative Party of Canada believes that offshore oil and gas revenues are the key to real economic growth in Atlantic Canada. That's why we would leave you with 100 per cent of your oil and gas revenues. No small print, no excuses, no caps.
    Or there is this one from the Prime Minister himself, who stated in the House on October 26, 2004, that when it comes to the Atlantic accords, there is “a moral obligation to keep these promises: no caps, no clawbacks, no limitations, no conditions, no big exceptions in the fine print”.
    Yet budget 2007 had just that: a cap, fine print, limitations, and conditions. Call it what we want, it boils down to one thing, a broken promise to Atlantic Canadians. Yes, the budget allows various options for provinces, but these are only designed to cover up the reality. The budget put in place exactly what the Conservatives promised not to do, a cap, and Atlantic Canadians know it.
    The people of Saskatchewan heard very similar explicit promises. The Prime Minister even wrote a letter to Premier Calvert on June 10, 2004, stating unequivocally that 100% of natural resources would be excluded, no ifs, ands or buts, and no mention of a cap, another obvious broken promise.
    The Conservatives' platform in the last election promised that they “would ensure that non-renewable natural resources revenue is removed from the equalization formula”. Those who voted for the Conservatives in Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada put their trust in that commitment. That trust was broken.
    As is typical of the government, it is now trying to deceive Canadians by throwing up smokescreens. Even yesterday the finance minister talked about the promise being fulfilled because the provinces have options. They can choose the old formula or they can choose the new formula with 50% exclusion, but what they cannot choose is what they were explicitly promised, 100% exclusion, the honouring of the Atlantic accords, with no caps.
    Canadians know that the Prime Minister and the government broke their word on equalization and the Atlantic accords. Premier Calvert, Premier MacDonald and Premier Williams know it, and even Conservative members of Parliament know it, but only one had the courage to stand up in the House and do something about it: the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. I am proud to call this member my colleague.
    All other Conservative government members should be ashamed of voting for this broken promise, particularly those members from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
    The time has come for the government to come clean. It broke its word. There is a phrase that I believe the government and the Prime Minister need to learn. It is, “I am sorry”. In Canada if one is unable to say, “I am sorry”, there is another way to say it. It is, “Je suis désolé”.
    The relationship between the federal government and its provincial partners is one built on trust, yet the Prime Minister is eroding that trust, and the relationship is suffering as a result. Former Progressive Conservative minister John Crosbie put it well when he said that the Prime Minister is setting “a poor example for future public policy-making within the Canadian federation”.

  (1030)  

[Translation]

    What is the current Prime Minister doing as relations with the provinces deteriorate? Instead of fostering dialogue and talking about issues with his counterparts, he is cancelling first ministers' meetings. He has not held one single first ministers' conference since coming to power.
    He is doing much the same thing with respect to the Senate. The Prime Minister can broadcast as much negative publicity about me as he wants concerning Senate reform, but that does not change the fact that he was the one who proposed this reform without consulting the people whom the Constitution requires him to consult. That move prompted the premiers to express their concerns about the Senate in writing. As a result, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs recommended that the Senate reform bill be referred to the Supreme Court.
    Still, why should we expect anything else from a Prime Minister who shows so little respect for ordinary citizens? By breaking his promise not to tax income trusts, he violated the trust of Canadians and caused people to lose $25 billion of their hard-earned savings. He has never apologized for this. He has never said “I'm sorry”. He has never said “Je suis désolé”.
    Broken promises, no consultations, no trust: that is no way to run a federation; that is no way to run a country.
    Since entering politics, I have always kept my promises. My good faith has been put to the test many times, and it has always been above reproach. I was the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs longer than any other Canadian since Confederation, and during that time, I was always open and honest with my counterparts. When I was the Minister of the Environment, environmental groups, industry and other governments found that they could trust me to do what I said I would do. That is how it should be done. One simply cannot reach one's goals without the trust of the people one works with.

  (1035)  

[English]

    The Prime Minister seems to spend all his energy trying to score cheap political points while getting away with the bare minimum and breaking his commitments to Canadians.
    True leadership requires honesty and integrity. This is what I am. This is what the Liberal Party is offering Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I thought of an analogy while I was sitting here listening to his speech. Let us say that when I was a younger man one of my kids who was in school at the time got this promise from me, his dad, “Son, if you get over 80% in that next physics exam, I'll give you $10”. Let us say that the son fulfilled that and when he came home, I gave him $20. Would he now be justified in saying, “Dad didn't keep his promise”? I do not think so.
    A careful examination of the numbers shows that under the new plan from this government, the Atlantic provinces and Saskatchewan would get more than they did under the old one. How can they claim that this is a broken promise? It is just not an accurate statement.
    Mr. Speaker, first, Atlantic Canadians are not school children. Second, the Prime Minister was not under an obligation to make this promise. All his candidates were not under an obligation to repeat this promise. But they did so, and they broke it.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. opposition leader that on June 28, 2005, a widow of a veteran from St. Peters, Cape Breton, named Joyce Carter, was given a written letter by the then opposition leader, now the Prime Minister, saying, on the veterans independence program, that if the Conservatives formed government, they would immediately extend the VIP to all widows and veterans regardless of time of death or application.
    It is now 16 months later and that woman has written back to the Prime Minister, asking why he, and it starts with an l ends with d and two vowels in between, and I cannot say what she said in parliamentary language, but the reality is if the Prime Minister of the day can break a written promise to a widow of a veteran, then surely misleading an entire region and two provinces is just one rung further up the ladder of deception.
    I would just like the opposition leader to clarify the fact that if the Conservatives could break their word to a widow of a veteran, then what is the big deal about breaking their promise to a province?
    The fact is, Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister broke his promise to Joyce Carter, he broke his promise to all Canadians. The member for Labrador has that right. If he is doing it to him, he will do it to everyone. It is a bad example that the Prime Minister is giving to the country. One needs to have a relationship of trust with Canadians when one is the prime minister. This relationship of trust has been broken.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the leader of the official opposition to clarify some remarks that he made only a few short months ago to see whether he still maintains the position that he stated, without equivocation, on the Mike Duffy show with respect to a fiscal cap.
    The leader of the official opposition stated quite clearly that he believed that a province that is receiving equalization payments should not then be in a position, after receiving those payments, where its fiscal capacity is higher than a province that does not receive payments. This is flying in the face, it appears, of what he is stating today.
    We know the official opposition leader has some problems being consistent on his positions. He stated only a few months ago, in March, with respect to a fiscal cap that a province receiving equalization payments should not see its fiscal capacity exceed that of a province that in effect is paying into the program.
    What is the position of the Leader of the Opposition?

  (1040)  

    First, Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of trust. That is the first point. If the point of my hon. colleague is to say, “Yes, I broke my promise, but you have broken your promise, too, so I have the right to break my promise because of that”, I would say that two wrongs do not make a right.
    The fact is that I have never broken any promise. He is unable to mention one promise that I have broken. He cannot put me in a situation to have to honour the promises that he made.
    That being said, what I said to the premier of Newfoundland, the premier of Saskatchewan and Canadians is: first, the Atlantic accord must be respected; second, I am against a cap; and third, I am consulting with all the premiers to figure out how we will try to solve the mess the Prime Minister has created.
    Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to speak to this motion today.
    Usually when we stand to speak, we make some reference to the previous speaker. I will do that, but very briefly. I just listened to two things that the hon. Leader of the Opposition said.
    He said that the Atlantic accord must be respected. I know he will have to run off as he is a busy person, but let me tell him that the Atlantic accord, in every aspect, will be respected. I do not know whether he heard me. I will say it again. The Atlantic accord will be respected.
    He also said he is against the cap. Let me quote from the hon. member on two or three occasions. When asked just in March about excluding 100% of resource revenues from equalization, he said, “No, no, I would not commit to this”. He said:
--it would be ill-advised to grant such special treatment to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland or any other province...it is essential to maintain equitable treatment of all the provinces within--
    He said, “Some provinces want special treatment to maintain their incoming benefits, even as their fiscal capacity increases. I disagree”. This is the Leader of the Opposition who just said he is against the cap.
    He also said, “A province that receives equalization payments cannot see its fiscal capacity growing above the fiscal capacity of a province that does not”. What do we call it? We call it a cap, C-A-P.
    I could go on. There are a number of other quotes and I only put that on the record to let people know how much they can rely on somebody who says he will give his word. It depends on the time, the place and the occasion, so we will dispense with that.
    Let me talk about the issue at hand. Let us look at a little bit of history here. We have a situation where people opposite think that people on this side, the governing party, somehow or other are going to shaft the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
    They are hanging their hats today on the fact that, unfortunately, one of our members, a pretty good fellow and a good friend of mine, a great member, decided that he would not stay with the party and vote for the budget, that he would go across.
    I say perhaps that if the gentleman had waited another few hours, if he had been privy to some of the results of some of the work that he and others of us have been doing, he would not have done that
    However, the interesting thing about this is that the members opposite, strictly for political reasons as we know, but that is the name of the game and I am not saying we would not have done it had the opposite been true, are lauding the fact that somebody crossed the floor on principle.
    Well, they had a member who voted for the budget, who voted against his party on principle, and he is now sitting as an independent, so that is what they think about people who stand on principle. That is the name of the political game also.
    The interesting thing about it is that the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is also joining with his newly found feathered friends on the other side and lauding the fact that somebody stood up on principle and walked across the floor.
    The interesting thing about this is the comparison with what his colleague, his counterpart in Nova Scotia, is saying. The Nova Scotia premier was calling the member to say, “Please do not do it, because you cannot do any good for us over there. We are working out a deal--”, unlike Newfoundland, by the way, “--with the federal government that will take care of our concerns, or at least that is our hope. We believe we can do it by working collectively. Will you stay there and work with us to make sure we get the deal?” The member did not listen. He went across.

  (1045)  

    I find it a bit hard to understand when the premier of the province affected, in this case Nova Scotia, said “stick with it boys, and let's get a good deal”, and the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador said “run across the floor, give up, come home, we don't want a deal”. He might not want a deal, but the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want a good deal, and that is what they will get.
    I will give the House a bit of history here. What is this all about? If the government had not recognized the fact that there was a fiscal imbalance in the country, then we would not be here today. This would not be an issue. We recognized that there was a fiscal imbalance. The past equalization program threw a few dollars at the provinces that made the loudest noise. As all of us know, that was not very successful.
    The government started talking about addressing the fiscal imbalance. In order to do that, we needed a formula that everybody would accept and buy into and one in which everybody could participate.
    Leading up to the last election, our party said in our blue book that if we formed government, we would be satisfied to take 100% of the non-renewable resources out of the formula. We are not denying that. It is there in black and white in our blue book and on web pages and so on.
    We did not dump that when we were elected. In the election and after the election we said that we, as government, were willing to take 100% of all non-renewable resources, and not just oil and gas, out of the equalization formula.
    The equalization formula affects 10 provinces and three territories. They are affected by whatever formula Ottawa puts in place. Consequently, they will decide if this is the best formula for them collectively. Of course, each province will ask if this is the best formula for it.
    The premiers met on several occasions and the finance ministers met. They could not agree on the formula. The majority of them did not want what we offered in relation to taking out 100% of all non-renewable resources.
     People at home are saying that the Prime Minister broke a promise. It was not the Prime Minister; it was the party and then the government. I am not denying that. We made a commitment. We were ready and willing to do that. We did not say to the provinces that we would not do that. The provinces had a whole year to put together a formula, including what we had committed, to address the fiscal imbalance of the country. The majority of the provinces said that it would make it worse for them rather than better. They said that they needed something else.
    Back several months ago, the talk about equalization and fiscal imbalance centred around the O'Brien formula. The government of the day, Liberal members opposite, initiated an independent study by highly qualified people, chaired by Mr. O'Brien, who brought forth a formula to address equalization. That became the talk of the town. Everybody, including all the premiers, realized that was probably where they were headed and they started to scramble to get the best they could out of that formula. This is all on the record. I am not it making up.
    The Premier of Newfoundland made a request to the Prime Minister that the Atlantic accord be protected. The two provinces, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, had different agreements. They were not special agreements. They were not fancy side deals. They had agreements with the Government of Canada that they had worked hard for, which recognized the fact that their offshore oil and gas resources were located offshore, outside the land mass, and were supposedly controlled and owned by Canada.

  (1050)  

    Agreements were put in place to have the resources recognized, basically, as if they were onshore, that the province would be the prime beneficiary, that it would get 100% of the revenues from the developments of the offshore oil and gas.
    In 1985 the original agreement was signed with the then Conservative government of Canada after the former Trudeau Liberal government had denied it for years. The minister of energy, who in Newfoundland denied it and would not give it the control of our offshore oil and gas benefits, was the former leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Chrétien. The prime minister was Mr. Trudeau.
    When the Mulroney government was elected, that deal was signed. There is a picture on my wall, if anyone wants proof, of Prime Minister Mulroney with Minister Crosbie, the regional minister, Senator Pat Carney, who was the minister of energy at the time, along with Premier Peckford from Newfoundland and the then minister of energy, Mr. Marshall. Sitting in the background with myself and others was one of the members on the other side, who is clapping his hands for a great agreement for the Conservatives.
    When we moved forward, in 2005 the Williams government, led by finance minister Sullivan, negotiated some improvements to the Atlantic accord. It sounded great when the premier came home, not really cheered then by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.
    The premier came down the escalator waving the cheque, and we all remember it, saying, “We got it, we got it, $2 billion”. Imagine coming into Newfoundland and Labrador with a $2 billion cheque. I would bet that members, if we did a quiz, and I would love to do a quiz, would say that the $2 billion is above and beyond, that it is great stuff.
    What is was an advance on Newfoundland and Labrador's income. It is just like if you were making $20,000, Mr. Speaker, and I know you make a little more than that, not at all what you deserve for the job you are doing. I was watching the hockey game last night, as a lot of people were, and thinking about the referees. They work an hour a night, basically, and get paid a lot more than you. I think you would make a tremendous referee because a lot of them are not of physical stature to break up the rackets. With a pair of skates and a much bigger salary, you would do it.
    If you, Mr. Speaker, were making $20,000 a year and somebody suddenly gave you a cheque for $200,000 and you came home waving it, everybody in the family would be delighted. However, what you did not tell them is that for the next 10 years all of your net income would go into the bank because you just got a $200,000 advance.
    Newfoundland and Labrador received a $2 billion advance. That is all it got, nothing extra, nothing that did not belong to it, nothing above and beyond what it would get over time. Newfoundland and Labrador received it so it could pay down our the tremendous debt. The premier almost had a contest asking how people wanted it spent when he knew, because it is written in the agreement, it had to go toward the debt. It is all fun and games.
    All of it has not been drawn down yet, but it will be over the next few years. There is still somewhere around $1 billion, or a bit less. Some people think that if anything happens such as caps the province will lose it and it will be clawed back. Absolutely not. Let me state it clearly and categorically that the advance money given to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, regardless of what happens, will not be clawed back.

  (1055)  

    Any payments the province get because of the Atlantic accords will not be capped. The accord will not be capped. The accord is protected. Write it down. Look at Hansard. Cut it out. Show it to me in five years. We will not know those things right away simply because the province is still receiving equalization money.
     The unfortunate thing about it is it province is not receiving much. In our province, as we say at home, we are getting well off. We are starting to become a have province. I am proud of that. I think the members opposite are proud of that. However, as anybody knows, we cannot have our cake and eat it too. I do not think anybody is really asking for it, if they understood what this is all about. What we do not want is for something that we own, something that we were promised, something that we were given, to be taken away.
    Let me assure the members it will not be taken away. How do I know that? Because I have been working on it. I have not been sitting, complaining. I have not been running around the country, yelling and screaming and complaining about Ottawa not doing anything, when I have not even asked it, when I have not met with it and when I have not negotiated. We do not get deals unless we negotiate.
    This year our province is receiving $477 million in equalization. Next year we will receive only $197 million. It is not, if our economy keeps going, the year after that we will get nothing.
    Why our equalization is going down is because our revenues from resource development, in particular, including the offshore oil and gas, have been going up. We have not lost any of the money. Anything we have lost in relation to the total revenues we would receive has been given to us by what we call offset payments, through the Atlantic accord, and people think this will end. It will only end when the accord fizzles out.
    When the accord agreement was signed in 1985 to give us this money in lieu of clawback, in lieu of equalization losses, it was due to expire in 2011. Nobody has this by the way. It is not a bad deal and others would love to have it. The $2 billion upfront payment, which we could bring home and wave around, was an advance payment. We are not getting a cent directly from government these days in relation to offset payments. It is all kept because the government gave it to us in advance. When the advance is paid off, we will start getting real money again.
    The other thing they did a couple of years ago, in 2005, is they negotiated one extra year on the length of the accord agreement. The accord now ends in 2012. What does that mean? That means that in 2012 that is it. Our province will not get any more of these offset payments, unless in one of the two previous years, 2010 or 2011, we are on equalization. If we are receiving equalization, the accord is extended until 2020. If it is, and I hope it is, we will continue to receive every benefit from that accord because we have committed, with no changes to the accord, no capping of the accord, despite what members say.
    To finish, in relation to equalization, there is not a chance, according to economists, that we will be on equalization in either of these years to qualify for the accord payments, unless we go to the new formula. If we go to the new formula, because of the 10 provinces, we might then qualify. If our province does, the theory is we will be capped. The Atlantic accord will never be capped.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's words very closely. What I sensed out of this was a “blame the premiers” approach, the premiers could not arrive at anything that would meet the commitments and promises that the Prime Minister and his party had made. He gave us a lecture of the deficiencies of the new accords that have been signed.
    With regard to my province of Newfoundland and Labrador, he was absolutely right. When there was a cheque delivered for $2 billion, when there was an agreement signed between the Liberal government, under the then prime minister, the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, and Danny Williams, the people did cheer. However, when they saw the budget and when they saw what the Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, had delivered—
    The hon. member for Labrador should know by now that members do not mention the Prime Minister's name or anybody else's name in the course of debate. I would ask the hon. member not to do that.
    Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What the Prime Minister delivered, the people jeered. They jeered their own. There are hundreds of thousands of people in our province who say that the Prime Minister has broken his word. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Nova Scotia who say that the Prime Minister has broken his word. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Atlantic Canada who say that the Prime Minister has broken his word.
    What does the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans say to all of those people? Do people not know when someone's word has been broken, when a promise has not been kept? I say yes. We have to trust the people. They know when something has not been lived up to.
    I would also ask, what is the government negotiating over there? If everything had been delivered in budget 2007, then what are the Conservatives negotiating? Why are they running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get a deal with the Minister of Finance and trying to meet with the Prime Minister? What are they trying to--
    Order, please. The hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
    Mr. Speaker, let me answer the last question first about what we are negotiating.
    People who are in the party, people who are part of it, people who can work within the system and people who know what they are doing and are willing to do it know what is going on. If I had gone across the floor, if I had gone home, I would not know what we were negotiating and I would be showing I did not care.
    The budget put over $1.5 billion into Newfoundland and Labrador this year. The member voted against that. He voted against the budget. He said it is because of what it does to the Atlantic accord. I am telling him that it does nothing to the Atlantic accord that will take one cent away from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The member voted against it because it is the Liberal thing to do.
    What the member also voted against in that budget, besides the possibility for pensioners to split income and what that means to the province, besides the money for education, he voted against the money for the Labrador highway, money that is in that budget that has already been committed. I committed it. That money will start a development, which the Liberals could not deliver in all the years they were in government, to pave the highway right across Labrador, $100 million, $50 million from the federal government in this budget. He voted against it.
    How is the member going to explain that to his people?

  (1105)  

    Mr. Speaker, the coincidence is that the foreign affairs minister said that he expects all Atlantic Conservative MPs to vote for the budget because the budget is good for Atlantic Canada. That is what he said.
    We know what happened to the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. Only seconds before the vote, all kinds of people came up to him, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member from St. John's pointing at him and saying, “Look, we have a deal. We have something going on. Just vote for the budget”. In desperation they tried everything they could to keep him in the party. The fact is that the hon. member knew better.
    The hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said that they are working on a deal, that they are working on something. The fact is they had a deal two years ago. If the budget is so good for Atlantic Canada, why is there deal making going on now?
    The reality is that if economists say that the accord was broken, if legal experts say that the accord was broken, if Conservative premiers say that the accord was broken, if a former minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador, John Crosbie, says that the accord is broken, if opposition parties say that the accord has been betrayed, why is it then that there is deal making going on after the budget?
    Why is it that only that minister and the government cannot seem to see the forest for the trees? The Conservatives will simply not admit that they broke a promise to the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. It is a shame for them to stand up in this House and try to defend the defenceless.
    Mr. Speaker, I hesitate even to answer a question from somebody who has demonstrated clearly over the last few years that he knows absolutely nothing about what he is talking about. However, I will clarify a couple of things.
     One is that I was not around before the vote to talk to anybody. I did not run up to the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and ask him to stay. I did not discuss the issue with him at all, period. I can say to the member that I know somebody who did talk to him. It was the premier of his province who called the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and asked him to stick with it, to make sure that Nova Scotia got the deal that we said we would deliver but for him to make sure he was there.
    We have not tampered with anything. We promised the accord would not be touched. We said it would be preserved in its purity. We said it would not be capped. The member asked what we are negotiating. There is a brand new equalization formula, one that is predictable, one that is clear and transparent, one that treats every province properly. How does it relate to all provinces and what effect would it have on past agreements? That needs to be clearly pointed out and that is our job to do. It will be done. Let me again assure the member that it will not be done to the detriment of Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador.
    
    Mr. Speaker, the debate today is about honour and promises. It is clear to everyone watching that the Prime Minister broke his promise to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. He broke his promise to the people of Nova Scotia. He broke his promise to the people of Saskatchewan. He broke his promise to the people with income trusts.
    However, there is another thing and that is the comments of the member for Central Nova. He won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party based on an agreement with Mr. David Orchard that he would not merge the party with the Alliance. Eight minutes after the agreement was signed, he started merger discussions.
    In a question about voting against the budget, and I will quote from Hansard, he said:
    We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring or firing on budget votes as we saw with the Liberal government.
    Eight minutes and thirty seconds after the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley voted against the budget, he was kicked out of caucus and 784 confidential files were seized.
    Does the member opposite condone the words and actions of the member for Central Nova? Does he associate himself with the actions of the member for Central Nova? Does he now in the House wish he were still a Progressive Conservative member so he could speak with honour and dignity?

  (1110)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. member, I have been around politics for a long time. I entered provincial politics in 1982. I have been involved in politics since I could walk. There was not a campaign in my riding in which I did not participate, and I ran in 98% or so of them.
    I have been around, so let me say to the hon. gentleman, ever since I have been involved in politics I have served under a number of leaders. I have served under two premiers, and I have served under two or three leaders here in Ottawa. At no time did any of them ever try to dictate to me what to say or what to do. I would like to think it was because of two reasons. One, they know I am a stubborn Irishman and two, they do not have to because I try to do what is right and principled. Never has anybody told me what to do or say in this or in any other place, except maybe at home.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion introduced by the Liberal Party that bears re-reading.
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.
    The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this motion, because it seems to us that the Prime Minister should have never made those commitments, which he failed to honour. He should have made sure that he would be able to live up to the commitments he was making to Canadians during the election campaign and on other occasions. Otherwise, he should not have made them or promised such things.
    The text of the motion addresses only that particular issue. The solution that the government came up with, however, although not ideal, is nevertheless a step in the right direction. In that regard, we must put things in perspective. The Liberal Party can say that the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to premiers, because that is a fact. But, we must also look at the solution. The Bloc will vote in favour of the motion as it stands.
    I would also like to talk about the underlying issue, about equalization. I would remind the House of a number of things. Equalization is fully funded by the federal government using tax money paid by Quebeckers and Canadians from across the country. This equalization program is the result of a fundamental commitment to ensure fairness. In a federation like Canada, equalization has a very specific goal, namely, to ensure that, from coast to coast to coast, Canadians have access to public services at reasonably comparable levels of taxation.
    Several countries—most of them federations—have equalization programs. The method consists primarily of evaluating the fiscal capacity of the provinces to provide public services. Provinces with a lower capacity to fund comparable public services receive equalization payments, whereas the others receive none. Quebec receives a significant amount in equalization payments, a little more than 50%. However, on a per capita basis, it finds itself behind several other provinces. In this sense, it is not the spoiled child of the system.
    The federal government's equalization payments to the provinces are unconditional and have no strings attached. Equalization does not take into account the expenditure needs of provinces and its sole purpose is to increase the fiscal capacity of the provinces to a common standard. There is no reduction in terms of equalization for provinces with fiscal capacity greater than the common standard.
    This is not the first time that this situation has arisen. In June 2004, the former Liberal prime minister made election promises during the federal campaign. The Premier of Newfoundland got the prime minister to promise to let the Government of Newfoundland keep all its oil revenues with no reduction in amounts disbursed to the province under the equalization program.
    This position was unacceptable to Quebec. However, the Liberal prime minister did not keep this promise. At the first ministers conference of October 26, Ottawa insisted that there be a cap and that amounts exceeding the cap would result in a reduction of equalization payments. The Conservatives went into action on October 26, when the current Prime Minister made a series of very formal commitments.
     Recently, I was at the Standing Committee on Finance when the Premier of Saskatchewan testified. He showed in a very clear, precise way that those commitments were made at that time. In that sense, the motion that we are debating today is justified. However, within the framework of our discussions on this subject, it seems to us that the equalization formula set out in Budget 2007 is a step forward but it falls well short of the unanimous demands of Quebec. It contains some positive aspects. It is a formula founded on principles.

  (1115)  

     The new formula uses the real value of property taxes. The payments are calculated on the basis of the ten province standard, which pretty well puts an end to the notion of ceilings and floors, but nevertheless it does not meet Quebec’s demands.
     What Quebec is demanding is, more or less, the following. It wants an adjustment of the equalization formula that will take into account the ten province standard, 100% of revenue from natural resources and the real value of property taxes. Why 100% of revenue from natural resources? Because, in the past, for example, Quebec developed its own hydroelectric resources without any significant support from the federal government while, in other sectors, other provinces received major financial assistance: Newfoundland, in particular, for the Hibernia project.
     Therefore, we want to see 100% of revenue from natural resources included in the formula, so that in the final tally Quebec has a total envelope of more than $16 billion for 2007-08. The only formula that will enable equalization to achieve its objective involves providing receiving provinces with a per capita fiscal capacity equal to the Canadian average.
     Quebec’s demands flow from the Séguin report that was published in 2001 and unanimously adopted by the Quebec National Assembly. At that time, the Séguin report proposed four measures for adjusting the equalization formula to make it acceptable to Quebec. That involved the conditions that I mentioned earlier, namely, adopting the ten province standard, including 100% of revenue from natural resources, using real property values in calculating that part of the tax base related to property taxes instead of the theoretical value now in force, and abolishing ceilings and floors in the equalization envelope.
     The current government’s proposal to take account of 50% of revenue from development of natural resources seems to us a step in the right direction but it is not entirely what Quebec wants. It continues to advance its demand for the desired result, which is that 100% of revenue from development of natural resources be considered.
    All these proposals in Quebec were developed over the years. They resulted not only from the Séguin report, but also from three main documents on equalization reform. In 2004, the Quebec finance department—the Government of Quebec—revised the Séguin report when it tabled the 2004 budget. The document entitled “Correcting Fiscal Imbalance” updates the report of the commission chaired by Mr. Séguin. This document set out Quebec's unanimous demands and estimated the shortfall at $2.8 billion for Quebec for 2004-05 and at $5 billion for Canada as a whole.
    Following that report came the Council of the Federation's report in 2005 and, finally, the report of the Expert Panel on Equalization.
    All these measures were aimed at recognizing that a fiscal imbalance existed, and it was the Bloc Québécois that raised the issue here in the House. Hon. members will recall that a few years ago, none of the political parties in this House were advocating recognition of a fiscal imbalance. The Bloc Québécois got to work and systematically obtained support from the parties here in the House, until this year's budget was tabled. The federal government has not corrected the fiscal imbalance per se, but it has come up with additional funding that finally corrects an unacceptable situation. The provinces had many needs, while the federal government had the money.
    We backed our position on this issue with help from other people and the information and reports I mentioned earlier. But we brought the issue onto the federal political stage. In the end, we won a commitment from the Conservative government that it would pay attention to this issue and correct the fiscal imbalance.
    But we find ourselves facing the same situation that the motion criticizes, which is that the fiscal imbalance has not been completely corrected. Admittedly, there was a significant cash component to the budget. This is why the Bloc Québécois decided to support this budget, and as a representative for Quebeckers, it still feels it was the right choice.

  (1120)  

    However, there is still a fiscal imbalance, and in the years to come we will remain dependent on economic vitality, revenues from the federal government, and the situation of the provinces. A permanent solution would be the transfer of tax points, tax transfers, which is currently not the case.
    So the Bloc Québécois will continue to fight for a permanent solution to this current situation in which Quebec does not receive its per capita share compared to the other provinces. The debate on whether or not to take into account revenues from natural resources is an important one and will continue.
    With the Liberal motion presented today, we can see that in a number of Canadian provinces, people who had received commitments, and who do not see those commitments in what was adopted, are frustrated. At the same time, it is clear that the discussion held to reach the solution set out in the budget is a step in the right direction.
    Unfortunately, the Prime Minister should not have made these commitments if he was not certain he could live up to them. He has not lived up to them, or so the motion says and criticizes. The only thing to come out of all this so far was that the Bloc Québécois obtained significant amounts of money for Quebec through the federal budget. We hope to be able to continue in that vein. Nonetheless, our ultimate goal is truly to come to a solution that will no longer be subject to all the ups and downs that are often caused by election periods.
    Earlier we looked at the background of the situation. In the past, the Liberal Party made commitments that it did not keep. The leader of the Conservative Party made commitments he still has not kept. Ultimately, the motion is on the credibility of politicians and the commitments they make.
    In certain instances, the public is able to understand that something has to give. However, for formal commitments on basic issues such as these, it would have been better if the Prime Minister had not made such a commitment. He should have instead promised to work on finding a better solution. That is not the commitment he made to the provinces, which are particularly frustrated. There was also the commitment made to Quebec to do away with the fiscal imbalance. The solution is still not on the table. There is a monetary correction, but no final solutions. Quebeckers are still waiting for a solution to this issue. They will continue to take stock of the effectiveness of the hon. members and the parties in this House, namely on the issue of correcting the fiscal imbalance.
    It is important to have a debate on this motion today because we are talking about the credibility of politicians. We have to be able to make the distinction between keeping a commitment and making proposals as a result of further analysis. In no way can we justify not keeping these formal commitments when there is no good explanation for it. The people in the provinces concerned get the impression they were hung out to dry because the Conservative Party did not keep its election promise.
    That is a serious warning for the future. This is a minority government that could go to the polls at the drop of a hat. Political parties will continue to make promises. The lesson to be gained from this is that if we wish to maintain our credibility as politicians and political parties, we must not make promises that we cannot keep.
    Can we be sure that they knew this when they made the promise? That is something we should spend more time considering. All the same, the promise should not have been made.
    Recently, we have been talking about the marked decline in voter participation in the electoral process. Actions like these are damaging. What we are doing today is reminding the government of its responsibilities, and a timely reminder it is, too. However, this reminder is unrelated to the measure in the budget that is a step forward for Quebec.

  (1125)  

    I hope that the government will take careful note of the message to be found in the House's vote on this matter. I also hope that, starting now, we can count on the government to keep its promises. If ever it finds that it must change its position on a given measure, I hope that it will be able to justify its action and offer clarification so that the purely partisan tenor of the debate on this issue can be avoided.
    In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois will support this motion because it believes that the government has indeed failed to keep its promises. However, the members of the Bloc Québécois still believe that the government's budget is a step in the right direction.
    Although equalization and the measures in the budget are not quite up to Quebec's expectations, more time must be devoted to considering natural resource revenue.
    In that respect, we will continue to support the budget. However, the government and the Prime Minister should take note of the reminder at the core of today's motion.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I received an email from a colleague with regard to an editorial in the Halifax Chronicle Herald. One of the paragraphs struck me as being reflective of the problem that we are addressing today. It states:
    It’s not that the general public understands the intricacies of the equalization regime or the offshore deals Ottawa made with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2005. But in their gut, folks do understand that the Harper government has broken faith with Atlantic Canada by failing to deliver all that had been promised.
    When the media report on the issues of importance of the day and reach the conclusion that this is a broken promise, it is hard to understand how the government and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans can get up with a straight face and say, “We didn't break the promise. We're in fact giving more money”.
    It is so puzzling how the public and everyone has assessed this, and it is objectively determinable what the facts are, and yet a minister of the Crown comes into this place and says something totally different and somehow figures that if he says it often enough people might believe him.
    There seems to be a very disturbing pattern of saying black is white. I could give many examples. Whether it be on income trusts, Kelowna or Kyoto, there are so many areas where the government seems to want to just say to people whatever it wants even though it is not fact based.
    I wonder if the member has some concerns about the believability of the information that the government seems to be putting forward to the House on matters of importance to all Canadians.

  (1130)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. However, his comment might be better addressed to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
    In any case, the Bloc Québécois has decided to base its position on the essence of the issue. Let us take another look at the text of the motion.
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.
    There is no doubt that equalization is a complex concept. There is quite a history behind the evolution of this practice, this distribution of wealth. Above and beyond that, however, a commitment was made by the Prime Minister when he was a candidate for election. Basically, his mistake was making a commitment that he was unable to honour afterwards.
    The fact is, people came to realize that the commitment was not necessarily realistic. For the Bloc Québécois, the ultimate solution needs to be even more advantageous than the Prime Minister's original commitments. Nevertheless, from a political standpoint, the commitment he made should have been honoured. Failing that, a satisfactory explanation should have been given.
    At this time, we do not consider the explanation satisfactory and we see that, throughout all the provinces in question—I was particularly impressed by the testimony given by the Premier of Saskatchewan on this matter—utter frustration abounds. This frustration is due to the fact that the commitment should have been expressed differently. Perhaps he should not have gone so far and should have been less focused on vote-seeking. Ultimately, he should have honoured the commitments he made.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the broken promises just keep on coming. Today we have the hon. Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in Halifax announcing the Conservatives' attempt at a shipbuilding policy, with financing called SFF. The reality is that their announcement comes absolutely nowhere near what the industry has been asking for.
    The hon. member from Quebec knows very well that this particular industry is vital to Quebec, Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country. We know about the continually broken promises of the Conservatives on the Atlantic accord. We know about their continually broken promises to widows of veterans. But now they are actually about to break the back of the shipbuilding industry, which is so vital in this country.
    Does the hon. member not notice a disturbing trend among these Conservatives, which is that when it comes to actually assisting the regions of our country they fail every single time?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the last election results support my colleague's remarks. The people decided that they did not want a majority Conservative government because there were not enough guarantees that it was the type of government they were looking for. Furthermore, with a minority government members of the opposition have greater power. They can make presentations and obtain results in the end. We must definitely play a major role as a watchdog.
    Let us take the example of shipbuilding. My riding is near the Davie shipyards. We want to ensure that there is a real shipbuilding policy. We must do some checking to see how far today's announcements will go, and if they go far enough. We also have concerns regarding international agreements. Canada is preparing to sign agreements with several countries. We must ensure, in that regard, that the outcome corresponds to what we hope to achieve—that we optimize manufacturing in Canada, particularly in the area of shipbuilding.
    We travelled around the Maritimes to research this subject. If we can obtain better results, so much the better. The Bloc believes that it has done a very good job with regard to the budget by obtaining part of the solution to the fiscal imbalance. We will continue to work towards a complete solution.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened when the Liberal member who asked the previous question accused this side of repeatedly saying something even though it is not true, so that eventually it becomes believable.
    I submit that this is exactly what has happened, but on the other side. Let us look at the facts. Right now that hon. member is grinning. I would urge him to get out the budget document, to look at annex 4 and to read the document, where it states explicitly that these accords are being honoured and that it is the choice of the provinces if they want to move to the other plan. It is up to them. If they want to stay with the old one, they may. The document says this.
    Yet repeatedly those members in the House, our political adversaries, and some of the premiers have not taken that into account. Consequently there is misinformation out there that is just very, very unfair. I would like to ask the member whether he would finally agree to read the document and to truthfully report what is in it instead of making false accusations against our party and our leader.

  (1135)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague's accusations were directed more at representatives of the Liberal Party, but setting partisanship aside, there is a lesson to be drawn from this debate. Voters want campaign promises to mean something. Parties and politicians should not make promises they cannot keep. Otherwise, the reputation of both governments and elected representatives is damaged.
    Today's motion will serve as a good reminder for the government. This government has a minority and will likely have to call an election, possibly before the fixed date for the next election. Even if the election is held on the fixed date, the House is sending an important message: any party must keep its promises.
    We are not afraid to hold up our record on the fiscal imbalance. We supported the government's budget because we believed it was good for Quebec. At the same time, we are asking the government to fully correct the fiscal imbalance by transferring tax points, because we believe that this is important to Quebec's future in the short term.
    We all need to take to heart the message that we should not make promises we cannot keep. That is the way to avoid motions like the one before us today. In a way, the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party deserve this motion, because they have not kept their promises.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me indicate at the outset that I look forward to splitting my time with my colleague, also from Nova Scotia, the hard-working member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.
    I want to start my comments in this debate by picking up where I left off yesterday afternoon in question period, when I made a plea, frankly, in the form of a question. To be accurate, let me quote it:
    Is there one Atlantic minister with the guts to tell his constituents that he will do everything in his power to fix the mistake?
    I could have said “this betrayal”, but I said mistake, because notwithstanding some of the comments we have heard this morning, this is both a mistake and a spectacular betrayal of a commitment made by the current Prime Minister of this country, who not so very long ago, in a slightly different role in between his political careers, talked about building a firewall around Alberta. The real purpose of that was to communicate to Canadians that just maybe Albertans would want to say, “Let us keep all of the benefits of our resources and let Atlantic Canadians freeze in the dark”.
    That kind of thinking went out in this country a very long time ago, so when the current Prime Minister decided to make a political comeback he had to figure out how to jettison that view of the world, that view of our Canadian world, which was going to haunt him forever. I cannot help but think that part of the reason why he championed the Atlantic accord, in addition to just grubbing for votes in an election, was to try to change his image, to try to change his reputation as a politician in terms of how he viewed the Canada that we have been trying to build for a very long time in this country.
    That brings me to the point that he now is the Prime Minister of Canada and he absolutely committed to the Atlantic accord. One has to wonder what it is that now has changed his mind so that he has decided to basically break this promise.
    What needs to be understood is what this broken promise is really all about, and I can tell members that it is understood in Atlantic Canada, but I believe it is also understood by people in the most prosperous and more populous parts of Canada. I am going to put it in Maritime terms. What it is really all about is that the Prime Minister and his ministers, including the ministers who are supposed to be representing the interests of Atlantic Canada, have decided to turf overboard the Atlantic accord commitment they made because they have other fish to fry and bigger votes to catch, to go after and grub for, in the more prosperous and more populous parts of Canada.
    I think the Prime Minister should understand that in those more populous and prosperous parts of Canada there are also a great many Canadians of all political stripes, who think that, first, prime ministers should keep their promises and, second, the kind of Canada they want to live in is one where we actually try to find ways to ensure that those who are living with fewer resources and trying to get themselves out of the have not status should be supported. They think that this is the way we want to make Canada work better.
    I think he should consider the possibility that there are a lot of Canadians who are going to take the view, whether they live outside of Atlantic Canada or not, that they do not approve of the broken promises and they do not approve of this attempt to block the very purpose of the Atlantic accord, which was to give the possibility and the potential, no guarantee but the possibility, that offshore resource revenues could actually help move Atlantic Canada out of a have not status. It is not just about Nova Scotia and Newfoundland either, because of course what impacts economically on our two provinces impacts on all of the Atlantic region economically.

  (1140)  

    It is accurate to say that Atlantic Canadians feel absolutely betrayed and that there is a sense of the Conservative government breaking faith with Atlantic Canada. Let me just quickly revisit where this Atlantic accord started. Credit should be given where it is due, but there are also political lessons from it.
     Premier John Hamm, a Conservative premier, called together representatives of all political parties at the provincial level in Nova Scotia and then called together all political representatives at the federal level. I remember sitting in his office when he put to us the proposition that we work together across party lines and jurisdictional lines. We did that.
    What the lesson showed was that when all parties work together for the common good, they can achieve things that some might have thought were ridiculous. I remember that the Liberal member for Halifax West dumped all over John Hamm's initiative even though he sat around that table and pledged that he would commit to it. He basically said that in the end we just were never going to get agreement on it.
    Let it not be said that it cannot be done. Do not let them say that it cannot be done, because it was done, by respecting the fact that as elected representatives, whether we are federal or provincial, whatever party we represent, we share a responsibility to all of our citizens. That is why, in the few moments I have left, I want to make a plea that this debate not be about beating up on one another. This debate needs to be about fixing a problem.
    This debate has to send a message, frankly, in part to the premier of Nova Scotia, to tell him to take a lesson out of his own predecessor's book and work across party lines and across jurisdictions to fix this problem. I think it is regrettable that on the three occasions I made representations, through my staff, to the premier's office to say that we would like to have a briefing on exactly where we are with the impact of this broken promise reflected in the budget, on those three occasions we followed up and no such briefing was ever given. There is no way on earth that John Hamm as premier would have failed to bring together the parties that still need to work together to fix this problem.
    The second point is an obvious one: this is a minority government. That is the party, no longer the Progressive Conservative Party but the Conservative Party, that said the wishes of this Parliament should be respected, especially in a minority government. Let us be clear that part of how we got the Atlantic accord in the first place was through cooperation and collaboration. Second, in a minority Parliament, it should be easier to fix it. However, we think the government should step forward, take its responsibility seriously and actually take some leadership to say that this is going to be fixed.
    I heard some members suggest that there is no real loss, that there is no real problem here, and that we are misrepresenting the potential loss to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador from this broken promise, so let me just quickly give an analogy. It is a bit like Mr. Smith being called in by his boss one day, being commended for the tremendously valuable work he was doing and being told that he is getting a bonus. He is very pleased.
    The next year the company is doing very well, partly because Mr. Smith has made such a contribution to improving the lot of that company, and he is told that the good news is that everybody else is going to get a bonus this year because of his good work, but that he may not be as happy because he is not going to get the bonus. Mr. Smith says, “Wait a minute, where is the fairness in that?” He is told that he got a big bonus last year.
    After arguing it out, the boss finally says to Mr. Smith that he actually can make a choice. Either he can give back his bonus from last year and get the same bonus that everyone else is getting, or he can keep last year's bonus and go without this year's.
    This is an analogy that helps to give an understanding of what this choice is that the Conservative government keeps talking about and that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador should be happy about. It is analogous to the unfairness of what I have just described between a boss and an employee.

  (1145)  

    Let us use this opportunity. Let us not allow the Conservatives to say that it is too late. This is something my leader has said again and again when it comes to dealing with tough problems and things people say are impossible. This can be fixed. It is our responsibility to learn the lessons of history and work together to fix it.
    Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear that the hon. member and her party support the initiative of so many members of our caucus as well.
    It will not be a surprise that in the 1950s the Canadian government concluded an agreement with western Canada, particularly with the province of Alberta, to provide an extra 5¢ a gallon to ensure we could develop the infrastructure in Alberta, which would be good not only for Alberta but for the entire country.
    That government and successive governments never abrogated that agreement, recognizing at the same time that the revenues would flow to the provinces and at the same time there would be a subsidy in order to make this infrastructure a reality that we are benefiting from today.
    I have a question for the hon. member. Given the success we have seen in western Canada, and a good number of members of Parliament can speak to this very well, what would be the overall impact of a respected Atlantic accord in terms of bolstering the economy of Atlantic Canada for her constituents and the Maritimes in general simply because the Prime Minister had the temerity to break a promise? What does that mean in terms of lost opportunities for the people of Atlantic Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, I suppose very narrowly what it means is that those who think the way our current Prime Minister does and apparently the way the whole Conservative caucus of the government thinks, except for the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley who had the guts and decency to stand tough for a commitment that he was part of making, there are those who really take the view that Alberta's financial good fortunes must have come about because it or its predecessors planted the oil in the soil which allows it to have tremendous resources with which to deliver important benefits and services to the people of that province so it would get us out of the supplicant role in which they want to try to place us.
    However, there is no guarantee of that. The reality is that Alberta had a hand up by special measures that has allowed it to enjoy the level of prosperity it does now. The challenge to Nova Scotians, Newfoundlanders and the whole region, and I keep stressing that because it is a regional benefit, would be to use the opportunity that the Atlantic accord was intended to provide to make smart, long range decisions about how to invest those resources so that we are able to move from a have not to a have status.
    There is a sense of pride involved--

  (1150)  

    Order, please. There are other questions that need to be asked.
    The hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park.
    Mr. Speaker, in direct response to the statement just made by the hon. member, over the years, Albertans, proud Canadians that we are, have happily contributed billions of dollars into the federal coffers without complaint, and we will continue to do so. We believe in equalization. It is part of the Constitution of this country so that provinces throughout the country can provide an equitable level of services at an equitable level of taxation. We believe in that, which is why this government is working to strengthen that equalization program.
    I am getting sick and tired of people saying that we broke our commitment on the Atlantic accord because it is not true. I urge members to look at annex 4 of the budget speech, which I will read into the record. It states:
    At the time the 2005 Offshore Accords were signed, total Equalization payments were based on the fixed envelope approach....
    I will skip ahead because time is short. It further states:
     Budget 2007 puts in place transitional provisions under which Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia will continue to receive payments under that Equalization program. Both provinces will be able to permanently opt into the new Equalization program at any time.
    In other words, the commitment is kept, was kept and will be kept. It says so explicitly. Those guys have been building a straw horse and now they are trying to bring it down.
    Mr. Speaker, clearly the member chose not to hear the various arguments that have been made. I do not know what he thinks the fuss--
    You need to do your homework again.
    The hon. member for Halifax has the floor, not the member for Pickering--Scarborough East.
    Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. The member was not thrown out. He removed himself from that situation once it became clear that the Conservative members and all the members of his caucus were going to follow through on the betrayal.
    What we find ourselves doing here is battling over something that had been promised. In effect, in its impact the budget has taken something away from us that was supposed to have been guaranteed in an accord that was signed by both parties. The Premier of Nova Scotia could not have made it more clear yesterday, which was supported by the official opposition leader, Daryl Dexter, that this problem is not fixed yet.
    As a result of the important debate happening here, as a result of the guts and courage shown by the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, it can still be fixed. It is obvious what needs to be done. The Atlantic accord needs to stand, and the new provisions of the equalization formula proposed by the Conservative government in the budget should have no impact. It is as simple as that.
    Mr. Speaker, I regret having to speak to this today because we could have moved on to other issues. However, when the government of the day breaks another promise, especially to the people of Atlantic Canada, we have no other choice but to rise up in opposition to what it is doing.
    The hon. member from Alberta, who refuses to keep his mouth quiet, says that there were no broken promises. If that is the case, is he then saying that Premier Williams, a Conservative; Premier MacDonald, a Conservative; the former minister, Mr. Crosbie, a Conservative; and the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, a Conservative; are not telling the truth? Is that what he is saying? If he is, then he should stand in this place and say it.
     I was not even born in Canada. I was raised in Vancouver and in Yukon but after moving to Nova Scotia I quickly learned one thing about the people in Atlantic Canada. This is no reflection on the people in the rest of Canada. Our former colleague, Mr. Gordon Earle, who was an MP for Halifax West from 1997 to 2000, the first black African Nova Scotian to be elected as a member of Parliament to this chamber, said it very well when he said that a people have their word. The thing I learned was that I could take a Maritimer or an Atlantic Canadian at his word. When an Atlantic Canadian gives his or her word it can be taken to the bank.
    I was with the hon. member for Halifax and the former premier of Nova Scotia, Mr. John Hamm, who was a Conservative. I did not agree with everything Premier Hamm did but the one thing I have always admired him for and is his grace, his dignity and his ability to work with the official opposition leader, Daryl Dexter, and the NDP, and other people to build the province of Nova Scotia.
    When Premier Hamm came to Ottawa I remember being in the parliamentary restaurant with senators and MPs from all parties listening to the proposal by John Hamm. In my case it was the first time that I had heard it.
    However, knowing the man himself, from the Stanfield tradition of a Progressive Conservative, that we could trust him in what he was saying. After careful reflection afterward and listening to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and their representatives, we in the NDP very quickly said that this was something we would work with and support the Conservative premiers in achieving the Atlantic accord to give us that leg up, to allow Atlantic Canadians to develop their natural resources, in this case the offshore resources, for the betterment of all people in Atlantic Canada. What is good for Atlantic Canada is also good for the rest of the country.
    After being an MP in this place for 10 years I can list the litany of broken promises from the Liberals when they were the government but, hopefully, they have learned from that.
    We then had the sanctimonious Conservatives, while in opposition, saying that they would bring Canadians a clean government, an open government, an honest government and a transparent government.
    Let me isolate the Conservatives' broken promise in one very simple little letter that was written on June 28, 2005 to Mrs. Joyce Carter, a widow of one of our heroes, a World War II veteran. Her request was quite dignified, quite right and quite affordable. Her request would actually save the taxpayer money. She asked that all widows and veterans would received the veterans independence program regardless of the time of death or regardless of application.
    The opposition leader at that time, who is now the Prime Minister, wrote in that letter on June 28, 2005, that if the Conservatives form a government, she could be assured that as a Conservative government it would immediately extend the veterans independence program to all veterans and all widows, regardless of application or time of death.

  (1155)  

    There were no ifs, ands or buts, no reviews, nothing. It was crystal clear in black and white, a written promise to a widow of a veteran.
    This is the party that says “support the troops”. We all support the troops. I would like to ask the Conservatives, where is that commitment and support when they take the uniform off? What about their families? If they can deliberately mislead and betray a promise to a widow of a veteran, can we imagine the broken promise to Nova Scotia—

  (1200)  

    The hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park on a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe that it is very clear in our Standing Orders that to use the terminology “deliberately mislead” is unparliamentary. I would ask that you have the member withdraw that statement, especially because what he is saying is not true.
    It is unparliamentary for someone to accuse a particular member of deliberately misleading the House, but to accuse an entire party or a government or an opposition party of deliberately misleading the House is, unfortunately, part of the usual rule around here.
    The hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.
    Mr. Speaker, you know, that hon. member from Edmonton just cannot handle the truth.
    At the end of my speech, I will give him the letter that his Prime Minister wrote to a widow of a veteran and then I would like him to stand up in the House and apologize to the House for accusing me of telling something that is not true.
    I cannot believe these Conservatives. They stood in opposition on their hind heels and went absolutely crazy on the previous government over this. The reality is it is time for them to go. We cannot trust them any more.
    The sad thing is there are some very good people in that Conservative Party whom I would love to call my neighbour. They are decent and honest people, but it is that front bench all centred around the PMO that is being corrupted and absolutely saying anything they can to get elected, to try to get their majority, and betray the promises of Atlantic Canada, Saskatchewan and for that matter as the hon. member for Labrador said, “If they can do it to her, they can do it to you”.
    The trust is gone now. It is completely gone. The Conservatives can say and do whatever they please. It simply does not hold any water.
    Let me refer to something that is in the Daily News today written by a gentleman named Mr. David Rodenheiser who is a well known columnist of the Daily News. Mr. Rodenheiser is certainly not a New Democrat. I do not think we could accuse him of being a Liberal. Here is what he said about the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party, “The Prime Minister's Conservatives area vicious, vindictive—, and I cannot say the last word because it is unparliamentary, but it starts with an l and ends with an r and there are two vowels in the middle.
    The fact is this is what their own commentators are saying now about the Conservatives. It is most unfortunate. We had hoped that there would be openness and transparency, and they would honestly keep their promises. The income trusts promise, gone; VIP promises for widows of veterans, gone; assisted deduction problem for injured soldiers, gone; the excise fuel tax not to raise it above a certain amount, gone; the Atlantic accord, gone.
    I have one word to say to the Conservatives from Atlantic Canada especially, they are about to be “gone”. I can assure the House that election cannot happen fast enough. If it was not for the support of the separatists on the budget, they would be gone already today.
    The people of Atlantic Canada deserve better. They can only go by what the ministers and the Prime Minister say to them which are on record in Hansard. Just a few weeks ago the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the minister for ACOA, who himself has betrayed many promises.
    We will never forget the one he made to David Orchard, and I think David Orchard's comments are absolutely correct, “That is the party that was conceived in deception and born in betrayal”. The Minister of Foreign Affairs from Central Nova said very clearly “We do not kick out people of our party for voting their conscience. There will be no flipping or flopping on budget votes. If people vote their conscience, we will not kick them out”. No sooner than the good member of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley sat down, he was gone.
    Then they eradicated all his personal files of his constituents that he was trying to work with. What kind of party is that? What else are the Conservatives going to do to hurt the people of Atlantic Canada?
    We say to them quite clearly. The hon. member for Halifax is correct. It is not too late to fix the problem. Go back to the deal that we had before. There should not be any further deals happening. There should not be any last minute conversations and rushing around.
    We had a deal, a deal written in stone. Now the Conservatives want to break that stone and turn it into little pebbles and scatter it across. Their word simply cannot be trusted.
    It is unfortunate because when the Government of Canada misleads Canadians, it looks bad on all politicians in the House and across the country.

  (1205)  

    Mr. Speaker, I have always enjoyed listening to the member and actually as a person, I need to confess, I rather like him. He has a good friendly personality and I always appreciate that in a person.
    I would like to point out, though, to all members of the House that, with all due respect, I think that all members, including those who fashioned the motion of the day, are just hoping that by saying it often enough they will turn Canadians against trusting us because they are claiming that we are breaking a promise when we are not. I am here pleading for a consideration of the truth.
    I look at our budget document and I urge people to read it. It says explicitly that it is up to the provinces. I will read again what I read before:
    To respect the Offshore Accords, Budget 2007 puts in place transitional provisions under which Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia will continue to receive payments under that Equalization program. Both provinces will be able to permanently opt into the new Equalization program at any time.
    It is also a fact that if they opted now to go to the new one, they would actually get more than under the old one, and that is the truth. I plead with members, let us deal in this chamber with the truth and not with some fabrication of it.
    Mr. Speaker, here is the truth, if he wants to hear it.
    In March, in the federal budget, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were given a choice. That is the problem. There was not supposed to be a choice. They would have retained the Atlantic accords plus the equalization. There was supposed to be no choice at all between the provincial accords and the old equalization system called the O'Brien formula with a cap on offshore revenues. That is what the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley indicated.
    The finance minister said that is not on the table. There was not supposed to be “either, or”. That is the problem. I wonder when the hon. member from Edmonton, who I happen to like by the way, will finally get it into his head that it is a broken promise.
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member is aware that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans since the budget have claimed that in fact the budget did live up to the terms of the Atlantic accord.
    I have a Canadian Press article from this morning that says that the Minister of Foreign Affairs now says the decision of the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley was premature because he is still in talks with Nova Scotia over honouring the accord and there is time to make a deal.
    That leaves me rather confused because on the one hand he is saying that the Conservatives have already honoured the accord and on the other hand he is now saying they are in talks over honouring the accord. I would like to hear my hon. colleague's comments on this dichotomy.
    Mr. Speaker, there is an old saying that says, “If you're going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance”.
    The Conservatives are backtracking, flipping and flopping like a flounder on an open deck in the open seas. They simply do not even know the truth themselves anymore.
    They have misled the people of Atlantic Canada so much. By the way, the analyses of the accord are done by Conservative premiers, Conservative analysts, economists and legal experts. They all say that the accord has been broken.
    Now we have the foreign affairs minister saying, maybe we will do this, maybe we will not. We simply cannot trust the foreign affairs minister or his government to deliver on the promises that they made for the good people of Atlantic Canada, Saskatchewan, and for that matter, the rest of our country.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, this is certainly a very important time in the history of my province of Newfoundland and Labrador and certainly a very important time in the history of Atlantic Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Kings—Hants, a beautiful stretch of the Nova Scotia coastline, I might add.
    The motion that we have before us today is the second time that we have brought up this issue in the House. We have proposed another motion to allow our colleagues from the Conservative Party the chance to isolate this issue and a chance for them to speak up for their home province, in much the same way that the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley did. For the record I would like to read the motion brought forward by my hon. colleague from Labrador:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.
    Just to give an illustration on how wide and how far the contempt is for the current government against the Atlantic accords, let me just point out that about a month ago, a gentleman from Newfoundland decided to start an online petition. His name is Steve Saunders. He went online and then he got help from the NLFM, which the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities.
    In a three week period he had gathered, through many communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, signatures against the current actions of the current Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and of course the regional representation in the cabinet, our Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
     It went something like this, “We, the undersigned, residents of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, would like to draw the attention of the House of Commons that in the last federal election the Prime Minister broke his promise”.
    What would a petition of this size garner in only a few weeks time? Members probably think a few pages here and there. In the short span of three weeks, we have managed to put together a petition that resembles this. In less than one month, this is what we have, saying no to the Prime Minister, saying no to the Minister of Finance, and saying no to three Conservative members of Parliament from Newfoundland and Labrador.
    Here are some names that lead the way on this petition, on the very first page, because at times the Conservative Party will say, “Well, this is a partisan issue”.
    The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans earlier today said that we are simply opposing because it is a Liberal thing to do. We are opposing because it is a bad thing to change the Atlantic accords by which the people of Newfoundland and Labrador can truly realize that they are principal beneficiaries of our own resources.
    Three signatures lead the way: number one, Danny Williams, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador; followed by Gerry Reid, leader of the opposition, leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador; the third signature, Lorraine Michael, leader of the New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. How partisan is that? That is a clear message to our province and a clear message to the rest of the country.
     At this point in time I want to mention my hon. colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's who sits with me today. Unfortunately, he is unable to speak in the House because of what he said earlier. The date was March 28, 2007. My hon. colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's stood in the House and used a word against the Prime Minister stating that he was a—, and it begins with an l ends with an r and has two vowels in the middle, as was explained by my hon. colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore. No, it is not “loser”, but my hon. colleague is no longer allowed to speak because he used that word.

  (1215)  

    The funny thing is that in the last few days our hon. colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley stood in this House and voted against the budget for the sake of his constituents, for the sake of his province and for the sake of Atlantic Canada, which completely vindicated my colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's for using the word that he used which is one that is absolutely and utterly correct. He will not stand up in this House, as he has so eloquently pointed out, because if he did that, he would only be doing the same to his own constituents by misleading them as well. My hon. colleague is retiring; he will not be running in the next election. I would like to say that it was an absolute pleasure to serve with him here in this House.
    Let me refer to some of the quotes that have been talked about over the past year regarding this issue.
    The interesting thing is that my colleagues from the Conservatives, the three members of Parliament from Newfoundland and Labrador will say that they continue to work on this issue. At the very last minute, they proposed something different. To my hon. colleague from Nova Scotia who now sits as an independent, it was a scramble of issues.
    Here is what some of them had to say. Shortly after the budget was introduced, the Minister of Fisheries who is from Newfoundland said:
    We don't always have control over our own destiny. We all like to do things. We make commitments....The Prime Minister made a commitment.... The provinces involved, the majority of them said, “We don't want it. We want a different deal”. So there is the situation you're in.
    Now how shameful is that. When they said that they were going to do their version of the Atlantic accord, which was to take the non-renewables out of the formula, we said that there may be some problems with the other provinces, but they said “Oh no, don't worry, because we have the fortitude to do it”. Well so much for that. Now they admit that they don't. Therein lies the first treacherous action.
    Let me go on to say what else was said. They are now saying that they are continually working for their home region of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, and of course Atlantic Canada. This very morning, on a show called Open Line in Newfoundland and Labrador, the hon. member for St. John's East spoke to the host, Linda Swain. Here is part of what he had to say:
    We're in the middle of talks right here and now with [the Minister of Finance]. We've met with the Prime Minister on a couple of different occasions.
     Obviously something is amiss, yet my hon. colleague from Alberta and my hon. colleague from Saskatchewan continue to rise in the House and say to the people of Canada, “We honoured our commitment”. What are they talking about? Why do the members from Atlantic Canada say that they were continually talking with the Minister of Finance to make this right? It does not make sense. Who is wrong? Did they mislead or did they not? Did they break a promise or did they not? This is all coming from the government side.
    Every time that the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister stand in the House and talk about how they did not break their promise in regard to the Atlantic accord, the members from Atlantic Canada sit there, all of them, with faces like a robber's horse, as my colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's pointed out to me earlier.
    Here are some of the other things the Conservative member of Parliament for St. John's East said. He said. “Well, you know, I think if [the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley] had been at the last meeting, and of course it wasn't his fault that he wasn't there because he wasn't invited to be there--”
    Here is a gentleman who did the honourable thing by voting for his constituents and before he did that, there was a meeting about the fuss that was going on and he was not even invited. This is absolutely ridiculous. This is a charade, and yet some stand and say they have not broken a promise. Some others say they did. It just does not make a lot of sense.
    By the way, several other things were discussed in the House. I will just make one brief mention. I would like at some point for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to answer a question, now that we are on the topic of broken promises. On February 4, 2004, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans brought this motion to the House:

  (1220)  

    That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take immediate action to extend custodial management over the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and of the Flemish Cap.
    I asked that question in committee and it turns out that the minister has not done this at all.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said that he was a stubborn Irishman, perhaps an omadhaun, I do not know, but his party's leader has said that Canada is a northern European welfare state, that people on employment insurance do not feel bad about themselves, that Atlantic Canada has a culture of defeat. It seems the Conservatives must think we are kind of stupid too because they think that the accords were not broken.
    I wonder what the hon. member thinks about page 347 of the budget document itself which states that the offshore accords provide for 100% protection from equalization reductions.
    The Conservative Party cannot have its cake and eat it too. The Conservatives cannot insult Atlantic Canada and take away its money. Maybe they can insult us and let us keep our money, but which would the member prefer? Am I correct in my interpretation of the blue clad budget document provided to all of us by the Conservative government which provides 100% protection from equalization reductions?
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from New Brunswick has made some very, very good points. Let me point out again what was said this morning by the hon. member for St. John's East on the open line show:
    We have a new equalization formula, a formula that was agreed upon by seven out of the 10 premiers in Canada. There is a cap on equalization; we can't do anything about that. I mean the cap is going to be there forever and a day possibly so we can't change that.
     The member went on to say, “and the Atlantic accord is, unfortunately, not a perfect document”.
    My impression was it was, or maybe it was not according to the Conservatives. We think it is perfect, at least as close to perfect as we are going to get. He went on to say that the accord is vulnerable on a couple of different fronts. The accord is affected by the price of oil and it is affected by whatever equalization formula happens to be in place at the time.
     That is not true, because the whole point of the Atlantic accord, signed by my hon. colleague from Halifax West I might add, with the former prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, stated that future changes to the Atlantic accord would not affect equalization. If changes were made to equalization, the Atlantic accord would not be affected. It would be effectively insulated from those changes.
     Now what they have done, according to independent economists like Wade Locke in St. John's, is they have proven that this new formula does affect it and even if they went to the old formula, it still affects it. The Conservatives stand there and say it is untouched. That is the crux of the issue. Independent economists, unbiased people, say that we will suffer as a result of this. That is what I put before the House of Commons today.
    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague knows the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans probably better than any of us, but the reality is the minister is the individual who represents in cabinet the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
    We heard his speech in the House which was simply a litany of deception. The fact is he is the same Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who said to us that there was broad consultation with fishermen and their families across the country on the new Fisheries Act, Bill C-45.
    I remind my hon. colleague that at the Maritime Fishermen's Union conference the minister stood there and said that exact same thing to all the fishermen in the room, that there was broad consultation. I stood up right after the minister and asked the MFU if any of them in the room had been consulted on the new Fisheries Act before it was tabled on December 13. I asked them to put up their hands. I asked the question twice and not one person put up their hand.
    If the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans can mislead a whole group of fishermen at their convention, misleading an entire province is just one rung up the ladder of deception. Would the member not agree?
    Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague points out, he and I have both worked on the issue of Bill C-45. We have been inundated with questions from all interests, environmental groups, aboriginal groups, fishing groups far and wide. They are wondering what the government is talking about when it refers to broad consultations. There was absolutely no or very little consultation. That is why we have vehemently argued against the Conservatives ramming through Bill C-45. Why do they recklessly continue to do this?
    I am glad my hon. colleague pointed this out. Just the other day during debate at second reading our hon. colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's moved a motion in the House to make sure that no more amendments could be made to the bill. Shameless. Shameful.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, it would be nice to say it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to the motion today, but in fact it is with a sense of sadness that I rise to speak to it because of the fact that I think what the government has done, what the Prime Minister has done, what the member for Central Nova has done to the reputation of this House and to politics in general, denigrates and debases the reputation that all of us have as parliamentarians, as people who are committed to public life to making a difference, and yes, to keeping our promises.
    I would like to quote from a memo by John Crosbie, a former Progressive Conservative federal minister, a representative of Newfoundland in the cabinet, who recommended to the Prime Minister:
    Like any fair and professional leader, the Prime Minister should re-evaluate the performance of his budget in this particular area, and apply the principles of fairness and consistency in public policy. He should adjust his...budget legislation--
    John Crosbie certainly is not a Liberal. He certainly is not a New Democrat. The Conservatives are accusing us of indulging in a partisan debate. John Crosbie believes that the Prime Minister should act fairly, but we know that the Prime Minister does not act fairly. He did not act fairly when he cut programs for literacy. He did not act fairly when he killed the court challenges program. He does not act fairly when he attacks women's organizations.
    John Crosbie asked that the Prime Minister act professionally. He is a Prime Minister who on the floor of the House of Commons will accuse members of Parliament who ask legitimate questions about Canada's commitment to international protocols, to the Geneva convention, to reasonable treatment of prisoners of war, of supporting the Taliban. He is certainly not professional.
    John Crosbie asked the Prime Minister to be consistent. We certainly know that the Prime Minister is not consistent. He is not consistent when he tells Canadians that he will not be taxing their income trust investments. He is not consistent when his budget makes a ridiculous commitment to eliminating the interest deductibility on foreign investments. He flip-flopped on that a few weeks later.
    The Prime Minister is not fair, is not professional, and is not consistent. In fact he is hurting the reputation of all politicians, federal and provincial.
    I was part of a cabinet that responded to Premier Hamm's campaign of fairness. The member for Halifax West was a fellow member of that cabinet who led the charge and helped negotiate this accord, and it was a remarkable accord. It was extraordinary for a number of reasons.
    First of all, it was not an easy accord to negotiate. It involved the federal Department of Finance and other ministers. It took a lot of discussion, hard work and focus on achieving an agreement that was good for Atlantic Canada and fair to all Canadian provinces. It was a 16 year agreement. It was based on the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia having the ability to receive 100% of their offshore revenue without any impact on that equalization agreement or any further equalization agreements after that.
    The government is saying that it only applied to the equalization agreement of the time. That is false. That is one of the reasons it was such a difficult accord to negotiate. It was extraordinary and it did apply to any subsequent equalization agreements. It was based actually on solid ground. The precedent was Alberta.
    The Prime Minister in fact in a debate on November 4, 2004 said:
    This is an opportunity and it is a one time opportunity. It is a...opportunity to allow [Atlantic Canadian] provinces to kick-start their economic development, to get out of their have not status, to grow this...opportunity into long run growth and revenue that will be paid back to Ottawa over and over again and that will benefit the people of those regions--
    He said that it was based on the precedent of Alberta. He said:
    This is what happened in the case of my province of Alberta. Alberta discovered oil and gas in the 1940s and 1950s, Alberta was a have-not province. From 1957 and until 1965, Alberta received transfers from the equalization program. Alberta was allowed to keep 100% of its oil royalties and there was no federal clawback.

  (1230)  

    This is what allowed Alberta to kick-start its economy, to expand and diversify, to build universities, to advance social services and to become one of the powerhouses of the 21st century Canadian...
    Those are the words the Prime Minister used to justify his support for the Atlantic accord.
    The Albertans in the House today ought to support the Atlantic accord based on those words from their Prime Minister. Albertans need to recognize that before Albertans had the vision, foresight and wisdom to put oil into the ground, they were a have not province as well. However, it actually took the ability for Alberta to have full access to its oil revenues until 1965 for Alberta to diversify its economy and to make the kinds of social investments required to move forward.
    Clearly, both the Prime Minister and the member for Central Nova, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and, frankly, the patron saint of hypocrisy when it comes to this agreement and on many other issues we know he has taken positions on over the years, have let all Canadians down, particularly Nova Scotians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
    The Prime Minister has spoken in the past of a culture of defeat in Atlantic Canada. I believe there will be a culture of defeat on election night in the next federal election in Conservative headquarters right across the Atlantic Canadian region. Atlantic Canadians do not want to be misled. Atlantic Canadians do not want to be lied to. Atlantic Canadians want to be able to trust in their government, to believe what they are being told is true. If the Prime Minister cannot even convince members of his own caucus, members like the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, that he is telling the truth, how can he convince Atlantic Canadians that he is telling the truth?
     That is a Prime Minister who has demonstrated time and time again that he would do anything or say anything to get elected, to get people's vote. There is not a promise that he will make during an election that he will not break after being elected.
    In a minority Parliament, which Canadians have chosen, we have an opportunity to respect their choice to make this Parliament work, to advance public policy that is important for all Canadians, to work together in the interest of Canadians and to give Canadians the type of government in which they can believe. It is very tough for us to do this when we have a governing party, the Conservative Party, a Prime Minister and a Minister of Foreign Affairs whose signatures are not worth the paper on which they are written.
    That is a Prime Minister who tends not to like accords. He, in fact, is working this week at the G-8 to try to destabilize the industrial world's commitment to the Kyoto accord. He has ripped up the Atlantic accord. One of the editorials in today's Halifax Daily News says that the Prime Minister hates accords so much it must be difficult for him to dry by a Honda dealership”.
    The fact is the people of Nova Scotia and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have learned the hard way, that they cannot trust the Prime Minister.
     Income trust investors who lost $25 billion almost overnight as a result of the Prime Minister's breaking of his promise have learned that they cannot trust him to keep his word.
    On of the editorials in today's Chronicle Herald said:
—in their gut, folks do understand that the Harper government has broken faith with Atlantic Canada by failing to deliver all that had been promised.
    It went further and said:
    If the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley can't even vote for these Conservatives, how can you?
    I think that is the question Atlantic Canadians across Atlantic Canada will be asking themselves in the next election.

  (1235)  

    Atlantic Canadians are extremely proud to be strong Canadians and to fight for values and interests around the world. They fought in global conflicts in World War I, World War II and the Korean conflict. They made a difference in helping to build a more peaceful, democratic and stable world. They are fighting now in Afghanistan and making a difference, and we are proud of them. Atlantic Canadians are tremendously proud of the difference they make in Canada and around the world. They deserve the respect of the Prime Minister not to break promises made to them.
    Mr. Speaker, I truly respect the words of the hon. member for Kings—Hants. He was a cabinet minister when these deals with the Atlantic accord were being made. He is correct. It was not easy. There was no unanimity saying that we were absolutely going to do this right away. It was tough slogging and they were tough negotiations.
    As the hon. member knows, the NDP, the Liberal Party and Premier Hamm worked toward a conclusion to do exactly what the hon. member for Kings—Hants said, to give Atlantic Canadians that step up, similar to what Alberta received, so we could get out of the economic doldrums.
    Some people call it the have not provinces. I do not like to use that term. “Have not” reflects upon the people of the area, and we are not in a have not province at all. There are certain developments and policies that need to happen among ourselves and with the assistance of the federal government to get us going again. We have some tremendous opportunities in Atlantic Canada to move forward so our young people do not have to move away.
    The hon. member knows very well that when a promise is made repeatedly and broken repeatedly, it has a serious affect on all politicians in this place and across the country. The problem can be fixed.
    Could the hon. member tell the House how it should and can be fixed?
    Mr. Speaker, the ultimate irony of this is the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans from Newfoundland and Labrador and the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Nova Scotia both said immediately after the budget was presented that there was nothing wrong with it and that there was nothing to fix. Since then, they have been saying they are working very hard to fix it. Therefore, they are effectively saying that they are working extremely hard with other levels of government to fix a problem that did not exist in the first place.
    The fact is it can be fixed simply by enabling the provincial governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to continue to have full respect for the original Atlantic accord, which means that any new equalization deal will apply to them, as well as to other provinces, a new, more generous equalization deal, and they will continue to receive 100% of the offshore revenues.
    That was the intent, spirit and letter of the Atlantic accord. For a full 16 years Atlantic Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia would have full access to offshore revenue and to any subsequent equalization deal. That principle was broken by the government. It can be changed simply by the government going back to the original accord and keeping its promise to Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's debate, which was instigated by the member for Labrador, regarding the equalization program and budget 2007.
    However, today's spectacle is not about having a rational, factual discussion about equalization or a fiscal balance or the Atlantic accord for that matter. It is not about what is best for the people of Atlantic Canada or best for Canada. It certainly is not about budget 2007.
    In fact, I doubt the sponsor of this motion has even read the budget document or the detailed chapter and annex on the subject itself. It does not matter to him or to his party what the budget says or what it proposes. It is simply about partisan politics at its worst. It is really about a Liberal Party that does not know where it is going. It is about a party that is so devoid of principles that logical and rational thinking has been displaced in this debate.
    That is why it is so unfortunate that the member opposite would take an issue so important to his province and the province of Nova Scotia, indeed all Canadians, and exploit it for cheap political gain.
    I know it would be too much to ask the members opposite to engage in a rational and informed discussion here today, but I urge him, at the very least, to keep all the inflammatory rhetoric down so we can have some semblance of an educated debate. Indeed, if this were an educated debate, the member opposite would admit that the principles of the Atlantic accord have not been abandoned.
    If the member opposite had simply read the budget, and he can do that very easily on line by going to www.budget.gc.ca, he would see the error in his claims.
    In his speech to the House, the Minister of Finance described budget 2007 as an historic document and with good reason. Underpinning the budget exercise is a commitment to strengthening our federation and fulfilling a vision in which all governments come together to help Canadians realize their full potential.
    Budget 2007 follows through on every commitment of the plan and it goes even further. It restores fiscal balance with provinces and territories by putting transfers on a long term, principles based footing. It takes another step toward restoring fiscal balance with Canadian taxpayers through major tax reductions and the tax back guarantee. It makes governments more accountable to Canadians by clarifying roles and responsibilities. It strengthens the economic union based on the plan set out in “Advantage Canada”. With fiscal balance restored, governments can focus on what matters to all Canadians, not old, tired arguments.
    The budget should move forward and not be used for petty partisan games that could result in the loss of funding for important programs to improve the lives of Canadians: $1.5 billion in clean air funding to assist provinces with projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, gone; $225 million in new funding for the Nature Conservancy of Canada to preserve and protect environmentally sensitive lands across the country, gone; $30 million to protect British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, gone; more than a billion dollars in health care funding to help provinces reduce patient waiting times and improve the delivery of health services, gone; $614 million in funding for federal-provincial infrastructure projects and labour market training, gone; $30 million in funding for the Rick Hansen Foundation spinal cord injury translational research network to improve the lives of more than 40,000 Canadians with permanent spinal cord injuries, gone; and $135 million in new aid to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their lives and their country, gone.
    What does the opposition think about this? What does the Liberal leader in the Senate, Ms. Hervieux-Payette, have to say about the prospect of that lost funding? She said, “If we spend all our time ringing bells, other bills will not pass as well”. Nonsense. It is nonsense that means nothing to the average Canadian and it should.

  (1240)  

    What does mean something to Canadians are better roads, a renewed public transit, a better health care system, better equipped universities, cleaner oceans, rivers, lakes and air, and training to help Canadians get the skills they need to build a better future for our country. That means giving adequate funding to provincial and territorial governments.
    In budget 2007, through our historic plan, we are working to restore fiscal balance in Canada. Contrast that with the Liberals, like the former finance minister, the member for Wascana, who had the audacity to write:
    The Conservatives complain that the previous Liberal government didn't concede the existence of a fiscal imbalance in Canada.
    Do members know what he said? He said, “so what”. We also have the leader of the Liberal Party who has repeated publicly that he does not care about the fiscal imbalance. In fact, he pronounced:
    Don't ask me to pretend there is a fiscal imbalance and elect me, and hope I will fix it. I don't want to create those kind of expectations.
    Today the Liberal leader said that he was for excluding natural resources from equalization but when asked this March about excluding 100% of resource revenues from the equalization, he said, “No, no. I would not commit to this”.
    When he was intergovernmental affairs minister he said:
...it would be ill-advised to grant such special treatment to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland...it is essential to maintain equitable treatment of all the provinces within the Equalization framework.
    Today the Liberal leader said that he was against a fiscal capacity cap but, when asked last March, he said, “a province that received equalization payments cannot see its fiscal capacity going above the fiscal capacity of a province that does not”.
    When he was intergovernmental affairs minister he said, “Some provinces want special treatment to maintain their incoming benefits even as their fiscal capacities increase”.
     What he said was that he disagreed.
    I am particularly proud to note that our approach to restoring fiscal balance is the result of significant consultations conducted with all of our partners as committed to in budget 2006.
    Our approach to restore fiscal balance was not conducted in a vacuum. Rather, broad consultations were conducted by the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
    The former minister of intergovernmental affairs' predecessor held face to face meetings with his counterparts between August and November, 2006 seeking views on ways to achieve a balance between a principled based approach to the limitation of the federal spending power and the need to continue to offer and ensure flexibility.
    The minister sought perspectives on lessons learned from the past, options for future consideration and potential priority areas for action. Written submissions from provinces and territories were also provided. These consultations allowed the Government of Canada to demonstrate to provinces and territories its commitment to a new and open federalism. They also provided an opportunity to obtain provincial and territorial views on ways to achieve enhanced accountability through a clarity in roles and responsibilities of all orders of government.
    The government took into account all that we gleaned from these consultations and we also committed to returning the equalization program to a principles based, formula driven footing as part of our plan to restore fiscal balance.
    In doing so, we relied extensively on the recommendations of the independent expert panel chaired by Al O'Brien, a former Alberta deputy treasurer. A panel appointed under the tenure of the aforementioned member for Wascana, who at the time said of the panel:
    There are so many arguments among the provinces about what the right formula ought to be, that we will engage an independent panel of experts—people who don't have a particular bias, don't have any kind of regional, vested interest—and have them come up with recommendations....
    I wonder how those experts would react to the member for Wascana's new “so what” attitude to the fiscal balance.

  (1245)  

    Following extensive consultations, the O'Brien report proposed a comprehensive, principled based set of reforms to the equalization program. As a Globe and Mail editorial pronounced, the O'Brien report “presented a largely acceptable approach to the predicament”, a predicament caused by what The Globe and Mail termed “recklessly” and “dubious meddling” of the old government.
    We reviewed this report and consulted extensively with Canadians and with provincial governments. We have concluded that the O'Brien report forms a solid foundation for the renewal of the equalization program.
    As the Toronto Star noted, “the Conservative government is cleaning up the equalization mess the member for LaSalle—Émard left behind”.
    Indeed, the new program meets our commitment on fully excluding natural resource revenues from the program. We said that we would exclude non-renewable natural resource revenues without adversely affecting provinces by the changes to the equalization formula, and we did. Budget 2007 delivers on this commitment.
    The new equalization program will give provinces the higher of the payments calculated under 50% natural resources exclusion or full exclusion.
    We would expect the exclusion of 50% of natural resource revenues to provide higher payments in most cases because it increases the equalization standard. However, this of course depends on resource production, the levels and natural resource prices.
    Giving provinces the benefit of full exclusion or 50% exclusion, fulfills the government's commitment to fully exclude non-renewable natural resource revenues from equalization without lowering payments to any province.
    We said that we would respect the offshore accords with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, and we did. Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia can continue to get the benefits of their offshore accords and operate under the previous equalization system, ensuring that these provinces continue to receive the full benefit envisioned in these agreements.
    As The Globe and Mail editorial bluntly remarked, there is no cap”. It said that resource revenues were not included when the province's share of equalization was calculated. The article goes on to state:
    That is because...the Atlantic Accord...explicitly exempted the province's resource revenues from any calculation of its equalization entitlements.
    That accord trumps the budget's measures. And the Conservatives went out of their way to underline that stipulation in the budget.
    I will conclude my remarks by reminding the member opposite that we do not and we have not abandoned any principles. We have not abandoned the Atlantic accords. Rather, we have taken action on fulfilling our commitments, in an open and principled way, to strengthen our Federation so that government can work in a collaborative way to provide tangible results for all Canadians.
    If the members opposite do not believe us, they should listen to what the independent equalization experts are saying, the people who do not have a particular bias, as the former Liberal finance minister would call them. We have people like Thomas Courchene, who rendered a thumbs up to budget 2007 and its major accomplishment to remove the fiscal basis of our Federation from its earlier state of disarray and to strive to reposition Canadian fiscal federalism within a framework of principles, fiscal, institutional and political.
    We just need to listen to the former NDP Saskatchewan finance minister, in that respect an academic, Janice MacKinnon, who lamented the former Liberal government for turning “its back on the long established, formula-driven, rules based process for deciding equalization entitlements in favour of an ad hoc approach”.

  (1250)  

    MacKinnon wants federal-provincial fiscal relations to be put on a more predictable, stable footing and be based on rules and established formulas that prevent the federal government from making ad hoc decisions and, in her words, “the 2007 federal budget goes a long way to achieving this goal”.
    Let us listen to what Al O'Brien, the head of the expert federal panel, had to say. He said, “Budget 2007 adopted our recommendation. Our recommendation is the core framework and I'm really quite encouraged”.
    Tackling this issue was not easy. It was not a simple proposition. It involved making tough decisions and seeking compromise. Fundamental to the working of any successful federation is compromise or, as MacKinnon put it, “Federal-provincial relations require compromise and a willingness of provinces to look beyond their own provincial borders”.
    Through our efforts, equalization has been restored to a principles based program after years of ignoring it. Instead of working for partisan interests, we made our decisions in the best interests of all Canadians, including those in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. That is what all premiers asked and all Canadians expect us to do. We will not apologize for that.
    When we look at what we have done and the commitments we have made to each province and territory in this country, it is clear that decisions are not easy and tough decisions are that much more difficult to make. When we look at Newfoundland and Labrador or Nova Scotia, they receive $1.3 billion under the new equalization formula: $130 million in offshore accord offsets, $639 million under the Canada health care transfer and $277 million for the Canada social transfer, which includes additional funding for post-secondary education and child care. Commitments made throughout the country in each province and territory are included in the budget.
    The budget went through committee and the committee heard from witnesses, including the Saskatchewan premier who was given an hour to ensure he had a full opportunity to present his thoughts and his position on the budget and what he felt it did not include. We did not ignore anyone who wanted the opportunity to speak to this.
    However, what is important at the end of the day is that we have a budget, which the finance committee went through clause by clause. We are debating it in the House today. It should go through the Senate process of being heard but, as I indicated in my speaking notes, there are close to $5 billion worth of priorities waiting.
    The fact that we have put a number to it is important and relevant from a numbers perspective but what needs to be heard is that there are many programs that hinge on that funding to be implemented in this year.
    We obviously look to the leaders in the Senate, the majority of whom are from the Liberal Party, to dedicate themselves, prior to the end of this month, to ensuring the budget passes and becomes law so the expenditures within it can be met, whether they be from one end of the country to the other, for defence, the environment or the investment in the work Rick Hansen has done for decades in this country, which has now been recognized.
    From the over 450 presentations at the finance committee, 44 recommendations were put together by all parties and they were given to the finance minister. Many of those recommendations, which were agreed to by all parties, are in the budget, but there are two parties today that are opposed to the budget.

  (1255)  

    For those reasons, I sure hope, while the debate happens and the debate continues, that at the end of the day respect for this process is brought and that budget is passed by the Senate.
     Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member for St. Catharines. In fact, I have been here most of the day and I am waiting for some member from Atlantic Canada on the other side of the House to tell us what a great budget it is.
    The member talked at length about equalization. My province of New Brunswick is getting a less than 2% increase this year in its equalization from the federal government. The province of Quebec is getting nearly a 30% increase. In fact, it is such a big increase that the Premier of Quebec has decided he can reduce taxes in that province by nearly $1 billion.
    First, could the hon. member relate to us why the other nine or ten Conservatives from Atlantic Canada are not here supporting him? We would like to hear from them. Second, on equalization, is it fair that only Quebec received a big increase in equalization?

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member has said that he has been here all day. I will take him at his word on that. He may have slipped out for a bite to eat and missed the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who delivered a speech in the House this morning on that exact issue.
    I do not think there is any doubt that those of us who sit on this side of the House are more than prepared to stand up and defend the budget and the equalization payments that are included within it.
    My colleague speaks about New Brunswick. We can talk about percentages, but what we really need to do is start to talk about fairness in equalization, which includes $1.4 billion in equalization payments to New Brunswick, $512 million under the Canada health transfer, $222 million for Canada's social transfers, including additional funding for post-secondary education, and $64 million for infrastructure. I could go on.
    New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec get what they deserve in this budget.
    Mr. Speaker, we are not really arguing the budget today. This is about one aspect of the budget that concerns the Atlantic accords.
    I would like the hon. member to answer two questions.
     First, he talked about the offset payments involved here. However, an independent economist says that over the life of the accords $1 billion will be lost under this formula. How can he justify the offset payments that he talked about, but at the loss of $1 billion over the Atlantic accords, which is fundamentally breaking a promise?
    The other issue is this. The member talked about how the finance minister and the Prime Minister did not break a promise, but yet almost every Atlantic Canada Conservative MP has said that they are continually working behind the scenes to ensure that we get what is right, obviously admitting that it is not right currently as it sits.
    I encourage the member not to talk about other aspects of the budget. If he talks about other aspects of the budget, he will fully admit that he has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the offset payments to the Atlantic accord.
    I will speak to my colleague's second point first, Mr. Speaker.
    There are members on this side of the House who continually work to improve every aspect of legislation, whether it be justice legislation, or finance legislation, or any other legislation that we have moved forward. The fact is the difference between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party is that we are prepared to continue to work, continue to move forward and ensure that we have left no stone unturned.
     I guess for the Liberal Party members, they say it once and never say it again. Those members continually say that is always right regardless of whether it is wrong.
    As I indicated very clearly, we have not broken our commitment. We laid that out very carefully with the budget that the Atlantic accord is being honoured.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, it would be comical if it were not so sad. The hon. member accuses one of the Liberal members for not reading the budget. I doubt the hon. member even read the Atlantic accord. He did not sit in on the meetings.
    He talks about the budget, so I will talk about what is not in the budget. There was a motion passed in the House for veterans first to help injured soldiers, widows and veterans. The motion was passed by the House and not a word nor a penny of it is in the budget. A promise was made by the Prime Minister to a widow of a veteran that a VIP program would be extended immediately, but there is not a word on that in the budget.
    I will get back to the point of the accord. There are many things the government left out of the budget, but it will not speak about those parts. An hon. member from the Conservative caucus was unceremoniously booted out, even after the Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “We do not and will not kick people out of the Conservative caucus for voting their conscience”.
    I will ask the hon. member a very simple question. Does the hon. member support what the Minister of Foreign Affairs said, or does he support booting out one of his own colleagues from the Conservative Party?
    Mr. Speaker, the member asked a question and made a comment with respect to issues of conscience.
    The member could go back to his riding to talk about the valuable things in this budget and tell his constituents that they are good for his them. These are things such as accelerating the implementation of the Canada first defence plan so Canadian Forces will receive $175 million this year, earmarking $60 million to bring the environmental allowances paid to soldiers, $10 million to establish five new operational stress injury clinics to assist Canadian Forces. These are investments in the member's riding and province.
    No doubt, after the budget is passed, even though he will vote against it, the member will say that these things are good for province.
    Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to hear a member from Ontario discuss this issue. I wish the hon. member would stick to the issue at hand, which is the bold-faced abrogation of an agreement that the then leader of the opposition, now Prime Minister, said fully, squarely and without equivocation he would support.
    I will give the hon. member a copy, if he wishes, of the arrangement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia on offshore revenues. It is signed February 14, 2005, St. Valentine's Day. It breaks my heart to have to tell the hon. member this, because it contrasts what is said in the budget.
    Under point four, it says:
     Commencing in 2006-07, and continuing through 2011-12, the annual offset payments shall be equal to 100 per cent of any reductions in Equalization payments resulting from offshore resource revenues. The amount of additional offset payment for a year shall be calculated as the difference between the Equalization payment that would be received by the province under the Equalization formula as it exists at the time if the province received no offshore petroleum resource revenues in that year...under the Equalization formula as it exists at the time...
    The budget on page 115, which the hon. member claims to have read and has invited other members to talk about, simply says:
—the Offshore Accords and ensures that these provinces will continue to receive the full benefit that they are entitled to under the previous system.
     There is the problem. The government has gone to the old system while abrogating the new one.
    Would the hon. member finally get it right and answer this? Would he at least acknowledge that this is a broken promise?
    Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. The member just verified that the Atlantic accord trumps the budget. It is as simple as that. I thank him for doing that.
    If the Conservative government were not here and it were a Liberal government, horrid thoughts come to my mind. The fact is a Liberal government would not have dealt nor tried to deal with this issue. It would not have even tried. Members on the other side of the House do not think it is an issue or a problem. We dealt with it.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I feel sorry for my hon. colleague, the member for St. Catharines. He obviously has been sent in here today and has been asked to give a speech on the subject because his government cannot find many folks from Atlantic Canada who are willing to speak on it from his side. He has come in, read a speech and tried valiantly to defend the indefensible.
    I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Pickering—Scarborough East, who has had a look at the Atlantic accord, the accord that I signed, in fact. I am familiar with it as well. He has tried to explain for the member for St. Catharines what it means and how it is a betrayal in this case.
    The question before us today is very simple. Has the government honoured the offshore accords with Newfoundland and Labrador and with my province of Nova Scotia? The answer is also very simple. The answer is no.
    I know it, Danny Williams knows it and John Crosbie knows it. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley knows it, and he had the guts to admit it. He can be proud of that. Nova Scotians are proud of him for his decision.
    Premier Rodney MacDonald sort of knows it. I wish he would be a little more firm about it and a little stronger. He seems to be a little afraid to stand up and fight for Nova Scotia. Maybe he is afraid of the Prime Minister. It seems a lot of members on that side are, and I understand that. I would like him to be a little firmer and stronger. We have seen Mr. Williams be very strong.
    Everyone with a shred of common sense in Atlantic Canada knows it. They know that our region has been betrayed. They know the Prime Minister has shown to Atlantic Canadians that his word is worthless.
    I do not think I mentioned, Mr. Speaker, that I have the honour of splitting my time today with the honourable member for West Nova, my esteemed colleague. I look forward to his comments as well.
    Atlantic Canadians know the Conservative cabinet and members of the caucus from Atlantic Canada are too afraid of the wrath of the Prime Minister to speak up, to tell the truth, and to fight for the interests of the people of their provinces, as they should do. Atlantic Canadians are not being fooled by the false arguments that are being trotted out by Conservative members to explain how my province, for example, will lose $1 billion and how that is a good thing supposedly for Nova Scotians.
    The finance minister loves to say that Nova Scotia has a choice of either the new equalization program or the accord and the old equalization program. My honourable colleague, the member for Pickering—Scarborough East just explained why that is a false dichotomy, a false choice. As Jim Meek, a columnist at the Halifax ChronicleHerald said today, “The minister's cheap parlour—or parliamentary—trick is to suggest he has given the province a fair deal”.
    We know that is not the case. The fact is the accord applies, as it says, to equalization as it exists at the time. No matter how it changes, provisions and the terms of the accord still apply. The payments under the accord are still to be made. The government has denied that and it has torn to shreds the Atlantic accord.
    What other answers is the government giving? The Minister of Finance, for example, loves to list off the various things in the budget, other things that affect Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Atlantic Canada in general. Is the government really saying that we do not deserve to have payments for health care, that we do not deserve funding for environmental protection, for example? Is that what the government is saying? Is it saying that we cannot have this because we are going to have that? Is the government saying that we cannot have what it promised on the offshore accord because it is going to do something in terms of funding that it is giving to every other province anyway? This is some deal. That is not very impressive.
    Is the government really saying that we only get equalization and education dollars because of its charity and goodwill? Is that what the government is saying? It is hogwash. It is absolute rubbish. The argument Conservatives are making is beneath contempt and worst of all, they know it, but they do not dare cross the bully boss, the Prime Minister. They are clearly afraid of him and they have not found intestinal fortitude.
    I am not sure if referring to the Prime Minister in those terms would be parliamentary. I would ask the honourable member from Halifax West to withdraw that comment.
    Mr. Speaker, if that is in fact unparliamentary, and I was not aware it was frankly, then I will withdraw it.
    It is fair to say that the hon. members are clearly afraid of the Prime Minister. We have seen many bullying tactics in the House and on the Hill. These colleagues from Atlantic Canada have not found, unfortunately, the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the Prime Minister. There is still third reading of the budget bill coming up shortly. I hope they will show that fortitude then.
    There are two things that everyone in Nova Scotia knows. The first is that the Prime Minister betrayed Atlantic Canada on budget day when he failed to honour a signed agreement between the Government of Canada and my province. It was a signed deal, a signed contract; I know, because I signed it.
    The second thing is that the hon. member for Central Nova and the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's had the chance to stand up for their province. They could have said, “Wait a minute, this is not right. One cannot just unilaterally tear up a written contract just because one does not like the region and wants to punish us”. They could have said that.
    Those members could have done what the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley did, who showed he has a backbone. He stood up for his region and his province. Instead, sadly, they chose to support their misguided leader. Was it out of party loyalty? Was it out of fear? I do not know what the reason was, why they could not show more fortitude.
     I know one thing, that voters in Nova Scotia and across Atlantic Canada will remember the lack of support those Conservative MPs from Atlantic Canada showed the region. When the next election is called and the members are out knocking on doors, I think they will hear about it. Voters will remember that the budget betrayal at the hands of the Conservatives may cost my province, for example, $1 billion for things that we need, such as better hospitals, schools, fixing roads and many other important investments. They will remember that those Conservative members of Parliament squandered a deal that gave Nova Scotia 100% of its offshore revenues with no clawback.
    It is exactly what those Conservative members promised when they sent out a brochure to Atlantic Canadians a few years ago, which said on its cover, “There is no greater fraud than a promise broken”. They promised no clawbacks, 100%. That promise has been broken.
    The foreign affairs minister said that the budget respected the accord. That has been his claim for months. Now he is saying that the decision of the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley was premature because he and others are still in talks over honouring the accord. Huh? How is it possible for one to have already honoured it but one is still in talks over honouring it? It seems to me it ought to be one or the other.
    The finance minister and his Nova Scotia puppets over there tell us we should be happy that we are getting more in equalization this year. What a joke. What a farce. They should read the accord.
    That is why columnists in Atlantic Canada such as David Rodenhiser of the Daily News are so outraged. He said today:
    We have a government that lies to us, steals from us and aligns itself with a party bent on tearing the nation apart. These are not proud days for Canada.
     In fact, underneath his article there is a line which reads:
    David Rodenhiser thinks [the Prime Minister] has a phobia of accords: the Atlantic Accord, the Kyoto Accord, the Kelowna Accord. The man must be petrified when passing a Honda dealership.
    When the finance minister was Mike Harris's henchman in Toronto, he mocked Premier Hamm, saying that his campaign for fairness was like someone who won a lottery and still wanted to collect welfare. It seems the same meanspirited mentality prevails today. The hon. member for Central Nova and the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's have adopted it, unfortunately. That is very sad. It is frustrating. It is atrocious. They should be ashamed that the government has a petty, patronizing attitude toward Atlantic Canada. The next thing is they will say we have a culture of defeat.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's words very carefully. I want to ask him a question that I posed to his leader earlier today to which I did not get an answer. I am not sure whether I will get a direct answer from the hon. member. I would like the member to clarify remarks made by his leader in March of this year, only a few short months ago.
    In March of this year the Leader of the Opposition stated that he believed that non-renewable natural resources should not be excluded from the equalization formula. He went to say that he also believed in addition to that, there should be a fiscal cap.
    Today the hon. opposition leader seems to be completely reversing himself. There is a complete contradiction. Three months ago the opposition leader stated there should be no removal of non-renewable natural resources, and in addition to that, we should put on a fiscal cap, which would have destroyed, frankly, any attempts by Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to receive money through equalization.
    Since the opposition leader is clearly a learned man and I am sure he chose his words very carefully, was he misleading Canadians then, or is he misleading them now?

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, in fact my hon. colleague should have listened to the answer to his question this morning. Obviously he did not, because he would have heard the leader of my party make it very clear that is not what he said at all. In fact, I know what he said.
    The Leader of the Opposition has made it very clear that he will live up to the terms of the Atlantic accord. In fact, he was part of the cabinet that approved the Atlantic accords, that implemented the Atlantic accords. What the member is talking about is absolute nonsense and he ought to know it.
    I think we should hear more from Conservative members from Atlantic Canada who actually have some idea, or I hope they do, of what the accords are all about.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today very troubled. We went through an election campaign where we were promised honest and accountable government with good stewardship. In Hamilton where we have lost 11,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year alone, we are facing a situation where there is no manufacturing strategy. We have had the softwood sellout. Now Premier MacDonald, Premier Williams and former premier Hamm are flatly saying that the government has betrayed people.
    My question for the member opposite is, how low does he think they will go and who is next?
    Mr. Speaker, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Prime Minister has a rather negative attitude toward written agreements and his own promises.
    Did the government honour the Kelowna accord? No. Did the government honour the child care agreements that it signed with every province in the country. No. Did the government honour our international obligations under Kyoto? No. Did the Prime Minister keep his own word on income trusts? No.
    Does the government have any honour or integrity left? I do not think it does. It is not showing it.
    Can the Prime Minister be trusted to keep his word to hard-working Canadians on anything? No, unfortunately.
    Mr. Speaker, my question for my colleague, the member for Halifax West, is a fairly simple one.
    The fact is the Premier of Nova Scotia said immediately after the budget:
    I'm...caught by surprise tonight [by the budget] and quite frankly, my government's caught by surprise. I've always believed the offshore accord was an economic right of Nova Scotians...not a handout.
    It is almost as if the government wants to continue to give handouts to Nova Scotia. That is unfair. The premier said that he was blindsided by the federal budget and yet, the other night he was on the phone trying to convince the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley to vote for the budget that he had earlier said blindsided the people of Nova Scotia.
    My question for the hon. member is, who is Premier Rodney MacDonald serving, the people of Nova Scotia or the Prime Minister?
    Mr. Speaker, I must tell my colleague that I am disappointed in the performance of the premier of my province in this case. Actually, I like the premier. I have played hockey with him. He is a very good hockey player and he is a nice guy, but I think he has not been nearly as strong as he should be on this issue.
    We have seen very great strength from Premier Danny Williams in Newfoundland. He has been very firm and has shown real backbone. I would like to see a greater strength from the premier of Nova Scotia. To say to the one gentleman here on the Conservative side, the one hon. member who is prepared to stand up for Nova Scotia, that he should not do so is unfortunate and I regret it.

  (1325)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate in support of the motion introduced by the member for Labrador, which reads as follows:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.

[English]

    It is quite serious when we have to stand in the House and make such a resolution about the Prime Minister, about his engagement, his respecting of his word. There are institutions that Canadians have to be able to depend on. One is the office of the Prime Minister. While we may debate policy, while we may have different opinions on how to bring the country forward and what the right programs are for our country, we should always be able to depend on the office of the Prime Minister, and that whoever occupies that office at the time will be a person of integrity who is true to his or her word.
    It is very disappointing that we are in the situation where Canadians cannot trust the office of the Prime Minister because the person who holds the office has shown time and again that his word is completely meaningless. Let us remember back to before the same individual became Prime Minister. He said that supply management was a communist scheme of price fixing. He said that we had to build firewalls around Alberta. On national unity he said he did not care how many national capitals there were, and he now calls himself the great defender of national unity. That is the person in whom we should be able to put our trust and confidence in trying to advance the interests of the citizens of this country and the country's future.
    When we look at the example of the Atlantic accord, I think first we should look at what the accord is. The accord is quite simple. It says that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland shall benefit from 100% of the revenues from their non-renewable resources, in this case offshore oil and gas, to the exclusion of all other programs. That means if there is change in equalization, if there is additional money given in other programs by the federal government to the provinces, that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland would their share and the Atlantic accord is separate from that. It is above and beyond all other programs.
    The budget turns it into an either/or situation. The province of Nova Scotia and its finance minister must decide whether to participate in the new equalization formula which has some advantages for Nova Scotia, or to maintain the Atlantic accord which also has some advantages for Nova Scotia. If Nova Scotia goes into the new equalization formula, the Atlantic accord substantially disappears, the amount of revenue is capped and Nova Scotia stands to lose $1 billion.
    Some may argue that in the current system the accord is a disproportionate benefit for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, perhaps one could make that argument. Perhaps the Prime Minister could advance that argument but that is not the argument he advanced during the election campaign. He said in writing and verbally that he would honour the letter and the intent of the accord.
    I remember when I was on the government side of the House, we presented a budget that included the ways and means to implement the Atlantic accord. The Prime Minister and members of his party, the opposition at that time, asked that we split the bill, that we remove the Atlantic accord from the budget because the intention of the opposition members at that time was to vote against the budget but they wanted to vote in favour of the accord.
    That was the very same accord they are now knee-capping. That is pure hypocrisy and it is a betrayal. It is a betrayal to the people of Atlantic Canada and it is a betrayal to the people of Saskatchewan who were promised that they would get 100% of the revenues of non-renewable natural resources outside of the equalization formula.
    It was pointed out by the member for Labrador that we are getting hit now, as will others, each at their time.
    The Prime Minister, when he made those promises in the campaign, did not say he would somewhat honour the accord but would cherry-pick elements, suggestions and recommendations out of this and that report, some from O'Brien and some from others, and make a budget that dismantles the intent of the Atlantic accord. That is not what he promised. He promised that there would be 100% exclusion of non-renewable natural resource revenues from the equalization payment and that the accord would be maintained.

  (1330)  

    I was disappointed. I happen to have the privilege of sitting on the finance committee, where we evaluated the budget. Premier Lorne Calvert came before us and made a very good presentation on behalf of his government. I was very disappointed, as was mentioned by the member for Halifax West, by the relative weakness of the premier of Nova Scotia on this issue.
    We know that he is in a dire political situation. We see in the polls that he is in third place. There is not a lot of confidence in his government. People are looking for alternatives. Rather than showing strength and fighting for what already has been won by his predecessor, the relative weakness of the premier of Nova Scotia on this issue can be seen. We are not asking for anything new here. We are asking that the Government of Canada honour its commitment.
    That brings me to the second point, which is the institutions. We must be able to trust the Office of the Prime Minister and whoever occupies it, and we also must be able to trust the legacy of the succession of the Government of Canada, in that an agreement signed by one Government of Canada lasts until the end of its natural course. In this case, it would be 2020. An agreement is an agreement is an agreement.
    Premier Rodney MacDonald should accept the invitation of Stephen McNeil, leader of the Liberal Party, to put forward a common front. Although I have not been in discussions with him, I am sure Darrell Dexter would join. We would have a common front with all Nova Scotians fighting for 100% of the Atlantic accord.
    What we see and hear in the papers and the media is that there are negotiations happening, and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans mentioned that in question period, negotiations for improvements in the bill presented by the government, but not the 100% retention of the Atlantic accord.
    A promise 90% kept or 80% kept or 70% kept is 100% broken. The accord is a signed deal. It should be maintained. I think the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley has made it very plain.
    Let us look again at the institutions of our country. Let us look at our Prime Minister. He and the Minister of Finance, during the election period, promised that they would not tax income trusts. They gave that solemn promise to Canadians. Canadians, many of them seniors, were encouraged to invest even more within the income trust sector as they had the promise of the Prime Minister that they would not be taxed.
    What does he do? At the first occasion, there is a 33% tax and a 100% betrayal of those investors, with $25 billion worth of capital loss, a lot of it in the hands of seniors, either retired or preparing to retire. Let us imagine this. I spoke to some seniors who told me that they went from having a comfortable retirement, and being economically and financially self-sufficient, to poverty, essentially, to sustenance living on small pensions and reduced savings.
     They were losing $10,000 to $15,000 of revenue a year. When one's revenue is $35,000 to $45,000, losing $10,000 is a lot. It is huge. That is money they had depended on. They had been encouraged to do it by the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister had not made that promise, the reasonable investor would not have had such huge exposure in one element of the market, but that was not the case.
    The Atlantic accord? Betrayal. It was a betrayal by the Prime Minister of the people of Atlantic Canada. And there was a betrayal by the Prime Minister of the people of Saskatchewan.
    As for the member for Central Nova, he is an experienced member of the House of Commons who is not prone to fly off the handle and do things he has not considered. He has been here long enough. In answer to my question, he made a promise in the House to his colleagues that they could vote as they wished, that they could vote their conscience on the Atlantic accord and there would be no retribution and they would not be kicked out of caucus.
     Either he was misleading the House or he is a complete buffoon, because he knew, as we saw with the vote, that the minute the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley voted his conscience, he was removed from his caucus.
    The member for Central Nova goes around the world representing our country. We have seen the Prime Minister betray the country, its citizens and Atlantic Canada, and we have seen the Minister of Foreign Affairs betraying his colleagues. These people are out there representing the interests of the nation and entering into dialogue with statesmen from other countries in trying to find accommodations to bring forward. Those people from other countries can have no confidence in the institutions of our country.
    It is a dire situation. It is a situation that I have not seen before. I ask that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance apologize to Canadians, to Saskatchewan and to Atlantic Canadians before it is too late and reverse this unfortunate decision.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member's comments draw to mind the newspaper headline following the last election in Nova Scotia which stated that the NDP is a government in waiting. With the references to what that premier has been doing, now I am starting to understand why.
    My question is very simple. I would never claim to be a mathematician, but if there is no exclusion, that is a billion dollar loss for Atlantic Canada. It should be that simple. When we have Premiers MacDonald and Williams and former premier John Hamm all saying that the government has betrayed them, again I say, who is next?
    Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. A quick evaluation of the budget shows it on the equalization and on transfers. The three provinces that will suffer most and not get any increases are Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, three provinces that need a lot of assistance, that need a hand up in using their resources to advance their own cause.
    I was honoured to see that the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley had the courage to make a very tough decision and vote against his caucus. I am amazed that not one of the Newfoundland and Labrador MPs had the courage to do that. One out of three from Nova Scotia did, but zero out of 12 from Saskatchewan. There are a dozen Conservative MPs from Saskatchewan and none of them raised the issue. None of them made any noise. A dozen is six of one and half a dozen of the other: six sheep and half a dozen cowards. They should fight for their province, as did the member for Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley.
    Mr. Speaker, that was an excellent speech by my hon colleague from West Nova. I am sure he is aware of the brochure that was sent out by the Conservatives in our province during the discussions over the Atlantic accord some two and a half years ago. It stated:
    The Conservative Party of Canada believes that offshore oil and gas revenues are the key to real economic growth in Atlantic Canada. That's why we would leave you with 100 per cent of your oil and gas revenues. No small print. No excuses. No caps.
    Then we have the comments of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on May 15 in answer to a question from my hon. colleague from West Nova. He said:
    We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring, or firing on budget votes as we saw with the Liberal government.
    Yet our hon. friend, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, was in fact thrown out of that caucus. I would like my hon. colleague's comments on what has happened.
    Mr. Speaker, it was amazing. I have never seen anything like it and I have been in this House going on seven years. I have never seen the government stand in this House and say that a vote would not be a confidence vote and then, after the vote has been held, declare it a confidence vote.
    A senior minister of government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs no less, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, the same guy who said he would not unite the Progressive Conservatives with the Alliance but did, the guy who said he did not make disparaging remarks about one female MP of the Liberal caucus, but all witnesses say he did, that same guy stands in this House and says that it is a free vote and that members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada or anywhere else will have the freedom to vote their conscience.
    However, when one of them has the courage to do that, he cuts the legs out from under him and kicks him out of his caucus. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley did not have time, according to what I read in the papers, to make it to the curtains. He was kicked out and expelled from that caucus on the spot.
    It is not unusual for members to have whipped votes on the budget and the Speech from the Throne. What is unusual and amazing is that the government would make an announcement that a vote is not a confidence vote, that members have the right to vote how they feel, and then, when one member votes his conscience, he is immediately expelled from that caucus in a very hypocritical fashion. It is either a misleading of members or total buffoonery or both.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the discussion on the Liberal Party's motion today, which reads as follows:
    That, in the opinion of the House, the government has failed to live up to verbal and written commitments made to Premiers by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign with respect to the Equalization Program and the Atlantic Accords.
    The Bloc Québécois supports this motion because to do otherwise would be to deny the obvious. As we have said in the past, we did not agree with the Atlantic accords in principle, and we still do not agree with them. However, it is perfectly obvious that the government has broken its promise, and we will not argue with that whether we like it or not. No matter what we think of the promise, we do, in principle, agree with the motion.
    Unfortunately, this is not the only commitment that this government has broken since coming to power. This government calls itself the “new government” and promised to do things differently from the previous Liberal government. Unfortunately, it seems that the government has learned quickly and has wasted no time following in its Liberal predecessors' footsteps. This government has broken a lot of promises.
    The Atlantic accords we are talking about today are a prime example, even though—and I will come back to this later in my speech—we do not agree with these accords and we do not think the government should move forward with them.
    According to this motion—or at least according to the Bloc's interpretation of it—the government is being criticized for, deliberately or not, making irresponsible election promises. I would hope it did so out of incompetence and not with the deliberate intention of misleading and fooling the electors. The fact remains that a promise was made and it is not being kept. The Bloc Québécois denounces this irresponsible promise.
    Among the many other areas where the government has not kept its promises is the matter of the seat at UNESCO. Once again, the government is playing with words and repeating the same thing ad nauseam—that it made good on its promises— in the hope that by constantly repeating the same thing, whether it is true or not, the public will believe it one day. That is what happened with the seat at UNESCO.
    During the election campaign the Prime Minister promised to give Quebec a seat at UNESCO, like the seat Quebec has in the Francophonie. That is what he said, verbatim, what he repeated, what he wrote down and has never denied. Obviously, when we talk about a seat in the Francophonie, we are talking about a full seat, a voice and a vote. That is what all Quebeckers were expecting. That is what everyone was talking about. The Prime Minister never said to Quebeckers during the election campaign that what he was really promising was a small folding seat, a little stool at the back where they could whisper their agreement, or stay quiet should they disagree. That was never the case.
    When the Conservative government proposed this accord, it was saying to Quebeckers that it agreed to bring its delegation along, that it would be allowed to participate and give its opinion provided that this opinion fell within the general position of the federal government, or something to that effect.

  (1340)  

    In other words, Quebec would have the right to indicate its agreement, but if it does not agree, it would not be allowed to say so. More importantly, unlike what was promised, Quebeckers would have no right to vote, as it does at the OIF. That is another promise that was completely broken. It is so true that nothing has been done. When the government made that proposal, even my predecessor in Jeanne-Le Ber, who was once the Minister of Canadian Heritage, said that, in any case, that was already how it was done. No one ever stopped Quebec representatives from coming along, sitting in the background and whispering comments. We are really no further ahead. This has been nothing but smoke and mirrors, with basically nothing new to indicate that this promise, giving Quebec the right to vote, will be honoured.
    The Prime Minister resorted to false arguments concerning the issue of Quebec's right to vote, saying that, at UNESCO, only independent states have the right to vote. First of all, with all due respect, I would point out that, when the Prime Minister and the Conservatives made this promise to Quebeckers, they knew that. Second, they could have allowed for a mechanism by which, when the two positions are at odds, Quebec would abstain, which would mean the same result. That is another broken promise. For people in the maritime provinces, there was a broken promise regarding the Atlantic Accords, and for Quebec, it was our seat at UNESCO. Income trusts have been discussed at length in this House. The structure of these income trusts allowed certain legal entities to get out of paying taxes, and we saw more and more businesses convert to income trusts under pressure from their shareholders to pay less tax.
    The Bloc Québécois had asked for a moratorium on the conversion to income trusts. It has always said that the conversion of businesses to income trusts for tax purposes was not a good thing. This was its position before, during and after the election campaign. Naturally, when the government decided to tax income trusts to partly close this loophole in Canadian taxation, we thought it was a good idea and we supported it. Nevertheless, that was another promise that the Conservatives did not keep. The Prime Minister had personally promised, in black and white, during the election campaign to never—and not just maybe—never tax income trusts. Consequently, some Quebeckers and Canadians, taken in by the Prime Minister, invested in income trusts believing that they would realize large returns. The value of income trusts continued to climb on the premise of the Prime Minister's good faith. The mistake made by these investors was that they probably believed the Conservatives would keep their promise. They did not. The day the government announced that it would put an end to the special tax treatment for income trusts, they dropped sharply in value, placing many investors in very unfortunate circumstances because they suffered huge losses. And all this because the government, to get elected, made unacceptable and irresponsible promises resulting in this situation.
    And that is not all. Many other promises were broken by this government. I would like to speak in more detail about the promise regarding the fiscal imbalance. This has been a long fight for the Bloc Québécois
    Here again, the government seems to think that it only has to continue repeating the same thing and the public will end up believing it.

  (1345)  

    I was amazed to see how the Minister of Finance “corrected the fiscal imbalance” in his latest budget. He just tabled a budget, increased cash transfers to Quebec and the provinces and then got up in the House and said that the fiscal imbalance had been fixed. To him, just saying that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, was enough to convince people. When the Conservatives promised Quebeckers to correct the fiscal imbalance, Quebeckers expected that the solution would be along the lines of the consensus that had formed in Quebec, which had been built around the Séguin commission on the fiscal imbalance. When the concept of fiscal imbalance was put forward, the phrase “fiscal imbalance” was not chosen at random, out of a hat, it was chosen deliberately, because there was an imbalance between the federal government and the provinces and this imbalance was fiscal in nature. Otherwise, it would have been called the budgetary imbalance or the monetary imbalance. But it was called the fiscal imbalance.
    When the Conservatives promised Quebeckers to correct the fiscal imbalance, Quebeckers had reason to expect a fiscal solution. Yet this budget contains no tax measures. I asked the finance committee, officials and the minister himself. The minister admitted quite candidly that his budget contained no tax transfers to Quebec or the provinces. At the same time as he is saying that the budget contains no tax transfers, no tax measures to correct the fiscal imbalance, he is telling us that it has been fixed. Something is wrong there.
    We voted for the budget because it represented a step forward and transferred significant amounts to Quebec and the provinces. But there is no guarantee that those amounts will still be there in one year, two years or three years. Quebec and the other provinces that receive equalization transfers, for example, are still subject to the whims of the federal government. The equalization formula has just been amended, but it could be amended again in the next budget, whether that budget is brought down by this or another government.
    Quebec wanted financial autonomy, it wanted to receive stable, predictable revenues which would grow over time, and over which it would have control, so that it would not be at the mercy of the federal government's choices. It is so true that the fiscal imbalance is not permanently corrected and that Quebec still depends on the federal government, that even the Conservatives' Quebec advertising says—and I want to get this right—that the Leader of the Opposition, if he became prime minister, could take back the money. This is what the Conservatives are saying. Their advertisements in Quebec say that the fiscal imbalance that they claim has been permanently corrected, could return if another government were elected. This is not a correction. It would have been corrected if tax fields had been transferred, GST for example, to the Government of Quebec. It could have had complete and total control over the revenues, which would be predictable over time, and all this with no chance of the federal government backtracking. It could have been the transfer of tax points, as was done in the past, but this was not the case.
    A number of promises have been broken by this government, and the government before it. We can objectively say that it is fortunate this is a minority government, because it is breaking just as many promises despite the fact that it is a minority. I cannot imagine what would happen if it was a majority government and could do what it wanted in the House.

  (1350)  

    We can imagine that the number and importance of the broken promises would increase significantly.
    Today's Liberal motion has the advantage of being a reminder to Quebeckers. They must send as many Bloc Québécois members as possible to Ottawa to ensure that their voice is strong. No matter which party is in power, we are crossing our fingers that it is a minority so that it cannot do whatever it wants.
    I have made a list of some election promises broken by the government. I would now like to get down to specifics and talk about the Atlantic accords, which the Bloc Québécois does not agree with. On the one hand, these accords violate the equalization principle, which should ensure that all provinces can offer similar services to all their citizens, with a similar tax rate, regardless of how rich the province is. On the other hand, Quebec has already contributed financially to the development of the fossil fuels industry. Now that this development has taken place, we absolutely do not agree with continuing to contribute to it.
    For example, from 1970 to 1999, Ottawa gave $66 billion in direct subsidies to the fossil fuels industry, including coal, natural gas and oil—an industry that for all intents and purposes does not exist in Quebec. During the same period, a paltry $329 million was given to the renewable energy sector. Of that money, not a penny went to hydroelectricity. While Quebec was investing in hydroelectricity, Ottawa was supporting the development of polluting energy sources instead.
    The oil and gas industry was developed in large part with the taxes paid by Quebeckers, even though this development went against the fundamental interests of Quebec, economically or environmentally speaking, since polluting energy sources, as their name suggests, create more pollution. Some $66 billion has already gone toward this development. In the case of Hibernia, we can talk about $5 billion, roughly a quarter of which came from Quebeckers' taxes. Now that we have paid for this development, now that the companies have become profitable and the development of these non-renewable resources has become lucrative for the provinces, Quebeckers are being asked to keep paying for this development? It seems completely illogical to me to give a bonus to provinces for developing non-renewable energies, but not for renewable energies.
    This exclusion of non-renewable resources is completely arbitrary. Why was this choice made when there are hardly any such resources in Quebec and other tax fields could have been excluded? Excluding the aerospace industry, for example, would have benefited Quebec greatly. Excluding renewable energies such as hydroelectricity would also have represented billions of dollars in equalization, but no. Non-renewable resources were chosen and are excluded from the equalization calculation. This seems completely arbitrary and unjustified.
    I want to close by dispelling a myth I have heard far too often in this House, that Quebeckers were the main beneficiaries of equalization. It is true that the amount is greater. That said, the population of Quebec is larger and, per capita, Quebeckers receive the least amount of equalization. Just take the amount and divide it by the number of people in Quebec.

  (1355)  

[English]

    The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber will have a 10 minute period for questions and comments after question period.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Elgin Regiment

    Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, 20 surviving World War II veterans and their families gathered at St. Thomas-Elgin to celebrate the Elgin Regiment's 60th and last reunion of World War II veterans.
    Festivities began Friday with a reception honouring the veterans. Saturday, the veterans, accompanied by soldiers of the 31 Combat Engineers, the Elgins, paraded to city hall to request the freedom of the city. The parade even included a Sherman tank.
    This weekend's activities concluded Sunday at the Royal Canadian Legion's Last Post Branch in Port Stanley. One of the Elgin's young veterans attended, a 21-year-old corporal, Kayla Campbell, who recently served in Afghanistan.
    Lord Charles Bruce from Fife, Scotland attended to serve as the honorary colonel for the Elgins, and Charlie Phillips, the oldest surviving World War II veteran in Elgin, joined in the celebrations. Charlie faced battles in Sicily, France, Belgium and Holland before returning to St. Thomas in 1946.
    I would like to take this opportunity to salute Charlie, Kayla and all of the Elgin veterans for their service to Canada.

  (1400)  

Retirement Congratulations

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to congratulate and pay tribute to Mr. Mike Campbell who is retiring this month from his position as chief executive officer of the Charlottetown Airport Authority.
    Mike Campbell has been the manager of the Charlottetown airport for many years now. In the late 1990s, the Charlottetown airport was transferred from the Government of Canada to the Charlottetown Airport Authority and Mike at the time stayed on as general manager.
    Since the transfer, Mike has guided the activities of the Charlottetown airport as it has expanded its facilities, welcomed new domestic and international carriers and increased traffic.
     He will continue to serve the industry as a member of the board of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. The Charlottetown airport is a vital component to the economy of Prince Edward Island and Mr. Campbell always understood this very clearly.
    Mike is retiring this month and on behalf of all residents living on Prince Edward Island I want to thank him for his many years of service and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

[Translation]

Abdelkader Belaouni

    Mr. Speaker, for a year and a half, Abdelkader Belaouni has lived in a church in the Pointe-Saint-Charles area of Montreal. He is an Algerian national and he never leaves the church, for fear of being arrested and deported from Canada.
    Mr. Belaouni, who is diabetic and has been blind since 1992, fled Algeria during the civil war, to live in the United States. In 2003, after being discriminated against in the wake of the September 11 attacks, he applied for permanent refugee status in Canada. Unfortunately, he still has not been successful in obtaining such status.
    Mr. Belaouni is very well integrated into Quebec society. He has enough support to guarantee that he will never be a burden on society.
    Having myself been a refugee in the Argentinian embassy in Haiti for nearly two years, I am particularly aware of what Mr. Belaouni is going through.
    I appeal to the compassion of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and urge her to meet with Mr. Belaouni, as he has requested, and grant him permanent refugee status for humanitarian reasons.

Jean Gauvin

    Mr. Speaker, I am very sad to rise today in this House to mark the passing of the hon. Jean Gauvin at the age of 61.
    Mr. Gauvin was the fisheries minister in the New Brunswick government of Richard Hatfield. He represented the riding of Shippagan-les-Îles from 1978 to 1987 and again from 1991 to 1995. In all, he fought nine election campaigns at the provincial and federal levels and was elected three times.
    Mr. Gauvin earned the nickname “Vroom-Vroom” because of his choice of official vehicle. He was an ardent defender of francophone rights and campaigned fiercely against allowing former members of the anti-francophone Confederation of Regions Party back into the Conservative Party.
    Mr. Gauvin left his mark on New Brunswick as an MLA and a minister, but he was also known for his involvement in his community.
    I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Mr. Gauvin's family and friends.
    Thank you, Jean.

[English]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the federal Minister of Transport and the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs for Newfoundland and Labrador, the hon. Jack Byrne.
    Last week, Minister Byrne and I, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, announced a $10 million road project in my riding of St. John's East in the provincial district of Cape St. Francis.
    The Torbay bypass road was a long awaited road project for the area. It was on the drawing board back when I was provincial minister of transportation in the 1980s.
    At present, Torbay Road is the major artery for traffic in and out of the city of St. John's and the entire northeast Avalon region. During rush hours, traffic congestion on this road is terrible and the bypass road will go a long way toward alleviating these problems.
    Again, I congratulate all those involved in this $10 million project. It is an excellent example of federal-provincial cooperation for the common good.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

Jean Pedneault

    Mr. Speaker, New Brunswickers were very saddened to learn of the passing of Jean Pedneault on Tuesday evening, at the age of 67.
    Mr. Pedneault was a great humanitarian and worked in the journalism industry for more than 30 years, in particular, for the weekly Edmunston newspaper Le Madawaska and, more recently, as a columnist for the daily newspaper L'Acadie Nouvelle.
    A dedicated journalist, Mr. Pedneault was actively interested in international development, politics and social justice. Personally, I always held Jean Pedneault in the highest esteem.
    Mr. Pedneault received an award from Pope John Paul II for service to the church and was named Knight of the Order of the Pleiade of the International Association of French-speaking Parliamentarians in 1989. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate in communication from the Université de Moncton in May 2001 and received the Louis-Napoléon-Dugal award in 2003 for his dedication to the French and Acadian cause in Madawaska.
    Mr. Pedneault marked all of our lives in some way, and we owe him one last tribute to thank him for his active contribution to our community. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Death of Two Laval University Students

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention the tragedy that has struck a family from Lévis.
    You are undoubtedly aware of the unfortunate accident that caused the death of two Laval University students on May 28 in Bolivia. The young women were on field training for an agricultural economics course and decided to end their stay with a vacation in a small community. The hotel where they decided to spend the night they died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty heating system.
    One of these students, Andréanne Lacroix-Pelletier, was the daughter of Hélène Lacroix and Clarence Pelletier, a lung specialist at Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Lévis. In a cruel twist of fate, these same parents lost their older daughter in January in an automobile accident. They had only these two children.
    The spirit of human solidarity makes it impossible to pass over such circumstances in silence. I wish to extend, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, sincere sympathy and support to these bereaved families.

François Beauchemin

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate first-time Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks.
    Outstanding defenceman François Beauchemin, of Sorel-Tracy, was one of the team's most noted and valuable players. François played minor hockey in Sorel-Tracy before getting into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the American Hockey League. Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, he moved on to Columbus before joining the Ducks, where he became an integral part of the team and one of the best defencemen in the National Hockey League.
    His exceptional talent, hard work, determination and desire for constant improvement enabled him to play at the highest level.
    I would like to join his parents, his partner, his friends and everyone from Bas-Richelieu in offering my sincere congratulations and wishing him a long career in the National Hockey League.
    Thank you, François, for being such a good ambassador for Quebec. You are a role model for our young people.

[English]

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, once again we are still learning about Liberal incompetence.
    The Liberals commissioned a report surrounding Status of Women Canada's role. The report was conducted by an independent research group and, after several interviews and surveys with Status of Women Canada officials, the report concluded there was a lack of political will and leadership and that Status of Women Canada could no longer go forward with the status quo.
    While the Liberals were happy to allow this 30 year old agency to become, as its own officials described it, a relic of the past, it took a Conservative government to modernize the agency, inject new money into programming for women and prioritize areas of concern.
    This is true political leadership from a government that knows how to make a difference, a real change from Liberals who are still scratching their heads and telling Canadians, “Do you think it's easy to make priorities?”
    The truth is out. They were out of touch with women. They could not deliver results but we did. Canadian women deserve better and now they know the truth.

Northern Youth Leadership Program

    Mr. Speaker, the Saskatchewan Association of Northern Communities, better known as New North, has recently launched an ambitious program aimed at empowering youth, aged 13 to 29, in my riding.
     The Northern Youth Leadership Program is designed to allow young people to play an active role with their local village and town councils.
    Ten communities in my riding, La Ronge, Beauval, Buffalo Narrows, Cumberland House, Île-à-la-Crosse, La Loche, Pinehouse Lake, Sandy Bay, Stony Rapids and Black Lake are involved in the project so far.
    The program allows first nations, Métis and non-aboriginal young people to participate in elected youth councils that run parallel to the local councils and report to them once a month. The goal of the program is to engage a generation of young people in civic issues so that they may encourage their peers to reject crime, substance abuse, vandalism and violence. Some of the project ideas in the various communities include the creation of a youth centre, a skate park and working more closely with elders.
    The Northern Youth Leadership Program aims to provide practical, hands on experience for tomorrow's generation of leaders. I ask my colleagues to join me in wishing them success.

  (1410)  

Senate Tenure Legislation

    Mr. Speaker, the first part of our plan to strengthen accountability through democratic reform was a Senate term limits bill. This simple, three clause bill was introduced on May 30, 2006 and for over a year it has languished in the unaccountable, unelected Liberal dominated Senate. We introduced this Senate reform bill for one simple reason: the Senate must change.
    The 45 year terms for unelected, unaccountable politicians are simply not acceptable. Remarkably, yesterday the Senate committee recommended that the Senate not consider this bill at third reading until the government refers it to the Supreme Court, even though the Senate has no constitutional authority to do so.
    These obstruction tactics are a dangerous grasp at power by the Liberal dominated Senate and simply offer more proof that the opposition leader is powerless within his own party and that the Senate must change.
    Our Conservative government is leading the charge to end the practice of 45 year terms for unelected, unaccountable politicians.

Rail Transportation

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a matter that I have raised before in this House and that is the growing length of trains and the subsequent length of time the trains take to clear a crossing.
     Waits of 10 to 15 minutes are not uncommon. This is a problem in many constituencies but it is particularly acute in Transcona where constituents report that some crossings are tied up for close to half an hour because of switching in and out of the nearby yard.
    I urge the Rail Safety Task Force, headed by former transport minister, Doug Lewis, to look into the effect that these 10,000 or 11,000 foot, or two mile trains, are having on public safety and community access to emergency services. Otherwise, it may be only a matter of time before someone in an emergency situation is sacrificed to a railway bottom line.

Environment Week

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honour of Environment Week. Unfortunately, this year Environment Week is a reminder that the Conservative government celebrated its return to power by slashing over $5.6 billion in environmental spending.
    Following a strategy of deny, delay and deceive, the government released a climate change plan rejected by 9 of 10 provinces and not endorsed by any independent third party. True to form, it allows emissions to increase well past 2010 and contains gaping loopholes for the oil sands.
    After rewriting the clean air act, Bill C-30 has been suppressed and debate around it censored. Just an hour ago, at the environment committee, we confirmed that the Minister of the Environment misled all Canadians by claiming that his ecotrust funding had been delivered.
    After all the photo ops, after all the gimmicks and after all the bravado, now we learn that his department cannot confirm the status of $1.5 billion while the Prime Minister works to weaken G-8 commitments abroad.
    It is Environment Week. How unfortunate that Canada has been tossed into complete uncertainty about its environmental future.

[Translation]

Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region

    Mr. Speaker, today, the people of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine are highlighting the fact that they live in such a beautiful and great region by dressing in blue, the colour of the sea and rivers so characteristic of the region.
    This initiative from the Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine youth commission is part of its promotional campaign to make the public aware of the growing number of young people who have decided to settle in the region, and of their involvement in developing their community.
    I would like to take this beautiful blue day to invite all of you to come visit the wonderful region of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. I am sure you will enjoy experiencing island life with the panorama of sky and sea in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, and that you too will fall in love with the Gaspe Peninsula.

[English]

Age of Protection Legislation

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to denounce Conservative duplicity. Last week, the government made a number of patently false statements about the opposition in this House. The government House leader claimed that we had held up Bill C-22, the age of protection bill, in committee.
    This is clear disinformation when in fact the committee dealt with the bill in six productive meetings for a total of six hours. He also neglected to say that his own reckless government MPs voted against Bill C-22 when it came time for third reading. If it were not for the Liberals, that bill would not be in the Senate at this time.
    This proves once again that the Tories simply will not let facts stand in the way of a good smear. I say shame on the Tories, shame on the Conservatives.

  (1415)  

Asia-Pacific Gateway

    Mr. Speaker, this week we read that the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Elizabeth May, is calling for the federal government to withdraw the $1 billion in funding that our government has committed to the Asia-Pacific Gateway and corridors initiative.
    This is one of the most important initiatives in British Columbia's history and it is crucial to addressing our infrastructure needs in western Canada. The policy proposed by Ms. May would jeopardize infrastructure plans in Vancouver, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Delta, Saskatoon, Banff, Richmond and Coquitlam.
    This Conservative government backs the Asia-Pacific Gateway. We believe in creating Canadian jobs through world sales. We believe in opening new markets and opportunities for Canadians. We stand with the premiers of all four western provinces in support of the Asia-Pacific Gateway.
    We want to ensure the Liberal leader will actually show some courage and speak out and tell Elizabeth May that she is wrong in jeopardizing $1 billion that this Conservative government has committed to western Canada for our economic future.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister said that he wanted to be a bridge at the G-8, he did not say that it was a bridge to nowhere; to a watered down declaration that does not recognize the scientific imperative to limit a temperature increase to 2°C, that does not set targets for global emission reductions, and that does not set clear energy efficiency targets.
    Why has the Prime Minister failed Canada and the world?
    Mr. Speaker, we are quite proud of what has happened at the G-8 meetings. There is a declaration that has been issued today by the G-8 which states:
    In setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050.
    Canada is now being cited as a leader in the world after a decade of waste.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the bar has been set so low to please the Prime Minister of Canada that this agreement does not achieve what is needed to really fight climate change. The Prime Minister wanted the world to agree to do the minimum, because that is all he wants to do here in Canada, the bare minimum, with his bogus plan.
    Will the government not admit once and for all that it is prepared to do only the bare minimum for climate change in Canada and around the world?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the bar was set ridiculously low by that leader's track record as an environment minister. But there is something else that is ridiculous that is going on for which he must be held accountable.
     The Liberal leader must be held accountable for an alarming development unfolding in the Senate. Liberal senators have initiated an extraordinary process to unilaterally amend Canada's Constitution, grabbing powers that are granted solely to cabinet, the power of reference to the Supreme Court.
    I ask the Liberal leader, will he instruct the senators to abandon this dangerous attack on Canada's Constitution and ask them to do their job of dealing with government legislation?
    Mr. Speaker, the proof that this government is embarrassed by this watered down international declaration is that it is even unable to speak about it.
    Canadians expected from their Prime Minister that he would raise the bar. Instead, he helped President Bush lower the bar. This is not what Canadians expect from a Prime Minister who is supposed to be a leader.
    Is this what the Prime Minister calls leadership? Is his definition of leadership to lower the bar so much that all the experts have said that this argument was not what was needed to fight climate change?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, I notice that leader will not even answer a question about his senators' conduct. They have brazenly launched a resolution that represents a real danger to Canadian democracy.
    If passed, it would allow the Senate to refuse to deal with any government legislation. It irrigates to the Senate a power to compel references to the Supreme Court, something not even allowed the House of Commons. This is all to avoid losing their entitlements through Senate reform.
    I ask the Liberal leader, will he direct his senators to respect the Constitution? Is there any leadership in the Liberal Party prepared to stand up for Canada's Constitution?
    Mr. Speaker, at the G-8 the Prime Minister made empty commitments on the world stage to conceal his lack of leadership here at home. Like a child crossing his fingers behind his back, the Prime Minister committed to stabilize emissions overseas while his plan at home would allow emissions to continue to rise beyond 2020. And he hopes no one will notice.
    Why has the Prime Minister continued this campaign of dishonesty on the world stage? And why did he join this rush to failure at the G-8?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the G-8 is quite proud of what it has declared and we are quite proud of being seen as leaders by the G-8.
    However, I was hoping that when he stood there might be a leader there in the Liberal Party willing to stand up for Canada's Constitution against the senators' efforts to brazenly amend Canada's Constitution unilaterally.
    This member is also an academic with a distinguished record, like his leader. They both know how the Constitution works. They both profess to be defenders of the Constitution. And now we are having a brazen usurpation of constitutional power by the Senate to protect their entitlements.
    Will they, for once, stand up for democracy and protect Canadian democracy and the Canadian Constitution?
    Mr. Speaker, the House leader makes reference to my academic experience and he has as well. He will understand that he has just engaged in a non sequitur. It is not an answer to the question he was asked.

[Translation]

    The German chancellor called for global action, but instead—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore.
    Mr. Speaker, the German chancellor called for global action, but instead, everyone agreed to do nothing. There are no targets, no limits on temperature increases, no mention of 1990 reference levels, and therefore no leadership.
    Why did our Prime Minister contribute to this weak compromise?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I guess nobody there in the Liberal Party is willing to show any kind of leadership on Canada's Constitution, but I will tell the House who is showing leadership. It is our Prime Minister at the G-8, leadership that has been recognized in a G-8 declaration which says that Canada has a leading position that should be given regard for in terms of long term commitments.
    What did Angela Merkel, who is president of the G-8 meetings and president of the EU, say right now? Merkel said that the goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. She hailed the decision as a huge success.
    Everybody but the Liberal Party says this is a great success. I guess that is because the Liberals do not know what a success is. That is because they had--
    The hon. member for Laurier--Sainte-Marie.

[Translation]

Option Canada

    Mr. Speaker, last week Judge Grenier said there were still a number of grey areas around the role the federal government played during the 1995 referendum campaign. In fact, yesterday Chuck Guité revealed the existence of a pamphlet promoting the no side that was supposed to be distributed to all the homes in Quebec during the 1995 referendum period. We still do not know how much that pamphlet cost.
    Will the government admit that a public inquiry is needed to get to the bottom of how federal public funding was used for partisan purposes during the 1995 referendum?
    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is coming back to something that happened 12 years ago. It is important to realize that we do not live in the past; we live for the future. We are offering an open federalism and we want it to work. We want the federation to work: a better Quebec within a united Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, the same government that thinks that 12 years ago was too long ago, is holding an inquiry into polls that were conducted in 1990. If it wants to have open federalism, then it should open an inquiry.
    Chuck Guité told us that he made several return trips between Montreal and Ottawa in order to distribute promotional material at the love-in. These expenses were never accounted for, which is against the referendum legislation.
    What is the government waiting for to launch a public inquiry? Is it afraid of also being mixed into the referendum scandal?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is important to realize that on January 23, 2006, Quebeckers voted for change. Why? Because there is hope for the future. We are talking here about open federalism. We are talking about a Quebec that is recognized as a nation within a united Canada. We are talking about a seat at UNESCO. We are getting things done, not rehashing the past.
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Chuck Guité told the Standing Committee on Public Accounts that undeclared expenditures had been made during the 1995 referendum campaign. Flags, pins, various promotional items that were not declared, as well as travel on the very day of the famous “love-in”, which he organized, are all expenses that were not looked into by Justice Grenier.
    Given that the Prime Minister tells us that everything has been investigated, can he tell us if he was aware of these facts?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, this government is looking to the future: there is hope for a better Quebec in a united Canada. Questions about the sponsorship scandal should be directed to the Liberal Party. Here, we have hope, we have open federalism and we want federalism to work.
    Mr. Speaker, Guité also acknowledged that millions of copies of a brochure had been printed and paid for by the Privy Council and the Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat.
    Given that Daniel Paillé is already probing polls carried out between 1990 and 2003, why not change his mandate so that he can also conduct a public inquiry into federal expenditures before, during and after the referendum period?
    Daniel Paillé is already at work. Could he not investigate this even though it happened 17 years ago?
    Mr. Speaker, one thing is certain: the results of the latest provincial election show that the vast majority of Quebeckers do not want a referendum. Why? Because we have open federalism, because we have recognized the fiscal imbalance and because we have solved it. It is important to understand that.

[English]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, reports out of Germany show that the Prime Minister has failed as a mediator within the G-8 leaders.
    What we see now is a watered down commitment that amounts to nothing more than something cooked up by George Bush and served up by our Prime Minister. What our Prime Minister should have been doing is working to convince George Bush and the Americans to adopt higher targets and goals, and standards preferred by the Europeans and other countries, and by Canadians instead of watering it down.
    Why is the Prime Minister helping George Bush export his bad ideas instead of importing—
    The hon. the government House leader.
    Mr. Speaker, leadership on the environment means making the environment better in a serious way and not just having a holier than thou position.
    For us to survive in the long term on this planet, we have to have the major emitters that are creating greenhouse gases part of the solution. That means we have to bring them in.
    Canada, as a recent convert to actually taking action on the environment, is well positioned to serve as a bridge, to serve as a mediator, and that is exactly what has happened at the G-8. That is why we have a declaration that sets a global goal for emissions reductions in the process. We have agreed today to involve all major emitters. We will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan, which include at least--
    The hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

Africa

    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Conservative government is scared of adopting real firm targets on these issues because of its friends in the corporate oil and gas sector, and its friends at the White House.
    More disturbing, or at least equally disturbing, are the reports coming out now that Canada is trying to water down the commitment to Africa to deal with the HIV-AIDS crisis there. Instead of adopting the firm targets and goals that are needed to reduce the suffering in Africa, our government is trying to come up with just general language, no longer committing us to getting the job done.
    Why is the Prime Minister turning his back on Africa?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is entirely untrue. In fact, Canada is carrying through on its commitment to double aid to Africa.
    I know there is a concern, and this was disclosed by Gerry Barr the other day, that while the Liberals made that commitment, they then reneged on that commitment and did not talk about it.
    We cannot do much about broken Liberal promises, but we can keep the commitments we made since we came to office. We are doubling foreign aid to Africa. In fact, we are doubling our entire foreign aid program over the period intended.

Afghanistan

    Mr. Speaker, the chaos, the confusion, and the cover-ups by the Conservative government are never-ending.
    After repeatedly misleading this House, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of Public Safety were forced to admit that there were two new detainee capture cases. They are obsessed with covering up their own mistakes rather than protecting fundamental human rights.
    Will the minister tell us how many detainees have been captured by Canadian Forces? Or will he admit once and for all that he just does not know?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member is quite confused. She asked two different questions: one about detainees and one about allegations of abuse.
    What we do know is that the previous agreement had shortcomings which we have now enhanced. We have an agreement in place that allows for unfettered private visits.
    During one of those visits in Kandahar and another in Kabul, it came to our attention that there were in fact four allegations of abuse. We are following up on that with the process that is in place. That includes consultation with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Red Cross as well as the Afghan government.
    Mr. Speaker, this is just more hypocrisy because the government's story changes on a daily basis.
    Yesterday the defence minister said that neither the Americans nor other NATO forces in Afghanistan published their list of prisoners. He is wrong again. The fact is the U.S. issues a press release about every detainee it captures.
    Why does the minister refuse to be as transparent as the U.S.? Why is he hiding behind the excuse of operational security? Most important, why is the government refusing to tell Canadians the truth?
    Mr. Speaker, in Afghanistan each country determines its policies. In the case of Canada, the military has determined that the public release of information on detainees would be detrimental to its military operations.
     The operational chain of command has a responsibility for deciding what type of information is releasable or not. It is a military decision, not a political decision. We do not intend to do anything to impede military operations in Afghanistan.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we know that in April and May of 2006, there were 40 detainees. Thanks to our colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard, we just managed to find out that our concerns about the allegations of torture and abuse of Afghan prisoners were well founded.
    The government's lack of transparency, its inability to provide accurate information and its ongoing desire to hide the truth simply confirm how deeply it is involved in this scandal.
    I have two questions for the government. First, how many Afghan detainees have we transferred? And second, do they intend to take custody of transferred detainees who have been subjected to abuse and torture? No more cover-ups.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I said before, this is an operational security issue. Our military has determined that it would be counter to its operations to reveal any information about detainees. We will not impede its operations. Therefore, no details with respect to detainees will be released.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in April 2006, Canadians had 40 detainees. There was no security issue then.
    Yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told us that there had been four allegations of torture since February. One of the detainees was in Kandahar and three were in Kabul. These detainees had been captured by Canadians.
    However, in April, the Minister of Public Safety told us that two of the alleged torture cases had taken place in the Kandahar prison.
    Once again, the information is unclear. Given that this government has already admitted to losing prisoners and to being unfamiliar with the role of the Red Cross, we have every reason to doubt what it says.
    My question is simple. How many allegations of torture and abuse have there been, and where?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member was at the committee yesterday. I am surprised he is still confused about this. What I said is that since the new agreement has been put in place, there have in fact been four allegations. They came to our attention very recently during visits to a Kandahar and Kabul facility.
    We followed the process that we put in place as pursuant to this new agreement. This provides greater access and greater interaction with the Afghan government, as well as bringing into the fold the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross.
    A report will be tabled back from that investigation. We will receive that information and act accordingly.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

Wage Earner Protection Program Act

    Mr. Speaker, the CSN, the FTQ and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association have all said they are in favour of quick passage of the bill on wage earner protection, provided that the jurisdictions of Quebec and its Civil Code are respected. This morning, the National Assembly of Quebec also voted unanimously in favour of this.
    In this context, should the Minister of Labour not change his position and table his bill to protect wage earners whose employer declares bankruptcy?
    I want to remind her that it was the House of Commons that unanimously passed legislation in the last Parliament to protect the wages of employees in bankruptcy situations. This House unanimously passed that legislation.
    Then the Senate unanimously passed it as well after calling for technical changes to the legislation. That is what we tabled before Christmas.
    Since then, the Bloc Québécois has been inconsistent. It is changing its mind and wants to amend the legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Labour is saying that he cannot table his bill because his colleague, the Minister of Industry, is opposed to the Bloc Québécois amendment. That is just an excuse. What is the purpose of this amendment? It is to protect the workers and the Civil Code of Quebec.
    Why is the Minister of Industry opposed to such an amendment? What interests is he defending?
    Mr. Speaker, this legislation is currently on track and the Bloc Québécois wants to derail it.
    We are ready to fast track this legislation through first, second and third readings. We are prepared to include this morning's resolution by the National Assembly, as well as the suggestions by the Bloc Québécois, to bring everything to the Senate so that it may consider the point of view expressed by the National Assembly. If they want, we can proceed this very afternoon.

The Dollar

    Mr. Speaker, in addition to stiffer competition from developing countries and rising energy costs, the manufacturing sector is now grappling with the devastating consequences of a soaring dollar. The Prime Minister said that he would not intervene.
    Is the Minister of Finance aware that the Prime Minister's statements have given the green light to a speculative increase in the value of the dollar and have thereby compounded the misery of manufacturing companies and contributed to job losses, according to experts?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question.

[English]

    The matter of monetary policy, of course, as the member knows, is the responsibility of the Bank of Canada. We recognize the challenges faced by manufacturers over the past several years. The Canadian dollar, more than any other currency, has borne the brunt of the depreciation of the American dollar.
    That is why in budget 2007 we brought in a dramatic increase in the capital cost allowance for manufacturers, at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion, a direct writeoff over the course of the next two years, so that they can acquire more efficient--
    The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, those measures are not enough.
    According to a study by the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the dollar's 8¢ rise this year has cost the industry $1.2 billion and eliminated 15,000 jobs. The same thing is happening in other sectors. The Prime Minister has said that he sympathizes with people who have recently lost their jobs.
    Isn't it time for this government to do better than offer sympathy, to abandon its laissez-faire attitude, and to implement a real plan to help the industry through this crisis? That is its responsibility.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the recommendations of the industry committee of the House were unanimous on this issue, and that includes the party of the member opposite who has asked the question.
    That is why, because we are concerned about manufacturers and the health of the manufacturing industry, particularly in central Canada, in Quebec and Ontario, we brought in this dramatic change in capital cost allowance.
    With respect to employment, since this government was elected there are more than 450,000 more jobs in Canada today.

  (1440)  

Africa

    Mr. Speaker, in 2005 Canada's Liberal prime minister went to a G-8 meeting and promised to double Canada's aid to Africa. The 2005 Liberal budget actually doubled Canada's aid to Africa by spending $2.8 billion in 2009. That is on page 213.
    However, the Conservative government has reduced that amount and is trying to tell the world that none of this ever happened. It is an absolute fabrication.
    Will the minister admit that she is either unable or unwilling to protect all the money the Liberals committed to the world's poorest people in Africa?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that the Prime Minister made a commitment and confirmed that we are on track to double our aid to Africa, as stipulated in the 2005 agreement reached at Gleneagles.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Bob Geldof and Gerry Barr say the minister is wrong.
    There is a simple fact. Canada made a commitment and these Conservatives want to walk away from that commitment.
    Africa needs help to fight AIDS. It needs help to fight tuberculosis and malaria. It needs better governance. It needs more schools and it needs clean water. It needs micro loans. It needs economic opportunities.
    What Africa really needs is for Canada to keep its word. Why will the government not show some respect for the world's poorest people and stop nickel-and-diming them?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Barr was forced to issue a correction concerning the allegations he had made in the interview.
    The base amount for doubling aid to Africa is $1.05 billion and we are on track to achieve that goal, as indicated in the Financial Times, which reported on June 5, 2007, that Canada is the only G-8 country that is on track to meet its Gleneagles commitments.

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very concerned about the fact that the Prime Minister of Canada is always very quick to adopt the same positions as the President of the United States.
    Yesterday, the Prime Minister came to the rescue of President Bush in his disagreement with Russia over the missile defence shield.
    Based on the Prime Minister's attitude, are we to understand that he intends to reverse Canada's position and that he wants Canada to join Bush's missile defence shield?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member, and I thank for her concern, that clearly there has been no ask whatsoever to revisit this issue. We are not pursuing missile defence.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister always falls back on the same tactics when it comes to issues that are important to Canada: he creates confusion. In 2005, he said he was prepared to sit down again with the Americans on the issue of missile defence. Today the government tells us that it is waiting for an invitation from the Americans, but yesterday, the Prime Minister came to Bush's rescue concerning Russia.
    Can the government be honest with Canadians and can someone clearly tell us, yes or no, whether the Prime Minister wants to be part of the missile defence shield?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, on the member's last question the answer is no, but in spite of the efforts to sow confusion, here is what we do know clearly from the Liberal Party's stated position. I am quoting from the Liberal Party's position:
    We should indicate our willingness to be part of discussions within NORAD to determine whether such a North American ballistic missile shield is not only viable but also desirable.
    That is from the Liberal Party of Canada's democratic society task force report on security. Those are its words.

International Trade

    Mr. Speaker, Canada is a trading nation. Our economy and quality of life depend heavily on doing business with the world.
    Earlier today, the Minister of International Trade announced that Canada has concluded a free trade agreement with the countries of the European Free Trade Association. This is Canada's first free trade agreement in six years.
    Can the Minister of International Trade explain the significance of this agreement for Canada on the global stage?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is a great question from the hon. member for Chatham-Kent—Essex and I can announce today that we have reached a free trade agreement with the members of the European Free Trade Association.
    As the hon. member said, this is Canada's first free trade agreement in six years. During this time, our competitors have been entering into numerous free trade agreements that are disadvantaging Canadian exporters. This is an important agreement of $22 billion in--
    The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

British Columbia Flood Mitigation

    Mr. Speaker, the people of northern British Columbia are deeply worried as the flood waters rise. States of emergency have been called right across the northwest. As gas stations and grocery stores run out of food, literally thousands of people have been stranded.
    All across the region volunteers and emergency workers have been doing their part and helping out neighbours. Will the Minister of Public Safety do his part and commit to doing everything within his power to reassure the people of my region? Will he also commit to joining me in a tour across the northwest to see the disaster at first hand and to properly understand its scope and magnitude?
    Mr. Speaker, we can give great assurance to the people not only in my hon. colleague's region but other regions of B.C. who are threatened with these floods. The level of cooperation between municipal, provincial and federal levels frankly has been very impressive to see in the weeks and months preceding what we knew was going to be a very difficult flood season.
    I anticipate that within the next 40 hours I will be in British Columbia with some of my colleagues touring some of those areas. I will check with my colleague to see if he is available within the next 48 or so hours in the areas that I am going to be touring.
    Mr. Speaker, southern B.C. is facing similar threats. In my riding, residents of the Westminster Quay, Queensborough and Big Bend areas are increasingly anxious as the flood waters rise and they prepare for evacuation.
    We have had little federal investment in flood control, just last minute insufficient funding, but flood damage is not insurable for residents. Communities need support and the government has to quickly do more. Will the minister commit today to immediate federal aid to homeowners and businesses in the path of the Fraser River flood waters and commit to long term funding to prevent future flooding?
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps my hon. colleague could consult with his colleague, who just asked me a far more reasonable question.
     History and the recent record will show that the commitment of $16 million, which was exactly the amount requested by the province of British Columbia to assist in building up the dike system along that river, was granted in unprecedented time by this government, as were dollars for the dredging operations and for the debris trap in the Lower Mainland.
    No flooding there has occurred yet, but there are programs in place.

Atlantic Accord

    Mr. Speaker, in March 2005 the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said about the Atlantic accords, “You cannot ever turn your back on your province on an important issue like this”. It seems the principled stand he flirted with at that time is a distance memory.
    How can he and the whipping, flipping, hiring and firing minister from Nova Scotia explain why they turned their backs on their provinces when they voted against the accord two nights ago?
    Mr. Speaker, the question comes from a member of a party that says there is no fiscal imbalance in Canada. Budget 2007 addresses the issue of fiscal imbalance in Canada. I would have thought the member opposite would welcome the fact that this budget provides the province of Nova Scotia with massive benefits, $2.4 billion in restoring fiscal balance in the province.
    Why is the member opposite opposed to $1.3 billion under the new equalization system, $130 million in offshore accord offsets, $600—

  (1450)  

    The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
    Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Minister of Finance brought up the equalization payments. Every day he stands in the House and says that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador can have the new formula and the old accord, but that is not accurate.
     I know the minister will want to be accurate. I would like him to acknowledge his own amendments to the Atlantic accord, the 12 paragraphs of amendments in sections 80, 81 and 82 that amend it and the 6 paragraphs that amend the John Hamm agreement of 2005.
     I would like the minister to acknowledge his own five amendments and refer to this from now on as the amended Atlantic accord.
    The Atlantic accord with the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador is the same now as it was before, Mr. Speaker. There is a choice to be made.
    There is also, as I was saying, $277 million for the Canada social transfer, $73 million for infrastructure, $24.2 million for the patient wait times guarantee, all for the province of Nova Scotia.
     As the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley said to the Truro Daily News, “I have never seen a budget that has had more in it for the people of my riding than this one does”.

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, economists and analysts almost always couch their budget commentary in moderate, respectful language. Why did such normally polite people use the following words in describing this year's budget: “unbelievable”, “worst in 35 years”, “stupid”, “clueless”, “insane”, “idiotic”, “nut job”?
    Is Canada suffering from a contagious attack of rudeness from economists, or does this extreme language reflect an extremely incompetent Minister of Finance?
    Mr. Speaker, I think the friendly question from the member opposite is called a lob question.
    That is the member who travels to Paris, France to tell the people of the world that the Liberal Party wants to raise the GST. That is the president of the save the GST club and now raise the GST, a massive tax grab, more than $10 billion, from Canadians that the Liberal Party intends to do, according to the member for Markham—Unionville.
    Mr. Speaker, he got it all wrong, but that is not surprising. He never gets anything right.
    The problem goes beyond competence. The minister raised income tax, but keeps saying he cut it. He said that he would not tax income trusts and then did just that. He made solemn commitments to three provinces and then reneged on them all.
    Canadians are a kind and forgiving people who might show some sympathy to a minister who is honestly out of his depth. However, how will Canadians react to a minister who is less than honestly out of his depth?
    Mr. Speaker, since this government was elected, more than 450,000 new jobs have been created in Canada. More than 70% of them are full time jobs. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 33 years—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. We cannot waste time. The Minister of Finance has the floor. We will have some order so we can hear his answer.
    Mr. Speaker, we know the members opposite want bad economic times for Canada, but we have brought good economic times for Canada, tax reductions over three years of almost $40 billion, including personal tax reductions in the area of $25 billion. No wonder we have the strongest economic fundamentals, our country of Canada, in the G-7.

[Translation]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, last July 25, the Conservative government announced that victims of hepatitis C infected before January 1986 and after July 1990 would be compensated as soon as possible, subject to the approval of the provincial courts. Ten months later, the victims are still waiting and are calling for a settlement to be made as quickly as possible.
    Could the Minister of Health tell us if he intends to set up an emergency fund to pay some of the victims most affected by hepatitis C?

  (1455)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there is no dispute that the previous meanspirited government denied compensation for those hepatitis victims, tainted blood victims.
    The Conservative government has fulfilled its commitment to compensate the pre-1986 and post-1990 tainted blood victims. We put in $1 billion toward this fund. The victims will be receiving that money shortly after the courts have approved the agreement.

[Translation]

Telecommunications

    Mr. Speaker, the regional conference of elected officials in the Bas-St-Laurent area is opposed to the deregulation of local telephone service, which penalizes all rural inhabitants. What is absurd is that price increases will only affect rural and not urban areas.
    Does the Minister of Industry realize that his decision to deregulate the telephone services sector will slow down or even compromise regional development rather than foster it?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the CRTC has decided to update its price cap framework. I remind the hon. member that the government will continue to put consumers first, and we always put consumers first. We have ensured that the CRTC will continue to regulate in areas where there is little competition.
    Because the decision was made by the CRTC, it can be appealed within 90 days. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.

British Columbia Flood Mitigation

    Mr. Speaker, British Columbians have been under flood warning all spring. The upper Fraser has flooded. Evacuation is under way. The Lower Mainland is next.
    The Minister of Agriculture, who represents the region, ignored the municipalities' pleas for funding all year. Federal funding, promised only three weeks ago, was too little, too late. The government gutted the Liberal new deal for cities, which could have paid for the diking borne by cash-strapped provinces.
    Will the Prime Minister commit immediately to a special fund to help these municipalities with the costs of their infrastructure rebuilding?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said just a few moments ago, we had a request not long ago from the province of British Columbia. It was estimating it would be about $33 million to reinforce the diking system along that area. It was also asking for assistance with dredging.
    In an unprecedented move, because of the hard work of MPs from that area, the request was put together. The funds are in place and delivered. I want to congratulate the first responders and the others who are working so hard in these areas right now.
    The member should get tuned in. She was not even on the file while our members were out there checking it out and helping people at the local level.

Senate Tenure Legislation

    Mr. Speaker, a year ago our government introduced Bill S-4, which would limit the terms of senators to eight years. All Canadians, except Liberal senators, apparently agree that the current 45 year maximum term for unelected senators is just not acceptable.
    Yesterday, however, Liberal senators decided to hold Bill S-4 hostage, unless and until the government referred the bill to the Supreme Court, even though Canada's top constitutional experts and a previous Senate committee studying the issue have already deemed Bill S-4 to be fully constitutional.
    Could the Minister for Democratic Reform update the House on this new development?
    Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear, the Senate has no constitutional authority to refer a bill to the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, it is exceeding its constitutional authority by refusing to deal with government business in this fashion.
    The Liberal Red Chamber has an obligation to do its job and consider government business. The actions of unelected, unaccountable Liberal senators represents a dangerous grasp for power that is clearly extra-constitutional.
    This alarming development must be halted. I hope the Liberal leader will instruct his senators to abandon this dangerous attack on Canada's Constitution and tell them to do their job of dealing with legislation.

  (1500)  

Human Resources and Skills Development

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government created a backlog when it changed the levels at which Human Resources and Skills Development Canada contracts for job creation programs need to be signed by the minister.
    Projects that have a short turnaround for approval, such as the completion of the North Coast Trail in my riding, have been waiting for weeks instead of days. This project should be up and running now.
    When will the minister clean up his desk and sign a JCP so we can complete the North Coast Trail?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate her concern with respect to these important projects. I can assure the member that my department is working very hard to ensure that all of these very worthy groups and the causes they represent get their funding and get it very quickly.
    Mr. Speaker, why did the minister not take into consideration the backlog when he made his signing authority changes? This is becoming just like the summer jobs program debacle and the passport fiasco, and there is more.
    Now the minister has instituted a five day waiting period from the time he approves job funding to when the project gets notified. Why? So he can put forward a press release.
    Why is the minister more interested in media creation than job creation? Why does he make us wait?
    Mr. Speaker, the member mentions job creation. I point to the fact that we have the lowest unemployment in our country in 33 years, thanks to the leadership of the Minister of Finance. I am very proud of that record.
    I also point out that it is important to do these things correctly. We do not want to rush money out the door without proper accountability. That is the old Liberal way. We saw it in the sponsorship scandal. We do not want to go there.

Presence in Gallery

    I would like to draw the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. James W.L. Kinobe, Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, for the Republic of Uganda.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    It being Thursday, I believe the hon. member for Wascana has a question. The hon. member for Wascana.
    Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the government House leader would inform us of what would be on his agenda for government business through to the end of next week. I wonder if he could also in his answer indicate what he considers to be the government's major priorities to be completed before the normal summer recess on June 22. Finally, l wonder if the minister could indicate the government's intention to act or not under Standing Order 27(1) next week.
    Mr. Speaker, today we will be continuing with the business of supply.
    Tomorrow we hope to conclude third reading of Bill C-52. In answer to the question on priorities, I would point out that Bill C-52, the budget implement bill, is the number one priority of this government. We can talk about other priorities after we see an indication that it will be heading for royal assent. If we do not have it, it will result in the loss of $4.3 billion in 2006-07 year end measures which include: $1.5 billion for the Canada ecotrust for the provinces; $600 million for patient wait times guarantees; $400 million for Canada Health Infoway; $200 million for protection of endangered species; $30 million for the Great Bear rain forest; $600 million for labour market agreements for the provinces; $30 million for the Rick Hansen Foundation; $100 million in aid for Afghanistan; $100 million to Genome Canada; and so on. It is a long list of important priorities financing that will be lost if the bill is not passed by the end of this session in June. That is obviously our number one priority.
    Next week will be getting things done for all of us week when we consider a number of bills that are in their final stages of the legislative process.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

    The following bills will be placed under Government Orders for debate: Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which the Senate reported with amendments and which is now back before the House to receive the approval of the members, and Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).
    We are awaiting the Senate's report with amendments on Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.

[English]

    There is also a possibility of quick passage of a new bill entitled “An act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act, an act to incorporate the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Trademarks Act”, which appears on today's notice paper.
    There are a number of other bills I am still hoping we could get included in getting things done for all of us week, provided that they get reported back from committee, in particular, Bill C-6 aeronautics; Bill C-27 dangerous offenders; Bill C-32 impaired driving; and Bill C-44, the bill to grant first nations people the human rights that every other Canadian enjoys. First nations people expect the House to get things done for them as well, so I urge the aboriginal affairs committee to stop delaying Bill C-44 and report it back to the House early next week. It is a priority for this government.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In a question from the member for Bourassa during question period, in response I referenced a report being received from Afghanistan that would be tabled. I meant to say it would be received by the Canadian government.

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings ]

[Translation]

Employment Equity

    Mr. Speaker, if I had the unanimous consent of the House, I could table the report on employment equity this very afternoon. It is the 2006 annual report.
    Unanimous consent is not required; the hon. minister may table it when he wishes. The documents have now been received.
    The hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert also wishes to raise a point of order.
    Mr. Speaker, when I saw the Minister of Labour rise to ask for unanimous consent, I had a glimmer of hope that was quickly dashed.
    Nevertheless, I rise on a point of order to seek unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion, which is different than that of the other days. It bears on the same subject, but the motion is different.
    That the government's notice of ways and means motion No. 13, tabled in the House by the Minister of Labour on December 8, 2006, be deemed adopted and that the House require the Minister of Labour to table immediately in the House, for first reading, the bill listed on the order paper under “Introduction of Government Bills” and entitled “An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005”, in order that this bill can be amended by this House, pursuant to the request of the National Assembly of Quebec, in a motion adopted unanimously this morning.

  (1510)  

    Does the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: There is no unanimous consent.
    The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North on a point of order.

[English]

Points of Order

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee  

[Points od Order]
    Mr. Speaker, although I open this debate as a point of order, I truly believe that it is a question of members' privileges. I will rise on a point of order with the understanding that you may decide that it is a question that deals with members' privileges.
    I refer to a discussion that was held in the House yesterday regarding the motion to concur in the 53rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which did not receive the unanimous consent of the House of Commons. The four independent members of the House did not give their consent.
    There was really no problem until this was presented by the whip of the Bloc Québécois. He presented it to the standing committee, not to remedy the orders of the House but in order to silence a former member of that party because the Bloc considered she was getting too many questions in the House. That was the purpose of this amendment.
    What surprises me is that all the other parties consented to the motion. Every party consented to the motion and it opened a can of worms.
    This is an issue that the standing committee presented that affects the privileges of all independent members of Parliament.
    Mr. Speaker, I submit that it is in your exclusive jurisdiction to protect the privileges of every member of the House of Commons. I ask that until this matter is resolved, and since there are only four of us but our party is growing, I am asking for your assurance that this matter will not come before the House for unanimous consent unless some of us are present in order not to give consent and then the matter can be resolved either in committee or through your wise counsel.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to reassure my hon. colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North, as well as the three other independent members of this House, my. hon. colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, my hon. colleague from Nova Scotia and the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. This morning, at the public meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I tabled an amended version of the 53rd report. I amended that report simply for tabling.
    The four independent members will be consulted before the next discussions, which are to be held next Tuesday at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I am certain that we will be able to find a solution.
    Nevertheless, I changed my approach somewhat as a result of the comments I received earlier this week.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think it would be useful for you to know that not everybody in every political formation would necessarily support this if unanimous consent were requested. I for one would have tremendous difficulty in restricting the ability of independent members of Parliament to address questions in this House as well.
    Mr. Speaker, this issue was raised yesterday and again today. I know that the whips have discussed looking at clearing this up. Perhaps I could explain it to other members because I think there is a lot of concern not only by the independent members but by others about what it is that the whips and the procedure and House affairs committee are concerned about here.
    As I understand the issue, it is this: When there are a number of independent members there are obviously a certain number of questions and Standing Order 31 statements by members that could be assigned to those independent members.
    We have had cases in the past, and indeed we could have cases in the future, where a party falls below the requisite 12 members. For that purpose there has been a precedent set for Speakers to pool the questions that those independent members would be entitled to so that they could assign their questions to their leader or to some other member of their caucus.
    In my political lifetime, members will recall that post-1993, we had that situation with two parties in the House of Commons. While the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party were recognized registered political parties outside of this chamber, they did not have the requisite 12 members to be a recognized party in the chamber at the time. One had two members and the other had nine, as I recall. The Speaker at the time pooled, or bundled, or whatever term one wants to use, the number of questions that they would get during question period and then assigned the questions to them as a group.
    I think this is where the problem lies, Mr. Speaker. Let us take into consideration that there are currently four independent members of Parliament. Of the questions that we usually go through in the rotation, the number of questions in a day, if we divide those, excluding the three that the government gets, by the number of opposition members of Parliament, whether they are one of the three recognized parties or the four independent members, we get to a ratio of how often each member would be eligible for a question, all things being equal.
    The problem arises if, for example, there were three independent members, each one of them should get one question per week. That makes sense. To make it equal, whether they were in a recognized party or sitting as an independent, they would have exactly the same rights to ask one question per week.
    What has been happening as I understand it, Mr. Speaker, is that if you bundle those questions together and there are three questions for independents in a week and then two of the independents choose not to ask a question and you give the other questions to that other member as though they were a party, then that individual independent member would obviously get more questions than they would be entitled to if they sat in a recognized party.
    I think that is the question that we are trying to deal with. Certainly, and I can speak for myself here, I do not want to see any inequity. I want to see the same rights and responsibilities for every member of Parliament, whether the member is an independent or whether the member sits in a recognized party, with no greater or lesser advantage to being in a party or sitting as an independent when it comes to those rights of a Standing Order 31 statement or asking a question in our chamber.
     I think the goal is to ensure that if we take that equation, the number of questions asked per day or the number of questions asked per week and divide it by all the opposition members and we get to how many questions that person would get in a week, then it should be the same whether the person is an independent member or in a party.

  (1515)  

    Obviously when a member is in a party, there is a mechanism in place to assign that question. Let us say for argument's sake, every member would get one question per week, whether the member was an independent or was in the Liberal Party, for example.
    Obviously the Liberal Party has a mechanism in place in its caucus to assign those questions to certain members, whether it is the leader, the deputy leader or whoever it is. However, it should not detract from the basic rule that each member is equal in the eyes of this chamber. That is what we are trying to get to, I believe. I would look for others to support that fundamental principle of equality.

  (1520)  

    We are on points of order here, not to debate the merits of any proposal that may or may not be before the House. We are not debating a motion for concurrence, and while I am sure the House appreciates the comments from the chief government whip, it sounds like debate.
    I see two other members rising on this. We have spent almost 20 minutes on it already. We do not have a motion before the House. In my view, there is no point of order here. I gave a ruling yesterday that this was not a point of order.
    The member for Thunder Bay—Superior North has asked me to give an assurance that somebody will not pull a unanimous consent stunt when the members are not here. I can only urge him to stick around. I cannot control what members do in the House. If a member stands up and asks for unanimous consent for something and gets it, I am stuck. I cannot say no.
    I can only urge the hon. member to keep a close eye on the House. He has three colleagues. One of them could sit here 24 hours if necessary and the others could do what they have to do if they are concerned about this. However, no one has moved concurrence in this report at this stage.
    The hon. member for Mississauga South is rising on a point of order. I hope he will stick to the point of order and not debate the merits of any proposal.
    Yes, and I do agree, Mr. Speaker. As I raised the matter yesterday, I believe that privileges will not be affected unless a decision is taken. I doubt there is a matter of privilege here.
    The point of order is that within the Standing Orders, there are mechanisms for ordinary members to debate relevant changes to the Standing Orders. There were special legislative committees set up to consider a renewal, improvement or modernization of the rules. We have not had that.
    I am simply asking on behalf of all members, which I believe would support the premise, that the majority of members should not establish rules that will affect a minority of members of Parliament. It is an issue. I would only ask that a proposal from procedure and House affairs come forward for the information of members, so that all members can have input before a question is put before this place.
    I believe you would then find unanimous consent for that motion.
    No proposal from procedure and House affairs can be adopted by the House without a motion for concurrence in the report. It is simple. There has to be a motion. Motions are debatable if members choose to debate them. It is up to members. It is not up to the Chair. The hon. member must know that.
    He must realize that if the motion for concurrence in this report is to be put in this House, it has to be done either with unanimous consent and no debate, because everyone agrees not to debate it and let it go through, or the member moves concurrence. This is basic procedure.
    If the motion for concurrence is moved, there is a three hour debate and then the question is put. It is standard on all committee reports, including ones that recommend changes to the Standing Orders of the House.
    There have to be two questions.
    No, there are not two questions. There is a motion to put to the House and then we vote on it. I will leave it at that.
    The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques on a point of order as well.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief. First of all, I would simply like to say that I support the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North and, second, that we should be very pleased here in this House, if a process becomes truly transparent. That is the foundation of democracy. Furthermore, I would like to point out to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that, yesterday, I raised another issue, that is, if this were ever approved, even with the amended version, we would have three kinds of members: members who belong to a party, party members who are not recognized in this House and are not recognized as independent members, and lastly, the independent members. I think we must continue to resist this.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Business of Supply]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion--Equalization Program and Atlantic Accords  

[Translation]

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber had the floor. He now has ten minutes left for questions and comments on his speech.

[English]

    The hon. member for York South—Weston.
    Mr. Speaker, I was following the discussion and the presentation made by my colleague from the Bloc. I am sure the House would be interested to hear a restatement of the relationship that the Atlantic accord has to the problem that is created with respect to equalization.
    I ask that question deliberately because the Bloc is the party in this House that protects and stands to protect provincial rights. It seems to me that it was a recognition through the Atlantic accord that there in fact had been a longstanding shortage of equalization for the Atlantic provinces and that there was an agreement through the Atlantic accord to come to terms with that issue.
    Yet, we find the Bloc is still resisting supporting this resolution and through the budget the continuation of the accord. Voting against the budget would at least show that the Bloc supports those provincial rights.
    Would the member restate the reasons why the Bloc finds that the Atlantic accord is contradictory to the very essence of equalization and the fiscal balance that we in a federal state are attempting to achieve for the provinces?

  (1525)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the equalization program was put in place so that every province could provide equivalent services for equivalent tax rates.
    The general idea is this. Each province's revenues and fiscal capacity are examined and compared to the Canadian average. Provinces whose fiscal capacity is below the Canadian average receive funds from the federal government to bring them up to the average. That is the principle.
    The problem lies in how fiscal capacity is calculated. Under the Atlantic accords, the fiscal capacity of the Atlantic provinces is underestimated to make them appear poorer than they are, when the calculation is done, so that they receive more money than they would normally get if the principle were honoured.
    The Bloc Québécois believes that this has nothing to do with ensuring that the Canadian federation works well. Rather, it is a purely arbitrary choice. The government decided to exclude non-renewable natural resources simply because that favoured a few provinces. It could have excluded other sectors of the economy that would have benefited Quebec.
    I am sure that if the government had decided to exclude hydroelectricity and aerospace, for example, from the equalization calculation, many people would have stood up and asked why the government was deviating from the principle just to please Quebec. And they likely would have been right.
    We believe that the same rule should apply to everyone. If we are going to compare the provinces' fiscal capacities, we have to do so without playing with the figures, without excluding one sector or another of the economy to benefit one province or another.
    Overall, equalization has nothing to do with the fiscal imbalance because equalization is a budget transfer. With the latest equalization formula and other transfers, the Government of Quebec receives more money than before. This does not correct the fiscal imbalance, because it is not a real transfer of tax room, such as the GST or tax points.
     In the next budget, the federal government can take back what it gave to Quebec, as it just took back what it had given to the Atlantic provinces. This shows that the problem of the fiscal imbalance has not been resolved at all. Even though we do not basically agree with the Atlantic accords, they are eloquent proof that, in a system based on equalization, the provinces are all at the mercy of the federal government’s benevolence at any given time for their finances. That is what we do not like and have been fighting for a very long time.

  (1530)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments. I was interested to hear his comments and in fact I would like to ask him a question that I think is also pertinent to today's debate. It is regarding fiscal balance.
    I would like to know about the previous government's tenure, but I know he is going to speak about the province of Quebec. However, it applies to all provinces. Because of the fiscal imbalance, how difficult was it for provinces to provide health care, education, post-secondary education, in addition to other types of strains? Why is it important to have a principled approach toward fiscal balance in Canada in order to provide capacity to the provinces to provide these services?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right. For 13 years, the Liberal government did not even recognize the existence of a fiscal imbalance, and the Liberal Party still does not recognize it. They refuse to admit that there is a fiscal imbalance. People say that Quebec and the provinces have been hard hit by this, but it is really the people of Quebec and the provinces who have suffered. We cannot say that it is just the provinces and so we do not really care. People have gone without services because of the imbalance between the constitutional obligations of the federal and provincial governments and their respective revenues.
     Even though the Conservative Party, for its part, recognizes that there is an imbalance in the federation, it does not really see that the imbalance is fiscal in nature. The fix it provided in the last budget took the form of cash transfers. This means that, every year and for every budget, Quebec is ultimately at the mercy of the ideological and political choices that the federal government may make in light of the political situation at the time, regardless of whether the Conservatives, the Liberals, or some other party is in power.
     That is the nub of the problem. That is why Quebeckers of all political stripes in the National Assembly, regardless of whether they are Liberals, ADQ or Parti Québécois, are demanding a genuine fiscal solution. That was the thrust of the Séguin commission which asked, for example, that the GST be transferred to the provinces. Equalization would have to be re-worked, of course, if the direct transfers to the provinces were cut by this much. If there is a tax transfer to the provinces, however, they will have stable, predictable revenues over which they have full control and which are not subject to every whim of the federal government.
     This is really the nub of the issue. The Liberals have never even acknowledged the existence of a fiscal imbalance, and even though the Conservatives acknowledge it in theory, they still do not understand the real nature of it. We are working hard to get this fixed in the next budget.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased and honoured to split my time with the courageous hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
    Having served in the House for seven years, I have never seen such a blatant disregard for the economic prosperity of an entire region such as the way the government and Prime Minister have treated Atlantic Canada.
    The Prime Minister came to office trumpeting a new approach and a new relationship between the federal government and the provinces. He called it open federalism. He said that a Conservative government would be more sensitive to the differences between provinces and regions.
    He broke promises to the governments of the Atlantic provinces and decided that the welfare of our people was not his concern. He continues with his campaign of pitting region against region.
    With this budget, the Prime Minister has wielded his knives on Atlantic Canada and tried to give truth to his lie about a certain “culture of defeat”.
    The numbers I find in this budget simply speak for themselves. Quebec receives a 29% increase, or almost $700 million more in equalization payments. New Brunswick, on the other hand, receives a mere 1.8%. Atlantic Canada receives only 4% of all new money spent on equalization. For the second straight year, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency does not even receive a mention in a 478-page budget document.
    This callous disregard for New Brunswick and all of Atlantic Canada adds to the government's list of broken promises on income trusts, the slashing of literacy programs, the failure to fund affordable housing in my city of Saint John, and the cancellation of the court challenges program. These pile onto the broken promises of the Atlantic accord.
    The government simply does not understand Atlantic Canada, though the Prime Minister believes ACOA could be for wasteful projects, unnecessary spending, projects that are not of vital important to Atlantic Canadians.
    It is true Atlantic Canada does not have the financial security of Alberta or the industrial base of Ontario. Ours is a region trying hard to promote itself as a destination for 21st century business and industry.
    A new generation of political leaders, including my premier from New Brunswick, Shawn Graham, has taken up the challenge of reaching for full economic self-sufficiency. However, provinces like New Brunswick need help from the federal government today in order to put tomorrow's economic blueprints in place.
    The former government proposed a plan that would have brought $830 million, new dollars for infrastructure and new program funding for New Brunswick, at the same time that the Atlantic accords were signed. This plan served as the baseline of funding for the province in its effort to achieve a goal of self-sufficiency. Our plan had a similar goal to the deal that was reached with Alberta in its drive for self-sufficiency 30 years ago.
    The hon. member for Fredericton crafted a plan to put New Brunswick on the road to requiring less equalization from Ottawa.
    What happened instead was that the former New Brunswick premier, Bernard Lord, changed from a Progressive Conservative to a Reformer. He decided he would rather deal with a Conservative government in Ottawa. The result was piecemeal projects instead of a comprehensive plan, each garnered less money than the Liberal plan.
    The people of New Brunswick said no to that approach. They fired Bernard Lord for tearing up the child care agreement and saying no to $115 million in new federal spending on early learning and child care in our province.

  (1535)  

    In the months since the Prime Minister came to office, he began treating Atlantic Canada as an afterthought of Confederation. A distinct trend has swept across Atlantic Canada. In Nova Scotia the Progressive Conservative premier ranks third in popularity behind the New Democrats and the newly minted Liberal leader, Stephen McNeil; in New Brunswick, a new dynamic Liberal leader has swept aside a two time Conservative majority government; in Prince Edward Island, a new Liberal leader, Robert Ghiz, won a landslide victory over a three term Conservative majority government; and in Newfoundland, a Progressive Conservative stalwart premier goes on television every day and has three simple words for Canadians: anybody but Conservative.
    These should be ominous signs for the government finding itself out of ideas after only 18 months in power and sitting across from a new, renewed, and reinvigorated Liberal Party under the leadership of the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.
    Things have only gotten worse this week for the government. As the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley has shown, not every member of the Conservative government's Atlantic caucus is willing to stand aside and let their province be sold out by the federal government.
     As every member in the House is aware, in voting against the government, the hon. member from Nova Scotia made a great political sacrifice. He was bullied. He was maligned by his cabinet members and colleagues. He was kicked out of caucus and has since had his constituent files seized by the Conservative Party. Some new government.
    Why has this happened? This has happened because the member took the word of the Prime Minister when he wrote to the premier of Newfoundland and said:
    We will remove non-renewable natural resources revenue from the equalization formula to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable resources sectors across Canada. The Conservative Government of Canada will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula.
    He believed the Minister of Finance when he said, “We will respect the Atlantic accord”. He trusted that the hon. member for St. John's East knew what he was talking about when he said, “The Atlantic Accord will not be adjusted. It's written in stone. It's signed, sealed, delivered, and it's something that the province need not have any fear”.
    Despite the claim by the foreign affairs minister, the member for Central Nova, that no member of his caucus would be removed for voting against the budget, the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley sits as an independent for voting his conscience and voting to defend the interests of his constituents.
    Over and over again the government and the Prime Minister have pledged to defend the economic interests of Atlantic Canada. They said it to get elected. They said it to prepare for an election. When it came time to govern, Atlantic Canada simply has not fit into their plans.
    New Brunswick has a right to be treated with equality. Atlantic Canada has that same ambition. Canadians want all of us to treat each other with respect, dignity and equality.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is an experienced member of the House. It is not his first time around the block. He will recognize that there are certain government bills which require members, by tradition, to vote with one's party, the Speech from the Throne being one of them and the budget being another.
    Exceptions can be made. Has the member ever heard of a case where a government has made an exception, where a senior minister of government has stood in the House and said that its members could vote their conscience and would not be kicked out of their caucus if they voted against a bill?
    Has he ever heard a minister make that promise in the House of Commons? Has a member of his party followed his or her conscience, voted in the interests of that member's constituents, and been kicked out of caucus?
    Mr. Speaker, I must say that the member is a very experienced member, and he too well knows that it would be beyond possibility to think that a member of the governing party's cabinet would have ever made such a statement as the member for Central Nova made and then have the complete opposite effect occur.
    I am, like a lot of Canadians and like a lot of members of this House, frankly shocked at such a betrayal, shocked at such a treachery that could possibly have occurred, and frankly I think it does this place a weakness when our words are not honoured, the way the member for Central Nova spoke about his own colleague.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to pose two substantive questions to the member opposite.
    First, the O'Brien panel was appointed by his government, by the former government. The former deputy minister from Alberta Al O'Brien chaired this panel. Does he and does the Liberal Party accept, or does the Liberal Party reject, the recommendations of the O'Brien panel? That is the first question.
    The second question is with respect to fiscal capacities of provinces. Without naming any province, we could have a situation in the future with the equalization system. Does he believe that taxpayers in one province with a lower fiscal capacity than another province should be paying into equalization, while those people in another province are receiving equalization even though their fiscal capacity is higher?
    On those two substantive questions, could he just indicate where he stands and where the Liberal Party stands?
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will know that in the speech that I just gave, I specifically cited his own province from 1957, 50 years ago, when it was allowed above the cap under equalization.
    What is really important for all Canadians to understand is that we believe in Atlantic Canada and in these reinvestments, the Atlantic accord, the people-building New Brunswick document, which were going to reinvest in the province of New Brunswick $800 million.
    The member for Fredericton had crafted a document with the previous Liberal government and had a document ready that would be part of helping out a province like New Brunswick which, moving forward into the 21st century, wants to say that it does not want to be taking the same draw on the national treasury for equalization. It believes in self-sufficiency, just exactly like the national government helped out the province of Alberta 50 years ago.
    Mr. Speaker, I represent the flat earth party and we have a position on this.
     I am pleased today to debate this issue and I will focus most of my remarks on the Atlantic accord aspect of the debate today.
    I want to address the comments made by the very distinguished member for Edmonton—Leduc who tried to provide the perspective perhaps from Alberta. However, the part of the debate that I am focused on is not whether equalization is right or wrong or what is best for this province or that province. My focus is on the fact that I think the Government of Canada should honour a signed contract.
    I believe that when the Government of Canada signs a contract this should be gold-plated. It should be bulletproof. When the Government of Canada signs its name, with the little red flag, on a piece of paper, whether it is a person in Tokyo, in Moscow, in Halifax or in St. John's, Newfoundland, the person should be able to count on that signature as being solid gold.
    The contract we are talking about today, the one that has been amended so much in the budget, Bill C-52, was only signed in 2005. It is a 14-year contract signed by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. We are only two years into the contract and the government has decided it does not like it. Consequently, the government has put 12 amendments in the budget. I want the members opposite to notice, because what they say is not accurate, but under consequential amendments there are 12 paragraphs of amendments to the Atlantic accord.
    If we go further, there are six paragraphs of amendments to the offshore revenue agreement that John Hamm signed two years ago in 2005. The government is now taking the contract signed by the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada and amending it with six fundamental changes to the contract. This is simply right or wrong and I think every Canadian has an interest in this. This is not just in the interest of Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. Every member of Parliament in this House should insist that if the Government of Canada signs a document, no matter if it is a Liberal government, a Conservative government, an NDP government or, heaven forbid, a Bloc government, the Government of Canada should honour the contract, no matter what, for the life of the contract. It is not flexible and it is not amendable. I honestly think the member for Edmonton—Leduc would agree with that.
    I was just given a news article containing a comment by the Prime Minister at the G-8 a few minutes ago. He commented about my voting against the budget. He talks about how good the budget is.
    I do want to say that it is a good budget and it is good for my riding. Many things in the budget do support and help my rural riding. However, that does not give the government permission to break a contract. Just because the government does some good things, it does not give it permission to break a contract. My opposition to the budget and the reason I voted against it was that I am 100% convinced that the budget does break this contract.
    The Prime Minister said that the budget actually gives the Province of Nova Scotia $95 million in equalization over and above the Atlantic accord, but that is not right. He also said: .
    That's one of the reasons Mr. Casey voted four times for the budget so obviously I don't think much of him changing his view the fifth time.
    In all fairness, he knows better than anybody that we met with him and with the Minister of Finance over and over again. We put proposals on the table and got legal opinions. We raised it in caucus and we raised it in the House. We have done everything we can.
    A week ago yesterday I realized that we were not making any headway. I wrote to the Prime Minister and put it right in his hand and said, “We're not making any headway with this by working behind the scenes. I am going to start speaking out publicly”. He took exception to that. I said, “We have to put pressure on it to make it move ahead”. I gave it to him in writing. I did not want to broadside him. I waited two days and then I made my first statement. Again, we made no progress.
    On Monday morning, I wrote the Prime Minister a letter and said, “I cannot support this bill because it breaks a contract between the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia and I will not vote for it”. I made it very clear. I said it in two places in the letter.

  (1550)  

    The Prime Minister knows exactly why I voted for the budget the first time. We were in negotiations trying to find a solution but they went absolutely nowhere.
    The Prime Minister says that Nova Scotia will get $95 million more in equalization, but that is not true. If the Atlantic accord were honoured, it would get the $95 million, plus the benefits of the offset that are not included in this. That is the fundamental part of the problem.
    We believe the Atlantic accord could be changed with four or five words. The problem is that the budget and the accord have different wording. I have pointed this out to the Prime Minister and the finance minister several times. The accord says that the calculation of the payment will be based on the equalization formula that exists at the time. Any time the Government of Nova Scotia wants to calculate its offset payment, it would use the equalization formula that exists at the time.
    Now, if we change it in 2010, it is that formula. If we change it in 2015, it is that formula. If we change it in 2019, it is that formula. That is what the accord says, which is a signed agreement and agreed to by both sides.
    However, if we go to page 115 in the budget, it says that from now on it will be based on the previous formula. Instead of the vision of the accord, which is to follow along as the equalization formula evolves and changes, the budget locks it in at the previous formula. It, therefore, amends and changes the Atlantic accord fundamentally.
    I asked the Minister of Finance today if he would stop saying that Nova Scotia has the option of the new formula or the old Atlantic accord, because it does not. He said it a thousand times. Many of the ministers have. I said it myself, because I believed it, until I got into this. However, it is not true. The Province of Nova Scotia and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador do not have the option of the new formula or the old Atlantic accord. Everybody in this House has heard the Minister of Finance say that a dozen times. It is not true because the budget changes both Atlantic accord agreements. Twelve paragraphs in the accord are changed and amended and six paragraphs on the John Hamm agreement that was negotiated in 2005.
    If the government wants to be honest and accurate, it should say that the Province of Nova Scotia has the choice of the new formula or an amended Atlantic accord, but that it does not have access to the old Atlantic accord.
    I had hoped the minister would take my advice and be accurate and say that if that is the case. When I asked that question, he pointed out that I said that the budget was good. I did say the budget was good and that it was good for my riding but it does not give anybody the right to break a contract. We all sign contracts and we all honour them. All Canadians honour contracts. The Government of Canada should honour its contracts, no matter who signs them, whether it is the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP or whichever party is the government at the time. I feel very strongly about that.
    I will go back to this nine paragraph agreement called the Atlantic accord. It was signed and agreed to by John Hamm and the very distinguished minister of fisheries and oceans at the time, the member from Halifax. It is a simple agreement but a very meaningful one to Nova Scotia.
    Newfoundland and Labrador has a similar agreement and it means the world to Newfoundland and Labrador, as it does to Nova Scotia.
    The member for Edmonton—Leduc took exception to the agreement but every province has exceptions and every province has special deals. This is our special deal and we value it tremendously.
    We just signed an agreement with British Columbia to give it hundreds of millions of dollars for the Pacific Gateway. Manitoba did not get a Pacific Gateway fund, neither did Ontario nor did Digby.
     Nova Scotia's special deal is the Atlantic accord and we are not flexible on it. We will continue to demand the Atlantic accord. It is only nine paragraphs long but it is a work of art. I did not realize how good it was until we got into this debate and I started to study it. It is really neat. I was moved to call John Hamm, the former premier of the province, because it is magic. I sold cars for 20 years and made a lot of deals but I could not make a deal as good as this one. It is an excellent deal and John Hamm deserves the credit.

  (1555)  

     John Hamm also agrees that this budget changes the purpose, the intent and the spirit of this agreement. I have great faith in John Hamm and his comments on it. He has helped me a great deal through this as I have learned to understand how it all evolved and how it came to be.
    I am again asking the government to not only honour this signed contract, but to honour every contract. When the Government of Canada signed that contract it should have been gold-plated and recognized around the world as Canada.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank and congratulate my hon. colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for his comments today and for taking part in this debate. I also thank him for his decision this week to vote against the budget, which was a very courageous move. Nova Scotians are very proud of the actions he has taken. I just wish the other Conservative members from Nova Scotia would show the same kind of intestinal fortitude.
    I know the member has been carrying around for weeks a copy of the offshore accord and he referred to it at some length in his recent comments. I know he is aware that it talks about the fact that it is to apply to the equalization formula as it exists at the time. It seems to me, as I have heard comments from Conservative members today, that there has been a failure to comprehend that, a failure to comprehend what the accord is actually all about and what it means. The fact that no matter how equalization might change in the future, the accord and its provisions and the payments under it were to apply so that there would not be a clawback of offshore resource royalties from Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and Labrador.
    I think there has been a failure to understand that on the other side but it is time they did. It is time that they lived up to this signed agreement. The member is absolutely right when he says that when the Government of Canada signs a contract it should live up to it. I signed that contract on behalf of the Government of Canada, as he has pointed out to me a few times, and it is time for the government to live up to it.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to address one thing the member mentioned about the other members of the Conservative Party, with whom I formerly sat just a few days ago. The Prime Minister said in his note that I had voted for it four times before I voted against it. I just want to say that I worked hard to discuss it in caucus. I and many other members of the Conservative caucus met with ministers and with the Prime Minister. We all did the best we could.
    I made an independent decision that we were not making any headway a week ago. I notified the Prime Minister that I felt we were not making headway and then I notified him on Monday that, as far as I was concerned, this was dead and that we were moving ahead. Some of the members think they can affect this decision more by staying in caucus and I respect that decision. I just made my decision to stand and vote against the budget because the contract is broken and I cannot live with that.

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley a brief question. I want to say that I appreciate that the member for Halifax West has asked the question because I think he would be the first to be willing to acknowledge that he was not totally persuaded at the front end that this was doable.
     When we sat together with John Hamm, the premier of Nova Scotia at the time, he expressed some reservations quite openly. What we saw is that the more people did get their head around what it really meant for Nova Scotia, then none of us was prepared to take no for an answer if working across party lines and across jurisdictional lines we could actually get the Atlantic accord into an agreement that would be honoured by the Government of Canada.
    The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley is quite right to suggest that maybe we should now be calling it the “triple-A agreement”, the amended Atlantic accord.
    My question arises out of the response that was very clear from Nova Scotians yesterday to the gutsy stand that the member took in saying that he could simply not live with the broken commitment. There was an actual accord that needed to be honoured and he could not live with any other outcome.
     I was also struck by the fact that Premier Rodney MacDonald made it very clear in his commentary to the media, and I have no reason to think it is not accurate reporting because I read it again and again, that he also acknowledges that this is a broken promise, that it is not fixed and that there is no offer on the table to fix it. I want to know whether the member has any advice for the rest of us on how we can work together to support the current premier in trying to get this fixed and what efforts he has made and to what effect.
    Mr. Speaker, this is not complicated. This is not about policy where we can weigh the pros and cons of it to determine whether it a good or bad policy. This is right and wrong.
    It is a 14 year contract was signed. We were only into it for two years. The government has decided it wants to change the contract without the permission of the Nova Scotia government. The government has 18 paragraphs of amendments in the budget, which unilaterally change this agreement. I think that not only we in the House but every Canadian should say that we want every contract signed by the Government of Canada to be honoured 100%.
    This is not just Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, it is our reputation as a country. It is important that people around the world know when the Government of Canada signs a contract, it is bullet proof, they can depend on it. It is important that it is bullet proof, solid gold.
    This contract is being broken and there is no reason for it.
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this debate. I have listened carefully to remarks today, many of which were aimed at me. That is the slings and arrows of this place, Mr. Speaker, as you know full well having served here for so many years.
    I did find myself curiously agreeing with some of the comments by my colleague from Halifax, though. She quite rightly pointed out, when she asked a question a moment ago, that the member for Halifax West could be described as somewhat of a recent convert of the Atlantic accord. During the time he filled the post as minister for Nova Scotia, the post I currently hold, he was pushing the province of Nova Scotia to accept a deal that was not in the best interest of my province.
    I remember at the time the member from Halifax said, “If Nova Scotians were as wealthy as Ontarians in eight years time I don't believe they would be expected to keep getting equalization”. He said this on October 26. This was in advance of the Atlantic accord being signed. He also urged the minister of energy at the time, Cecil Clarke, to accept the deal, that it was an excellent deal for Nova Scotia. Yet the numbers now clearly show that at the time the offer that was put forward by the member from Halifax was for $640 million. We know the final deal that was arrived at with Nova Scotia was for $830 million. Therefore, he was bargaining hard for his province, my province, to take hundreds of millions of dollars less than it actually achieved.
    This is what he had to say at the time, “I can't imagine for the life of me why Nova Scotia would not accept a deal this rich”. In October 2004 he told the Halifax ChronicleHerald, “They're turning up their noses at an excellent offer. I really can't understand why they're not agreeing to it and why they're so hung up on this question of eight years”.
    The member can be here today and sanctimoniously hold himself out as a champion of this cause, but at the end of the day he really had to be brought on side by the pushing and prodding of the premier of the day, John Hamm, as has been mentioned, who truly was the champion of the Atlantic accord, along with Cecil Clarke, the energy minister.
    He and the member for LaSalle—Émard, the Liberal leader and prime minister at that time, and the member for West Nova all voted against the motion in the House recognizing the Atlantic accord, all recognizing at that time that Nova Scotia should be the primary beneficiary of offshore oil and gas revenues. That is what they did. On November 15, 2004, I was here as were you, Mr. Speaker. There was a motion before the House that you and I both supported. They voted against it. Every member in the Liberal Party who has spoken today, with the exception perhaps of the not so newly elected member, who was not here in 2004, voted against the Atlantic accord.
    Therefore, I will not take any lessons or any sanctimonious, disingenuous, holding themselves out as champions.
    This is really about, when we strip away the rhetorical flourish, when we take away some of the contrasting views of a contract and when we strip away the discussion of what this comes down to, it is about equalization for the country, an offshore oil and gas revenue deal that was put in place to insist that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in a similar vein receive primary benefits of their offshore oil and gas.
    People have talked about special deals. This is not a special deal. This is the same sort of deal, others have mentioned this, historically in the context as Alberta enjoys with respect to their underground oil and gas. The Auto Pact could be singled out for the province of Ontario as something specific to it. Quebec has similar deals, one in fact that affects Newfoundland and Labrador, which is quite contentious. That is of course Churchill Falls.
    Therefore, this is about ensuring fairness. That is exactly what we intend to do. The budget is exactly about that. Liberals have repeatedly refused in the past to recognize accords such as this.
    The bill itself, when it finally came to fruition, when it finally came before the House, put in place a recognition of natural gas revenues that were to come to the province of Nova Scotia.
    Fast forward to what we have in the budget. After 13 years of the Liberal government denying that there was fiscal imbalance in the country, our government immediately upon taking office, under the leadership of the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, went about consultation with the provinces to see that fiscal imbalance did exist. A lengthy, indepth and complex discussion took place about how we set the fiscal imbalance right.

  (1605)  

     I am a member from Nova Scotia. That is my home, that is where I was born and raised and that is where I will retire. I will always be there. The member opposite, who is also from my home province, can try to beat his chest, put on floppy shoes and a red hat and try to be clown, but that is not going to get him anywhere. People at home know this is a serious issue. If he wants to make it personal, that is fine, that is his right. He can continue in that vein.
    We are here to talk about a serious issue. This is a serious issue that affects my province. It affects very much the well-being and the future of the province of Nova Scotia. That is why I have undertaken to continue in the same vein as the finance minister, to meet directly with the Premier of Nova Scotia, the premier who is now charged with protecting Nova Scotia's interests, as do I. I stand shoulder to shoulder with him in that exercise.
    We met this morning and we have spoken in the past repeatedly, since the budget came down, about how we protect Nova Scotia's interests and how we do so together. That is exactly what we are doing.
    This is very much about clarifying our commitment with respect to the Atlantic accord. This is about ensuring the implementation of the new O'Brien equalization formula, which is the option for which Nova Scotia has opted. This formula benefits my home province to the extent of $95 million more. That allows us to put more money into education, infrastructure, health, all sorts of important life altering and quality of life aspects. It has allowed Premier MacDonald and the provincial government make those investments.
    With regard to some of the apocalyptical discussion here about how Nova Scotia was going to be forced into financial ruin, the budget provides Nova Scotia with $2.4 billion in the year 2007-08, $130 million in offshore accord offsets, $639 million in Canada health transfers, $277 million in Canada social transfers with respect to post-secondary education and child care and the list goes on. Millions of dollars are going into the Nova Scotia economy. All of that is buttressed with an additional $95 million that is coming from the federal government this year. That is what members opposite are voting against.
    I should have indicated at the start, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove, who is the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. She will be giving a riveting speech, as she has in the past, with respect to how the province of Alberta is very much in concert with the province of Nova Scotia on the recognition of offshore oil and gas revenues. She, as do all members of the Conservative caucus, wants to see that Nova Scotia is treated fairly. They want to know that we will be treated the same way in Atlantic Canada as the west was during the period in time it was developing its natural resources.
    This is all about that. The offshore oil and gas revenue stream is protected, it is intact and it is whole. That is the intent and the spirit of what has taken place. That was the commitment that was given by the Prime Minister. He said that no province would be worse off after this equalization formula was in place. That is what he intends, and that will happen.
     I want to acknowledge my colleague opposite, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, who has been a long-serving member of this place, a hard-working member here in Ottawa and in his constituency. He is a well respected friend, and I say that with great earnest. I feel very badly for the position he finds himself in because he is sincere and pure of heart in what he believes he has done. What is unfortunate is he is not among us. He is not here now to continue these discussions on behalf of the government in dealing directly with the province of Nova Scotia.
    Our colleagues from St. John's, our colleagues from New Brunswick, our colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador, have been closely involved and work diligently to see that Atlantic Canada is treated fairly, that their provinces are treated fairly and that they receive a fair share of equalization and a fair share of offshore oil and gas revenue.

  (1610)  

    For the people of Nova Scotia, that is the critical issue. We can talk about caps and O'Brien formulas, and changes to the offshore and transfers. What they know and what they need to know is that, as a result of this budget, my province, the province of Nova Scotia, will receive $95 million more than it did last year.
    That has allowed my home province to balance the budget this year and to move forward on other important projects. We will continue to work with it, as we did with ecotrust announcements, as we did with health arrangements, and as we continue to work toward an important infrastructure deal as regards to transportation and ports in the province of Nova Scotia.
    I am committed to that. No one has to remind me of my obligations or responsibilities to the people of Central Nova and the people of Nova Scotia whom I represent. I am here every day working to the best of my ability, as I am at home when this place is not in session. These are in addition to my cabinet responsibilities.
    The members opposite have their views on this. What I know is that I have been working in a very productive and positive way with the premier of Nova Scotia. He continues, of course, to stand up for and bring a very positive and patient attitude to this discussion, and to that extent, I want to thank--

  (1615)  

    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Halifax West.
    Mr. Speaker, the government that I was a part of, the previous government, made an agreement with Nova Scotia that was worth $1.1 billion in the first eight years, and more in the years after that, but it went beyond any previous promise in fact, and delivered $830 million of that up front to Nova Scotia.
    The member voted against the budget that implemented that deal. He has said in the past that the budget respected the accord. These days, according to the Canadian Press, he is now saying he is working to ensure the accord is honoured. How is it possible that both are true?
    Second, he said on May 15, in response to a question from the member for West Nova:
    We will not throw a member out of caucus for voting his conscience. There will be no whipping, flipping, hiring or firing on budget votes as we saw [before].
    Why was he misleading this House?
    Mr. Speaker, what I would say to that is simply this. Why was the member opposite misleading the people of Nova Scotia by trying to represent that budget deal that was not a good deal, that would have cost our province hundreds of millions of dollars? He championed that cause. He repeatedly publicly urged our province to sign onto a deal that would have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.
    We know that he is voting against a budget that will give the province $95 million more, so he can talk about the past. He can talk about the future. What is happening here is that he is voting against the interests of the people of Nova Scotia. He in fact broke his word to the people of Nova Scotia when he tried to surreptitiously get them to sign onto a deal that would have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars. That is not good representation for the people of Halifax or the people of Nova Scotia.
    With respect to the situation involving the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, I have already stated a number of times that this is very unfortunate. I certainly did not see that the member would decide this with time remaining, with time on the clock. We all know that the final budget vote will take place at some point next week. My preference is to never leave the ice until the game is over. There is a lot of time left on the clock. We are in the third period. There is no final vote on the budget until next week.
    I am confident we are going to continue to work positively with the province of Nova Scotia to see that we honour those commitments, to see that the province of Nova Scotia is treated fairly, and I am confident that that is happening.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not disagree that there is still time on the clock to fix this, but that really does not answer the question as to why the member who has just spoken, the political minister from Nova Scotia, would say he feels very badly that the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley left the ice with there being still time on the clock. He did not leave the ice. He was kicked out for standing up strongly behind the accord.
    The Atlantic accord anticipated precisely the situation in which we might find ourselves today, and that is precisely why the accord explicitly says in clause 4 that Nova Scotia does not have to choose. The accord says that Nova Scotia gets the full accord benefits whatever equalization is in place at the time, but what that does not take into account is that what was promised has actually been broken.
    The accord has been broken, and so no matter how many times the government says Nova Scotia is going to get more benefits, the issue is not whether there are going to be more benefits, the issue is whether Nova Scotia is going to end up being forced to make a choice where it would in part forfeit benefits that were promised. There was never any understanding that the government would end up forcing Nova Scotia into making this choice.
    Mr. Speaker, I would disagree with the member on a number of points. First, I would disagree that Nova Scotians would not want more money. That in fact, given the choice to receive $95 million more, they would say “yes, we would prefer to have the $95 million more”.
    We know that there would be more money in fact again next year. That is also an option. There is flexibility here and there has been a choice offered. The province of Nova Scotia chose to take more money, which is a wise choice, I would submit.
    With respect to the member's comments about equalization and how in fact the province of Nova Scotia will benefit, it is clear the province will benefit. It is clear that our province, sadly a have-not province, is in need of the fiscal support that it receives from Ottawa.
    There has been a lot of glossing over of fact here, trying to suggest somehow that Nova Scotia was going to come out at the short end of the stick, that it was going to receive less.
    I have not heard a single member from any opposition party take issue with the fact that the province is getting more money. That is what it boils down to. That is, by the way, what equalization is meant to do. It is meant to recognize the circumstances that exist in regions such as ours. It is meant to give people in Nova Scotia an opportunity to stay and work, and be in their communities and towns and cities, rather than have to take the option to go out west to work.
    I hope to see the day when the trend is reversed and Nova Scotians and Atlantic Canadians are coming home in droves because there will be jobs there. That is what our government intends to do. We intend to work toward that day when we will see the jobs, opportunities, and prosperity available in our province of Nova Scotia as it is elsewhere in Canada.

  (1620)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the Minister of Foreign Affairs and my colleague for Central Nova for the passion that he has shown in cabinet and in this House for his constituents of Central Nova and also for the people of Nova Scotia. In fact, many times in cabinet he speaks for all Atlantic Canadians. I want to commend him for his commitment and his passion. It is a pleasure for me to participate in this debate today.

[Translation]

    When our government assumed its role, it made a commitment to promote open federalism. In our 2007 budget, we kept this promise and announced a long-term plan to restore fiscal balance within the federation. Our plan responds to the concerns of all Canadians, the provinces and the territories.

[English]

    I would like to take a moment to note just how far we have come in 16 months. This government inherited an equalization program that was divorced from principle. It also did not suit the demands of the day and our federation. It was obvious that federalism was not functioning as it should.
    The previous Liberal administration did not even give a thought to tomorrow or to the future of the provinces. The approach that it used was stagnant and unresponsive to the changing needs of Canadians and to the changing needs of the provinces. What we saw with the previous Liberal governments for years was what we call “chequebook federalism”.

[Translation]

    That is when the concept of open federalism was born. Under this concept, the federation is no longer an inactive entity, but an evolving institution that has to adapt to the changes and impacts of the modern world.

[English]

    This government has already taken tangible measures to ensure, for example, that Quebec has the tools that it needs to develop within a united Canada, the recognition that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada and the restoration of the fiscal balance.
    Of course, the historic presence of Quebec at the Canadian delegation to UNESCO is a concrete example of that commitment. Open federalism demands that we recognize the maturation and the evolution of the provinces within our federation.

[Translation]

    This concept recognizes the important and precise role the provinces must play in developing national policy.

[English]

    It was clearly a time for a new approach to federalism, one that we believe could accomplish, among other things, ensuring a return to a principled based approach to federal fiscal transfers and recognizing, of course, the evolving nature of the federation. We believe in the need to capitalize on the strengths the provinces have to the benefit of all of Canada.
    It was with great pride that I watched the Finance Minister deliver his budget in the House last March. Budget 2007, of course, was described as a historic agreement and with very good reason. I am particularly proud to note that our approach to open federalism and restoring fiscal balance is the result of significant consultations with all of the provinces and territories, as we committed to last year in our budget 2006.
    It was in the spirit of open federalism that we worked with every province and territory, and we sought their views on ways to help achieve a balance between a principled based approach to the limitation of our spending powers and the need to ensure flexibility in our country. We sought their perspectives on lessons learned from the past, options for future consideration, and potential priority areas for action for the future.
    However, we have to be clear about where we were when our government came to power. Canada was in a situation where the Liberal approach to equalization created, as we know, division between the federal and provincial governments, and between the provinces, particularly between different regions of our country. We saw this clearly in the inability of the Council of the Federation to come to any sort of consistent position on equalization.

  (1625)  

[Translation]

    We have shown the provinces and territories our commitment toward the new open federalism.

[English]

    We provided an opportunity to provinces and territories to share their views on ways to achieve enhanced accountability. We committed to returning the equalization program to a principled based, formula driven plan to restore the fiscal balance.
    The equalization formula, as we know, was thoroughly studied by an independent expert panel that was chaired by Al O'Brien, in fact a former Alberta deputy treasurer.
    The O'Brien report proposed a comprehensive principled based set of reforms to the equalization program. We reviewed this report and we consulted extensively with Canadians and with provincial governments. We concluded that the O'Brien report formed a solid foundation for the renewal of the equalization program.
    As we know, in our budget 2007, we finally tackled the longstanding irritant of provinces called double equalization by committing finally to a principled move to per capita health and social transfers. With this move we clearly demonstrate a principle that the equalization formula itself is meant to address interprovincial and interregional disparities, while other federal transfers, like health and social transfers, should ensure equal treatment of Canadians in all parts of our country. We also advanced the principles of transparency and accountability.
    As we know, the provinces have responsibilities and ultimate accountability in their own fields and in their own areas of jurisdiction, while the federal government offers clear and predictable support to them. By providing equitable and predictable funding for shared priorities and attempting to clarify the roles and responsibilities in our federation, we have offered a solid, principled based approach on which government can continue to work into the future.
    This commitment was a reassertion of the benefits that can be found in a flexible federation that, of course, allows our diversity to serve as a source, both of strength and innovation, a reassertion of the need for an open, honest and respectful relationship with the provinces, and a reassertion that true collaboration can really only take place when resources and accountability are matched with responsibility.
    As I mentioned earlier, our second major policy goal for our approach to open federalism is to identify and facilitate opportunities for provinces to play a greater role in our own jurisdiction, the federal jurisdiction, when our moves and actions actually impact on provincial jurisdiction.

[Translation]

    In our opinion, the provinces have various means available to them to play a more active role on the national and international stage for the good of the federation.

[English]

    We believe that by identifying strategic opportunities to work with the provinces, seizing these opportunities, and responding with a readiness to work collaboratively will benefit the entire country.
    Of course, now the question, both for the provinces and for the federal government, is which opportunities and when. We have already started to capitalize on those.
    We committed in our 2006 election platform to find those kinds of practical ways to facilitate provincial involvement in areas of federal jurisdiction when provincial jurisdiction is affected, and the Quebec participation at UNESCO is a perfect example.
    When we wrote that policy, what we had in mind is this kind of identification of clear, practical opportunities like that where the federal government could work with the provinces in areas of mutual interest.
    I will conclude my remarks proudly stating that we continue to live by those principles.

  (1630)  

[Translation]

    We have respected our commitments and kept our promises in a transparent manner that is inspired by principles. By doing so, we have consolidated our federation in such a way that all the governments are working together in order to build an even stronger Canada.

[English]

    Before I proceed to questions and comments following the speech by the hon. member, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Gatineau, Official Languages.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Ottawa South.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's remarks. They follow hard on the heels of the remarks from the minister for Atlantic Canada.
    I have a couple of pointed questions. They are specific questions and I think Canadians deserve specific answers.
    In 2006 the Conservative Party of Canada's election platform said very clearly:
    A Conservative government will:
     Work to achieve with the provinces permanent changes to the equalization formula which would ensure that non-renewable natural resource revenue is removed from the equalization formula to encourage economic growth.
    It went on to say, “We will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula”.
    Slightly after, the Conservative Party circulated a mailing to Newfoundland and Labrador residents in the Prime Minister's name, then as leader of the opposition, in which it was written in bold black and white letters:
    The Conservative Party of Canada believes that offshore oil and gas revenues are the key to real economic growth in Atlantic Canada. That's why we would leave you with 100 per cent of your oil and gas revenues. No small print. No excuses. No caps.
    Could the minister please tell us if the Conservative Party was misleading Atlantic Canadians then or is the Conservative government misleading them now?
    Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member knows the equalization formula is complicated. I am one who understands it and I am sure he does, too, so he does understand that a fiscal cap is about fairness.
    When the O'Brien commission came back with its report, it recommended a number of changes to the equalization formula to return it to a principle based approach. The reason for that